- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Appropriation of surplus value

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on November 18, 1999 at 08:30:26:

In Reply to: Incompatibility Glitches posted by Kweassa on November 18, 1999 at 01:01:08:

: It wasn't a bad set of discussions, except we got stuck somewhere, namely, at the incredibly vague and surrealistic point where you continue to argue that the measurement of value can be set upon SUBJECTIVE whims, through an OBJECTIVE process.

: The way I see it, the debators didn't even get close to talking about the level where production lies. We're all stuck on this SUBJECTIVITY-OBJECTIVITY melee. I mean, nobody even got up to the point HOW exploitation is formed, because we're bounded here.

SDF: Using the word "exploitation," to describe what employers do to employees, allows Gee to equate "exploitation" with its connotations of "evil". Perhaps we should stick with the notion of the "appropriation of surplus value," then we can avoid the sentimental discussion of employers as bad guys or good guys, and talk economics instead.

: You said these debates were not aimed at dismissing the LTV. But the thing is, if the LTV cannot be used to calculate meaningful figures regarding 'exploitation, why do we need to maintain it in the first place? I mean, your whole purpose is obviously proving how the value system in Capitalist economy DOES NOT exploit people, no? Why would you NOT dismiss LTV when it's whole existence threatens the very heart of current economics?

SDF: Don't know about "exploitation," but I can say that the calculation of the appropriation of surplus value is quite easy to describe. Set up the following thought experiment:

For any given society, it takes the working class a total of N hours of work per week on the average, by each working member, for this aforesaid working class to reproduce itself on the level of BASIC SUBSISTENCE. The working class in a healthy society, on the other hand, works MORE than N hours per week on the average. The wealth produced by this additional work, above and beyond the average N hours of week as performed by each working class member, is the SURPLUS VALUE of the society.

The owning class in a capitalist society, however, lives by appropriating this surplus value. Here's how it's done. The owning class pays the working class an average wage sufficient enough to reproduce itself at the level of basic subsistence if it works N hours per week on average, plus an additional amount covering some partial amount of the surplus value. The rest of the surplus value goes to the class of business owners, which they realize as FINANCIAL PROFIT.

So voila! the appropriation of surplus value. As real as the nose on your face. Can't say I've read any hard data on this. I do remember, though, that Susan George estimated that the surplus value appropriated from the nations of the South by the nations of the North, during the 1980s, was the equivalent of six Marshall Plans.

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