Re: [OPE-L] Why aren't non-labourers sources of value?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Apr 08 2005 - 15:20:15 EDT

I had written in reply to Nicky:

>Second, you are implicitly defining without justification surplus
>value as new value added minus money wages paid to free wage
>laborers. But for Marx surplus value is defined as an increase in the
>value in circulation from one period to the next, simply M' less M.
The reason that Nicky gives for her definition of surplus value seems
to be that only if defined this way is surplus value specific to
capitalism;  capitalism can then be specified vis-a-vis other modes
of production by the concept of surplus value.

I then argued in part that the history of the mode of production of
capital could not be written with such a narrow definition of surplus

But there is of course another assumption--that before capitalism
employers did not pay even money wages (we'll leave aside wages in
kind and the multitude of other arrangements) to dispossessed workers
for the purposes of producing commodities in which the new value
added would be greater than the wages paid. We do remember of course
that dispossession predates the enclosures that Marx describes! In
fact as Jack Goody has reminded us  a component of the labor force
has been dispossessed since the Bronze Age [c.3000 BCE] in which
inegalitarian systems of land tenure emerged as a consequence of the
plough and animal traction that allowed one person to plough with
additional labor larger areas of land, leaving others with minimal
land or with having to provide their labour.

If one simply reads Banaji's work it will be clear that employer
contracts with the dispossessed for the purposes of producing not use
values but values and surplus value predates capitalism as a mode of

In short, Nicky's narrow (and in my opinion arbitrary) definition of
surplus value not only makes the writing of the history of the
capitalist mode of production impossible, it fails to specify a set
of labor arrangements specific only to the modern period. Again while
excluding many such arrangements that have been the history of the
capitalist mode of production. But it does not seem that Yann Moulier
Boutang's book will soon be translated into English. What a shame!


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