Thursday, 12 November 2015

Capital III, Chapter 17 - Part 6

The costs incurred are not a cost of producing the particular use value, but of realising its exchange value. These costs that can be summarised as “accounting, book-keeping, marketing, correspondence, etc.” (p 289), also divide into elements of constant and variable capital.

The constant capital comprises “...offices, paper, postage, etc.” (p 289). But, the variable capital, which comprises the labour-power of a variety of commercial workers appears to pose a logical problem. If the merchant capital, as a whole, does not produce surplus value, how can a portion of it, the variable capital, produce a surplus value. And, if the variable capital does not produce a surplus value, does this mean that the commercial workers are not then exploited, as is the case with industrial workers?

The answer to the first question has already been given. The merchant capital produces no surplus value, but shares in the surplus value produced by industrial capital. It does so, because it takes on the necessary function of realising that surplus value. It can make no difference to this process whether this surplus value is realised simply as a result of the expenditure of the merchant's capital, or whether a part of the realisation process requires the labour of commercial workers.

The answer to where the merchant's profit comes from, if not extracting surplus value from their workers has already been answered; it comes from the fact that industrial capital sells them commodities below their value, so that the merchant capital makes the average profit by selling those commodities at their values.

However, in order to bring about the realisation of those values requires activity on the part of the merchant, and the more commerce develops, the less all of this activity can be carried out simply by the merchant without the help of wage workers. The fact is that the position of these wage workers is essentially no different in relation to the capital that employs them than is that of the industrial worker to industrial capital. Their day breaks down into a part that is paid labour, and a part that is unpaid, a part of the day that reproduces the value of their labour-power, and a part that produces surplus value for the capital that employs them.

This latter portion, the surplus value, is not new surplus value, just as the labour as a whole, they perform, creates no new value. Rather the surplus value they produce for the capital that employs them is the realisation of the already existing surplus value produced by the industrial workers. In just the same way, the commercial workers do not produce new value by their labour, but do realise the value produced by the labour of the industrial workers.

Consequently, if ten hours labour, of a commercial worker, realises ten hours of surplus value, for the commercial capitalist, but the commercial worker is paid the equivalent of only five hours labour, they still, thereby, have created a surplus value for the capital that employed them. It is not a totally new surplus value, from the perspective of the total social capital. It is a surplus value that was inherent already, in all of the commodities they have helped to sell, but that surplus value had to be realised. Where the industrial worker produces a surplus value by creating new value in excess of the value of their labour-power, the commercial worker produces surplus value by realising surplus value in excess of the value of their labour-power.

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