I repent for asking


Barry Brooks
 

Dear Marxmail list,

I miss Louis.

Many thanks to those who continue to post good links, but I would like the list to include more personal opinions and even short rants going deeper than the links. Make a link, then always make some personal comment about it.

Consider, isn't full employment to going to help robots to produce more than we need and more than the planet can sustain? How will a Marxist economy produce the right amount instead of producing as much as possible to keep workers and robots busy full time?

It is very Marxist to badmouth capitalist wage-dependence! Wage-dependence is the biggest factor driving the "need" for hyper-active planet plunder. Is unearned income bad if we are just parasites using robots to harvest free natural wealth? Would a Marxist economy drop "he who does not work; does not eat" in an age of robots?

How does producing as much as possible, regardless, fit in with Marx? What about leaving something for the future? Would only doing needed work allow immediate drastic cuts in CO2 emissions?

Barry


Les Schaffer
 

Thanks for posting this. As interim moderator of this list I'd like to see more steady progress in this direction. I think Lou posted LOTS of articles, but I know his real desire was to stimulate debate discussion etc

Les


On Sun, Oct 3, 2021, 1:19 PM Barry Brooks <durable@...> wrote:
Dear Marxmail list,

I miss Louis.

Many thanks to those who continue to post good links, but I would like the list to include more personal opinions and even short rants going deeper than the links.  Make a link, then always make some personal comment about it.



Farans Kalosar
 

Hello Barry:

IMO we need to understand what would remain without a parasitic ruling class extracting surplus value from labor and without the need to increase the mass of profit in order to compensate for the declining rate of profit owing to the ever-increasing productivity of labor.

Then we need to frame all of this in terms of the world economy as it is dominated by the global empire of capitalism with its warring factions.

Even given the advances in computational power in the past century or so--a history that IMO goes back at least as far as Herman Hollerith's invention of the 80-column card and associated tabulating equipment and processes--we are perhaps quite far from being able to produce "recipes for the cookshops of the future" and are obliged to approach developments in world history dialectically and not in terms of static lists and inventories--although we can be confident IMO that accurate central economic planning is now far more feasible than it was once thought, by some, to be.

The fact is that exploited wage labor is absolutely necessary to capitalist profits--this has not been challenged successfully by anybody.  Nobody knows how much labor would be necessary to produce and reproduce the hypothetical Gene Roddenberry spandex-and-beach-balls planetary socialism of the future, or whatever precise form true worldwide socialism will take if it ever happens.  

We can be reasonably certain, however, that the unremitting grind of hourly wage labor would not be necessary for a stable non-growth future socialist economy.

We can also IMO be certain that the eco-social shipwreck toward which capitalism is steering us will be far worse than some theoretical dystopia in which the world goes mad because there is not enough work to do.  

I stopped working at age 72 because I was told by the hiring manager that the only "gig" on offer by the contracting firm that was keeping me "on the bench" at the time would require a minimum of sixty hours per week. In effect, I could either sign on for that or be let go.  I said (to myself) fuck it, and was let go, after agreeing not to sue for age discrimination in exchange for a modest severance package and a golden shower of touchy-feely BS.

I'm not complaining about my particular situation, which is just OK, and better than many.  My point is that there seems to be a heck of a lot more work in most jobs than people can comfortably  do.  How much of that is socially necessary? Who knows?  Besides, who says that it's necessary to keep increasing the productivity of labor once a tolerable balance has been struck?  

These things remain incalculable at present. 

We are a long way from automating all necessary labor, whatever that might mean in the long run.  I'm not saying that the future of work itself isn't an issue, but I wouldn't go nuts worryng about that when humanity has so many more pressing problems to deal with--most of which require a lot of work that will not go forward as the capitalist engine of destruction shakes itself to bits.


Michael Yates
 

Fuck productivity. Harry Magdoff always said there was too much productivity, especially since it meant more useless goods and services. I get sick of some leftist academics going on about how some time off will help them be more productive! Doing what, exactly? Besides, it really isn't even possible to measure productivity for most employment in any meaningful way. 


Barry Brooks
 

\fkalosar101@yandex.com wrote:

The fact is that exploited wage labor is absolutely necessary to capitalist profits--this has not been challenged successfully by anybody. 
Capitalist profits are reduced by wage costs, but the root of profit in free natural resources does not require labor exploitation.

Nobody knows how much labor would be necessary to produce too much, but by any measure using all labor and automated production will produce too much.

We can be reasonably certain, however, that the unremitting grind of hourly wage labor would not be necessary for a stable non-growth future socialist economy.
For sure, and the most awful jobs would pay a lot.

We can also IMO be certain that the eco-social shipwreck toward which capitalism is steering us will be far worse than some theoretical dystopia in which the world goes mad because there is not enough work to do.
Not enough work makes many people mad (crazy mad) because they bought in to the idea that dignity depends on work, and because unfair homelessness sucks. People must accept that we are all parasites on the planet and demand our share of unearned parasite income like the capitalists once monopolized! For now, redundant workers should not feel guilty; just angry at the rule of money.

I'm not complaining about my particular situation, which is just OK, and better than many.  My point is that there seems to be a heck of a lot more work in most jobs than people can comfortably  do.  How much of that is socially necessary? Who knows?  Besides, who says that it's necessary to keep increasing the productivity of labor once a tolerable balance has been struck?
The amount of unpaid work is infinite. The end of wage-dependence will give ex-workers the time to the do the most important work, unpaid work like women do.

These things remain incalculable at present.
Exact calculations are not needed, just adjust the amount on unearned income up or down to stabilize wages. Also, make sure finance is driven by government controlled planning for the long-term future of all humanity instead of just to feed the greed machine.

We are a long way from automating all necessary labor, whatever that might mean in the long run.  I'm not saying that the future of work itself isn't an issue, but I wouldn't go nuts worrying about that when humanity has so many more pressing problems to deal with--most of which require a lot of work that will not go forward as the capitalist engine of destruction shakes itself to bits.
As income shifts from wages to profits, so we must adjust a GMI day by day as required to meet the changing real need for PAID labor. Fancy theories and precise predictions are not needed. The most pressing problem is not automation of all labor, but our failure to make incremental adjustment to increased automation other than more hyper-consumption. Our failure to address work other than to maximize it, is the cause of our most pressing problem... a "need" for economic growth and the resulting climate change. Nothing is more pressing!

The problem is not unearded income, parasites, or markets, but that the profits of plunder don't go the the people.

Why blame all poverty on capitalism? Must we deny that there are too many people on the planet?







Farans Kalosar
 

Barry--The labor theory of value and a few of the other things I was trying to talk about are pretty basic to Marxism, so when you dismiss such things with casual one-liners, you are losing me. To be fair, I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at in many places, and would like to say something helpful, but my sense of it is that you really aren't interested in Marxism and are trying to get beyond it to something that you would find more intuitive and perhaps more moral.  Perhaps you are looking for a straw man to demolish.

You have a perfect right to reject Marxism if that's what you're doing--it seems that many people who post on this list are either tired of Marxism or are tired of the nonsectarian variety.  There are regular injections of opinion and factually questionable or outright phony news items from e.g. ultra-sectarian Communist Party sources as well as a persistent strain of high-toned moralism that is concerned only with some eternal struggle of Good and Evil that in its essence rejects materialism, whether historical or otherwise.  The Catholic Church has a vocal following.  And the issue of going beyond Marxism altogether has been raised quite recently, though the "debate" doesn't seem to have come to any conclusion.

I confess I find passages  like the following fatally unclear:
As income shifts from wages to profits, so we must adjust a GMI day by day as required to meet the changing real need for PAID labor. Fancy theories and precise predictions are not needed. The most pressing problem is not automation of all labor, but our failure to make incremental adjustment to increased automation other than more hyper-consumption. Our failure to address work other than to maximize it, is the cause of our most pressing problem... a "need" for economic growth and the resulting climate change. Nothing is more pressing
Good luck.  But AFAIK, given the obscurity of your language and your apparent uninterest in basic Marxism, I don't think you and I agree on enough to be having a debate in this forum--which is, after all, supposed to be for Marxists to have discussions within the Marxist tradition. 


Farans Kalosar
 

On Mon, Oct 4, 2021 at 04:35 PM, Michael Yates wrote:
Fuck productivity. Harry Magdoff always said there was too much productivity, especially since it meant more useless goods and services. I get sick of some leftist academics going on about how some time off will help them be more productive! Doing what, exactly? Besides, it really isn't even possible to measure productivity for most employment in any meaningful way. 
If this is directed at something I said, I'm not a leftist academic.  I went through the Ph.D mill, after which I took a hatful of community college computer courses and became a technical writer and business analyst.  I spent forty years in the IT racket and was forced into retirement at age 72 on savings and social security--no pension, but substantial savings. I get tired of the "leftist academic" smear, especially when launched by leftist academics. It's like the "septuagenarian" smear when indulged in by septuagenarians. My apologies if you were not directing this at me.  

As I understand it, capitalist "productivity" means the amount  of profit you can extract from the surplus value of labor--calculable if I've got this right as the difference between what you pay the working sucker and the amount of profit you realize on their work. Of course the management lust for "metrics" is a nightmare.

I always made a point of signing on for an hourly wage on somebody's W2, never piecework, "on-demand" work, or (when I could avoid it) those bullshit 1099 jobs where you are supposed to be working on a fixed deliverable or series of deliverables as an independent contractor under your own supervision, but wind up working de facto on an indefinite hourly basis on an employer's premises and reporting to a supervisor for work assignments.

That way, when crooked assholes wasted my time to show how important and busy they were, I got paid for it.  My weekly reports were masterpieces of obfuscation--such and such an imaginary percent done on this and that--and when the bastards laid me off, since I was on W2, I could and did collect unemployment insurance.  Luckily my "skill set" was in some demand, so I never went more than five months between jobs and managed to hang onto the ones I did get sometimes for years. The last one lasted seven years, and i even got benefits.

But hey--I'm not a worker, just an "arrogant academic."  Fuck that goddamned shit.


Michael Yates
 

It wasn't aimed at you at all, but at the concept of productivity. I remember a left Keynesian on another list saying that he was planning on being more productive. I don't know what this means and it plays into the capitalist notion that we had better keep our noses to the grindstone, for the benefit of society as a whole. Ha, yes, I had to show how productive I was every semester. It was amusing to see the CVs of my colleagues. Every talk they gave to a local club was on it. But I was surely not directing anything at you thought your post was great.


John A Imani
 

<< I wouldn't go nuts worrying about that when humanity has so many more pressing problems to deal with--most of which require a lot of work that will not go forward as the capitalist engine of destruction shakes itself to bits.>>

Agree.

Quite often when the question as to how much work is available the question of the 'sharing' of work is raised. 

The ‘sharing of work’ is an old concept. More recently it has been put forward in the “30 for 40” demands. Here in 2019. And here in 1973. But it all goes back to the early 1930’s Townsend Plan that was so popular that FDR initiated Social Security in 1935 to forestall it.

The Townsend Plan instead of sharing hours would have retired every American over the age of 60 who would then get a stipend from the government of $200/month. The only stipulation was that the money had to be spent completely in that month. The idea was to generate purchasing power to increase 'effective demand' that is desire for a good or service backed by the purchasing power to buy it. The one month stipulation was to increase the 'velocity of money' so that produced commodities would not sit on the shelf but be bought at an upbeat tempo to ensure their quick sale and hence the need for increased production.

This was in the depths of the Great Depression and huge numbers were out of work. It was thought and it was so that the production of a given amount of goods could be accomplished by a smaller workforce but without work how can one 'effectively demand'? So overproduction of goods (which Marx says is always accompanied, indeed preceded by, overproduction of capital, i.e. the increasing of the means of production) brings about a relative overproduction of workers.  See Marx' quote below.

Townsend's idea came at the same time, indeed it preceded it, that Keynes published “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” in 1936 in which he wrote "If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the banknotes up again...there need be no more unemployment."  His point was that government could stimulate employment and hence demand but that such employment should not be in areas that would compete with a private sector that was already suffering from massive overproduction.  But both Keynes and Townsend were preceded by Marx, esp so in Capital Vol 3, Chap XV. Or Henryk Grossman’s “The Law of the Accumulation and Breakdown" written 1926-29.

Here is the problem with all of these schemes:

They all have a fundamental underpinning which is a fundamental flaw: they all assume that there is only so much work to go around. Thus you get “30 for 40” or retiring aged workers to keep them from competing with younger workers for that limited amount of work. Look around you. Are there not things that need to be done? Bridges, homes, parks, schools to build? The problem is not that there is not enough work, the problem is that there is not enough work that can be done at a profit. This is the fatal flaw of capitalism.

Assuming a favorable view of “30 for 40” automatically makes you anti-migrant; continues the deformation of the economy so as to produce a profit; places limits as to what humankind can accomplish by limiting the amount of work that can be done; and continues the growth of a “relative overpopulation” and hence unemployment of workers, etc.

I’m ok with “30 for 40”. I have no objections to retiring workers at the age of 60. Or 55. Or 50, etc. So long as when we make these demands, we make these demands as transitional demands. Demands pointing out that while there is so much to do and so few who are doing it that there ought be both work and plenty for all. Transitional demands pointing out that the limit to capitalism is capitalism.

As regards migration of labor, there is a secret about work. A secret that is revealed every time a worker is hired by a capitalist: the worker brings more to the table than he takes from it.  He adds more value than that of his wage.  Hence the secret that is profit.  Humans are the only perpetual motion machines, the only machines that put out more than what goes into them. We ought be welcoming to all those who come here to work.  Economic migration will only end when real foreign aid from the West is sent South and East so as to un-deform their economies--from emphasis on single-export crops economies of scale, e.g. coffee, bananas, etc for the West’s benefit--back to the natural multi-crop local economies only now to be aided by Western tractors, fertilizers and seeds and know-how.

“But where is the money going to come from?” The answer to that question is another question: “where did the money (1 ½ trillion dollars) given by the Bush/Obama regime (no ‘s’) to the banks and giant corporations in the still ongoing ‘Great Recession’? And these lame thoroughbreds are still feeding at the trough of QE and low interest rates. Where does that money come from? From the fiat sleight-of-hand and legerdemain of the Central Banks: the Treasury prints bonds which they sell to the Federal Reserve which pays for the bonds with money created (printed) out of thin air.  Money which is then spent by Congress with the check written by the Treasury.  Inflation?  If workers’ wages, salaries, pensions, welfare, etc were (up to a certain point) indexed to the inflation rate, then inflation is the rich man's problem.  All indexed inflation would do would be to devalue the holdings of those who already got the money, i.e. partial expropriation via inflation.

There is a world out there just beyond the horizon. A world that can and must be created where human needs and human desires dictate the kinds and amounts of work which we will perform. “30 for 40” (and other such schemes) are cessions to the legitimacy of capitalism.

We don’t just want more. We want it all.

Overproduction of Capital

Over-production of capital is never anything more than overproduction of means of production — of means of labour and necessities of life — which may serve as capital, i.e., may serve to exploit labour at a given degree of exploitation; a fall in the intensity of exploitation below a certain point, however, calls forth disturbances, and stoppages in the capitalist production process, crises, and destruction of capital. It is no contradiction that this over-production of capital is accompanied by more or less considerable relative over-population. The circumstances which increased the productiveness of labour, augmented the mass of produced commodities, expanded markets, accelerated accumulation of capital both in terms of its mass and its value, and lowered the rate of profit — these same circumstances have also created, and continuously create, a relative overpopulation, an over-population of labourers not employed by the surplus-capital owing to the low degree of exploitation at which alone they could be employed, or at least owing to the low rate of profit which they would yield at the given degree of exploitation.” https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch15.htm

JAI


Michael Meeropol
 

Hi all --- as someone who is NOT a strong student of all things Marxist, I have always thought that the Labor THeory of Value was NOT USEFUL as a price theory but EXTREMELY useful as a theory of capitalist dynamics --- that the idea of surplus value as the key to profit remains profoundly valuable --- 

I do think that when Marx argues that the wage "settles" at "subsistence" and that is why there IS surplus value he is contradicted by "Marx" (yes, the same person) who admits that "subsistence" has an "historical and moral element" --- and thus it is an INDEFINITE value --- Result:  the rate of surplus value depends on the strength of the classes who meet at the point of production --- and there are times when the rate of surplus value is "too low" to create a high enough rate of profit to encourage investment --- result, periodic "crises" (the famous business cycle that has been measured incessantly --- most appropriately by Wesley Clair Mitchell and his greatest living exponent, Howard Sherman [my collaborator on one of his textbooks together with his son Paul] --- but there have never been really good theories of WHY they appear to be periodic.   WHich brings us back to the indeterminacy of the rate of exploitation --- sometimes it permits a high enough rate of profit to stimulate the accumulation of capital and sometimes it does not which interrupts the accumulation of capital.

On Mon, Oct 4, 2021 at 11:05 PM <fkalosar101@...> wrote:
Barry--The labor theory of value and a few of the other things I was trying to talk about are pretty basic to Marxism, 


gilschaeffer82@...
 

On Tue, Oct 5, 2021 at 03:00 PM, Michael Meeropol wrote:
Hi all --- as someone who is NOT a strong student of all things Marxist, I have always thought that the Labor THeory of Value was NOT USEFUL as a price theory but EXTREMELY useful as a theory of capitalist dynamics --- that the idea of surplus value as the key to profit remains profoundly valuable --- 
 
I do think that when Marx argues that the wage "settles" at "subsistence" and that is why there IS surplus value he is contradicted by "Marx" (yes, the same person) who admits that "subsistence" has an "historical and moral element" --- and thus it is an INDEFINITE value --- Result:  the rate of surplus value depends on the strength of the classes who meet at the point of production --- and there are times when the rate of surplus value is "too low" to create a high enough rate of profit to encourage investment --- result, periodic "crises" (the famous business cycle that has been measured incessantly --- most appropriately by Wesley Clair Mitchell and his greatest living exponent, Howard Sherman [my collaborator on one of his textbooks together with his son Paul] --- but there have never been really good theories of WHY they appear to be periodic.   WHich brings us back to the indeterminacy of the rate of exploitation --- sometimes it permits a high enough rate of profit to stimulate the accumulation of capital and sometimes it does not which interrupts the accumulation of capital.

On Mon, Oct 4, 2021 at 11:05 PM <fkalosar101@...> wrote:
Barry--The labor theory of value and a few of the other things I was trying to talk about are pretty basic to Marxism, 

 

 

I have never understood how Marx could believe that machines just release the value of the labor stored up in their production when the whole point of the capitalist investing in machines is to increase the productivity of future labor. This change in the productivity of labor over time not only makes it impossible to come up with any fixed measure of average labor time, as Joan Robinson pointed out long ago, but also makes the value of machines like labor power: they add more to production than it takes to make and maintain them.


Michael Meeropol
 

Here I have to disagree --- even with the great Joan Robinson --- the machine makes no contribution to production without a worker to work it (even automation involves throwing switches) --- you said it yourself --- the machine increases the productivity of the workers --- (reducing the amount of "socially necessary labor time" to produce one unit --- that's the numerical definition of a productivity increase --- more production per unit of labor --- LESS LABOR per unit of output) --- the value added by machines is the depreciation calculated every year (not the depreciation utilized for tax purposes ) based on its costs.   Labor and capital "fight" over the division of the product (the capitalist buys the machine and then depreciates it till it's value is zero --- though often it's scrapped before it "uses up" all its value because of newer and better machines displacing it) --- the owners of the machines do not "fight" with themselves as to who gets the return ....



 

I have never understood how Marx could believe that machines just release the value of the labor stored up in their production when the whole point of the capitalist investing in machines is to increase the productivity of future labor. This change in the productivity of labor over time not only makes it impossible to come up with any fixed measure of average labor time, as Joan Robinson pointed out long ago, but also makes the value of machines like labor power: they add more to production than it takes to make and maintain them.
_


gilschaeffer82@...
 

It is true that machines can't operate themselves and need labor to run them, but that is a different question than whether machines "add value" greater than their embodied labor and materials. It is possible to say, of course, that all of the value of productivity made possible by the introduction of new machinery in combination with new labor is "added" by the labor alone, as Marx does, yet it is the addition of the machine that is the cause of the additional productivity of labor, even when the actual skill level of the labor that operates the machine declines. I doesn't make sense to me that this process is just the machine "giving up" the old labor put into it. Such a formulation mischaracterizes where the dynamism of capitalism comes from.


gilschaeffer82@...
 

I should have added something about depreciation and capitalists fighting over the return from machines. Capitalists do fight over the return from machines. The capital goods sector produces machines to sell for a profit. They can make a profit because the capitalist making consumer goods sees that she can make more profit by using the machine than not. These two capitalists fight over the price of the machine. Furthermore, the "price" that the consumer goods producing capitalist depreciates includes the profit that the producer goods capitalist made because his machine had the capacity to increase productivity. Since there is no way to determine precisely beforehand how much productivity will be increased by new machinery and reorganization of production, there is no way to value any of the productivity-increasing potential of the machinery according to some standard of socially necessary labor time.


Farans Kalosar
 

On Tue, Oct 5, 2021 at 02:06 PM, Michael Yates wrote:
It wasn't aimed at you at all, but at the concept of productivity. I remember a left Keynesian on another list saying that he was planning on being more productive. I don't know what this means and it plays into the capitalist notion that we had better keep our noses to the grindstone, for the benefit of society as a whole. Ha, yes, I had to show how productive I was every semester. It was amusing to see the CVs of my colleagues. Every talk they gave to a local club was on it. But I was surely not directing anything at you thought your post was great.
Relief. Thanks.


Michael Meeropol
 

This is a good point ---

On Tue, Oct 5, 2021 at 9:52 PM <gilschaeffer82@...> wrote:
I should have added something about depreciation and capitalists fighting over the return from machines. Capitalists do fight over the return from machines. The capital goods sector produces machines to sell for a profit. They can make a profit because the capitalist making consumer goods sees that she can make more profit by using the machine than not.

BUT here you are referring to the USE VALUE of the machine produced to the capitalist who buys it.  Marx made very clear right at the beginning of Vol I that commodities MUST have use value in order to be considered commodities -- BUT -- the exchange value (which is of course what brings the producing capitalist surplus value) is determined by "socially necessary labor time."  (SNLT)  [apologies for saying the obvious --- I need to do this to remind myself!!] --- In other words, the "fight" over the return from machine PRODUCTION starts with the "exchange value" of the machine.   If the machine is extremely valuable to the capitalists who buy it, initially it will have a price above it's "cost of production" until competitors realize how profitable it is and enter the market.   (This is Joseph Schumpeter's argument as to how innovations drive the economy forward --- he argued that everything "new" enjoyed a temporary monopoly --- remember he wrote this in 1913 when the evidence of successful oligopolistic pricing was pretty slim --- In fact, economists STILL are arguing about how "like competition" our oligopolistic markets are!!!)   IN a world of competition (especially the 19th century variety that Marx was observing) even very valuable machines end up selling at the "cost of production" which Marx argues is based on SNLT.

 
These two capitalists fight over the price of the machine.

Only in the early phase of the machine's existence.   Competition will compete it down to the "cost of production"
 
Furthermore, the "price" that the consumer goods producing capitalist depreciates includes the profit that the producer goods capitalist made because his machine had the capacity to increase productivity.

YES -- very good, strong point --- but it does not negate the idea that you cannot get surplus value from utilizing a machine (remember the PRODUCER of the machine used living labor) --- the capitalist who buys the machine depreciates it at the cost he/she paid for it.

Since there is no way to determine precisely beforehand how much productivity will be increased by new machinery and reorganization of production, there is no way to value any of the productivity-increasing potential of the machinery according to some standard of socially necessary labor time.

AGAIN -- I think you are confusing the USE VALUE of the machine to the capitalist who purchases it --- (here I agree one cannot determine beforehand how much productivity will be increase --- and as per Michael Yates' comment from Harry Magdoff -- even AFTER the machine is being used, the precise increase in productivity caused by the machine is hard to measure because there is also the varying of the INTENSITY of the work done [that's why Taylorism was so important]) --- with the exchange value that accrues once competitors have entered the market and competed the price down to the "cost of production" which Marx asserts but actually (here I echo Joan Robinson) doesn't really PROVE is at SNLT.

Hence my initial offering that the LTV is "good" as a macro tool for understanding profit and growth and dynamics but "lousy" as price theory.
_.
(Sorry to go on so long saying what many on the list will feel is obvious.  As I said above, I state the obvious to remind myself -- ) 


gilschaeffer82@...
 

OK. One last try. I think we should reject Marx's theory of value before ever getting into it because it gives a misleading account  of the way tools and machines increase productivity. Let's go back to a time before capitalism and markets. A hunter-gatherer tribe stumbles across some sharp, flaky rocks one day. Lo and behold, someone gets the idea that it would be easier to skin game and make pelts by scraping the hide with the sharp edge of a rock. The productivity of the tribe has increased by the introduction of a new technology. Socially necessary labor time has been reduced for a given quantity of production. Did the sharp rock add to production? Yes. The rock by itself couldn't produce anything, but in combination with  labor it added to the productivity of this new form of labor. And like the production and reproduction of labor power, the cost in labor time to produce the sharp rock results in an increase in production greater than could have been produced by using labor time in the old way at the lower level of technology. Marx wants to come into this situation and say the rock does not add any value. He breaks any connection between value and productivity and says tools add no value. This disconnect is why Marx's price theory can't work and why exploitation alone cannot give a full account of how capitalists make profit. I don't pretend to have worked this out on my own. I have taken most of it from Chapter 4 of Gavin Kitching's Karl Marx and the Philosophy of Praxis, which goes into more detail about how Marx mixes up his accounting categories of price and value.


John A Imani
 

Simply put, in developed capitalism there is normally little relationship of the value of the commodity to the price it sells for on the market. Market-wide, however, the total value of the output, ceteris paribus, is equal to the amount of consumed constant capital (c) (in the forms of machines, tools, fuels, etc) aka ‘dead labor’ added to the value added by the ‘last living labors’ (l) utilizing and operating these implements. And, all things being equal, the sum total of prices is the socially quantified equivalent of this total amount of value embodied in the commodities produced:
little is the law of value changed by the circumstance that the equalisation of profit, i.e., the distribution of the total surplus-value among the various capitals...bring(s) about a divergence between the regulating average prices and the individual values of commodities. This again affects merely the addition of surplus-value to the various commodity-prices, but does not abolish surplus-value itself, nor the total value of commodities as the source of these various component parts of price.” “Vol 3”. Chap IL. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch49.htm
Regarding this last, the ‘last living labors’ (l), adds value to the consumed constant capital equal to the amount of the wages of the workforce (v) plus the value added by the labor-force working beyond the 'necessary labor-time' required to reproduce the value of the wage. This Marx called 'surplus-labor', the produce of which is surplus-value (s), which again is the value added by the living labors that is created by working the labor-force beyond the time necessary for it to add value equal to their wage v. The individual values of commodities produced is thus equal to c + (l = v + s) or c + v + s. But the cost-price (k) to the capitalist it to produce these is only c + v leaving the surplus-value s which is owned by the capitalist via the wage-'bargain' that the worker accepts upon his hiring, i.e. he will perform not only 'necessary' but also 'surplus-labor'.

As stated first above, the market-price of these same and other commodities does not 'normally' equate to their individual values. This is so because, as Marx writes, "Competition so distributes the social capital among the various spheres of production that the prices of production in each sphere...= k + kp' (cost-price k plus the average rate of profit (p') multiplied by the cost price). “Vol 3.” Chap X. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch10.htm
Writing that "Competition so distributes…” Marx is referring to the rate of profit P’ which acts as the mechanism, a traffic signal, for the ebbs and flows of capital investment. Areas producing a higher than average P’, get ‘greenlighted’, i.e, attract investment; ‘red light’ areas in which the rate is lower than average will see some of its capitals flee for, pun, ‘greener pastures. In the first, this raises the amount produced, thereby lowering the price and by that lowering the rate of profit in these areas. With the last, fleeing capital will constrict output, raising the commodity price and thereby raising the profit rates. These motions have a tendency to bring about an equality of such rates.
There is another element of capitalist competition; in this case, the profit in the market is apportioned pro rata to the size of the capital. This is again a ‘traffic signaled’ event: the greater the necessary investment, the greater will its products sell above their value. Normally, when speaking of ventures requiring large capital investments these are enterprise that have a higher, what Marx termed, “organic composition” (see * below) which is the ratio of constant capital to variable capital (example, 90c, 10v). Compared with a lower composition capital, (say 50c, 50v), if we assume that both work forces work half time on ‘necessary’ labor and half on ‘surplus-labor’ then the first will produce 10 units of surplus-value while the latter yields 50s. Obviously the businesses which produces 10s will see flight from while the latter flight to.
Even though the value of the output of the first is 90c + 10v + 10s = 110 while that of the latter is 50c + 50v + 50s competition in the market will bring it about such that there is a tendency to equalize profits across all sectors. Thus the first capital’ s product will attract the currency equivalent of 90c + 10v + 30s; while the latter will be 50c + 50v + 30s.
Thus one cannot say that because the value of this or that commodity is c + v + s that it will sell on the market at a price that is commensurate with its value. It may. But it probably does not.

This was brought home to me in 2005 when I kept the books for "Primp" a moderately expensive sportswear manufacturer which was a subsidiary of Lorber, Inc a fabric manufacturer. When I first came to Lorber I entered through the front door and was guided to the portion of the compound to where Primp’s office was. We went through 3 block sized fabric manufacturing plants with huge machines no doubt worth multi-millions of dollars. And while passing through each I looked high and low for workers. Here and there maybe 3, maybe 5, certainly no more, were tending to these earthbound Leviathans turning out millions of dollars of fabrics. It was then that I fully realized the implications of the tendency of developed capitalism to bring about the equalization of profits and that the profit of Lorber had to have come from the surplus-value produced elsewhere.
On this see https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch10.htm
 
* “Owing to the different organic compositions of capitals invested in different lines of production, and, hence, owing to the circumstance that — depending on the different percentage which the variable part makes up in a total capital of a given magnitude — capitals of equal magnitude put into motion very different quantities of labour, they also appropriate very different quantities of surplus-labour or produce very different quantities of surplus-value. Accordingly, the rates of profit prevailing in the various branches of production are originally very different. These different rates of profit are equalized by competition to a single general rate of profit, which is the average of all these different rates of profit.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch09.htm

JAI


Tom Walker
 

I won't reply directly to the points raised by the sender but only want to call attention to my message, "Do machines add value?," in which I have the subject line to reflect the topic, rather than a since forgotten repentance. 

Cheers,

Tom Walker (Sandwichman)


John A Imani
 

<<, "Do machines add value?," >>

Machines add value to the product being fashioned by losing value themselves. 

Assuming that the machine in question is the average of its ilk and the skill of the labor operating it is the average of its kind; that is, assuming all things are 'normal' (cp); then the gain of the one is the exactly the loss of the other.

What this means is that when the machine has had it use-value completely destroyed that it will have given over its entire value to the value of the products produced.  It can give over to these product its value and its value alone.  The machine creates no surplus above its own cost.  More specifically, if the machine cost $10,000 then cp it transfers $10,000 to the cost-price of the commodities produced.

Looked at another way, from the point of 'common sense', if the machine could transfer more than the $10,000 then it would have sold for more.

Labor is the only factor of production that adds more value (as labor-power) than it itself costs. i.e. the wage.   The worker comes to market presenting his commodity, his labor-power (the ability to perform work) and is paid for at its cost of (re)production, in this case, its value.  Yet, this 'fair exchange' is nonetheless a robbery.

The capitalist purchases labor-power but what he gets is labor.  Value-adding labor.  Labor that adds more value than it itself (as labor-power) is worth.  This value-added above its own cost is surplus-value; and surplus-value is the product of surplus-labor, i.e. laboring past the time in which the worker adds value equal to his own wage (necessary labor) to the product being produced.

Humans are the only perpetual motion machines which by laboring more is made of the output than of the input (labor-power).  That is the secret of humans differentiating itself from other animals.  As example, the increase in the standard of living (one way to measure that is life expectancy).  And yet such power has been stilted and in too many ways and forms still-born.  And so born in such a way because of the fundamental principles of class society: that there must be the privileged few atop a misered majority.  That the formers must gain in direct proportion that the latters lose.  That wealth is to be hoarded, and only incidentally, increased.

JAI