Sunday, 15 January 2017

Theories of Surplus Calue, Part I, Chapter 3 - Part 4

Marx then moves on to Smith's confusion and conflation of labour and labour-power, which I described earlier. Assume that all workers are the producers and sellers of commodities, Marx says.

“If therefore the commodities are sold at their value, the labourer buys with one commodity, which is the product of twelve hours’ labour-time, another twelve hours’ labour-time in the form of another commodity, that is to say, twelve hours’ labour-time which is embodied in another use-value. The value of his labour is therefore equal to the value of his commodity; that is, it is equal to the product of twelve hours’ labour-time. The selling and buying again, in a word, the whole process of exchange, the metamorphosis of the commodity, alters nothing in this. It alters only the form of the use-value in which this twelve hours’ labour-time appears. The value of labour is therefore equal to the value of the product of labour.” p 71-2)

But, as described earlier, on this basis, a commodity with a value of twelve hours could just as easily be exchanged for twelve hours of living labour. A blacksmith may provide metal goods to a peasant, who agrees to provide twelve hours of labour, working on the blacksmith's field, for example.

“Thus it is not only commodity exchanging for commodity in the proportion in which they represent an equal quantity of materialised labour-time, but a quantity of living labour exchanging for a commodity which represents the same quantity of labour materialised.” (p 72)

If these are the conditions that exist, then,

“... the value of labour (the quantity of commodities which can he bought with a given quantity of labour, or the quantity of labour which can be bought with a given quantity [of commodities]) could serve as the measure of the value of a commodity just as well as the quantity of labour contained in it, since the value of labour always represents the same quantity of materialised labour as the living labour requires for the production of this commodity...” (p 72)

But, as set out earlier, other than within the primitive commune, these are not the conditions that exist. That is because, in all these societies, in one form or another, the producers do not own the main means of production, which are in the possession of other classes. The producers, thereby, do not have control of the whole of the product of their labour.

“The product or the value of the product of labour does not belong to the labourer. A definite quantity of living labour does not command the same quantity of materialised labour, or a definite quantity of labour materialised in a commodity commands a greater quantity of living labour than is contained in the commodity itself.” (p 72)

In other words, a capitalist who pays wages to a worker, in the shape of wage goods, with a value equal to ten hours of labour, may, thereby, obtain command over twelve hours of labour provided by the worker.

Back To Part 3

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