Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Capital III, Chapter 15 - Part 13

In the former case, where development is at a low level, the rate of profit may be high because the rate of surplus value is high, resulting from the extraction of absolute surplus value, based on very long working days. Under such conditions, wages may be very low, reflecting the undeveloped condition of the workers and their labour-power, and consequently the limited nature of what they require to reproduce it.

But, the consequence of this is that this labour-power is itself not very productive. It is the same situation as that described in Capital I, where the labour in country A appears as complex labour compared to the labour in country B, simply because country A is developed and its labour is highly productive compared to country B, which is not developed.

“So far as it is based on a high rate of surplus-value, a high rate of profit is possible when the working-day is very long, although labour is not highly productive. It is possible, because the wants of the labourers are very small, hence average wages very low, although the labour itself is unproductive. The low wages will correspond to the labourers' lack of energy. Capital then accumulates slowly, in spite of the high rate of profit. Population is stagnant and the working-time which the product costs, is great, while the wages paid to the labourer are small.” (p 245-6)

This process is inextricably linked to the process of the concentration and centralisation of capital described in Capital I. The process, which creates a tendency for the rate of profit to fall, is one in which a greater proportion of what is produced has to go to simply replacing the capital that has been consumed, leaving a smaller proportion left over as surplus.

This is the same process as described earlier, in relation to Robinson Crusoe. On the one hand, he creates means of production in the shape of stock pens and a stock of animals, which thereby raises his productivity, so that he can consume more, but on the other he now has to devote some of his available time to maintaining his pens and stock, where previously he devoted none. But, although the proportion of his available time, and what he produces in it, has to now go to this function, in increasing amounts, and the proportion of his day left over as surplus time thereby shrinks in proportion to it, the very fact that it has revolutionised the productivity of his labour, means that his total production increases significantly, so that the mass of what he produces in that surplus labour-time increases hugely too.

And, this is similar to the situation in respect of the developed and undeveloped economies discussed earlier. As a result of this higher level of productivity it may even be the case that his “rate of profit”, the relation of his surplus labour-time to the time he spends maintaining his means of production and meeting his consumption needs, increases rather than falls.

Suppose previously he needed to spend 8 hours per day catching fish, in order to live, and had 2 hours of surplus labour-time, so that his rate of profit was 25%. He uses this 2 hours to produce a net, on which he needs to spend .25 hours per day maintaining. But, with the net, he catches the fish he requires in 4 hours not 8. He then spends .25 hours maintaining his means of production (c) and 4 hours producing means of consumption (v), leaving him 5.75 hours of surplus labour-time. His rate of profit has now risen to 5.75/4.25 = 135.29%. As with the developed economy, versus the less developed economy, he may now increase his consumption (higher wages) and yet despite these higher wages, he now receives, his rate of profit will still be much higher.

But, as was seen earlier, beyond a certain level, he cannot expand his means of production effectively without employing additional labour. As was seen in Capital I, this process of the need to continually expand the physical quantity of means of production and labour-power, and to mobilise ever larger capitals, for this purpose, first squeezes out the direct producers, then the small capitalists, and then even the big private capitalists, as the expropriators are themselves expropriated by the huge socialised capitals of the joint stock companies, corporations and co-operatives.

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