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Author: William M.


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Date: Jan. From: Southern Economic Journal Vol. Publisher: Southern Economic Association. Document Type: Book review. Length: words. It may be attacked on several grounds. Quite reasonably from this limited reading , he observed that abstracting from specific use-values does not mean abstracting from use value in general. Moreover, an exchange value is also attached to non-produced commodities. It follows, then, that hidden behind the notion of value are the common properties that allow for exchange on the market, namely utility and scarcity.

Marx himself shows that the social equalization among labors is achieved only when commodities are actually sold in circulation: before that, in production, we meet only concrete labors, which are heterogeneous and non-additive. All these positions ignore the fact that for Marx, commodity exchange is universal only when the capitalist mode of production is dominant—that is, only when workers are compelled to sell their labor power to money as capital, as self-valorizing value. Consequently, labor is for him the content of the value-form because of a more fundamental sequence going from money-capital to living labor to surplus value.

The argument is based on a two-step comparison.

The transformation problem assessed

First, he sketches a hypothetical situation but one that expresses something very real and significant in capitalism where the living labor extracted from wage workers is equal to the necessary labor required to produce the historically given subsistence. In the second step, Marx imagines a or rather, reveals the actual prolongation of the working day beyond necessary labor imposed by capitalists.

The extension of the working day beyond the necessary labor time creates a surplus labor and its monetary expression, surplus value. In this argument, some points must be noted. First, Marx does not abstract at all from circulation. Account must be taken, before the capitalist labor process, of the buying and selling of labor power on the labor market, and of the way subsistence is determined.

Moreover, to make clear that abstract living labor is the only source of value, Marx must abstract from the tendency toward the equalization of the rate of profit between the branches of production.

The Psychopathology of Walrasian Marxism - Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The diversification and stratification of the conditions of production is determined by innovation and spreads the rate of profit within the sector. With given industrial techniques, and assuming that competition on the labor market establishes a uniform real wage, necessary labor is constant.

Surplus value is extracted by lengthening the working day. Marx calls this method of increasing surplus value the production of absolute surplus value.

The Multiple Meanings of Marx’s Value Theory

Technical change, which increases the productive power of labor, lowers the unit-values of commodities. To the extent that the changing organization of production directly or indirectly affects the firms that produce wage-goods, necessary labor falls, and with it the value of labor power.

Economics Non-Equilibrium

This makes room for a higher surplus labor, and thus a higher surplus value. Changes in production techniques yielding relative surplus value are a much more powerful way of controlling worker performance than is the simple personal control needed to obtain absolute surplus value.


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  • This stripping away from labor of all its qualitative determinateness and its reduction to mere quantity encompasses both the historically dominant tendency to de-skilling and the periodically recurring phases of partial re-skilling. A moment of reflection is needed to appreciate the special features of this unique social reality where labor is made abstract already in production. There is, first, exploitation through the division of the social working day, with laborers giving more living labor in exchange for less necessary labor. The perspective here is that of the traditional notion of exploitation, which considers the sharing-out of the quantity of social labor contained in the new value, added within the period.

    Its measure is surplus labor over and above necessary labor. From this second perspective, exploitation becomes identified with the whole working day, and with the abstract living labor of wage workers. This is the ultimate reason for tracing back value to labor, because of the value form taken by labor. Within commodity exchange, objectified labor is made abstract because the products of human working activity, as long as they are commodities, manifest themselves as an independent and estranged reality, divorced from their origin in living labor. These characteristics reappear in the other two moments of the capitalist circuit.

    Abstract labor in motion as the activity producing value and money as its result is the true subject of which the real individual workers performing it are the predicates. In the latter, inasmuch as it is subjected to the drive of valorization, an a priori despotic planning by capitalist firms leads to a technological equalization and social pre-commensuration of the expenditure of human labor power, tentatively anticipating final validation on the commodity market.

    This process imposes on labor— already within direct production and before exchange—the quantitative and qualitative properties of being abstract labor spent in the socially necessary measure. Even though capitalist production is completely actualized only in exchange—and therefore single capitals in competition are not guaranteed to find an outlet for their production—individual workers are immediately socialized in production.

    This pre-commensuration of labor and socialization within production, in its turn, is conditional on a monetary ante-validation expressed by the finance for production that money-capitalists grant to industrial capitalists. For Marx, once capitalism has reached its full maturity in large-scale industry, the subjection of wage workers to capital, with the consequent ex ante abstraction of living labor already in production , and hence the theory of exploitation, must be seen as the foundation of the monetary value theory. Here I will summarize a contemporary analysis that may link these two: an approach to the value theory as a macro-monetary theory of capitalist production.

    Robertson, the Keynes of the Treatise on Money. Means of production circulate only within the firm-sector, out of reach of wage-workers, whose purchasing power can only materialize in buying the means of consumption that the capitalist class makes available to them. It is, first of all, a class macroscopic analysis , which leads directly to a description of the capitalist economic process as a monetary circuit.

    In the cycle of money capital, money is initial finance from the banking system, allowing the firm-sector as a whole to purchase labor power from the working class. The possibility of crisis arises when money is hoarded, because of the pessimistic prospects of capitalist-entrepreneurs or money-capitalists, and brings with it unsold commodities and involuntary unemployment. In a truly macro-monetary perspective, no exchange internal to the firm-sector can contribute to valorization. In this view, in a capitalist economy, the totality of the means of production must go to capitalist-entrepreneurs.

    Thus, the entrepreneurs must be able to buy all the new means of production which have been produced. The profit margin must be set at a level such that the mass of profits is equal to realized investments. It is noteworthy that in this reconstruction of Marxian theory what the working class actually receives are the consumption goods that firms put on the market for them, even if there are household savings. Financial wealth allows individuals to modify their consumption stream over time, but it is irrelevant for the aggregate.

    A reduction in saving is followed by higher real consumption by workers only if the firm sector autonomously decides to increase the supply of wage goods.

    A Theory of Exploitation

    This does not mean that distribution is immutable. On the Marxian theory of money, Graziani also offers some original insights. It follows that the specific goal of the capitalist is to acquire money in the sense of abstract wealth, not to accumulate money as currency. When Marx discusses the nature of gross profit, he makes clear that it is acquired by capitalists solely in the form of commodities.

    Moreover, he assumes an open economy and the presence of the state. This is not so. The problem of the value of money as capital is reduced to the problem of determining wages, because in a class macro-monetary approach the only purchasing power of the advanced currency is the number of workers hired: following the general principle of the theory of value, the value of the real wages of workers is equal to the given subsistence real wage. The reason is easy to understand. A disturbance is simply any transformation, endogenous or exogenous, impinging on a system. Dynamic in stability, as is well- known, is about convergence or divergence of the behaviour of a perturbed system to or from equilibrium.

    This concept is by now well-established in economic theory and does not need, for our purposes, any further comment. Structural in stability is about qualitative or structural change of the behaviour of a perturbed system. If qualitative change in the behaviour of the system exceeds a certain preassigned minimum standard, the system is said to be structurally unstable. This depends on a the kind and size of the disturbance ; b the standard chosen to define the change induced in the system as qualitative or structural rather than merely quantitative.

    Categories

    Clearly enough, a system may have different degrees of structural instability according to the relation between the size of the disturbance and the qualitative characteristics of the system's response in the formal model this depends on the definition of a the admissible perturbations, b the concept of equivalence between systems, c the topology adopted1. We will find it useful in this paper to think of the economic system as represented by a flow-diagram.


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    • Any discontinuous change of the functional structure of the system implies a qualitative change of the system's behaviour. In this case we are, in principle, bound to find a sizable change in its equilibrium properties, which may involve its uniqueness and determinateness, and a sizable change in disequilibrium behaviour see appendix. The rigorous definition of structural in stability is rather recent.