Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 15

[11. Apologist Conception of the Productivity of All Professions]

Marx sets out a scathing and satirical attack on the idea that all activity is productive, as described by Mandeville in The Fable of the Bees. Marx chooses as the vehicle for his satire, the activity of the criminal. Without criminals there would be no police, magistrates, gaolers, lecturers in law, and so on; there would have been no development of ever more effective locks. Torture has given rise to numerous new mechanical devices; the adulteration of food to the everyday use of the microscope and chemical analysis.

An equivalent can today be seen in the Keynesian notion, adopted by some Marxists that the physical destruction of means of production, by war or other disaster, is in some sense beneficial for capital, because it enables production to then take place to replace what was destroyed!!

[12.] Productivity of Capital. Productive and Unproductive Labour

[(A) Productivity of Capital as the Capitalist Expression of the Productive Power of Social Labour]

“We have seen not only how capital produces, but how it itself is produced, and how, as an essentially altered relation, it emerges from the process of production and how it is developed in it. On the one hand capital transforms the mode of production; on the other hand this changed form of the mode of production and a particular stage in the development of the material forces of production are the basis and precondition—the premise for its own formation.” (p 389)

Marx is discussing here the formal and real subordination of labour to capital, a process he also discusses in Capital I. In previous modes of production, the means of production are nothing more than a means for the producer to undertake production. The means of production are employed by the worker for that purpose.

On the one hand, the historical development of those means of production creates the need for production to be undertaken on a different basis. Even capitalist production, on the basis of handicraft production, changes this relation. Whether it is via the putting out system, whereby merchants provide peasant producers with material to be spun, or woven, or the manufactories where handicraft workers are brought together, working in the same old manner, it is now capital that employs labour, and this labour only has employment so long as capital requires it, rather than vice versa.

And here the capitalist is only the personification of this capital. The capitalist is the person who obtains the profit, but it is the relation between capital and labour which is the source of this profit, just as it is the basis of the accumulation of this profit as capital.

The pre-capitalist producer created a surplus product and surplus value, which took the form of rent, although some of the more favoured producers were able to accumulate some of this surplus themselves as capital. But, as soon as capital arises on this basis, the labour employed by capital of necessity must hand over this surplus product and surplus value to capital, as the price for being employed.

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