[lbo-talk] wealth is not a zero sum game

Charles Brown cb31450 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 13 06:00:31 PDT 2014

Something else on this point from Marx is the absolute general law of _capitalist_ accumulation that the more at the top the less at the bottom; and the top must accumulate , that is the law and the Prophets for capitalists:

"The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth, and, therefore, also the absolute mass of the proletariat and the productiveness of its labour, the greater is the industrial reserve army. The same causes which develop the expansive power of capital, develop also the labour power at its disposal. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases therefore with the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in proportion to the active labour army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population, whose misery is in inverse ratio to its torment of labour. The more extensive, finally, the lazarus layers of the working class, and the industrial reserve army, the greater is official pauperism. This is the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation. Like all other laws it is modified in its working by many circumstances, the analysis of which does not concern us here. "

and accumulation at one pole is misery at the other pole:

"We saw in Part IV., when analysing the production of relative surplus-value: within the capitalist system all methods for raising the social productiveness of labour are brought about at the cost of the individual labourer; all means for the development of production transform themselves into means of domination over, and exploitation of, the producers; they mutilate the labourer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, destroy every remnant of charm in his work and turn it into a hated toil; they estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour process in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an independent power; they distort the conditions under which he works, subject him during the labour process to a despotism the more hateful for its meanness; they transform his life-time into working-time, and drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of capital. But all methods for the production of surplus-value are at the same time methods of accumulation; and every extension of accumulation becomes again a means for the development of those methods. It follows therefore that in proportion as capital accumulates, the lot of the labourer, be his payment high or low, must grow worse. The law, finally, that always equilibrates the relative surplus population, or industrial reserve army, to the extent and energy of accumulation, this law rivets the labourer to capital more firmly than the wedges of Vulcan did Prometheus to the rock. It establishes an accumulation of misery, corresponding with accumulation of capital. Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital. [25] This antagonistic character of capitalistic accumulation is enunciated in various forms by political economists, although by them it is confounded with phenomena, certainly to some extent analogous, but nevertheless essentially distinct, and belonging to pre-capitalistic modes of production. "


On Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 10:02 AM, charlie herbert <chasherb at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm mostly not very confident of my grasp of left criticism of the economy
> and yet am a long time subscriber here, happily gleaning what I can glean.
> I'm in a conversation right now where I'm being hit with "wealth is not a
> zero sum game." Because I had a superficial understanding of it at first I
> did a teeny bit of googling and found it is a major talking point with
> apologists all over.
> My point in the conversation is basically that our current system is
> incredibly exploitative both of natural resources and labor. They repeat
> the wealth is not a zero sum game. Is this just wrong, a red herring?? any
> pointers.
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