[OPE-L] Karl Marx on unequal exchange in the "Grundrisse"

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Feb 01 2006 - 14:40:57 EST

Interesting quote from Marx on unequal exchange in the Grundrisse:

"From the possibility that profit may be less than surplus value, hence that
capital [may] exchange profitably without realizing itself in the strict
sense, it follows that not only individual capitalists, but also nations may
continually exchange with one another, may even continually repeat the
exchange on an ever-expanding scale, without for that reason necessarily
gaining in equal degrees. One of the nations may continually appropriate for
itself a part of the surplus labour of the other, giving back nothing for it
in the exchange, except that the measure here [is] not as in the exchange
between capitalist and worker."

Cf. also Cap. Vol. 3:

"At any rate, even if a portion of surplus-value not expressed in the price
of the commodity is lost for the price formation, the sum of average profit
plus rent in its normal form can never be larger than the total
surplus-value, although it may be smaller."
Source: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch49.htm

Marx presumably has in mind here profits generated by production. Of course,
if we take into account "fictitious capital" (capitalisation on property
ownership), profits could be larger than surplus values.

Needless to say, Marx's idea in the first-mentioned quote is not compatible
with the TP doctrine that aggregate surplus values contained in outputs and
aggregate profit income must necessarily be equal magnitudes at the
macro-level. Precisely because, as Marx says in the first-mentioned quote,
"the measure here [is] not as in the exchange between capitalist and
worker", some Marxists (e.g. Paul Cockshott) have objected to the whole idea
of unequal exchange. However, obviously it is possible for forms of
exploitation to occur also in the intermediation between producers and
consumers. Marx never extended his analysis to the sphere of consumption,
and therefore disregarded e.g. that workers also pay a profit and tax levy
on items they buy with their salaries.

(As far as rents are concerned, an often ignored fact is that the gross
product account in official national accounts excludes land rents, subsoil
rents and financial rents insofar as these are regarded capital services
unrelated to the value of production, even although they are paid out of
current gross income by producing enterprises. In general, because of the
way consumption of fixed capital and intermediate consumption are defined,
GDP will be lowered if enterprises and households rent more assets than own
them, and vice versa increased, if they own more assets rather than rent


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