Re: [OPE-L] Theoretical/empirical error in Marx in converting surplus value into additional capital?

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sat Jul 28 2007 - 12:24:40 EDT


I may not understand the problem you present, but different things are going
on in the passages from Capital that you refer us to.

Chapter 9 introduces the concept of the rate of surplus value, s/v.

For this purpose, although Marx uses data given by a Manchester manufacturer
for a week in April 1871 which appear to have included figures for
machinery, etc., the constant part of the value of the product is set at
zero.  We consider the ratio of surplus and variable capital only.

When Engels recovers this example in Book III, he uses it to illustrate the
rate of profit.  Now constant capital must be considered.  He takes
machinery of $10,000 and assumes circulating capital of $2,500, giving a
total C of $12,500.  Total wages paid are $2,704, but they are turned over
8.5 times so v is only 318.  Your figure of roughly 38 (39?) appears to
assume eight and a half turnovers.  If there were no turnover, then the
figure would be about 4.6.

In Chapter 24 of volume 1 there is no consideration of turnover.  Nor is
there any suggestion the example of Chapter 9 is being recovered.  Marx says
"cotton, machinery, &c." are $8000 and wages $2000.  Later he says $1600 of
the $2000 surplus will be used for the purchase of "cotton, &c." which
reasonably may be read to include machinery.  C/v is 4 in both cases.

That is, the problem, if I understand it, seems to arise from importing the
turnover included in the Bk III example into the conversion example of Bk I.
What is the reason for assuming that Chapter 24 must include turnover?


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2007 9:02 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Theoretical/empirical error in Marx in converting
surplus value into additional capital?

--On Saturday, July 28, 2007 1:46 PM +0200 Jurriaan Bendien
<adsl675281@TISCALI.NL> wrote:

> Fixed capital is normally defined as tangible physical assets which are
> held for more than one accounting period, usually one year, and not used
> up during that period. This implies that there is no necessity or
> necessary intention to replace a fixed asset after one accounting period.

Jurriaan, Mule spinning equipment (the case at hand) lasts for some forty
years.  (I've had to learn something of the industry in the process of my

> Reproduction could be simple, or expanded.

If it is simple reproduction, the factories are in place, and Marx's
calculations of only wear and tear (he says 10%) is appropriate.  But
expanded reproduction is not the same thing.  For if the capitalist, has
ten factories, an eleventh needs to be built (for a 10% growth) and the
corresponding additional wear and tear then also included.

> Even if additional workers are
> hired, there need not be any fixed relationship between Cf and V. Extra
> spinners could be recruited to work the same machine both day and night
> (more throughput, in the same interval). But I agree Marx himself could
> have thought better through his example, among other things because he
> does not explicitly itemise the components of the constant capital
> outlay.

I'd reply that, yes, in the short run, some playing around is possible,
including simple speed up.  But these options are not really in the spirit
of the discussion presented by Marx and would not carry over to schemes of
reproduction in Vol. 2 where Marx goes period after period with expanded
reproduction.  For example, recall that Grossmann goes, what, 32 (or 36?)
years before ...

The quote you provide below is exactly the passage I was referring to
regarding chapter 24.  Close to 1950 of the 2,000 of the surplus value is
needed just to build the new factory or expand an existing one.  N.B.: Marx
refers to SPINNING, the same industrial process for which he himself
provided real live data back in his Chapter 9.

There is ONE possible explanation for the error.  The Fowkes translation,
but not the Intern. Pub.'s, notes that the first edition of Volume 1 had
erroneous data, corrected by Marx with April 1871 data which he now assures
is correct.  I don't have the first edition of Volume 1, but we'd need to
check if the first edition data justifies the Chap. 24 treatment and, if
so, could excuse Marx for forgetting to make the correction to Chp. 24 in
the 2nd German and French editions.  (I doubt, however, we'd find this

Has no one in 140 years ever seen the problem I'm talking about?  Many note
that Marx's example refers to a turnover of one year for constant capital.
But here we are talking about the interrelationship of his own empirical
work and his theory, and find a basic contradiction (no other way to put

Thanks, Paul

> Here is another quote from Marx from Cap. 1 chapter 24 on the subject
> (emphasis added):
> Employing surplus-value as capital, reconverting it into capital, is
> called accumulation of capital. First let us consider this transaction
> from the standpoint of the individual capitalist. Suppose a spinner to
> have advanced a capital of 10,000, of which four-fifths (8,000) are
> laid out in cotton, machinery, &c., and one-fifth (2,000) in wages. Let
> him produce 240,000 lbs. of yam annually, having a value of 2,000. The
> rate of surplus-value being 100%, the surplus-value lies in the surplus
> or net product of 40,000 lbs. of yarn, one-sixth of the gross product,
> with a value of 2,000 which will be realised by a sale. (...) In order
> to convert this additional sum of 2,000 into capital, the master-spinner
> will, ALL CIRCUMSTANCES REMAINING AS BEFORE, advance four-fifths of it
> (1,600) in the purchase of cotton, &c., and one-fifth (400) in the
> purchase of additional spinners, who will find in the market the
> necessaries of life whose value the master has advanced to them. (...)
> The annual production, must in the first place furnish all those objects
> (use-values) from which the material components of capital, USED UP IN
> THE COURSE OF A YEAR, have to be replaced. (...) Now in order to allow of
> these elements actually functioning as capital, the capitalist class
> requires additional labour. If the exploitation of the labourers already
> employed do not increase, either extensively or intensively, then
> additional labour-power must be found. (...) We here leave out of
> consideration the portion of the surplus-value consumed by the
> capitalist. Just as little does it concern us, for the moment, whether
> the additional capital is joined on to the original capital, or is
> separated from it to function independently; whether the same capitalist,
> who accumulated it, employs it, or whether he hands it over to another.

(Vol.23) THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF 9-11-2001  "a benchmark in 9/11 research"
         Research in Political Economy, P.Zarembka,ed, Elsevier hardback

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