Re: [OPE] absinence theory

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Mon Oct 25 2010 - 12:29:11 EDT

Gerry I still think it is an illusion, but I am now clearer why the illusion seems plausible to you. You are slipping between stocks and flows. The reproduction schemes are flow relations or flow equations. You are thinking in terms of stocks. in your formulation a stock of money capital is first built up and then, later invested in buying the output of dept iii. But this is illusory for two reasons.
A) except in a commodity money system, stocks of money do not exist, in a credit economy what exists are relationships of relative indebtedness.
B) even in a commodity money system, your initial accumulation of a money stock by abstaining from consuming surplus value in dept iii does not work since this initial abstinence phase will prevent the realisation of surplus value in dept iii. If they can't realise their surplus value they can not accumulate the money stock.

You have to stop trying to understand the economy in value stock terms, and think instead of flows.

Where stocks do come in is as stocks of people. An hourly flow of 100 million euros is the monetary representation of a working population of about 3 million people.
Every hundred million an hour the capitalists of europe spend on personal consumption represents another 3 million in the servant population.

Hi Paul C:

It's not a "monetary illusion" to say that as money capital, capital can be invested
in any branch of production (whether it's in a department producing means of
production or a department or sub-department producing means of consumption).
The distinction between productive and unproductive labor concerns what type of
labor _produces_ surplus-value. What is done with surplus-value is another question:
it can be productively or unproductively _consumed_. If capitalists consume their
profit by using it to purchase more c + v, it is productively consumed. If they use
it for other purposes, it has not been.

I'm wondering whether your argument that the s in Dept III can't be accumulated
rests, implicitly, on the proposition that capitalist unproductive consumption
is unnecessary for capitalist reproduction? But, surely, the reproduction of
the capitalist class is required for the reproduction of capitalism and that
requires capitalists consume means of consumption.

If we were talking about the accumulation of wealth in a non-capitalist
mode of production such as feudalism or slavery then it would be obvious
that the castles and pyramids (and, for the most part, art!) represent
both real wealth and can't be productively consumed (n.b: in these cases,
that would mean wealth which is used to create more wealth). And,
similarly, when individual capitalists _buy_ means of consumption for
themselves, these use-values do indeed represent real wealth (which,
hopefully, can be redistributed in a socialist society) and it can't
be used to produce more wealth (or value) - because it is being individually
consumed. However, the capitalist who _sells_ these commodities to other
capitalists can (just like capitalists who sell means of production to
other capitalists) use that profit to purchase C + V in any branch
of production.

I'm wondering what Ian W has to say about this since means of consumption for
the capitalist class has been a central issue in at least one of his

In solidarity, Jerry
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Received on Mon Oct 25 12:30:56 2010

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