Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rocket in My Pocket Guide to Marxism, Again

Value, Commodity, Value/Commodity Production, The Logic of Capital

In Steps:

1. Not for nothing does Marx start out his critique with the exploration of the commodity as the embodiment of the facets of value.

2. For Marx, the distinction between production of commodities and production of capital under capitalism is meaningless. That's kind of the whole point to all three volumes of Capital. The means of production are produced, accumulated, as commodities, as values. Again and again Marx describes capital as the self-expansion of value. He doesn't say self-expansion of commodities, he doesn't say self-expansion of means of production. He says self-expansion of value. Accumulation of value is the determinant of capital.

3. The means of production are produced as commodities and accumulated as capital-- useless without engaging with labor organized as value-producing. The means of production can only transfer their value, their cost, through the production of commodities.

4. Expelling labor from the production process, increasing the portion of the technical component, reducing the cost of the production of commodities, produces greater masses of commodities, greater masses of means of production, that require again, engagement with wage labor to maintain accumulation. At the same time the continuous, relative or absolute, expulsion of labor power reduces the proportion of value-creation, in the valorization process.

5. Capital is, has been, overproduced beyond the ability to maintain a profitability capable of sustaining the process of accumulation/ valorization. Capital does not, cannot, do this separate and apart from its existence as commodities, separate and apart from the the existence of the means of production as commodities, as values. Capital has no existence separate and apart from value, from "value-seeking," from human labor power organized as both a commodity and a "means of production." The means of production are in conflict with the relations of production. The valorization process and the labor process have become "mutually exclusive," mutually expulsive.

6. The result is, as Marx notes, the "calling forth" of crisis, stagnation, breakdowns in circulation, in exchange--- the self-devaluation of capital. The overproduction of capital is the overproduction of the means of production is the overproduction of commodities.

In Leaps:

The critical element is that of the transformation of surplus product into surplus value. That is the change that changes everything.  Product is no longer being expropriated from the direct producers, leaving them no way to satisfy their needs; rather the only way for producers to satisfy their needs is by selling their labor-power as a value, at its value [more or less], yielding not product as such, a "simple commodity," but surplus value, value expanded.

The expropriation of product from the direct producers, even for purposes of exchange, does not augment the accumulation of-- get ready-- the means of production as capital for  the expansion of value producing activity.

There is no "law of value" organizing production without that.

Marx begins Capital with the discussion of the facets of value, deriving from those facets the abstraction, or distillation, of labor as labor-time.

Once he has derived that shared aspect/universal attribute of all commodities, he then shows how that characteristic must be the result of a specific historical relation of labor to the conditions of labor, to the means of production.

He begins with the "logic" of the commodity, and establishes that this logic can only be the result of a socially specific relation of labor.

Does Marx ever argue anywhere that the law of value distributed the total available labor-time of society prior to modern capitalism? On the contrary, he points out that while all societies grapple with this allocation of labor to the needs of reproduction, only with modern capitalism do we encounter value as the means for effecting such allocations.

 Marx says in his Economic Manuscripts:

"Wealth is the disposition over time"-- wealth is the ability to dispose of, organize, accrue time.

Time here is a social category. And as such time is expression of social labor. Wealth is the disposition over social labor. However it is only under certain historically specific conditions that that time, that unit and mass of social labor is expressed as value.

Whereas forms of private property can express the disposition of, the power over, the time of personal labor and/or the labor of others, value only represents wealth when it embodies the command of, the disposition over the time of others.

Value production requires a transformation, a revolution as it were, in the relation of the laborer to his/her own labor, to, in part, a relation of the laborers to their collective, social labor. That labor must be stripped, dispossessed, "denatured" from its connection to the immediate, specific, and determinant products of labor that satisfy the subsistence requirements of the laborers.

This is a social transformation that in fact makes labor useless to the laborers save for its use as a means of exchange for subsistence or the value equivalent of the means of subsistence.

That is how value becomes the law of value and takes hold of social production; becomes the disposition over the raw, "uniform," essential, abstraction labor-time.
The law of value is nothing other than the dominant social relation between classes.  Economics is, or becomes nothing other than the moment of class struggle.

S. Artesian
November 20, 2012