Thursday, 15 August 2013

Capital II, Chapter 6 - Part 1

The Costs of Circulation

I. Genuine Costs of Circulation

(a) The Time of Purchase and Sale

Capital is metamorphosed into its different forms. Money-capital becomes productive-capital, becomes commodity-capital, becomes money-capital. But, the means by which these metamorphoses occur, are so many acts of buying and selling. Capital as a thing goes through this process of metamorphosis, but the agent that brings it about via these acts of buying and selling is a human being – the capitalist.

As Marx put it at the beginning of Volume I,

“In the course of our investigation we shall find, in general, that the characters who appear on the economic stage are but the personifications of the economic relations that exist between them.”        (p 89)

Or as he put it in “The Poverty of Philosophy”,

“Time is everything, man is nothing; he is, at the most, time’s carcase.” 

Which sums up the true nature of the matter, that what we are dealing with here is the same kind of transformation seen elsewhere in nature, by which matter is transformed from one form to another as a consequence of the passage of time, and change. Man here acts merely as the agent of the transformation.

“The time in which these transformations of forms take place constitutes subjectively, from the standpoint of the capitalist, the time of purchase and sale; it is the time during which he performs the functions of a seller and buyer in the market. Just as the time of circulation of capital is a necessary segment of its time of reproduction, so the time in which the capitalist buys and sells and scours the market is a necessary part of the time in which he functions as a capitalist, i.e., as personified capital. It is a part of his business hours.” (p 132)

If commodities exchange at their values, then the sale of any commodity simply means that its value takes a different form as a consequence of the exchange. If it is exchanged for money, then the value of say 10 metres of linen is exchanged for the same value in gold. The fact that the linen producer takes longer to sell this 10 metres, than does some other linen producer, does not add any value to the linen. Its value is determined by the labour-time required for its production, not its circulation. On the contrary, the longer the linen exists as commodity-capital, the longer it takes to sell, the longer this capital is unproductive and not expanding. To this extent it represents a cost to the capitalist, and a diminution of their potential surplus value. The time so spent, constitutes necessary labour, but not labour that adds to the value of the commodity.

Even if we assume that commodities do not exchange at their values this underlying reality still applies. Unequal exchange simply means that the advantage gained by one participant in the exchange is cancelled out by the loss suffered by the other participant. The total of the values of the commodities exchanged remains the same.

“To effect a change in the state of being costs of time and labour-power, not for the purpose of creating value, however, but in order to accomplish the conversion of value from one form into another. The mutual attempt to appropriate an extra slice of this value on this occasion changes nothing. This labour, increased by the evil designs on either side, creates no value, any more than the work performed in a judicial proceeding increases the value of the subject matter of the suit...

Therefore, if the owners of the commodities are not capitalists but independent direct producers, the time employed in buying and selling is a diminution of their labour-time, and for this reason such transactions used to be deferred (in ancient and medieval times) to holidays.” (p 132-3)

Back To Chapter 5

Forward To Part 2

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