[OPE-L:4675] Re: Chapter 5

Gil Skillma (gskillman@wesleyan.edu)
Tue, 8 Apr 1997 16:24:34 -0700 (PDT)

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Jerry writes:

>(1) To Gil: Have you read Tadao Horie's _Marx's *Capital* and one free
> world: a fundamental reappraisal of his political economy_ (NY, St.
> Martin's Press, 1991: ISBN 0-312-04800-9)? Ch. 3 of that book
> (originally published as "An Error Common to the Transformation of
> Money into Capital and the Primitive Accumulation", _Waseda Economic
> Papers_, No. 19, 1980) seems to pre-date a lot of your Ch. 5 critique.

1) The quick response to Jerry is that Horie does *not* in fact anticipate
(or "pre-iterate"? What's the right verb?) my Ch. 5 critique, although he
clearly identifies the same seeming contradiction in Marx's *historical*
argument that I do, and refers to many of the same passages in Ch. 5 and
elsewhere that I do. The chief difference in our critiques lies in Horie's
resolution of Marx's analytical difficulty, which I believe most OPE-L
comrades could and would (and should, in my opinion) immediately reject, and
on grounds which have no bearing whatsoever on my argument. It's
instructive, though, to see how our arguments differ.

2) Before going into the somewhat-longer response to Jerry's query, a
comment: I've been presenting versions of this argument for over 6 years,
and have done so on two e-mail lists, in at least 4 conference sessions, and
in 2 published papers to date. It's amazing to me, given the apparent
similarity of Horie's and my starting points, that no one has made reference
to his work before Jerry's recent post.

By the way, if Horie had in fact "scooped" me on this argument, I think
pleasant surprise would have outweighed any chagrin I might have felt at
re-inventing the wheel. It's reassuring, after all, to discover that one
isn't howling alone in the wilderness.

3) Now for the details:

A)The common reference point of Horie's and my critiques is an apparent
inconsistency in Marx's historical treatment of surplus value.
Specifically, some passages from _Capital_ appear to imply that capitalist
production is required for the existence of surplus value, while other
passages (in _Capital_ and elsewhere) explicitly assert the contrary. And
like me, Horie traces the source of the difficulty to Marx's account in
Volume I, Part 2, in particular Ch. 5. But thereafter our critiques diverge

B) Horie's resolution of the problem boils down to his equation of "surplus
value" to "surplus labor," such that commodity producers can be understood
to produce surplus value *for themselves* when they add fresh labor to given
raw materials and sell the result. Since, as Marx repeatedly acknowledges,
surplus labor existed prior to capitalist production, this *by itself*
implies in Horie's reading that surplus value existed then, as well. Thus,
Horie simply and directly rejects the passage in Ch. 5 (p. 268 in the
Penguin edition) where Marx explicitly rules this out.

Horie writes (Ch. 3 of the book cited by Jerry):

"The labour of independent small artisans in this case should be understood
to produce surplus value belonging to themselves..." (p. 83)

"But, in my opinion, the assumption of a simply commodity-producers' society
as a theoretical abstraction has sufficient validity and effectiveness to be
a base for a fundamental explanation of the labour-value theory. In this
case, the labour of simple commodity-producers should be understood to
produce surplus value belonging to themselves..." (p. 85)

"The simple commodity-producer acquires surplus value created by himself..."

Unfortunately for those of us who understand Marx to have provided an
essentially coherent (save for one mistake in Chapter 5!) account of surplus
value, Horie can point to a passage in Volume III (p. 276, Penguin) which
appears to support his interpretation:

"Let us suppose the workers are themselves in possession of their respective
means of production and exchange their commodities with one another...Let us
further assume that these workers work on the average for the same length of
time, taking into account the adjustments that arise from the varying
intensity, etc. of the work. Firstly, then, two workers would both have
replaced their outlays, the cost prices of the means of production they had
consumed...Next, they would both have created an equal quantity of new
value, i.e. the working day added to the means of production. **This would
comprise their wages plus surplus value, the surplus labour over and above
their necessary requirements, though the result of this would belong to
themselves.** [Emphasis added.]

C) To my reading, in contrast, it is part of Marx's *definition* of surplus
value that surplus labor must be appropriated by others than those who
produced it, and that this appropriation is accomplished via a circuit of
capital. In this reading surplus labor is *necessary for the existence* of
surplus value, but is not *equivalent* to it.
As I'd guess most OPE-Listmates would agree, passages abound in _Capital_ to
justify this distinction, as for instance in Vol III when Marx states "This
surplus labour is expressed in a surplus-value", a purely tautological
statement if the two are equivalent, but perfectly reasonable if the former
is necessary but not sufficient for the latter.

D) Supposing that Marx *defined* surplus value so as to require
appropriation of surplus labor by non-producers via some circuit of capital,
Horie's resolution is thereby dismissed, but my critique remains completely
intact: granting this definition completely, and granting the requirement
that surplus value must represent newly created value, it does *not* follow,
contrary to Marx's representation, that any surplus-value producing system
is homomorphic to one in which price-value equivalence obtains, since
price-value disparities may be the (sole) basis by which surplus value is
*realized* by capitalists via the relevant circuit of capital.

Thus Horie's resolution has the added difficulty that it allows him to
sidestep this fallacy in Marx's ch. 5 argument, just as it prompts him to
sidestep this fundamental problematic in Marx's historical account: Marx
repeatedly and unambiguously affirms that usurers' and merchants' capital,
when extended directly to small producers, yielded surplus value and thus
constituted instances of "capitalist exploitation without capitalist
production", and yet Marx just as clearly affirms that, *upon the arrival of
the capitalist era*, capitalist production becomes necessary for capitalist
exploitation. The key question, which Horie does not address, concerns the
corresponding change in class conditions which allows Marx to assert both of
these claims without contradiction. The resolution I point to lies in the
historically contingent *strategic* aspect of Marx's analysis of capitalist
exploitation and production; for which see either the original Ch. 5
discussion on this list, or the more recent summary of my critique in post 4588.

Thanks for bringing up Horie's work, Jerry.

In solidarity, Gil