Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Capital III, Chapter 49 - Part 2

“The total working-day of the labourer is divided into two parts. One portion in which he performs the amount of labour necessary to reproduce the value of his own means of subsistence; the paid portion of his total labour, the portion necessary for his own maintenance and reproduction. The entire remaining portion of the working-day, the entire excess quantity of labour performed above the value of the labour realised in his wages, is surplus-labour, unpaid labour, represented in the surplus-value of his total commodity-production (and thus in an excess quantity of commodities), surplus-value which in turn is divided into differently named parts, into profit (profit of enterprise plus interest) and rent.” (p 833-4)

If the worker, here is considered as a collective social worker, and the working day as a single social working day, this is again tautologically true.

Marx here is tightening down his definition. On the one hand, he restricts the definition to what may be called an ideal type of capitalist production. So, he uses a definition similar to that developed in the Grundrisse, where Labour excludes Capital and Capital excludes Labour, except here he defines Labour as only labour performed within the context of capitalist production. So,

“Aside from this labour, the labourer performs no labour, and aside from the total value of the product, which assumes the forms of wages, profit and rent, he creates no value.” (p 834)

In other words, Marx here is tightening his analysis of production down to an analysis of capitalist production, and thereby excluding all of that production of value, which he clearly understood to continue to occur outside of that realm. For example, a considerable amount of domestic production continues, in practice, to occur, even today, and all of that production is value creating, even if the product is not marketed.

At the same time, Marx tightens down his definition, because he is no longer equating the total of price/value with the total of labour-time. By defining the surplus value in terms of the realised surplus value, rather than the produced surplus value, Marx brings his analysis closer to the real world.

There are a number of reasons why the value of commodities are not equal to the actual labour-time expended on their production, besides the fact that prices of production differ from values. For example, the value of a commodity is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour-time required for its production, not the amount actually expended on its production. Besides the fact that, for every single commodity unit, the amount of labour-time actually expended on its production will vary compared with that expended on every other individual commodity unit, and so from the average amount of labour-time, even this average amount of labour-time will only count as socially necessary if the total amount of labour-time expended on producing this class of commodity was necessary. In other words, if there is inadequate demand, for this quantity of the commodity, at this price, then some of the labour expended was not socially necessary.

"This point has a bearing upon the relationship between necessary and surplus labour only in so far as a violation of this proportion makes it impossible to realise the value of the commodity and thus the surplus-value contained in it. For instance; let us assume that proportionally too much cotton goods have been produced, although only the labour-time necessary under the prevailing conditions is incorporated in this total cloth production. But in general too much social labour has been expended in this particular line; in other words, a portion of this product is useless. It is therefore sold solely as if it had been produced in the necessary proportion. This quantitative limit to the quota of social labour-time available for the various particular spheres of production is but a more developed expression of the law of value in general, although the necessary labour-time assumes a different meaning here. Only just so much of it is required for the satisfaction of social needs. The limitation occurring here is due to the use value. Society can use only so much of its total labour-time for this particular kind of product under prevailing conditions of production.”

(Capital III, Chapter 37

Marx describes this condition of disproportion in setting out his theory of crisis in Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 17, where he writes of such a condition of overproduction arising, as a result of revolutions in technology.

“(When spinning-machines were invented, there was over-production of yarn in relation to weaving. This disproportion disappeared when mechanical looms were introduced into weaving.)”

Some of the other reasons were set out above, such as the inability to pass on input costs and so on. By defining surplus value in terms of the realised surplus value, rather than produced surplus value, Marx removes this problem, in relation to the total social production. Whatever proportion of the total social working day may have been wasted, for example, in production that was not required, commodities which found no or inadequate demand, is manifest in a proportion of surplus value that is not realised.

Take the example of workers producing Sinclair C5's. Setting aside the labour-time involved in the production of the constant capital, 1,000 workers may work for 2 million hours producing them. They are paid a total of £20 million in wages, which are required to reproduce their labour-power. The commodities they buy with these wages require 1 million hours of labour to produce. Put another way, the value created by these workers is equal to £40 million, divided £20 million of variable-capital and £20 million of surplus value. But, this value of £40 million is only theoretical. If none of the C5's are sold, they have no value, the labour-time expended on their production was wasted. Although the workers performed 1 million hours of surplus labour, none of it could be realised. In fact, if none of the machines could be sold, the other 1 million hours of labour expended, would have to be deducted from the total social surplus labour-time.

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