Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Capital II, Chapter 21 - Part 6

This fact, that there must be a balance within the economy, that the value of commodities thrown into circulation must equal the value of the commodities taken out of it, that the money thrown in must equal the money taken out, does not mean that the economy has to remain static, or in a condition of simple reproduction, though simple reproduction, as Marx stated earlier, is always a fundamental basis for expanded reproduction. The balance is maintained if production is expanded and more commodities and money are thrown into circulation, provided that more commodities and money are also taken out. And a condition of expanded reproduction is as much that more commodities are taken out of circulation – to fulfil the function of means of production, to become means of consumption for an increased workforce etc. - as it is that more commodities are thrown into circulation.

“So far as the balance is restored by the fact that the buyer acts later on as a seller to the same amount of value, and vice versa, the money returns to the side that advanced it on purchasing, and which sold before it bought again. But the actual balance, so far as the exchange of commodities itself, the exchange of the various portions of the annual product is concerned, demands that the values of the commodities exchanged for one another be equal.” (p 498)

This, of course, does not mean, as Say's Law suggests, that, in order to achieve this balance, every sale must be followed by a purchase. The whole essence of capitalism is a series of one sided trades, whereby, at one time, a seller is not a buyer, and a buyer is not a seller. It is only in the aggregate that this balance must exist. But, of course, in reality, that balance never does exist perfectly. Demand and supply only every balance accidentally; there is always a misallocation of capital so that there is overproduction here, and under production there. Its in this sense that capitalism is a system in permanent crisis, but there is a marked difference between these permanent, but partial crises, which are a part of the dynamic nature of capital, and the means by which capital is perpetually being reallocated, and the periodic, generalised crises of capitalism.

“But inasmuch as only one-sided exchanges are made, a number of mere purchases on the one hand, a number of mere sales on the other – and we have seen that the normal exchange of the annual product on the basis of capitalism necessitates such one-sided metamorphoses – the balance can be maintained only on the assumption that in amount the value of the one-sided purchases and that of the one-sided sales tally. The fact that the production of commodities is the general form of capitalist production implies the role which money is playing in it not only as a medium of circulation, but also as money-capital, and engenders certain conditions of normal exchange peculiar to this mode of production and therefore of the normal course of reproduction, whether it be on a simple or on an extended scale – conditions which change into so many conditions of abnormal movement, into so many possibilities of crises, since a balance is itself an accident owing to the spontaneous nature of this production.” (p 498-9)

In the exchange between I(v) and II(c) there is an exchange of the same amount of value, but not of their respective commodities.

“II c sells its commodities to working-class I. The latter confronts it one-sidedly, as a buyer of commodities, and it confronts that class one-sidedly as a seller of commodities. With the money proceeds so obtained II c confronts aggregate capitalist I one-sidedly as a buyer of commodities, and aggregate capitalist I confronts it one-sidedly as a seller of commodities up to the amount of I v. It is only by means of this sale of commodities that I finally reproduces its variable capital in the form of money-capital. If capital I faces that of II one-sidedly as a seller of commodities to the amount of I v, it faces working-class I as a buyer of commodities purchasing their labour-power. And if working-class I faces capitalist II one-sidedly as a buyer of commodities (namely, as a buyer of means of subsistence), it faces capitalist I one-sidedly as a seller of commodities, namely, as a seller of its labour-power.” (p 499)

All of these one sided exchanges are required for the social capital to be reproduced, for Department I workers and capitalists to obtain the consumer goods they need, to live and so that labour-power can be reproduced, and equally that Department II can obtain the constant capital it requires to continue its own production. All of these one sided trades involve separate circuits of capital, money and commodities that intertwine.

“This process is so complicated that it offers ever so many occasions for running abnormally.” (p 500)

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