[OPE-L:5252] Re: trpf/extra profits vs. extra surplus value?

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 12 Jun 1997 15:53:06 -0700 (PDT)

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Paolo C (not to be confused with Paolo G) asked in [OPE-L:5251]:

> > [This seems to me to be related to the quandry posed by the Okishio
> > Theorem. I.e. if one examines the redistribution of surplus-value and
> > profit with technical change and competition, then an individual
> > capitalist who introduces a new process technology which raises the
> > _social_ productivity of labor receives "surplus profits" via a
> > redistribution of surplus-value and, thereby, experiences a
> > transitional increase in the firm's rate of profit.
> Since most of this discussion is developed in chapter 12 of vol.I of
> Capital I will take the advantage to ask you about something that has
> botherd me for a while now. After all, are we talking about surplus value
> or surplus profit? If we are conceiving the extra gain as a result of the
> redistribution then surplus value is given. The extra gain comes from
> dislodging somebody else's market share. Yet, Marx calculates the extra
> surplus labor which results from the introduction of a new technique on
> the part of an individual capital: (Capital, vol. I, International
> Publishers, p.318: "The ratio of the necessary labor to surplus labor,
> which under average conditions was 5:1, is now only 5:3"). It seems, then,
> that the issue is not only one of redistribution: there is an
> extra surplus value being created here.
> How can the extra profits come from distribution if they are generated as
> extra surplus value by the innovating firm?

First, I'm pleased to see that you decided to take the plunge, i.e. to
start posting.

Second, that is an *excellent* question! (and one that I even asked
myself, in retrospect, after posting the section that you excerpted).

Now, to get to the substance of your question.

One answer, which perhaps begs your question, is -- if we accept the
position that the subject matter of V3 is "capital in distribution" and
the amount of surplus value is, as Fred says, "GIVEN", then the trpf
concerns what happens to the general r with a redistribution of a given
mass of surplus-value following technical change.

Relatedly, another answer would be that if we accept the proposition that
the "same amount of labour time always creates the same amount of value",
then technical change can't create more value since only living labour
creates value (and with the trpf living labour is displaced by dead
labour). Yet, as I have pointed out previously, it is SNLT which creates
value rather than labour-time as such and with technical change what is
SNLT *changes* so we have a moving target.

I can't say that I'm particularly satisfied with either of the above
answers though for the following reasons.

(1) In V3, Ch. 14, we see that Marx believed that the trpf would hold even
where the rate of surplus value was increasing (i.e. not simply assumed to
be "GIVEN"). Indeed, he argues that the trpf and an increasing s/v
are both expressions of the same process, i.e. an increase in the
social productivity of labour that follows technical change.

(2) In Ch. 14 a "more intense exploitation of labour" is viewed
as a "counteracting factor" to the trpf. Also, a "reduction of wages below
their value" would similarly increase the rate of surplus value.
Thus, it seems to me, that Marx recognizes that surplus value can increase
during the course of accumulation but (he contends) this won't prevent
the trpf, although it might forestall the decline in the general r.

(3) When we examine capitalist accumulation as a dynamic process, it is
pretty far-fetched to simply argue that the mass and rate of s is
"GIVEN" -- especially, since the valorization process involves the
expansion of surplus-value.

(4) If the mass of s is "GIVEN", then how do we explain the relationship
between individual value and social value with technical change?

No doubt, the above has created even more confusion. Would anyone care to
sort all of this out and fit the pieces of the puzzle together?

In solidarity, Jerry