Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Capital III, Chapter 48 - Part 15

What is then an historically limited and determined set of production and social relations becomes seen as eternal. In every society, means of production are considered capital, just as all labour is considered wage labour, even though, throughout the vast majority of Man's history, neither of these categories existed, because the producers owned their own means of production. Capital is then nothing more than means of production owned by capitalists with the capitalist being the representative of capital, just as labour is wage labour, whose representative is the worker. By the same token, land then becomes portions of the Earth's surface in the hands of landlords, who are its representatives.

“These means of production are in themselves capital by nature; capital is merely an "economic appellation" for these means of production; and so, in itself land is by nature the earth monopolised by a certain number of landowners. Just as products confront the producer as an independent force in capital and capitalists — who actually are but the personification of capital — so land becomes personified in the landlord and likewise gets on its hind legs to demand, as an independent force, its share of the product created with its help. Thus, not the land receives its due portion of the product for the restoration and improvement of its productivity, but instead the landlord takes a share of this product to chaffer away or squander.” (p 824)

Capital can only exist where labour exists in the form of wage labour. Where labour exists in the form of the direct labour of individual peasant producers, there is no labour-power to be bought as a commodity. Therefore, capital cannot buy it or extract surplus value. Even where labour exists, in the form of slave labour, this precludes capital, because slave labour is not free, it is not the sale of labour-power as a commodity, but the sale of the slave themselves as a commodity. The slave no more than a machine or pack animal enters the production process as an independent economic agent, and nor do they enter the process of exchange either.

But, if the specific historical form of wage labour is equated with labour itself, then this means that the means of production, with which the worker works, are themselves transformed, in all modes of production, equally into being capital, and all land into landed property, privately monopolised.

“Their definite social character in the process of capitalist production bearing the stamp of a definite historical epoch is a natural, and intrinsic substantive character belonging to them, as it were, from time immemorial, as elements of the production process. Therefore, the respective part played by the earth as the original field of activity of labour, as the realm of forces of Nature, as the pre-existing arsenal of all objects of labour, and the other respective part played by the produced means of production (instruments, raw materials, etc.) in the general process of production, must seem to be expressed in the respective shares claimed by them as capital and landed property, i.e., which fall to the share of their social representatives in the form of profit (interest) and rent, like to the labourer — the part his labour plays in the process of production is expressed in wages. Rent, profit and wages thus seem to grow out of the role played by the land, produced means of production, and labour in the simple labour-process, even when we consider this labour-process as one carried on merely between man and Nature, leaving aside any historical determination.” (p 825)

Looked at from the other side, if wage labour is the same as labour, then wages must be the same as the value produced by labour, the wages merely being the contribution of labour, whose value having been contributed to the product, flows back to the worker in equal measure. But, if this is true for labour, it must also be true for capital and land too. The profit that returns to capital must only be the reflux of the equivalent amount of value that the capital has contributed to the product and likewise with the rent that flows to the landlord.

“Landed property, capital and wage-labour are thus transformed from sources of revenue — in the sense that capital attracts to the capitalist, in the form of profit, a portion of the surplus-value extracted by him from labour, that monopoly in land attracts for the landlord another portion in the form of rent; and that labour grants the labourer the remaining portion of value in the form of wages — from sources by means of which one portion of value is transformed into the form of profit, another into the form of rent, and a third into the form of wages — into actual sources from which these value portions and respective portions of the product in which they exist, or for which they are exchangeable, arise themselves, and from which, therefore, in the final analysis, the value of the product itself arises.” (p 826)

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