Monday, 24 April 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 49

The following statement from Ganilh is characteristic, Marx says.

““If exchange gives to the servant’s labour a value of 1,000 francs, while it gives to that of the husbandman or factory worker only a value of 500 francs, one must conclude from this that the servant’s labour contributes to the production of wealth twice as much as that of the husbandman and the factory worker; and it cannot be otherwise, as long as the labour of servants receives in payment twice as much in material products as the labour of husbandmen and factory workers. How can it be imagined that wealth results from labour which has less exchange-value and which is consequently paid less!” (l.c., pp. 293-94).” (p 211)

In other words, for Ganilh, the value created is synonymous with the wage earned. This is sometimes found in Smith, as well, when he slips into a cost of production theory of value, as opposed to a labour theory of value. The same idea applies for marginalist theory, whereby factor incomes are equal to the value created by the respective factors of production. But, as Marx points out, in relation to labour-power, the wages received by the worker, i.e. the value of labour-power, has nothing to do with the value created by that labour-power.

Variable-capital is unlike constant capital, because constant capital value is transferred to the end product, but variable capital value is not. The value of variable capital is only reproduced on condition that the workers create a new value, at least as great as the value of their labour-power. Provided the labour expended is socially necessary, workers will always create a positive new value, by the expenditure of their labour, but whether that new value is greater than the value of their own labour-power will depend upon the level of productivity.

As Marx puts it, even absolute surplus value depends upon relative surplus value, because it is not possible without a minimum level of productivity, so that workers can produce more in a day than is required for their own reproduction. That is why slavery is not viable prior to this level of productivity being achieved.

Ganilh's argument follows on from his argument that all labour is productive, because the performance of services creates the need for material production, by those who wish to obtain the services in exchange for this material production. Marx replies that, if the rate of surplus value is 40%, so that the factory worker produces €200 surplus, then 5 workers would be needed so that the capitalist could pay the €1,000 wages to the servant. Similarly, if instead of a servant the capitalist took a mistress, at a cost of €10,000, then 50 workers would be required to produce the profits required to retain her services.

“And because her unproductive labour brings in for the mistress twenty times as much exchange-value, wages, as the wages of the productive labourer, this person adds twenty times as much to “the production of wealth”, and a country produces the more wealth the higher it pays its servants and mistresses.” (p 211)

Of course, it is completely back to front. It is not the fact that a capitalist takes on a servant at a cost of €1,000, nor a mistress at €10,000 that explains the production of value or surplus value, but the production of value and surplus value in production that explains why a fund can be created that enables such unproductive labour to be employed.

“Monsieur Ganilh forgets that only the productivity of manufacturing and agricultural labour, only the surplus created by the productive workers but not paid to them, provides any fund at all for which the unproductive labourers are paid.” (p 211)

However, Marx needs to be careful here. He comments in relation to these unproductive labours,

“Indeed, their existence as a special breed of people depends on it. Their price and their value have little in common with each other.” (p 211) 

Of course, as with any other labour-power, its value has nothing to do with the value it creates, but that is not the same thing as saying that this unproductive labour creates no value. In the expenditure of useful labour – useful in the sense that it produces a use value – it creates value. It is only unproductive in the sense that it produces no surplus value. This, as Marx demonstrated earlier, has nothing to do with the nature of the product of the labour, but only with whether it exchanges with capital or revenue.

For example, if the capitalist obtains the labour of the same servant, who is employed by an agency that supplies such workers, the servant could be productive of surplus value for that company. If the mistress is actually a high class escort, employed by an escort agency, she could again be productive of surplus value for that company. In that case, it would be the surplus value produced by these workers that would provide the fund for the owners of the business to employ unproductive labour, for example, a gardener.

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