Sunday, 4 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 89

Marx then examines more closely how this reproduction of B's constant capital occurs without it producing a revenue for anyone.

“Partly by his own reproduction (vegetative or animal), as in all agriculture and stock-raising; partly by exchange in kind of parts of one constant capital for parts of another constant capital, because the product of one sphere enters as raw material or means of production into the other sphere, and vice versa; that is, because the products of the various spheres of production, the various sorts of constant capital, enter reciprocally in kind into each other’s sphere as conditions of production.” (p 248) 

All of the product of A is consumed, and consequently all of the constant capital used in the production of A is consumed. Both of the component parts of the value of A – the value of constant capital and the new value created by labour – are the product of new labour. In other words, the value of the constant capital is equal to the new value created by labour in B.

But, this is only true in value terms. If we look at the actual use values involved, then its clear that, for example, the flax used in the production of yarn is not the product just of new labour. It contains also the seed previously gathered, fertiliser, wear and tear of machines and so on. Similarly, if we examine that part of the total output that constitutes the means of production used in B, in value terms, it comprises no element of current labour. But, if we examine the use values that comprise this component its quite clear that they are just as much the product of current labour as those supplied to A.

So, in value terms, the constant capital supplied to A represents newly added labour, and, 

“This is in fact the only part of the constant capital that is replaced by newly-added labour; and it is replaced by it because the quantity of products B that is the newly-added labour in B, is not consumed by B, but on the contrary is industrially consumed by A, while B consumes individually the two-thirds of A.” (p 248)

So, in value terms, if all the newly added labour has been accounted for, in the production of A, its clear that none is left over to be used in the production of B.

“B’s constant capital, in so far as it has entered into the total product B, must likewise be replaced in kind by new products of the same sort—that is, by products which are required for industrial consumption by B. But it is not replaced by new labour-time, although it is replaced by the products of the labour-time newly applied during the year.” (p 249)

In other words, suppose 1,000 kg of coal are used by a coal mine. None of the value of this coal, say £1,000, is attributable to new labour, because it is the product of previous years. Yet, this £1,000 of value passes into the value of the coal mine's output, say £5,000, with £4,000 being the consequence of new labour.

At the end of the year, the mine will once again have 1000 kg of coal to use as constant capital, and this coal will be the product of the labour undertaken during the current year. The coal will have a value of £1,000, but this value is the same as the value of the constant capital that went into production. Consequently, although it is the product of new labour, none of its value is attributable to that new labour, all of which is accounted for by the other 4000 kg (£4000) of current output.

Its use value has been replaced on a like for like basis, which, as Marx states, is the necessary condition of social reproduction. But, likewise, its value has been replaced, on a like for like basis, which is also the necessary condition for social reproduction, because the value of that constant capital is determined by its current reproduction cost, not its historic cost. If productivity rises, that value falls and vice versa, but either way, a like for like replacement occurs, and must occur.

Some of this replacement takes place directly. The farmer replaces seed from the grain he produces from that seed. But, even if the farmer buys seed rather than saving seed, the difference is only apparent. If the farmer does not save 100 kg of grain to use again as seed, they sell it, obtaining its value from the sale. They then simply use this value to replace their seed by buying it from the seed merchant.

The same is true in relation to coal, where the coal producer replaces the coal used to power their steam engines from the coal they produce themselves. But, a coal producer may produce coal of a type better for use in furnaces, and so sell it all, replacing the coal required to power their steam engines with coal from a merchant, who buys it from another coal producer.

In all these cases, its apparent that these exchanges do not change the underlying relation that constant capital has been replaced directly out of production. For example, if all coal production were undertaken by a single coal producer, the steam coal used to power the steam engines would be taken from the output of steam coal, whether it was used to power steam engines in mines producing steam coal or anthracite.

No comments: