Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Capital III, Chapter 2 - Part 4

Now all capital seems to be the source of profit. In the process of production, the forces of labour appear as the force of capital, as was shown in Volume I. For example, the power of co-operative labour, provided free to capital, as with the power of nature, appears under capitalism, via the division of labour, as the power of capital. The power of labour, itself embodied in the production of ever more powerful, ever more efficient machines, themselves appear as the power of capital, personified by the capitalist. This inversion means that dead labour increasingly subordinates living labour to it.

“Even in the simple relations of production this inverted relationship necessarily produces certain correspondingly inverted conceptions, a transposed consciousness which is further developed by the metamorphoses and modifications of the actual circulation process.” (p 45)

The laws that govern the rate of profit, cannot be equated with those that govern the rate of surplus value, as the Ricardian School do, Marx says. There is a direct relation between the value of the variable capital and the rate of surplus value, but there is no such direct link between the value of the total capital and the rate of profit. It is not the value of the constant capital that provides a direct causal link to the rate of profit, but its physical quantity.

“In itself, the magnitude of value of total capital has no inner relationship to the magnitude of surplus-value, at least not directly. So far as its material elements are concerned, the total capital minus the variable capital, that is, the constant capital, consists of the material requisites — the means of labour and materials of labour — needed to materialise labour. It is necessary to have a certain quantity of means and materials of labour for a specific quantity of labour to materialise in commodities and thereby to produce value. A definite technical relation depending on the special nature of the labour applied is established between the quantity of labour and the quantity of means of production to which this labour is to be applied. Hence there is also to that extent a definite relation between the quantity of surplus-value, or surplus-labour, and the quantity of means of production.” (p 46)

In other words, what is determinate here is the technical not the value composition of capital.

“For instance, if the labour necessary for the production of the wage amounts to a daily 6 hours, the labourer must work 12 hours to do 6 hours of surplus-labour, or produce a surplus-value of 100%. He uses up twice as much of the means of production in 12 hours as he does in 6. Yet this is no reason for the surplus-value produced by him in 6 hours to be directly related to the value of the means of production used up in those 6, or in 12 hours. This value is here altogether immaterial; it is only a matter of the technically required quantity. It does not matter whether the raw materials or means of labour are cheap or dear, as long as they have the required use-value and are available in technically prescribed proportion to the labour to be applied.” (p 46)

Its only if we assume that the values of these physical proportions remain fixed that the value relations between them take on the appearance of significance.

“If I know that x lbs. of cotton are consumed in an hour of spinning and that they cost a shillings, then, of course, I also know that 12 hours' spinning consumes 12x lbs. of cotton = 12 a shillings, and can then calculate the proportion of the surplus-value to the value of the 12 as well as to that of the 6. But the relation of living labour to the value of means of production obtains here only to the extent that a shillings serve as a name for x lbs. of cotton; because a definite quantity of cotton has a definite price, and therefore, conversely, a definite price may also serve as an index for a definite quantity of cotton, so long as the price of cotton does not change. If I know that the labourer must work 12 hours for me to appropriate 6 hours of surplus-labour, that therefore I must have a 12-hour supply of cotton ready for use, and if I know the price of this quantity of cotton needed for 12 hours, then I have an indirect relation between the price of cotton (as an index of the required quantity) and the surplus-value. But, conversely, I can never conclude the quantity of the raw material that may be consumed in, say, one hour, and not 6, of spinning from the price of the raw material. There is, then, no necessary inner relation between the value of the constant capital, nor, therefore, between the value of the total capital (=c+v) and the surplus-value.” (p 46-7)

The rate of profit only expresses the surplus value in relation to the total capital rather than just the variable capital that produced it.

“But in reality (i.e., in the world of phenomena) the matter is reversed. Surplus-value is given, but given as an excess of the selling price of the commodity over its cost-price; and it remains a mystery where this surplus originated — from the exploitation of labour in the process of production, or from outwitting the purchaser in the process of circulation, or from both.” (p 47)

The rate of profit here only shows a difference between fixed and circulating rather than constant and variable capital. A rate of profit calculated on the basis of surplus value to cost price, as opposed to a rate of profit calculated on total capital employed.

“Although the rate of profit thus differs numerically from the rate of surplus-value, while surplus-value and profit are actually the same thing and numerically equal, profit is nevertheless a converted form of surplus-value, a form in which its origin and the secret of its existence are obscured and extinguished. In effect, profit is the form in which surplus-value presents itself to the view, and must initially be stripped by analysis to disclose the latter. In surplus-value, the relation between capital and labour is laid bare...” (p 48)

No comments: