[OPE-L:4271] Re: the analytical significance of production periods

Paul Cockshot (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Mon, 3 Mar 1997 02:08:10 -0800 (PST)

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G Levey:
> To begin with, the element of the separation in time (and place) of
> production and circulation becomes apparent as one considers the circuit
> M-C-M' [or expressing this somewhat differently, when one considers the
> three figures of the circuit: 1) M-C...P...C'-M'; 2) P...Tc...P; 3)
> Tc....P (C')]. In other words, it becomes _conceptually_ important to
> understand that the different phases of production and circulation have a

> temporal component. While on an empirical level the production and
> circulation of commodities take place simultaneously, the significance of

> the separation of production and sale has important correlaries (e.g. the

> rejection of Say's Law).

I suspect that the use of the formula m-c-m' is more of a didactic device
to enable marx to present production starting off from scratch. Here you
have a man with only a sum of money, how does he make a profit?, by
in machinery raw materials and labour power. Whilst the circumstances
here do occur when a capitalist moves into a new line of business, this is
necessarily a minor and exceptional occurence within a capitalist economy.
one is trying to understand phenomena at the level of social reproduction
is no longer appropriate. In fact the explanation given for the circuit
in volume 1 becomes untenable at the level of social reproduction. At this
the only way in which capitalists as a class can end up with more money
a time interval is if more money has been created by the banks or some
monetary mechanism. This is of course possible, but is irrelevant to the
mechanism of capitalist exploitation.

As for Says law, yes every purchase is simultaneously a sale, but the
at issue in economic dynamics is the relative rates of change of production
purchases, each of which have their own relatively distinct causes.

> It is also true as you suggest that the concept of a 1 year time period
> is an abstraction that has less relevance from the standpoint of
> considering the function of elements of capital empirically.
> Yet, the analytical distinction between fluid capital and fixed capital
> has a very real significance for understanding the processes of
> capitalist production and circulation. In order to define and
> differentiate fluid and fixed capital and constant circulating and
> constant fixed capital some arbitrary assumption regarding the length of
> a production period is required -- even though it remains an abstraction.

I would suggest that what we have to do is make some assumptions about
the distribution of consumption periods of the population of constant
capital commodities. These will vary between industries depending on
the character of what is produced and upon the rate of technical change
in the industry. The useful life of a flour mill will considerably
exceed that of a production line for the fabrication of computer memory