value constancy

jones/bhandari djones at
Wed Apr 5 15:19:26 MDT 1995

I may not  understand Andrew's criticism (and I truly apologize for my
inability to convey certain ideas clearly--it is more a reflection of my
own limitations than scholaticism, as Louis has unfairly suggested: please
do not prejudge Postone based on my incompetent summaries).

But here is another passage from Grossmann who does show I believe how
greater productivity does enable, albeit indirectly, the greater production
of value.  The crucial fact here is not the transfer of more constant
capital per unit of labor time (as Andrew read my argument based on the
vague passage which I quoted) but the absorption of new living labor into
the system.

"The expansion of the mass of use values in which a given sum of value is
represented is of great *indirect insignificance* for the valorisation
process.  With an expanded sum mass of the elements of production, *even if
their value is the same*, more workers can be introduced into the
productive process and in the next cycle of production these workers will
be producing more value. Marx writes that as a consequence of growing
productivity: 'More products which may be converted into capital, whatever
their exchange value, are created with the same capital and the same labor.
 These products may serve to absorb *additional labor*, hence also
additional surplus labor, and therefore additional capital.   The amount of
labour which a capital can command does not depend on its value, but on the
mass of raw and auxilliary materials, machinery and elements of fixed
capital and necessities of life, all of which it comprises, whatever their
value may be.  As the mass of the labour employed, and thus of surplus
labour increases, there is also growth in the value of the reproduced
capital and in the surplus value newly added to it. (Marx, vol
III)"[Grossmann, 1992:145, emphases mine]

Andrew also notes:
>All this is very different from saying that, for the TOTAL social capital, the
>NEW value CREATED can vary independently of the amount of socially necessary
>labor extracted.  This Marx denied, as do I.

Yes I agree that the new value created on total social capital cannot so
vary, but what Grossmann is arguing is that the amount of socially
necessary labor extracted  could itself be increased with greater use-value
productivity (by the way, drawing from Grossmann, Roman Rosdolsky also
makes this point, I believe,  in his chapter on use value to which Steve K
has often drawn our attention).

The possibilities for the absorbtion of new labor, as well as the necessity
therof as a countertendency to the fall in the average rate of profit, may
well explain much of the  expansionary nature of capital, not well captured
in Postone's metaphor of the treadmill of production (By the way, I am so
convinced of the utter brilliance of this book that I am struggling to find
some criticism).

Andrew concludes

>(By the way, my view is not special in this regard.  This is all the ABCs
> of _Capital_.)
I have no fear saying that I may not understand the ABC's of Marxism. And
as Andrew has argued in some of his papers, we should not assume that
Marx's theory has been understood.  This comes out in his critique of the
dominant treatment of the transformation problem, Postone's critique of
traditional Marxism, and Bellofiore's critique of the reduction of the law
of value to an explanation of relative equilibrium prices.

I would only like to conclude by saying that  my point above was meant to
be a quibble.  What I wanted to highlight was Andrew's and Postone's
understanding of the very first line of Capital, that wealth only appears
as an immense collection of commodities--that such an immensity of
commodities as use-values may not indeed constitute wealth in its bourgeois
form: value.

This interpretation is I believe crucial  and put to extremely significant
use in Andrew's critique of "intl competitiveness programmes" (some of
which I quoted in my post on Ron Press' observation). I would like to shift
the conversation to the arguments advanced in the passages I quoted from
Andrew in that post.  This time, forget my commentary.


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