Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Capital III, Chapter 15 - Part 20

For any given mass of capital, the extent to which it can be increased depends upon the rate of profit, because the rate of profit is the proportion of the surplus value to the value of the productive-capital advanced to produce it. But, this too is a contradictory process. In order to increase this proportion, productivity must rise. But, a consequence of a rise in productivity is that the value of commodities falls, including those commodities that comprise the productive-capital. So, a rise in productivity increases the rate and mass of surplus value, which acts to increase the mass and rate of profit, which thereby increases the potential accumulation, which thereby increases the mass and value of capital. But, the same process, by cheapening all commodities simultaneously reduces the value of the existing mass of capital.

The larger the capital stock, therefore, the more any rise in productivity will reduce its value by moral depreciation, and also by a reduction in the value of the circulating capital. The more, therefore, will any given percentage rise in productivity reduce the value of C, and thereby raise the rate of profit.

“The increase in the productiveness (which, moreover, we repeat, always goes hand in hand with a depreciation of the available capital) can directly only increase the value of the existing capital if by raising the rate of profit it increases that portion of the value of the annual product which is reconverted into capital. As concerns the productivity of labour, this can only occur (since this productivity has nothing direct to do with the value of the existing capital) by raising the relative surplus-value, or reducing the value of the constant capital, so that the commodities which enter either the reproduction of labour-power, or the elements of constant capital, are cheapened. Both imply a depreciation of the existing capital, and both go hand in hand with a reduction of the variable capital in relation to the constant. Both cause a fall in the rate of profit, and both slow it down. Furthermore, inasmuch as an increased rate of profit causes a greater demand for labour, it tends to increase the working population and thus the material, whose exploitation makes real capital out of capital.” (p 248)

However, as described above, this process has to be understood within the overall social context of the labour process. It simply is not the case, that increasing amounts of capital continue to accumulate in the same spheres, so that the organic composition of capital rises, causing the rate of profit to fall. The very process of the rise in social productivity causes increasing amounts of money-capital to be released, and to be employed in new lines of production with low organic compositions, and very high rates of profit. That process implies also, therefore, the production of ever greater ranges of use values, both as consumer products and as capital, so that this growing mass of profit becomes represented in a growing mass and diversity of capital.

“Indirectly, however, the development of the productivity of labour contributes to the increase of the value of the existing capital by increasing the mass and variety of use-values in which the same exchange-value is represented and which form the material substance, i.e. , the material elements of capital, the material objects making up the constant capital directly, and the variable capital at least indirectly. More products which may be converted into capital, whatever their exchange-value, are created with the same capital and the same labour. These products may serve to absorb additional labour, hence also additional surplus-labour, and therefore create additional capital. The amount of labour which a capital can command does not depend on its value, but on the mass of raw and auxiliary materials, machinery and elements of fixed capital and necessities of life, all of which it comprises, whatever their value may be. As the mass of the labour employed, and thus of surplus-labour increases, there is also a growth in the value of the reproduced capital and in the surplus-value newly added to it.” (p 248)

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