Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 113

[17.] Nassau Senior [Proclamation of All Functions Useful to the Bourgeoisie as Productive. Toadyism to the Bourgeoisie and the Bourgeois State]

Marx turns his attention to Nassau Senior, who wrote,

““According to Smith, the lawgiver of the Hebrews was an unproductive labourer” (l.c., p. 198).” (p 287)

Senior, in an attempt to present the immaterial labour of the doctor as material labour, writes,

““Does not the doctor who, by a prescription, heals a sick child and thus assures him many years of life, produce a durable result?” (l.c.)” (p 287)

Marx points out that this is rubbish because it would be just as durable a result if the child died, and, whatever the result, the doctor would require paying for the labour expended.

Senior also tries to present the labour of the Dutch and the English, in fighting the Spanish as productive labour, but Marx points out that productive labour requires a buyer and a seller, and in the above instances those involved were so voluntarily. 

“These insipid literary flourishes used by these fellows when they polemicise against Smith show only that they are representatives of the “educated capitalist”, while Smith was the interpreter of the frankly brutal bourgeois upstart. The educated bourgeois and his mouthpiece are both so stupid that they measure the effect of every activity by its effect on the purse. On the other hand, they are so educated that they grant recognition even to functions and activities that have nothing to do with the production of wealth; and indeed they grant them recognition because they too “indirectly” increase, etc., their wealth, in a word, fulfil a “useful” function for wealth.” (p 288)

Herein lies an important distinction between labour that represents a necessary cost and labour that is value adding. All necessary labour represents a necessary cost, but not all necessary labour adds value.

So, for example, Senior presents the case of the soldier. He writes,

““There are countries where it is quite impossible for people to work the land unless there are soldiers to protect them. Well, according to Smith’s classification, the harvest is not produced by the joint labour of the man who guides the plough and of the man at his side with arms in hand: according to him, the ploughman alone is a productive worker, and the soldier’s activity is unproductive” (l.c., p. 202).” (p 288)

Marx points out that the charge against Smith here is not correct because he would argue that the soldier's labour is productive of defence, though not of corn. The soldier's labour is necessary in the given circumstances, but not productive of value. If order is restored, the soldier's labour is no longer required. The corn would continue to be produced, and would have no less value, but now the farmer would not have to sustain the soldiers from the value obtained from the corn. Rather than adding to the value of the corn the need for the soldier's labour was an expense deducted from it.

In Capital II, Marx makes the same point about the labour-time required to produce grain stores and so on, or the cost of insurance for risky forms of production, such as sea transport. These are costs that must be covered but which represent no addition to the value of production.

Senior might argue that if a machine is invented so that 19 out of 20 workers are no longer required then these 19 workers “too are incidental expenses of production.”

Marx responds,

“But the soldier can drop out although the material conditions of production, the conditions of agriculture as such, remain unchanged. The nineteen labourers can only drop out if the labour of the one remaining labourer becomes twenty times more productive, that is to say, only through a revolution in the actual material conditions of production.” (p 289)

That is true, but only a partial response to the argument. The further point is that made earlier, which is that all necessary labour constitutes a cost of production, but not all necessary labour adds value. The 20 workers' labour constituted a cost of production. Before it could be undertaken, the labour-power itself had to be produced, and is represented by the wage. But, the 20 workers added value to the product by the expenditure of their labour. So, not only did this added value cover the cost of production represented by their wage, it also produced a surplus value. The soldier, however, represents a cost of production manifest in their wage, but their labour adds no value, so this cost is a total reduction in the produced value. Instead of adding to wealth, it is a deduction from it.

When 19 workers are no longer required, this indeed represents a reduction in the cost of production, equal to their wages. But, likewise, it is only now the labour of the 1 remaining worker that adds value. If previously, 20 workers worked for 200 hours, they added that amount of value. If they required 100 hours of value as wages to reproduce their labour-power, this represented a cost of production, but still they added 100 hours of value to production, over and above what they represented as a cost of production. 

If only 1 worker is now employed they represent a cost of production of only 5 hours, representing a saving to the cost of production of 15 hours. However, they only add 10 hours of value so that the value they add to production is only 5 hours more than they represent as a cost of production. Moreover, the 19 workers have been replaced by a machine, which also represents a cost of production. If its value is equal to 80 hours, this value is transferred to the value of production. It only thereby transfers to the value of production an equal amount of value to what it represents as a cost of production, neither adding to nor subtracting from the surplus value thereby.

Only to the extent that the machine suffers depreciation or damage, as a result of time, accident or moral depreciation does it represent a cost over and above the value it transfers via wear and tear, and thereby deduct from capital wealth.

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