[OPE-L:6518] Re: Non-Capital and Variable Capital

C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 15:41:22 +0100

> "*Use-value* confronting capital as posited exchange-value is
> *labour*. Capital exchanges itself, or exists in this specific
> form only in relation to *non-capital*, the negation of
> capital, in respect to which alone it is capital; the real
> non-capital is *labour*" (_CW_, Vol. 28, p. 204, emphasis in
> original).
> *******************
Claus has rightly pointed to the background of this quotation in the
dialectic of use value and exchange value. However I have slightly
different take on it.
We know the commodity is determined as a use value and as an exchange
value. But this is not like saying something is red and round, because
these determinations stand in a relation of opposition to each other. While
it is a condition of a C being exchanged that it is a UV, it acquires in
the value form the new determination of EV which abstractly negates all
difference of UV between Cs and thereby declares them all identical as
values. This value form inverts the relation between the particularity of
Cs as concretely natural bodies and their general social determination as
exchangeables because now the body of the C counts only as the 'bearer' of
its value (as Marx puts it).
This *inversion* is key to understanding the value form as it develops via
money to capital. To begin with , as long as we stay within circulation
forms up to merchant capital these relations of opposition and inversion
remain unchanged; all the way through Uv and V stand immediately opposite
one another, identity and difference coexist but do not interact (Although
to be sure money is naturally gold as Marx points out; but this not
decisive, other bearers could serve.). With the circuit of industrial
capital it all becomes more complicated. For now, to accomplish
valorisation, capital must embody itself in certain particular use values,
above all labour power, capable of producing a surplus product. This means
that the particular properties of the UV bearers of constant and variable
capital are functionally decisive in productive capital. In this phase it
is not the general form of capital that counts but its particularity.
(Incidentally there are two forms of particularity, capital is particular
as a certain sum of value in motion but it is also particular in that it is
invested in certain use values rather than others - here I mean the
latter.) Now the specific difference of use value *makes a difference*.
Dialectically speaking, the inversion is inverted. What counts now is the
specific properties and skills of the means of production and labour power
respectively. Productive capital has no measure because the use values in
which it is embodied are incommensurable with each other as factors of
production. Thus both 'constant' and 'variable' capital have 'vanished' for
the time being. and replaced by a flow of services, most importantly living
labour. This is one reason why in the quote at the head Marx defines living
labour as 'non-capital'. However things are still more complicated for the
inversion of the inversion remains *within* capital. (If someone goes to
the antipodes they do not return to Greenwich by standing on their heads.)
The production process is a capitalist one, not an asocial, ahistorical
transformation of matter. The value form of the process has not disappeared
but remains latent; indeed it helps determine the shape of the process
(real subsumption, Babbage, Braverman) in virtue of its positing as a
valorisation process enforced by capital's personification (managers whose
personal qualities also now become germane to their effectiveness).
In sum we now have an interpenetration of value and use value that ensures
both surplus product and surplus value emerges.
So living labour as not-capital i.e. as use value is the source of new
value and the condition of capital's increase. But labour power does not
generate such a flow of service automatically for the workers are
recalcitrant to their exploitation; living labour is forced labour because
it is not an expression of the purposes of the labourer but of capital.
Thus living labour is not merely non-capital in some formal sense, it stand
opposed to capital; it has to be 'pumped out' as Marx graphically puts it.
Capital cannot simply invest itself in this commodity which is other than
it. It can only produce value in negating this its negation, ie. through
the class struggle at the point of production. Dialectically speaking ,
here the opposition of use value and value is heightened into an actual
contradiction. New value is the successful reification of living labour.

Comradely Chris A