[Marxism] Re. Question

ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu ehrbar at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu
Tue Feb 5 12:52:51 MST 2013


> what is the *specific* mechanism for the imperative on the
> part of capitalists to accumulate, i.e. consume productively, (some
> of) their surplus-value as new capital

I don't think you should look for a specific mechanism, you
should look for the underlying systemic necessity which will
be realized in many different ways.

According to my understanding of Marx, the real definition
of capital cannot be that it generates surplus-value,
because then you have a false distinction between capital
and surplus-value.  The real definition of capital is value
in motion, value that generates more value out of itself,
not just once but indefinitely.

I think modern systems theory calls this an autopoietic
system or an auto-catalytic system but I am not well versed
in this, I just throw it out there if you want to look up
these terms.  Capitalism can only function if it expands,
and its functioning promotes its expansion (at least until
it hits the planet's resource constraints which Marx did not
consider enough).  If you look at the Accumulation chapter
you find several such autocatalytic causal chains, such as:
capital accumulation leads to bigger firms leads to more
economics of scale and therefore faster capital
accumulation.

Interestingly, there is no competitive mechanism prescribing
how much of surplus-value should be converted into capital.
Marx says in chapter 24 that this is the decision of the
capitalist.  I think this should be read to mean the
decision of the capitalist class.  If wages are too high,
they can collectively decide to accumulate more slowly to
make wages lower again.

Here is one example how this plays out in practice: in the
1950s faced with strong UAW demanding higher wages, the
Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep the interest
rate high, forcing the auto companies to grow faster and
therefore forcing them to collectively deny the wage request
of their workers which they easily could have paid for, the
profits were high enough.

Hans G Ehrbar





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