Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Capital II, Chapter 20 - Part 30

“Capitalist society employs more of its available annual labour in the production of means of production (ergo, of constant capital) which are not resolvable into revenue in the form of wages or surplus-value, but can function only as capital.” (p 442)

This does not necessarily appear as any different from the production of revenue, because from the perspective of the individual capital, the consequence of its production does appear to be the creation of revenue. The firm sells its output of coal, steel, machines etc. and obtains money, which is paid as revenue in the form of wages to its workers, profit to its owners and so on. It is only when it is viewed from the perspective of the total social capital that this becomes apparent.

For Robinson Crusoe, it is obvious that time spent making or repairing nets and so on is time that is not being spent producing his own consumption goods.

Marx summarises the relations between capital and revenue that the economists misunderstood. I have dealt with some of these relations and the misunderstandings of them even by some Marxist economists in – The Circuits Of Money and Capital

The key to understanding these relations is to understand the difference between content and form. The starting point is the concept that capital is a social relation between capital and wage labour. Capital in process exists as value. What is transferred from one stage of the circuit to another is capital-value. Money-capital is merely a form of capital-value. But, money can only be capital in the context of being in the process of becoming productive-capital, because money-capital cannot expand in value unless it is used to purchase wage labour for productive purposes.

The money that the capitalist possesses with the purpose of buying labour-power only becomes variable capital at the point it is laid out for that purpose. Until then it is not capital at all but only money – potential capital.

The difference between money and money-capital explains why the economists concept that variable capital acts as capital for the capitalist and revenue for the worker is wrong. As Marx sets out, the money laid out for labour-power is not variable capital, it is money-capital.

“So long as it persists in his hands in the form of money, it is nothing but a given value existing in the form of money; hence a constant and not a variable magnitude. It is a variable capital only potentially, owing to its convertibility into labour-power. It becomes real variable capital only after divesting itself of its money-form, after being converted into labour-power functioning as a component part of productive capital in the capitalist process.” (p 443)

Moreover, the worker does not sell labour-power as capital. It is not capital to them. It is not their variable capital, but the variable capital of the capitalist. The worker only sells a commodity, labour-power. What they receive for it is not capital but merely money. The money-capital was only capital in the form of money because that was the shape the capital-value had to assume to perform its function at that stage. Once it buys productive-capital, it immediately sheds that form, leaving only the empty money shell behind it. The worker receives not money-capital, nor variable capital, but simply money – revenue.

“We have here but the simple fact that the money of the buyer, in this case the capitalist, passes from his hands into those of the seller, in this case the seller of labour-power, the labourer. It is not a case of the variable capital functioning in a dual capacity, as capital for the capitalist and as revenue for the labourer. It is the same money which exists first in the hands of the capitalist as the money-form of his variable capital, hence as potential variable capital, and which serves in the hands of the labourer as an equivalent for sold labour-power as soon as the capitalist converts it into labour-power. But the fact that the same money serves another useful purpose in the hands of the seller than in those of the buyer is a phenomenon peculiar to the purchase and sale of all commodities.” (p 443-4)

There follows from this false view a confusion in understanding the relation in the exchange of constant capital from Department 1 for consumption goods from Department 2. Marx breaks this down into the components equal to the purchases of workers from wages, and capitalists from surplus value. He does so by examining the exchange from the perspective of both sides of the exchange.

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