Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Capital III, Chapter 23 - Part 9

For the worker, it makes no difference whether the capitalist works with their own capital, and thereby pockets all of the surplus value, or whether they work with borrowed capital and hand over part of the surplus value as interest. The surplus value extracted from them is the same in each case. The interest on interest-bearing capital is its price, based on its use value as self-expanding value, i.e. its capacity to be used as productive-capital and create surplus value. Whether the borrower uses it in that way or simply to finance consumption is irrelevant. They still have to pay the price for that capital, based on its potential to create surplus value.

In this way, it is like labour. Labour, from the beginning, and irrespective of the mode of production, in so far as it engages in the labour process and creates products, also creates value. It is this potential to create value that is the reason labour-power represents a use value to capital. But, labour continues to create value whether it is bought by capital or not, simply because that is its inherent nature. “Value is labour”, as Marx says later.

It does not matter whether that labour is expended productively in creating surplus value, or unproductively in being bought to perform some personal service, or is expended purely for the production of some use value for direct consumption. The labour expended creates value. This was an understanding that Marx brought over the previous theory of Adam Smith. In Theories of Surplus Value, Marx explains this, in demonstrating that Smith, in his analysis of productive and unproductive labour, confuses the production of value, and the production of surplus value.

It is only because the capacity to produce value is inherent to labour, and is, therefore, antecedent to the labour process, that labour presents itself as a use value to capital, as a means of creating value, and for capital thereby to extract surplus value in the labour process.

“So does labour-power preserve its property of producing value only so long as it is employed and materialised in the labour-process; yet this does not argue against the fact that it is potentially, as a power, an activity which creates value, and that as such it does not spring from the process of production, but rather antecedes it. It is bought as such a capacity for creating value. One might also buy it without setting it to work productively; for purely personal ends, for instance, for personal services, etc.” (p 381)

If I buy the labour of a prostitute to provide a personal service, the labour they undertake is not productive, because it does not produce surplus value. But it is a production of new value, which is why it is able to exchange for an equivalent amount of value, in the form of money. It is this very fact that enables the pimp, or the brothel owner to buy the labour-power of the prostitute, in exchange for wages as the value of that labour-power, but to sell the labour of the prostitute, and appropriate the difference between the two as surplus value. The nature of the labour of the prostitute is the same in both cases, as a personal service, and the value produced is the same in each case. Yet, in the latter case, because it produces not just new value, but a surplus value, equal to the difference between this new value produced, and the value of the labour-power, bought by the capitalist, it thereby becomes productive labour.

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