Sunday, 29 March 2015

Capital II, Chapter 21 - Part 18

“We know that the actual, and therefore also the additional, variable capital consists of labour-power. It is not capitalist I who buys from II a supply of necessities of life or accumulates them for the additional labour-power to be employed by him, as the slaveholder had to do. It is the labourers themselves who trade with II. But this does not prevent the articles of consumption of his additional labour-power from being viewed by the capitalist as only so many means of production and maintenance of his eventual additional labour-power, hence as the bodily form of his variable capital.” (p 519)

Is this true? I don't think so. Other than where the capitalist operates some form of Truck System, I don't think any individual capitalist has any thought or consideration of where or how their workers obtain the commodities required for their subsistence. The capitalist pays the wages and leaves it to the workers to spend them as best they might to obtain those necessities. The capitalist assumes that others of their ilk will seize an opportunity to realise their profits by supplying the workers' needs. 

The only sense in which capital has some concern in that regard is two-fold. Firstly, in the sense that Marx describes, i.e. of a concern that workers might use their wages on consumption that does not enhance or even reproduce their labour-power, i.e. a concern for temperance, and secondly, the other side of that coin, that workers do spend their wages on those commodities necessary to reproduce and enhance their labour-power. So, for example, Marx says,

“By the by. The capitalist, as well as his press, is often dissatisfied with the way in which the labour-power spends its money and with the commodities II in which it realises this money. On such occasions he philosophises, babbles of culture, and dabbles in philanthropical talk, for instance after the manner of Mr. Drummond, the Secretary of the British Embassy in Washington. According to him, The Nation (a journal) carried last October 1879, an interesting article, which contained among other things the following passages: 

'The working-people have not kept up in culture with the growth of invention, and they have had things showered on them which they do not know how to use, and thus make no market for.” [Every capitalist naturally wants the labourer to buy his commodities.] “There is no reason why the working man should not desire as many comforts as the minister, lawyer, and doctor, who is earning the same amount as himself.” [This class of lawyers, ministers and doctors have indeed to be satisfied with the mere desire of many comforts!] “He does not do so, however. The problem remains, how to raise him as a consumer by rational and healthful processes, not an easy one, as his ambition does not go beyond a diminution of his hours of labour, the demagogues rather inciting him to this than to raising his condition by the improvement of his mental and moral powers.' (Reports of H. M.’s Secretaries of Embassy and Legation on the Manufactures, Commerce, etc., of the Countries in which they reside. London, 1879, p. 404.)” (p 519-20) 

This is one reason that capital establishes the welfare state. It thereby ensures that a necessary minimum portion of workers' wages are set aside, to ensure that workers are reproduced to a minimum standard, to meet its increasing requirement for an educated and skilled labour-power, and that those workers are maintained, so as to be able to work consistently, and for a long period of years, without losses due to sickness. In this respect, capital treats its labour-power like any of its other machines, requiring it to be of the highest quality and the greatest reliability, whilst produced by the most efficient means. It develops the welfare state as the most efficient means of achieving that on a mass scale, and under its direct control and regulation.

1 comment:

Łukasz said...

Some blogger attacks Marxist theory, what do you think about this ??: