Re: (OPE-L) Re: Dynamic value and natural price

From: Paul Cockshott (clyder@GN.APC.ORG)
Date: Wed Nov 05 2003 - 17:27:09 EST

Michael Williams wrote:
> [MJW] But this seems to me just to be a response to my perhaps too truncated
> point. Expanding a bit: capital accumulation is in principle indifferent as
> to the use-values in the production of which it is invested.This
> indifference is manifest in capital in the money form. Clearly I am not
> disputing that Smith and Marx made a distinction between productive and
> unproductive wage labour. I am rather probing the sustainabilty and
> insightfulness of that putative distinction


Adam Smith was concerned with the wealth of nations. Capitalists are
also concerned with real wealth which they realise is only partially
represented by money. It is for this reason that accounting practice
tries to compensate for the effects of inflation.

Because he was concerned with real wealth Smith was interested in
discovering what categories of labour caused this real wealth to be

Marx tightened up the distinction by Smith by defining productive
labour to be that which produces surplus value. The idea being that
labout which contributes to the production of the surplus product
provides the surplus that is re-invested in new plant and machinery,
and in employing more workers.

In conjunction with :

a) the theory of relative surplus value
b) the Sraffian generalisation of the reproduction schemes

one can show that the categories of labour who are productive
of a social surplus profit are those workers whose activity enters
directly or indirectly into the effort necessary to produce the
real wage. It is only among this group of workers that an
improvement in labour productivity will lead to an increase
in the surplus value.

Now you may say that the determinants of surplus value should
not concern us, that the determinants of the advance of wealth
should not concern us. But in saying that you would be marking
out an area of investigation quite distinct from what has been
the concerns of political economy.

> Mike:
> but capital as such is not tied to particular use-value productions, but
> flows around in pursuit of profitable sectors in which to invest.
> Paul
> This is a metaphor. What is really happening here?
> Are you talking about purchases and sales of stocks and shares
> or are you talking about accumulation of real capital assets?
> If it is real capital assests, these require the expenditure of
> labour to obtain them. In which case the 'flow of capital' is
> just a mystified reflection of the movement of productive workers
> from one sort of activity to another.
> When 'capital flowed into Railways', what actually happended
> behind the appearance was that hundreds of thousands of workers
> started building railways under the direction of the railway barons.
> [MJW] yeah - and when smaller amounts of capital flow into Group 4 (etc) a
> number of workers start producing security services. When capital flows into
> banking, many (more) workers start producing intermediation and other
> financial services. So where's the relevant difference?

The distinction is that a flow of labour into unproductive activities
profitable for their direct employers, is of no net benefit to the
employing class as a whole. No improvement in productivity in
this sector can alter the total sum of surplus value.

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