Monday, 19 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 104

[14.] Count Destutt de Tracy [Vulgar Conception of the Origin of Profit. Proclamation of the Industrial Capitalist” as the Sole Productive Labourer]

Destutt deTracy considers all labour productive, and it is only the idle classes who live off rent or interest that are unproductive.

““The real sterile class is the class of idlers, who do nothing but live what is called nobly on the products of labours performed before them, whether these products are realised in landed property which they farm out, that is to say, which they lease to a labourer, or whether they consist in money or goods that they lend for a return, which also means to lease them. Those are the real drones of the hive (fruges consumere nati)” (p. 87): these idlers “can expend nothing but their revenue. If they break into their funds, nothing replaces them; and their consumption, increased for the moment, ceases for ever” (p. 237). 

“This revenue is … only a deduction from the products of activity of the industrious citizens” (p. 236).” (p 269)

What then of the workers employed directly by these idlers? These workers consume commodities produced by the productive workers, but appropriated as revenue by the idlers.

“Here therefore we are dealing with labourers for whose labour the idlers directly exchange their revenue, that is, with labourers who draw their wages directly from revenue, not from capital.” (p 270)

Real political economy, Marx says, treats the capitalist as personified capital, as merely an agent of production. In this role, unlike the miser, who only amasses money, the capitalist amasses exchange value in order to amass productive-capital, and thereby to develop production.

“The enjoyment of wealth seems to it a superfluous luxury, until it itself learns to combine exploitation and consumption and to subordinate itself to the enjoyment of wealth.” (p 270)

According to Destutt, the origin of the revenues of the idlers – rent, interest – resides in the industrial capitalists who produce the surplus value in which the idlers share.

“In Destutt it is quite clear —as with Adam Smith before him —that what on the surface is glorification of the productive labourer is in fact only glorification of the industrial capitalist in contrast to landlords and such moneyed capitalists as live only on their revenue.” (p 271)

The industrial capitalists have in their hands the whole wealth of society, which they spend in order for it to come back to them with a profit. They also spend solely for consumption, just as with the idlers, but it is ““ total moderate, because industrialists are usually unassuming” (p. 238).” (p 271)

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