Re: Quantifying Values - response to Alan

jurriaan bendien (
Sun, 25 Jan 1998 15:02:53 +0100

In response to Alan:

But why not remove the word 'Marxian'?
> Then you cannot upset anyone who reads Marx differently. Moreover, if
> itemisation fails, this failure cannot mendaciously be blamed on Marx by
> others. It will make life more peaceful, and you lose nothing.

I use "Marxian" just as a shorthand to indicate the intention.
> Evidently that was too much to hope for.
> > Well I am suggesting that expenditure on unproductive labour is a
> > production cost, that this labour is exchanged against capital, however
> > 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.
> I think that this is consistent but quite distinct and radical, since it
> represents a re-definition of labour-power.

I don't see why that is the case.

I'm still reading Murray's
> material (arrived today: thanks, Murray) but my first reaction to the way

> you express it yourself, is that if you assert waged labour of any kind
> a part of constant capital, then labour so defined functions quite unlike
> any other, since it has no value-creating capacity.

Correct. This is the meaning of unproductive labour.

For example, its
> contribution to the value of the product is not defined by the time it
> works, but by the cost of its food and other necessities: its wage-cost.

I don't see why this is the case. Unproductive labour is itself paid just
as productive labour is according to hours worked, it is just that no
addition to surplus-value results in the former case, while in the latter
case surplus-value does result.
> I think this view is a quite conceivable way of thinking about output,
> I hope you agree it is almost bound to contradict what most people
> understand by Marx's conception of labour-power, since the value added to

> the product by wage-workers will no longer equal the time they work.

The argument in relation to unproductive labour is that the surplus-labour
of unproductive labour transfers income (a fraction of currently produced
surplus-value) but does not create any addition to surplus-value. There is
no necessary or determinate proportionality between the total income
generated by unproductive labour for the commercial or financial capitalist
and the labour hours put in.

> I think that you cannot use the conceptualisation that you propose to
> reconstruct the Marxian product and if you do so, you are bound to end up
> with a contradictory conception, which you are quite unjustified in
> on Marx. And there is no need to do so.

In that case, an alternative conception of the contribution of unproductive
labour to the annual product should be proposed.
> I'd like to put the question a different way around to move the
> on: what puzzles me is why, for you, it should it be inconsistent for
> someone to suppose that unproductive expenses are paid entirely out of
> revenue?

In NIPA unproductive labour is portrayed as adding value to the gross
product. Now either it is an added value or it isn't. Marx's discussion
suggests it isn't. Then either you include it in the value of the product
as a preserved value or you exclude it from the value of the product
> Am I allowed to allocate interest expenses unambiguously to revenue?
> Can you allow me that if interest is a part of revenue, then it cannot
> be a production cost?

It's not for me to say how you compute your accounts, I am merely
suggesting a different approach, that's all.

I'd like to make sure we have clarity on this one
> because your starting point in the discussion seemed to be that interest
> is part of both components of total output, both a production cost and a
> part of revenue.

No. I noted that different transactors both pay and receive interest, and
then we have to decide how to account for them. I am suggesting that net
interest receipts of the banks and financial institutions from doemstic
activity are an appropriation of currently produced surplus-value. I don't
in fact think we can measure that accurately though.
> I respond: allocate expeditures on unproductive labour wherever you
want, but don't do it twice in the same product. Either put them in
revenue, or make them a production cost.

I wasn't intending to "double-count". We count the wages of unproductive
labour once, but not as a fraction of surplus-value.
> Why won't you let *me* put these items entirely in revenue? Why can't it
> work? What's the difficulty with that manner of conceiving it?

I am objecting only to the inclusion of expenditures on unproductive labour
as a fraction of currently produced surplus-value, that is all.
> The way it looks from over here is: I'm allowing you to do it your way,
> you are saying I can't do it my way. And because Marx tries to do it the
> same way, he can't do it either.

You can arrange you accounts any way you like. Marx doesn't offer any
solution to the accounting problem, and all I am saying is that
unproductive labour expenses are costs related to the circulation of
commodities and social reproduction, and ought to be accounted for
accordingly, not as a fraction of currently produced surplus-value.