[OPE-L:1444] Re: Re: Smith Marx and matter and accumulation

Paul Cockshott (wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk)
Fri, 08 Oct 1999 11:46:50 +0100

At 18:55 06/10/99 -0300, you wrote:
>Claus: The fact that money is a commodity doesn't mean that *the
>accumulation of value is always a physical accumulation*, and doesn't
>contradict my statement that money is the abstract form of value. Being an
>abstract form doesn't mean being immaterial, it rather means that
>gold-money represents value *in abstraction of particular use-values*. And
>you miss the point if you assume that the hoarding of gold-money, in
>capitalism, represents accumulation of value. In capitalism you accumulate,
>i.e., increase your stock of value, by using it as capital, i.e., as a
>means of extracting unpaid labour. More specifically, accumulation refers
>to the accumulation of capital, not of simple value. Thus, the hoarding of
>gold-money is not a means to accumulate value and cannot be envisaged by a
>capitalist as his goal.

What I am trying to argue in this series of posts is that M Williams
criticism of
Smiths comment about unproductive labour leaving behind nothing which
persists beyond its performance is unfounded. I am arguing that all capital
accumulation presupposes a material accumulation of transformed physical
objects. The unit of account for our equating these diverse physical objects
is labour hours, but that such objects must exist for capital to accumulate.

Labour which does not either directly or indirectly lead to the production of
such objects, is, as Smith originally pointed out, unproductive.

It appeared to me that you were implying that the existence of money allowed
capital to escape from this constraint on accumulation pointed out by Smith,
in the sense that accumulation of value could take place without an
accumulation of use values by taking the form of an accumulation of money.
I now realise that you were not saying that, and that you agree that any
accumulation of capital must have an associated accumulation of transformed

> > >If it were true that *capital can only accumulate as forms of matter*,
> > >there could not be capital in sectors that produce some of the so called
> > >services, f.i. teaching in private schools, transportation, etc.
> >
> > Private schools require buildings, transportation requires railway tracks
> > trucks etc. I dont see anything very spiritual about these entities.
>I agree, but now you are correctly talking about accumulation of capital as
>productive capital, which is precisely what I was emphasizing in my post.
>But you had said something different, as follows:
> >Capital can only accumulate as forms of matter, so that unless
> >labour
> > produces transformed matter which persists beyond the moment of its
> > performance it can not contribute to accumulation.
>If this were true, private schools wouldn't be able to expand their
>productive capital, as you now point out, because teaching does not produce
>a transformed matter which persists beyond the moment of its performance.

I dont think that is true. Teaching transforms the material brains of the
which persist in this transformed state. It is for this reason, that some
enters into the basic commodity.

>What it produces as capital is unpaid labour in abstract form, i.e., in
>form of money, but not to be piled up in form of money, but to be converted
>into new capital.

I agree of course that private schools no more produce their own means
of production than does a cotton factory. The point to determine is whether
the labour in a given enterprise contributes to the production of the social
surplus product.

Some private schools do some do not. Consider the contrasting cases of
a private engineering school and a private military college all of whose
go on to become career soldiers. The former contributes indirectly to the
of the basic commodity, the latter does not. The private military college
is thus
unproductive and any accumulation of buildings etc that it acquires is the
result of surplus value produced in other parts of the economy. The same
applies to capital that accumulates in the Pantex factory in Texas.

> > capital labour relation, but this just one historical phase of capital
> > accumulation.
> > It occurs in those nations that have either or both of, a rising
>population or
> > a latent reserve army of labour in the form of peasants. When these
> > are no longer met, capital accumulation can continue by raising the
> > composition of capital.
> > This process enters into conflict with the fixed population base
>available for
> > exploitation and results in a falling rate of profit.
>I'm not sure that it is appropriate to analyse isolated countries, since
>capital has been an international phenomenon from the beginning. The
>west-european countries, like any other advanced cpaitalist country, have
>either imported labour force or exported capital when necessary in order to
>attend the needs of their accumulation. Thus, there hasn't really existed a
>concrete situation like the one you mention.

There has, in Britain from the late 60s to the early 1980s the conditions
that I described applied. An actually declining productive labourforce,
no net export of capital yet accumulation of constant capital leading
to an absolutely classic textbook crisis of the falling rateof profit.

>Even considering advanced
>capitalist countries in isolation, I don't think there has ever been a
>situation where unemployment has been completely eliminated. It is
>difficult to imagine a capitalist system without a reserve army of labor,
>and not only composed of peasants.

The only reserve army relevant to long period analysis is the latent
not the stangnant or floating.

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