[OPE-L:6461] Re: Variable capital and the determination of value

jurriaan bendien (Jbendien@globalxs.nl)
Tue, 14 Apr 1998 18:30:03 +0200

Eduardo writes:

Constant and
> variable capital are defining according their contribution to the
> formation of the value of the commodity capital. What makes capital-value
> advanced
> 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.

I would not quite not agree. What makes capital "variable" is its capacity
to yield a product greater (or, by exception, smaller) in value than its
own acquisition cost. This capacity - and this is central to Marx's value
theory - is a characteristic of living human labour. Living labour is the
goose that lays the golden egg, and without its application capital rots
away. The interesting question is, is capital outlaid on wage costs in
circulation (unproductive) labour etc. "variable" capital ? From the
standpoint of the individual entrepreneur or the sector, obviously "yes".
>From the standpoint of society as a whole, the answer is however "no",
since it does not add to the value of the total surplus product, but in
effect assists in the transfer of a fraction of (claims to) the surplus
product. As we discussed on previous occasions, this raises the question
of how to treat the capital outlaid on unproductive workers wages in the
social accounts - and if Fred Moseley is correct this capital in fact
should be treated from the social point of view as an element of
surplus-value; "variable" only insofar as surplus-value is a variable


Jurriaan Bendien