Sunday, 16 July 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Chapter 6 - Part 7

[(b) Commodities Which the Labourer Buys from the Capitalist. A Return Flow of the Money Which Does Not Indicate Reproduction]

The money paid as wages to workers by capitalists also flows back. The capitalist buys labour-power from the worker, who then engages in production. Taken collectively, the workers produce all of the commodities, which they themselves consume. The workers take the wages that have been paid to them, and buy those commodities required for their own reproduction. Because the sellers of these commodities are the capitalists, the money they had previously paid out as wages now flows back to them in payment for those commodities.

The money actually flows into the banks.

“But the bankers in fact represent, in relation to the individual capitalist, the aggregate capital in so far as it takes the form of money.” (p 321)

In the Physiocratic system, this relation could be seen quite clearly. The worker is given a certain quantity of food required for their reproduction. The worker, through their labour produces a quantity of food, out of which their wages are once more deducted. In reality, money only acts as means of circulation to mediate and facilitate this process of exchange, in a more complex economy, where a much wider range of commodities are produced and consumed by workers.

“For the capitalist, the movement here is M—C—M. He buys a commodity (labour-power) with money; with the product of this labour-power (a commodity) he buys money; in other words, he sells this product in turn to his former seller, the labourer. For the labourer, on the other hand, the movement of circulation is C—M—C. He sells his commodity (labour-power), and with the money he gets for it he buys back a part of his own product (a commodity).” (p 321)

The difference between the position of the worker and the capitalist here, which determines that the sequence takes the form it does, is that the aim of the worker is consumption (use value) whereas the aim of the capitalist is expansion of exchange value. The worker must consume to live. To consume they need money, and to obtain money they must sell the only commodity they have – labour-power. The capitalist, as a human being must also consume to live, but, as a capitalist, as the personification of capital, their aim is not consumption. They only consume commodities productively – labour-power and means of production – in order to expand the value of that capital via the production process. The aim of that consumption is only to expand value, which can then be realised in money form, once more so that it can again buy commodities, and so on.

The same is true in relation to the farmer's exchange with the landlord. The landlord effectively owns a part of the product, even though it is in the possession of the farmer, i.e. the portion of the product which represents rent in kind. The farmer buys this product from the landlord, and the landlord then buys commodities with this money. So, for the farmer this appears as M-C-M, and for the landlord C-M-C.

In neither case of the return of money to the capitalists from landlords or workers of itself indicates a process of reproduction. In both cases, it represents only the actions of buyers and sellers. In fact, the exchange between landlords and farmers does not represent a process of reproduction, whereas the exchange between workers and farmers does, but this can only be determined on the basis of the nature of the exchange and the social relation not simply on the basis of the return of the money. 

And, for the same reason, nor does this return of money signify that the money here is capital.

“On the contrary, it merely expresses the formal return of the same amount of money (often even less) to its starting-point. (By capitalist here, of course, is meant the class of capitalists.) I was therefore wrong in saying in the first Part that the form M—C—M must always be M—C—M'. It may express merely the formal return of the money, as I indicated there already, by showing that the return circuit of the money to the same starting-point arises from the fact that the buyer in turn becomes seller.” (p 322)

By “first part”, here, Marx is referring to the first two paragraphs of the section on money in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

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