Saturday, 31 December 2016

Theories of Surplus Value Part I, Chapter 2 - Part 6

In Capital III, the process by which pre-capitalist rent evolved from Labour Rent, through Rent In Kind, to Money Rent was described. Money Rent was shown to be the means by which feudal rent is dissolved and capitalist rent arises. Feudal rent is the form of surplus value, in a feudal economy. It is based upon a legal right of the landlord to be paid tribute on the basis of their rank and status.

Money rent, along with the development of landed property, which itself comes to be bought and sold as a commodity, therefore, becomes the natural form of capitalist rent, whose basis is now surplus profit. Land is now no longer owned by individuals who have inherited legal right to rent as tribute, but by capitalist landowners, who claim rent as payment for the use of their land, as part of the productive process.

“The starting-point is the feudal landowner, but he comes on to the stage as a capitalist, as a mere owner of commodities, who makes profitable use of the goods exchanged by him for labour, and gets back not only their equivalent, but a surplus over this equivalent, because he pays for the labour-power only as a commodity. He confronts the free labourer as an owner of commodities. In other words, this landowner is in essence a capitalist. In this respect too the Physiocratic system hits the mark, inasmuch as the separation of the labourer from the soil and from the ownership of land is a fundamental condition for capitalist production and the production of capital.” (p 51)

Whilst this analysis of the relations within agriculture laid bare the source of surplus value as being the appropriation by capital of the product of labour, and so the surplus of those products, paid by capital as wages, to the worker, the material conditions in which that analysis is undertaken, for the same reason, limit it to an understanding of this surplus value only in terms of this surplus product.

“... it conceived value merely as use-value, merely as material substance, and surplus-value as a mere gift of nature, which returns to labour, in place of a given quantity of organic material, a greater quantity. On the one hand, it stripped rent — that is, the true economic form of landed property — of its feudal wrapping, and reduced it to mere surplus-value in excess of the labourer’s wage. On the other hand, this surplus-value is explained again in a feudal way, as derived from nature and not from society...” (p 52)

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