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

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Wed Feb 01 2006 - 17:30:16 EST

Hi Jurriaan,

An inference that could be drawn from the first quote is that for
an individual nation the sum of surplus value equaling the sum of
profit would be a special and unusual case.  That is,  the
equality would only hold in general for the world market as a
whole (and even then, not all the time), not its component parts.
World Capitalism -- that's the real macro-level.

> "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."


>  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.

You didn't have oligopolistic markets and the strategy of product
differentiation during Marx's time (except by way of exception). Where
rents are examined by Marx, the rents are paid by other capitalists
(or, perhaps, other landowners in special cases).  However,  advertising
and marketing which help to shape consumer preferences and establish
'brand loyalty'  allow for 'mark-up' price determination in oligopolistic
markets which creates the possibility that the oligopolies which produce
means of consumption for workers can charge prices greatly in excess
of value and that excess price could be thought of as a kind of rent
imposed on workers in the market.

I think, btw, that there are many consumers in the US and elsewhere who --
having seen the record profits by oil corporations in 2005 -- would indeed
feel that they are being ripped-off by those corporations.   This isn't
quite the same kind of market as I was referring to above since there is a
(basically)  homogeneous product, a relatively inelastic demand,  and a much
smaller and less crucial role for advertising by oil corporations in shaping
that demand.

In solidarity, Jerry

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