Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 23

Garnier raises another objection to Smith's attack on state functionaries.

“Why, he says, call productive 

“the labour of an inspector or director of a private enterprise in trade or manufacture, and non-productive, the labour of the government official who, watching over the upkeep of public highways, of navigable canals and ports, of monies and other important instruments destined to enliven commercial activity, watching over the security of transport and communications, the carrying out of conventions, etc., can with justice be regarded as the inspector of the great social manufacture? It is labour of absolutely the same nature, though on a vaster scale” (pp. 172-73).” (p 184)

But, its not the fact that the inspectors here are employed by the state that makes their labour unproductive.

“In so far as such a lad takes part in the production (or conservation and reproduction) of material things which could be sold were they not in the hands of the State, Smith might call his labour “productive”.” (p 184-5)

In other words, it would be the fact that the labour was not involved in material production that would make it unproductive for Smith, not the fact that it was labour employed by the state.

The third argument put forward by Garnier amounts to nothing more than moralising, Marx says. Garnier says, why should the labour of a perfumier, whose product “flatters my sense of smell” be productive whilst that of the musician who “enchants my ear” be unproductive.

“Smith would reply: because the former supplies a material product and the latter does not. Morals and the “merits” of the two lads have nothing to do with the distinction.” (p 185)

Again, that is not to say that Smith was right, but only that Garnier's attack was ill-founded. In fact, on the basis of Smith's first correct definition, the labour of both could be productive. The musician, employed by a theatre, for example, who produces a surplus value for the theatre owner, is just as productive as the chemist employed by a perfumier, whose labour creates surplus value for them.

Garnier's fourth objection is in a similar vein. He says, if a violin maker or maker of other instruments is a productive labourer, then why not the musician who uses those instruments, because, after all, the point of producing the instruments was only that they are played. But, Marx points out that the act of playing the instrument is only its consumption. It is no different than someone consuming the food that a farmer has grown. Just because the labour of growing the food was productive, that does not make the act of eating it productive, just because the point of growing it was that it be eaten!

Again, Garnier's critique is ill-founded, because it is based upon the second, incorrect definition used by Smith.

Garnier eventually gets to this point. He writes,

““The only general difference that can, it seems, be observed between […] the two classes assumed by Smith, is that in the class which he calls productive, there is or may always be some intermediary person between the maker of the object and the person who consumes it; whereas in the labour that he calls non-productive, there cannot be any intermediary, and the relation between the labourer and the consumer is necessarily direct and immediate.” (p 186)

Moreover, the unproductive labour, which exchanges with revenue, cannot be for the most part subordinated to capitalist production, whilst nearly all material production of commodities occurs within the remit of capitalist production. On this basis, the revenue received by unproductive labourers, “whether those of a prostitute or of the Pope) can only be paid for either out of the wages of the productive labourers, or out of the profits of their employers (and the partners in those profits), quite apart from the circumstances that those productive labourers produce the material basis of the subsistence, and consequently, the existence, of the unproductive labourers.” (p 186)

In other words, its not the fact that these productive labourers or their employers are engaged in the production of material commodities that is the basis of them paying the wages of the unproductive labourers, but the fact that they are engaged in capitalist production. Ultimately, all production and consumption rests upon the production of agricultural products, as the Physiocrats argued. Without the surplus production from the land, it would not be possible for labour and capital to be employed in other activities.

But, not all consumption is of agricultural products. Consumption involves consumption of manufactured goods as much as agricultural goods, and in the same way, consumption consists as much of non-material goods and services as of material goods.

“It is however characteristic of this shallow French cur that he, who wants to be an expert in political economy and so an explorer of capitalist production, considers inessential the feature which makes this production capitalist—the exchange of capital for wage-labour instead of the direct exchange of revenue for wage-labour or the revenue which the labourer directly pays to himself. By so doing Garnier makes capitalist production itself an inessential form instead of a necessary—though only historically, that is, transiently necessary —form for the development of the social productive powers of labour and the transformation of labour into social labour.” (p 187)

Garnier says,

“... “… it would also always be necessary to deduct from his productive class all labourers whose labour consists purely of cleaning, conserving or repairing finished articles, and consequently does not put any new product into circulation” (p. 175).” (p 187)

But, Marx points out that nowhere does Smith say that productive labour is only that which produces commodities that form the circulating capital. It can just as well be labour that maintains and repairs the fixed capital. In that case, the value they produce, like the value of the fixed capital itself, enters the value of the end product bit by bit, and is reproduced in the value of the commodity.

The distinction would be where such maintenance and repairs were undertaken not by wage labour, exchanging with capital, but by servants exchanging their labour with revenue. For example, the labour of an electrician who repairs a machine in a factory is productive, but the labour of an electrician who repairs a machine in the home of the capitalist is unproductive.

Garnier, having noted the distinction between the labour that exchanges with capital, and that which exchanges with revenue, then says,

“But this capital is always in the end replaced by the revenue of a consumer, otherwise it would not circulate and therefore would not yield any profit to its possessor.” (p 187)

In fact, Garnier is wrong. A part of the capital is replaced by capital, not by revenue, i.e. of c + v + s, c is replaced by capital.

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