[OPE-L:3886] Re: Surplus-Value vs. Surplus Product

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Sat, 28 Dec 1996 19:52:08 -0800 (PST)

[ show plain text ]

A reply to Jerry's ope-l 3883.

Along with Rieu and Allin, Jerry holds that "Marx didn't say anything in the
passage that Andrew cited in #3876 about the possibility of negative surplus
value." He maintains that I am "stretching the point" to hold (in ope-l 3882)
that "Marx is saying that surplus-value can be *negative* even if a *positive*
"surplus product" exists."

The passage in question (from Ch. 47 of _Capital_ III, "The Genesis of
Capitalist Ground Rent," p. 923, Vintage, emphases added) reads:

"The impression is thus given that rent arises not from the price of the
agricultural product but rather from its quantity, i.e. not from social
relations but from the earth itself. We have already shown how, even though
surplus-value is expressed in a surplus product, IT IS NOT TRUE CONVERSELY

OK. We know that Jerry and I proceed from different systems of arithmetic,
since he holds that variable capital wouldn't equal zero were the entire 24
hours in the working day wholly appropriated by capital. But maybe the
following is worth a try, anyway. The phrase "IT IS NOT TRUE ... REPRESENTS A
SURPLUS-VALUE" indicates that the "surplus product" may represent something
other than a positive surplus-value, that is, a zero or negative
surplus-value. In the next sentence, therefore, when Marx writes that "It can
represent a DEDUCTION FROM VALUE," the final three words indicate that the
positive "surplus product" can represent a negative surplus-value.

If one doesn't agree with this, then, pray tell, what do these two sentences
mean? I've heard the story three times already that the surplus-value can be
smaller even though the "surplus product" is larger, but that simply doesn't
account for these sentences. If such an interpretation were to make sense,
Marx would have written something like "it is not true conversely that any
INCREASE IN surplus product in the sense of a mere increase in the INCREASED
quantity of the product represents AN INCREASED surplus-value. It can
represent a REDUCED AMOUNT OF value"? Why did he not do so? And how do you
account for what he DID write? In other words, please explain how a "surplus
product" may NOT represent a surplus-value. Please explain how a "surplus
product" can represent a deduction from value?

I can explain all this clearly and simply, with no hocus pocus. So can, I
think it is safe to say, John, Eduardo, Massimo, Alejandro R., Alan, and Ted,
as well as a handful of folks not on this list. Can any simultaneist?

[A simple example may help make the issue clear to those who haven't followed
earlier chapters of the debate. Assume that corn is produced by means of
seed-corn and living labor, and that workers are paid in corn, before
production. Production takes 1 year, so that the output price of corn at the
end of year 1 *is* its input price at the start of year 2. Now imagine that
in year 1, the input price of corn is 5 (unit of labor-time), and that 4 bu.
of seed corn and 20 hrs. of living labor yield 8 bu. of corn. Worker are paid
a total of 3 bu. of corn. Hence, the "surplus-product" is 8 - 4 - 3 = 1 bu.
of corn. In value terms, we all agree, I think, constant capital is 5*4 = 20,
variable capital is 5*3 = 15, surplus-value is living labor - variable
capital, i.e., 20 - 15 = 5, total value is therefore 20 + 15 + 5 = 40, so the
unit output price of corn is 40/8 = 5.

[Imagine that in year 2, 5 bu. of seed corn and 6 hrs. of living labor yield
10 bu. of corn. Workers are paid a total of 2 bu. of corn. Hence, the
"surplus product" is 10 - 5 - 2 = 3 bu. of corn, three times that of year 1.
According to the temporalist (TSS) interpretation of Marx's value theory,
since the input price of period 2 is 5 (= the output price of period 1), the
2nd period's constant capital is 5*5 = 25, variable capital is 5*2 = 10,
surplus-value is living labor minus variable capital, i.e., 6 - 10 = -4, and
the total value of the output is 25 + 10 + (-4) = 31, so that the unit price
of the output is 31/10 = 3.1. Hence, quite simply, there is a positive
surplus product, 3 bu., together with a negative surplus-value, -4 labor-hrs.

[Simultaneists would calculate the 2nd period's results as follows. The net
product of corn is 10 - 5 = 5, and the living labor is 6. The unit price
(value of the commodity is thus 6/5 = 1.2) both as input and as output.
Hence, constant capital is 1.2*5 = 6, variable capital is 1.2*2 = 2.4,
surplus-value is 6 - 2.4 = 3.6, and total value is 6 + 2.4 + 3.6 = 12. So
there's a smaller surplus-value than in year 1 (3.6 < 5), together with a
larger "surplus product" (3 bu. > 1 bu.). Yet the "surplus product" does not
and never can represent a deduction from value. It does, and always must,
represent a positive surplus-value.

[Thus, it seems clear to me, the simultaneist interpretation contradicts
Marx's own value theory.]

BTW, the translation in the Progress Pub. edition of Vol. III (p. 787-88) is
even more clear about what is at issue. It reads:

"It thereby creates the impression that rent does not arise from the price of
the agricultural product, but from its mass, thus not from social conditions,
but from the earth. We have previously shown that although surplus-value is
manifested in a surplus-product THE CONVERSE DOES NOT HOLD THAT A
(emphases added)."

Note that Marx writes "minus quantity of value," not "smaller positive
quantity of value."

Andrew Kliman