[OPE-L:6527] Re: Variable Capital

Eduardo Maldonado Filho (eduardo@ORION.UFRGS.BR)
Thu, 30 Apr 1998 00:02:30 -0300

Continuing my exchange with Chris on variable capital. Chris wrote (re:

> In my view Eduardo has not grasped the force of Jurrian's complaint about
> the way he measures variable capital. We have at the end of the message
> an interpretatoin of this measure as v but at the beginning it is defined
> as v+s. From a formal logical point of view it is completely inconsistent
> to offer two different measures of variable capital especially when the
> result is that something (v) is defined as part of itself (v+s)!

Variable capital, at least as I interpret it, has in fact two different
measures: what it costs to capitalists and the amount of new value created
within production. That is, before production takes place (i.e., form the
standpoint of the capitalist purchase of LP), variable capital is measured
by the value of the commodity LP (assuming that commodities are exchanged
according their value) which the capitalist buys - hence variable capital
is measured by v. As a result
of this purchase, the capitalist has acquired the right to consume
the use value of LP (which is labor). Thus, at the end of the production
process, the labor has created a new value which is equal to v + s. Thus,
from the standpoint of the results of the production process, the measure
of variable capital is v + s.

Let me try to substantiate this interpretation. According to Marx ("Results
of the Immediate Process of Production" in Capital, vol 1, Vintage Books
Edition, p. 1005):

"Within the immediate process of production the variable capital capital
has ceased to exists: it exists neither in the form of money, nor of
commodities, but in the form of living labour which the capitalist has
acquired through the purchase of labour-power. And it is only by virtue of
this transformation of variable capital into labour that the quantum of
value invested in money or commodities can be converted into capital."

It seems to me that that the following quotation of Marx, which is goes
after a passage I have already cited in a previous post, address to
Jurriaan's and Chris' complaints:

"The portion of value invested in the purchase of labour-power is a
definite quantity of objectified labour, a constant value like the value of
the labour-power purchased. But in the process of production the place of
the $90 is taken by labour-power which sets itself in motion, dead labour
is replaced by living labour...The result is the reproduction of v plus an
increment of v. From thepoint of view of capitalist production, therefore,
the whole process appears as the independent motion of what was originally
constant value,... Both the process and its results are ascribed to this
independent motion of value. If, therefore, such expression as '$90
variable capital' ... appear to contain *contradiction, this is only becase
they express a contradiction immanent in capitalis production*." (Capital,
vol 1, p. 322-23; Vintage Books)