Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Wed Sep 2 18:58:03 PDT 1998

> Isn't this level of concret events important, or do we just dispose of the
> arguments in the first chapter and not bother with the rest?

Edwin, Not at all! That is why I suggested that Brenner's alternative explanation may be quite successful in accounting for the dynamics of inter-imperial competition. It is a novel theory, though huge chunks of it can be found in Perlman and Itoh (and Preobrazhensky would have underlined how through the build up of excess capacity larger firms can cut down cost saving innovations and engender capital stagnation). I just don't think the falling rate of profit/shortage of surplus value theory is accurately characterized as Malthusian. Now Brenner can never emphasize enough that capitalist social relations faciliates the development of the productive forces which is just another name for the tendency for unit values to decline [by the way, Brenner misses how because capital only pays for labor power, not labor, it often does not pay to use the most labor-saving technology--capital does not always develop the productive forces, indeed third world or Alabaman labor is so cheap in the mass production consumer goods industries, it often pays to use labor intensive technology which increases the total labor time, calculated in abstract units, required to make a given level of output--globalization is not technological progress, capital is not Prometheus as per Brenner's apologetic characterization:that's the role for the revolutionary proletariat!]

But on the assumption of a decline in unit values, constant capital per unit can only rise if it is more than compensated for by a decline in variable capital per unit; otherwise unit values could not decline. This does not mean that the capital output ratio has risen; indeed both constant and variable capital per unit could have fallen in absolute terms, while the former gained on the latter relatively (see Marx's example from Capital vol I about how machine made carpets replace hand made ones: the constant and variable capital used per carpet declines absolutely while the former increases in relation to the latter per unit astronomically; in bourgeois economics this would be a case of a declining capital output ratio, I suspect, but in Marx's term it is the expression at the unit level of upward pressure on the OCC which plays no role at all in Brenner's dynamics which are therefore not Marxian--however illuminating they may be).

And it surely does not suggest any kind of Malthusian limit on productivity: the way the absolute labor time required to produce any unit is usually decreased is by increasing indirect labor to direct labor--that is machines are introduced because they replace more direct labor than they themselves are "indirect" embodiment of (and in capitalism they have to replace a whole lotta of direct labor because, remember, capital is only paying partially for direct labor--the wage is a fetishistic expression of only necessary labor time). Yes, the ratio of constant to variable capital per unit is increasing--that's just an expression of the development of the productive forces, upward pressure on the OCC; to refer to this as a "Malthusian" reduction in the output capital ratio seems not quite right.

It just does not seem to me that this translates into an increased capital-output ratio as meant by bourgeois economics.

But I am just in the beginning stages of understanding Marx and bourgeois economics. I truly am asking for help in working this all out.

best, rakesh

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