Friday, 23 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 108

Destutt has only succeeded in showing that the industrial capitalists do not pay wages, rent or interest twice, once as money and secondly as commodities, because what is paid out first as money wages, rent or interest is “drawn back”, only in exchange for commodities of the same value. At best, the idea that this second exchange takes place on a basis favourable to the industrial capitalist explains the relative distribution of that profit. It does not, in any way, indicate the origin of the profit itself.

But, later, Destutt, echoing Adam Smith, actually alights, by accident, on the real source of the profit.

““Whence come their revenues to these idle men? Is it not from the rent which those who set their capitals to work pay to them out of their profits, that is to say, those who use their funds to pay labour which produces more than it costs, in a word, the men of industry? ”” (p 278) 

In other words, the profit arises not at all from these capitalists selling their commodities above their value, but from the workers creating more value than they are themselves paid as wages, in other words, creating a greater quantity of value than the value of their own labour-power.

“... a surplus-product which the industrial capitalist appropriates for himself, and of which he gives away only one part to those receiving rent from land and money. 

Monsieur Destutt concludes from this: not that we must go back to these productive labourers, but that we must go back to the capitalists who set them in motion.” (p 279)

If we take Smith's correct definition of productive labour being that which produces surplus value, then Destutt's argument leads to the conclusion that the only productive labourers are the industrial capitalists!

““They” (the industrial capitalists) “who live on profits maintain all the others and alone augment the public fortune and create all our means of enjoyment. That must be so, because labour is the source of all wealth and because they alone give a useful direction to current labour, by making a useful application of accumulated labour” (p. 242).” (p 279)

But, all this means is that the industrial capitalists set labour to work to produce use values. They do so by using accumulated labour to set this current labour to work. The value of the accumulated labour, in the form of wages, is less than the value produced by the labour it sets in motion.

“In the passage just cited Destutt naïvely epitomises the contradictions which make up the essence of capitalist production. Because labour is the source of all wealth, capital is the source of all wealth; the actual propagator of wealth is not he who labours, but he who makes a profit out of another’s labour. The productive powers of labour are the productive powers of capital.” (p 280)

Destutt writes,

““Our faculties are our only original wealth; our labour produces all other wealth, and all labour, properly directed, is productive” (p. 243).” (p 280)

On that basis, labour is not wealth. But, the act of labour thereby produces all other wealth. Only labour which produces profit for capital is properly directed, and thereby productive.

Destutt gives a good summary, Marx says, of Adam Smith's discussion of different types of consumption, and their effect. A firework and a diamond may have the same value, Destutt says, but the former once lit, is soon consumed and disappears, whereas the latter will still exist 100 years hence to still be enjoyed. This is a similar distinction as that between material and immaterial commodities. The same is true of services.

““The most ruinous consumption is the quickest, because it is that which destroys more labour in the same time, or an equal quantity of labour in less time; in comparison with it, consumption which is slower is a kind of treasuring up, since it leaves to times to come the enjoyment of part of the present sacrifices… Everyone knows that it is more economical to get, for the same price, a coat that will last three years than a similar one which will only last three months” (pp. 243-44).” (p 281).

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