Capital Vol 1 Reading Group: Chapters 1-2

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jura
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Oct 13 2008 14:17

Dave B: None of that says anything about surplus value being produced in a feudal economy, does it?

mikus
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Oct 13 2008 14:57

Jura is correct. The quote has nothing to do with your assertion, Dave.

Dave B
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Oct 13 2008 17:39

No perhaps not, but the following quote that I have given before would seem to contradict it, either that or there are two socio- economic analyses of ‘middle age’ or feudal peasant economy.

Chapter 47. Genesis of Capitalist Ground-Rent

II. LABOUR RENT

Quote:
If we consider ground-rent in its simplest form, that of labour rent, where the direct producer, using instruments of labour (plough, cattle, etc.) which actually or legally belong to him, cultivates soil actually owned by him during part of the week, and works during the remaining days upon the estate of the feudal lord without any compensation from the feudal lord, the situation here is still quite clear, for in this case rent and surplus-value are identical. Rent, not profit, is the form here through which unpaid surplus-labour expresses itself.

To what extent the labourer (a self-sustaining serf) can secure in this case a surplus above his indispensable necessities of life, i.e., a surplus above that which we would call wages under the capitalist mode of production, depends, other circumstances remaining unchanged, upon the proportion in which his labour-time is divided into labour-time for himself and enforced labour-time for his feudal lord. This surplus above the indispensable requirements of life, the germ of what appears as profit under the capitalist mode of production, …………………

So much is evident with respect to labour rent, the simplest and most primitive form of rent: Rent is here the primeval form of surplus-labour and coincides with it. But this identity of surplus-value with unpaid labour of others need not be analysed here because it still exists in its visible, palpable form, since the labour of the direct producer for himself is still separated in space and time from his labour for the landlord and the latter appears directly in the brutal form of enforced labour for a third person. In the same way the "attribute" possessed by the soil to produce rent is here reduced to a tangibly open secret, for the disposition to furnish rent here also includes human labour-power bound to the soil, and the property relation which compels the owner of labour-power to drive it on and activate it beyond such measure as is required to satisfy his own indispensable needs.

Rent consists directly in the appropriation of this surplus expenditure of labour-power by the landlord; for the direct producer pays him no additional rent. Here, where surplus-value and rent are not only identical but where surplus-value has the tangible form of surplus-labour, the natural conditions or limits of rent, being those of surplus-value in general, are plainly clear. The....

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch47.htm

The point perhaps being when does the keeping of the ‘Lord’ or perhaps the clan or tribal chief and the priest class in luxury cease to be voluntary or a ‘mutually’ agreed division of labour within a community, and when does it become forced or compulsory.

Even if ‘the domination of the producers by the conditions of production' and the surplus value 'is concealed by the relations of dominion and servitude’.

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jura
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Oct 13 2008 18:58

There is no surplus value in a feudal economy. There may be a surplus product that is violently expropriated from the producers, but to speak of value (or surplus value) in an economy not based on commodity production does not make sense. Or...?

Dave B
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Oct 13 2008 22:42

From an extract from our list way back in 2005;

And much more importantly-:

"Surplus value is a peculiarity of the wage relationship under
capitalism".

Now for some of the foot soldiers and village idiots in the party
like myself this has always proved a bit of a difficulty. While our
intellectuals were reading clever stuff we were watching Robin Hood
films, "Gone With the Wind" and reading feudal love stories like
Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

I couldn't help asking myself where did the feudal aristocracy in
Anna Karenina get all their money from to buy all the nice stuff
that they seemed to have in abundance. Surely all the gold, diamonds
and silk dresses were not produced in the local village. Similarly
with the Sheriff of Nottingham who always appeared to be loaded,
although he did have a proper job. I think Robin had similar ideas
to my own and suspected that this wealth was the surplus value
expropriated from the peasants and was attempting to redress the
situation.

Also whilst keeping the cotton picking slaves in the background,
Scarlet O'Hara and family were demonstrably equally well endowed
with silk dresses and nice things without doing an ounce of work.

I have been told that our American comrades, to their credit, after
much head scratching and wrangling decided that their slaves did
indeed produce surplus value.

They might have saved themselves a bit of bother if they had looked
up "Slavery" in the index of Vol III and found-:

"Take for instance, the slave economy. The price paid for a slave is
nothing but the anticipated and capitalised surplus-value or profit
to be wrung out of the slave."

Vol III pg 809 L&W 1974

And on page 804

" The entire surplus-labour of the labourers, which is manifested"
easily noticed "here in the surplus product, is extracted from them
directly by the owner of all instruments of production, to which
belong the land and, under the original form of slavery, the
immediate producers themselves. Where the capitalist outlook
prevails, as on American plantations, this entire surplus value is
regarded as profit;"

The later form of slavery is the condition we are all in I think ie
wage slavery.

Maybe they did know about this quote, I don't know. I am going to
find it hard I think to reconcile American plantation slavery
to "peculiarity of the wage relationship under capitalism". However
it takes a load of my mind as "Gone With the Wind" now makes a lot
more sense.

Now I will return to the thorny problem of Robin Hood and his
slightly confused merry men and the rich bastards in Anna Karenina.

Vol. III, chapter XLVII, Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent, section
II,pg 790 we have-:

" during part of the week and works during the remaining days upon
the estate of the feudal lord without any compensation from the
feudal lord, the situation here is still quite clear, for in this
case rent and surplus value are identical. Rent, not profit, is the
form here through which unpaid-surplus labour expresses itself."

To avoid any possible doubt about what this rent is later we have-:

"rent i.e. the enforced surplus labour to be surrendered to the
landowners."

The serf is in effect renting the land that the serf works for
himself from the Lord, paying that rent in the form of unpaid
labour, labour rent.

So it looks like the feudal peasants produce surplus value too,
another load off my simple mind. It looks like something funny is
going on here though. How can rent, "enforced surplus labour"
be "identical" to surplus value, this would imply surplus labour is
surplus value and surplus value is surplus labour. Has Karl made a
slip? I will come back to this later, but no he hasn't, he rarely
does, clever bastard.

To avoid any doubt on page 792 we have-:

"But this identity of surplus value with unpaid labour" surplus
labour "of others need not be analysed here, because it still exists
in its visible, palpable form, since the labour of the direct
producer for himself is still separated in space and time from his
labour for the landlord"

Yet another identity.

Palpable means obvious to the mind and senses, it is probably the
strongest word in the English language for obvious.

What I think he is saying here is that in wage labour it is not easy
to see surplus labour. There is no clear division between necessary
labour and surplus labour, a bell doesn't ring at 2pm to tell you
that you are no longer working for yourself and you should go home.
Also both types of labour are done in the same place. For the feudal
peasant it is obvious when and where he is working for himself and
for his Lord.

Corvee labour is defined in my dictionary as a days unpaid labour
owed by a feudal vassal to his lord.

Section 2, chapter X, Vol I, pg 238

"The ratio of the corvee………..to the necessary labour………………..Gives a
much smaller rate of surplus value"

ie it seems feudal vassals produce surplus value too.

There are other cases elsewhere in Capital of Slaves in antiquity,
ancient slaves, small Roman peasants (under five feet six) etc
producing surplus value.

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jura
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Oct 14 2008 08:10

Dave, I do know that Marx used the category of surplus value to refer to the surplus product of pre-capitalist producers. I am not sure, though, if you can do so in another than a "metaphorical" sense). If value is a social relationship which presupposes abstract labor, production for exchange, etc. -- which are non-existent in a pre-capitalist economy -- I don't see how you can apply the category of surplus value to a feudal or other pre-capitalist economy in a way that make sense (other than a "metaphorical", simplified comparison).

dave c
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Oct 15 2008 04:21

Dave B, you seem to be arguing again that Marx understood "value" to be simply the labor time spent producing something in any form of society. I think that Mikus argued quite effectively against this idea on this thread: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/theories-value-06022008. I do not think that the evidence you present removes any doubts about your interpretation of Marx being correct on this point, and I will present some passages from Marx and Engels (I am quite sure you are fine with bringing Fred into it) that I think cast significant doubt on your interpretation. I do not think that you hold to a simple and obvious reading of Marx typical among non-academics or anything like that. Funnily enough, the only person I have ever met who shared your interpretation on this point was an academic, whereas a handful of others I know would, like Jura (who I do not know), find it a strange interpretation. But that is hardly relevant to the strength of the interpretation, as I am sure you know. I acknowledge that there are a number of times when Marx seems to contradict my interpretation in Volume III of Capital, by referring to the surplus product of a feudal serf as a surplus-value. But I do not think that this settles the issue, since at the very least I can present evidence of Marx and Engels using the concepts of value and surplus-value in ways incompatible with any serious theory of surplus-values being produced without commodity exchange.

First of all, there is the Critique of the Gotha Programme, where Marx writes:

Marx wrote:
Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm)

Marx had expressed the same idea about communist society some years earlier:

Marx wrote:
As values, commodities are social magnitudes, that is to say, something absolutely different from their “properties” as “things”. As values, they constitute only relations of men in their productive activity. Value indeed “implies exchanges”, but exchanges are exchanges of things between men, exchanges which in no way affect the things as such. A thing retains the same “properties” whether it be owned by A or by B. In actual fact, the concept “value” presupposes “exchanges” of the products. Where labour is communal, the relations of men in their social production do not manifest themselves as “values” of “things”. Exchange of products as commodities is a method of exchanging labour, [it demonstrates] the dependence of the labour of each upon the labour of the others [and corresponds to] a certain mode of social labour or social production. . . . Thus he [Bailey], the wiseacre, transforms value into something absolute, “a property of things”, instead of seeing in it only something relative, the relation of things to social labour, social labour based on private exchange, in which things are defined not as independent entities, but as mere expressions of social production. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/ch20.htm) (my bold)

Here Marx defines the concept of value in terms of commodity production:

Marx wrote:
The problem of an “invariable measure of value” was simply a spurious name for the quest for the concept, the nature, of value itself, the definition of which could not be another value, and consequently could not be subject to variations as value. This was labour-time, social labour, as it presents itself specifically in commodity production. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1863/theories-surplus-value/ch20.htm) (my bold)

In his "Notes on Adolph Wagner", Marx again claims that the category of value is germane to a certain historical form of society. After very clearly differentiating between value and exchange-value, Marx writes:

Marx wrote:
If he had inquired further into value, then he would have found that here the thing, the 'use-value', serves as the mere objectification of human labour, as the expenditure of equal human labour-power, and hence that this content is presented as an objective character of the thing, as [a character] which pertains to it materially, although this objectivity does not appear in its natural form (but [this is] what makes a special value-form necessary). Hence he would have found that the 'value' of a commodity only expresses in a historically developed form, what exists in all other historical forms of society as well, even if in another form, namely, the social character of labour, so far as it exists as the expenditure of 'social' labour-power. (Later Political Writings, Cambridge, 248-249)

With regard to the use of the concept of "surplus-value," Engels definitely contradicts what you are claiming is Marx's view:

Engels wrote:
"Capital," says Marx, "has not invented surplus-labour. Wherever a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free, must add to the working-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owners of the means of production." Surplus-labour, labour beyond the time required for the labourer's own maintenance, and appropriation by others of the product of this surplus-labour, the exploitation of labour, is therefore common to all forms of society that have existed hitherto, in so far as these have moved in class antagonisms. But it is only when the product of this surplus-labour assumes the form of surplus-value, when the owner of the means of production finds the free labourer—free from social fetters and free from possessions of his own—as an object of exploitation, and exploits him for the purpose of the production of commodities—it is only then, according to Marx, that the means of production assume the specific character of capital. And this first took place on a large scale at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch19.htm) (my bold)

Engels again seems to contradict your interpretation of the concept of value in his Supplement to Volume III of Capital

Engels wrote:
Proceeding from this determination of value by labour-time, commodity production as a whole, and with it the manifold relationships in which the different aspects of the law of value make themselves felt, now develops as presented in Part One of Capital Volume 1; therefore, in particular, the conditions become established under which labour is value-forming. (Capital III, Penguin, 1036-1037)

And in Chapter 1 of Capital, Marx does in fact make quite a big deal about the specific historical conditions "under which labour is value-forming." Marx writes:

Marx wrote:
Political economy has indeed analysed value and its magnitude, however incompletely, and has uncovered the content concealed within these forms. But it has never once asked the question why this content has assumed that particular form, that is to say, why labour is expressed in value, and why the measurement of labour by its duration is expressed in the magnitude of the value of the product. (Capital I, Penguin, 173-174)

Another passage mentions the "specific character of value-creating labour":

Marx wrote:
It is only the expression of equivalence between different sorts of commodities which brings to view the specific character of value-creating labour, by actually reducing the different kinds of labour embedded in the different kinds of commodity to their common quality of being human labour in general. (Capital I, Penguin, 142)

It seems like the bulk of Marx's economic theory relies on a definition of value that makes the concept historically specific. Perhaps Jura's comment about a metaphorical usage should be taken seriously.

mikus
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Oct 15 2008 06:53

A couple of points. First off, Dave B you have not responded to any of the previous arguments I gave to you as regards whether or not Marx regarded value and human labor to be the same thing. Treating value and human labor as the same thing falls into other problems which I pointed out in my previous response to you, which aren't directly related to what Marx may have thought on the issue. But on to what Marx thought below.

Only a couple of the quotes are any evidence in favor of your view, and even those I think are not very strong (as I will explain below).

You (or whoever wrote the e-mail you posted) quote Marx:

Marx wrote:
Take for instance, the slave economy. The price paid for a slave is
nothing but the anticipated and capitalised surplus-value or profit
to be wrung out of the slave.

Judging by the context, which is a discussion of how ground-rent, which is a stream of income, allows uncultivated land to obtain a price without having a value, it is clear that Marx is talking about slaves that produced profit (i.e. a certain amount of money over and above the capitalist expenditure) for their owner, which of course would not apply to slaves which performed labor in patriarchal arrangements. If the slave did not produce profit, then the slave would not have produced a stream of income, and therefore it would have been impossible to compare the price of a slave to the price of a piece of land. So the quote actually only makes sense in the case of slaves involved in commodity production, which was common in the New World and also existed, but was less common, in antiquity.

You are taking a quote from Marx speaking about slaves involved in commodity production and applying it to all slaves, which is unwarranted.

In Capital Marx distinguished between patriarchal and commercial slavery in the both the New World and in antiquity.

Marx, in Ch. 10 of Vol. 1 of Capital wrote:
In antiquity over-work becomes horrible only when the object is to obtain exchange-value in its specific independent money-form; in the production of gold and silver...But as soon as people, whose production still moves within the lower forms of slave-labour, corvée-labour, &c., are drawn into the whirlpool of an international market dominated by the capitalistic mode of production, the sale of their products for export becoming their principal interest, the civilised horrors of over-work are grafted on the barbaric horrors of slavery, serfdom, &c. Hence the negro labour in the Southern States of the American Union preserved something of a patriarchal character, so long as production was chiefly directed to immediate local consumption. But in proportion, as the export of cotton became of vital interest to these states, the over-working of the negro and sometimes the using up of his life in 7 years of labour became a factor in a calculated and calculating system. It was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products. It was now a question of production of surplus-labour itself.

You (or whoever wrote the e-mail) also quote Marx saying:

Quote:
The entire surplus-labour of the labourers, which is manifested here in the surplus product, is extracted from them
directly by the owner of all instruments of production, to which
belong the land and, under the original form of slavery, the
immediate producers themselves. Where the capitalist outlook
prevails, as on American plantations, this entire surplus value is
regarded as profit

Again, you are using a quote which refers to slaves who were engaged in commodity production and then imagining that it must have applied to all slaves for all time, which is not correct, as there was a big difference, which Marx himself explicitly recognized in the quote I provided, between slaves engaged in forms of useful labor directly for their owner and slaves involved in producing commodities.

In the quote above Marx is saying the capitalist and the landlord is the same person (i.e. the capitalist owns his own land), he does not pay out any ground-rent but instead treat gets the whole income as profit. The surplus-value is not siphoned off to a distinct landlord as ground-rent, but the capitalist retains the ground-rent and there "the entire surplus value is regarded as profit."

You then give a couple of quotes which are better for your argument, but which when placed in context still don't provide a strong argument for your point. Let's take the first quote.

Marx wrote:
during part of the week and works during the remaining days upon
the estate of the feudal lord without any compensation from the
feudal lord, the situation here is still quite clear, for in this
case rent and surplus value are identical. Rent, not profit, is the
form here through which unpaid-surplus labour expresses itself.

This quote is located in a passage in which Marx is distinguishing between rent in a capitalist society and rent in pre-capitalist societies, basically showing how his previous analysis of ground rent applies only to capitalist societies.

In Marx's analysis of rent, of course, rent is treated as a deduction from the surplus-value extracted from the laborer. The landlord captures the surplus profit which would have accrued to the capitalist through the use of the landlord's especially productive land (differential rent). In a capitalist society, profit is the normal form of surplus-labor and rent is simply a deduction from it. The landlord siphons off a portion of the surplus-value which would have otherwise accrued to the capitalist. Ground-rent in a capitalist society is therefore a subsidiary form of income, and it moves within the limits set by the surplus-value produced by the workers. Rent is not itself the spur to surplus-labor.

Marx therefore contrasts this to surplus-labor in (certain) pre-capitalist societies, in which all of the surplus-labor is rent -- there is no distinction between surplus labor and rent.

Marx's point in the passage is not that surplus-value was produced previously to capitalism, but rather that the total surplus-labor was equal to the total rent, as distinct from capitalist society where rent forms a deduction from the total surplus labor of the toilers.

This is also the primary purpose of the other quotes drawn from Vol. 3. (The Vol. 1 quote deals with a related point about the relation of surplus labor to necessary labor. Again, the primary point is the magnitude of surplus-labor in different modes of production.) So I think you are reading too much into Marx's incidental use of the term "surplus-value" here. Marx is just focusing on surplus-labor, not on whether or not labor takes the form of value.

In Marx's explicit statements on this issue, which Dave C provided, you will not find a hint of the idea that surplus-value existed in the absence of commodity production. Marx always says, completely explicitly, that value presupposes commodity exchange.

It makes much more sense to use the very explicit statements to understand the subsidiary, incidental remarks, than the reverse, which is what you seem to be doing.

Dave B
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Oct 15 2008 19:56

On responding or not responding to posts I am not in the habit of ignoring people or posts in anyway to snub them or anything. I often have other things to do and other posts to make elsewhere. We had an Anarcho-capitalist on our list yesterday for instance that I felt impelled to respond to but he is being mobbed at the moment so I think I will leave him to them.

The post from our list that I quoted was my own written around about when I had finished volume III in the middle of 2005.

Incidentally Das Capital was the first piece of Marx I had ever read ,although I had been in the SPGB for some time. ‘Marxism’ used to irritate me as dogma and scripture and I actually only picked Capital up and read it with the sole object ‘to beat the Marxists over the head with it’.

Anyway so much for the autobiography, I raised this issue in the idle hope that perhaps it might stimulate a debate. I believe there is an intrinsic ambiguity over this issue of ‘value’ that is reflected I think in what has been said so far.

I think it would be useful if we all attempted to avoid being purely confrontational over it in order to thrash out the nature of the problem and thus learn from each other. I don’t think it is just a matter of as somebody said elsewhere ‘who gives a shit whether or not feudal peasants produce surplus value’, which is an objection to this debate that has some validity. I obviously have no political interest in the outcome this debate.

Although as a hypothesis testing example of the ‘labour theory of value’ or the ‘immanent theory of value’, the economy of feudal and slave production could prove to be instructive or helpful to understanding.

I am expecting the argument to ‘degenerate’ into the old philosophical one of Bishop Berkeley.

As I have said, I think there is ambiguity as regards to ‘value’ that I believe Karl and Fred recognised. This was why in certain situations value appeared in italics and inverted comma’s etc.

So for instance in Anti-Duhring on socialism, without exchange, or exchange value we have an example I think of the ambiguity or double meaning of the term ‘value’;

Quote:
Hence, on the assumptions we made above, society will not assign values to products. It will not express the simple fact that the hundred square yards of cloth have required for their production, say, a thousand hours of labour in the oblique and meaningless way, stating that they have the value of a thousand hours of labour. It is true that even then it will still be necessary for society to know how much labour each article of consumption requires for its production. It will have to arrange its plan of production in accordance with its means of production, which include, in particular, its labour-powers. The useful effects of the various articles of consumption, compared with one another and with the quantities of labour required for their production, will in the end determine the plan. People will be able to manage everything very simply, without the intervention of much-vaunted "value".

15 As long ago as 1844 I stated that the above-mentioned balancing of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value. (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, p. 95) The scientific justification for this statement, however, as can be seen, was made possible only by Marx's Capital.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch26.htm

This footnote statement is repeated in volume III, I think, last sentance;

Quote:
Secondly, after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, but still retaining social production, the determination of value continues to prevail in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among the various production groups, ultimately the book-keeping encompassing all this, become more essential than ever.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch49.htm

The point is when you allocate values to things eg weights, volumes, atomic numbers and densities etc you do it for a purpose or it has meaning.

So to become philosophical, you could ask the question did the planet Pluto exist in AD1543 and did it have a mass, volume and density etc . As a pragmatic scientist I would say yes it did irrespective of whether or not anybody had even thought if it could exist, cared, and whether or not it effected anyone’s lives or that they were aware of it etc.

Looking at feudal production in Russia circa 1800 and say 10 bushels of wheat, from the Lords perspective, we could ask whether or not the amount of labour time that went into the production of that wheat, its ‘value’, had any meaning to him.

He may have produced from his estate surplus bushels of wheat that he may exchange with another feudal Lord for surplus wood cut from his estate from slave/serf labour. Presumably as one feudal lord exchanges his surplus product with the other the rate of exchange would be moderated more by their mutual convenience than any calculation of labour time embodied in their surplus products and their respective ‘values’.

So we would certainly have surplus labour and surplus product but the amount of labour embodied in those products, their ‘value’, would not have any meaning or relevance, for the feudal Lord’s anyway, the serfs might have a different understanding and appreciation of it.

But for me and as for Galileo with his ‘and yet it moves’ I have ‘and yet it has labour embodied in it’ and therefore it has value.

As long as we care, as in exchange-less free access socialism, how long it takes to produce one thing one way rather than another we will be valuing things according to that. And equally when it comes to consumption I hope we would consider how long something took to make, its value, before we decided to consume it.

And therefore; ‘the above-mentioned balancing of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value’.

Also in a voluntary process of balancing a ‘what I am going to get out of it’ with a what someone else has ‘put in to make it’.

It would be, for example, and obscene waste, for myself, to consume a bottle of Canadian Ice Wine when an equally palatable bottle of fermented Vimto was available.

The amount of labour time that had gone into the product, and its value, would still have meaning for me even if it was free.

To end, as soon as the owners of slave labour are sucked into the whirlpool of the international market and start to look beyond their isolated and parochial interests of their own surplus product the relative amount of labour time required to produce something, its value, starts to take on meaning for the owners of that slave labour.

Quote:
Capital has not invented surplus-labour. Wherever a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the labourer, free or not free, must add to the working-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra working-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owners of the means of production, [7] whether this proprietor be the Athenian caloς cagaqoς [well-to-do man], Etruscan theocrat, civis Romanus [Roman citizen], Norman baron, American slave-owner, Wallachian Boyard, modern landlord or capitalist. [8]

It is, however, clear that in any given economic formation of society, where not the exchange-value but the use-value of the product predominates, surplus-labour will be limited by a given set of wants which may be greater or less, and that here no boundless thirst for surplus-labour arises from the nature of the production itself.

Hence in antiquity over-work becomes horrible only when the object is to obtain exchange-value in its specific independent money-form; in the production of gold and silver. Compulsory working to death is here the recognised form of over-work. Only read Diodorus Siculus. [9] Still these are exceptions in antiquity. But as soon as people, whose production still moves within the lower forms of slave-labour, corvée-labour, &c., are drawn into the whirlpool of an international market dominated by the capitalistic mode of production, the sale of their products for export becoming their principal interest, the civilised horrors of over-work are grafted on the barbaric horrors of slavery, serfdom, &c

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch10.htm#S2

I think.

felix
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Nov 13 2008 10:40

price seems to me to be calculated with only a vague reference to value, which seems to have become autonomous (loans spiraling out of control, conspicuous consumption, etc)
if a capitalist wants to price a commodity higher, its perceived value goes up.
for instance, a coffee shop down the street sells coffee for 3 bucks a cup, 15 bucks a pound. the Latin American farmer makes 30 dollars for 100 pounds. 500% profit. Super exploitation! But then there's another coffee shop down the street that sells the same coffee for 1.50... and it gets less business. Why? Because it's cheaper, so people think its value (quality, worth) is lower. Regardless the farmer's still getting screwed, but the consumer willingly screws himself to be seen as able to afford that expensive stuff.

Mike Harman
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Nov 13 2008 12:20
felix wrote:
for instance, a coffee shop down the street sells coffee for 3 bucks a cup, 15 bucks a pound. the Latin American farmer makes 30 dollars for 100 pounds. 500% profit. Super exploitation!

I think you're missing a few steps along the way there - to get from the Latin American farmer to your hand, that cup of coffee goes through transportation, roasting, packaging, re-packaging, transport, and the wages of people working in the coffee shop. Not to mention fixed capital like coffee machines, furniture, and utlities like electric, water. These all contribute to the 'average socially necessary labour time' required to server a cup of coffee in a shop - and hence form a part of its exchange value.

More importantly, the Latin American farmer is quite likely to be an employer, making a profit out of that coffee (same with the haulage and packaging companies along the way). So simply comparing two prices for quite different commodities - raw coffee straight off a plantation, and a prepared cup of coffee ready to drink doesn't in any way contradict an understanding of capitalism based around value. Now, things like monopoly purchasing and various other factors can add to additional profit in certain sectors, but that's not essential to profit as such.

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but the consumer willingly screws himself to be seen as able to afford that expensive stuff.

People do pay for overpriced shit. But you can't base an idea of profit overall on everyone paying more than everything is worth.

felix
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Nov 13 2008 19:57

well, that latin american was actually a worker on the farm, and the fixed capital comes from loans (it's not earned or at all related to labor, except in theory, since it's invented by banks), and the roasting transport repackaging, wages, etc. are really miniscule compared to the amount of profit you can make ... since after all it IS 500% profit or more.
what do you base an idea of profit on, though, besides arbitrary greed? i'm not trying to contradict an understanding of capitalism based around value, but i dont think capitalism is very valuable! smile

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 14 2008 08:55

Please keep this thread for the reading group and leave the somewhat untenable 'greed theory of profits' to another thread.

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xslavearcx
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May 22 2011 17:17

sorry i havent read this whole thread yet, so im probably just repeating stuff, will do so when i get the time...

I've been reading the first chapter of capital and these are the thoughts im getting so far:

Marx argues that it is through the relation between the use values of commodities that we acquire the concept of 'exchange value'. If we put the right quantities of differing use values into exchange we can notice definite quantites whereby there is an equality between these definite quantities. EG 10 yards of linen = 1 coat.

Now due to the fact that they have different use values but seem to have this equality, their exchange value must not derive from the inherent material nature of such commodities, but rather they must be participating into some kind of abstract value (seemed reminiscent of platonic forms argument). Marx then goes on to say what they share is that they are both products of human labour power in the abstract, which is what value is.

Thus far, this seems convicing, apart from the fact that he considers value to be soley about human labour. Is there no aspect inherant in how scarce the material aspects of the commodity that plays a part in its value.

Take for instance, gold and diamonds. Marx seems to say that their value derives from the fact that their scarcity makes it require a lot of human labour. But thus far he doesnt seem to give a demonstration about how that is the case, apart from just stating the point.

Now say marx is wrong, that labour is not soley the source of value, does this make his theory lose its power, or can his overall argument be augmented?

ive got more to say but little time will be on later!!

LBird
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May 22 2011 17:46
xslavearcx wrote:
Marx then goes on to say what they share is that they are both products of human labour power in the abstract, which is what value is.

Thus far, this seems convicing, apart from the fact that he considers value to be soley about human labour. Is there no aspect inherant in how scarce the material aspects of the commodity that plays a part in its value.

I've said this before on other threads, and the more I think about it, the more I think it is very helpful for beginners, is that when reading Marx's concept 'value', one should use the term 'social-value'.

This helps to get away from common-sense notions of 'value' which we all employ everyday, and which confuses our understanding of Marx's meaning.

xslavearcx wrote:
Now say marx is wrong, that labour is not soley the source of value, does this make his theory lose its power, or can his overall argument be augmented?

Well, Marx is making an axiomatic statement that 'labour is the source of social-value. It can't be 'wrong' or 'right'. It's a bedrock starting point, an assumption, which cannot be falsified by empirical research.

Now, one can say one doesn't agree with Marx, and that's great. So one doesn't agree with Marx. But one can still go on to understand Marx, in his own terms.

'Understanding' doesn't necessarily imply 'agreement'.

I think you need to keep these two positions separate, at this point, at least.

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Felix Frost
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May 23 2011 13:59
LBird wrote:
xslavearcx wrote:
Marx then goes on to say what they share is that they are both products of human labour power in the abstract, which is what value is.

Thus far, this seems convicing, apart from the fact that he considers value to be soley about human labour. Is there no aspect inherant in how scarce the material aspects of the commodity that plays a part in its value.

I've said this before on other threads, and the more I think about it, the more I think it is very helpful for beginners, is that when reading Marx's concept 'value', one should use the term 'social-value'.

This helps to get away from common-sense notions of 'value' which we all employ everyday, and which confuses our understanding of Marx's meaning.

If you want to another term for value, you would probably be better off with "labour value", which is an already established term, and better describes what it's about.

About scarcity: If you have scarcity in the sense that supply don't meet demand, then goods will sell at a price that are higher than their value. Then there is the issue of ground rent, which is more complicated, but it's perhaps best to wait with this until you get further in the book.

LBird
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May 23 2011 16:35
Felix Frost wrote:
If you want to another term for value, you would probably be better off with "labour value", which is an already established term, and better describes what it's about.

I'm afraid this is a matter of opinion, Felix. I prefer social-value because it contrasts with individual-use-value, which aspect labour-value doesn't capture.

Whereas labour-value still has the feel of a quality that an individual can see, touch or estimate, social-value makes it plainer that it is an idea or concept, not 'value' in any commonsense way that we use today.

[edit]

Social-value is a meaning between two or more individuals, a social agreement, not an individual's own estimation of 'value' (or what it's 'worth'), or of someone's opinion of 'supply and demand'.

[end-edit]

Dave B
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May 23 2011 18:56

I think the concept ‘social value’ is an unnecessary and best left for later complication and should only follow on or be analysed as such after the concept of ‘value’ is understood.

The logic of the argument is that when two different things in reality stand in a relationship to each other and that there is no direct or obvious causal reason for it then that relationship has to be the effect of a ‘third’ thing.

And that the relationship is in fact a phenomena of something else.

So a litre of iron weighs the same as 8 litres of water because of a ‘third’ thing baryonic matter of which they have equal amounts.

In another example in Gay-Lussac's law the pressure of a fixed volume of gas stands in relation to its temperature.

Or in other words if you increase the temperature the pressure increases which is why, in lay terms, you don’t throw a tin can on a fire.

But temperature and pressure are two different things and there is no logical or implicit reason why the pressure should increase with temperature.

In this case the third thing that forms an identity and therefore relationship as regards temperature and pressure is the kinetic theory of gases.

As the gases heat up they bounce and fly around in the container with increased vigour, pummelling on the inside of the vessel more frequently and with greater velocity and momentum compared to the gases outside.

Thus the pressure increases inside the container.

Actually temperature and pressure are both phenomena and effects, as in this context temperature is the kinetic energy of molecules as is pressure.

We ‘sense’ kinetic energy of molecules in the phenomena of pressure and temperature.

Pressure and temperature aren’t ‘real’ but kinetic energy of molecules ‘is’.

And that is why Karl says that the exchange value relationship between commodities is the phenomenal form or reflection of value, or something else, which has its own laws and theory.

In fact we can value things according to how much labour time it takes to make them outside of ‘social’ production.

If Robinson Crusoe’s hut catches fire the order in which he rescues the products of his labour will take into consideration the amount of time it will take him to reproduce them should they be destroyed.

As well as the practical details of the ease of evacuation and non-reproducible use values.

LBird
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May 23 2011 19:46
Dave B wrote:
I think the concept ‘social value’ is an unnecessary and best left for later complication and should only follow on or be analysed as such after the concept of ‘value’ is understood.

But this begs the question, doesn't it, Dave? I'm arguing that, in order to understand the concept of 'value', it's best before to employ the term social-value as a synonym.

Here's some quotes from Capital chapter one, to back up my case.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm

[my insertion of ‘social-’ before ‘value’]

Marx wrote:
“The social-value of commodities is the very opposite of the coarse materiality of their substance, not an atom of matter enters into its composition. Turn and examine a single commodity, by itself, as we will, yet in so far as it remains an object of social-value, it seems impossible to grasp it.”

“the soul of social-value”

“Here, however, the analogy ceases. The iron, in the expression of the weight of the sugar-loaf, represents a natural property common to both bodies, namely their weight; but the coat, in the expression of social-value of the linen, represents a non-natural property of both, something purely social, namely, their social-value.”

“But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent.”

“There, the existence of the things quâ commodities, and the social-value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things.”

Social-Value, therefore, does not stalk about with a label describing what it is. It is social-value, rather, that converts every product into a social hieroglyphic. Later on, we try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of our own social products; for to stamp an object of utility as a social-value, is just as much a social product as language.”

There are many others, that back up my case for using 'social-value', as a term to help beginners, who will necessarily confuse 'value' alone as meaning something akin to the normal use of the term 'value' in our society.

LBird
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May 25 2011 08:08
xslavearcx wrote:
ive got more to say but little time will be on later!!

Does what I've said about 'social-value' help at all with your understanding of Marx's concept of 'value', xslavearcx?

I'm keen to hear from xslavearcx and any other beginners whether this is a useful way of understanding 'value' in Capital.

Of course, anyone who's an expert can comment (and I know some disagree with me), but I'm particularly interested to hear from comrades new to reading it about their opinion.

Or are there no beginners even reading this thread?

Dave B
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May 25 2011 18:17

I will travel along with you Lbird and I will try and stay in Section one.

I think the idea as regards it being social value is related to the second point that is being made.

And that is that this value thing is the amount of labour that is in the commodity.

Thus it is a property of the commodity.

Thus;

Quote:
Therefore, first: the valid exchange values of a given commodity express something equal; secondly, exchange value, generally, is only the mode of expression, the phenomenal form, of something contained in it, yet distinguishable from it.
Quote:
that human labour is embodied in them. When looked at as crystals of this social substance, common to them all, they are – Values.
Quote:
therefore, has value only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialised in it
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Commodities, therefore, in which equal quantities of labour are embodied, or which can be produced in the same time, have the same value.
Quote:
“As values, all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour time.”
Quote:
the less is the amount of labour crystallised in that article, and the less is its value

The problem with that is that although he is using material, or solid and tangible, allegories or metaphors or abstractions to the property of a commodity that is value.

Expended labour time or human effort isn’t a ‘material’ object in the same way as say alcohol has things ie carbon, hydrogen and oxygen embodied in, them as those chemical elements are material objects.

Thus what is embodied in comodities is a 'material substance' and that for him that is conceptualised as a social material.

This important as if we are going to follow the logic we are going to have to make the difficult abstraction that the value is intrinsic and immanent in the commodity.

And that commodities ‘ARE LABOUR’, and Karl himself shouts that out to himself in that context in Grundrisse, breaking by own rule.

I myself don’t have a problem in making the more concrete abstraction that expended labour actually is in the commodity.

But I also don’t have a problem of thinking of gravity as invisible elastic bands, if it is convenient way of thinking about it and analysing the process.

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xslavearcx
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May 25 2011 20:58

lbird, just started a new job in a fucking telesales centre miles away from home from which i need to get public transport, so ive lost a wee bit of momentum with keeping up with this thread and the text. ill try and post something asap... one good thing is that this job is teaching me lots about marxes theories wink

LBird
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May 25 2011 22:33
xslavearcx wrote:
lbird, just started a new job in a fucking telesales centre miles away from home from which i need to get public transport, so ive lost a wee bit of momentum with keeping up with this thread and the text. ill try and post something asap... one good thing is that this job is teaching me lots about marxes theories

You have my condolences, mate!

No problem about the 'momentum' - I was just worried that you'd given up, and left me at the mercy of Dave B!

Take your time, and have a think about what I've written about 'value' and 'social-value'. I'm more likely to drop the synonym if another beginner tells me that it's not of any use in helping to come to an understanding.

And I see you're maintaining a healthy mix of 'theory' and 'practice' towards Capital and Capitalism.

Get back when you can.

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xslavearcx
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Jul 4 2011 19:40

double post see below.

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xslavearcx
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Jul 4 2011 19:36
Quote:

LBird wrote:
xslavearcx wrote:
lbird, just started a new job in a fucking telesales centre miles away from home from which i need to get public transport, so ive lost a wee bit of momentum with keeping up with this thread and the text. ill try and post something asap... one good thing is that this job is teaching me lots about marxes theories

You have my condolences, mate!

No problem about the 'momentum' - I was just worried that you'd given up, and left me at the mercy of Dave B!

Take your time, and have a think about what I've written about 'value' and 'social-value'. I'm more likely to drop the synonym if another beginner tells me that it's not of any use in helping to come to an understanding.

And I see you're maintaining a healthy mix of 'theory' and 'practice' towards Capital and Capitalism.

Get back when you can.

Thanks very much!

So thats me just finished reading chapter 1 and chapter 2. This, ive tried to fit around my new job (which involves 3 hours a day just traveling to sad ) and bringing up 2 kids. So all my ambition of reading a chapter a week seems way daft. Nevertheless, would like to convey my sincere apologies for not getting this ball rolling quicker.

Regarding my reading, because i've really wanted to understand it, the method ive adopted is really slow. Basically i read the entire chapter in an easy going way, excluding the footnotes to get the gist of it. Then i close read where i take notes, which takes forever, sometimes it seems as if im just copying out the whole damn book! After the close reading, i read it again and listen to it on libravox including the footnotes.

Now, im trying to put my notes into more concise sections, i was once again being mega ambitious by trying to get it all done tonight, but thus far ive only done one section (kids running about and me refereeing potential fights is not easy to concentrate). Am going to try and do section 2 in the next couple of days, section 3 after that and then the bit im finding hardest to get my head around about commodity fetishism. Then i will move on to the comments which i have thought about. I reckon this should maybe take about 2 weeks all in all.Once again my sincere apologies.

[b]Section 1

The first concept, in reference to commodities is Use value. A use value is “the utility of a thing” realized in usage, e.g. me buying sweeties cause I think they are tasty.

Marx argues that it is through the relation between use values, in a commodity producing society, in exchange, that we acquire the concept of 'exchange value'. If we put the right quantities of differing use values into exchange we can notice definite quantity whereby there is an equality between these definite quantities. EG 20 yards of linen = 1 coat.

Now due to the fact that they have different use values but seem to have this equality, their exchange value must not derive from the inherent material nature of such commodities, but rather they must be participating into some kind of abstract value (seemed reminiscent of platonic forms argument). Since two commodities are entirely different in their material aspect the only one thing that they share, is that they are both products of human labour power in the abstract , which is what value is.

The substance of value, is therefore, according to Marx’s labour theory of value is abstract human labour.

Diagram of the two fold nature of commodities as delineated in section 1.

--------USE VALUE (the materiality of the commodity has a human usage)

(COMMODITY)

--------EXCHANGE VALUE (commensurably of commodities by amount of labour power congealed in them)

Diagram of how through exchange the labour-value is acquired if there’s equal labour-time contained within each commodity.

(COMMODITY A)------- EXCHANGE VALUE-----------(COMMODITY B)

'

'

'

VALUE
- substance of value = human labour power in the abstract
- magnatude of value = quantity of human labour power

Magnitude of value = measured by quantity of labour contained within the commodity, measurable in days, hours etc. This is measured in reference to what Marx defines as "socially necessary labour time" which is "average homogeneous labour under normal productive conditions". These conditions are determined by factors such as: average skill, application of science, technology, and how fruitful the natural environment is in relation to commodities produced.

(Just as an aside then, I guess a socialised economy would still utilise comparative advantage for the sake of producing more wealth (aka use values)for less effort?)

To sum up, commodities which contain equal amounts of labour has the same value. It is through exchange that reveals how much labour power is congealed in a commodity.

Edited to add: I've given up on trying to format this correctly. diagrams look real shit now haha

LBird
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Jul 4 2011 20:46

Hello, xslavearcx! It's good to have you back! Given you description of your current economic arrangements, it's a miracle that you've done so much.

xslavearcx wrote:
So all my ambition of reading a chapter a week seems way daft.

Well, I thought so at the time you said it, but you seemed so keen that I didn't have the heart to say 'be more realistic'. Especially because Marx seems to go out of his way not to explain clearly what the hell he's talking about. I can only take the shit in very small doses myself.

I've read the first three chapters a few weeks ago, but I lose the will to live ploughing through it. But my use of the term social-value, in place of just 'value', helps me, at least.

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Jul 4 2011 22:03

thanks lbird.

my revised time schedule that ive got in my head is to get it finished before uni starts again (october some point) but when i look at the size of the book at the time its taking me thats still probably too ambitious.

i shoulda just stuck with the dole rather than the callcentre, oh well, at least i can spend some of my income on the canteen to give em some money back and i can get fat as well!!

at first i was thinking the term value was fine to understand it as the underlying commensurablity between products, but after reading the section on commodity fetishism which seems to be a real exposition about human contact is mediated through commodities now i can see where maybe bringing the term social into the mix in an explicit manner is the way forward. I must admit it is this section where my understanding is starting to fall apart, so this is where i think im going to have to get some help from you all in particular.

The thing i find difficult about reading marx, which is why one has to go over it so frustraitingly slowly is how he brings about new nuances by useing the same example and it is often really difficult to get what hes trying to say cause it is so subtle and its easy to lose the overall thread when you really focus in. I think also he likes to labour the point too at times..

Ok heres pastage of section 2 now haha. maybe some of section 3 tommorrow smile

Section 2 – The dual character of labour embodied in commodities.

Twofold nature of labour:
expression of value (eg: one coat = 2 yards of yarn)
creator of use value (useful labour)

Use value/Useful Labour

Useful labour – commodities have qualitatively different use values with corresponding qualitative types of labour embodied within them. e.g, linen with weaving, and clothing with tailoring.
This difference is a neccesary condition for exchange. I.e one cannot exchange one thing for exactly the same thing, there has to be difference for exchange to take place.

Marx describes the totality of the differences of use values within a commodity producing society as a social division of labour.

Labour as creator of use values transcends particular ways of organising society as humans have to change natural materials into things that can be used that are neccesary for existence or enjoyment. Use values are of two elements: human labour and natural material.

As an aside, what I find particularly interesting about this section is the distinction between wealth and value. A raising of productive values leads to a rise in the material wealth of society but value remains constant. For instance, if new machinary enables to make double the amount of coats for the same expenditure of labour power, value remains constant but the material result is as marx says “that two people can be clothed instead of one” for the same amount of labour.

Value

As values coats have the same substance – objective expressions of homgenous human labour. Marx makes usage of an example of a society where division of labour is not as complex as industrial society where the same person would do weaving and tailoring to make clothing. Consequently, more complex labour can be explained as more labour-time.

In summation, the value of a commodity reflects human labour power pure and simple, whereas the use value of a commodity is determined by the particular type of labour employed to make the commodity.

LBird
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Jul 5 2011 08:52
xslavearcx wrote:
For instance, if new machinary enables to make double the amount of coats for the same expenditure of labour power, value remains constant but the material result is as marx says “that two people can be clothed instead of one” for the same amount of labour.

xslavearcx, I'd like to tease out some of the consequences that I think follow from what you've said above, to try to help us all to understand a little bit more. It seems to me that unless we can use Marx's ideas in some way in examples that we can easily grasp, then we haven't really understood him at all. Just re-writing notes or quotes from Capital, for me anyway, doesn't do the job.

Say the 'old' machinery makes 10 coats an hour. Each coat is 'worth' 0.1 of 'social-value'.

The 'new' machinery makes 100 coats an hour. Each coat is 'worth' 0.01 of 'social-value'. But now, each of the previous coats is also now 'worth' 0.01 of 'social-value', not 0.1 as before.

As you say the 'wealth' has increased tremendously, from the initial 10 coats to 110 coats in total.

But 'social-value' has only increased from the initial 1 to 1.1. That is, from 1 hour's abstract labour to 1.1 hours' abstract labour, because the initial 1 hours' abstract labour has now had its 'social-value' reduced by a factor of 10 (the efficiency of the 'new' machinery sets the measure of 'social-value').

So, to summarise, 'wealth' has increased by a 10 times, but 'social-value' has only increased by a mere tenth.

If I am justified in using this example (and I'd value your and others' opinions on that), then your statement that "value remains constant" doesn't seem to be correct. If you mean that the 'measure of value remains constant', I'd agree (ie. socially necessary labour time), but if you mean the total 'value remains constant' (my 'social-value'), then I disagree.

What comments do others have? I personally like to put (somewhat arbitrary) numbers on a problem, because it helps me to get to grips with, and evaluate, a difficult concept.

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888
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Jul 5 2011 19:12

LBird, that seems to make sense. Marx talks about this more in chapter 12, see the paragraph beginning "If one hour’s labour is embodied in sixpence..."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch12.htm

LBird
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Jul 5 2011 19:48

888, I'm indebted to you for two reasons.

Firstly, your welcome confirmation that I am, at least for the present, 'seeming to make sense'; I'm not always too sure that I am.

Secondly, the text you cited contains Marx's own usage of a phrase that I keep recommending to other beginners seeking to understand Capital, namely 'social-value' (and indeed, my contrast of 'social-value' on an earlier thread with 'individual-value', the latter used as a synonym for 'use-value').

Marx wrote:
The real value of a commodity is, however, not its individual value, but its social value; that is to say, the real value is not measured by the labour-time that the article in each individual case costs the producer, but by the labour-time socially required for its production. If therefore, the capitalist who applies the new method, sells his commodity at its social value of one shilling...

I've not noticed Marx's usage of these terms before. This also bolsters my belief that at present I'm on the right track.

Thanks for your comradely help. Let's hope a later poster doesn't disagree with you, and puncture my new-found confidence.