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Low surplus value historically required for accumulation, seen in a model derived from Marx



  • Paul Zarembka



In Volume I of Capital, Marx offers actual data from a Manchester spinning factory describing that business. In Volume II, he offers schemes of reproduction to help understand accumulation of capital while mentioning numbers that actually suggest correlation to the spinning factory data. Nevertheless, Marx seems to slide over the costs of new machinery when analyzing accumulation, instead focusing on wear and tear (depreciation). In this chapter, we offer a modeling of accumulation that takes account of modern estimates of the composition of capital, that is, the relation of labor time invested in constant capital compared to the labor time employed with that constant capital, relying principally upon U.S. and Canadian estimates. We find empirically that the composition of capital fluctuates but does not show much trend. We also consider levels of the rate of exploitation and of utilization of surplus value required for achieving actual historical levels of accumulation of capital, and include consideration of the turnover of capital. We find that only a small portion of surplus value, perhaps 10%, is required for actually achieved accumulation. This suggests that a focus on the utilization of surplus value for the accumulation of capital misses vast other terrains for the utilization of surplus value. Our result is suggestive of an overemphasis within Marxist political economy on accumulation of capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Zarembka, 2010. "Low surplus value historically required for accumulation, seen in a model derived from Marx," RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, in: Paul Zarembka (ed.),THE NATIONAL QUESTION AND THE QUESTION OF CRISIS, volume 26, chapter 4, pages 145-172, Paul Zarembka.
  • Handle: RePEc:rpe:chaptr:zarembka2010

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    More about this item


    Marx; macroeconomics; surplus value; accumulation;

    JEL classification:

    • B51 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Socialist; Marxian; Sraffian
    • C32 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes; State Space Models
    • E11 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Marxian; Sraffian; Kaleckian
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance


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