Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Capital II, Chapter 20 - Part 25

Marx says that except for minor exceptions, production goods and consumer goods are totally different sorts of products, which require different kinds of concrete labour for their production. I wouldn't necessarily agree with that contention.

There are clearly some kinds of producer goods that cannot be consumer goods, but there are many that can. All forms of energy can be used for production or consumption; steel will most frequently be used for production purposes, but can be used for consumption, e.g. for repairs, DIY etc.; many tools are used both for production and consumption, nowadays, even including things like small lathes; many materials fall into this category; flour can be used by a baker or as a consumer good; cotton can be used to be spun or as cotton wool; thread can be used by a weaver or tailor or as a consumer good for repairs or for recreation and so on.

In reality, this does not matter, as Marx sets out later, because the fact remains that everything produced ends up either as means of production or means of consumption.

Department I c 4000 + v 1000 + s 1000 = 6000

Department II c 2000 + v 500 + s 500 = 3000

It seems that the entire social working day, with a value of £3,000 is taken up in the production of consumption goods. But, of course, that is not the case. The value of consumption goods is equal to £3,000, which is equal to one social working day, but only a third of a day is spent in their production. The other two-thirds is made up of the value of the constant capital used in their production, and that is past labour, labour expended in the previous year.

Only £1,000 of current labour is spent on producing consumer goods, the other £2,000 is spent on producing Department 1 goods, and that simply replaces constant capital that has been consumed by Department 2, but the value of this production does not appear until the following year.

“The value-product created during this time in I, equal to the variable capital-value plus surplus-value produced in I, is equal to the constant-capital-value of II re-appearing in articles of consumption of II. Hence they may be mutually exchanged and replaced in kind. The total value of the articles of consumption of II is therefore equal to the sum of the new value-product of I and II, or II(c + v + s) equal to I(v + s) + II(v + s), hence equal to the sum of the new values produced by the year’s labour in the form of v plus s.” (p 434-5)

The total value of constant capital in the annual output is equal to that which reappears in the product of Department 1 and 2, i.e. £4,000 and £2,000. That is it is equal to 1⅓ social working days in the former and ⅔ of a working day in the latter, making 2 working days in total. How is this possible? Simply because it is past years' labour that has been transferred to the current year's product.

“The difficulty with the annual social product arises therefore from the fact that the constant portion of value is represented by a wholly different class of products — means of production — than the new value v + s added to this constant portion of value and represented by articles of consumption. Thus the appearance is created, so far as value is concerned, that two-thirds of the consumed mass of products are found again in a new form as new product, without any labour having been expended by society in their production. This is not so in the case of an individual capital. Every individual capitalist employs some particular concrete kind of labour, which transforms the means of production peculiar to it into a product.” (p 435)

Marx sets out the example as though it were a single machine maker. They produce 18 identical machines worth £500 each. On this basis, the £6,000 constant capital, consumed, is equal to the value of 12 machines, and that of the variable capital and surplus value by 3 each. Yet, it is clear that the value of the constant capital has not been resolved solely into these 12 machines. These 12 machines, as with every individual machine, have their value composed in the ratio 4:1:1. That is £4,000 constant capital, £1,000 variable capital and £1,000 surplus value.

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