Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 13 2007 - 12:49:29 EDT

>---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?
>From:    "Riccardo Bellofiore" <>

>There is nothing specifically capitalist in what you say. This is not
>Marx. It is Smith.
>Our (at least, my) problem is to refer (new) VALUE to ABSTRACT
>labour, with NO residue, so that the productivity of value comes out
>ONLY from labour.

Right but from this does not follow the necessity of "the buying and
selling of labour power of free individuals (on the labour market,
prior to the production process)."

Not all proletarians have maintained access to the labor market; one
simply could not make sense of the actual history of the capitalist
organization of much mining and agriculture in your terms.  Convicts,
indentured servants and slaves have all at times performed abstract
labor in that the function of their labor has been abstract, i.e.
they have produced  in the form of a commodity transubstantiated into
money, qua a social mediation, a purely quantitative claim on
abstract social labor time, as a divisible and homogeneous substance.
Moreover these produced commodities have been alienated as they has
been owned wholly by a capitalist. These formally unfree workers have
also suffered the characteristic existential vulnerability of their
wage fund being possessed by a capitalist who advances it only the
condition of their continued performance of alienated,exploited and
abstract labor, but that wage fund has been advanced in the form of
scrips, provision lots  money wages of course and sometimes even
disguised as loans.  I am of course not the only one who has this
understanding--for example, do you know the writings of Jairus
Banaji, Marcel van der Linden, Jan Breman, Tom Brass?

In trying to shift the extensional base of the category of wage
labor, I am also trying to redefine its essence such that it is not
essentially defined around formal marketplace freedoms as you are
doing here. If successful my argument has very destructive effects on
the apologetic association of capitalism and worker freedom.

>In my view the argument by Marx is very, very specific. It has to do
>with the macro, class and monetary nature of capitalism.
>Just a part of it.
>In capitalism ONLY we have the buying and selling of labour power of
>free individuals (on the labour market, prior to the production

This is not true. If one reads Banaji and Jack Goody, we find much
evidence of undisguised formally free wage contracts long before
capitalism, but Banaji insists that the buying and selling of labor
power of "free" individuals is not sufficient for there to even be
the potentiality of the performance of abstract labor.

>The use value of labour power is living labour, producing (surplus)
>value and (surplus) money.
>The capitalist(s) buy labour power of worker(s), so they have the
>right to exploit = use it. This exploitation amount to the whole
>working day.

Well first exploitation does not amount to the whole working day.
This is basic to Marx. Second those who own labor outright or for a
circumscribed time also have to the "right to exploit=use it".

>Use it means putting workers to work, i.e. living labour.
>AFTER the employment contract on the labour market.

What is this important to ensuring that living labor is abstract
especially given the definition of abstract labor that I provided

>Living labour may be higher than necessary labour (of course, it is
>in fact). This variability of LL relative to NL is a piece of good
>luck for the buyer(s).

And if capitalists don't have good luck, they have and will use force
to pin the workforce down or force it into state directed unions.
There may be too much free land available for them to have good luck;
the rate of exploitation required to maintain profitability may not
be obtainable via a so called free market, so formally unfree or
child labor may be used. Shortages of labor such as in the cotton
famine Marx analyzed may lead the state to restrict emigration. These
extra economically coercive possibilities inhere in exploitation as
New World plantation slavery, South African mining and Nazi labor
policy make abundantly clear. When he was on this list Patrick Mason
made this point. I have made it. It seems to me so obvious that I
wonder why it is questioned.

>Unfortunately, the seller(s) are attached to the commodity they sell.
>Not true for sellers of corn, for example.
>So, AT THE SAME TIME, the labour power and the living labour CANNOT
>BUT BE the LP and the LL of the labourer. A piece of bad luck
>(potentially) for the buyers. But the good and the bad luck are
>When capitalist(s) buy corn, if the technique is given, the quantity
>of other inputs and the output are known, determined ex ante.
>NOT TRUE for the commodity labour power. Technical conditions do not
>define the social working day. When living labour *varies*, the
>quantity of other inputs and the output varies.
>And it is typical of capitalism this "variability". The indeterminacy
>ex ante, and the uncertainty, linked to class struggle in production
>(led by both classes).
>Note: in feudal society, as Marx depicts it, the labourer produce an
>ex ante determined amount of surplus in kind.

Not true in the metayer system. So this way of distinguishing
capitalism will not work.

>See Luxemburg on the
>wage, very good on this. In pre-capitalism it is the lot of the
>dominant classes which is determined ex ante. In capitalism, it is
>the workers'.
>Only as long as capitalist(s) are able to gain in this struggle at
>the point of production, creating a capitalist organisation and
>technology of production,

But this is a different point. You have shifted from the so called
free market to the organization of production as the differentia
specific of capitalism. These are two very different points.

>and even hegemony and cooperation
>(Burawoy), overcoming potential conflict and counterproductivity by
>workers, they are able to get labour in the quantity and quality
>Very specific to the social relations of production and the way the
>circuit of money capital and class struggle in production goes on in
>No reference to any ahistoric notion of "activity" by labour here, if
>not as a generic feature which by itself does not explain nothing. If
>you want to explain something relative to the valorization process,
>we cannot stick to something which is true for any labour process,
>and for any society.

right but you have not shown how the valorization process is tied to
the exchange between capital and labor power in the market; moreover,
as I have argued on this list Marx shows that this exchange is not an
exchange at all, that under the pressure of repeated exchanges what
was an exchange becomes the opposite of exchange but an appropriation
pure and simple. It's strange to make too much of formal marketplace
freedom given Marx's argument  in chs 21-23 of Capital I.


>But I understand this looks very strange to most. To me is the basic.
>ps: I'll try to answer though briefly to other posts asap (mind the final
>At 11:00 +0100 13-03-2007, Diego Guerrero wrote:
>>Hi, Riccardo,
>>You said:
>><, btw, has
>>NOTHING to do with the ahistoric feature that
>>labour is active, and nature or means of
>>production etc passive (that's why I cannpot
>>agree with the train of thought of Diego, and of
>>all those who in my view are regressing to
>>Smith). It has to do with the specific social
>>relation of capital.>
>>When I say that labour is the only active element in production I just mean
>>the following:
>>If in social production you take out any other input completely and for
>>ever, for example corn, society will experience some difficulties, but
>>production will continue. That is, it will keep being an output: matrix A
>>will be modified but still A>0.
>>However, if you take labour out, production will stop more soon than later.
>>Then you will have neither input nor output at all, and A becomes = 0.
>>So, without labour, the ACTION in which production consists of ceases
>>absolutely. This happens only in the case of labour. This is why I call
>>labour the only active element in production.
>>You cannot deny this, can you?

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