[OPE-L:3383] Re: accumulation of capital revisited

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 08:42:05 -0700 (PDT)

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Massino wrote in [OPE-L:3370]:

> Depends on your understanding of LTV and capitalist mode of production. For
> Marx the latter is not defined by the existence of wages, but by the
> organization of the social system around a simple principle
> boundless drive for accumulation. The wage form is one way to deal
> with workers needs of reproduction, but is not the only one. With
> v=0 people could for example be fed directly without the monetary
> mediation, as in prison and slave camps. The point is anyway that even is
> v is different than 0, labour is still free. Not only because
> sv is positive, but also because of the social cooperation of
> labour which, as I remember, Marx defines as giving a free
> gift to the capitalists. To define v=0 as "free labour" is
> to mystify the essential nature of "free labour" in capitalism,
> which is NOT defined by the wage. It seems to me that this opposition
> between Paul and Andrew is not so much sterile, but reflecting
> a crucial difference between opposite ways to apprehend
> the capitalist world.

I would like to thank Massimo for what I view as an advance in the
discussion in the sense that there is a more explicit explanation of the
issues involved from his perspective. Indeed, Massimo's post has given me
much cause for thought. Until now, I thought that the resistance to
dropping the v = 0 assumption was based on the desire to simplify the
mathematics of the models in question (I think this is still the reasoning
by some, e.g. Duncan). I now believe otherwise. I think that the
different standpoints that have been advanced in this thread
represent very different understandings of what does and *can* constitute
capitalism. Although no one has yet stated this, I believe that the
resistance to dropping this assumption by some rests on a particular
understanding of the concept of *state capitalism*.

Rather than discuss state capitalism at this point (which is sure to
emersh ourselves in political and historical controversies), I propose
that we more explicitly discuss what *categories* are essential categories
in Marx related to the understanding of the subject(s) in question -- the
accumulation of capital (and related ideas such as the LTGRPD and
technical change).

In the interests of putting things on the table and complying with Alan's
dictum that we explicitly state implicit assumptions and understandings, I
believe that the following categories are essential for understanding this
subject matter:

o commodities [products of labor which contain both use-value and
value, including exchange-value];

o money [as Alan and others have repeatedly stated "money matters";
this category arises out of the previous category of commodity];

o commodity markets [arises out of the categories of commodities and
money; can be seen in both C-M-C' and M-C-M'];

o labour-power as a commodity [regardless of whether one agrees or
disagrees with Marx that labour-power is a commodity, it is very
clear that Marx viewed labour-power as a commodity from the
standpoint of capital];

o capitalism is a class society in which the two major classes are
wage-laborers and capitalists;

o capital is, thereby, a social relation between wage-labour and

o constant capital [there seems to be some disagreement on what
constitutes c -- see #3340 in which supervisory/management costs
and prisons, courts, cops, and the national guard were viewed as

o variable capital [presupposes the categories of commodities, money,
markets, labour power as a commodity, wage-labour];

o surplus value [as distinct from surplus product];

o increases in surplus value can take the form of increases in
absolute s, increases in the intensity of work, and/or increases in
relative s];

o the distinction between individual value and social value;

o profit [requires the transformation of s -- created in production
-- into monetary form through commodity sales on the market; see

o accumulation [conversion of s into increased c + v; as listmembers
recall there was large disagreement regarding whether this would
mean that both c + v would have to increase, however, there was no
disagreement between Paul Z and myself regarding whether v would
be required for accumulation];

-- viewed as a process, accumulation implies increased
concentration and centralization of capital and, as the AGLCA
shows, the periodic creation of an IRA];

-- although Marx assumes that there is no unproductive consumption
of s in V1, it is clear that the rate of unproductive
consumption of s would have an affect on the rate of accumulation;

o [regarding the LTGRPD] competition, different branches of
production, and capital mobility among branches of production;

o [regarding the LTGRPD -- as the name of the law very explicitly
states] the category general rate of profit.


o certain categories such as production, circulation, and
distribution were not included above since they are
trans-historical categories which would also exist in
non-capitalist modes of production;

o certain categories of concretion, e.g. the state, are not itemized
above since Marx did not explicitly consider these categories in
examining the subjects under discussion;

o other categories such as rent and surplus profit are required to
conceptualize the distribution of s among capitalists. I view these
categories as *very* relevant for the discussions underway, but I
have not included them above in order to simplify the discussion;

o the categories of constant fixed and constant circulating
capital, as we know, are also related to technical change, etc.
These categories, along with the topic of depreciation (straight
and moral) are not considered above for the same reason, i.e. to see
if we can come to some general agreement about the meaning of some
essential categories related to understanding accumulation before we
consider these other [essential!] categories of concretion.

Perhaps the best way to proceed from here is for those listmembers who
disagree with the above to explain -- very explicitly -- *why*.

In Solidarity,