[OPE-L:2279] nature, value and wealth

From: C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 13:16:50 EST

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Re Jerry's 2273
>Re Chris's [OPE-L:2272]:
>> IMO this is a muddle; esp. point two. This conflates two quite different
>> classifications: the factors *of* production and the inputs *to*
>> production. Only the latter take a value form.
>I don't "get" this point, Chris, since according to marginalist theory
>(as I am sure you are aware) the value-creating "factors of production"
>[land, labor, capital -- although some particular vulgar texts also
>include "entrepreneurial ability"] *are* [resource] inputs in the
>production process.
But is not a failure to make my distinction precisely what is wrong with
neo-classical theory? It is particularly striking in the case of the
'capital' you just mentioned. It is absolutely necessaary to distinguish
rigorously between the real use value factors of use value production and
social determination. Thus as a factor of production produced means of
production are essential and they can be discussed as Marx did in Ch.7
independently of the social from they have when supplied by 'capital'.

>What I find interesting, in part, about Geert's answer to the "Why"
>question is that it attempts in part to directly confront that theory.
>> G's version of this makes no sense because it drags in the extraneous
>> question of whether the nature is appropriated or not which has nothing to
>> do with use value production.
>I guess that depends on what you mean by the appropriation of nature.
>Consider a drying process (e.g. of fish) that uses the power of the Sun.
>This does not require that the producer "own" or lay claim to the Sun or
>its rays. Yet, nature is in a sense appropriated here [gratis] to the
>degree that it is deliberately and consciously used by producers and
>becomes an integral part of the use-value production of that product.
If I have understood Geert correctly you have misunderstood him. (And v.v.
of course no doubt Geert will soon enlighten us.) The sun is precisely the
example he gives of unappropriated nature in his point 3. I therefore
understood by 'appropriated' here that some natural elements notably land
have been privately appropriated. I wrote the post in question in a hurry
so I should expand my objection. Geert makes a big thing at the start by
saying he is looking at USE VALUE production only. I understood therefore
that the factors of production should themselves have been specified as use
values independently of whether or not any were supplied from 'private'
sources. He asks us then to consider use value production as a cycle and
see if anything is constituted internally. Well we see right away that
produced means of production are indeed by definition the result of a
previous cycle. This leaves two factors of production labour and land that
always come in from 'outside' - I take it land cannot possibly be supposed
to be the result of a previous cycle. Hence we reach Petty's position. What
i cannot understand is why Geert brings in here the question of private
appropriation with reference to nature and only wth reference to nature. My
distinction was aimed at clarifying just when it is appropriate to do this
and I argue it is not a discussion about factor *of* production but of the
form in which inputs are supplied. Incidentally whatever neo-classicals
might think it is surely central to our theory to distinguish between
labour as a facter of production and labour power as a value formed input
isn't it?

>> Moreover this means he falsely concludes that
>> the two factors coming from outside are unappropriated nature and labour
>> (power) {NB why this uncertain slippage from 'labour' to 'labour (power)'?}
>> whereas appropriated nature also comes from outside.
>I think Geert's point here is that nature is brought into the circuit
>*if and when* it is appropriated.
>> As Marx quotes Petty
>> wealth comes from Labour and Land (all land not just unappropriated
>> land).
>He discusses this issue also in "Marginal Notes to the Programme of the
>German Workers Party." But, note well, that Marx *doesn't* say labour and
>nature are the source of all value.

Exactly. Geert's strategy as I understood it was first to discuss wealth
creation and then knockout the factors which cannot be counted when we
turn to value creation. But I may be wrong because he does not clearly
distinguish as I tried to do the things that produce and the things that
take valueform.

>Speaking, I think, to the question of appropriation, he writes:
> "And in so far as man *from the beginning* behaves towards
> nature, the primary source of all instruments and subjects of
> labour, as an *owner*, treats her as belonging to him, his
> labour becomes the source of use-values, therefore also of
> wealth" (emphasis added, JL)
Isn't "owner" ambiguous? Here it refers to a natural relation not a legal
one. And of course "appropriation" is ambiguous as we saw above. I hope
Geert will tell us which sense he was using.

>> Now to point 3 where the origin of value is discussed. Geert starts with
>> his two things coming from outside. Apart from the fact his two things are
>> wrongly described as I just said, he makes to me the quite extraordinary
>> deduction that because unappropriated nature does not take a value form
>> therefore it cannot be a source of value. Greens would certainly be up in
>> arms at this, and I too would have thought that intuitively anything
>> productive which the capitalist gets for free is almost certain to explain
>> where new value comes from.
>Again: I think it depends on the meaning here of "appropriation". As for
>the meaning of "value" in Green theory, it is very different from the way
>we have used the term (cf. Alain Lipietz's _Green Hopes_). Perhaps we can
>discuss that if others wish ...
Of course it is (Teresa Brennan for example) but I do not see how Geert has
disposed of Green thery.

>> and appropriated nature with a rent reward.
>This assumes a particular social relationship to nature such as privately
>appropriated land. Yet, the Sun and the Wind (and other natural forces)
>can be appropriated by people without necessarily being privately and
>exclusively owned by individuals.
>In solidarity, Jerry

As before: it is Geert himself who characterises all these as 'unappropriated'.
My point was that there is a category of given unworked upon nature that is
in fact privately appropriated and for which a rent has to be paid. I do
not see how Geert has eliminated the claim that such a return is due to its
value creating power.
Yet the structure of his argument is not to give a positive justification
of labour as value creating but to proceed by elimination as marx most
unfortunately appears to do in Capital.
Almost certainly i have failed to understand Geert at some point. But since
the discussion in VFS is hardly longer I still await enlightenment.


P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
but the old one will also run until next summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)

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