Sunday, 10 September 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 8 - Part 13

Marx says, if commodities are produced on land whose fertility means that only the average profit can be made, then no rent is payable, and land ownership would be nominal. In other words, as the land produces no rent, it could have no capitalised market price, so no one would buy it. But, he goes on,

“If a payment were made for the use of the land, then it would only prove that small capitalists, as is partly the case in England (see Newman), are satisfied with making a profit below the average.” (p 37)

But, as pointed out previously, this is not an anachronism as Marx seems to imply here. It is not some peculiarity that causes some producers to accept a lower than average rate of profit. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of capitalist production in general. It arises directly from the fact that some producers, in every sphere, not just agriculture, produce at different levels of efficiency, so that some will always produce with individual values higher, lower or at the average, resulting in rates of profit that are lower, or higher than the average.

In fact, as Marxist analysis of oligopoly, and large-scale production, found, in the 1980's, it is usually the very large capitals that suffer barriers to exit, whereas small capitals are better able to flit from one line of production to another, if profits become harder to produce.

In either case, some producers, in any sphere, will always produce less efficiently than the average, and so obtain lower than average profits. Similarly, there will always be some spheres that produce lower average profits than the total social average.

If a capital produces a surplus profit, but more rent is deducted than this surplus profit, then again the capital would receive less than the average profit. Put another way, the actual rent would be greater than the rent defined economically. As Marx points out, economic science is the formulation of the laws of capitalist production, but that does not mean that capitalist production complies with the requirements of those laws.

“There is even land whose cultivation at most suffices to pay wages, for, although here the labourer works for himself the whole of his working-day, his labour-time is longer than the socially necessary labour-time. It is so unproductive—relative to the generally prevailing productivity in this branch of work—that, although the man works for himself for 12 hours, he hardly produces as much as a worker under more favourable conditions of production does in 8 hours. This is the same relationship as that of the hand-loom weaver who competes with the power-loom. Although the product of this hand-loom weaver was equal to 12 hours of labour, it was only equal to 8 or less hours of socially necessary labour and his product therefore only [had] the value of 8 necessary labour hours. If in such an instance the cottager pays a rent then this is purely a deduction from his necessary wage and does not represent surplus-value, let alone an excess over and above average profit.” (p 38)

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