Capital, commodity production and collapse (II)

Part Two: The ambiguous case of the Soviet Union

To explain profit, Marx proposed the existence of a new type of commodity peculiar to the capitalist mode of production. This new commodity, labor power, had the characteristics of a typical commodity; it had a value equal to its socially necessary labor time and it had a specific social use value: it could be used as capital to produced surplus value. The specific social use value of this commodity, argued Marx, explained how capital created profit apparently out of nothing.

It also explained how capital violates the premises of commodity exchange generally.

In commodity production, of which capital is a specific historical form, the value of a commodity is equal to the socially necessary labor time required for its production. The time spent on production of the commodity in excess of what is necessary on average for its production creates no value.

To illustrate his point, Marx pointed to the case of a producer who, by lack of skill or laziness, spent more time producing her commodity than the social average. This additional labor time, argued Marx, produced a commodity with no more value than that embodied in a commodity produced by a skillful efficient producer. In the market, each would fetch the same price, with no more paid for the commodities of lazy unskillful producers than for the commodities of efficient ones.

The reproduction of labor power as a commodity, however, operates according to decidedly different laws than those of simple commodities. It is the source of surplus value and the quantity of surplus value created by its productive consumption is directly proportional to its duration. In contrast to ordinary commodities, therefore, the duration of labor expended by labor power in production must always exceed the duration of socially necessary labor time required for the reproduction of the labor power itself.

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Capital, commodity production and collapse (I)

Part One: Capital and commodity production

The anti-communist, Karl Popper has argued a good scientific theory is one that can be falsified by evidence. By this measure Popper claimed Marxism was not scientific.

Another, broader, view of what constitutes a scientifically valid theory is offered in Lee Smolin’s book, The Trouble With Physics, which makes this point about good theory: It brings together things once thought separate and thereby broadens our understanding of the world around us. A good theory, even when it cannot be immediately verified by experiment, revolutionizes our understanding of the world around us:

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Money as superposition of value and self-expanding value

This is from Moseley:

“Marx’s theory of the circulation of capital also begins in the sphere of circulation (in Part 2 of Volume 1), with the advance of definite quantities of money constant capital and money variable capital to purchase means of production and labor-power (with the famous passage at the end of Part 2 about moving from the “noisy sphere of circulation” to the “hidden abode of production” marking the transition from the sphere of circulation to the sphere of production). Thus, when the second phase of the production of value and surplus-value begins, as analyzed in Part 3 and beyond, the quantities of constant capital and variable capital are assumed to have already been advanced in the sphere of circulation to purchase means of production and labor-power. These already existing quantities of constant capital and variable capital are taken as given as an empirical fact in Marx’s theory of how this previously existing given quantity of money capital becomes more money in subsequent phases of the circulation and the valorization of capital. In this way, the presuppositions of Marx’s theory of surplus-value in the sphere of production come from already existing quantities of money capital previously advanced in the sphere of circulation.”

So, here is my question: Where did the money come from? Where did the commodities come from?

What Marx shows in part 1 of Capital is that capital is logically premised on the prior existence of commodity production and exchange. The production of surplus value is premised on the production of value. Capital assumes not the prior existence of money capital, but of money-becoming-capital. The preexisting money doesn’t actually become money capital until it is exchange for labor power.

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Shorter Postone …

Wage Labor reconstitutes itself as necessary no matter the level of its own productivity. The dual imperatives of Capital are ongoing increases in productivity of social labor and structural reconstitution of the necessity of Wage Labor despite the increase in productivity. The use value of Labor Power is not the production of material wealth, but the self-expansion of Capital. Only when the abolition of Capital is related to the abolition of Labor can we begin to approach Communism. Theory must be capable of providing a social account of the paradoxical character of Wage Labor reconstituting its own necessity.

My takeaway from Postone’s theses is that the complete abolition of labor is not the ultimate goal of communists. It is their only goal.

Everything else is just so much bullshit.

Money and socially necessary labor time: A (Pre-)Review of Moseley’s new book

You are not supposed to review a book without having read it. This often poses a problem for me, since I never buy books, but sometime want to say something about them before I can steal them off the internet.

Such is the case with Fred Moseley’s new book, ‘Money and totality’. Fortunately, in the case of Moseley’s new book, there is a paper trail going back at least to the 1990s on which I can draw to raise questions about his argument. These pre-publication texts (here, here, and here, along with a recent review of the book by Michael Roberts, raise enough questions about Moseley’s so-called ‘macromonetary’ approach to capital that allow me the opportunity to outline a number of troubling problems with methods.

I will detail them in the following post. The reader is forewarned, however, that what I say here may have already been addressed by Moseley in the book.

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