Understanding EL + LL = TL

Prof. Wolff, Before I ask my question, I'd like to express gratitude. Your lectures are fantastic and, as a Political Science student, I find them to be very enriching and enlightening. I'm pretty sure I've watched every one... multiple times. I'm not joking. I feel as though they capture the spirit of the age; the dissatisfaction of neoliberalism and the Byzantine, reform-averse, under-democratized American political structure that enables it. The system is unraveling. Anyhoo, my question concerns your lecture on the 25th of April where you spoke of embodied labor, living labor, total labor, and surplus. My question is this: If one were to transpose the balance sheet and its basic elements (assets, liabilities, costs, etc.) to conform to that equation you laid out, what would that look like? Is total labor total revenue? Would dividends be part of the surplus just like profits are? Are assets and embodied labor one in the same? It seems as if the equation you laid out was an easily understandable template for the means of production. I've always understood, however, that the means of production were calculated and understood within the elements of a balance sheet. Is this a misguided comparison? Maybe I could look at how worker co-ops perform their accounting. Thank you and keep up the lectures! You rock! -P Bourke

Official response from submitted

Basically, you have it right: total output in terms of "socially necessary abstract labor time" [snalt] is the TL which has two components, namely the means of production used up [the snalt measures of used-up tools, equipment, etc and raw materials] or EL plus the living labor applied [snalt measure of value added in production] or LL. All capitalist production and thus all produced assets conform to the terms of the simple equation EL+LL=TL. There have been various applications of Marx's categories to balance sheet discussions exploring their similarities and differences.

For a more detailed explanation and usage of the EL+LL=TL approach, se R. Wolff and S. Resnick, Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian  (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012)

Showing 2 reactions

How would you tag this suggestion?
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-04-30 13:58:14 -0400
  • Patrick Bourke
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-04-27 02:14:51 -0400