Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Capital III, Chapter 3 - Part 12

The three examples Marx then gives, go like this.

If the 20 v represents 15 workers doing a 10 hour day, for £1.33, producing £30 of value, that is £20 variable capital, £10 surplus value. If wages fall to £1, the variable capital will now buy 20 workers for 10 hours. That means £40 of value is produced, £20 going to reproduce the variable capital, £20 to surplus value. If wages fell to £0.66, 30 workers could be employed. They produce £60 of value with £40 now being surplus value.

Marx writes,

“This case — a constant composition of capital in per cent, a constant working-day and constant intensity of labour, and the rate of surplus-value varying because of variation in wages — is the only one in which Ricardo's assumption is correct: 

"Profit would be high or low, exactly in proportion as wages were low or high." (Principles, Ch. I, Sect. III, p. 18 of the Works of D. Ricardo, ed. by MacCulloch, 1852.)” (p 54)

Marx again does not address the problem here that 20 workers working 10 hours require a third more constant capital than 15 workers, and 30 workers require twice as much constant capital. Unless we are to believe that the value of constant capital falls by an identical proportion, it is impossible for the amount laid out for constant capital to remain unchanged. Moreover, any such reduction in value of the constant capital requires an increase in productivity. Provided no constraints on productivity is imposed then such a scenario is possible, as the same increase in productivity could explain the fall in wages, as arising from a fall in the value of labour-power.

Alternatively, we have to assume a significant fall in the productivity of the workers employed.

“Or second, if the intensity of labour varies. In that case, say, 20 labourers working 10 hours daily with the same means of production produce 30 pieces of a certain commodity in I, 40 in II, and 60 in III, of which every piece, aside from the value of the means of production incorporated in it, represents a new value of £1. Since every 20 pieces = £20 make good the wages, there remain 10 pieces = £10 for surplus-value in I, 20 pieces = £20 in II, and 40 pieces = £40 in III.” (p 65)

But, in each of these cases again the higher intensity of the labour means that more means of production are required for processing. Unless we assume the equivalent rise in productivity, and fall in the value of constant capital, it is impossible for it to remain unchanged.

“Or third, the working-day differs in length. If 20 labourers work with the same intensity for 9 hours in I, 12 hours in II, and 18 hours in III, their total products, 30 : 40 : 60 vary as 9 : 12 : 18. And since wages = 20 in every case, 10, 20, and 40 respectively again remain as surplus-value.” (p 65) 

But, again, the longer hours of work mean more material must be processed, more tools may be needed, wear and tear will increase, so the value of c must rise without a compensating increase in productivity.

Marx is right that a rise or fall in wages affects the rate of surplus value inversely, though its possible that with rising productivity, both real wages and surplus value can rise, whilst nominal wages fall. If the value of money falls even the fall in nominal wages can be disguised, and that was the secret of Fordism. But, in the examples he has given, he is wrong to say, “... and a rise or fall in the intensity of labour, and a lengthening or shortening of the working-day, act the same way on the rate of surplus-value and thereby, with v/C constant, on the rate of profit” (p 65), because it is very unlikely, indeed impossible given the other constraints he set, to begin with, that under these conditions v/C could remain constant.

No comments: