"Surplus" versus "Surplus Value"?

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Fri Apr 14 14:15:26 PDT 2000

All: I am working on a response your comments on my Hayeking.


In a paper I wrote on exploitation (Nous 1995), I suggested that the distinction between surplus & SV was that surplus is a more abstarct characterization, whatever is left over after replacing what is used up in production, while SV is of course the value of the S, measured by the socially necessary abstract labor time necessary to produce that abount of stuff (this is Marx's measure of the magnitude of SV). Therefore there is surplus in any nonsubsistance society, but SV only in a market society.

The Sovs made an attempt, early and foolishly, to account for their economy in labor value terms, which was pretty odd, since it wasn't supposed to be a market economy. Since values are not observable, like unlike prices, and since the "socially necessary" part is hard to compute, and since not all labor is commensurable and skilled labor is not a simple multipland of unskilled labor (as Marx treated it), value theortic notions are useless for accounting purposes.

Whether exploitation is occurring, I would suggest, is not a technical question but a moral one--is the surplus being taken wrongfuly from the producers, whether the wrong is due to injustice or some other wrong, such as force. So for thsi we look to the structure of society--do the producers have democratic control over their product? And not to any technical questions such as value theory could ansewer, if it could answer any questions.


/ In a message dated Fri, 14 Apr 2000 1:35:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Curtiss Leung <bofftagstumper at yahoo.com> writes:

> All:
> OK...here's something that's got me stumped: the
> distinction between "surplus" and "surplus value,"
> especially after the capitalist mode of production.
> I've read from more than one person now that according
> to Marx (or at least a particular reading of him),
> after the capitalist mode of production is abolished,
> it's possible for production to generate a "surplus"
> that can be accumulated, but that "surplus value"
> would no longer exist. My questions are:
> (1) Suppose that "surplus" refers to the actual
> use-values produced over and above what's consumed.
> Why can't I use the term "surplus value" to refer to
> the *magnitude* of that surplus relative to some
> metric (not necessarily money, just to make things
> looser)?
> (2) Say the answer to question (1) is no, for whatever
> reason. OK, fine. So then we've got a surplus of
> use-values which is not quantified as "surplus value."
> Then I have to ask: well, without this
> quantification, how am I or whatever organization
> through which production is rationally planned able to
> figure out if we're actually producing a surplus or
> deficit? If it's been decided that production should
> accumulate for the social reserve fund, how do I
> determine what the reserve fund contains? Worst of
> all, how can it be determined if improper
> accumulation/exploitation hasn't crept in through the
> back door?
> My intuition is that by taking about "surplus" rather
> than "surplus value" simply emphasizes the experience
> of production after capitalism -- workers become the
> subjects and agents of the productive process rather
> than capital seeming to have those roles -- but that
> "surplus value" as a measure of what -- IF ANY --
> surplus the producers choose to create has to persist.
> So that surplus and the measure of that surplus are
> under the control of the producers, rather than being
> expropriated from them -- and this control is what's
> intended by the phrase "transparent economic
> relationships." In other words not direct production
> for use, but a division of labor organized by the
> producers.
> Yes? No? Maybe?
> --
> Curtiss
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