Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Capital III, Chapter 51 - Part 2

This distribution is considered natural and flowing from the nature of all human production, even though in reality, both the nature of production and of distribution have changed throughout Man's history. In fact, its quite clear that under feudalism the distribution relations were quite different.

Although rent, as a form of revenue exists under both feudalism and capitalism, the nature of rent under the two systems is quite different. Under feudalism, rent is paid to the feudal lord, not in return for the use of his land, but purely on the basis of his customary and legal right to be paid tribute. It is a direct appropriation of surplus value.

But, capitalist rent only arises after capital itself has appropriated surplus value. It arises as an appropriation of only a portion of surplus value, the form of surplus profits. Because land, under capitalism, becomes a commodity that is bought and sold, rent becomes itself a payment for the use of the land.

Rent under feudalism is revenue received by the feudal lord, a share of the society's social production, based on status and rank in society, whereas under capitalism rent is revenue received by a capitalist landowner, a share in the society's output, based on their ownership of a factor of production, and its proportionate contribution to the value of society's production.

“The only correct aspect of this conception is: Assuming some form of social production to exist (e.g., primitive Indian communities, or the more ingeniously developed communism of the Peruvians), a distinction can always be made between that portion of labour whose product is directly consumed individually by the producers and their families and — aside from the part which is productively consumed — that portion of labour which is invariably surplus-labour, whose product serves constantly to satisfy the general social needs no matter how this surplus-product may be divided, and no matter who may function as representative of these social needs. Thus, the identity of the various modes of distribution amounts merely to this: they are identical if we abstract from their differences and specific forms and keep in mind only their unity as distinct from their dissimilarity.” (p 877-8)

Marx refers obliquely to the view of J.S. Mill (Some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy, London, 1844), who did recognise the differences in the form of distribution in different societies, “... but nevertheless clings all the more tenaciously to the unchanging character of production relations themselves, arising from human nature and thus independent of all historical development.” (p 878)

But, the analysis conducted so far, demonstrates that capitalism is an historically specific form of production that could only arise on the basis of the existence of a series of preconditions, which themselves could only be created by a long preceding historical development. For capitalism to exist, it requires the existence of capital and wage labour. That is, it requires that the means of production do not just exist as means of production, in the hands of the producers, but that they exist in the form of capital, means of production in the hands of a few, who will only allow them to be used by the producers, if the producers provide free labour to the owners of the means of production.

It requires, as a corollary, that the producers have been dispossessed of their own means of production. Otherwise, those means of production cannot be monopolised by a few, and the producers would have no reason to provide free labour. But, also for this to occur, it presupposes that the productive forces have themselves been developed to a necessary level.

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