[OPE-L:3926] Re: More on negative surplus value

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 2 Jan 1997 20:15:25 -0800 (PST)

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Mike W wrote in [OPE-L:3923]:

> As ever I don't have time to enter the fray, but the following detail
> from Jerry (which reflects earlier comments from him) puzzled me:
> > capital. In that case, profit could become negative not because of
> > "negative surplus value" but, rather, because the capitalists were not
> > able to realize the *transfer of value* from the constant fixed capital
> > that they had originally anticipated.

The above is excerpted from my #3918 in partial answer to Michael P's
statement in #3917 that when "technological change is too rapid firms may
have to renew their capital stock before they have amortized it. When this
behavior is too common, negative surplus value will resort (sic)".
Consequently, I was addressing the process that Michael P had raised and
suggested that it could be explained in a couple of different ways that
don't involve negative surplus value. In any event, the issue raised
concerned technological change, not demand.

> My problem with this is that I have long (most unambiguously since I have
> come to the value-form account) worked on the conception of new value as
> being determined in the intersection of production *and circulation*; that,
> whatever the 'ideal' value anticipated by the capitalist decision maker,
> the value created was only that produced *and* successfully sold; that
> amongst the attributes included under abstract, socially necessary, etc.
> labour time was that its output was successful as commodities (ie sold for
> a price covering costs and the going rate of profit); that, contrary to
> vulgar opinion, Marx did indeed take 'demand' into account, so that labour
> time expended on those products which in the event constitute an excess
> supply, is wasted.
> What have I got wrong? Am I missing something?

I'm not sure where there is a disagreement. From my perspective, surplus
value is produced but it only becomes "realized" or actualized as s once
the product is sold in the marketplace as a commodity. That is, for
surplus value to become actualized, it must take the commodity-form. It is
in the process of exchange that the labor time expended in production
becomes socially validated. Clearly, since a commodity has the two-fold
character of having a use-value and value, it can not *be* a commodity
unless it has a use-value. It is in the process of exchange that it is
determined whether the product indeed has a use-value and, therefore,
whether it in fact has exchange-value and is a commodity.

I agree that Marx took demand into account. That follows from the two-fold
character of the commodity-form. If there are products which do not have a
use-value then the labor time expended producing those products would
indeed be "wasted." My "take" on the "conservation of value" is that Marx
held that value was not *created* or *valorized* through the process of
exchange. However, this does not mean that there can not be a *decrease*
in value if "commodities" do not actually become commodities. Similarly,
even if value is "conserved" in exchange and commodities are sold at
their value, it does not mean that some portion of value can not be wasted
*after* the exchange process.

Where do we disagree?

In solidarity, Jerry