[OPE-L:3910] Re: Rent In Kind & Negative Surplus Value

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 31 Dec 1996 13:38:42 -0800 (PST)

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John wrote in [OPE-L: 3905]:

> Here we need to recall that we
> are speaking of social labor in capitalism. The folk that
> live in such a society can only deal with labor time via
> money. Thus when there is a loss or when one ends up with
> less money after production and sale than the amount of money
> advanced, one is actually costing society social labor time.

See point (b) below.

> Obviously, this can't continue in capitalism. Indeed, with
> the loss the capitalist is encouraged to hoard rather than
> continue this process. For us, this can be seen as the
> way in which capitalism attempts to check losses not only
> in terms of money but also in terms of social labor. Indeed,
> for capitalists, it is the only way.

(a) So, you describe negative surplus value in your post as a real
possibility under capitalism (even if it can't continue for long). Yet,
Andrew K describes s < 0 in #3907 as an "abstract possibility only." Which
is it?

(b) The passage in question concerns *rent in kind*. As Marx says on p.
924 (Penguin ed.): "The first thing to note about rent in kind is that it
is simply a tradition handed down from a mode of production which has
outlived its day, and surviving, as the ruin of its former existence,
while its contradiction to the capitalist mode of production is shown by
the way it disappeared automatically from private contracts and, where
legislation could intervene, as with the tithes in England, was forcibly
dispensed with as an incongruity. Secondly, however, where it continued to
exist on the basis of the capitalist mode of production, it was nothing
more, than an expression of money rent in medieval guise .... In as much
as they ["seed corn and a proportion of fertilizer", JL] do not actually
have to be bought as commodities, but are taken from the product in kind,
to go once more into its reproduction as conditions of production ... -
they are put down on the books in money of account, and are deducted as
components of the cost price" [the passage continues through most of p.

(1) It is somewhat startling to me that none of those who believe
this to be an example of "negative surplus value" have attempted
yet to explain the meaning of the passage *in its entirety* (pp.
923-25). Please do so.

(2) Of what possible relevance this has for the SSS vs. TSS debate I
am very unclear. Clearly, as Marx himself states, the issue of
*rent in kind* is a "tradition handed down from a mode of
production which has outlived its day." It would seem to me that
questions arising from the coexistence of remnants of a
pre-capitalist mode of production are of a rather different
"level of abstraction" than ones related to the transformation.
Is it not so?

> May your abstract labor never generate negative surplus value,

I individually expend concrete labor rather than abstract labor. Yet, I
certainly DO want my labor to generate 0 surplus value. Indeed, I want
the capitalists at Pratt to realize a LOSS in profit as a result of my
employment. But, then, I take pride in being a "problem worker". :-)

In solidarity, Jerry