1. As I plowed my way
through the seemingly endless passages in Chapter XV, "Machinery and
Modern Industry" in which Marx copies out and reproduces detailed
descriptions of the appalling conditions of life and work of children in early
industrial capitalist enterprises, I reflected that since all of this took
place almost two hundred years ago, my students would probably have difficulty
seeing it as anything other than a tale of horribles from an era long past. A few moments with Google turned up a very
nice story about the fourteen hour days put in by twelve year old girls and
boys in Apple's Chinese factories, where they earn less than a dollar
an hour for making the IPhones that I and my students carry about with us. At an appropriate time, I shall read it to
them.

2. Deep in Part VI
now, "The Production of Absolute and Of Relative Surplus Value,"
territory frequented only by the most fanatic of Marxist loyalists. Grinding through Marx's rather tedious
ringing of the changes on variations in the length of the work day, the
intensity of the work process, and the productiveness of labour, I come upon a
four-page chapter, "Various Formulae for the Rate of Surplus-Value,"
in which, suddenly, unexpectedly, wonderfully, I find the following passage:

"The habit of representing surplus-value and value of
labour-power as fractions of the value created -- a habit that originates in
the capitalist mode of production itself, and whose import will hereafter be
disclosed -- conceals the very transaction that characterises capital, namely
the exchange of variable capital for living labour-power, and the consequent
exclusion of the labourer from the product.
Instead of the real fact, we have the semblance of an association, in
which the labourer and capitalist divide the product in proportion to the
different elements which they respectively contribute to its formation."

It may not be immediately obvious to some of you, but this
is a brilliant attack by Marx on the neo-Classical use of Euler's Theorem to
prove that labour and capital each receive their marginal product, and hence,
as Professor Pangloss says, that all is for the best in the best of all possible
worlds.

Since I am morally certain that Marx did not know Euler's
Theorem, and since he published this book ten years before Walras, Jevons, and
Menger each bestowed the marginalist revolution on a world hungry for enlightenment,
it is simply wonderful that Marx had the genius to expose the meretriciousness of that "gift" before it was even given. [I use "meretriciousness" in its
original meaning.]

## 8 comments:

Do you know where Marx refers to bakers' boys (the loin-clothed dough mixers and bakers who breathed flour and worked at wood-fired ovens) as "white miners"?

That does not ring a bell in my mind, and a little Googling does not turn it up.

"White miners" may be from Maurice Bouteloup's "Le travail de nuit dans la boulangerie."

Prof.

I can certainly appreciate that what Marx writes is related to Euler's theorem, applied to a linearly homogeneous production function of capital and labour:

if Q(K,L) is a linearly homogeneous production function (continuous, differentiable, etc.), then

Q = r*diff(Q,K) + w*diff(Q,L)

(r is profit, w is wage; K is capital, L is labour)

(You wrote about this some time ago)

But, I'll confess, Marx's criticism is not obvious to me. Could you please spell this out for me?

Sure, Magpie. Euler's Theorem has been used by neo-classical economists to support the claim that labor and capital are partners in the production of the output, each one receiving its marginal product and hence being fairly compensated. Marx shows that this is a fraud -- that what the capitalist gets is extracted from the worker, whose labor produces the entire product, not just a portion represented by his "marginal product."

Thanks.

I thought it was something

in the quote itself, that I had missed.includedYes, in fact, if I am not mistaken, the sum theorem (as that result is also know) is... Adam Smith's adding-up theory of value!

So, when Marx criticizes Smith, he also indirectly criticizes the sum theorem.

Thanks again.

Professor Wolff --

Can you provide the link to the story about the 12 year old children working in the Chinese Apple factories?

-- Jim

Jim, the URL is http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/apple-sweatshop-problem-16-hour-days-70-cents-172800495.html

Hope that helps.

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