Saturday, 5 November 2016

Capital III, Chapter 49 - Part 19

“If we think back to the beginnings of society, we find no produced means of production, hence no constant capital, the value of which could pass into the product, and which, in reproduction on the same scale, would have to be replaced in kind out of the product and to a degree measured by its value. But Nature there directly provides the means of subsistence, which need not first be produced.” (p 847)

On the one hand, primitive man lacks means of production, other than those provided by Nature, and so his productive capacity is low. But, because his wants are limited, and because he does not have to spend any of his available labour-time reproducing his existing means of production, he is thereby provided with a portion of the day which is free, surplus labour time. During this surplus labour-time, he can then create his own means of production, which thereby enhance his productive capacity. In fact, we find that many animals themselves create their own means of production, for this purpose – monkeys use sticks as tools, and some birds use sticks as tools to get at insects – so its likely that man did this very early on.

Whilst these produced means of production increase Man's productive capacity, so that his ability to meet his immediate needs increases rapidly, so too does this lead both to an expansion in the range of those needs, and to an increasing requirement to spend a rising proportion of the working day in production that only reproduces this ever expanding mass of means of production.

“This process among savages, considered merely from the substantive side, corresponds to the reconversion of surplus-labour into new capital. In the process of accumulation, the conversion of such products of excess labour into capital obtains continually; and the circumstance that all new capital arises out of profit, rent, or other forms of revenue, i.e., out of surplus-labour, leads to the mistaken idea that all value of commodities arises from some revenue. This reconversion of profit into capital shows rather upon closer analysis that, conversely, the additional labour — which is always represented in the form of revenue — does not serve for the maintenance, or reproduction respectively, of the old capital value, but for the creation of new excess capital so far as it is not consumed as revenue.” (p 848)

In other words, Marx is at pains to emphasise that the portion of social output that goes into reproducing this constant capital never forms any part of revenue. The revenue obtained, in whatever form, that is not consumed unproductively, but is invested in the accumulation of productive-capital, (including that which is the equivalent of the commodities required to reproduce additional labour-power) does not reproduce the existing constant capital, but adds to it.

The illusion is fuelled by the fact that the surplus labour provided by the worker takes the form of surplus value in the hands of the capitalist. A portion also passes as revenue into the hands of the landlord as rent. Whether as profit, interest or rent, although this immediately forms revenue, a portion may also be used for productive investment, and for the productive-capitalist, this must be the case. It, therefore, gives the impression that this productive-capital arises as a consequence of this expenditure of revenue.

“However, the portion of labour-power employed in the creation of new capital (thus analogous to that portion of the working-day employed by a savage, not for acquiring subsistence, but to fashion tools with which to acquire his subsistence) becomes invisible in that the entire product of surplus-labour first appears in the form of profit; a designation which indeed has nothing to do with this surplus-product itself, but refers merely to the individual relation of the capitalist to the surplus-value pocketed by him.” (p 848)

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