[OPE-L:6534] Re: Non-Capital and Variable Capital

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 2 May 1998 09:41:21 -0400 (EDT)

I began this interesting thread with some questions about the following

"*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

I'm afraid that I don't have time to satisfactorily respond to all of the
comments by Jurriaan, Claus, and Chris on this topic. But, I do want to
add a few comments at this time.

To begin with, I think Jurriaan came the closest to interpreting what I
viewed as the context of my prior questions on the above quote in his post
of 4/16. I.e., I viewed this opposition between capital and non-capital,
(where "non-capital", the "negation of capital", is labour) in terms of
the conflict between viewing labour-power from the *perspective of
capital* as a commodity, a cost, and an element of capital (in the form
of variable capital) and the *perspective of labour itself* who view
themselves as "non-capital".

That was the issue that I wanted to discuss (and Jurriann commented on),
but after reading the comments by Claus and Chris, I agree that the above
quote from the _Grundrisse_ can be better interpreted and situated in the
manner that they did. Nonetheless, I would assert that irrespective of
the context of that particular quote, there is *another* sense in which
labour itself can be viewed as "non-capital".

Other comments:

Chris writes:

> 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.

I agree. Thus when capital advances money capital in the form of variable
capital [*] for labour-power, there is the recognition that this
represents *only* the _potential_, or abstract formal possibility, of
new value creation (and surplus-value and profit). This is because, as you
say, living labour must be "pumped out". Towards that end, capital must
confront labour as non-capital and labour comes to confront capital as
non-labour. These are logical and historical preconditions for the
valorization of capital ... and for the realization of a class that it is
a subject for itself, with separate material interests, rather than
merely being a bearer for the creation of surplus value for capital.

In solidarity, Jerry

[*] But, a caveat: in practice, capitalists *don't* advance wages to
workers prior to work being performed by labour. I.e. wages are normally
paid only *after* (some quantity, and quality, of) work has been
performed by labour. Thus, capital can set labour in motion and sometime
later [a temporal gap!] wages are paid-out. This "gap" is also an
additional means by which capital can "pump out" value: i.e. it is used as
a means to "guarantee" a certain intensity of labour.