[OPE-L] PUPL and the total profit/total surplus value identity

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon May 15 2006 - 18:32:18 EDT


My simple queries (which I didn't fully resolve in my unfinished Phd)
suggested a social accounting problem of sorts - suppose you regard the
salary bill of workers classified as non-productive labor as a "deduction
from surplus-value" (a la Fred Moseley).

(1) This would imply total surplus value and total profit in an accounting
period *cannot* be identical in principle, because whatever else you might
argue, the non-productive labor income is not profit income, unless you are
willing to argue that wage costs are really profits (well, they might be in
the minor case of stock options or profit-sharing etc. that are part of the
remuneration package). Then where does that leave "transformation problem"
theories which argue that total surplus value created in an accounting
period must necessarily equal total profit? (as you know, I've always
dissented from this identity).

(2) What if part of the salaries of non-productive labour are "advanced" (to
borrow Kliman's terminology) from *previously* existing capital, rather than
paid from current gross revenues (as Marx usually assumes)? In that case, it
would be difficult to argue they are a deduction from newly created surplus
value. Mandel suggested vaguely these salaries are paid "from social
capital" but he didn't crack the social accounting problem.

Your first reply is, Why not regard non-value-adding salary income as a
deduction from the _preceding_ period? My answer would be along the lines:
because it is the value of current output we are measuring, and
non-value-adding labor is a necessary constituent of that current output,
whether gross or net, it is part of the current cost structure of that
output. If hypothetically we regard these earnings as a deduction from a
previous period, obviously they cannot *also* be counted as part of current
(newly created) surplus value.

You suggest: There is support in Marx for the idea that these [salaries of
non-productive labor] are advanced, I think.  After all, if the wages for
productive workers are advanced (i.e. V is advanced) then why not also for
the wages of unproductive workers?

My reply is that Marx's basic principle is that the wages are mainly *not*
"advanced", i.e. the worker contracts to work first, and gets paid later. It
is true, funds may be held in reserve to pay salaries, but because these
funds are replenished from current sales, the actual average "stock" of
variable capital in industries during a year is usually much less than the
annual flow (this point is ignored by most scholars).

You suggest:

But, (moving away from Marx) I think that both claims are
counter-factual.  I.e. wages are _not_ "advanced" by capitalists
to workers.  Workers receive wages only _after_ they have
worked, not before.  This might seem to be a trivial point, but
I don't think so.

There we obviously agree, except that I think it does not "move away from
Marx". The point is that if as you say "Workers receive wages only _after_
they have worked, not before", this applies *also* to non-productive labour.
Presumably the Marxian gross product is a monetary valuation of a stream of
*current* labor.

You add:

The reason for the delay is structural: it is one of
many expressions of capitalist control of the workplace in the
sense that it becomes a means to extract work from workers.
I.e. since workers know that they won't get paid until _after_
they work, this is used as a form of  control by capitalists.  It is
especially a means by which _new_ workers and the _lowest
paid_  (esp. those without savings) workers can be controlled --
it ensures that they will continue to work, at least, until they
are  paid.

If you want to discuss this, let's move it back to the list.  (you
have my permission to excerpt in part or in full this message).

Comradely, Jerry

Well I have just mooted it to the list... The general idea is that the
Marxian value product for a year must be equal to the sum of current gross
incomes generated by production after deduction of costs, be it with a
somewhat different grossing and netting procedure than is used in official
accounts. At least, that is what Marx anticipates in the Resultate.

Anwar Shaikh notes somewhere that Marx's last published definition of
productive labor (in Cap. Vol. 1) refers both to the nature of the output
(its useful effect) and to the social relation involved. The schoolmaster is
capitalistically unproductive if he works e.g. for the state, but productive
if e.g. the school is run as a commercial business (in which case he
produces capital). But this does not imply that *any* occupation can be
either productive or non-productive depending on the social relation within
which work is performed, because it depends partly on the nature of the
output also.  "If we have a function which, although in and for itself
unproductive, is nevertheless a necessary moment of [economic] reproduction,
then when this is transformed, through a division of labour, from the
secondary activity of many into the exclusive activity of a few, into their
special business, this does not change the character of the function itself"
(Capital Vol. 2, Penguin ed., p. 209). I think Marx wrote this bit after he
completed Cap. Vol. 1 though he did not publish it himself. I tend to think
that Marx was aware that, with changes in the division of labour, the
frontiers of PUPL would change as well, in which case we would need to
distinguish between transhistorical realities and emergent historical

Of course I am aware that social accounting techniques may never do full
justice to the social relations involved in giving and getting, taking and
receiving, sharing and excluding etc. but accounting insights are useful to
arrive at greater conceptual precision.


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