[OPE-L:3895] Re: negative surplus-value

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 11:42:45 -0800 (PST)

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A reply to John's [OPE:3894]:

> 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?

Surplus-value must be *transformed* into profit. Simply because s is
produced, it does not mean that it will be realized.

If capitalists advance $100 (for c + v) and if they end up with $90 this
will count as a loss, to be sure. But, a loss of *what*?

Surplus-value, like c and v, can not be negative because they are not
*by themselves* ratios. Of course, v *must be* greater than 0 :-). But, s
can equal 0.

> > (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.
> How does hyperinflation reduce the value of commodities?

Inflation can raise the costs of c + v for capitalists. As the costs of
production for capitalists increase, profitability would decline (unless
they are able to increase the market price of the commodities that they
sell by a rate at least equal to the rate of inflation).

> It now seems clear that you determine the value produced without any
> reference at all to money.

Clear to you but not to me.

> Hence, we can have negative profits and
> positive surplus value.

I haven't discussed that case.

> Yet, if workers consume more than they produce, is
> not surplus value negative?

Suppose in time t, capitalists advance $100 for v and $100 for c, but
receive after sales a total of $90. In that case, they would have advanced
$200 but only received $90 back. Would this be a case of negative surplus
value? No, because there is no s. Their profit would then be negative yet
their s would be 0.

> 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.

Remember that I was dealing with natural disasters and social disasters
(e.g. wars). Suppose that the value of c in time t equals $100. Along
comes a typhoon in time t + 1 and the c is washed out to sea. What happens
to the value of that c? It is lost at sea. Although the s *produced*
hasn't been affected, the ability of c to transfer its value has been
reduced. In that case, profit would decrease because the value of c has
been "lost." Even if one accepts the idea that value is conserved *in
exchange*, that doesn't mean that it can't disappear afterwards even
though its use-value hasn't been wholly consumed.

But that returns us to the question of moral depreciation, does it not?

In solidarity, Jerry