Friday, 9 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 8

Under the Asiatic Mode of Production, the bureaucratic state does not arise ready formed, but evolves over a prolonged period, from the administrative bodies of the society. Similarly, the higher ranks of feudal society do not spring into existence from nowhere, like Minerva from the head of Zeus.

What starts out as a one off event, for example, a payment of tribute to a successful warrior king, after a substantial battle, becomes transformed, over time, into a custom to provide such tribute, and then is codified into laws, which simply reflect the reality of the economic and social relations that have thereby developed between rulers and ruled, and enhanced and entrenched the position of the former in relation to the latter.

The payment of tithes to the church, and of labour rent to the landlord, does not simply arise from nowhere, but develops, over time, as such a process. The economic basis of this division, as Marx sets out, that determines that three days labour be given free to the landlord, is that this was the amount of labour-time that was surplus after the peasant's own needs for subsistence have been met.

But, having been so prescribed, by law, this also has advantages for the peasant. If social productivity rises, the three days labour provided by the peasant produces a greater surplus product, appropriated by the landlord. However, the value of that product has not risen. It is still equal to three days labour. Similarly, the three days labour performed by the peasant for themselves still results in a product with a value equal to three days, but this value is now constituted in a product that is much greater in quantity. The necessary labour-time of the direct producer is not determined by the need to produce a given quantity of value, but of use values, i.e. those required to ensure their reproduction.

If productivity rises so that more of these use values are produced in less time, the necessary labour-time of the direct producer falls, and their potential surplus labour-time rises. For example, if previously three days labour was required to produce the food and other necessities required by the peasant for their reproduction, this might now fall to only two days.

But, the labour rent has been fixed as three days. That means that, having undertaken this unpaid labour, and spent two days labour to meet their own requirements, the peasant has one day of surplus labour that they can use for additional production. If their necessary labour is equivalent to wages under capitalism, this additional surplus labour is the equivalent of profit. But, as a free labourer, the direct producer can use this “profit” either to increase their own consumption or to acquire additional means of production.

Where, under capitalism, this rise in social productivity, which reduces the value of labour-power, becomes automatically manifest in lower wages (though real wages may still rise), under feudalism, the landlords can only appropriate this additional surplus labour, arising from higher productivity, by changing the law, by introducing new taxes in addition to the rent etc. It is usually over attempts to do so that the big confrontations between landlords and peasants occur.

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