Monday, 5 December 2016

Capital III, Chapter 51 - Part 8

The second distinctive characteristic of capitalist production is this fact that its direct aim is this production of surplus value, rather than the satisfaction of needs. Capitalism is forced to meet social needs, as expressed via the market, but only because, for each individual capital, the maximisation of the realised profit can only be achieved by meeting consumer demand. Moreover, this consumer demand is itself a capitalistically determined form of social need, because it only constitutes demand to the extent that it is a need backed by the ability and willingness to pay. That in itself is a function of production relations, which, in turn, determine distribution.

As Marx puts it in The Critique of the Gotha Programme.

“Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labour power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.”

It is ownership of an expanding mass of capital, in the hands of a diminishing number of people, which ensures that an increasing proportion of society's revenue goes to them, and which thereby enables them to exert a correspondingly large influence on demand, and their access to society's products. As Marx put it earlier,

“But this last-named is not determined either by the absolute productive power, or by the absolute consumer power, but by the consumer power based on antagonistic conditions of distribution, which reduce the consumption of the bulk of society to a minimum varying within more or less narrow limits.” (Chapter 15, p 244)

Capital is not organised so as to produce products or commodities but to produce capital and can only do so by producing surplus value, and to produce capital on an ever expanding scale, it must produce surplus value on an ever expanding scale. This indeed is why under capitalism labour is only productive in so far as it produces surplus-value, and thereby produces capital.

In order to expand surplus value, capital begins by extending the working day, so as to expand absolute surplus value, but runs up against objective barriers, represented by the normal working-day. Capital then finds a more effective means of increasing surplus value by the extraction of relative surplus value, resulting from rising productivity of labour. Each individual capital seeks to obtain competitive advantage, by raising productivity, through the use of additional fixed capital (extensive accumulation), as well as the use of more effective technology (intensive accumulation).

This increase in productivity of labour, arising from this technology, which is itself the product of labour, then appears to derive and be a product not of labour itself, but of this capital, which confronts it as an alien force.

“The pressure to reduce cost-price to its minimum becomes the strongest lever for raising the social productiveness of labour, which, however, appears here only as a continual increase in the productiveness of capital.” (p 881)

No comments: