Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Capital II, Chapter 20 - Part 50

Marx returns then to the question raised earlier, about how it is that, in aggregate, capitalists can take more money out of circulation than they have thrown into it, i.e. where does the money come from to realise in money form the surplus value. The answer to that question, Marx repeats, is that it is only necessary that there is sufficient money to effect the circulation of the quantity and value of commodities themselves. If the total value of commodities, to be circulated, is, for example, £1 billion, it does not matter whether the proportion of this £1 billion comprising surplus value is £100 million or just £1 million. There is still required enough to circulate the £1 billion in either case.

This, as we have seen, essentially breaks down into a discussion between capital and revenue, the circuit of capital and the circuit of money. On the one hand, money-capital is advanced to buy those commodities that comprise productive-capital, i.e. c+v. On the other hand, money-revenue is spent by capitalists (s) to buy consumer goods.

“For the individual capitalist, as well as for the entire capitalist class; the money in which they advance capital is different from the money in which they spend their revenue. Where does the latter money come from? Simply from the mass of money in the hands of the capitalist class, hence by and large from the total mass of money in society, a portion of which circulates the revenue of the capitalists.” (p 478)

If we look at the capitalist only as a representative of capital, we see him continually throwing commodities on to the market that contain the surplus value, but we do not see that capitalist throwing an amount of money into circulation that would seem to be required for that surplus value to be realised. If, on the other hand, we look at the capitalist as a buyer of commodities, they only seem to throw into circulation enough money as is required as an equivalent of the value of the commodities they withdraw from it.

But, the reality is that the capitalist has obtained something for nothing. They have laid out one sum of money and obtained a larger sum of money back again. Had the capitalist been able to simply consume this surplus in kind, rather than in money, it would be obvious. The capitalist would have laid out a certain amount of means of production, and means of subsistence, required by his workers, and at the end of that process, he would have had a surplus product that he could consume himself. But, the intervention of money obscures this reality.

If the capitalist lays out £80 and obtains a product worth £100 they have obtained something for nothing. If the capitalist sells these commodities for £100, and then buys £100 of other commodities, at their value, they have still obtained something for nothing. The fact that the money they throw into circulation, to buy these latter £100 of commodities, is only equal to the value of the commodities they draw out of it, does not mean they have not thrown money into circulation to cover surplus value, precisely because the value of the commodities they withdraw from circulation already itself comprises surplus value. In buying the commodities of other capitalists, at their value, and therefore, including the surplus value, they automatically, as we have seen, throw sufficient money into circulation to enable other capitalists to buy their commodity at its value, and also, therefore, including its surplus value.

If capitalist A lays out £80, as productive-capital, and obtains a commodity worth £100, as a result of the production of surplus value in the production process, and then exchanges this with B, who has likewise laid out only £80 and obtained a commodity worth £100, it does not change the fact that A has obtained £20 for nothing, and B has done likewise. When considered at a social level that becomes clear.

“But the surplus-product in which the surplus-value is represented does not cost the capitalist class anything.” (p 478-9)

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