Monday, 12 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 97

In Capital II, Marx criticised Smith's view that productive supply does not exist prior to capitalist production. Obviously, the concept of accumulation involves the existence of such a productive supply. Marx cites Smith.

““In that rude state of society, in which there is no division of labour, in which exchanges are seldom made, and in which every man provides every thing for himself, it is not necessary that any stock should be accumulated, or stored up beforehand, in order to carry on the business of the society” (that is, after assuming that there is no society). “Every man endeavours to supply, by his own industry, his own occasional wants, as they occur. When he is hungry, he goes to the forest to hunt”—and so on ([ibid., p.301], [Garnier], l.c., t, II, pp. 191-92) (l. II, Introduction). “But when the division of labour has once been thoroughly introduced, the produce of a man’s own labour can supply but a very small part of his occasional wants. The far greater part of them are supplied by the produce of other men’s labour, [which he purchases with the produce ], or, what is the same thing, the price of the produce of his own, But this purchase cannot be made till such time as the produce of his own labour has not only been completed, but sold.”” (p 259)

As Marx sets out, elsewhere, the idea that the division of labour is the result of exchange is false. In a primitive commune, where the social product is consumed collectively, there is still a division of labour with some members involved in hunting and gathering and others involved in food preparation, care of the old and young etc. There is often a division between hunters and cultivators, and those involved in the production of pottery etc. But, in each of these cases, it is not true to say that no stock or productive supply is involved.

“(Even in the first case he could not eat the hare before he had killed it, and he could not kill it before he had produced for himself the classical “bow” or something similar. The only thing that seems to be added in case II is therefore not the necessity of a stock of any sort, but the “time… to sell the produce of his labour”.) 

A stock of goods of different kinds, therefore, must be stored up somewhere, sufficient to maintain him, and to supply him with the materials and tools of his work, till such time at least as both these events can be brought about. A weaver cannot apply himself entirely to his peculiar business, unless there is beforehand stored up somewhere, either in his own possession, or in that of some other persons, a stock sufficient to maintain him, and to supply him with the materials and tools of his work, till he has not only completed, but sold his web. This accumulation must evidently be previous to his applying his industry for so long a time to such a peculiar business, … The accumulation of stock must, in the nature of things, be previous to the division of labour…” ([ibid., pp. 301-02], [Garnier], l.c., pp. 192-93).

(On the other hand, according to what he has stated at the beginning, it appears that no accumulation of capital takes place before the division of labour, just as there is no division of labour before the accumulation of capital.)” (p 259)

In fact, as Marx sets out in Capital II, the size of the productive supply undoubtedly does rise as capitalist production expands. But, that is just a feature of that very expansion. Taken as a proportion of the total production, it will, in fact, decline, in part because rising social productivity will continually increase the rate of turnover of capital.

Smith argues that an increased division of labour is only possible if the stocks of each component are continually increased, as each worker must have a stock of components to hand to ensure their continuous operation.

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