Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 4 - Part 92

[11.] Ferrier [Protectionist Character of Ferrier’s Polemics against Smith’s Theory of Productive Labour and the Accumulation of Capital, Smith’s Confusion on the Question of Accumulation, The Vulgar Element in Smith’s View of “Productive Labourers”] 

Its not surprising that those who fell into the category of non-productive labourers, defined by Smith, should reject this analysis. The apologists for the landlord class were quick to defend their role, but also all of those state officials, so categorised, responded by setting out the invaluable role they played. That was especially true in France, where the Bonapartist state intervened in most aspects of life and production. Marx then looks briefly at the views of one of these state officials, Francois-Louise-Auguste Ferrier. In so doing, he opens up the question of accumulation, referred to in the previous section.

Ferrier dismisses Smith's definition, and claims there are no unproductive labours. Ferrier adopts an essentially Mercantilist view, arguing,

“There is therefore economy and prodigality on the part of nations; but a nation is only prodigal or economic in its relations with other peoples, and it is from this standpoint that the question should be considered.” (p 253)

The passage from Smith that Ferrier refers to is itself full of the confusions previously discussed. In it, Smith repeats his error in trying to resolve the value of commodities solely into revenue, and so, excluding the value of the constant capital. He extends this then into the mistaken view that the value of national output is equal to those revenues, but, in the passage, Smith is also trying to grapple with the question of how accumulation occurs.

Marx comments that not only is it the case that a large and growing part of national output comprises commodities, which can never form part of consumption, because they can only be consumed industrially, but even a part of those commodities, produced for consumption, have to be set aside as means of production too. For example, grain is produced for consumption, but a portion of this grain has to be set aside as seed, as means of production.

This use value, the actual physical components of the constant capital must be reproduced on a like for like basis, as Marx has set out. If productivity remains constant, then the proportion of social labour-time required to reproduce this constant capital will also remain constant, and similarly, it will constitute the same proportion of the total social product.

If the productivity of labour remains the same, then this part of the product which does not consist of revenue remains the same from year to year; provided that, with the productivity of labour remaining the same, the same quantity of labour-time as before is employed.” (p 254)

But, likewise, if social productivity rises, this set of use values will be produced in less time; their value will fall; they will take up a smaller proportion of total social labour-time. If productivity falls, the opposite will be true.

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