imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Engels on Capital and Surplus Value

by Thomas Riggins Friday, Jan. 07, 2011 at 12:16 PM
pabooks@politicalaffairs.net

Review of the chapters on Capital and Surplus Value in Engels' book Anti-Dühring showing the contemporary relevance of Marxist theory.

In chapters seven and eight of part two of Anti-Dühring ("Capital and Surplus Value"), Engels continues his role as Marx's bulldog. Again, Herr Dühring has gone too far in his criticisms of Marx and must be put in his place by sounder judgment and sharper intellect. Dühring has claimed Marx says that "capital is born of money" and the birth pangs took place at the "opening of the sixteenth century." Dühring calls Marx's ideas a mixture of history and logic which have become "bastards of historical and logical fantasy."

This upsets Engels to no end who himself responds that Dühring has "a crude and inept manner of expressing himself. Marx's real statement on this subject is found in Das Kapital vol 1, part 2, chapter 4 "The General Formula For Capital" where he writes: "As a matter of history, capital, as opposed to landed property invariably takes the form at first of money; it appears as moneyed wealth, as the capital of the merchant and of the usurer. But we have no need to refer to the origin of capital in order to discover that the first form of the appearance of capital is money. We can see it daily under our very eyes. All new capital to commence with, comes on the stage, that is, on the market, whether as commodities, labour, or money, even in our days, in the shape of money that by a definite process has to be transformed into capital."

But how does this transformation take place. Capital is used to invest to make more money and more capital. So how do I turn money into capital? Engels says when I take my own commodities to market I sell them to get money to buy things I need to live on. This is simple exchange. The capitalist goes to market to buy things he does not need to live on; he buys them in order to sell them for what he paid plus a profit-- and increment in money. "Marx calls this increment

SURPLUS VALUE."

But where does it come from? Capitalism results in an increase in the values in circulation so it can't come from cheating (that would effect the distribution not the amount of values) nor

from buying under or selling above the values of the commodities because the sum of values still remains the same. Yet capitalists do accumulate riches by selling dearer than they have bought."This problem," Engels says,"must be solved, and it must be solved in a PURELY ECONOMIC way, excluding all cheating and the intervention of any force-- the problem being: how is it possible constantly to sell dearer than one has bought, even on the hypothesis that equal values are always exchanged for equal values?"

The most important contribution of Marx to economic thought was the solution to this problem; Engels calls it "epoch-making." Here is the solution as presented by Engels. The increment doesn't take place in the money itself, nor in the price of the commodity sold (at this stage we are dealing with the exchange of equivalents: price = value, later we see how they can

differ). But something does change in the bought commodity--not its exchange VALUE but its USE-VALUE. The increment takes place during the commodity's consumption; and not just any commodity, but a very specific one.

Here is what Marx says about this from Das Kapital vol 1, chapter vi "The Buying and Selling of Labour Power": "In order to be able to extract value from the consumption of a commodity, our friend, Moneybags, must be so lucky as to find, within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity, whose use-value, whose actual consumption, therefore, is itself an embodiment of labour, and, consequently, a creation of value. The possessor of money does find on the market such a special commodity in capacity for labour or labour-power."

But how is the value of labour-power determined? Again Marx: "The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this special article. So far as it has value, it represents no more than a definite quantity of the average labour of society incorporated in it. Labour-power exists only as a capacity, or power of the living individual. Its production consequently pre-supposes his existence. Given the individual, the production of labour-power consists in his reproduction of himself or his maintenance. For his maintenance he requires a given quantity of the means of subsistence. Therefore the labour-time requisite for the production of labour-power reduces itself to that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence; in other words, the value of labour-power is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of the labourer."

This also includes the cost of raising a family of little baby laborers to take his place in the next generation. Suppose a worker could produce in six hours the value of goodies he needs to live on and Moneybags gives the worker the full value of his labor power. The goodies cost

and that is what the capitalist gives the worker, paying him an hour. The worker has also made worth of goodies for the capitalist. An even exchange-- no increment for the capitalist.

What to do? The capitalist will hire the worker for an hour for 12 hours. This is what free labor and the labor market are all about. After 12 hours the worker gets his agreed upon wage, buys his of goodies and goes home. The capitalist however has been left with from the first 6 hours AND from the last 6 hours of the worker's toil. He sells the first worth of goodies and gets his money back-- and sells the surplus of goodies and makes a profit; a profit he did not work for but that he expropriates from the surplus value created by the worker. And this, Engels says, is how the "trick has been performed. Surplus-value has been produced; money has been converted into capital." Marx has thus demonstrated how surplus-plus value is created and has revealed "the core around which the whole existing social order has crystallized."

Now, under capitalism there is a "prerequisite" without which the capitalist can not get his hands on surplus-value and that is he must go to market and hire a FREE LABOURER. That is, a worker who can sell his labour power as a commodity and it is the only commodity he can sell. This is the condition working people have found themselves in since the end of the fifteenth century and the disintegration of the feudal order. Marx says "It is clearly the result of a past historical development." Marx and Engels appeared after this transitional period had been underway for about 400 years and we are two centuries further on than they. The present great world wide capitalist depression may or maynot be the "final conflict" which will mark the disintegration of capitalism and the arrival of the socialist order but as Marxists we must always be open to that possibility and continue to hold down the fort.

What is the upshot of all of Dühring's criticism of Marx and his proposed explanation of how capitalism works? Well, we need not go over all of Dühring's arguments and bombast against Marx. Suffice it to say that Engels concludes that Dühring actually steals his ideas from Marx, puts them forth in his own words and style and attacks Marx to cover up his theft; as Engels puts it Dühring "commits a clumsy plagiarism of Marx."

Just what, then, is the difference in Dühring's conception of capital and Marx's? For Marx every class dominated mode of production sweats surplus labour out of the productive class-- be they slaves, serfs, or modern workers (wage slaves). But it is only when, under a regime based on commodity production for a market, when the means of production employ surplus labour in the form of surplus value, that we have capitalism. This is a specific historical stage in the evolution of production. Dühring says any system that uses "surplus labour in any form" produces capital. He thus blurs the distinctions between different modes of production and makes capital an eternal law of nature with regard to economic activity.

What is more, for Dühring surplus value becomes simply the earnings of capital and is equivalent to profit. Whereas Marx makes it very clear in volume one of Das Kapital that surplus value should NOT be confused with profit. Dühring appears to only credit the capitalist in his role as a manufacturer as generating profit (surplus value.) Since Dühring claims to be explaining what Marx believes, Engels points out that Dühring should have paid more attention to what Marx ACTUALLY wrote. The profit made by the MERCHANT, Marx clearly says, is also a part of surplus value and the merchant can make a profit only because the industrial or manufacturing capitalist sells his product to him BELOW its full value "and thus relinquishes to him a part of the booty."

There are other subforms of surplus value besides manufacture's and merchant's profit, e.g., interest and ground-rent. But the explanations of these subdivisions will have to await volumes two and three of capital: only the outlines are being laid down in volume one. The complete explanation awaits "a scientific analysis of competition" and we can't make that analysis until the real inner nature, the essence, of capital is revealed in volume one. Engels gives as an analogy the understanding we have of the seeming motions of the planets which is based on knowledge of their real motions "which are not directly perceptible to the senses." [Empiricists take note!] Nevertheless, Marx gives us enough information in volume one to at least grasp in broad outline the subforms of surplus value to be dealt with in the later volumes.

It is because he doesn't know how competition works and also doesn't understand what Marx has said about it in volume one of Das Kapital, that Herr Dühring can't figure out how capitalists get back all that they have put out plus the surplus product at prices way above "the natural outlays of production." Where does this profit come from? He can't answer this question so he flees from the field of economics to that of politics and claims that the capitalist imposes a surcharge on his products by means of force. But Engels says FORCE can seize wealth but cannot produce it. Not only that, but Dühring leaves unexplained the ORIGIN of force itself. Dühringian economics gets us nowhere.

But all is not lost for Herr Dühring. His research finally leads him to some correct answers, although his distinctive way of expressing himself is not as clear as we might wish. Engels provides two quotes from Dühring that are on the right track. "IN EVERY CASE THE NET PROCEEDS OBTAINED BY THE UTILIZATION OF LABOUR-POWER CONSTITUTE THE INCOME OF THE MASTER...." And:"The characteristic feature of earnings of capital is that they are AN APPROPRIATION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCEEDS OF LABOUR-POWER."

What, Engels asks, is the INCOME OF THE MASTER but the surplus product the worker makes after the deduction for wages? What is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCEEDS OF LABOUR-POWER but that part which comes after the worker has created the value of his own maintenance-- i.e., surplus value? So where did Herr Dühring finally get a clue to the correct explanation of the relation between capital and surplus value? He got it, Engels says by "in his own style, DIRECTLY COPYING from CAPITAL"[i.e., volume one of Das Kapital]. So much for Herr Dühring's alternative theory of economics.

Thomas Riggins is the associate editor of Political Affairs online.

Report this post as:

Local News

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety A08 10:29PM

Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man A08 9:50PM

Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes A08 9:48PM

Paraphysique de l'autorité A08 12:11AM

Two Podcasts on fbi corruption A06 10:13PM

Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS A06 7:29PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy