Sunday, 21 May 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 76

It may also be the case that the producer of one type of means of production exchanges none of their output with the producers of means of consumption. For example, suppose we have a producer of coal and steel who only supplies this coal and steel to the producers of means of production, which in turn are used to produce means of consumption. The producer of coal and steel exchanges none of their output with the producer of means of consumption, and yet obtains them. They do this because in reality, they exchange the coal and steel they produce with the producers of means of production, and then exchange these means of production with the producers of means of consumption.

It does not appear that way, because in a money economy the whole process is mediated by money. But, the reality is something like this. The producer of coal and steel expends 10 hours producing these commodities, and exchanges them with the producers of means of production. The producer of means of production expends 10 hours of labour themselves so that the value of their output is now 20 hours.

They now obtain 20 hours value in means of consumption in exchange. Of this 20 hours, 10 hours they retain themselves, the other 10 hours going to the producer of coal and steel, in exchange for those commodities sold to them. Although the producer of coal and steel does not exchange directly the use values they produce with the producer of consumption goods, they exchange the value of their products with them indirectly, because that value is incorporated as constant capital in the production of all the intermediate production that takes place in the process of providing the producer of consumption goods with the constant capital they require.

For example, the farmer creates 10 hours of new value via their labour, in producing grain, which becomes constant capital for the miller. The miller adds 10 hours of value via their labour, to turn the grain into flour. The flour appears as 20 hours of value of constant capital for the baker, who then expends another 10 hours of labour producing bread with a value equal to 30 hours, which is consumed by himself, the miller, and the farmer, and bought with their revenue.

“The products therefore—of which the aliquot part that represents revenue can be consumed by their own producers as value, but not as use-value (so that they must sell the part for example of their machines which represents wages and profit in order to consume it, [as they] cannot directly satisfy any individual need with it as a machine)— [these products] can just as little be consumed by the producers of other products; they cannot enter into their individual consumption, and hence cannot form part of the products on which they spend their revenue, since this would be in contradiction to the use-value of these commodities: their use-value by the nature of the case excludes individual consumption. The producers of these unconsumable products, therefore, can only consume their exchange-value; that is to say, they must first transform them into money in order to retransform this money into consumable commodities.” (p 236)

If the economy was based on barter, rather than being a money economy, the farmer would exchange grain with a value of 10 hours with the miller, obtaining flour with a value of 10 hours. The farmer would then exchange this flour with the baker, obtaining bread with a value of 10 hours in return. The miller, having obtained grain with a value of 10 hours from the farmer, and adding 10 hours of value by their labour to it, would have had a product with 20 hours of value, half of which they have exchanged with the farmer. They now exchange the other half with the baker, obtaining bread with a value of 10 hours.

The baker has obtained flour with a value of 10 hours from the farmer, and another 10 hours from the miller. They have added a further 10 hours of value by their own labour, giving a total value of 30 hours in the bread. Of this they have exchanged 10 hours of bread with the farmer for 10 hours value of flour, and a further 10 hours of bread with the miller, for the other 10 hours value of flour. That leaves them with bread with a value of 10 hours, available for their own consumption. Each participant, has obtained means of consumption, of equal value to their own revenue, i.e. equal to the new value they have created by their labour.

The total new value created by labour was 30 (10 farmer, 10 miller, 10 baker), and this was the value of the final product, the bread. That consumable product has then been acquired for consumption by each participant, in proportion to the new value each created, i.e. proportionate to their revenue. In the example above, it was assumed that the farmer exchanged grain with the miller, who turned it to flour, and handed half the flour back to the farmer, and so on. In reality, as Marx describes, in relation to the process of social reproduction, each of these participants already possess the commodity-capital, which they exchange.

So, for example, the farmer does not start the process at the beginning of the cycle to produce grain. If that were the case everyone would starve waiting the several months for it to be grown and harvested, and then processed. The grain that the farmer exchanges with the miller is not grain they grow in this year, but the grain they grew last year, and harvested at the end of last year, and which now comprises their commodity-capital. Likewise, the miller does not take this grain from the farmer, and make the farmer wait until they have milled it, before handing flour back to the farmer. The miller likewise, has a stock of grain from the previous year, waiting to be processed, as well as a stock of grain that has been processed, and is waiting to be exchanged/sold. The same is true for the baker.

This is also why the value of these commodities that comprise the constant and variable capital must be based upon their current reproduction cost, and not their historic cost, because it is not the labour-time that was actually required for the production of all these commodities last year that is of relevance, but the proportion of current labour-time, of current social production, required for their replacement that counts. It is that which determines how much of total social production constitutes a surplus product, and so surplus value. It is that which determines the relation of this surplus product to the total product, and so the rate of profit.

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