[OPE-L:3365] RE: accumulation of capital revisited

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 16:52:34 -0700 (PDT)

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Andrew K wrote in [OPE-L:3364]:

> Jerry: "Under capitalism, there is wage-slavery, not slavery."
> Would you say US prisons today are "under capitalism"?

a) the category of wage-labor is central to the elementary theorization
of capitalism. Slavery, it will be recalled, coexisted with capitalism
during certain periods of capitalist history (e.g. before emancipation in
the South of the US). However, the theorization of the relation of the
slave mode of production to capitalism is not required to develop the
basic categories peculiar to capitalist social relations. The subject
matter of _Capital_ is capitalism -- not slavery.

b) the analysis of prisons is part and parcel of the analysis of the state
-- which you ask me to forget about later.

> Jerry: "It is the presence and threat of unemployment itself that means that
> capital does not need a whip. The 'whip' is the threat of unemployment."
> Then why have supervisors over workers at all? Not to mention machines.

Supervisors are necessary for the same reason as overseers were necessary
for slavery -- to extract work from laborers. This does not mean, though,
that we can not abstract from supervisory labor expenditures. It all
depends on *what* one is analyzing and *when*. Certainly, the categories
of wage-labor and variable capital are more central to Marx's analysis than
the category of supervisory labor.

Machinery and constant capital can not be abstracted from for the same
reason that variable capital can not be abstracted from, i.e. they
represent fundamental categories necessary for the elementary
representation of the bourgeois mode of production in thought.

> Jerry: "The freedom and coercion of the marketplace is an essential
> characteristic that defines social relations under capitalism."
> How do you propose to test this assertion?

One could test that "assertion" in the same way that one could test other
outrageous assertions such as the assertion that capital and capitalists
are essential characteristics of capitalism.

> Jerry: "Let's begin with the following question: why do you consider
> supervisory/management costs (e.g. administrative costs, guards salaries) to
> be 'all constant capital'?
> "These are deductions from surplus value, are they not?
> "In the case of state employees, they should be paid for out of state
> revenues -- right?"
> They are constant capital because they are necessary to set value and
> surplus-value producing labor in motion. They are either financed out
> of the constant capital component of the value of output or *past*
> surplus-value, in the case of expansion or net rise in prices, just
> like machines and materials.

Although supervisory and management costs are *financed* out of past s,
this does not mean that they are component parts of c.

Perhaps a discussion of productive and unproductive labor is necessary

> State employees are directly paid from state revenues, but state revenues
> come from taxes and borrowing, mostly. So the question is where the taxes
> come from and what they represent. In the case of the above items, and
> a lot more, they are coming from the capitalists. To see this, simply
> ask who would foot the bill to maintain "social order" in the absence
> of the State.

State expenditures are financed from taxation and borrowing, yes (mostly).
However, who pays taxes? Taxes are levied against both capitalists *and*
wage-earners (and others as well, of course, e.g. landowners). This fact
can be easily demonstrated next time you see your paycheck and notice the
deductions for taxes. Yet, you are not a capitalist. But, are paying for
state repression, you are paying for prisons, you are paying for B-1
bombers, etc., etc., etc..

> It doesn't ever matter who pays directly or what fund they take it from. Who
> ultimately bears the cost, and the function the expenditure plays are what
> matters.

In the case of state employees, both workers and capitalists ultimately
bear the cost. In the case of supervisory labor, capitalists bear the cost
as a deduction from s -- but "ultimately" may pass along the cost to
consumers (including workers) in the form of higher prices for the
commodities that they sell in the marketplace.

> From the vantage point of a department store, for instance, their
> purchases of the stuff they sell, the wages (> 0!) they pay, the cost of
> supplies, advertising, etc., all seem to be capital outlays, definitely not
> profit. But this is all really a deduction from profit (s-v).

This does not mean that advertising, etc. are all elements of c.

> Forget the State for the moment.

You are being inconsistent. Above you ask about prison labor -- which
presupposes the state form.

> What about models in which R = 0. Not only
> is it unrealistic, it is impossible under capitalism and, according to you,
> that should make it impossible to analyze capitalism when this assumption is
> invoked. Right? So I'd like you please to start giving everyone a hard time
> who ever assumed, explicitly or implicitly, that R = 0.

Of course, R=0 is unrealistic. However, one can conceptualize the basic
categories appropriate for the analysis of the capitalist mode of
production without having to explicitly consider R -- at least when one is
at the "level of abstraction" that we are talking about.

> Jerry: "Money and competition are more abstract categories (in terms of when
> they are *first* introduced) than the armaments-producing sector, etc."
> This begs the question.

It did not beg the question. It was directly responsive to the question
you asked previously.

> Can
> you represent capitalism adequately by having models with commodities but no
> money? Commodities and money but no capital? Capital but no labor-power?
> Labor-power but no production? Etc.

Answers to the above questions: No. No. No. No.

Categories are developed in stages. One can not conceptualize everything at
once from the outset of the investigation.

However, the question remains: what are the necessary categories
appropriate for understanding a particular subject matter in thought?

The subject line for this thread concerns the accumulation of capital.
This thread is also related to discussions that we have been having
concerning profit rate determination, the LTGRPD, and technical change
in Marx. In Marx, certain categories such as commodities, money,
production, labour-power, variable capital, constant capital, surplus
value, etc. have *already* been developed and can not be assumed away if
one is to follow Marx and grasp the subject matter under investigation.
Prison labor, etc. are more concrete subjects that remain to be

In Solidarity,