[OPE-L:6459] Re: Variable capital and the determination of value

Eduardo Maldonado Filho (eduardo@orion.ufrgs.br)
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 22:27:11 -0300

This my second attend to post it

Paulo wrote (4/10/98)

> To define living labor as variable capital, as Eduardo does, is
> equivalent to deny the
> existence of surplus value for in that case you would be paying for the
> whole living labor acquired.

First of all, I did not define variable, I was but stating my
interpretation of Marx's concept. It should be clear that did not intend
to present my own definition, but Marx's own concept.

In relation to your argument that by defining living labor as variable
capital denies the existence of surplus value, I think I did not make my
argument clear. I 'm not saying that capitalists are paying for the whole
living labor. Rather, I'm arguing that the capitalist buys (i.e., rent)
LP according its value (which is equal to the value of the means of
substance necessary to the workers' maintenance), but what he consumes (as
it is the case for any consumption, productive or not) is the use-value of
commodity LP, which is labor). During the production process (when
capitalist is consuming the commodity LP), the worker creates (insofar as
his labor is abstract labor) new value. The labor performed during the
working day can be break down into necessary labor (i.e., that part of
the working day during which the worker creates a new value but it only
reproduces the value the capitalist advanced for buying LP) and surplus
labor (which creates surplus value).

> Besides, IMO, variable capital, as a
> value paid for the labor power, is a fixed magnitude. What makes it
> variable is not a change of form, from money-capital to
> productive-capital. This change of form also happens to that part of
> money
> capital converted in means of production, and this does not transform
> that
> part of capital into variable capital.

So, are you saying that the categories of constant and variable capital
do not belong productive capital? If so, I strongly disagree. Constant and
variable capital are defining according their contribution to the
formation of the value of the commodity capital. What makes capital-value
into variable capital is the fact that during the production process it
exists as living labor, which is, according to Marx, the source of value.
Since the use value of all other commodities acquired by the capitalist
do not assume the form of labor they cannot create new value during
production, so thir character of constant capital.

> In vol II (International Publishers) pg. 27 Marx says: "...the purchase
> of
> labor power represents a contract of purchase which stipulates for the
> delivery of a quantity of labor in excess of that need to replace the
> price of labor-power; hence delivery of surplus value..."

Well, this only confirms what I'm saying.

> I have not seen any reasoning developed by Marx which may indicate the
> notion that actual living labor is variable capital.
> I realize as I write that the argument is not well thought out, but
> regarding the idea that living labor=variable capital I must say that
> all
> my inner instincts were mobilized against thinking this way.

In vol 1 of Capital (International Publishers) p.214 Marx sates: "The
portion of the capital invested in the purchase of labour-power is a
definite quantity of materialised labour, a constant value like the value
of the labour-power purchased. But in the process of production the PLACE
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."