Daily Archives: December 27, 2014

A Brief Discussion of the Origin of Surplus Value




(October 2014)

Part of a series on Surplus Value

To understand how capital accumulation is accomplished, we must address the origin of surplus value.

Capital and value are not simply added sums, but rather exist at a social level. Thus surplus value is not a physical form in which an added sum is produced. Capital is interested solely in increasing its quantity of value; the objects of capital (goods, money) are irrelevant, mere means to an end. The movement of capital is essentially the constant growth of a monetary quantity, a developed form of circulation of money.

What capital pursues is that constant growth. For example, Apple periodically issues new versions of its iPhone. Though Apple may advertise its goal as making its customers happy through product improvement, its only actual interest and reason for existence is the constant accumulation of value.

Surplus value can’t be produced in mercantile circulation, including any specific operations of mercantilism. Nor can it be produced in any specific operations of finance capital. Even while these forms generalized by capitalism are essential to its functioning, they do not produce value. Rather, at the level of the social formation as a whole, mercantile and money circulation are both endemically governed by the rules of exchange between equivalent values, which are imposed on every individual act of exchange. In all exchanges in the spheres of circulation and finance, no new value is or can be created. Surplus value requires the creation of new value.


On Value




Kiki Makandal

(November 2014)

“… the emergence of a completed socialist society, with the withering away of classes, commodities, money and the state.” (Page 92)

What we mean by value and how is value determined by the social context

Value is determined by the context of appropriation.

When appropriation is collective, value refers to collective social priorities and is resolved through collective prerogatives to influence social decisions (by the collective) dealing with integrated social activities that combine activities necessary for the production of necessary goods and services (necessary for social reproduction and welfare) with activities that engender cultural flourishing at its highest potential (“épanouissement”). Values refer to the process of collectively determining social production and distribution of goods and services according to need and ability to reflect the most harmonious, equitable and socially nurturing intents. As such, there are no commodities that have to be individually possessed or acquired or produced, but rather there are social needs that have to be addressed and collective social resources allocated to meet those needs in activities that no longer alienate labor from other social practices but that integrate the production of socially necessary goods and services within socially nurturing cultural practices. There is no longer a distinction between work and leisure; there is no longer a distinction between labor and culture, people can fish leisurely, people can farm leisurely… The concept of value refers not to “worth” but to relative social importance. It is completely different from “value” in the context of individual appropriation. There is no need to compare the relative “worth” of objects or services. There is only a need to collectively determine their production and allocation in the interest of the common good.


A Synopsis of Accumulation




(November 2014)

Part of a series on surplus value

2015-05-04-so-hungry-woThe movement of capital produces surplus value with the sole purpose of turning itself into more capital, to reproduce itself on an ever-widening scale.

The simple reproduction of capital, for example through circulation, creates no new value, but instead adds to the existing value. This resulting fictitious value is consumed by the capitalist bloc in an unproductive manner. Individual capitalists consider it the ideal form of reproduction, because it provides quick and easy profits without the hassle of building and maintaining infrastructure or dealing with a workforce. But for the capitalist class as a whole, unproductive reproduction is very problematic.

The true objective of capitalist production is its own accumulation. This is both an end and a means—only through concentration can capital increase its productivity—both by increasing the productivity of labor (relative surplus value) for the production of absolute surplus value (on which all forms of capital expansion and accumulation depends).

To our sensory perception, it seems that in each cycle of production capital and labor come from two distinct poles. The capitalist and the wage earner, both owners of merchandise, appear to conduct an exchange between equivalent values: wages for labor power. In reality, it is not an equivalent exchange. When we consider the transformation of surplus value into capital, and the reproduction of capital in cycles of production, then it becomes apparent that new capital is constituted from previously accumulated surplus value. Capital is surplus that has already been extorted, stolen to be used for the further extortion of another new surplus. This is what accumulation is all about.


A Historical Materialist Definition of Capital




(December 2014)

Capital is a cyclical process unrolling at the level of the whole society. The principal moment is that of production. It is in that process that the transformation of nature and the production of surplus value are simultaneously carried out; it is where labor is performed under the conditions that allow it to furnish surplus labor.

Capital is not the juridical designation of the privately owned means of production itself. Private property, institutionalized legally, is indeed indispensable for the functioning of capital, and will take different historical forms relating to a range of capitalisms from individual to monopoly to state.

These juridical forms are seemingly distinct from wage labor. But they are required for the functioning of capitalist social relations of production. These relations are the real process of the appropriation of labor, accomplished by controlling the means of production in which the capitalist cycle is unceasingly reproducing. As a social relation, capitalist private property is historically bound to wage labor; one can’t exist without the other.

Capital is a system of social relations of production, which exists solely to recover surplus labor.