Sunday, 22 June 2014

Capital II, Chapter 17 - Part 7

Thomas Tooke wrote a treatise on money and prices entitled, “An Inquiry Into The Currency Principle, The Connection Of The Currency With Prices, and The Expediency Of A Separation Of Issue From Banking”, 1844. Marx quotes from it extensively in his economic works, and it was probably the definitive analysis of prices and their movement of the time.

If we take the previous £500 of circulating capital, and assume this represents the total social capital, then it has engaged in production, creating a surplus product with a value of £100. So, £600 of commodities are now thrown into circulation. But, where does the additional £100 of money come from to circulate them?

Marx sets out a series of what he calls “plausible subterfuges”, which could be used to provide the answer. For example, not all capitalists replace their constant capital at the same time. So, a capitalist can obtain an amount of money, representing the value of their commodity, part of which is the value of the constant capital. If they do not spend that money to replace that constant capital immediately, this money is then surplus. But, this cannot be the answer because later they will be spending this money without putting its equivalent value back into circulation.

“It might be further said: Capitalist A produces articles which capitalist B consumes individually, unproductively. B’s money therefore turns A’s commodity-capital into money and thus the same sum of money serves to realise B’s surplus-value and A’s circulating constant capital. But in that case the question that still awaits solution is assumed still more directly to have been solved, namely: where does B get the money that makes up his revenue? How did he himself realise this portion of the surplus-value of his product?” (p 336)

Another suggestion might be that the money held by the capitalist for payment of wages is only paid out over a period of time, and so the money not actively being paid out could be available to realise surplus value. But, the larger the turnover period, the more money-capital the capitalist has to retain for that purpose meaning less is available to be thrown into circulation.

In fact, it is the money paid out to the workers as wages, which they then use to buy commodities, which is one means by which the surplus value is realised i.e. converted to money. That is because the price of the commodities they buy includes that surplus value. But, by the same token, it is also the purchases of capitalists that also realises the surplus value, in the commodities they buy. So, the question of where this additional money, in the hands of both workers and capitalists, comes from still remains. 

Nor can the answer be that when fixed capital is bought, a large amount of money is thrown into circulation, which is only withdrawn gradually. The fixed capital purchased, itself had part of its price comprising surplus-value. If the price was £600, with £100 being surplus-value, the question still remains, where this £100 initially came from.

“The general reply has already been given: If a mass of commodities worth x times £1,000 has to circulate, it changes absolutely nothing in the quantity of the money required for this circulation whether the value of this mass of commodities has been produced capitalistically or not. The problem itself therefore does not exist. All other conditions being given, such as velocity of the currency of money, etc., a definite sum of money is required in order to circulate commodities worth x times £1,000 quite independently of how much or how little of this value falls to the share of the direct producers of these commodities. So far as any problem exists here, it coincides with the general problem: Where does the money required for the circulation of the commodities of a country come from?” (p 337) 

It does, however, appear as a problem for capitalist production. That is because the capitalist appears to be the starting point. The worker has money in wages to throw into circulation, but only because they have been paid those wages from the capital of the capitalist, just as it is the capitalist who provides the capital to buy the means of production.

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