[OPE-L:3691] Re: Ne Hic Saltaveris!

Gerald Lev (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Thu, 21 Nov 1996 03:53:04 -0800 (PST)

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A response to Gil's [OPE-L:3690]:

> [...] However, it is inescapable that Marx insists on the *analytical*
> centrality
> of price-value equivalence in his subsequent resolution of his enigma. He
> concludes: "We therefore have a double *result.* The transformation of
> money into capital *has to be developed on the basis of the immanent
> laws of the exchange of commodities, in such a way that the
> starting-point is the exchange of equivalents.*" [I, 268-9; emphasis
> added]. [...]

Perhaps you should have added emphasis around *the starting-point*. It
seems to me that this is a legitimate simplifying assumption (rather than
a final result), provided one then -- at a later stage of the analysis --
examines cases where there is non-equivalent exchange.

> That is: of course capitalists must gain access to the *use value* of
> labor power in order to make a profit, but they need not do so by
> purchasing labor power as a commodity, as opposed to lending workers
> the means of production, as in the historical circuit of usury capital,
> or hiring contractually specified labor *services*, as in the the
> historical circuit of proto-industrial capital (e.g., the putting-out
> system). [...]

(1) These are not _typical_ of capital/labor relations under
*capitalism*. To the extent that they continue to exist at all, they
might be viewed as remnants of prior relations between capital and
labor *before* capitalism became the dominant mode of production [more

(2) There are good historical and *analytical* reasons to believe that
these forms of labor relations where labor power is not a commodity in
the traditional sense of the term will not continue to be reproduced on
an extended basis under conditions of advanced capitalism. Indeed,
already in Ch 13 there are reasons advanced why capital would benefit by
having cooperation among workers in the labor process (rather than
lending them means of production). Further, in Chs. 14-15 there are other
reasons advanced related to the nature of the division of labor,
manufacture, and "modern industry" for why capital can benefit by this
process of the real subsumption of labor under capitalism.

(3) Despite the previous two points, it is the case that both the lending
of means of production by capital to laborers and the putting-out system
continue to exist on a limited basis in different regions of the
capitalist world. Indeed, in some regions of the world they may be
important forms of labor (as in parts of the so-called "informal sector"
in some less developed capitalist nations). If part of what you are
saying is that these conditions need to be analyzed, then I *agree* with
you. However, I see this as more of a "post-Capital" subject, then one
that should be analyzed at the level of abstraction of V1.

> [Of course an analytical justification for Marx's focus exists, but as I've
> argued earlier here and in the S& S article, the basis for this
> justification is in historically contingent strategic terms concerning the
> nature of class conflict in production, not value-theoretic terms.]

I don't see why these subjects can't be developed and understood in terms
of *both* the "historically contingent strategic terms concerning the
nature of class conflict in production" *and* "value-theoretic terms."

> I agree that it is necessary for Marx to prove that surplus value does not
> rise *solely* from exchange.

It is certainly the case that individual capitalists can gain from
non-equivalent exchange. I think it is confusing, though, to refer to
that gain as surplus value or exploitation. Yet, we might well consider
those cases individually in order to see how they can be explained

> In lieu of a conclusion I'll ask a few questions: do you think that the
> connection between surplus value in the capitalist mode of production and
> the purchase of labor power as a commodity is purely incidental, or only a
> matter of simplifying assumptions?

No, it is not "purely incidental": the creation of a labor force "free" in
the double-sense of the term was a historical and logical prerequisite
for capitalist production and social relations. However, since the topic
of investigation is capitalism, one can legitimately (at least initially)
view this process as a _fait accompli_.

> If not, what *analytical* basis does Marx give for his focus beginning in
> Ch. 6 on buying labor power *as a commodity* rather than lending the means
> of production to workers or hiring contractually specific labor *services*
> (both of which occur under the capitalist mode of production, even as a
> descriptive matter)?

See above.

In solidarity,