Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 37

Marx also outlines clearly the myth behind the plethora of TV programmes that suggest that people can save or make mega bucks by self-building houses. The whole basis upon which capitalism has been built is that large-scale production, taking advantage of ever more effective and productive labour, via the division of labour, the increase in productivity that arises from the employment of greater quantities of ever more sophisticated fixed capital, and the cost reductions brought about by the economies of scale, continually reduce the value of commodities.

It was this that enabled capitalism to quickly replace handicraft production and manufacture. To suggest that unqualified individuals that lack all of these advantages, enjoyed by the big builders, could produce better, cheaper houses than the large construction companies is clearly silly, and only sustainable on the basis of deception, by those who have an incentive in perpetuating that myth, and self-deception, by those engaged in such projects.

Garnier imagines that the profit is paid by the consumer. The consumer pays the “value” of the commodity; and although it contains a profit for the capitalist, the commodity is cheaper for him, the consumer, than if he had spent his revenue directly on labour causing it to produce on a small scale for his personal requirements. It is obvious here that Garnier has not the slightest idea of what capital is.” (p 200)

Garnier asks whether its not true that a range of unproductive workers, such as actors, only obtain wages because they are employed by a capitalist. That is true, says Marx, but it only shows that many such workers, who are correctly defined as productive by Smith's first definition, are incorrectly defined as unproductive by his second definition.

Garnier says that, for a society to have a large number of productive workers, it must consequently have a large accumulation of capital in the hands of entrepreneurs. Marx comments,

“In fact, wage-labour on a mass scale is only another expression for capital on a mass scale. “ (p 200)

Garnier claims that Smith is wrong, in his suggestion that the ratio of productive to unproductive labour is determined by the ratio of capital to revenue. It will, rather, Garnier claims, depend upon the society's customs, and the degree of development of its industry. But, Marx retorts, if productive labour exchanges with capital, and unproductive with revenue, the ratio of productive to unproductive clearly does depend upon the ratio of capital to revenue. However, that is not the same thing as saying that the growth of productive labour and unproductive labour depends upon the existing ratio of capital to revenue.

The growth of unproductive labour will clearly depend upon what capitalists do with their profits, landlords with rents, and the state with taxes. The greater the portion of these revenues that are converted into capital, the greater the expansion of productive labour, relative to unproductive labour, and vice versa.

“Although the bourgeoisie was originally very thrifty, with the growing productivity of capital, i.e., of the labourers, it imitates the retainer system of the feudal lords. According to the latest report (1861 or 1862) on the factories, the total number of persons (managers included) employed in the factories properly so called of the United Kingdom was only 775,534, while the number of female servants in England alone amounted to 1 million. What a convenient arrangement it is that makes a factory girl to sweat twelve hours in a factory, so that the factory proprietor, with a part of her unpaid labour, can take into his personal service her sister as maid, her brother as groom and her cousin as soldier or policeman!” (p 201)

Back To Part 36

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