[OPE-L:1174] Re: Re: surplus production and the value-form

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Fri Sep 10 1999 - 11:25:48 EDT

Paul C wrote in [OPE-L:1173]:

> Some of the surplus in a capitalist society never appears as profit,
> i.e., surplus value in the circuit m-c-m', but as unproductive costs.

Let's consider this question temporally with the abstraction of "periods
of production" (yes, yes: I know you don't like this logical device):

Suppose we have m' at the end of period t - 1. As we enter period t,
capitalists have money from the sale of the commodity output following the
close of period t - 1. This money can be utilized, of course, for
individual (unproductive) consumption by capitalists. Or it can be used to
purchase v, c, or spent unproductively (e.g. on advertising labor). This
last amount could be considered an "unproductive cost" -- but it has its
origin in the surplus value which was produced in period t - 1 and
converted into profit following the sale of the commodity product.

This "unproductive cost" does not then enter the new circuit in m-c-m' in
period t because it does not either transfer value or create new value.
Rather, the unproductive expenditures in period t would mean that there
would be less money left over for investment in c and v in period t + 1.

(Note: I am abstracting from the possibility that certain types
of unproductive expenditure, e.g. advertising, might have the consequence
of re-distributing income among the social classes and possibly, thereby,
leading to a reduction in the real wage).

Other than the use of periods of production (which we know you don't
approve of), what's wrong with the above?

> His exposition in Capital was commodity production and capitalism, but
> his theoretically prior concern was historical materialism, see the German
> Ideology. I would say that the logical exposition starting from the commodity
> was, in Capital, an order of exposition not an order of discovery.
> The general principles of historical materialism come first, then comes
> their application to capitalism, then finally comes the process of writing
> a book about the latter. The order of the book is not necessarily the order
> of the authors concerns, either logically or in terms of their personal
> ideological development.

Yes, of course, his exposition of historical materialism (and more
generally, his philosophical writings) came before his more "mature"
writings on political economy. I have no doubt, moreover, that he
considered his presentation in _Capital_ to be in agreement with his
prior philosophical -- ands political! -- writings. Yet, there is in one
sense something different in the method he applied in _Capital_ -- the
systematic use of abstraction. This was not merely a matter of exposition,
but was an essential aspect of his investigation. The extent to which Marx
sees this as important can be seen from his brief comments in the 3/18/72
"Preface to the French Edition" of V1 and, before then, in his 7/25/67
"Preface to the First Edition" (e.g. when he writes: "The value-form,
whose fully developed shape is the money-form, is very simple and slight
in content. Nevertheless, the human mind has sought in vain for more than
2,000 years to get to the bottom of it, while on the other hand there has
been at least an approximation of a successful analysis of forms which are
much richer in content and more complex. Why? Because the complete body is
easier to study than its cells. 0Moreover, in the analysis of economic
forms neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of assistance. The
power of abstraction must replace both".)

In solidarity, Jerry

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