[OPE-L:3921] Re: Negative Surplus Value

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 2 Jan 1997 06:05:06 -0800 (PST)

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John wrote in [OPE-L:3919]:

> 1. Andrew's reading of the passage he cites in CAPITAL leads
> him to ask how a positive surplus product can result in
> negative surplus value. Let's put questions about how one
> reads the passage aside and focus on the question itself.

Not so quick. Andrew K asked about the meaning of the passage in which
Marx said "even though surplus-value is expressed in a surplus-product, it
is not true conversely that any surplus product in the sense of a mere
increase in the quantity of the product represents a surplus value. It can
represent a deduction from value."

Marx is quite right, but the meaning of the above has *nothing* to do with
the possibility of "negative surplus value." To understand why, all that
any listmember has to do is read the *entire* passage (in the Penguin ed.,
pp. 923-925; or the last paragraph of the " I. Introduction" of Ch. 47
"The Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent" which begins: "An incorrect
conception of the nature of rent has been handed down to modern times, a
conception based on the fact that rent in kind still survives from the
Middle Ages ....").

The "mystery" surrounding the meaning of this passage becomes clear once
one *reads* the whole passage and understands that he is talking about
the persistence of *rent in kind* under capitalism.

_Any_ surplus product does not count necessarily as an increase in
surplus-value _because some portion of the surplus product is not produced
by wage-labor exploited by capital which *sells* *commodities* on the
market_. "In as much as they [inputs of seed corn and a proportion of the
fertilizer, JL] do not have to be bought as commodities ... they are put
down on the books in money of account and are deducted as components of
the cost price." Yet, rent in kind is an "antiquated and obsolete form"
-- "a tradition handed down from a mode of production which has outlived
its day."

If anyone still thinks that after reading the *entire* passage, Marx is
talking about "negative surplus value", I would like to hear why. As for
the possible relevance of this passage for debates surrounding the
transformation, I see *none* -- unless one want to make the case that
products which are not produced by wage-labor as commodities need to be
considered in that debate. Yet, of what possible relevance could this
tradition from the medieval period that continued to survive in Marx's
time have for the theoretical analysis of the transformation? I see

In solidarity, Jerry