Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 12

IV) Money Rent

The fact that, at a superficial level, the payment of these rents, in money, appear the same as the money rents paid under capitalism, should not lead to a belief that they are the same. As described in the previous chapters on rent, both absolute rent and differential rent are payments based upon, and taken from surplus profit.

The extent of the surplus profit determines the limit of the rent that can be paid. It is the profit that represents the form in which surplus value is extracted. However, money-rent in pre-capitalist formations is merely a converted form of labour rent. In such societies, it is this rent that is the form in which surplus value is extracted.

In turn, it is the extent of this rent which acts as the limit to which the direct producer may create any “profit”.

Money here simply acts as the universal equivalent form of value. Instead of the landlord appropriating the rent in the form of products, they do so in the form of money of an equivalent amount of value. This leaves the landlord free to use that value as exchange value, to obtain whatever commodities they require, and removes from them the costs involved in converting products into other equivalents, by barter or of obtaining money by selling products in the market.

In these earlier forms of exchange of products, as Marx describes elsewhere, the exchange may not occur on the basis of equal values. For such to take place, markets need to be larger, and information on such values greater; a role undertaken by merchants who compare these values in the products of the direct producers. That is not to say, as some wrongly believe, that these products do not possess value, or that The Law of Value does not apply in relation to them. It is only to say that there is not sufficient knowledge of such values, or large enough markets to ensure that the products exchange at their values.

In other words, money rent can only develop when markets and trade have expanded sufficiently that the individual values of these products are known and comparable, so that their individual value can be subsumed into a social value, a market value. It requires that these products become traded more frequently, and thereby become commodities, and that, at the same time, the social value of these commodities is expressed as an exchange value, with a money price.

Only when the products that comprise rent in kind can be determined with such a money price, can a money rent be determined as an equivalent.

But, the introduction of such a money rent has other consequences. This is described by Marx, but the same phenomena is described by Lenin, in relation to Russia, and anyone familiar with the literature of Development Economics will recognise this process, in relation to a range of economies, over the last few decades, where the need to acquire money to pay rents and taxes, also leads to the need to move away from self-sufficient production to the cultivation of cash crops.

“Although the direct producer still continues to produce at least the greater part of his means of subsistence himself, a certain portion of this product must now be converted into commodities, must be produced as commodities. The character of the entire mode of production is thus more or less changed. It loses its independence, its detachment from social connection. The ratio of cost of production, which now comprises greater or lesser expenditures of money, becomes decisive; at any rate, the excess of that portion of gross product to be converted into money over that portion which must serve, on the one hand, as means of reproduction again, and, on the other, as means of direct subsistence, assumes a determining role. However, the basis of this type of rent, although approaching its dissolution, remains the same as that of rent in kind, which constitutes its point of departure.” (p 797)

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