Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Capital III, Chapter 10 - Part 22

Although socialised capital, in the form of limited liability companies and corporations dominate the economy, small-scale capitals, made up of sole traders, partnerships and private companies, not only persist, but remain numerically preponderant. In some economies, large numbers of peasant farmers continue to exist, and even in the most developed economies, large amounts of economic activity remains in the form of domestic production, i.e. household cooking, cleaning, childcare, social care and so on.

Marx repeats the argument.

“It follows from the foregoing that in each particular sphere of production the individual capitalist, as well as the capitalists as a whole, take direct part in the exploitation of the total working-class by the totality of capital and in the degree of that exploitation, not only out of general class sympathy, but also for direct economic reasons. For, assuming all other conditions — among them the value of the total advanced constant capital — to be given, the average rate of profit depends on the intensity of exploitation of the sum total of labour by the sum total of capital.” (p 196-7)

But again, its not clear that each capitalist does see this. In fact, for the reason he sets out in the Grundrisse, there is every reason why any individual capitalist should welcome the workers of other capitalists being well paid.

“To each capitalist, the total mass of all workers, with the exception of his own workers, appear not as workers, but as consumers, possessors of exchange values (wages), money, which they exchange for his commodity. They are so many centres of circulation with whom the act of exchange begins and by whom the exchange value of capital is maintained. They form a proportionally very great part -- although not quite so great as is generally imagined, if one focuses on the industrial worker proper -- of all consumers. The greater their number -- the number of the industrial population -- and the mass of money at their disposal, the greater the sphere of exchange for capital. We have seen that it is the tendency of capital to increase the industrial population as much as possible. 

Actually, the relation of one capitalist to the workers of another capitalist is none of our concern here. It only shows every capitalist's illusion, but alters nothing in the relation of capital in general to labour. Every capitalist knows this about his worker, that he does not relate to him as producer to consumer, and [he therefore] wishes to restrict his consumption, i.e. his ability to exchange, his wage, as much as possible. Of course he would like the workers of other capitalists to be the greatest consumers possible of his own commodity. But the relation of every capitalist to his own workers is the relation as such of capital and labour, the essential relation. But this is just how the illusion arises -- true for the individual capitalist as distinct from all the others – that apart from his workers the whole remaining working class confronts him as consumer and participant in exchange, as money-spender, and not as worker... 

Here again it is the competition among capitals, their indifference to and independence of one another, which brings it about that the individual capital relates to the workers of the entire remaining capital not as to workers: hence is driven beyond the right proportion.”

Moreover, as Marx pointed out earlier, the capitalist does not see that what each of them extracts individually is surplus value. So, they cannot then perceive of there being a collective pool of such surplus value. Rather what each sees is that they have a cost-price which comprises all of their advanced capital, be it constant or variable. They see what they produce as being not surplus value but profit, and this they see as being produced by their whole capital not just the variable capital. That is why those capitalists that employ very little labour see no contradiction in their large capital producing a large profit for them. In fact, far from these capitalists recognising that they share in the total surplus value produced by all capitals they would undoubtedly be deeply affronted, if it was suggested to them that that was the case, rather than that their profits flowed from the application of their own capital, and their individual business acumen.

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