3. Capitalism without exchange value, or superfluous labor time
In part one of my essay, “Towards a hypothesis of the final collapse of capitalism”, I proposed a narrative to make sense of Luxemburg’s slogan, “Socialism or Barbarism”. That narrative goes this way:
- a. Marx and Engels predicted the collapse of production based on exchange value;
- b. this collapse would result in the abolition of capitalist private property;
- c. either the proletariat would accomplish this, or the bourgeois state would be forced to do it itself; and,
- d. this would set the stage for a final confrontation between the proletariat and the state, which would become the national capitalist after the abolition of capitalist private property.
In part two of the essay, I proposed that the collapse of production based on exchange value was the partial collapse of capitalism. This collapse basically resulted in an apparent absurdity: capitalism without exchange value. For production of surplus value to continue, the values of commodities, particularly labor power, could no longer be expressed as exchange values. The development of the new forces of production bound up with capitalism had finally and irreversibly pushed the rate of profit to zero. According to Grossman, the production of surplus value after this event essentially depended on the ability of the capitalist to purchase labor power below its value. This condition was satisfied by the collapse of the gold standard and replacement of gold by valueless debased state issued currency.