Monday, 28 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 28

[(I) The Problem of Productive Labour from the Standpoint of the Total Process of Material Production]

“With the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, in which many labourers work together in the production of the same commodity, the direct relation which their labour bears to the object produced naturally varies greatly. For example the unskilled labourers in a factory referred to earlier have nothing directly to do with the working up of the raw material. The workmen who function as overseers of those directly engaged in working up the raw material are one step further away; the works engineer has yet another relation and in the main works only with his brain, and so on. But the totality of these labourers, who possess labour-power of different value (although all the employed maintain much the same level) produce the result, which, considered as the result of the labour-process pure and simple, is expressed in a commodity or material product; and all together, as a workshop, they are the living production machine of these products—just as, taking the production process as a whole, they exchange their labour for capital and reproduce the capitalists’ money as capital, that is to say, as value producing surplus-value, as self-expanding value.” (p 411)

As stated earlier, this is most apparent in the case of socialised capital, and particularly in respect of the worker owned co-operative. The division of labour not only divides various tasks into their component parts, but it also divides mental from manual labour.

“This however does not prevent the material product from being the common product of these persons, or their common product embodied in material wealth; any more than on the other hand it prevents or in any way alters the relation of each one of these persons to capital being that of wage-labourer and in this pre-eminent sense being that of a productive labourer. All these persons are not only directly engaged in the production of material wealth, but they exchange their labour directly for money as capital, and consequently directly reproduce, in addition to their wages, a surplus-value for the capitalist, Their labour consists of paid labour plus unpaid surplus-labour.” (p 412)

[(J) The Transport Industry as a Branch of Material Production. Productive Labour in the Transport Industry]

Marx finally examines transport. Transport is like a service in that the production and consumption cannot be separated, whether it is goods or people who are to be transported. The service is consumed simultaneously with it being produced.

This has no bearing upon whether the labour employed is productive or unproductive, which again depends upon whether it exchanges with capital or revenue. It is an issue that arises with Uber, i.e. are the drivers owners of their own means of production, and so neither productive nor unproductive labourers, or else wage workers employed by capital, and so productive labourers.

As I have set out in relation to Marx’s discussion of transport, in Capital II, I believe Marx's argument is wrong. He argues that by changing the geographical location of a commodity, transport changes its use value, and thereby adds to its value.

“When the commodity has reached its destination, this change which has taken place in its use-value has vanished, and is now only expressed in its higher exchange-value, in the enhanced price of the commodity. And although in this case the real labour has left no trace behind it in the use-value, it is nevertheless realised in the exchange-value of this material product; and so it is true also of this industry as of other spheres of material production that the labour incorporates itself in the commodity, even though it has left no visible trace in the use-value of the commodity.” (p 413)

I think this is wrong. I think that the consumer buys two commodities – the commodity itself and its transportation. This is highlighted by the fact that the sellers of commodities themselves often present the matter in that way, listing the price of the commodity, applicable wherever the buyer might be, plus a separate charge for delivery.

If I go to watch a football match at Wembley, I pay the same price to buy that commodity, wherever I live. The fact that I pay a train fare, if I live in Stoke, in order to consume this commodity, does not change, in any way, the use value of the football match, or its value. I have simply consumed another commodity – rail travel, in addition to the football match.

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