Thursday, 16 February 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 3 - Part 36

Marx notes that what Ramsey illustrated, in his argument, is the double nature of the replacement process. On the one hand, for society, for social reproduction, what must be reproduced and replaced is the physical product, in effectiveness if not in quantity. For the individual capitalist, what must be replaced is value with value. Those who subjectively concern themselves with the individual fortune of the capitalist, as occurs with the use of historic prices, for example, must, therefore, always blind themselves to the actual process of the reproduction of capital, and the process of social reproduction.

Ramsey, Marx says, does not resolve the problem, which faced Smith. That problem is this. Value is labour. The value of the total output, therefore, is equal to the total labour-time expended. This labour-time is divided between the necessary labour-time, required for the reproduction of labour-power, paid as wages, and that part which comprises profit (as well as rent and interest). But, for Smith, all output value must be resolvable into wages and profit, which clearly it isn't.

“Or is labour somewhere performed which consists neither of wages nor profit, and merely has the purpose of replacing the values used up in production which are, however, the conditions of reproduction? But who performs this labour, since all labour performed by the labourer is resolved into two quantities, one which maintains his own power to produce, and the other which forms the profit of capital?” (p 106)

In a sense, of course, labour is performed somewhere which consists neither of wages nor profits. It is labour which was performed in the past, as surplus labour, which was then accumulated.

For example, take Robinson Crusoe. Having landed on his island, he sets to work to meet his immediate needs. If he only produces enough to meet those needs, his gross and net product are the same. All the value he produces he consumes. If, however, he works for eight hours to produce his immediate needs, and works for two hours as surplus labour, producing fishing rods, this two hours of value form part of the total value (ten hours) of his production, but no part of his revenue and consumption (eight hours).

The two hours of value, contained in the fishing rods will reappear in the value of production in future periods, as wear and tear of the rods, but, at no point has this value been the consequence of labour that formed a revenue for Robinson, i.e. provided him with means of consumption.

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