Re: [OPE] Reply to critics

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Sun Oct 17 2010 - 10:03:17 EDT

  On 2010-10-15 14:21, GERALD LEVY wrote:
> As for the exchange that you have been having with Dave Z and Paul C, I agree
> that people seem to be talking about different things and hence sometimes past
> each other. It seems clear to me that their perspective is derived, in large part,
> from the Sraffian distinction between basic and non-basic goods. Perhaps we should
> consider whether that distinction is useful or misleading as it pertains to
> the subject of value creation under capitalism?

Speaking for myself, I had not heard of Sraffa's distinction of 'basic'
and 'non-basic' goods until after writing the article. Rather my
starting point was Marx's theory of relative surplus value.

Now, let me try to address your question, focusing exclusively on a pure
capitalist economy and trying to apply Marx's distinction in TSV that
you quoted. (We have to be careful not to fall into a trap of circular
reasoning by saying that 'productive labour is all that which creates
value and value is created by productive labour'.)

Marx's idea here is quite clear, and corresponds to one of Adam Smith's
criteria. The argument is that a capitalist will grow rich employing
people as wage-labourers that produce an output that assumes the
commodity form to be sold to others, part of the money will be used to
pay the wages. But he will grow poor if he employs them as personal
servants with no output that assumes the commodity form and their upkeep
is payed out of earned profits.

This seems a reasonable starting point, but just like other Marxian
concepts one has to look at it from the entire economic system of
reproduction and not simply from the point of view of individual agents.
What then does this idea lead to in our model of a pure capitalist
economy? The entire capitalist class would be employing a set of
'workers' whose surplus labour yield the profits from which it employs a
set of 'servants'.

Now the interesting part arises when a capitalist decides to employ a
set of 'servant workers', whose output is entirely sold to and consumed
by other capitalists. From the standpoint of the individual agent it
appears to be 'productive', but collectively as a class it is clear that
these 'servant workers' are payed out of the surplus labour from our
original set of 'workers'. From the standpoint of capitalist
reproduction the 'servant workers' and the 'servants' are the same.

(I'm quite sure I'll have to break this down into figures, because it is
only then the discussion can become precise.)

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Sun Oct 17 10:07:41 2010

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