Sunday, 20 September 2015

Capital III, Chapter 15 - Part 11

In fact, as Marx points out later, crises of overproduction usually occur in periods of boom, when high profits cause the demand for labour-power and other inputs to rise sharply. That leads not to a fall, but a rise in wages. The higher wages act then both to squeeze produced surplus value, and because workers consumption levels rise along with it, to bring closer the limit of the market to absorb more of the same commodities. In fact, its at these points, Marx says, that workers begin to diversify away from their usual consumption, and to buy some luxuries previously the preserve of the rich.

The only solution for capital is to continually expand the market. In the first instance, this means that capital seeks to continually draw more people into the realm of exchange value. Peasants and other direct producers are expropriated so that instead of meeting their own needs they must do so via the market. As the population grows naturally, so the market for all commodities grows naturally with it. But, so does the workforce, and capital, and, therefore, the level of output. The market can be expanded by foreign trade, but the consequence of this is also to spread capitalist production across the globe and thereby to intensify the problem, because even greater quantities of commodities are thrown on to markets to be absorbed.

Capital must then continually develop new types of use values to produce as commodities, so that even as the demand for some commodities is satisfied at their market value, new desires, new demands are stimulated. These are the “new lines” of production that Marx referred to in Chapter 14. Its incessant need to develop these new products and to stimulate an ever wider desire amongst the workers, who increasingly make up the vast majority of consumers, constitutes what Marx describes in the Grundrisse as its “civilising mission”.  That can be seen, for example, in the way that a company like Apple, seeks to maintain levels of demand for its products, beyond the saturation points, by continually introducing a new slight variation - numerous generations of iPhones, different coloured cases and so on, and the way car companies do the same thing, with regular new versions.

“On the other side, the production of relative surplus value, i.e. production of surplus value based on the increase and development of the productive forces, requires the production of new consumption; requires that the consuming circle within which circulation expands as did the productive circle previously. Firstly quantitative expansion of existing consumption; secondly: creation of new needs by propagating existing ones in a wide circle; thirdly: production of new needs and discovery and creation of new use values. In other words, so that the surplus labour gained does not remain a merely quantitative surplus, but rather constantly increases the circle of qualitative differences within labour (hence of surplus labour), makes it more diverse, more internally differentiated. For example, if, through a doubling of productive force, a capital of 50 can now do what a capital of 100 did before, so that a capital of 50 and the necessary labour corresponding to it become free, then, for the capital and labour which have been set free, a new, qualitatively different branch of production must be created, which satisfies and brings forth a new need. The value of the old industry is preserved by the creation of the fund for a new one in which the relation of capital and labour posits itself in a new form. Hence exploration of all of nature in order to discover new, useful qualities in things; universal exchange of the products of all alien climates and lands; new (artificial) preparation of natural objects, by which they are given new use values. The exploration of the earth in all directions, to discover new things of use as well as new useful qualities of the old; such as new qualities of them as raw materials etc.; the development, hence, of the natural sciences to their highest point; likewise the discovery, creation and satisfaction of new needs arising from society itself; the cultivation of all the qualities of the social human being, production of the same in a form as rich as possible in needs, because rich in qualities and relations -- production of this being as the most total and universal possible social product, for, in order to take gratification in a many-sided way, he must be capable of many pleasures [genussfähig], hence cultured to a high degree -- is likewise a condition of production founded on capital. This creation of new branches of production, i.e. of qualitatively new surplus time, is not merely the division of labour, but is rather the creation, separate from a given production, of labour with a new use value; the development of a constantly expanding and more comprehensive system of different kinds of labour, different kinds of production, to which a constantly expanding and constantly enriched system of needs corresponds.”

(The Grundrisse, Chapter 8)

“The market must, therefore, be continually extended, so that its interrelations and the conditions regulating them assume more and more the form of a natural law working independently of the producer, and become ever more uncontrollable. This internal contradiction seeks to resolve itself through expansion of the outlying field of production. But the more productiveness develops, the more it finds itself at variance with the narrow basis on which the conditions of consumption rest. It is no contradiction at all on this self-contradictory basis that there should be an excess of capital simultaneously with a growing surplus of population. For while a combination of these two would, indeed, increase the mass of produced surplus-value, it would at the same time intensify the contradiction between the conditions under which this surplus-value is produced and those under which it is realised.”

(Capital III, p 245)

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