Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's That Time of the Year Again

It's that Passover, Easter, Spring Break, baseball, crocus-daffodil-tulip, tree-budding, lunch outdoors, insect returning,  time of the year again.

And speaking of insects returning, sap rising, hope springing, spring hoping,  and rituals of the season--well,  I was about to say "meaningless rituals..." intending specifically the religious holidays but that seems a bit redundant.  Rituals are at their very essence meaningless, aren't they?  Pledges of allegiance to the archaic, the obsolete. Decimation of the imagination by nostalgia; a tic; a triumph of decay. Ignorance, superstition, pathology.  Preserve us from a future where we won't be doing next year exactly what we're doing this year.  Let us affirm our solidarity with the market for things, relations that never were, but will always be.  Ritual, rites... those are the traditions of all dead generations that weighs like a.... nightmare?  an Alp?... on the brain of the living.

So speaking of bugs, it's that time of the season when the Left Forum starts hawking its latest hoe-down, jamboree, hootenanny, sing-along, barn-raising, quilting--bee, pottery class and all around expo called, amazingly enough, the Left Forum.

Last year, you will recall, or better yet, maybe you won't, the Left Forum rolled out its radish carpet (red on the outside, white on the in) for Alvaro Garcia Linera, once-upon-a-time r-r-r-evolutionary guer-r-r-r-r-illa and now vice-president in charge of leasing gunmen to that well-known international brigade of freedom fighters,  MINUSTAH.  What thunderous ovations were bestowed on Mr. Linera by the left forumers!  All power to the coca planters !  Political power comes from the barrel of a gun, especially when that gun is leased to the bourgeoisie.  We're all Maoists now, proclaims the Bolivian of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Tough act to follow, I guess.  I mean how to top that?  Mandela's dead. He can't speak. Comrade Delta from the British SWP was already engaged in exactly what I don't want to know.   Qaddafi's dead.  Morsi's under arrest.  Assad-- well we know he's not leaving Syria anytime soon.  Hamas can't get a visa.  Hezbollah-- check with Assad.  Kirchner can't travel, doctor's orders.  Every time Bachelet tries to go anywhere, Chile either catches on fire, or gets ripped by an earthquake. Putin...maybe, but then he annexed Crimea just because it holds Russia's only warm water port, and he wound up not only on the no-fly list, but the no-land list.  The Core Four's done, the BRICs have become the Fragile Five and Paul Krugman-- well ever since you know what his fees have gone through the roof.

Who, what, how to follow the triumph of Linera? 

Well come on, we watch Mad Men.  We know what the key to marketing is.  Sure we do.  The Left Forum is a shop, and every shopkeeper knows that business is all about location, location, location.  So this year, with its theme "Imagining a World with Transformative Justice," the Left Forum chose as its locus for imagination......the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.   Now that really is a triumph of the imagination, and location.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the founding institutions of the the "discipline" that became the John Jay College of Criminal Justice was...the New York City Police Department. The school was founded originally as the College of Police Science.  But that's just so much history, and as that other great revolutionary, what'shisname said,  "history is bunk."

Recognizing that "College of Police Science" was somewhat limiting, might tend to impair the school's ability to market itself, and penetrate its markets, the school, in the greatest of great American traditions, rebranded itself as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice-- naming itself for the first chief justice of the US Supreme Court. 

Let's not get the wrong idea here.  I could care less that Mr. Jay resigned from the Continental Congress rather than sign the Declaration of Independence.  I kind of like the fact that Mr. Jay ruled against the state of Georgia in Chisolm vs. Georgia-- not as much as I like the way Sherman ruled against the state of Georgia, but different strokes for different folks as Sly and the Family Stone would say.  And I know that Mr. Jay was an opponent of slavery. 

None of that is the point.  The point is that the college, the curriculum, the field of "criminal justice" no matter how "enlightened" is about preserving, extending, deepening police "science," the science coming down to, as science always does, the proper application of effective force at the proper time against certain subjects, those subjects being those who need to overthrow the existing relations of social reproduction.   

If you doubt me, and please, don't ever stop doing that,  just check the 4 year academic program for its BS (!) in Criminal Justice available here

What gets me about this is... simply..........one of us is nuts.  Either I'm crazy for thinking that being "radical" or being a "revolutionist" or a "Marxist" means opposing those who pimp armed forces to the bourgeoisie to suppress the struggle of the most mistreated people in history; either I'm crazy for thinking that "transformative" means radically opposing colleges of progressive police science or I'm not crazy, in which case the organizers, supporters, participants, book dealers, and attendees of and at the Left Forum are nothing other than the current incarnation of past defeats, determined to smother the prospects for future emancipation. 


April 15, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lunch with Karl

 I hate repeating myself.  I mean I really hate repeating myself.  See?  For numerous reasons which are basically all the same reason-- "reasons #1-1000?  it's boring."  It's boring to write; it's boring to read.  If I repeat myself others might think I suffer from a paucity of imagination.  I think, when I repeat myself, that I'm exhibiting a bit of neurotic behavior, to wit:  If nothing changed when I said, wrote, drew, sang it the first  n number of times, what makes me think saying it  n+1 times is going to make the slightest bit of difference?  Obviously, the answer to that question is......a paucity of imagination.

So imagine how difficult it is for me to maintain the edge on the razor of critique I imagine I'm holding to the throat of capitalism.  Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if we were actually holding and actual razor against the actual throat of capitalism.  Everything could be sorted if  in this class struggle, one of the classes actually showed up as a class, and actually tried a bit of the old in and out on that class that's been on the offensive, inning and outing it to death for the last..........holy half-Gettysburg, Batman.... 40 years, give or take 6 months.

But alas, ach, oy vay, sayang, no such luck and luck has nothing to do with it.  So let's get some things said in a hurry, so I can get back to what I think are the really unique, and devastating moments, of Marx's critique of capital, the razor he used:

a. About those upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Venezuela, Syria, Turkey Ukraine, Thailand which seem so problematic to the left-- either they are the different, and differing, manifestations of the same problems of capital accumulation, the same accumulated stresses that have imposed austerity throughout the countries of Europe; that have triggered massive strikes and demonstrations in Greece, Portugal, France, Spain, Britain; that have compelled the emigration of a substantial portion of Ireland's younger people; either those upheavals are driven by those same forces or... or world markets don't exist; world markets don't function as mechanisms of transfer, of exchange, of reproduction; and capitalism as a asynchronous whole; capitalism as a system composed and conflicted, composed of conflicts doesn't exist.

b. Because that capitalism does exist, and does exist in those characteristics, it is no surprise that in these moments the core conflict of  the labor process with the valorization process is expressed unevenly, asynchronously, and that those driven first into protest and combat with these old relations are those whose prospects for "prosperity," meager as they were, have been effectively shuttered, eliminated.  It is no surprise that the young, students, professionals move first, and massively, against the existing regimes.

c. Consequently,  this initial movement is in a very real sense an expression of  those declassed,  of those no longer with prospects. It is inherent that such movement embodies reaction equal to if not greater than notions of democracy, freedom espoused in the movement.  There is no mistaking that reaction, and opposition to democracy dominates the protests in Thailand; that the protests in Venezuela are little short of an invitation to pre-emptive counterrevolution; that reaction has been able to utilize the opportunity afforded by the breakdown of the prior regime brought about by protests. There is no denying the role Saudi Arabia is attempting to play in Syria; financing and equipping reactionary religious forces to dispossess the Syrian revolution of its struggle against the Assad regime and its version of clan capitalism in the attempt to convert the struggle it one against Iran.  There should be no denying that beneath this reaction is the necessity to increase the volatility of the region, to further the strategy the bourgeoisie used in Libya-- where destruction itself is the purpose, as destruction is capitalism's avatar.

So the bourgeoisie, and the would-be bourgeoisie are active in these movements?  What did you expect?  It's their world, we only work in it....and need to overthrow it. 

d. Despite the presence and/or the strength of reaction within these movements, since these movements are the products of the breakdowns in the existing regimens of accumulation, there is no prospect for the advance of the struggle for the emancipation of labor, for the abolition of capitalism, in the defense of the existing regimes.  The prospects for emancipation are elsewhere; absorbed in and expressed by some in some of the movements; existing in the mobilization independent of,  in all cases, the existing governments against the elements of reaction; against the pre-emptive counterrevolution; against the generals, businessmen, former and future ministers who want theirs-- their time as "heroes,"  as "parties of national salvation."

e. Tactics differ; the strategy is shared: the strategy is   the animation of the working class, independent of the government, independent of all other classes, as the force of opposition to poverty, ignorance, bigotry, the subjugation of women (which of course is the fundamental condition for poverty, ignorance, bigotry).  In Egypt, this required in the recent past, requires in  the present, and will require in  the near future, the opposition through strikes to the military coup against Morsi,  and opposition to the subsequent military governments.  In Venezuela, it requires the expropriation of the property of the bourgeoisie by the organizations of the workers, not the government.  In Thailand it means opposition to the anti-democratic protests without any support for the government or its military.

March 31, 2014

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Big Uneasy, Part 1

Stop me if you've heard this one before.....

a) One man's definition of progress "This shows that the programs work when they are properly implemented," Jose Barroso former prime minister of Portugal now in its tenth year of a cycle of little if any growth, recession, stagnation, austerity;  and current president of the European Commission of the European Unionnow entering the sixth year of stagnation, recession, and austerity.

or this one
b) Another definition of progress: Since 1987, the median wage for male workers in the United States has declined 2 percent while that of female workers has increased 16 percent, meaning the median wage for females is now almost 80 percent of the median wage for males.

or this one
c) Go-go:  In 2013 bond sales in emerging market countries set a new record of $506 billion.  Corporate, non-sovereign debt accounted for 70 percent of the total.

or this one

d) More definitions of progress: Cambodia, home to 800 garment and footwear factories, employing some 600,000 people responded to workers demanding a doubling of the wage to $160 per month by......shooting the workers.  A living wage for Cambodia is estimated to require $283 per month.

or this one
e) The glass is half-empty; the glass is half-full: Also in 2013, EU leveraged loan volumes reached their highest level since 2007, which level was about 1/2 the volume of  2007, and less than the amount transacted in 2005.

or this one

f) A new NEP:  The appreciation of  China's yuan/renminbi (about 18% in recent years) and increased wages for workers has cut into the profit margins of China's exporters.  Said an officer of Pacific Group, a maker of power tools with factories in China:  "We've spent more on automation in the past year than in the previous 15 years combined."

or this one

g)  Shocked and appalled: The "Basel 3" rules for bank risk exposure, capital requirements etc. have been watered down to the degree that they have very little resemblance to the initial proposals.

or this one

h)  Mr. Barroso, Madame Lagarde would like a word: The IMF warned of a significant risk of deflation to the global economy due to actions of the United States and the policies of European Union.

or this one

i) Mr. Barroso suspended from position for 162 games after testing negative for performance enhancing drugs:  Industrial output in the Eurozone is still 10 percent below its pre-crash peak.  

or this one

j) Wait, wait, don't tell me.  It's on the tip of my tongue.  I know this:  "Shadow banking"-- the creation of "investment trusts" offering asset-backed structured investment vehicles which remain "off-balance sheet"-- accounted for 1/3 of the total credit created in China since 2008.

or this one

k) Are you sure we haven't met before?: ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ltd) refused to "backstop" approximately $500 million in high yield investment trust assets.  The trust, called "Credit Equals Gold #1" was created by China Credit Trust and was based on the debt and equity of  Shanxi Zenfu Energy Corporation, a coal mining company, that facing bankruptcy, decided to expand by tapping the "investment trust" market.

or this one

l) Going, going Commenting on the flow of capital away from emerging markets, which has caused the value of the local currencies of Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Russia, India to decline, the IMF said such flows are confined to a subset of emerging market countries with "idiosyncratic factors." 

or this one

m) Who could it be?:   ICBC announced the holders of securities in the "Credit Equals Gold #1" investment trust will be able to sell their securities for the principal amounts to an "unidentified third party purchaser."

or this one

n) Let me guess:  Your name is Bear, or Stearns, or maybe it's Greenspan?  Fuld? Thain? Lehman? Merrill?  Lynch?  Pierce? Fenner? Smith?  Commenting on the risk posed by and to the investment trusts of China's shadow banking, the chief investment officer (Asia) for HSBC said:  "It gets called 'shadow banking' and that has negative connotations.  It sounds like it's an operation that's not overseen by regulators.  And that's just not true.  The trusts are overseen.  The banks that sell the products are overseen.  It's a regulated activity.  It's very unlikely to be a worst-case scenario."

n1) Question:  How do you regulate activity that is off-balance sheet?

Now I know.  You're Andy Fastow, aren't you?  When did you get out?

February 2, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Firm Demand

1.  Wish I had written it:
 Financial Times, 7 November 2013:  Shares in Karex, a Malaysian company that is the world's largest maker of condoms have surged more than 30 percent on their debut on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange amid forecasts of firm global demand for contraceptive products.
2.  Marx, considering the disintegration of the Ricardian school in Chapter 20 of his Theories of Surplus Value (Part 3, page 119, Progress Publishers, 1971) remarks: 
The same value can be embodied in very different quantities [of commodities].  But the use-value—consumption—depends not on value, but on the quantity.  It is quite unintelligible why I should buy six knives because I can get them for the same price that I previously paid for one.
It's unintelligible that a reduction in price should expand the demand for a commodity here, in Chapter 20, but it wasn't so unintelligible to Marx in Part 2 of Theories of Surplus Value when refuting those political economists claiming that there can be overproduction of particular commodities but no general overproduction,  he wrote:
Crises are usually preceded by a general inflation in prices of all articles of capitalist production.  All of them therefore participate in the subsequent crash and at their former prices they cause a glut in the the market.  The market can absorb a larger volume of commodities at falling prices, at prices which have fallen below their cost-prices, than it could absorb at their former prices.  The excess of commodities is always relative; in other words it is an excess at particular prices.  The prices at which the commodities are then absorbed are ruinous for the producer or the merchant.  (Part 2, Page 505).
It's not quite so unintelligible if we recall what Marx wrote in Part 2, on page 485:
It seems therefore, that for accumulation to take place, continuous surplus   production in all spheres is necessary.
And what he wrote on page 495:
It  must never be forgotten, that in capitalist production what matters is not immediate use-value but the exchange-value and, in particular, the expansion of surplus-value.
Marx here is focused on the potential for overproduction that exists in the organization of production for value.  Yet, this very process, the production of six knives for the price (value) originally required for the purchase of one knife, is exactly the process that identifies capital's expansion, it's accumulation of the means of production as values, as value-extracting commodities, that confirms the  real domination of capital over labor, the ascendancy of relative surplus value.  What appears as a moment in capitalist production is in fact a necessity for the totality of capitalist reproduction

The totality is the organic, structured, essential antagonist identity of accumulation with devaluation.  The universe of capital cannot expand, cannot accumulate, without the devaluation of its parts.

3. There's a bit of ambiguity in Marx's treatment of overproduction in these critiques of the the theories of surplus value.  Is consumption the limit to capitalist production?  Is the truth of overproduction in the separation, the disassociation, of the extraction of surplus value from the realization of surplus value? Well, yes and no, actually inclinations towards yes, and inclinations towards no.  For all his criticism, and correctly so, of those who think "dialectic" means, "on the one hand...while on the other hand," Marx himself does a whole lot of "on the one hand, while on the other hand."  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Ambiguity is a signature human characteristic, evident whenever humans aren't exercising their talent for self-contradiction.

Anyway, the ambiguity in this matter is derived from Marx's treatment of the market as representing a quantity, a sum, a near fixed number, known as demand when in fact Marx had established the framework for apprehending the "market" as a social relation for the reproduction of classes, where the quantities of goods, and their successful circulation, are reflections of a) "improved" rates of exploitation of labor b) the ability to expand that exchange-relation fundamental to all other exchanges,  the exchange between the means of production organized as capital, as private property, with human labor power organized as wage-labor.

That relation has to increase not only in its breadth, extensively, but also in its intensity, and for that to occur, the expansion requires the expulsion of wage-labor from the production process, relatively, but as in all things capitalism, relatively becomes absolutely.

As this occurs, as the proportions of exchange are altered between  capital and wage-labor, the increased aggrandizement of surplus-value is achieved, made manifest, in transfer of value from less efficient, less intensive capitals to these vanguards of exploitation.   On the one hand, accumulation; while on the other hand, devaluation?  Yes, no, maybe, and you can sue me.  Actually, it's not on the one hand, or on the other, it's at one and the same time.  These processes are coincident, co-determined, co-dependent.

The market is not a "thing"-- a sum total of "demand," a fixed quantity of buyers and sellers, of things to be bought and sold,  but an arena for working out these processes of allocation, alteration, transference; of accumulation and devaluation.

So what?  So this-- it's not about me purchasing six knives because the six now embody the value of one.  It's about a) what conditions are required for the production of the six at the value previously embodied in one  b) how those conditions are achieved  c) what portion of those six, or 600,000, or 6,000,000, which in the selling, serve to transfer the previously accumulated value, thus devaluing the previous knives and knife-makers.

"Demand" is a social condition.  It's very existence assumes, presumes, the market, where consumption as such does not occur outside the exchange of  the objects of labor.  The capitalist market is one of dispossession; where satisfaction of need is impossible on the basis of individual labor-- and on the buying or selling of  one knife.  For the knife, or knives, to be sold, requires the organization and reorganization of society,  that is to say the condition of labor,  such that labor power is useless, destitute, without exchange. 

4.  Accumulation is "prompted" by the technical innovation of the production process.  This innovation assumes an identity with the value process, transferring previously accumulated value and expanding exchange-- what's called economic growth-- until such time that the technical innovation becomes widespread, the new normal, and thus depresses its own transformation into the value process.  In short, overproduction and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall are integral to each other.

So what?  Again?   Well, at least to me, this means that capital doesn't require "outside sources" of "demand," but rather "effective demand" requires that specific form of exchange with labor power at the origin of  the capitalist market.  It means that so-called "primitive accumulation" occurs throughout every moment of capitalism and that primitive accumulation is not so-much about looting or plundering (although looting and plundering are constant preoccupations for our brave hedge-fund managers) as in the fact that looting and plundering enforces the destitution upon labor necessary to convert it into wage-labor.  `

It means that the "obstacle" or "barrier" to  is not some iteration of "monopoly" or "finance" or "oligarch" or "rentier" capitalism, but rather the inability of capital to exploit labor-power intensely and extensively enough to offset the tendency of profitability to decline because it is exactly the intensive and extensive exploitation of labor power that is the tendency of the rate of profit to decline.

It means that capital, which requires access to labor-power, finds the "solution" to contraction, recession, not simply in the passage of time, not simply in the lowering of prices, but in the radical devaluation in labor-power-- necessarily attempting to drive the wage of wage-labor below the cost of labor power's reproduction

January 2, 2014

Friday, December 13, 2013

Director, Ashridge Business School, London UK Answers Michael Heinrich (sort of)

Financial Times,  9 December 2013

Sir, Professor Mariana Mazzucato's concerns about lack of investment in innovation and its likely impact on longer-term growth are well placed...But her analysis of the cause is misquided.  She suggestst that today's cash-rich companies could invest and do well in the long term, but choose not to because of their short-term orientation.

My research concludes that, on average, companies will not get a good return even in the long term.  The reasons taxpayers need to invest in innovation is that the majority of benefits from innovation accrue to consumers as "consumer surplus" rather than to producers as profits.  Take semiconductors, for example.  Society has benefited immeasurably.  But the producers made low returns for decades.

Governments do not need to intervene because of market failure.  They need to intervene because the market is too efficient.  It is not short-termism that makes companies reluctant to invest.  It is the low returns caused by efficient competition

I remain your faithful and obedient blahblahblah and all the rest of the usual rubbish. (note-- make sure to excise this upon publication... ed.)

Andrew Campbell
Ashbridge Business School

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Food, Machinery, and Chemicals

1. In Marx's encounter with political economy, criticism itself, and the elements of criticism-- conflict, opposition, antagonism-- moves from thought and knowledge to the activity of human being in their relations with other human beings.  Philosophy gives way to history.  History is a product of social beings, and therefore shifts from a contemplation of abstractions, like progress, like freedom, to the concrete determinations of necessity; from the abstraction of thought to the concrete of conditions; from the abstraction of right to the concrete of labor.

Marx develops this transformation through and by the examination of the value relation.  In the critique, the inversion at the heart of this veiled relationship is exposed.  The subject initially apprehended as the material, concrete substance of capital, the commodity, is revealed and displayed to be essentially immaterial,  indeterminate, but determined; universal to but derivative from the specific condition of its creation.  The abstract facet, the "slippery soul," lacking weight but not gravity; absent height but not status; without corporeality but with substance, the value relation, the organization of labor as value-producing, as a value in exchange, is exposed as the real material of political economy; the real material of capital.  It, the value relation, is both the code and the messenger for human beings reproducing themselves as social being.  It is the fused, antagonistic, compressed, opposite, identity of labor and the condition of labor as wage-labor. 

We move from wealth as the production of material objects, to wealth as the condition of that production, the appropriation of value.  We get to, although in a completely degraded, immiserated form, wealth as the disposition over time.

II.  Every once in awhile, someone notices that a  recovery looks so much like a recession as to appear indistinguishable.  Every time this every once in awhile, when this happens, it's news. The Wall Street Journal, that paper of intelligent reporting and ignorant editorializing, on November 15 headlined an article  "Eurozone rebound feels like a recession."

No matter how many times it has happened before, it's always supposed to be news, and everyone is supposed to be surprised that the recovery looks so much like the recession, because...because good times are supposed to be better than bad times; because expansion is different than contraction; because... well, just because.

There are differences, all right, between good times and bad, between recovery and recession, between expansion and contraction, but they look so much alike because they share the same womb; recovery and recession, contraction and expansion are the "hostile brothers,"  the opposite identical twins of capitalist accumulation.

The response of the US bourgeoisie to this period known as the Great Recession has been the drastic curtailment of production hours.  Between 2007 and 2009, production hours in US industry declined 22 percent.  Between 2009 and 2011, there was no significant increase in production hours.  There was, however, an increase in the total value of the output from US industry, which brought that measure above its previous peak in 2008.  

III. The US Department of Commerce overseer of the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, produces an Annual Survey of Manufactures.  The survey provides data for approximately 70 different categories-- everything from total payroll to taxes and licensing fee, and using several of those categories, it is possible to develop a calculus, and approximation,  for rates of extraction of surplus value, and the conversion of surplus value into a rate of profit.  We can utilize the data to provide numbers in the formula that says:  big C (total value of shipments) = c (cost of materials, plus consumption of machinery) + v (value of labor power, wages)  + s (surplus value, the value absorbed in the production process beyond that that replaces the wage).

The ASM categories are not precise matches for Marx's, hence the calculus and the approximation.  We (that means you and me, partners in this excursion) have to make an estimate for fringe benefits for production workers, based on data provided for total cost of fringe benefits provided to all employees.  The data provided for overall rates of fringe benefits suggest 33 percent is a reasonable "add-on" accounting for the costs of the fringe.

We utilize depreciation amounts for the value of the means of production consumed.  We utilize total cost of materials utilized in production for the value of the raw and processed materials required, and we use total value of shipments (which includes revenues from sales of scrap, waste, etc) for our big C capital.  Because the ASM data includes production worker hours, we can even calculate all these inputs, and outputs, on an hourly basis.

Since it's history that we're talking about, since it's history we are always talking about, what matters most is the trend. So...we look at the period starting in 2007 ending in 2011 (the most recent year of published data), and we select six major categories of US industry, which together account for about 62 percent of the value of output from all industry.  Those six categories are the "building blocks" of capital accumulation, F, M, C-- food, machinery, chemical:  1) food   2) machinery manufacturing    3) transportation equipment  4) computer and electronics  5) chemical 6) and the Big Papi of US capitalism, the petroleum industry, which is represented in the "Petroleum and Coal manufacturing classification.

All errors to transcription, computation are mine. Errors in analysis will be attributed to some other likely party, as soon as I can find one.   Meanwhile the data look like this:

Column1 Column2 Column3 Column4 Column5 Column6 Column7
2007-2011 Food Machinery Chemicals (and Petroleum)

Industry      C/hr $         c/h $         v/hr $          s/h $            s/v            s/C
Manufa 282.23 163.52 24.89 93.82 3.77 0.33
         31-33 307.53 186.92 25.69 94.92 3.67 0.31

300.1 172.72 26.34 101.04 3.84 0.34

337.13 191.21 27.39 110.66 4.04 0.33
2011 369.85 225.77 28.06 116.02 4.13 0.31

Petroleum 3986.01 3270.88 42.39 672.74 15.87 0.17
324 5080.59 4497.95 42.51 540.13 12.71 0.11

3368.38 2905.31 44.09 418.98 9.5 0.12

4412.23 3840.33 46.09 525.81 11.4 0.12
2011 5889.97 5101.1 48.31 740.56 15.33 0.13

Food 258.03 158.06 20.23 79.74 3.94 0.31
311 285.85 181.93 20.51 83.41 4.07 0.29

285.67 172.91 21.13 91.63 4.34 0.32

298.22 185.47 21.87 90.88 4.15 0.3
2011 327.02 211.7 22.1 93.22 4.22 0.28

Machinery 232.69 127.42 25.77 79.5 3.08 0.34
333 244.26 135.29 26.97 82 3.04 0.34

250.64 137.3 27.56 85.78 3.11 0.34

274.63 148.63 28.66 97.8 3.41 0.36
2011 294.65 160.34 29.78 104.53 3.51 0.35

Transp Eq 336.91 214.73 32.8 89.38 2.72 0.26
336 326.58 217.37 33.54 75.67 2.26 0.23

343.08 208.73 34.34 100.01 2.91 0.29

403.83 246.57 35.57 121.69 3.42 0.3
2011 416.78 261.62 35.97 119.19 3.31 0.29

Computer 371.01 162.91 25.83 182.27 7.06 0.49
334 396.32 172.5 29.12 194.4 6.67 0.49

416.93 181.62 30.39 204.92 6.74 0.49

440.61 190.16 33 217.45 6.59 0.49
2011 445.75 188.89 33.63 223.23 6.64 0.5

Chem 760.22 399.59 32.47 328.16 10.11 0.43
325 813.15 446.56 33.7 332.89 9.88 0.41

754.02 381.47 34.92 337.63 9.67 0.45

841.3 448.72 35.95 356.63 9.92 0.42
2011 925.45 506.19 37.16 382.1 10.28 0.41

First some words on method.  I like simple math because, let's face it, if capitalism were that complicated,  the bourgeoisie would never have been successful at it.  Greenspan would have been flipping asset-backed burgers at Freddy Mac's.  It's volume and velocity which make capitalism appear complicated and demand all that processing power.

Anyway "s/h,"  surplus value per hour, column 5:  the result of Big C capital, column 2, less the sum of column 3 and column 4 (c+v);

Column 6 "s/v" is the ratio column 5 to column 4 (column 4 includes wages and fringe benefits);

Column 7, ratio of surplus value to Big C, the ratio of column 5 to column 2.  Clear?

There is a small  decline in output per hour for industry as a whole in 2009.  There is a steep decline in output per hour for the petroleum and chemical sectors, but modest increases for machinery, transportation equipment, and computers. In all categories of FMC, we see substantial recoveries in "s" per hour between 2007 and 2011.

From the information in this table, it would be difficult if not impossible not only to gauge the intensity of the "Great Recession," but also its breadth in both time and place.  Indeed the recession and recovery seem almost, but not quite, indistinguishable, and aberrations from the "smooth course" of capitalist "development."   That's because a bit of critical information is absent from the ratios of output, costs, and surplus.   That critical input is "production worker hours."

In 2011 production worker hours were:
12% below the 2007 mark in the chemical classification;
30% below the 2007 mark in the computer and electronics classification;
25% below the 2007 mark in the transportation equipment classification;
18% below the 2007 mark in the machinery manufacturing classification;
5% below the 2007 mark in the food manufacturing classification;
7.5% below the 2007 mark in the petroleum/coal classification.

More capital has been exchanged with less labor power, in less time. The portion of the working time that is required for the workers to reproduce a value equivalent to their own wage is reduced; that is to say it recovers to the ratio achieved prior to, and right at the beginning of the contraction.  The recovery is achieved in reduction of the proportion of living labor appropriated in production.  The recovery indeed looks just like the contraction, because it is just like the contraction.

If wealth is the disposition over time, capitalist wealth is the disposition over alienated labor time, and the recovery in capitalist accumulation is the dissolution of wealth, the expansion of poverty as capital cannot exploit the labor-power profitably.  Living labor-time is, more than less, expelled from the production process in order that the living labor time remaining in the valorization reproduces itself more rapidly.

If we break these value  relations into production minutes, we find in 2011 that for every hour of production in the chemical sector,  32.8 minutes are represented by cost of materials and machinery,  the pre-existing value that is preserved and passed along in production; 2.4 minutes represents the cost of labor (or it takes 2.4 minutes for the worker to produce a value equivalent to his/her hourly wage) and 24.8 minutes represents the surplus labor time, the surplus value.

In the transportation sector, the proportions are 37.7 minutes in "pass-through" value, 5.1 minutes to reproduce the wage, and 17.2 minutes in surplus value.

For machinery manufacturing, we get 32.6 minutes for the pre-existing value, 6.1 minutes to reproduce the wage, and 21.3 minutes of surplus value.

In the food production sector, 38.8 minutes for c , 4 minutes for wages, 17.2 minutes for surplus value.

For computer and electronics manufacturing, 25.4 minutes for c, 4.6 minutes for v, and 30 minutes for s. 

For petroleum........don't even ask, it's flat out ridiculous, or actually not, its precisely proportionate to the tremendous investment in fixed assets, the "overweight"  in the petroleum sector; massive amount of pre-existing value deployed to accelerate the pace of production, to reduce production times.

Given the minimal times involved for the worker to produce a value equivalent to his/her wages, it is also clear just how difficult it is to push s/C,  a proxy here for the rate of profit,  higher   The increment of accumulation runs into the barrier of all previous accumulation.

Absent a generally applicable technological breakthrough that can dramatically reduce the cost of the components of the production  process, the rate of  valorization stagnates, and stagnation is an achievement.

Writing in Capital, Volume 1, Marx notes "The constant tendency of capital is to force the cost of labour back towards this zero" (Part 7, Chapter 24, Section 4).  With reproduction times of 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes, or 6 minutes per hour, capital has pretty much forced that cost, relative, to the mass of value animated, to zero.  What else can capital do? Lots of things, and none of them good.

For one, as Marx wrote, "...there also comes a time in every industrial cycle, when a forcible reduction of wages beneath the value of labour power is attempted for the purposes of cheapening commodities."

The cheapening of commodities is not exactly the purpose-- appropriating a greater portion of the total available surplus value by hook or crook is.  As intense and extensive as the attacks on the living standards of workers have been, we are at the very beginning of that time in this cycle.  The "recovery" such that it is, will be worse than the recession.

November 19, 2013