[OPE-L:3907] Re: negative surplus-value

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 31 Dec 1996 09:44:38 -0800 (PST)

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A reply to Allin's ope-l 3904.

Allin wrote

"If the workers were paid in advance and used their wages to buy wage-goods
out of previously existing stocks, one could imagine a situation where the
wage embodies more labour-time than the workers actually go on to perform.
agricultural examples aside, the working class is basically paid in arrears,
out of its own product; in that case, I agree, negative s is strictly
impossible in the aggregate."

Very good! Allin explains in the first sentence the condition for
surplus-value to be negative and, in the second, explains why this condition
cannot exist in reality, in the aggregate. Quite right. The distinction
between s < 0 as a possibility in an *imaginary* situation and as a
possibility in an *actual* situation is a good one. Hegel calls them
"abstract possibility" and "real possibility," respectively.

As I understand the passage in question from Marx, he was referring to s < 0
as an abstract possibility only. Similarly, in the cases in which he assumed
v = 0, he did so only as an abstract possibility. There is no contradiction
between this and the claim that they are not real possibilities, as the above
statement by Allin exemplifies well.

Happy new year.

Andrew Kliman