Saturday, 3 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 2

Richard Cantillon
For older writers, like Petty and Cantillon, who stand closer to feudal production than capitalist production, therefore, Marx says the analysis of rent poses no problems because for them, rent is merely the form that the social surplus assumes, under that mode of production. The problem for the bourgeois economists stems from their desire to present capital and capitalism as timeless categories, and along with it, profit, rather than recognising these categories as historically limited. They have a birth and death.

By contrast, and reflecting this different historical and class perspective, for these earlier writers,

“... profit to them is still amorphously combined with wages, or at best appears to be a portion of surplus-value extorted by the capitalist from the landlord. These writers thus take as their point of departure a situation where, in the first place, the agricultural population still constitutes the overwhelming majority of the nation, and, secondly, the landlord still appears as the person appropriating at first hand the surplus-labour of the direct producers by virtue of his monopoly of landed property, where landed property, therefore, still appears as the main condition of production. For these writers the question could not yet be posed, which, inversely, seeks to investigate from the viewpoint of capitalist production how landed property manages to wrest back again from capital a portion of the surplus-value produced by it (that is, filched by it from the direct producers) and already appropriated directly.” (p 784)

William Petty
But, Petty and others of the time, did begin the first scientific analysis of economy. By contrast, the Mercantilists reflected the growing importance of the merchant class. Where Petty analysed production as the foundation of economy, the Mercantilists put exchange at the centre of their theory. It is the same kind of division that exists between classical and neoclassical economics. The Physiocrats represented the views of agricultural capital. They represented a step forward, therefore, by going back from this focus on exchange as the basis of surplus value, put forward by the Mercantilists, and insisting that surplus value is only created in production.

Moreover, for capital, the only productive-labour is that which produces surplus value. As the Physiocrats believed that it is only agricultural production that produces surplus value, it can only be agricultural labour that is productive. Their analysis of agricultural capital, as the only capital that produces surplus value, again arises from their historical perspective, standing at the juncture between feudal and industrial capitalist production.

For the Physiocrats, rent appears as historically the form that the social surplus and surplus value assumes. Under capitalist production, therefore, they take it that it is only capital which produces rent, which is productive.

Marx then gives an interesting account of how this rising merchant and manufacturing class, having developed capitalist production, gradually, over centuries, at a certain point, when it has achieved dominance, then uses political means to speed up and complete the process.

“At the same time, however, the characteristic feature of the interested merchants and manufacturers of that period, which is in keeping with the stage of capitalist development represented by them, is that the transformation of feudal agricultural societies into industrial ones and the corresponding industrial struggle of nations on the world-market depends on an accelerated development of capital, which is not to be arrived at along the so-called natural path, but rather by means of coercive measures.” (p 785)

These measures include the introduction of taxes on landowners, and small and middle peasants, as well as artisans, which accelerates the expropriation of the small direct producers, rapidly concentrating capital, and spreading capitalist production across the economy. That same process occurred in Europe and Russia, as well as the Americas. It was the economic basis of the US Civil War.

“Under the pretext of concern solely for the wealth of the nation and the resources of the state, they, in fact, pronounce the interests of the capitalist class and the amassing of riches in general to be the ultimate aim of the state, and thus proclaim bourgeois society in place of the old divine state. But at the same time they are consciously aware that the development of the interests of capital and of the capitalist class, of capitalist production, forms the foundation of national power and national ascendancy in modern society.” (p 785)

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