To me, book keeping implies more than many might think, since if and only if everything is settled precisely, which means, no surplus value, nor difference between the movement of the price of the items produced and the cost ( whatever that means ) of the item, ultimately, the acruied money be distributed perfectly on the wages, materials, rents, etc etc, then income statement could perish since then the total sum of the income equals with the total sum of the cost = the amount of paid. Then there would be no movement in the banance sheet side too.

Granted, as far as I know the one who analyzied about the role of the book keeping in relationship with the Capitalistic mode of the production is K.Marx, Please refer here

So long as the individual producer of commodities keeps account only in his head (for instance, a peasant; the book-keeping tenant-farmer was not produced until the rise of capitalist agriculture), or books his expenditures, receipts, due dates of payments, etc., only incidentally, outside of his production time, it is palpably clear that this function and the instruments of labour consumed by it, such as paper, etc., represent additional consumption of labour-time and instruments which are necessary, but constitute a deduction from the time available for productive consumption as well as from the instruments of labour which functions in the real process of production, enter into the creation of products and value.[12]

We are concerned here only with the general character of the costs of circulation, which arise out of the metamorphosis of forms alone. It is superfluous to discuss here all their forms in detail. But how forms which belong in the sphere of pure changes of the form of value and hence originate from the particular social form of the process of production, forms which in the case of the individual commodity-producer are only transient, barely perceptible elements, run alongside his productive functions or become intertwined with them — how these can strike the eye as the huge costs of circulation can be seen from just the money taken in and paid out when these operations have become independent and concentrated on a large scale as the exclusive function of banks, etc., or of cashiers in individual businesses. But it must be firmly borne in mind that these costs of circulation are not changed in character by their change in appearance.

According to him, the role of book-keeper or book-keeping, is unique especilly under the capitalistic mode of the production, as well as the deduction from expenditure on the labor-time consumed into the production of items.

Why I would like to ask this is, I am doubting if it, the role of book-keeping, is merely the so-called deduction from the expenditure on the labor-time consumed into the production of items. Since here he seems to be too much emphasizing the role of the labor time ( aka production time ).

Has anyone else analysed this deeper than he?

  • Sounds more like a political than a philosophical question to me.
    – Drux
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 13:14
  • political??? I am sorry I am talking about the book keeping and its relationship with social condition as well as the economic condition.
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 13:15
  • There is no problem. I am sorry I really don't know if there is anyone who has gone deep into the book-keeping other than him.
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 13:21

4 Answers 4


Marxism has a bias toward the middle class and the process of business as a pointless burden. This is embodied here in writing off book-keeping as a deduction in labor time. But the notion this is pointless has been disproven in the information economy, and was already largely countered by military history as early as Napoleon. Logistics allows for control and refinement of targeted investment of both materiel and force, both capital and labor.

The labor theory of value fails to understand that well-applied labor requires something essentially different from absolute labor. There is a mental aspect of work that cannot be reduced to a reproducible activity simply by defining mental work as work, and declaring all work to be measured by time spent and resources consumed. The middle class is essentially different from the upper and lower classes in that what it produces are not realities, but efficiencies.

Failing to capture this, planned ventures such as government economies fail to build into their plans the necessary feedback and motivation for optimization, which in capitalism takes the form of loyalties to a given business identity and its expansion, merger or dissolution.

If you want to understand the nature of book-keeping study either logistics under Napoleon, perhaps via modern writing on his methods and his obsessive control of timing; or folks writing about the modern information economy. These folks are no longer considered philosophers, but 'futurists' or economists. An approachable version is Alvin Toffler's "Third Wave".

Ray Kurzweil has a cool take on a contrasting phenomenon, where logistics outstrips its purpose. Efficiency through information leverage is focussed on definite notions of work that underly both capitalist and socialist thinking. But it breaks their rules and predictions, even though it can only make sense of its own activities in terms of their goals. This produces a sort of creeping metaphysical conundrum leading up to a worship of information itself and data amassing faster than it can be assimilated or used. His analysis of what this might lead to, can be found in his writing about "The Singularity".

  • I apologize that I answered myself but kindly take my "nicest".
    – user13955
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 0:06
  • +1: Good answer; but where in the quoted extract does Marx say that business in the form of book-keeping is 'pointless'? He is saying, as far as I see, to use your term that there are transaction costs not involved with direct production; but the appearance of this can change; Engels wrote in the Principles of Communism on the accelerating pace of technological change; of which he wanted harnessed rather than being crushed or harassed. Commented May 24, 2015 at 0:29
  • 1
    Also 'a creeping metaphysical conundrum leading to a worship of data' - HG Wells wrote a short story on this a century ago 'When the Machine Stops'; the description of circulating third-hand information is very apposite. Commented May 24, 2015 at 0:34
  • @MoziburUllah He emphasizes the waste, not the insight gained. And it is only waste to the degree that there are better ways of getting the feedback one needs. Staying blind to the upside is a way of declaring it pointless. Marx seems often to somehow imagine there should only be two classes, and he seems to be going well out of his way to dismiss the value of the middle one (of which he is firmly a part, as an academic writer.) The weakest point of Marxism is that this third, unaccounted class grew unexpectedly large.
    – user9166
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 0:59
  • What is interesting to me that you refer to Napoleon...someone who I didin't expect at all as an answer. I am searching for English e-book now. Thank you.
    – user13955
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 11:26

Since it will be long if I have to write at the comment line, let me write by answering to my question.

What I found astonishing to me is even a highly educated man such as jobermark ( no ridicule here, really ) too seems to be misunderstanding about the conception of “work” by Marx. In my personal opnion, many might be thinking that Marx defined only the physical labor is the work. According to him, the problem between physical labor vs mental labor is just a mere “division of labor”.

Quote : Critique of the Gotha Programme :

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly.

Capital Vol1, Part 2, Chapter 6 :

By labour-power or capacity for labour is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description.

However, at his early stage such a work like this, I would like to say, I don't understand at all what Marx is talking about at all. ( As Jobermark says, he defines some people as "unproductive" whereas he defines almost same people as "productive", probably a garbage book.

Kindly let me tell you, I used be a financial director of a bakery chain, so I am familiar with book-keeping.

Granted, let me say, in my personal opinion, what Marx failed to answer was the explanation of the relationship between the amount of the value an item holds ( I am not sure if or how we can measure ) and the price attached to it, which is the result of Refication to me. ( = the nature of social relationships is expressed by the relationships between traded objects.)

What interested to me ( actually for a long time ) here is, when we look through the book-keeping system, as I wrote in my question, “if and only if” the distribution is perfectly exercised, since there will be no net profit nor net loss, so that we can make a journal entry such as like this.

Total sum of debit side / Total sum of credit side.

As I wrote in my question, then in accordance with the principle of the book-keeping ( = the sum of credit side equals with the sum of the debit side ) Income Statement will disappear. So that only left will be the original Balance Sheet, which does not move from the first stage. Now, if we go as Marx proposed, through abolishing of the division of labor, the proposed management of the distribution of the products at that same time they are producing, which is impossible to me, though Here we might be able to see the perfect distrbution aka = elimination of book keeping. According to Marx, een after that, stil yet we will or have to move on anyway.

What I only wanted to ask was if anyone, in the course of history, could provide such an idea formally by the book or something.

But please kindly allow me to first thank you for answerers, as well as make me to pick jobermark’s answer since he provided me with the name of writers.

I apologize for answering ( though I was not able to comment at the comment line ) to mine, and lastly thank you for all of you answerers sincerly.

  • Yes, he declares mental work to be work, but then he declares the collection of information to be waste. I don't think I misunderstand, I really think that he does not get the point of handling information. Look at little 'sovereign' societies without money, e.g, the Rainbow Family, They still do bookkeeping, it is just not of money. And the same people do planning and production, but logistics does not go away. He is just wrong about this. Information will never take care of itself. And information is not just a part of production.
    – user9166
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 1:28
  • Marx seems to routinely combine the middle class with the owning class, and combine it with the working class, without acknowledging that it is neither in control of much, nor able to produce predictably via planned effort. Discovery and optimization are not products and outright 'circulation' (selling other people's products) is neither a waste of time, nor a deliverable product.
    – user9166
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 1:35
  • Exactly. He says a secretary to lawyer is unproductive. On the other hand, on the other page, he declares writers are as long as they serve to the capitaists productive. Iagree with you. The book I refer above is you can throw away outta window haha. Btw, I admire you highly cover vast area....really with admirity.
    – user13955
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 2:28

I'm not sure here that Marx is concerned here with the specific notion of book-keeping:

We are concerned here only with the general character of the costs of circulation

ie this is what in contemporary book-keeping language is called overheads; in physical language we might call it friction which slows the smooth circulation of money and goods (which move in equal but opposite directions).

Because he is interested in a theory of economics rather than its actual specifics, he presses the point that:

it is superfluous to discuss here all the forms in detail

ie the book-keeper is an illustration or an example of a general tendency which he is predicting will occur in the modern industrial era; through either improved education or technological improvement: that change will occur; this is his:

Metamorphis of forms

ie the book-keeper and the farmer is amalgamated into the book-keeping farmer; a different but similar example in the contemporary scene is that the administration of booking a flight which was once borne by a company is increasingly borne by the customer: one has to know how to book a flight ie navigate a site, print of a ticket.

But he's arguing that this merely re-distributes the actual costs:

But it must be borne firmly in mind that these costs of circulation are not changed by their change in appearance.

so the cost of training lots of staff to redistributed to customers (and a profit-seeking company will ensure that all the costs saved will not be disbursed to customers through cheaper tickets unless it's hand is forced by actual competitive pressure - but the larger the company the less this possibility is possible; and one gets a kind of cartel by a kind of indirect consensus - actually one notices this in the game of Go, which is a game of territory capture, where two evenly matched players tend to divide the board into two roughly equal parts); but however this cost is redistributed the actual total cost remains the same.

He also points out the notion of scale: distributing the costs of flight-booking to customers who (once these systems have resolved themselves into standardised forms) are

transient, barely perceptible forms

But if they were amalgamated in one single place can be seen as the huge overall costs they are:

how they strike the eye when...these operations have become independent [of the individual] and concentrated in the large scale as the exclusive functions of banks [for the book-keeping example].

Here, though Marx doesn't mention it; one needs to ignore the additional functions of banks such as securing loans, capital funding and so on.

The essential point is that when goods are exchanged there is a cost of that exchange - this is the local picture; in the global picture he calls it the costs of circulation; however that cost is distributed or amalgamated - as it will be.

  • Kindly read the link with due attention. You can find the title (b) Book-keeping by himself. But thank you for your answer anyway though. I only copied parts of the content since copying entire content is too long, sorry.
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 15:28
  • I am sorry although thank you for your answer, but you seem to be misunderstanding. Overhead means the cost of rents, utilities in the book-keeping language especially denoting these non-essential costs which should be applied to the items produced, ( Here he the Marx seems to be talking about mainly net assets of Balance Sheet in my personaly opinion though. ) But I can not exclude the possibility he may be reffering to the income statement too per your answer. Thank you for your answer though.
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 15:47
  • And please be reminded if you say he pedicted the necessity of the appearance of the book keeper, please let me know where with thank you. What I need or who I need is someone who essencially invested his energy into the role of the book-keeping itself ( not IS or BS or CS partly ) in relationship with the environment, of which I mean social status and more than Marx. I came up with nobody. Sorry.
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 15:51
  • And I am sorry to say, you seem to be misunderstanding about the phrase "cost of circulaton". Here he the Marx is speaking about the necessity of the presence of book keepers so that the items produced by workers will be brought to the market and as if they are waiting to be sold to be swapped with gold or money so that after the completion of the swapping the capitalist can invest the then sold products in turn money to produce more. I think.
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 16:03
  • But I am sorry you may be right. The cost ( wage ) of book keepers are surely "overhead" in income statement, more accurately, operatng expense. Then Granted, I am searching for anyone who could have linked it with the social-condition-economic-condition as a whole. Not in the book keeping term each by each, in relationship with the capitalistic mode of the production. So you may be right??
    – user13955
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 16:17

There are people who understood book keeping better than Marx. The labour theory of value was refuted shortly after it was proposed:


Since Marx's theory of accounting is dependent on the labour theory of value it is false. If you want to understand accounting, profit and loss and that sort of thing you should read some economists who have ideas that haven't been refuted, such as the Austrian school of economics:


  • I am sorry there is no confrontation between the labour value of theory and the book keeping system. Or rather, under the Capistalistic mode of the production, as jobermark says, it is aaaaaaaaaaaaaahmmmmm transaction cost, personally, I would like to rather call it management cost or whatever. If you abondan the labour theory of value, can we call the value of a loaf of bread is equal with the value of a spacecraft???? I am sorry you have not gotten the point of what Marx ( or Engels, rather ) is analyzing in the link. Thank you.
    – user13955
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:46
  • I am sorry, I woud like not to, but -1. Because it seems I now know you haven't read Marx at all or even you have read, what you got was faaaaaaaaaaaaarr from what he is saying.
    – user13955
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:51
  • And as I said, I am familiar with book-keeping. I can even explain the difference of the practice between FASB's practice and that in my country, and I took even the FAR test of USCPA and ughhhhh74! only -1 to pass....................
    – user13955
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 17:03
  • Kindly be remind what I wanted to ask is, sorry to repeat, if and only if, we human beings can not grasp the value ( whatever that means ) of the outside objects, what kind of society can someone imagine. I wanted to know if there was someone such to think philosophically through the book keeping not the way around.
    – user13955
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 17:15

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