Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 1


In the Addenda, Marx has a large number of short notes on a series of writers, along with further comments on some of the issues covered.

[1. Hobbes on Labour, on Value and on the Economic Role of Science]

“According to Hobbes science, not operative labour, is the mother of the arts.” (p 353)

Marx quotes Hobbes from Leviathan.

““Arts of public use, as fortification, making of engines, and other instruments of war; because they confer to defence, and victory, are power; and though the true mother of them, be science, namely the mathematics; yet, because they are brought into the light, by the hand of the artificer, they be esteemed, the midwife passing with the vulgar for the mother, as his issue” (Leviathan, in English Works of Thomas Hobbes, edit. by Molesworth, London, 1839-44, t. III, p. 75).” (p 353)

The product of mental labour, Marx says, is always sold way below its value, because the labour-time required for the reproduction of that product is always much less than the labour-time required for the original production. For example, it takes a lot of labour-time, especially considering that the concrete labour is highly complex, to develop some new drug. However, once developed, the drug itself can be reproduced on a large scale, using much less labour-time, and often using simple rather than complex labour.

The same applies with many other products. A lot of labour-time may go into the development of a new smart phone, but the mass production of the smart phone may then be achieved with very little labour-time, provided by unskilled workers in China.

Hobbes also identifies the concept of labour-power as a commodity, whose price is the wage.

““The value, or worth of a man, is as of all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power” (l.c., p. 76). “A man’s labour” (that is, the use of his labouring power) “also, is a commodity exchangeable for benefit, as well as any other thing” (l.c., p. 233).” (p 353)

Marx also cites Hobbes recognition of the need for both productive and unproductive labour. Hobbes example is similar to that used by Marx earlier, in relation to the ancient Germans, who spent some of their time on the land, and some engaged in war.

““It is not enough, for a man to labour for the maintenance of his life; but also to fight, if need be, for the securing of his labour. They must either do as the Jews did after their return from captivity, in re-edifying the temple, build with one hand, and hold the sword in the other; or else they must hire others to fight for them” (l.c., p. 333).” (p 353)

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