Re: [OPE-L] Marx on the equalisation of rates of surplus value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Dec 31 1969 - 20:05:41 EST

>Rakesh Bhandari claimed Marx assumed a uniform S/V only for the purpose of
>calculations, but as I previously indicated, in fact Marx's own argument is
>somewhat different, and here is the relevant passage:

It was important that you included my last name, Jurriaan Bendien?

And I did not say that. I granted that there 
there is a real tendency towards a uniform s/v; 
however,  not only pre-capitalist survivals will 
interfere with it, and it's beside the point for 
Marx's transformation tables.

Even if there obtains social uniform rate of 
profit and rate of exploitation, price conceals 
that it's a function of value. It would be even 
more concealed  if say branches with a higher 
than average s/v had lower than average profit 
rates and visa versa. How long such disequilibria 
could persist cannot be determined a priori; we 
can discard the assumption that reality will 
always soon catch up with the concept.

Nothing is lost even if the rate of s/v is not 
perfectly uniform, and there is nothing in the 
quote that you provide that shows Marx thought an 
?equilibrium? uniform rate of s/v would ever be 
actually realized. That was my point. He also 
never thought the profit rate would ever be 
actually equalized as strong as he perhaps 
mistakenly thought the tendency towards such was.

Which is not to discount importance of analysis 
of the tendency towards uniformity and dispersion 
of s/v in contemporary capitalism with certain 
sectors dependent on foreign undocumented labor, 
other sectors highly dependent on skilled labor, 
some sectors more dependent on wage rather than 
salaried workers. The equalization of s/v may 
express worker flight from certain especially 
unpleasant sectors (say California agribusiness) 
and motivate import of undocumented workers who 
suffer at least in the medium term a higher than 
average s/v as the value of their labor power is 
for complex reasons lower than the average; a 
reduced s/v in high skill branches may motivate 
outsourcing to raise it over time to the social 

There are obviously complex dynamics at work. It 
could be that the dispersion of rates of 
exploitation is still much reduced in "late 
capitalism" compared to a capitalism adulterated 
with pre-capitalist survivals.


>"If capitals that set in motion unequal quantities of living labour produce
>unequal amounts of surplus-value, this assumes that the level of
>exploitation of labour, or the rate of surplus-value, is the same, at least
>to a certain extent, or that the distinctions that exist here are balanced
>out by real or imaginary (conventional) grounds of compensation. This
>assumes competition among workers, and an equalization that takes place by
>their constant migration between one sphere of production and another. We
>assume a general rate of surplus value of this kind, as a tendency, like all
>economic laws, as a theoretical simplification; but in any case this is in
>practice an actual presupposition of the capitalist mode of production, even
>if inhibited to a greater or lesser extent by practical frictions that
>produce more or less significant local differences, such as the settlement
>laws for agricultural labourers in England, for example. In theory, we
>assume that the laws of the capitalist mode of production develop in their
>pure form. In reality, this is only an approximation; but that approximation
>is all the more exact, the more the capitalist mode of production is
>developed and the less it is adulterated by survivals of earlier economic
>conditions with which it is amalgamated " (Capital Vol. 3, ch. 10, Pelican
>edition p. 275).
>Daß Kapitale, die ungleich viel lebendige Arbeit in Bewegung setzen,
>ungleich viel Mehrwert produzieren, setzt wenigstens bis zu einem gewissen
>Grad voraus, daß der Exploitationsgrad der Arbeit oder die Rate des
>Mehrwerts dieselbe oder daß die darin existierenden Unterschiede als durch
>wirkliche oder eingebildete (konventionelle) Kompensationsgründe
>ausgeglichen gelten. Dies setzt Konkurrenz unter den Arbeitern voraus und
>Ausgleichung durch ihre beständige Auswanderung aus einer Produktionssphäre
>in die andre. Solch eine allgemeine Rate des Mehrwerts - der Tendenz nach,
>wie alle ökonomischen Gesetze - ist von uns als theoretische Vereinfachung
>vorausgesetzt; in Wirklichkeit aber ist sie tatsächliche Voraussetzung der
>kapitalistischen Produktionsweise, obgleich mehr oder minder gehemmt durch
>praktische Friktionen, die mehr oder minder bedeutende lokale Differenzen
>hervorbringen, wie z.B. die Heimatsgesetzgebung (settlement laws) für die
>Ackerbautaglöhner in England. Aber in der Theorie wird vorausgesetzt, daß
>die Gesetze der kapitalistischen Produktionsweise sich rein entwickeln. In
>der Wirklichkeit besteht immer nur Annäherung; aber diese Annäherung ist um
>so größer, je mehr die kapitalistische Produktionsweise entwickelt und je
>mehr ihre Verunreinigung und Verquickung mit Resten früherer ökonomischer
>Zustände beseitigt ist.

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