Sunday, 24 September 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 8 - Part 27

Rodbertus, like Ricardo, assumes that commodities – both the raw product and manufactured product – exchange at their values. But, as Marx explained in Capital III, and is apparent prima facie, not only is this not the case, but it cannot be the case.

In the case of agricultural commodities,

“If the raw product carried a rent apart from and distinct from average profit, this would only be possible if the raw product were not sold at the average price and why this happens would then have to be explained.” (p 57)

Rodbertus says,

““I have assumed that the rent” (the surplus-value, the unpaid labour-time) “is distributed according to the value of the raw product and the manufactured product, and that this value is determined by labour costs” (labour-time) (pp. 96–97).” (p 57)

This first assumption, Marx says, means that the surplus labour contained in any two types of commodity is in proportion to the total labour they contain. But, this is false for at least two reasons. Firstly, the rate of surplus value in the two spheres of production may be different. Marx gives the example of where the ratio of labour contained in two commodities is 3:1. If we assume the necessary labour amounts to ten hours per day, we get different results if the working day is twelve hours in the first case, and sixteen hours in the second. 

In the first case, there may be thirty workers who work this twelve hour day, and thereby provide two hours of surplus labour each per day, equal to sixty hours of surplus labour in total. There may be only ten workers in the second sphere, each of whom provide six hours of surplus labour, per day, again resulting in sixty hours of surplus labour in total. So, the ratio of surplus labour in each industry is 1:1.

But the total labour is 30 x 12 = 360 in the first industry and 10 x 16 = 160 in the second, so that the ratio of total labour is 3.6:1.6.

But, the ratio of surplus labour in each industry may differ to the ratio of total labour, even if the rate of surplus value is the same in each. That is because each industry will use constant and variable capital in different proportions. An industry that uses a lot of raw material, or a high value of material relative to the labour-power it employs, will transfer the value of the labour-time represented by that material into the value of its product. But, the proportion of surplus labour-time, will then be smaller.

If producer A produces a commodity that comprises 80 hours of labour contained in raw material, 20 hours of new value divided 10 for wages and 10 for surplus value, the total labour, and value of the commodity, is 100 hours. If producer B also produces a commodity with a value of 100 hours, it may comprise 40 hours of labour in materials, and 60 hours of new value divided 30 for wages and 30 surplus value.

The ratio of the total labour between the two commodities is 1:1, but the ratio of surplus labour is 10:30, or 1:3.

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