Work-Standard Account Practices: Marxist Critiques of Double-Entry Account Bookkeeping

Compared to the previous two Entries that focused on Environmentalism and Feminism, Marxist Theory posited its own criticisms of Double-Entry Account Bookkeeping that differed from the other two ideologies. While Environmentalism is divided over Kapital and Feminism has somewhat conformed to Neoliberalism, Marxist Theory challenged its conceptions of Value. This is of course related to Marxist Theory’s adherence to the Labor Theory of Value (LTV), which is related to the idea that Value can be ascertained from how much Zeit (Time) is being devoted to a given economic activity as “Socially Necessary Labor Time.”

Kapital Accumulation has led to what Marxist Theory refers to as “Surplus Value.” There is something else being deprived from the Proletariat that the Bourgeoisie are incapable of understanding. In Modes of Production where the Proletariat lack not only the means of production but also the ability to control them, the Proletariat have nothing to offer to the Bourgeoisie except the Zeit that they are willing to commit toward the creations of new Quantities of Kapital and Schuld. Therein lies the beginnings behind the concept of “Surplus Value.” It is because of the loss of “Surplus Value” that the Proletariat is willing to engage in the Class Struggle in order to regain control of what belongs to them.

In accounting, the Surplus Value and the Class Struggle by extension emerge within questions regarding how the production processes of economic activities create Kapital and Schuld. Does the actual production itself yield Kapital and Schuld or is it the tangible exchanges of the finished products? Are all Kapital and Schuld the results of an actual production process or can they be derived from outside the production process itself?

Mainstream neoclassical economics argue that Kapital and Schuld can be created from only the transactional sales of “Commodities” as well as finished goods and services. The “Exchange-Value” is what informs Production for Profit, including why it is also conceivable for Kapital and Schuld to also be created from economic activities that passively earn Kapital and Schuld, such as LCFIs (Liberal Capitalist Financial Instruments) like Stocks and Bonds or the collections of Rents from privatized commercial banks vis-à-vis the Landlords of tenants. Marxist Theory, in contrast, insisted on Kapital and Schuld only being created from Commodities as well as finished goods and services. This was what led to the conceptualization of “Use-Value,” which in turn gave rise to Production for Utility. Rather than creating products intended to earn Kapital and Schuld, the products should be provided with the goal of fulfilling required human needs.

By maintaining that Kapital and Schuld could only be created from “Commodities” and their subsequent conversions into finished goods and services, Marxist Theory enables the relevance of the LTV. Every production process should no longer be determined by Kapital and Schuld, but by the “Socially Necessary Labor Time” required to create the finished products. The ideal is for Zeit to be the sole metric by which wealth can be measured. The more Zeit that something requires, the less valuable it will be.   

The real challenge begins when everything boils down to precisely conveying LTV as part of an accounting system. Apart from the “Material Product System,” whose relevance will become addressed in a later Entry, Marxist Theory never conceptualized a proper accounting system. In fact, the very idea appears to have either been downplayed or ignored altogether. For nations that adopted its conception of Pure Socialism, their accounting systems oftentimes fixated on the inventories of finished products and the rates at which they are being consumed by their Totalities. When those same nations condoned Economic Liberalization, one of the most notable trends involved readopting aspects of Double-Entry Account Bookkeeping. It is a problem closely related to Marxist Theory’s appalling lack of a distinctive conception of Currency. Yet there is something that even Marxist Theory understood which should not be dismissed altogether, and it is related to Vladimir Lenin’s NEP (Novaya Ekonomicheskaya Politika; New Economic Policy).

Lenin knew that the development of a Socialist Nation would be preceded by some form of State Capitalism. As most historical forms of State Capitalism often straddled between high-tier Mixed Economy and high-tier Planned Economy, it represents the transitional point between Liberal Capitalism and Pure Socialism. But Lenin knew that State Capitalism is only a temporary phase that must either be superseded by Liberal Capitalism or Pure Socialism, regardless of what form the latter might entail.

The most important step in the development of State Capitalism entails mastery over of the Double-Entry Account Bookkeeping System, the goal of which is fully map out the entire national economy and financial regime. Since the State, Totality, and Self interact with them in their professional and personal lives, the Double-Entry Account Bookkeeping System will enable the right people to figure out a way beyond Production for Profit and Production for Utility. To go beyond those two Modes of Production is to fully realize Pure Socialism. The great questions, as Lenin realized towards the end of his life, are matters of who and how. Who will be the ones to spearhead the revolutionary breakthroughs toward Pure Socialism? How will they achieve that end and why? These questions were posited metaphorically in “On Ascending a High Mountain”:

“Let us picture to ourselves a man ascending a very high, steep and hitherto unexplored mountain. Let us assume that he has overcome unprecedented difficulties and dangers and has succeeded in reaching a much higher point than any of his predecessors, but still has not reached the summit. He finds himself in a position where it is not only difficult and dangerous to proceed in the direction and along the path he has chosen, but positively impossible. He is forced to turn back, descend, seek another path, longer, perhaps, but one that will enable him to reach the summit. The descent from the height that no one before him has reached proves, perhaps, to be more dangerous and difficult for our imaginary traveller than the ascent—it is easier to slip; it is not so easy to choose a foothold; there is not that exhilaration that one feels in going upwards, straight to the goal, etc. One has to tie a rope round oneself, spend hours with all alpenstock to cut footholds or a projection to which the rope could be tied firmly; one has to move at a snail’s pace, and move downwards, descend, away from the goal; and one does not know where this extremely dangerous and painful descent will end, or whether there is a fairly safe detour by which one can ascend more boldly, more quickly and more directly to the summit.

It would hardly be natural to suppose that a man who had climbed to such an unprecedented height but found himself in such a position did not have his moments of despondency. In all probability these moments would be more numerous, more frequent and harder to bear if he heard the voices of those below, who, through a telescope and from a safe distance, are watching his dangerous descent, which cannot even be described as what the Smena Vekh [2] people call ‘ascending with the brakes on’; brakes presuppose a well designed and tested vehicle, a well-prepared road and previously tested appliances. In this case, however, there is no vehicle, no road, absolutely nothing that had been tested beforehand.”

Even in the early 20th century, when it seemed like Liberal Capitalism would meet its end in the two World Wars, the route to Pure Socialism has never been clear. Nobody back then had found the best route to achieving it nor had anyone figured out how it could be achieved without being forced to concede to the Liberal Capitalists. The 21st century is at risk of becoming more of the same, unfortunately. Should one advance further into the unknown, braving whatever dangers that have yet to be known to Political Science? Or does one retreat (that is, descend) to the more familiar Social-Democracy, whose delicate balancing of Production for Profit and Production for Utility remains ubiquitous? But for those who are determined to ascend and realize that the map is unreliable, would it make more sense to also be conducting a ‘cartographical survey’ for future posterity?

Categories: Work-Standard Accounting Practices

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