[OPE-L:1937] Re: Re: value-form theories

Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Fri, 17 Dec 1999 09:46:00 -0500 (EST)

This is a reply to Nicky's (1912) (Nicky, thanks a lot).

1. In a previous post, I asked Nicky:

> >Instead, Nicky says that R-W are interested in an analysis of the "form
> >determination of the process of surplus-value production". Nicky, would
> >you please explain further what you mean by the "form determination of the
> >process of surplus-value production". Is this something that you think
> >that Marx's theory does not provide?

Nicky replied:

> What matters to capitalists is M'>M; accumulation. The key issue for them
> (capitalists) is not how much surplus value is extracted, but how much SV
> is realised (in money terms). To this end capitalists make an ideal
> precommensuration of the labour time required maximise profit on the
> product of labour, in the market. In so far as the production of exchange
> values (albeit that these depend upon the interpenetration of value and use
> value in the product of labour) is the determining element in setting the
> labour process in motion, production of SV is form determined; i.e. there
> is an ontological inversion whereby capital rather than labour becomes the
> subject of production.
> I think that Marx does provide the basis for this 'reconstruction' in his
> discussion of the relationship of capital and labour in the Grundrisse (but
> see Chris Arthur's 'Rivisti' paper: "Capital is not only command of unpaid
> labour, as Karl Marx thought. It is essentially command of labour, i.e. of
> the entire working day").

Nicky, I don't understand this difference between surplus-value extracted
and surplus-value realized - is this the difference again between ideal
profit and actual profit? I would argue that Marx's theory is about the
quantity of surplus-value realized in price terms (i.e. delta M). Marx's
theory assumes that the quantity of surplus-value realized through the
sale of commodities is determined by the quantity of socially necessary
labor time required for the production of these commodities.

2. Nicky continues:

I agree that surplus-value is the aim of capitalist production and that
this goal determines many of the features of capitalist production, i.e.
that capitalist production is "form-determined" in this sense. I think
that Marx would agree and indeed argued this point extensively. What does
the "value-form reconstruction" add to Marx on this point? Surely, Marx
argued that capital is control of the total working day.

3. But Marx also argued that they key question in a theory of capitalism
is to explain the determination of the magnitude of the dM. This point is
stated very clearly in the following excerpt from the "Results"

        The fact that the purpose of the process is that x should be
        transformed into x + dx also POINTS TO THE PATH OUR OWN
        INVESTIGATION SHOULD TAKE. The result must be expressed
        as the FUNCTION OF A VARIABLE QUANTITY, or be transformed into
        one during the process. As a given sum of money, x is a constant
        from the outset and hence its increment = 0. In the course of the
        process, therefore, it must be changed into another amount which
        contains a variable element. OUR TASK IS IS TO DISCOVER THIS
        (Capital, vol. 1, Vintage edition, p. 977; emphasis added).

4. Marx's answer to this question is of course that variable capital is
transformed into living labor, a part of which is unpaid, and this unpaid
labor produces the surplus-value. On the basis of this theory of the
magnitude of surplus-value, Marx was able to explain a wide range of
important phenomena in capitalist economies (conflict over the working day
and over the intensity of labor, division of labor within capitalist
firms, inherent technological change, falling rate of profit, recurring
crises, etc.). Without this quantitative theory (or perhaps some other
theory) of the magnitude of surplus-value, these phenomena cannot be
explained. If "value-form" theory rejects this quantitative theory, and
does not provide another quantitative theory, then I don't see how it can
explain these important phenomena, and in this sense is inferior to Marx's

I look forward to further discussion.


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