Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Capital II, Chapter 12 - Part 5

Production that requires very prolonged working periods, and normally requires very large scale production, does not properly come under capitalist production until the era of the monopoly of private capitalist property has ended (the expropriation of the expropriators as Marx described it in Volume I). It is only when this monopoly of private capital gives way to socialised capital in the form of the Joint Stock Companies, that the resources become available for this scale of production.

“It goes without saying that whether the capital advanced in production belongs to him who uses it or does not has no effect on the velocity or time of turnover.” (p 238)

The more productivity rises, the more the working period is shortened. But, in general, along with this, to achieve the higher productivity, goes an increase in the amount of fixed capital, employed as machines etc. 

“On the other hand the working period in certain branches of production may be diminished by the mere extension of cooperation. The completion of a railway is expedited by setting afoot huge armies of labourers and thus tackling the job in many spots at once. The time of turnover is lessened in that case by an increase of the advanced capital. More means of production and more labour-power must be united under the command of the capitalist.” (p 239)

That in itself requires that whatever the total size of the available social capital, more of it is concentrated in single capitals, rather than being scattered throughout the economy.

“Inasmuch as credit promotes, accelerates and enhances the concentration of capital in one hand, it contributes to the shortening of the working period and thus of the turnover time.” (p 239)

For some products, no change in productivity can shorten the working period. Marx quotes, W. Walter Good,

“In regard to quicker returns, this term cannot be made to apply to corn crops, as one return only can be made per annum. In respect to stock, we will simply ask, how is the return of two- and three-year-old sheep, and four- and five-year-old oxen to be quickened.” (p 239) 

But, Marx says, the need to raise money to pay for rent and taxes then leads to livestock being slaughtered too early, “to the great detriment of agriculture.” (p 239)

In the end, that leads to higher meat prices. In more recent times, however, science has provided means of fattening cattle and other livestock more quickly. Larger, more capitalised farms are also able to deal with longer production times. For example, in Brazil new types of corn can now be cropped three times a year, where once only one main crop and a smaller secondary crop was possible.

“Naturally, it is impossible to deliver a five-year-old animal before the lapse of five years. But what is possible, within certain limits, is getting animals ready for their destination in less time by changing the way of treating them. This is precisely what Bakewell accomplished. Formerly English sheep, like the French as late as 1855, were not fit for the butcher until four or five years old. According to the Bakewell system, sheep may be fattened when only one year old and in every case have reached their full growth before the end of the second year. By careful selection, Bakewell, a Dishley Grange farmer, reduced the skeleton of sheep to the minimum required for their existence.” (p 241)

Finally, because all of these different methods of shortening the working period apply in all branches of industry, the relative differences between them may be unaffected or even grow wider.

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Forward To Chapter 13

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