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binswanger has it assbacwards

September 19, 2013

I read an op-ed in Forbes that really annoyed the hell out of me last night:

Give Back? Yes, It’s Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%

This op-ed is completely assbackwards, in my opinion. In fact, the very first paragraph reveals how easily obscured capitalist social relations are, including the origin of profit, which from the Marxist perspective arises out of the division of the workday into necessary labour and surplus labour. But as I think David Harvey persuasively argues in Limits to Capital (which I’ve been reading recently), since all labour appears as paid labour, it’s easy for the capitalist apologist to argue that capital is the source of value (essentially separating capital as an independent and autonomous factor of production) despite the actual complexity of capitalist production and distribution, completely obscuring labour’s contribution in the creation and realization of profit (46).

Production and distribution aren’t discrete, autonomous spheres; they are, in the context of capitalist society, part of an organic whole. Moreover, the expansion of value in this process occurs via the production of surplus value by capitalists who employ wage labour, a social relation in which the worker — who gives up their rights to control over the production process, the product of their labour, and the value incorporated in the production — receives the value of their labour power and nothing else (42-3). And this is important because this is the point where the surplus value created in the labour process is appropriated by the capitalist, i.e., how they transform money (M) into commodities (C) and then back into money plus a surplus (M + ∆M), the added value being the result of the additional amount of labour time the capitalist can extract/contract out of the worker in excess of what it takes for them to produce the value of the wages they receive.

Hence, one could just as easily turn Harry Binswanger’s comment on its head and rightly quip, “And beneath that lies the perverted Objectivist notion that wealth is accumulated by not exploiting labour and the surplus value it helps to create—as if Ford’s employees were not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and the hundreds of thousands of workers in China and the US were not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.” The op-ed, in essence, acknowledges the equality presupposed by exchange while completely ignoring the inequality via the exploitation of labour required to gain profit, as if capital itself was some ‘mystical entity’ floating above the labour process, instilling value of its own accord and benevolence despite the obvious contribution of labour.

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