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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:00 pm 
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Broletariat wrote:
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Broletariat wrote:
Reading the above dialogue made me wonder re: necessary labour/surplus labour. Considered as a total social whole, all of the necessary labour done by the working class and all of the surplus labour done. If say, 25% of the average working day is done on necessary labour and 75% of that time is done on surplus labour, could it also be said that 25% of all production is done on necessities of life and 75% of all production done on the luxuries of life?




25% of the workers time is absorbed producing the value equivalent to the necessities for the reproduction of the class of workers as workers, i.e. the wage.

All the product is appropriated by the capitalist class as value, regardless of its status as a "necessity" or "luxury." The remaining 75% of the production time is surplus value, although the product itself may be equally as necessary to the reproduction of society. Or not, in which case the surplus value goes unrealized.

Reducing production by 3/4, reducing product by 3/4, is not what's at stake. Abolishing the value relation, the compulsion for labor-power to present itself as a commodity, as value-producing is what's at stake. Then society can increase production while reducing the the working day.

EDIT: There isn't much "crisis theory" worked out in detail in any of the three volumes of Capital, although vol 3, IMO deals most clearly with the limits to accumulation. Theories of Surplus Value has a bit more on crisis. But really, Marx doesn't look upon "crisis" as the death agony of capitalism.


I think you misunderstand my intention. I'm not so much asking that question with the intention of reducing production or product by 3/4ths, but more aiming at the question of the composition of social production and how it can be read simply out of the necessary labour time and surplus labour time.

Assuming I'm correct, in my example, 25% of production would be done for things the working class would have relative easy access to, whereas the other 75% of production would work out to be products only the bourgeois would be inclined to consume with any great frequency.

The idea being that the worker essentially has access, in this case, to 1/4th of the total social productive power. The worker obviously creates all value, but most of it is excluded from him/her.


It appears as though I've anticipated Chapter 17 Vol 2.

Here quoted at length

Marx wrote:
If we furthermore assume other circumstances as remaining equal — including the length, intensity, and productivity of the working-day — but a different division of the value of the product between wages and surplus-value, so that either the former rises and the latter falls, or vice versa, the mass of the circulating money is not affected thereby. This change can take place without any expansion or contraction of the money currency. Let us consider particularly the case in which there is a general rise in wages, so that, under the assumptions made, there will be a general fall in the rate of surplus-value, but besides this, also according to our assumption, there will be no change in the value of the circulating mass of commodities. In this case there naturally is an increase in the money-capital which must be advanced as variable capital, hence in the amount of money which performs this function. But the surplus-value, and therefore also the amount of money required for its realisation, decreases by exactly the same amount by which the amount of money required for the function of variable capital increases. The amount of money required for the realisation of the commodity-value is not affected thereby, any more than this commodity-value itself. The cost price of the commodity rises for the individual capitalist but its social price of production remains unchanged. What is changed is the proportion in which, apart from the constant part of the value, the price of production of commodities is divided into wages and profit.

But, it is argued, a greater outlay of variable money-capital (the value of the money is, of course, considered constant) implies a larger amount of money in the hands of the labourers. This causes a greater demand for commodities on the part of the labourers. This, in turn, leads to a rise in the price of commodities.—Or it is said: If wages rise, the capitalists raise the prices of their commodities.—In either case, the general rise in wages causes a rise in commodity prices. Hence a greater amount of money is needed for the circulation of the commodities, no matter how the rise in prices is explained.

Reply to the first formulation: in consequence of a rise in wages, the demand of the labourers for the necessities of life will rise particularly. Their demand for articles of luxury will increase to a lesser degree, or a demand will develop for things which formerly did not come within the scope of their consumption. The sudden and large-scale increase in the demand for the indispensable means of subsistence will doubtless raise their prices immediately. The consequence: a greater part of the social capital will be employed in the production of necessities of life and a smaller in the production of luxuries, since these fall in price on account of the decrease in surplus-value and the consequent decrease in the demand of the capitalists for these articles. On the other hand as the labourers themselves buy articles of luxury, the rise in their wages does not promote an increase in the prices of the necessities of life but simply displaces buyers of luxuries. More luxuries than before are consumed by labourers, and relatively fewer by capitalists. Voilà tout. After some oscillations the value of the mass of circulating commodities is the same as before. As for the momentary fluctuations, they will not have any other effect than to throw unemployed money-capital into domestic circulation, capital which hitherto sought employment in speculative deals on the stock-exchange or in foreign countries.


Bold/italics added by me to emphasize what point I was trying to make.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 4:50 pm 
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I skipped commenting over the weekend because I was so darn close to finishing I wanted to give my full remarks today.

Chapter 20 was pretty frustrating to get through honestly. A lot of the 'problems' Marx was talking about simple circulation having were pretty well worked out previously I thought, and it felt very much like beating a dead horse when he was criticizing some of his contemporaries. I felt like I was going through The Holy Family again.

The most interesting thing to me was that the potential for crisis exists even within circulation through overproduction of the means of production in Section I of Capital. Which is of course necessary in order to have them on hand to replace them when they are needed. The allusions to how a socially planned production would circumvent this was refreshing as well.

Chapter 21 was a lot of math to my ears, and that doesn't make for easy comprehension simply through audiobook format, so I'll have to hit this one up in text form, I think I grasped some of the main points made however.

Overall, the differences between Volume 1 and 2 stylistically are pretty striking. Marx uses a lot of 'moralistic' examples in Volume 1, specifically with respect to the length of the working day in Chapter 10, whereas Volume 2 is much more 'dry' and sticks fairly strictly to the political economy. I think that's pretty obviously a result of the fact that Volume 2 wasn't ever published and Engels stuck faithfully to the manuscripts.

As far as I understand the differences in content. Volume 1 is effectively tracking the 'life' of Value considered as an individual Capital, whereas Volume 2 is tracking the total social Capital and its circulations.

Looking forward to Volume 3

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 5:09 pm 
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Alright, Volume 3 has been great, absolutely fantastic. It feels very much like Volume 1 part two, now with more application.

On the whole, I'm getting the sense that the credit system is WAY more important than I first realised. This quote by Marx about money as means of payment now makes far much more sense to me and seems much more profound.

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy wrote:
The same coin passes through various hands not because it acts as means of payment; but it is passed on as means of payment because these hands have already been joined.


I want to go over the sections on credit and interest-bearing capital a little more before I come to any real final conclusions, but to me it seems very much like the system of credit is the unconscious system of organization and direction of production and can tell us quite a bit about how to organize production for society as a whole moving forward.

I do have some reservations about the inability to determine an average rate of interest outside of purely arbitrary means of supply and demand.

To start with, it seems to me that Marx draws out somewhat the analogy of the money lender is to the industrial/commercial capitalist as the industrial/commercial capitalist is to the labourer. From there it seems to follow that the distinction between necessary labour and surplus labour would carry over to the first part of the analogy. With the profit of enterprise being the industrial/commercial capitalists 'necessary labour' and the interest to be paid to the money lender their 'surplus labour.' Therefore the natural rate of interest would also be based on the organic composition of capital, however, because interest is a derivative form of profit of enterprise, just as the profit of enterprise is a derivative form of surplus labour, the rate of interest would be derivative from the organic composition of capital.

Say the rate of surplus value is 100%. The organic composition of capital is 80/20. 100 of invested capital will generate 120 of value, and so have a 20% rate of profit, which is derivative of the 100% rate of surplus value. Let us suppose the money lender loans the 100 of capital to be invested. Only 20 of this loaned capital is to be invested into variable capital, the rest is to be invested into constant capital, thus only 20% of it sets labour into motion leaving us with a natural rate of interest of 4%, which seems reasonable to me. Of course fluctuations due to supply and demand will arise.

The main reservation I have to my above line of thinking is the fact that the unloaned 100 capital also only sets 20 of variable capital into motion, but I suppose this is why it doesn't get 100% return but only 20% return. Overall my establishment of the derivation feels a bit shaky but I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of the rate of interest simply being arbitrary.

I also don't see, at the moment, how Marx being wrong about this changes too much about the analysis taking place after this.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2016 9:02 am 
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Well I finally finished up Volume 3. I can't say I really understand all the hubub about ground-rent and such. Marx seems to have explained it pretty well. Though I must confess I find it strange that when he refers to absolute ground rent he does make the distinction between monopoly prices and absolute ground rent. I understand the demarcation he makes is that monopoly prices exist when the rate of profit in a given sector not only exceeds the general rate of profit, but also actively depresses the other sectors' rate of profit by cutting into the surplus value they produce. Whereas absolute ground rent exists because the barrier to capital investment created by landed property enables those sectors to diverge from the general rate of profit by taking more of their OWN surplus value owing to their lower organic-composition of capital.

But what if their organic composition was higher than the average as a rule rather than lower? It seems an odd distinction to make in my mind and I'm not sure why he does it.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 7:19 pm 
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Broletariat wrote:
Broletariat wrote:
sartesian wrote:
Broletariat wrote:
Reading the above dialogue made me wonder re: necessary labour/surplus labour. Considered as a total social whole, all of the necessary labour done by the working class and all of the surplus labour done. If say, 25% of the average working day is done on necessary labour and 75% of that time is done on surplus labour, could it also be said that 25% of all production is done on necessities of life and 75% of all production done on the luxuries of life?




25% of the workers time is absorbed producing the value equivalent to the necessities for the reproduction of the class of workers as workers, i.e. the wage.

All the product is appropriated by the capitalist class as value, regardless of its status as a "necessity" or "luxury." The remaining 75% of the production time is surplus value, although the product itself may be equally as necessary to the reproduction of society. Or not, in which case the surplus value goes unrealized.

Reducing production by 3/4, reducing product by 3/4, is not what's at stake. Abolishing the value relation, the compulsion for labor-power to present itself as a commodity, as value-producing is what's at stake. Then society can increase production while reducing the the working day.

EDIT: There isn't much "crisis theory" worked out in detail in any of the three volumes of Capital, although vol 3, IMO deals most clearly with the limits to accumulation. Theories of Surplus Value has a bit more on crisis. But really, Marx doesn't look upon "crisis" as the death agony of capitalism.


I think you misunderstand my intention. I'm not so much asking that question with the intention of reducing production or product by 3/4ths, but more aiming at the question of the composition of social production and how it can be read simply out of the necessary labour time and surplus labour time.

Assuming I'm correct, in my example, 25% of production would be done for things the working class would have relative easy access to, whereas the other 75% of production would work out to be products only the bourgeois would be inclined to consume with any great frequency.

The idea being that the worker essentially has access, in this case, to 1/4th of the total social productive power. The worker obviously creates all value, but most of it is excluded from him/her.


It appears as though I've anticipated Chapter 17 Vol 2.

Here quoted at length

Marx wrote:
If we furthermore assume other circumstances as remaining equal — including the length, intensity, and productivity of the working-day — but a different division of the value of the product between wages and surplus-value, so that either the former rises and the latter falls, or vice versa, the mass of the circulating money is not affected thereby. This change can take place without any expansion or contraction of the money currency. Let us consider particularly the case in which there is a general rise in wages, so that, under the assumptions made, there will be a general fall in the rate of surplus-value, but besides this, also according to our assumption, there will be no change in the value of the circulating mass of commodities. In this case there naturally is an increase in the money-capital which must be advanced as variable capital, hence in the amount of money which performs this function. But the surplus-value, and therefore also the amount of money required for its realisation, decreases by exactly the same amount by which the amount of money required for the function of variable capital increases. The amount of money required for the realisation of the commodity-value is not affected thereby, any more than this commodity-value itself. The cost price of the commodity rises for the individual capitalist but its social price of production remains unchanged. What is changed is the proportion in which, apart from the constant part of the value, the price of production of commodities is divided into wages and profit.

But, it is argued, a greater outlay of variable money-capital (the value of the money is, of course, considered constant) implies a larger amount of money in the hands of the labourers. This causes a greater demand for commodities on the part of the labourers. This, in turn, leads to a rise in the price of commodities.—Or it is said: If wages rise, the capitalists raise the prices of their commodities.—In either case, the general rise in wages causes a rise in commodity prices. Hence a greater amount of money is needed for the circulation of the commodities, no matter how the rise in prices is explained.

Reply to the first formulation: in consequence of a rise in wages, the demand of the labourers for the necessities of life will rise particularly. Their demand for articles of luxury will increase to a lesser degree, or a demand will develop for things which formerly did not come within the scope of their consumption. The sudden and large-scale increase in the demand for the indispensable means of subsistence will doubtless raise their prices immediately. The consequence: a greater part of the social capital will be employed in the production of necessities of life and a smaller in the production of luxuries, since these fall in price on account of the decrease in surplus-value and the consequent decrease in the demand of the capitalists for these articles. On the other hand as the labourers themselves buy articles of luxury, the rise in their wages does not promote an increase in the prices of the necessities of life but simply displaces buyers of luxuries. More luxuries than before are consumed by labourers, and relatively fewer by capitalists. Voilà tout. After some oscillations the value of the mass of circulating commodities is the same as before. As for the momentary fluctuations, they will not have any other effect than to throw unemployed money-capital into domestic circulation, capital which hitherto sought employment in speculative deals on the stock-exchange or in foreign countries.


Bold/italics added by me to emphasize what point I was trying to make.


More explicitly the point I was trying to make is apparently elucidated in Chapter 5 in Theories of Surplus Value

Theories of Surplus Value wrote:
“Let us assume that a century ago a hundred thousand workers were required to do what is done today by eighty thousand; the other twenty thousand would have found themselves obliged to take to other occupations to obtain wages; and the new products of their manual labour resulting from this would increase the pleasures and the luxuries of the rich” (pp. 287-88).

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 12:13 pm 
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Brole wrote:
Theories of Surplus Value wrote: “Let us assume that a century ago a hundred thousand workers were required to do what is done today by eighty thousand; the other twenty thousand would have found themselves obliged to take to other occupations to obtain wages; and the new products of their manual labour resulting from this would increase the pleasures and the luxuries of the rich” (pp. 287-88).


Marx is wrong. Increasing productivity of labor has, at times, led to the fall in price of necessaries of life, leading to greater employment in producing-- precisely those necessaries, or the means of production, fixed and circulating capital, essential to the production, and circulation of those necessaries.

In addition, increasing productivity of labor, dropping the price of previously high-priced goods restricted in purchase to the upper strata, has led to those commodities being transformed from "luxury" to necessaries-- think television, radios, telephones, microprocessors, GPS systems, etc. etc.

Depends all in all on the relative trajectory of capital, the development of production, relative profitability, the growth of necessary services (like medical care) etc. etc.


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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 3:53 pm 
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sartesian wrote:
Brole wrote:
Theories of Surplus Value wrote: “Let us assume that a century ago a hundred thousand workers were required to do what is done today by eighty thousand; the other twenty thousand would have found themselves obliged to take to other occupations to obtain wages; and the new products of their manual labour resulting from this would increase the pleasures and the luxuries of the rich” (pp. 287-88).


Marx is wrong. Increasing productivity of labor has, at times, led to the fall in price of necessaries of life, leading to greater employment in producing-- precisely those necessaries, or the means of production, fixed and circulating capital, essential to the production, and circulation of those necessaries.

In addition, increasing productivity of labor, dropping the price of previously high-priced goods restricted in purchase to the upper strata, has led to those commodities being transformed from "luxury" to necessaries-- think television, radios, telephones, microprocessors, GPS systems, etc. etc.

Depends all in all on the relative trajectory of capital, the development of production, relative profitability, the growth of necessary services (like medical care) etc. etc.


To be totally fair to Marx, the section I quoted was Marx quoting someone else, though he seemed to not comment negatively on it. I also wonder if they had in mind what you have in mind when saying "necessities." Did they have a conception of items passing from the sphere of "luxury super rich only" to "necessities for everyone including unemployed people?"

If they did could they simply be referring to the relative growing disproportion of wealth?

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 5:02 pm 
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Well, I don't know what Marx might have been thinking, but clearly the most rudimentary examination of that quote shows how wrong it is. Take the "primary sector" of the economy-- agriculture. Capitalism, as Marx himself write, presumes, requires a certain productivity of labor in agriculture. Capitalism accelerates the productivity of labor in agriculture. And the result-- the "freeing" of labor from subsistence production and for value production, for surplus value production-- not luxury production.


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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 6:24 pm 
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The additional surplus value production achieved by reducing the necessary part of the working day is the direct result. What then happens to this additional surplus value? It can of course be capitalized, but there is a limit to this assuming the organic composition of capital remains unchanged. At some point or another at least some of this additional surplus value that the capitalist appropriates will serve to stimulate new production in the sense that one's supply of money is to a certain extent one's demand of commodities. But what types of commodities would the capitalist want to consume privately? The necessities of life would already be covered presumably, thus any additional surplus value resolves itself partially into the consumption, and therefore production, of 'luxuries.'

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts and questions as I read Das Kapital
PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:27 pm 
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Broletariat wrote:
The additional surplus value production achieved by reducing the necessary part of the working day is the direct result. What then happens to this additional surplus value? It can of course be capitalized, but there is a limit to this assuming the organic composition of capital remains unchanged. At some point or another at least some of this additional surplus value that the capitalist appropriates will serve to stimulate new production in the sense that one's supply of money is to a certain extent one's demand of commodities. But what types of commodities would the capitalist want to consume privately? The necessities of life would already be covered presumably, thus any additional surplus value resolves itself partially into the consumption, and therefore production, of 'luxuries.'



But clearly, the history of capitalist development is the history of compounding needs, creating needs, even meeting needs-- whether it be in the production of greater guantities, and values, of food; or instruments of communication and transportation; or pharmaceuticals; or sources of energy.

It's simply one of Marx's less insightful remarks--like the remarks about slaves not being "trusted" or "capable" of complex tasks because in the mode of production, the slave was identical to a team of (weak) oxen. Just not the case. The issue of course is not what types of commodities the capitalist would want to consumre privately. That is precisely not the capitalization of the surplus value; the capitalization of surplus value has to 1) be in social production 2)itself reproduce expanded value, i.e. surplus value. Producing luxury items is "unproductive labor" in that the products do not engage further labor power, nor form a part of the reproduction of that labor power.


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