[OPE-L:3841] Re: givens in Marxs theory

aramos@aramos.b (aramos@aramos.bo)
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 19:04:54 -0800 (PST)

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Thanks very much to Fred M. for his reply in OPE-L [3840].
I like Fred's way to discuss, making an effort in putting
himself in the position of the other. I would want to have
this capacity!

A reply to some Fred's points:

> In response, I argue that the phenomena to be explained
> in Marxs theory - to begin with in Marxs theory of
> surplus-value - are monetary phenomena - i.e. how does
> the money capital invested in the first phase of the
> circulation of capital become more money in the third
> phase? The phenomenon is described by the general
> formula for capital, which is of course M - C - M.
> The general formula is not > L - C - L.

I agree with this because, in capitalist society, the form
of value (money) is a NECESSARY for of manifestation of
labor-time. So, exploitation must be realized under a
monetary form. There is no such a cycle as "L-C-L" in Marx.
In the three forms of cycle considered in V.2, always labor
time has an "objective and autonomous form", which could be,
money (M), commodity (C) or productive capital (P). As
Fred says, in the general formula of capital, the increase
in value is necessarily manifested by means of the money-

> Now, if the value of money changes, then all prices will
> change inversely, and the magnitudes of these money
> capital will also change accordingly (as Marx and
> Alejandro point out, the change of the variable capital
> may lag behind the change of the other variables).
> However, the above points remain true: The phenomenon
> to be explained remains the same monetary phenomenon:
> the origin and magnitude of the increment of money that
> is characteristic of capital, and this monetary
> phenomenon is explained in the same way: by taking the
> quantities of the initial money constant capital and
> variable capital (i.e the cost price of commodities as
> we have been discussing) as given and by deriving the
> increment of money as a result of the current surplus
> labor of workers.

1. My problem is that, given the change in the "value of
money" a quantitative divergence between the "monetary
phenomenon" and the "substance" of this phenomenon (labor-
time) could arise. Perhaps the easy way to argue is by
means of a numerical example.

Let us suppose that social capital has the following
composition, measured in labor-time terms (hours):

10c + 5v + 5s = 20w

Let us also suppose that, in a given cycle, the relation
between money (we could assume that money is paper money)
and labor-time is $1 = 1 hour.

In this case cost-price is $10 + $5 = $15, representing 15
hours. So, at the begining of the cycle, capitalists
advance $15 to purchase some amount of means of production
($10) and 10 hours of living labor whose wage is $5.

Now, let us suppose that, during the productive cycle, for
any reason, the relation money/labor-time changes: now, $2
= 1 hour; $1 represents only 1/2 hour.

This depreciation of paper money implies that, at the end
of this cycle the 20 hours objectified are represented, not
by $20, but by $40. How is then calculated the profit rate?

By selling their commodities at the end of the cycle,
capitalists pocket $40. Since they advanced as cost-price
$15, the profit rate calculated in paper money (p) is:

p = [$40-$15]/[$15] = 167%

2. But, what is the profit rate calculated in labor-time?
Total labor-time objectified is 20 hours and cost-price
corresponds to 15 hours, so that, the profit rate in
labor-time terms (p*) is:

p* = [20-15]/[15] = 33%

So, given the change in the relation money/labor-time both
rates of profit differ. There is a divergence between the
"monetary phenomenon" and the value-substance, labor-time.

3. The calculation of p* assumes that workers are paid at
the beginning of the cycle, when the relation money/labor-
time is $1 = 1 hour. But we can consider a situation like
that presented by Marx in the passage of Value, Price and
Profit, p. 52 [see my OPE-L 3801]. That is, workers are
actually paid in paper money at the end of the cycle, when
each unit of money represents less labor-time.

Then, workers pocket $5 which represents, not 5 hours, but
only 2.5 hours. They have worked 10 hours, so that the rate
of exploitation --relation between surplus-labor and
necessary labor-- rises to 2.5/7.5 = 300%. When the
relation money/labor-time was $1 = 1 hour, the rate
of exploitation was 5/5 = 100%.

The profit rate considering this effect (p**) is then:

p** = [20-12.5]/[12.5] = 60%

In Value, Price and Profit, Marx argues that this increase
in the rate of exploitation is eventually compensated, so
that workers tend to maintain their precedent share (50%) in
the working day.

4. The above calculations show that the two calculated
labor-time profit rates differ from the paper money profit
rate. In that case the relation between "value-form" and
the "value-substance" is not so easy as when we assume that
the relation money/labor-time is a constant.

However, I think Fred is correct stressing that the
exploitation must be finally realized through the
monetary form. But in this case it is clear to me that the
rate of profit in paper money terms is not reflecting the
real magnitude of the exploitation. It is, in a certain
sense, a "nominal" rate of profit, "inflated" by the
depreciation of paper money: now $1 only represents 1/2

How is then expressed "externally" ("phenomenically") the
labor-time ("real") rate of profit? It should be expressed
through another "kind of money", a money which relation
against labor-time has not been changed. IMO, this the
function which performs "gold" in Marx text. The labor-time
magnitudes can be easily translated into gold magnitudes,
yielding the same rate or profit. The final result of this
process would be that the relation between the 2 kinds of
money --"gold" and paper money-- changes: paper money is
depreciated against "gold", the "reserve money". The latter
could be a non-commodity, e.g. a "financial asset" (US
dollar in Latinamerican countries) whose relation against
labor-time is "constant" or "stable" in relation to that of
paper money.

Fred: What do you think of this? Is this compatible with
your position?

Alejandro Ramos M.