[OPE-L:3894] Re: [JOHN] negative surplus-value

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 10:45:42 -0800 (PST)

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John sent a post to the list that didn't make it since he wrote the whole
post in the subject line! I was not able to forward his message so I am
retyping it and reformatting it for legibility./In solidarity, Jerry
In OPE-3890, Jerry wrote:

> If profit is less than 0, does that mean that surplus-value is negative?
> Negative profitability can occur when there is a *reduction in value*. In
> none of the following instances could this process be described as
> "negative surplus value."
> (1) A surplus product is produced, but the commodities aren't sold on the
> market (for whatever reason) and, thereby, commodity values and surplus
> value aren't realized. In extremis, this could mean s = 0. Yet, since
> capitalists have already advanced money-capital for c and v, profitability
> could be negative even though s is *not* negative.

John comments:

You somehow are able to state that "In extremis, this could mean s = 0."
Why stop at 0? You assure us that s is 'not' negative. Why is it not? If
capitalists advance $100 and end up with $90, how could s be greater than
or equal to 0?

Jerry continues:

> (2) there could be an extreme reduction in the value of commodities
> produced (output) due to hyperinflation. Profitability could be negative,
> then, as the cost of inputs (c + v) increases.

John comments:

How does hyperinflation reduce the value of commodities?

Jerry goes on:

> (3) the price of c used as inputs can rise (while the value transferred
> by c remains constant) to such an extent that profitability is negative.
> Again, this is not a case of "negative surplus value."

John comments:

It would be helpful to define "profitability" using subscripts.

Jerry goes on:

> (4) there can be a reduction in the value produced per unit of v (for
> example, through a "slow-down"). In that case, there would be an increase
> in SNLT. This could lead to negative profitability (in part, because
> capitalists must pay for a certain portion of c regardless of whether
> production occurs).

John comments:

It now seems clear that you determine the value produced without any
reference at all to money. Hence, we can have negative profits and
positive surplus value. Yet, if workers consume more than they produce, is
not surplus value negative?

Jerry concludes:

> (5) if s = 0 and the turnover time of constant fixed capital was
> lengthened, then profitability could be negative even though s continues
> to = 0. If the degree of capacity utilization of constant fixed capital
> decreased, the result would be the same.
> (6) Natural events can cause negative profitability. For instance, a
> hurricane can blow away constant capital and/or output. Or, a plague could
> reduce the value-creating ability of wage-labor (through an increase in
> SNLT). Social events like wars could have the same consequences.
> In none of the above cases is s a negative number. Indeed, it is very
> difficult conceptually to understand *how* s could be negative. Unlike the
> rate of profit, s is *not a ratio*.

John states:

In (5) you assume that s is 0 and then tell us it is a case where s cannot
be negative. For what it's worth, I agree. In (6), you seem to want to
separate losses in constant capital from the production of surplus value.
Indeed, I think this is the heart of the matter. Let's assume that the
losses do not affect the production of surplus value. But let me repeat my
question stemming from (4), " ... if workers consume more than they
produce, is not surplus value negative?"