[OPE-L:4244] variable capital and time

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 20 Feb 1997 16:43:21 -0800 (PST)

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Alejandro R wrote in [OPE-L:4242]:

> (2) What would be the specification for variable capital?
> I think the reasoning cannot be the same as constant capital. It is
> true that constant capital consumed in t+1 must be produced before,
> during period t.
> But we could imagine that at the start of t+1 capitalists hired fresh
> labour power. In this moment, capitalists need not the PHYSICAL WAGE
> GOODS available (as they need machines) but only living labor. So at
> the end of t+1 workers are paid with money and then they purchase
> wage goods which have been produced DURING t+1. Is not the same
> situation than that of machines used, which had been produced during
> period t. Am I right?

In the above, you suggest that workers are paid money at the _end of the
period_ for labor performed _during_ the period. I have a problem with
that formulation. Expenditures on variable capital and constant
circulating capital (which we might call together, "fluid capital",
following Marx's distinction in V2, Ch. 8) are allocated at _various_
points _during_ the period rather than only at the end (or beginning) of
the period.

For example, if we follow the usual convention of thinking of a period as
1 year, reproduction of the wage-earners would be impossible to conceive
even abstractly for those workers who are hired at the beginning of a year
but are not paid until the end of a year! What do they survive on _during_
the year? This suggests to me that periodic wage payments during the
year (period) are a consequence of the special nature of the commodity
labor-power.

[Perhaps we could be able to conceptualize this as the turnover time for
v (and, relatedly, circulating c)?].

Of course, working periodic payments for variable capital and constant
circulating capital into the math formulas would make matters much more
complicated (mathematically). Perhaps we can be able to agree, though, that
in considering c + v "time matters." Does that make me a "temporalist"?
:-)

In solidarity, Jerry