Friday, 14 April 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 39

Garnier argues that it is then consumption by the unproductive labour, which satisfies artificial needs, and consumes the material products of agriculture, which stimulates production. As he puts it,

““The improvement and extension of agriculture and consequently the progress of industry and commerce have no other cause than the extension of artificial needs.”” (p 202)

And, on this basis, he pre-empts the Keynesian theory of the paradox of thrift and advocacy of fiscal expansion to stimulate production.

““The fortune of an individual is enlarged by saving; the public fortune, on the contrary, derives its increase from the increase of consumption.”” (p 202)

He advocates public debt, because it stimulates these needs (p 202).

Marx includes a short aside on the comments of the German, Schmalz, who basically propounded a poor version of Physiocratic theory, but which had a confused notion of value, based not upon the expenditure of socially necessary labour, but on a saving of time. He writes,

““I observe only … that Smith’s distinction between productive and unproductive labour should not be considered as essential or very precise, if one has regard to the fact that in general the labour of others never produces anything for us but a saving of time, and that this saving of time is all that forms its value and its price.”” (p 203)

There are hints here of the idea encountered earlier, that somehow unproductive labour could become productive if it allowed the person for whom it was performed to engage in some other productive activity. But, it involves another confusion detailed by Marx, which is the idea that value is increased as a result of higher productivity, for example, as a result of the division of labour.

On the basis of the Physiocratic theory, it can be seen how this follows. They equate value with use value, and so a rise in productivity results in a production of more use values, and hence value. But, as Marx says, the rise in productivity does not increase value. An hour of labour-time produces an hour of value, whether the labour is highly productive or not. All that changes is the number of use values produced, and in which, therefore, that value is embodied. If productivity is high, the hour of value will be embodied in a large quantity of use values, so that each contains a smaller quantity of value, and vice versa, where productivity is low.

Schmalz also purveys the same idea as Garnier on the role of consumption, without which, he says, production could not exist, and without which, therefore, there could be no rent for the landowner.

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