Sunday, 18 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 103

In a society based on barter, the kind of proportion between different types of commodity production that Marx describes above, ensures that there can be no overproduction. Even in a society based on simple commodity production, any such overproduction would only ever be partial and limited. This potential for overproduction arises because, as Marx says in Theories of Surplus Value II, as soon as commodities exchange with money, the demand for the general commodity, money, may exceed the demand for all other commodities, and so it does not get transformed into them.

But, it is only with capitalist production proper, machine production, that this potential for overproduction becomes transformed into an inevitability, as this increase in the production of use values expands massively. Yet, Say fails to recognise this difference, not just between capitalist production and simple commodity production, but even between simple commodity production and barter. So, he believes that overproduction cannot occur. Rather than there being overproduction, there can only be under-consumption, caused by an underproduction of other commodities to be exchanged.

“And moreover Monsieur Say teaches: “Sluggishness in the sale of some products arises from the scarcity of some others” (l.c., p. 438). 

Therefore there can never be too many tables produced, but at most perhaps too few dishes to be put on the tables. If physicians increase too much in number, what is wrong is not that their services are available in superfluity, but perhaps that the services of other producers of immaterial products are in short supply—for example, prostitutes ...” (p 268)

Marx also makes the point that, given any conditions of production, the amount of labour required is well known. However, that is not the case for immaterial production. For example, how many soldiers are required to defend a country? This is a problem that persists with trying to measure productivity for service production.

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