the super capitalism

Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company, 1927.


Considerations on the autonomization of the self-determination of capital

In this article, we seek to approach the separation between value and surplus value from the perspective of section I, of book 3, of Capital, which deals with “the transformation of surplus value into profit and the rate of surplus value into a rate of profit”. Its importance lies in trying to demonstrate that the separation between value and surplus-value, the financialization and digitalization of the economy, together, can configure a new configuration of expanded reproduction of capital. In a way, many studies have already demonstrated how the financialization of the economy shifted the importance of material production in the process of capital accumulation. We simply add to this context the most recent results of the last technological revolution.

As Marx explains in book III of Capital, the value of each commodity produced in a capitalist way is given by the formula M = c + v + m, where c is constant capital, v is variable capita, and m is the plus-value. Based on this formula, he differentiates the “replacement value in merchandise for capital value” or the cost price of the merchandise, given by c + v, from the “product value” or “cost of production”. Therefore, Marx differentiates between what the commodity costs the capitalist and what the commodity costs its own production. This difference becomes clearer when the author states that “[...] the capitalist cost of the commodity is measured by the expenditure of capital, and the real cost of the commodity, by the expenditure of labor [...]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 54 ). In this way, the cost price both appears to the worker as the real cost of the commodity itself and “takes on the false appearance of a category of value production itself”. For if the cost price is given by p = c + v, the formula M = c + v + m takes the form M = p + m, so p = M – m. Surplus value, m, thus appears as a surplus of the value of the commodity above its cost price, symbolizing “[...] an increase in the value of the capital that is spent on the production of the commodity and that returns from its circulation” (MARX , 2017b, p. 59). For the capitalist, this growth derives from the capital itself, as it came into existence after the production process, therefore, it had “origin in the productive enterprises carried out by capital”. For the worker, “[…] the variable value portion of the capital advance that pays the value or price of all the work spent in production […]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 57).

To complete his reasoning, that is, to show the mystified form of value production in capitalism, Marx initially assumes that surplus value is equal to profit, that is, m = l. Thus, if M = c + v + m, being p = c + v, so that M = p + m, and, still being m = l, then M = p + l. Marx concludes (2017b, p. 62):

“[…] due to the fact that in the apparent formation of the cost price no difference is perceived between constant capital and variable capital, the origin of the change in value that occurs during the production process must be displaced from the variable part of capital to the total capital. Since at one pole the price of labor power appears in the transformed form of wages, at the opposite pole surplus value appears in the transformed form of profit.

Surplus value assumes the mystified form of profit and, thus, it presents itself in the world of exchanges and production; only as a "sum of value expended to make a profit" or of a "profit engendered", "because a sum of value" was employed as capital. Thus, it seems that surplus value derives from the sale of commodities above their value and not from the difference between the exchange value and the use value of labor power.

If, M = p + l, and, l = 0, M = p. Thus, the minimum limit of the sale price is given by the cost price of the merchandise; M = c + v. At the opposite pole, there is the situation of the commodity being sold at the commodity value, that is, M = c + v + m. In this case, p = M – m, implies that the commodity being sold at its value, the capitalist realizes a profit equal to the “surplus of its value above its cost price”. Therefore, “[…] between the value of the commodity and its cost price, an indeterminate series of sales prices is clearly possible. The greater the element of commodity value made up of surplus value, the greater the field of action for the practice of these intermediate prices.” (MARX, 2017b, p. 62). Marx thus concludes that selling price and cost price are different things. A situation in which m = 0 constitutes a “case that never occurs based on capitalist production”, as the author himself explains: “[...] it would be absolutely false to assume that, if all commodities were sold at their cost price, the result would be the same as if they were all sold above their cost price, but at their value […]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 65).

Marx, in Chapter 4 of Book I, of The capital, “The transformation of money into capital”, formulated his theory of exploitation, revealing all the strength of the labor theory of value as a category of economic analysis. It shows us logically, considering value as a result of historically specific social relations, how capitalist production transforms an exchange of equivalents into an exchange of non-equivalents, based on the use value of labor power. Equivalence as a principle of exchange is thus maintained in the sphere of circulation, in which the exchange of labor power for wages takes place. Non-equivalence is an implicit result, because it is hidden in the subtle difference between work and labor power; between the formation of value and the process of its valuation. On the face of it, the capitalist has made fair pay, as he has paid the market-determined price for labor. In essence, the thing is different. The use of labor power during a working day does not correspond to the “justice” of the market. Because the production of a working day generates a value above the wage established by the market, it generates surplus value that is appropriated not by the worker, but by the capitalist. Thus, the theory of surplus value was formulated, the theory of labor exploitation in capitalism. See that exploitation has nothing to do with working conditions or low wages. It is related to the difference between the exchange value of the labor force commodity in the market and the product of its use during the productive process.

Were it not for surplus value to be explained by the result of the difference between exchange value and the use value of labor power, very appropriately, it would be explained by the “necessary labor time” for the production and reproduction of the worker. It is a clear fact as day that the fruits of labor do not return to the salaried worker, that is, value is socially produced but privately appropriated. All that is up to the worker as a result of using his labor power is its individual and social reproduction. Some degree above this condition was achieved only through much struggle by the working class against its total exploitation. However, the struggle between the group of capitalists and the group of workers represents an antinomy, as Marx (2017a) so well demonstrated, that is, “between equal rights, it is strength that decides”. So, as force is a monopoly of the State and as this is a State commanded in a capitalist way, the degree of civilization that can be reached by capitalism will always be limited by the remuneration of the work force around a value that revolves around time. of necessary labor” the production and reproduction of the worker. In other words, it is a civilizing degree in which social relations between singular individuals take place based on a sociability that always involves forms of exploitation, domination and expropriation.

Marx, still, in Book I, presents us with a third way of explaining why the fruits of labor do not return to the salaried worker. It is the “influence that the increase of capital exerts on the fate of the working class”, which he analyzes in Chapter 23, “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation”. As the production of surplus value is the absolute law of the capitalist mode of production, the form of its reproduction always implies, and in a continuous manner, the reproduction of the capitalist relationship itself; “capitalists on one side, wage earners on the other”.

“In reality, therefore, the law of capitalist accumulation, mystified into a law of nature, expresses only that the nature of this accumulation excludes any decrease in the degree of exploitation of labor or any rise in the price of labor which might seriously threaten the constant reproduction of capitalist relationship, its reproduction on an ever-expanding scale. And it could not be otherwise, in a mode of production in which the worker serves the needs of valuing existing values, instead of objective wealth serving the worker's development needs. Just as in religion man is dominated by the product of his own head, in capitalist production he is dominated by the product of his own hands (MARX, 2017a, p. 697).”

If our statement regarding the formation of surplus value is correct (both from the point of view of the “necessary labor time” for the production and reproduction of the worker, and from the “general law of capitalist accumulation”), the theory of surplus value gains a much broader scope. greater than originally thought by Marx himself. First, because surplus value is detached from value, that is, surplus value becomes autonomous. Second, because surplus value exists in any economic activity based on wage labor, regardless of whether this activity is considered productive or unproductive. From this perspective, surplus value is no longer a question of capital being considered productive, it is a question of the very existence of wages as a form of remuneration for the labor factor.

By this reasoning, the difference between cost price and value takes on another dimension, as surplus value ceases to be an addition and becomes a fee represented in the variable capital itself; whether this rate will be fully realized or not, only the sphere of circulation can confirm. Therefore, M = c + v + (m/v)× v, that is, the rate of surplus value is intrinsic to the very existence of v. Profit is now given by l = v × (m/v), and, as in the original formula, varies directly with the magnitude of surplus value.

Marx, in chapter 3, “Relationship between the rate of profit and the rate of surplus value”, of book III, of Capital, defined the rate of profit as the relation between surplus value and total capital (m/ W). But, by proceeding in this way, he already defines profit as an internal element, when in fact its formation occurs only via circulation. Furthermore, we know that surplus value is the result exclusively of wage labor. If we want to determine an internal rate of profit we must relate it directly to a rate of surplus value, as we did in the last formula, l = v × (m/v). Thus, variations in l come to depend not on the ratio (m/C), but on the rate of surplus value itself. Thus, surplus value and profit do not exist, they will always be equal within the process. If,

v = 100 and m = 100, so l = 100 × (100/100) = 100;

v = 50 and m = 100, so l = 50 × (100/50) = 100

v = 25 and m = 100, so l = 25 × (100/25) = 100.

According to Marx's reasoning, it is as if we had two rates of profit, one internal and one external. To give coherence to the formulation we have to eliminate one of them. We cannot have both an internal profit, which necessarily has to correspond to surplus value, and an external profit, which corresponds to the realization of internal profit in the sphere of circulation.

From this perspective, too, the question of whether or not commodities are sold at their values ​​is meaningless. All that matters is that capitalist production takes place through the exploitation of wage labor. Because, although there is a relationship between value and market price, this is an external relationship to the very generation of value, which works as a foundation, but for which prices and their variations are presented almost exclusively autonomously. , via competition process or monopoly situations.

The main implication of the autonomization of surplus-value from value is that there is no longer any need for a “general average rate of profit” for the appropriation of surplus-value among the various fractions of the capitals in function. Although it is still correct to state that there is a transfer of surplus value from one sphere of capital to another. The profit made in the sphere of production is presented, then, as a process of adjustment between the different degrees of exploitation of the workforce in the various economic sectors of society. Marx's assertion that "[...] every invested capital, whatever its composition, extracts from every 100, in one year or another interval of time, the profit which in that period corresponds to 100 as a rate of the total capital [...]" (MARX, 2017b, p. 193), is thus compromised.

From this point of view, there is no need for the market prices of goods to correspond directly to their values, as they function as distinct instances, although related, for determining, respectively, market prices (through competition) and the degree of exploitation of the workforce. Therefore, the problem of transforming values ​​into prices presents itself practically as a false problem and, still, does not contribute to thinking about ways of overcoming capitalism. If the production of value is both its production and the production of surplus value, all that matters is how much of that surplus value will be realized in the market through competition.

Note that this proposition does not deny the law of labor value, nor does it deny the exchange of equivalents in the market. For, value is determined by labor time (past and present) and exchanges figure only as adjustments between the various labor times of all branches of the economy. In the exchange between capitalist and salaried worker they are exchanging equivalents (wages for labor power), however, from the point of view of value it is an exchange of non-equivalents, since the use value of labor power is a real aspect and not just a fiction like that realized in the sphere of circulation. The principle of equivalence is therefore at the same time one of equivalence and non-equivalence. It is not a contradiction per se, but a dialectical way of establishing the principle. If so, all exchanges are at the same time exchange of equivalents and exchange of non-equivalents. All other commodities besides labor power must also be understood in this way. It is in this respect that the transformation of values ​​into prices presents itself as a false problem. All commodities contain paid and unpaid labor, so all commodities have value and surplus value. The prices established in the market realize value and, in different proportions, depending on the conditions of competition, monopoly or the organic composition of capital, surplus value. It is concluded that the values ​​do not necessarily correspond to the prices, although they function as their basis.

The law of labor value takes on a much larger dimension than that thought by the classics and by Marx himself. The distinction between productive and unproductive work is annulled in favor of the idea of ​​work and more-work. Work as a need for production and reproduction of daily conditions of existence and, plus work, as economic surplus.

As in the classics there was a confusion between work and labor power, in Marx, too, there seems to be a certain confusion between value and surplus value. This confusion seems to have its origin both in the distinction between what is productive and unproductive work and in the idea of ​​productive capital. If capital is a specific social relationship between capitalists and workers, and if surplus value originates from unpaid work, and also considering that all salaried work represents a subtraction from the worker of part of his social product; therefore, any salaried work in any branch of economic activity generates surplus value. That is, surplus value is a form of existence that permeates productive capital, being the result of any form of capital. Just because mercantile capital belongs to the sphere of circulation does not mean that it cannot generate surplus value. The process of circulation certainly, as Marx demonstrated, does not generate any value. But mercantile capital, as well as fictitious capital, in terms of existence, are sectors in which both work and surplus labor are present; therefore, despite not producing value, they directly extract surplus value from the labor/surplus labor ratio.

In this respect, the labor theory of value becomes much more general, so that the relationship between labor and value permeates the principle of equivalent exchange. In the contemporary economy, in the face of microelectronics, algorithms, in short, the new information technologies, a small amount of work becomes capable of generating great value and, furthermore, serving as a conduit for the generation of other masses of value by different others. economic sectors. Even in the industrial sector, in the capital considered as productive, value is produced by fewer and fewer workers, due to the characteristics of both the work itself and the digitized means of production and organization. Therefore, the relationship between value and work was completely transformed, but this in no way invalidates the law of value-work, on the contrary, it expands its power as a category of analysis of the capitalist economy. Remembering that the separation of value and surplus value consists of two dimensions: 1) paid work and unpaid work; and 2) automation based on digital technology. Instances that reinforce each other.

One of the most important consequences of the transformations described above is the autonomy of accumulation from the production of goods. In this way, the very production of value becomes a secondary element, all attention turns to ways of extracting surplus value. For, the dead labor itself embodied in the technological sector produces surplus value autonomously.

The advance of financialization, in the last two decades of the twentieth century, brought a lot of instability to capitalism. However, as highlighted by Chesnais (2002, p. 2), “[…] the advent of this form of capital was accompanied by the formation of new systemic configurations and unprecedented macroeconomic and macrosocial linkages […]”. the financial sector surpassed the manufacturing sector, in the sense that a greater perception about the weight and influence of financial assets in modern economies was generalized. The composition of social wealth, both of families and companies, has undergone an important change with the speed of growth of monetary assets. Movement that resulted from a strong tendency towards financialization and rentism and that is not confined to national borders. A process that establishes the autonomy of interest from profit and in which the capital-relation assumes its most alienated and most fetishistic form, as explained by Marx. Therefore, “[…] instead of overcoming the antagonism between the social character of wealth and private wealth [the way it is appropriated], it limits itself to developing it under a new configuration.” (MARX, 1990b, p. 2017)

In this new configuration of capital and capitalism, the developments of the last technological revolution, of the first two decades of the 1st century, acted in two ways: 2) providing stability to the new pattern of wealth and to the system, through Big Tech and other technology-based companies; and 2021) guarantee continuity to the process of expanded capital accumulation in financialized capitalism. Hence, our denomination of digital-financial-surveillance capitalism. As the authors Goldberg and Akimoto clarify, (1294, l. XNUMX)

“[…] surveillance capitalism is not technology; it is a logic that seeps into technology and commands it to action. (…) The digital can take many forms, depending on the economic and social logics that bring it to life. (…) That capitalism is a logic in action, not a technology is a vital point because surveillance capitalism would have us believe that its practices are just inevitable expressions of the technologies it employs.”

Thus, we call the autonomization of capital's self-determination the process that results from the interaction between financialization and digitalization of the economy, from which a new logic of accumulation originates, which opens new frontiers for the continuity of capitalism, as a dominant mode of production.

A long time ago, capitalism certainly created the conditions that Marx had stated as the “historical tendency of capitalist accumulation”, in chapter 24 of book 1, of Capital: the “expropriation of the expropriators”. However, he did not succumb to them. On the contrary, in just 154 years, after the publication of Capital, this social organization was able to create new forms of value generation, new dynamics of accumulation, new social relations of expropriation and exploitation of labor, which put the economy at risk. human existence itself and the planet itself. Due to the power achieved by capital with digital-financial-surveillance capitalism, perhaps we will never go beyond human prehistory, in the humanist sense of Marx himself. For him, capitalism would be the last stage of our prehistory, always marked by the exploitation of man by man, and the beginning of our true history, carried out by a class destitute of everything (“a class in civil society that is not a class of civil society”) and, precisely because of this, fully capable of humanity, of realizing universal human emancipation. Because for Marx (2010, p. 54), “all emancipation is the reduction of the human world and its relations to man himself”, that is, the overcoming of his alienation from religion, the State and the economy. Finally, as Reinaldo Carcanholo summarized in an extraordinary way, in his presentation of Marx's work, “Contribution to the critique of political economy” (2008, p. 14): “[...] this would open up the possibilities of overcoming of violence against true human nature, of overcoming alienation and alienated work. One would envision the emergence of a society to be organized on the basis of creative work and which would guarantee the full realization of the human being”.

So far all attempts have failed to contain capitalism and the growing spread of its destructive power. The State and democracy, which exercised counter-arrest forces of great importance throughout the 1th century, are increasingly powerless in the face of new forms of value and the process of valorization. The neoliberal wave and the financialization of wealth have once and for all laid bare the dominance of capital over the State. Democracy both agonizes and is manipulated, led to where the interests of capital see fit. We also had a disastrous socialist experience that took root in such a way in the collective unconscious, creating and feeding a highly negative stigma, which makes any other attempt in this direction practically unfeasible. Working class organizations, so fundamental in containing the power of capital, in the second half of the 2th century, and until the last quarter of the 3th century, were destroyed or emptied. The working class itself was divided and weakened, between: (4) higher wage earners (executives and the like); (XNUMX) lower wage earners (civil servants, for example); (XNUMX) non-salaried, but employed via apps (Uber and others); and (XNUMX) not waged, not needed, not recognized as part of society, or even industrial reserve army.

Society's faith in science, as a form of humanization or an instrument for civilizing purposes, which appeared as a hope, albeit tenuous, until the end of the XNUMXth century, today is increasingly shown as a sophisticated instrument to stretch conformity to the maximum social for the world we create. The transformation of science not only into a commodity, but into capital, gave it virtually limitless power.

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA.

Book excerpt Capitalism and the revolution of value: apogee and annihilation. São Paulo, Amazon (Independently Published), 2021.


CHESNAIS, François. The theory of the financialized accumulation regime: content, scope and questions. Economy and Society, Campinas, v. 11, no. 1 (18), p. 1-44, Jan./Jun. 2002.

GOLDBERG, Leonardo; AKIMOTO, Claudio. The subject in the digital age: essays on psychoanalysis, pandemic and history. São Paulo: Editions 70, 2021. (kindle format).

MARX, Carl. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. 2.ed. São Paulo: Popular Expression, 2008.

________. Capital: critique of political economy. Book III: The Global Process of Capitalist Production. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017b.

________. Capital: critique of political economy. Book I: the capital production process. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017a.

________. On the Jewish Question. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2010.


See this link for all articles


  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Return to the path of hopelate afternoon 21/06/2024 By JUAREZ GUIMARÃES & MARILANE TEIXEIRA: Five initiatives that can allow the Brazilian left and center-left to resume dialogue with the majority hope of Brazilians
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • Theological manual of neoliberal neo-PentecostalismJesus saves 22/06/2024 By LEONARDO SACRAMENTO: Theology has become coaching or encouraging disputes between workers in the world of work
  • Opportunism, childhood disease of leftismchair 5 18/06/2024 By HERLON MIGUEL: Considerations on the strike at the Federal University of Bahia