[OPE-L:4981] Re: ideal vs real value

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Tue, 13 May 1997 02:39:10 -0700 (PDT)

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In reply to Jerry's comments.

Is value not expressed as exchange value real or ideal?
I am using the term real in the opposite sense to that which
Jerry does when he talks about the realisation of surplus value.
I am using it in the sense of philosophical realism, in the sense
that it is the fact that value really exists, that social labour
really has to be devoted to producing something, that is the
precondition for this value being measured in exchange.
This value, this necessity for society to give up some of its
time to make something, this cost to society, is real not ideal.

People selling commodities may have estimates of what they will
sell for, these estimates may justly be called ideal, but such
estimates are distinct both from the value of the commodity and
what it actually sells for.

Realisation of surplus value
When one talks of this, one is to some extent taking the subjective
viewpoint of the capitalist to whom surplus value is unreal unless
it actually appears as credit in his bank account, i.e., as monetary

However one must be careful to recognise the very partial nature of
this perspective. As Marx pointed out, the real motion of things
is often quite the opposite of the apparent motion.

1. Profit only makes up a portion of surplus value, rent, unproductive
expenditures and some government expenditures also constitute part
of surplus value.

2. The immediate determinants of the level of profit are quite distinct
from the determinants of surplus value. Profit is an accounting category
and the aggregate level of profit in the economy is determined as a
balancing item by the sum of
the trade surplus +
the public sector deficit +
capitalist consumption expenditure +
investment expenditure
workers savings
these factors can all vary to some degree independently of the factors
determining surplus value - the division of the working day and the
length of the working day.

3. The effect of variations in these immediate determinants of profits is
to allow profits to rise independently of surplus value - for instance
the short run effect of an increase in investment is to raise producer
goods prices above their values. Then a rise in profits is not
immediately associated with a rise in the amount of surplus labour