Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 51

Returning to Ganilh, Marx gives a quote from him that also pre-empts the view of marginal theory, whereby each factor contributes to the formation of value, and thereby obtains revenue equal to this contribution. Ganilh writes,

“It is forgotten that all production only becomes wealth concurrently with its consumption, and that exchange determines up to what point it contributes to the formation of wealth. If it is remembered that all labours contribute directly or indirectly to the total production of each country, that exchange, in fixing the value of each labour, determines the part that it has had in this production, that consumption of the production realises the value that exchange has given it...” (p 212) 

But, Marx points out the contradiction in Ganilh's argument. In the above quote, Ganilh continues, “... the surplus or deficit of production over consumption determines the state of wealth or poverty of peoples, it will be realised how inconsistent it is to isolate each labour, to fix its fertility and its fruitfulness by its contribution to material production and without any regard to its consumption, which alone gives it a value, a value without which wealth cannot exist” (l.c., pp. 294-95).” (p 212) 

As Marx points out, therefore,

“On the one hand the fellow makes wealth depend on the excess of production over consumption, on the other hand he says that only consumption gives value. And a servant who consumes 1,000 francs consequently contributes twice as much to the giving of value as a peasant who consumes 500 francs.” (p 212)

Ganilh ends up facing both ways at the same time, admitting that the unproductive labour does not contribute to the creation of material wealth, and at the same time, trying to prove that it does, not by producing but by consuming.

“All those who polemicise against Adam Smith on the one hand assume a superior attitude to material production, and on the other hand they attempt to justify immaterial production—or even no production, like that of lackeys—as material production. It makes absolutely no difference whether the owner of the net revenue consumes this revenue in lackeys, mistresses or pasties.” (p 212)

Malthus, as the apologist of the landlord class made a similar argument that the landlords fulfilled a useful function by their consumption, but, as Marx points out, it is ludicrous to suggest that it is only these unproductive classes such as the landed aristocracy, or those retainers and flunkies paid out of their revenue, including all the state officials, that could fulfil the role of consuming this production. The productive classes themselves could quite easily fulfil that role, and raise their rather miserable living standards by doing so!

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