Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Capital II, Chapter 10 - Part 12

For all direct producers, as owners of the means of production, as set out in Volume I, Chapter 5 the value of the commodities they produce is equal to the cost of that production to them. For a direct producer, who is also a slave owner, the cost of maintaining the slave is part of that cost. But, the market price of the commodity in a pre-capitalist economy is also equal to this cost, so no surplus value is produced! For example, measured in labour-time, the value of producing 100 kilos of wheat might be 100 hours seeds, 100 hours subsistence for slave, 100 hours labour by direct producer. The value of the product is then 300 hours, even if the slave has worked for 200 hours. If the direct producer sells it at its value, they will only get back what it has cost them to produce.

But, in such an economy where the only buyers in the market are themselves owners of the means of production that is the situation. If direct producer A above tries to sell their wheat for 400 hours to cover the actual time worked by the slave rather than paid for, then what they gain as a seller they will lose as a buyer. Direct producer B,who has the same costs for producing potatoes, will likewise sell their potatoes that only cost 300 hours to produce for 400. A and B will each have overcharged one another 100 hours, and cancelled out their gain. It would be as if they had sold at 300 to begin with. Surplus Value can only be produced and realised where Capital exchanges with revenue. No surplus value arises where capital exchanges with capital, or revenue exchanges with revenue. In other words, surplus value can only arise where capital meets wage labour, where capital buys labour-power as a commodity, and wages buy commodities from capital. If workers worked for Capital, but provided all their own means of subsistence directly, using their own means of production, Capital could not realise surplus value.

But, under capitalism, a class of non-owners exists, who are nevertheless buyers of commodities. Workers have to buy commodities at a price equal to the labour-time required for production, and that price includes not just the price of the labour-time that is paid for, but that also which is not paid for. This is the basis of surplus value, and why as Marx describes in the Grundrisse, above, Exchange Value only assumes its mature form when wage labour preponderates, and wage workers form the bulk of consumers. It is this fact that is also the basis of Capital's “Civilising Mission”, which is Marx says inherent in its nature rather than something externally imposed.

Because Capital continually revolutionises production, it continually expands that production faster than the market can absorb it. That manifests as overproduction of capital both in partial and general form. In order to overcome that overproduction, Capital continually, therefore has to develop new types of use values that can be produced and sold to workers at values that enable surplus value to be realised.

“The simple concept of capital has to contain its civilizing tendencies etc. in themselves; they must not, as in the economics books until now, appear merely as external consequences.” (ibid)

Back To Part 11

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