Re: Quantifying Values - response to Alan

jurriaan bendien (
Thu, 22 Jan 1998 20:35:40 +0100

Alan writes:

> Productive and unproductive expenditures reduce to this: if you think a
> cost is productive, you will put it in constant capital, and if you think
> it is unproductive, you will put it in revenue. There is nowhere else for
> it to go: no hiding place. In NIPA terms, either it adds value, or it's a
> transfer.

I think now we are confusing an income and expenditure account with a
product account. Let's take consumption of fixed capital. Is this from a
Marxian point of view new value added or transferred value ? It is
transferred value, it's not part of surplus-value although some analysts
put it in surplus-value. But how about the wages of unproductive labour ?
They do enter into the value of the total commodity product, but how ? They
do not constitute part of the new value added, therefore it must be a
"transfer" or something else. What I'm trying to get to is an itemisation
of all the flows which together constitute the value of the Marxian

> Now, the issue concerning interest is 'what kind of cost is it'? To me,
> word 'production cost' conveys a deduction from constant capital:
> that goes into the product in the same way as steel, energy (or, to take
> the case of a productive service, communications). A production cost is
> something that is exchanged against capital, as opposed to revenue.

Well I am suggesting that expenditure on unproductive labour is a
production cost, that this labour is exchanged against capital, however it
does not create an addition to surplus-value, merely facilitates the
transfer of surplus-value. Therefore I'm suggesting it exchanges against a
component of constant capital.

> Is interest a production cost, something without which one would not have
a car? Or is it something external to the labour-process as such, something
> that may (or may not) help sustain the society that permits this
> labour-processs, but isn't an indispensible pre-requisite for an
individual capitalist to make a car? I don't particularly care which answer

Well I do care, because either interest is part of the total Marxian
product or it isn't, and I am arguing it is, namely the net interest
receipts are an appropriation of surplus-value.

That isn't my point in this discussion. My point is that you can't give
both. For each sum of money that the capitalists spend, on the basis of
some theoretical
> criterion or other, you must either allocate this sum to capital, which
> what I would call a production cost, or you must allocate it to revenue.

Fine. Now where are we going to allocate expeditures on unproductive
labour ?
> Nor do I think things are any different when we operate at the social
> level. Total capital is the sum of the individual capitals that make it

That was also Mandel's point, but now how do we allocate the expenditure on
wages of
unproductive labour as a component of the total value product ? Or do we
leave them out ?

"Therefore there is no need to discuss Marx further and we can safely
write him out of the curricula, substituting instead the bits of Marx that
I like."

Well I am certainly not trying to take a vulgar point of view like this,
and I am discussing Marx, I am trying to apply Marx. But I think we can
also acknowledge that Marx, although he genially anticipated modern
national accounts by more than half a century, did not have an answer to
all accounting problems or precisely defined product measures. So there
are problems of interpretation.
> So, in conclusion: I think it is rather important to make a clear
> separation between the difficulty of the subject matter itself, our own
> difficulties in grappling with a subject, and the errors of those who
> studied it before us.