Monday, August 22, 2016

Ambiguities of Surplus Value: The Necessary Meanings to the Relative Ending

1. If Marx's analysis of value is accurate, actually apprehends value as both a social relation of production and the measure of that social relation of production, then we have to "accept" the limited circumstances under which relative surplus value can be enhanced; then we have to discard the notion the notion of the intensification of labor as yielding "greater value" in the same period of time than does "less intense" labor.

2. If Marx's analysis of value is accurate,  then the specific requirement for the amplification of relative surplus value means that increasing the "productivity of labor" is not identical with increased relative surplus value; then expanding output reduces unit costs and aggregate costs but does not increase surplus value, unless and until more labor power is employed at the new level of productivity...or the improved productivity cause the value of labor power to fall.

3. If Marx's analysis of value is accurate, then if the value of the mass of products remains the same (save for changes in the constant capital embodied in the commodities), and the wage itself represents the same proportion of time necessary for reproducing labor power, then a reduction in labor power, the labor time, consumed in production brought about by increased productivity, does not represent increased surplus value.

And then...

4. Marx sees the bourgeoisie as ever vigilant to means and methods of capturing greater amounts of surplus value, greater portions of the working day.  In truth, the bourgeoisie are pretty much blind to surplus value.  Indeed, if the wage relation is a "veiled" one, obscuring the source of expanded value, the bourgeoisie are positively invested in not lifting that veil, to not even recognizing the veil as a veil.  The bourgeoisie have their eyes on the prize, all right, but the prize is the package, the expression, the appearance, the veil itself.

5. What the bourgeoisie see is cost, and the image of cost reflected in profit.   In fact, value to the class of capitalists is an image flipping between cost and profit and back again with every nod of the head or blink of the eye. The bourgeoisie don't think they are chasing surplus value, unpaid labor, they thing they are chasing minimizing labor costs as they themselves are chased by the costs of production.

6. It is to reduce those costs and flip the image to profits that the bourgeoisie expand the means of production-- both in mass and in value, as capital.  Capital realizes itself, recognizes itself, in other capitals.

7. As a consequence, the distribution of portions of the total surplus value to the most efficient, the largest capitals, through the price mechanism, the arbitrage between a commodity's individual value and social value is essential to capital.  This transfer between/among industries, between sectors, among capitals is no parlor trick. It is real.  It is necessary.  It is not, however, sufficient.

You are here--the same-old, same-old, modern world

8. Unit labor costs can be reduced so much.   The spread between individual and social values of commodities can be parlayed only so much.  Big capital can spawn and eat small capital...but  capital needs a bit fresh meat.  That fresh meat, that boost to surplus value, is provided by:
a. improved turnover, reduced time of production and reduced time of circulation
b. access to supplies of cheap labor,  internally through "interior migration" as the new sources of wage-labor are brought into production-- for example, the repeated waves of entry of women into the labor force in both "advanced" and "developing"countries in the latter half of the 20th century; or through "exterior migration," the importation of new sources of labor from beyond national borders, migrant labor subject to less protection, reduced wages, and particularly a reduced portion of the social wage
c. the emigration of capital,  through both direct investment and outsourcing bringing the virtues of exploitation to a neighborhood not always near you or just like yours.
d. attacks on labor power at home and abroad, at different or the same times, to drive the wage below the value of labor, below its cost of reproduction. The "value of labor"  we already know is always dependent on a portion of  labor power not being reproduced.
 (a) When capital embarks on the expansion of the machinery of production, of the value of these means, the point of the expansion is to turn the expanded value embedded in these means into even greater masses of value circulating in the markets, achieving realization. The expansion of production is accompanied, if not preceded by, improvement in the means of transportation and communication, reducing the lag between expropriation of surplus value in production and materialization of the surplus value as money.  Improvements in turnover derived from reductions in production time and circulation, allow the capitalist to retrieve the value of the initial capital advanced to initiate production, and recycle that value into the material means and living labor of further production cycles.  If the initial turnover is successful, then the purchase of additional material and labor-power for subsequent cycles of turnover are, in a sense, "pre-paid," requiring no additional outlay...until one of those subsequent cycles is not so successful.

That's the theory.  Measuring turnover time, empirically confirming the return and recycling of the value initially advanced is something else, and that something else is not easy.

We know that different capitals have different production times, and different circulations times, hence different rates of turnover.  The origin of the credit system is in these different rates of turnover, to bridge the gaps between production and circulation and circulation and realization, so that capital can pay capital and continue production before, during, and after turnover.

We can get an approximation, and a proxy, for how well, or poorly, the turnover of capital is proceeding by simply looking at the  days-to-payment for the billing cycles of corporations.  In 2014, the Georgia Institute of Technology performed a study of the average time taken by companies of all sizes to forward payments to their suppliers.

The average time for payment measured 46 days in 2014, up from 35 days in 2009. Now the amounts submitted in 2014 are certainly greater than those submitted in 2009, as 2009 was the trough of the recession and 2014 was, more or less, a peak in earnings growth since 2008.  However the lengthening time for payment in 2014 translates into 2.5 fewer turnovers in 2014 than 2009 even as profits expanded. And a slowdown is a slowdown, a decline in rate, even if it isn't felt until the mass of profit declines, precisely because the mass of profit temporarily offsets the slowdown.

The methods of improving the rate of turnover are exactly the same methods for reducing the costs of production and improving rates of output:  the substitution of machinery for living labor; the application of technology to the transportation and communication.   The increased turnover rates for the circulating capital, hence, is triggered by the increases in fixed capital, which fixed assets themselves embody more capital value while less is  consumed in production over a greater number of cycles.  Thus the rate of turnover of the circulating capital increases, while the rate of turnover of the total capital not only slows down, but actually spins in the other direction.  The value embedded in the fixed assets, value that circulates only incrementally, "hardens" within the design of the fixed assets to amplify the productivity of labor-power over greater numbers of production and circulation cycles.

Back in the day, Wall Street used to identify periods of expansion by the uptick in orders for trucks and telephones.  Today, the markers are container ships and digital data processing and transmission. "Slow steaming" pretty well sums up where capital is now.

(b,c,d) At root, wage-differentials are imposed upon workers not because of differences in "productivity," of "skill,"  "of need,"   Wage-differentials are imposed to preserve accumulation.  Wage-differentials are essential to accumulation.   Value cannot be produced where men and women are something more than the carcass of time.  Value cannot be produced where human laborers are compensated based on their collective, common, social needs.  Value is produced where time is lost to the satisfaction of need; where reproduction of the laborers is constantly diminished, reduced proportionately and disproportionately.

Attacking wage differentials within industries, across sectors, and most importantly, across continents is the starting point, and only the starting point, for the emancipation of labor from the wage system in its entirety.

August 22, 2016

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