Monday, 9 January 2017

Theories of Surplus Value Part I, Chapter 2 - Part 15

[6. The Physiocrats as Partisans of Large-Scale Capitalist Agriculture]

One of the reasons that Physiocratic theory spread rapidly, particularly in France, was because of the crisis that arose with the Mercantilist and Monetary theories. A series of monetary crises undermined the equation of a growth in wealth with a growth of money. The money crisis that arose in France, as a consequence of the bursting of the bubble created by John Law's Mississippi Scheme, was such an event. As Adolphe Blanqui put it,

““Of all the values which shot up in the feverish atmosphere of the system” (Law’s), “nothing remained except ruin, desolation and bankruptcy. Landed property alone did not go under in the storm.”” (p 64)

But, it had further consequences. Under feudalism, the Lord of the Manor receives rent, as a form of hereditary tribute, to which they are entitled, due to their rank, title and status. The land passes down, along with the title, through the generations, by primogeniture, and is thereby maintained intact. However, once the land begins to be subdivided, for various reasons, for example, to pay taxes, the land itself enters circulation as a commodity. The payment of rent can no longer be justified, on the basis of the rank and status of the Lord of the Manor. Rent must now be justified on the basis of the value the land contributes to production.

As a consequence of the crisis that arose, after the collapse of the Mississippi Scheme, land begins to enter circulation on a much greater scale, as it is subdivided to be sold off to cover financial losses from speculation. 

““It even improved its position by changing hands and by being subdivided on a large scale, perhaps for the first time since feudalism” (l.c., p. 138). In particular, “The innumerable changes of ownership which were effected under the influence of the system, began the process of parcelling out property … Landed property arose for the first time from the condition of torpor in which the feudal system had kept it for so long. This was a real awakening for agriculture … It” (the land) “passed now from out of a condition of mortmain and came into circulation”” (Blanqui) (p 64)

As was seen earlier, Turgot also saw capitalist production in agriculture as the most effective, provided production had already reached a high level. That required that farms should be of a minimum size, so that capital could be applied on them effectively. Marx quotes Quesnay - Maximes générales du gouvernement économique d’un royaume agricole .

““The pieces of land which are employed in growing grain should as far as possible be joined together in large-scale farms which can be managed by rich farmers” (i.e., capitalists) “since the expenses for the maintenance and repair of the buildings are smaller and therefore the costs are correspondingly much lower and the net product much greater in the case of large agricultural undertakings than in the case of small.”” (p 65)

Although the Physiocrats saw the surplus value arising from the free gifts of nature, and so consequently this surplus value accrues to the landowners, Marx points out that, in this same passage, Quesnay admits that this increased productivity, here obtained by the bigger farm, derives from the higher level of social productivity.

““Every advantageous” “economy in labour which can be accomplished with the aid of animals, machines, water-power and so on, will be of benefit to the population,” etc.” (p 65)

Moreover, others had some notion that the surplus value, produced in industry, could not just be accounted for by the industrial capitalists robbing the landowner, via unequal exchange, nor by abstention from consumption, by the industrial capitalist. 

“At the same time Mercier de la Riviére (l.c., t. II, p. 407) has an inkling that surplus-value at least in manufacture has something to do with the manufacturing workers themselves. (Turgot extended this to all production, as already mentioned.) In the passage cited he exclaims: 

“Moderate your enthusiasm, ye blind admirers of the false products of industry. Before ye extol its miracles, open your eyes and see how many live in poverty or at least, in need, among those producers who understand the art of converting 20 sous into the value of a thousand écus. Who then benefits by this enormous increase in value? What do you say! Comforts are unknown to those through whose hands it is accomplished. Take warning then by this contrast!”” (p 65)

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