Value (to John Ernst 3/4)

Juan Inigo jinigo at
Fri Nov 10 19:21:08 MST 1995

"Simultaneous or historical determination"

John Ernst wrote:

>is the value of constant capital
>determined simultaneously or historically? That
>is, are input values equal to output unit

When Jim Miller replied John's question by starting from Marx's development
of "moral depreciation", thus showing the "simultaneity" (just to keep
John's definition) of the determination, John replied in the following way,
accordingly with what he defines as his "ideal method":

>John says:
>Boy, you should teach this stuff.  I think you
>just dodged another question.  Here, it's a
>good dodge though as you seem to have answered
>it.  Try the problem that follows.
>If I buy a machine produced in, say, Period I for $500
>and that machine "embodies" 50 hours of abstract
>labor, then I am ready to begin production in Period II
>with my fine new machine.   Now, if, as I produce, the
>producers of my machine are able to produce it in less
>time, say 25 hours, do we then say that I am out $250?
>Where's the loss in usual method of assigning
>values to constant capital?   Is there a loss?  If my
>workers only created $50 in surplus value, I would be
>short $250 as I gain $50.
>It would seem that assigning values in usual fashion would
>force us to take up our erasers in earnest as replacement
>costs fall.  Note that I have tried to follow the ideal method,
>heaven only knows what happens when we look at National
>Income Stats.

I will start from the most simple specific form of the determination in

By acting, living labor transforms the use-value of the means of production
it consumes into that newly produced use-value. The labor materialized in
these means of production (therefore, dead labor by now) has once been
confirmed as being socially necessary through the realization of their
value at the time they were purchased. Still, after they are productively
consumed by living labor, society has yet to confirm that it is determined
to allocate the labor originally performed to produce them into the new
concrete material form they have acquired. Therefore, the abstract labor
originally materialized in them reappears in the value of the use-values
produced by using them, as it is confirmed again as being socially

As soon as an increase in productivity takes place in the production of
means of production, commodity-producing society has to "decide," through
its autonomous system of general regulation, if it has to allocate or not
living labor to replace the means of production whose use-value has not
been completely consumed yet, but in which a larger amount of socially
necessary abstract labor than that required now, has been materialized
once. Commodity-production solves this question in the only way it can, in
an indirect way, by confirming as being socially necessary only the part of
the original labor that corresponds to the amount of living-labor that
society would have to consume now to replace the means of production in

So, in effect, when this real determination develops as a specific form of
capitalist production, the increase in productivity that lowers the value
of the new means of production results in the corresponding fall in the
value of the constant capital already in action and, therefore, in the
corresponding fall in the value of the constant part of this capital that
is transferred to the product. And since capital accumulation constantly
pushes towards the increase in productivity, that simple determination
takes the concrete form of the "moral depreciation" of constant capital.

Maybe Jim should teach about "moral depreciation," but, John, boy, has
quite a lot to learn about it. And since he claims so much about taking
into consideration the concrete forms, he could start by learning the ABC
of the accounting of individual capital. This accounting reflects, from the
operative point of view that concerns the individual agents of capital
accumulation, the concrete forms taken by the valorization process of the
capital that they personify. One of the basic principles of this accounting
(and principles are needed here to place the concrete real forms of capital
valorization as immediately given) states: "Cost or market, that which is
the lowest." Which means that the individual capital must immediately
"erase" any part of the original purchase or production cost of a means of
production as soon as its replacement price falls bellow it in the market.

And this criterion is consequently reflected in national accounting, since
the change from the basic circuit of individual capital, M ... M', to the
basic circuit that corresponds to the turnover of total social capital, C'
... C', is completely alien to it. The assertion that only heaven knows how
the real movements in the value of capital is reflected (however
imperfectly in national accounts) seems, let's say, rather religious,
specially coming from someone that enjoys associating the scientific
necessity of following the development of the concrete forms starting from
their abstract forms, with a "religious" attitude.

But, maybe, this is only "the usual fashion" in which the value of constant
capital is "assigned," let alone determined, in reality! Maybe John's
"ideal method" will turn reality upside-down and free capitalists from
their loses caused by moral depreciation and my colleague accountants from
their erasers. And, according to the way in which John presented his "ideal
method" here, it does has the power to turn reality upside down, indeed:
all its secret comes down to not producing a single substantiated argument,
and covering this emptiness under the ironical assertion that his opponent
has dodged the question, and, yes, a "concrete example" that is boldly
presented as an abstraction.

But no, the "ideality" of John's "ideal method" has no effect upon the real
determinations we have considered here; it does not go beyond being that,
an ideal construction emptied of any real content; in other words, an

Juan Inigo
jinigo at

     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list