Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Capital II, Chapter 17 - Part 6

The laws relating to money and the circulation of money were set out in Volume I. Basically, the amount of money required depends on the value and quantity of the commodities to be circulated, the value of money, the requirements for money as means of payment, the velocity of circulation and the need to retain certain money hoards and reserves. That means the amount of money required constantly fluctuates, a proportion circulating, another portion in hoards. A way of thinking about it might be in relation to a canal, though its not an accurate analogy. The amount of water required depends on the length and depth of canals. But, it also depends on the number of boats navigating them. The more, bigger boats, the more water is displaced. It would be inefficient to keep reducing and then refilling the canals, so instead, excess water drains into reservoirs. It is then fed back in when required.

“What must be paid in money in so far as there is no balancing of accounts — is the value of the commodities. The fact that a portion of this value consists of surplus-value, that is to say, did not cost the seller of the commodities anything, does not alter the matter in any way.” (p 333)

Suppose, we have a system of commodity production, with only individual producers. Ignore any constant capital involved in their production. The value of their output is then equal to the time it takes to produce. So, A produces, in 5 weeks, 100 kilos of spun yarn. But, this is commodity production, and during this 5 weeks, they must eat, and do so by buying food from some other commodity producer. Let us say that in order to work for this 5 weeks, they require the equivalent of 3 weeks labour to produce that food. We have then here the equivalent of the situation under capitalism. The 3 weeks constitutes necessary labour, and the other 2 weeks of the spinner constitutes surplus labour i.e. had they only produced 3 weeks worth of yarn they would have sold it for just enough to cover their subsistence. The other 2 weeks production is a surplus over that.

So, they would need to have enough money-capital to cover their need to buy food, over the five week period, i.e. the equivalent of variable capital. When, at the end of the five weeks, they sell the yarn, they will get back the equivalent of 5 weeks labour-time in money. The fact that 2 weeks of this represents surplus labour-time does not change how much money is required to circulate these commodities. Let us say this money is £50. From it, they will need to use £30 = 3/5, to cover their need to buy food over the next five week period. The other £20 they can spend on luxuries or on expanding their production.

Looked at from the perspective of “many capitals”, they all throw more value into circulation, in the form of commodity-capital, than they previously took from it, in the form of productive-capital. Consequently, they can all, on aggregate, take more money out than they previously threw into it, for the purchase of that productive capital. The amount of money itself has to expand so as to cover the increased amount of value being circulated.

Each capitalist withdraws money that is equal to the value of the productive-capital they previously withdrew, but also equal to the surplus-value they have produced. This money equivalent of the surplus value itself has its physical equivalent in the form of the surplus product, thrown into the market. That surplus product is comprised of commodities that may form additional productive capital, i.e. an amount of constant capital (means of production) and variable capital (means of subsistence) greater than was used in the previous cycle, as well as other commodities to meet the needs of unproductive consumption by the capitalists.

Each producer produces a surplus product, a product whose value is greater than is required to reproduce those commodities – means of production and labour-power – that created it. In so doing, it creates the surplus production that other producers require to expand their own production, or consume unproductively. At the same time, each producer, in realising their own surplus value, acquires the means to purchase that surplus product, and thereby to expand their own production, or to consume unproductively.

“But the commodity-capital must be turned into money before its reconversion into productive capital and before the surplus-value contained in it is spent. Where does the money for this purpose come from? This question seems difficult at the first glance and neither Tooke nor any one else has answered it so far.” (p 335)

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