Sunday, 16 October 2016

Capital III, Chapter 48 - Part 19

Just as interest-bearing capital then develops as an independent form of capital, whose interests are antagonistic to those of productive capital, because the return to this form of capital – interest (dividends, coupon, loan charges) – represents a reduction of surplus value, so too this is the case with landed property and rent. At least with interest-bearing capital, the shareholder, bondholder or loan provider is able to justify their receipt of dividends, coupon and loan charges on the basis of having undertaken some degree of risk, abstinence and so on. But, the landlord has no such justification for receiving rent. The risk is all taken by the tenant who invests productive-capital, and who thereby abstains from its consumption. The landlord obtains the rent solely on the basis of their monopoly of ownership of a portion of the Earth's surface.

“Since here a part of the surplus-value seems to be bound up directly with a natural element, the land, rather than with social relations, the form of mutual estrangement and ossification of the various parts of surplus-value is completed, the inner connection completely disrupted, and its source entirely buried, precisely because the relations of production, which are bound to the various material elements of the production process, have been rendered mutually independent.” (p 829-30)

Classical political economy, Marx argues, by its scientific approach, had dissolved the appearance and illusion of superficial economic and social relations. But, the advocates of the classical political economy were themselves necessarily still constrained within the ideological framework of bourgeois society. This limitation meant that to reconcile the two, they were continually led into a series of contradictory positions.

“On the other hand, it is just as natural for the actual agents of production to feel completely at home in these estranged and irrational forms of capital — interest, land — rent, labourwages, since these are precisely the forms of illusion in which they move about and find their daily occupation. It is therefore just as natural that vulgar economy, which is no more than a didactic, more or less dogmatic, translation of everyday conceptions of the actual agents of production, and which arranges them in a certain rational order, should see precisely in this trinity, which is devoid of all inner connection, the natural and indubitable lofty basis for its shallow pompousness. This formula simultaneously corresponds to the interests of the ruling classes by proclaiming the physical necessity and eternal justification of their sources of revenue and elevating them to a dogma.” (p 830)

This mystification can be summarised like this. If we take the essence of man's productive activity, which we might view from the perspective of the most primitive forms of society, that production involves Man undertaking labour, and using means of production, in conjunction with the land, in order to obtain some useful effect. It doesn't matter whether this is Man engaging in the labour of hunting, using stones picked up from the ground, as means of production, to throw at wild animals that roam the hunting grounds, or whether it is Man engaging in the labour of farming using tools he has himself created, using seeds he has selected, on land he has cultivated, or whether it is Man engaging in the labour of software development, using computers and other equipment he has built, in offices that have been built on land developed for the purpose.

In reality, each of these scenarios involve the same labour process, and it is only different social relations that cause this process to take on a different set of characteristics. To the primitive man the idea that their labour, the stones used as means of production, and their hunting ground should be considered as separate things from the process of hunting, would never have occurred, still less that each of these things contributed different amounts of value, or that each of these things could exist as independent factors within the production process, each thereby obtaining a portion of the product of that process.

It is only social development and the creation of different social relations that bring about a situation whereby the labour process is divided up into these different aspects – labour, land, means of production – each of which become seen as particular forms of property, with different social classes arising as the owners, and at the same time, the human representative of these forms of property.

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