From pen-l (Mandel on "transition")

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Nov 8 10:12:08 MST 2003

Louis Proyect circulated an interesting quotation from Ernest Mandel, 
Marxist Economic Theory, recently (see below). Mandel's expression of "two 
forms of surplus-value" caught my attention. The second form of surplus 
value a la Mandel refers to the well-known historical fact of plundering 
and pillage of Third World societies by Europeans in the period 1500 - 1800 
and beyond. (See, details in Mandel's quotation below.) While other Marxist 
authors do not call that value by the name of "surplus value", but 
(imperialist) "pillage" and "plunder", the observation itself is widely 
shared in the Marxist literature. The reason why that is not generally 
called "surplus value", is, most likely, that Marx did not call it that.

I find Mandel's formulation - namely, that this constitutes a second form 
of surplus value, appealing and important for theory. The fact that a 
majority of observers does not subsume this value under "surplus value" 
has, in my opinion, the effect that, somewhere along the analytic path from 
historiography of capitalism to the analysis of the present state of 
capitalism, this second form of surplus value drops out of sight of the 
analysis for most Marxist observers. Two exceptions that I can think of are 
Mandel and Samir Amin, who calls this value "transfer value". Surplus value 
is commonly conceptualized and calculated for the territorial unit of the 
nation-state. (Good example is Mosely for USA.) However, in a global view 
of the world economy (capitalism, imperialism), Mandel's second form of 
surplus value would appear to be a most important category. How else can 
you come to terms with facts like: a pair of shoes sells for 70 cents US 
FOB from the Chinese border and sells for $35 in US retail?

Amin uses the term "transfer value" in the context of his discussion of 
unequal exchange, which is strangely rejected by many leftists. But the 
concept of transfer value (Amin) = second form of surplus value (Mandel) 
could, in my opinion, also be defined in a less exchange-oriented and a 
more production-oriented analysis. In any case, I have made an attempt to 
study the relationship between transfer value (Amin) and surplus value 
(Mandel's first form of it) (see, Kohler-Tausch, Global Keynesianism, 
Unequal Exchange and Global Exploitation, cahpter on surplus value and 
transfer value) and reached the conclusion that the quantities of the two 
forms of value must be added, in order to arrive at an estimate of the 
global aggregate of value extracted from the global mass of working folks.

Reading Mandel's quotation with the "two forms of surplus-value", it 
appears that there is a peculiar inconsistency in the Marxist literature, 
namely, that (imperialist) pillage and plunder is an accepted fact, as far 
as the genesis of capitalism is concerned, but that it somehow drops out of 
sight or is not properly conceptualized and quantified as one approaches 
the analysis of the present world situation.

Gernot Köhler

 >>In the decisive formative period of the capitalist mode of production, 
extending from the sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century, the 
creation of the world market was of crucial importance. Its main results 
for the primitive accumulation of capital in Western Europe have been 
examined above. But all through this period of the birth of capitalism the 
two forms of surplus-value appeared at each step. On one hand, it was the 
outcome of the surplus labour of the wage workers hired by the capitalists; 
on the other, it was the outcome of vales stolen, plundered, seized by 
tricks, pressure or violence from the overseas peoples with whom the 
western world had made contact. From the conquest and pillage of Mexico and 
Peru by the Spaniards the sacking of Indonesia by the Portuguese and the 
Dutch and the ferocious exploitation of India by the British, the history 
of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is an unbroken chain of deeds of 
brigandage which were so many acts of international concentration of vaIues 
and capital in Western Europe, the enrichment of which was for, in the 
literal sense of the word, by the impoverishment of plundered areas. It can 
be stated unhesitatingly that the contribution made by this capital was 
decisive for the accumulation of the commercial capital and money capital 
which, between 1500 and 1750, created the conditions which proved 
propitious for the industrial revolution. It is difficult to calculate the 
total amount involved, but if one takes into account only the most 
substantial contributions these add up to a staggering sum. Hamilton 
estimates at over 500 million gold pesos the total amount gold and silver 
exported from Latin America between 1503 and 1660. According to 
Colenbrander, the total value of the dividends, officials' remittances and 
cargoes of spices taken out of Indonesia by the Dutch East India Company 
amounted to 600 million gold forms for the period 1650-1780. On the basis 
of the calculations made by Father Rinchon, we know that profits from the 
slave trade amounted in eighteenth-century France to nearly half a billion 
livres tournois (without including the profit arising from the work done by 
the slaves, which came to several billion livres).' The profits obtained 
from the labour of the negroes in the British West Indies amounted to £200 
to £300 million.<< . . . snip>

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