[OPE-L:6386] Re: RE: Variable capital and the determination of value

C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Tue, 31 Mar 1998 12:41:33 +0100

Eduardo M commenting on Chris A asks
>I'm not sure if I have understood what you are saying correctly. Do you
>mean that there is no relationship between variable capital and living
>labor? If so, how to you define variable capital?
>As I understand it, living labor is the form assumed by variable capital
>within the process of production. So, in that sense variable capital does
>determine value. Do you agree?
I agree with the first sentence not with the second. The only new value
(as opposed to the transferred value of the constant K) is determined by
the living labour time. This is quite independent of the wages and their
magnitude. Some of this new value has then to be returned in the form of
wages but the latter in no way determine value.
E goes on
>Let me quote Marx to support my interpretation:
>"A further difficulty is caused by the original form of the variable
>capital. In our example, C' = $410 constant + $ 90 variable + $ 90
>surplus-value; but $90 is a given and therefore a constant quantity and
>hence it appears absurd to treat it as variable. In fact, however, the $90
>variable is here merely a symbol for the process undergone by this value
>the portion of the capital invested in the purchase of labour-power is a
>definite quantity of objectified labour, a constant value like like the
>value of the labour-power purchased. But in the process of production the
>place of the $90 is taken by the labour-power which sets itself in motion,
>dead labour is replaced by living labour, something stagnant by something
>flowing, a constant by a variable. The result is the reproduction of v plus
>an increment of v." (Capital, vol 1, p. 322, Vintage Books, chapter 9 - The
>rate of surplus-value).

This is consistent with what I said. The $90 disappears and the production
of value is determined by the living labour in motion. It is especially
important methodologically not to read C=c+v+s in a Smithian way according
to which the value of a commodity is determined as the sum of the returns
to factors. The new value is determined already prior to it split into v
and s in distribution.
Probably you agree with all this Eduardo so the misunderstanding is
probably semantic.