[OPE-L:3535] Re: Simultaneous Determination and Value Added

Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Sat, 26 Oct 1996 04:04:01 -0700 (PDT)

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As it happens, the passage Andrew cites is one of my favorite weaknesses
in Capital:

> The passage reads:
> "[The value of a means of production] is determined not by the labor process
> into which it enters as a means of production, but by that out of which it has
> issued as a product. In the labour process it serves only as a use-value, a
> thing with useful properties, and cannot therefore transfer any value to the
> product unless it posessed value before its entry into the process."
> [_Capital_ I, Ch. 8, p. 314, Vintage.]

>From my version of Capital, Andrew's cite is inaccurate by omitting one
word (tell me if this was just a typing slip, Andrew, or if the version
you're citing doesn't have the word), which makes a crucial difference:

"In the labour-process it only serves as a mere use-value, a thing with
useful properties, and could not, therefore, transfer any value to the
product, unless it possessed *such* value previously."

The difference this word makes, of course, is that as Andrew has read
it, value as an input is a pre-requisite for value as an output, but
there is no claim (as yet) that the value output is equal to the value
input, But with the additional word, it is an assertion to that effect.

Continuing with the version I have (and it's the one on the Internet
site), note that (a) Marx is trying to consider the issue of whether a
machine can produce surplusvalue; and (b) to do so, he is considering
its usevalue. He argues that in production a machine is "a mere
use-value" and *therefore* cannot "transfer any value to the product,
unless it possessed *such* value previously."

Compare this passage to the one where he derives that labor can generate
surplusvalue--also by musing about its usevalue (and exchangevalue):

"the past labour that is embodied in the labour-power, and the
living labour that it can call into action; the daily cost of
maintaining it, and its daily expenditure in work, are two
totally different things. The former determines the
exchange-value of the labour-power, the latter is its use-value.
The fact that half a day's labour is necessary to keep the
labourer alive during 24 hours, does not in any way prevent him
from working a whole day. Therefore, the value of labour-power,
and the value which that labour-power creates in the labour
process, are two entirely different magnitudes; and this
difference of the two values was what the capitalist had in view,
when he was purchasing the labour-power... This is the special
service that the capitalist expects from labour-power, and in
this transaction he acts in accordance with the "eternal laws" of
the exchange of commodities. The seller of labour-power, like the
seller of any other commodity, realises its exchange-value, and
parts with its use value...."

So the fact that labor serves as a "mere usevalue" in production doesn't
stop the worker being a source of surplusvalue. But it does, somehow,
stop the machine from so doing.

Strange, inn'it?