Re: [OPE-L] Complex ... and the French edition of capital

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 17:40:47 EDT

Anders writes:

>The similar, but far from identical passage in 
>the English version (which is a rather - but not 
>quite - straight forward translation of the 4th 
>German Ed. (if I remember correctly)
>"We stated, on a previous page, that in the 
>creation of surplus-value it does not in the 
>least matter, whether the labour appropriated by 
>the capitalist be simple unskilled labour of 
>average quality or more complicated skilled 
>labour. All labour of a higher or more 
>complicated character than average labour is 
>expenditure of labour-power of a more costly 
>kind, labour-power whose production has cost 
>more time and labour, and which therefore has a 
>higher value, than unskilled or simple 
>labour-power. This power being higher-value, its 
>consumption is labour of a higher class, labour 
>that creates in equal times proportionally 
>higher values than unskilled labour does. 
>Whatever difference in skill there may be 
>between the labour of a spinner and that of a 
>jeweller, the portion of his labour by which the 
>jeweller merely replaces the value of his own 
>labour-power, does not in any way differ in 
>quality from the additional portion by which he 
>creates surplus-value. In the making of 
>jewellery, just as in spinning, the 
>surplus-value results only from a quantitative 
>excess of labour, from a lengthening-out of one 
>and the same labour-process, in the one case, of 
>the process of making jewels, in the other of 
>the process of making yarn. [18]

In Exploring Marx's Capital Jacques Bidet argues 
that Marx must posit that the jeweler creates in 
equal times proportionately higher values to 
maintain the assumption of a tendency towards the 
equalization of the rate of surplus value.

It seems to me though that the rate of surplus 
value may well be higher for some compound or 
skilled labour and lower for others.

They  have likely absorbed substantial costs for 
their own training which can is probably usually 
obtained through non profit based educational 
institutions (but this is changing) .  The 
expenditure of this trained labor power then 
creates more value as it embodies and releases in 
its own laboring activity the labor time of 
several other laborers. Which is seems to me why 
Marx refers to it as compound labor, though I 
don't see this simple point being made.    There 
does not seem to be anything metaphysical about 
such a description.

First note however  that this view is not 
compatible with strong, bounded bourgeois notions 
of the individual. Notions which are truly 
metaphysical. Marx is leading us yet again to the 
idea that the subject who is exploited is truly 
the collective laborer. A conclusion which AD 
Lindsay reached long ago.

But second what reasons do we have to believe 
that wages will be such as to equalize the rate 
of surplus value on compound labor with simple 

>But on the other hand, in every process of 
>creating value, the reduction of skilled labour 
>to average social labour, e.g., one day of 
>skilled to six days of unskilled labour, is 
>unavoidable. [19] We therefore save ourselves a 
>superfluous operation, and simplify our 
>analysis, by the assumption, that the labour of 
>the workman employed by the capitalist is 
>unskilled average labour."
>The two main differences are
>a) that the "whose production has cost more time 
>and labour"  is replaced by the much more 
>general/vague "plus difficile the former" = more 
>difficult to educate/make competent (in French 
>"formation often have the meaning "education"

Bidet argues ironically that this evasiveness is 
the source of the superiority of the French 


>b) but the main difference is that in the French 
>Capital, the labour producing gold or money is 
>used as numeraire: "les différents genres de 
>travail, représentés par ces valeurs, ont été 
>réduits, dans des proportions différentes, à des 
>sommes déterminées d'une seule et même espèce de 
>travail ordinaire, le travail qui produit l'or 
>ou l'argent." (... these different types of 
>labour, represented by their corresponding 
>values, have been reduced, in different 
>proportions by one and only type of simple 
>labour, the labour that produces gold or silver 
>I do not have time to go into a more detailed 
>and deeper analysis if the "French" solution, 
>but it is clear that nowhere in the 
>German/English editions is the gold producing 
>labour given any particular role.
>In my opinion this only shows that Marx never 
>treated this problem systematically/seriously. 
>The logic of the concept of "abstract labour" 
>makes the dichotomy simple vs. complex labour 
>redundant. All particularities are done away 
>with if one accept the concept of "abstract 
>labour" - as I do.
>In my opinion the French version seriously 
>weakens the textual support for the 
>Hilferding/Okishio/Rowthorn "whose production 
>has cost more labour" - that is the "education 
>cost" solution to the labour reduction problem.
>At 23:30 30.05.2007, you wrote:
>>Hi Anders:
>>I think the answer to your question is - no, there isn't a direct
>>English translation from the French edition from Volume 1. However,
>>Marx revised the 2nd German edition on the basis of the changes
>>made in the French edition.  This topic was discussed briefly on the
>>list many years ago, see the following post by Riccardo:
>>btw, if you are not already familiar with it, 
>>you should find the following item
>>from our archives (by Alejandro Ramos) to be of interest:
>>In solidarity, Jerry

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