[Marxism] Fwd: Special Page at Monthly Review (My reply to Heinrich) Part I

shaun may mnwps at hotmail.com
Mon Dec 2 19:10:09 MST 2013

Shane Mage wrote:
C represents the stock of constant capital (fixed capital plus the inventories 
of circulating constant capital) v+s [v(1+s')] represents the total labor-time 
expended by the productive workers, consisting of the value of the real wages 
plus the surplus value (the two by definition summing to the total of hours of 
productive labor. The formula C/v is what Marx calls the "value composition" of 
capital. But he specifies that this is equivalent to Organic composition (the 
ratio between the value accumulated as "dead labor" and the value ["living 
labor"] created in the full time worked by the productive workers) only insofar 
as it reflects "technical composition" (which increases steadily over time). 
Moreover, the value composition can only be held to represent the organic 
composition if the value of the real wage is constant (ie., there is absolutely 
no relative surplus value) because "v" represents only the *paid*, but not the 
unpaid, labor hours.
Shaun May : 

Marx writes that the 'value composition, in as much as it is determined by and reflects, its technical composition, is called the organic composition of capital' (pp 145-46, Capital, Vol 3, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1974). Marx makes a distinction between the value composition and the technical composition of capital. The technical composition is the "real basis of its "organic composition". In other words the actual physical relationship between machinery, materials, etc, employed and the number of productive labourers is the "real basis" of its "organic composition". This technical composition - as the "real basis" of the organic composition - is reflected in the value composition of productive capital. Not commodity capital, of course, which has a value composition does not have an "organic composition". 

However, the technical composition can rise, fall or remain the same with constant or varying value composition and vice versa. The relationship between the two compositions may remain constant or rise or fall according to the productivity of labour i.e whether the latter rises or falls accordingly.

The value composition of commodity capital is, of course, different and includes the component of surplus value. But the value composition of commodity capital is not included in Marx's category 'organic composition' because it is not a 'technical composition'. Productive capital (c+v) does not contain the value component of surplus value but rather this latter is created out of its operation in the course of the valourisation process in the production of commodities. Accordingly, the value composition here is contrasted in productive capital with its product in the form of commodities as capital.

Only productive capital has a "technical" and therefore "organic" composition in contrast to commodity capital (c+v+s) which also, like productive capital (c+v), has a value composition. 

Shane's formula for the organic composition of capital (C/s+v) must therefore be incorrect because the category of 'organic composition' is a category of productive capital and not of any other form of capital (commodity or money capital). Marx does not write - as Shane asserts - that the organic composition of capital is "the ratio between the value accumulated as "dead labor" and the value ["living labor"] created in the full time worked by the productive workers". [Can Shane give the list a reference in Marx for this sentence?] 
Marx writes that the organic composition of capital is equivalent to the relationship between dead accumulated labour and necessary labour time which is a totally different conception as reflected in the formula c/v. Nowhere in Marx is there any explicit conceptual development or suggestion that the organic composition of capital is anything other than the relationship between constant and variable capital. But here, Shane admits the entry of surplus value into the conception.

The constancy or variation in the relationship between constant and variable capital does not actually change the determinate character of this relation. It merely alters the form of the relation. Whether or not relative surplus value is being produced which is an academic question anyway. The organic composition of capital has a "real basis" in its technical composition and this is always reflected, either directly or inversely, in the alterations in the value composition and vice versa. The rise in the quantity of relative surplus value produced is a consequence of the increase in the organic composition of capital.

The organic composition of capital is its value composition rooted in and mirroring alterations in its technical composition. If we admitted the formula C/s+v for the organic composition, the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall would itself actually be undermined by the very basis of its concept. The root conception (organic composition) would negate the derived one (law of tendential fall...)

This value composition of productive capital - which mirrors directly or inversely the technical composition - is called by Marx the 'organic composition of capital'. The value composition of productive capital always, therefore, in one way or another, directly or inversely, reflects its technical composition. And this applies regardless of the constancy or variation in variable capital. The "value of the real wage" may rise or fall or remain constant but this does not alter the character of the value composition as being equivalent to the organic compostion of capital under historically determined technical conditions of production. Theoretically, if no relative surplus value were produced, this would not alter the determinate character of the relation involved in the organic composition. This organic composition is only determined by "unpaid labour" insofar as unpaid labour is the substance of surplus value which is then accumulated after realisation. This may or may not alter the organic composition of capital.
The conception of the organic composition of capital as being articulated in the formula C/v+s is simply incorrect and if Shane can show me it developed in Marx, [with references, chapters, etc] I will begin a re-study of the totality Marx's economic writings forthwith.


Shaun May
Take it easy  (favourite motto of Engels)
Doubt everything (favourite motto of Marx)
Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? 
Groucho Marx
'Sir, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee.'  Nancy Astor. 
'Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.' Winston Churchill.
Blenheim Palace, 1912



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