Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 8 - Part 29

On the basis of excluding an entire category of expenses, therefore, Rodbertus necessarily derived a higher rate of profit in agriculture than manufacturing.

Marx summarises the three wrong propositions put forward by Rodbertus.

Firstly, surplus values are not proportional to values. Secondly, given an average rate of profit, commodities do not exchange at their values, but at prices of production. Thirdly, the value of raw material, reproduced in kind, in agriculture, does form a part of the constant capital in agriculture, and a cost of production against which the profit must be measured, to obtain the rate of profit.

The more production becomes capitalist production, the more the products either consumed directly, by the farmer, or reproduced in kind, are also commodities, sold at money prices, with other commodities bought for their own consumption, or else as means of production also bought at money prices.

“Since wheat, hay, cattle, seeds of all kinds etc. are thus sold as commodities—and, since this sale is the essential thing, not their use as a means of subsistence—they also enter into production as commodities and the farmer would have to be a real blockhead not to be able to use money as the unit of account.” (p 61)

Whether the farmer sells grain on the market, and from part of the proceeds buys seed from a seed merchant, or else retains the equivalent portion of their output to replace the seed in kind, makes no difference, because in the latter case, the farmer has simply sold the seed to themselves; it represents simultaneously a receipt and an expense.

“It is therefore wrong to say that there is a part of capital which enters into industry but not into agriculture.” (p 61)

If the surplus value is proportionate to the value of the commodity, as Rodbertus wrongly claimed, then if the agricultural and manufactured products exchanged at their values, as Rodbertus also wrongly claimed, there could be no disparity in the rate of profit, in each sphere, and so no basis for an agricultural rent.

Continuing with the summary of the faulty propositions set out by Rodbertus, Marx refers to his inclusion of the wear and tear of fixed capital, under the heading of variable-capital, i.e. the part that creates surplus value. That inclusion, whilst omitting the value of raw material, used in agriculture, provided Rodbertus with the conclusion he sought from the start, of a higher rate of profit in agriculture.

In summarising the fifth wrong proposition, Marx exposes the farcical nature of Rodbertus' argument. On the one hand, Rodbertus says that the raw materials produced in agriculture, represent a capital outlay in industry, because they are bought from outside industry. Therefore, the outlay in industry consists of raw material plus wages. But, he argues that in agriculture the raw materials are not bought from outside, but provided in kind, internally.

On that basis, then, Marx says, Rodbertus should reason that machines and tools, and other industrial commodities, used in production, are provided internally, in kind, by industry, and so should not comprise part of its outlay. But, those industrial commodities used in agricultural production are then equally bought from outside agriculture from industry, and so should only form part of agricultural outlay.

But, then some of the cost of producing the tools, machines, and other industrial commodities, used in agriculture, consists of raw materials and so on.

The sixth wrong proposition concerns the areas where no raw material is used. For example, forests existed without needing to be planted, minerals exist in the ground, fish in the sea, lakes and rivers. Apart from auxiliary materials, for machines etc., therefore, its true that the production of timber, ore, fish and so on requires only fixed capital and labour-power.

But, that is not true of agriculture. Even forests, when developed commercially, require replanting. Moreover, the same applies to large sections of industry. For example, the transport industry uses only fixed capital, and labour-power, alongside auxiliary materials. It processes no raw material, as part of the production of an end product.

Marx also says,

“Finally, there are certainly other branches of industry, such as tailoring etc., which, relatively speaking, only absorb raw materials and wages, but no machinery, fixed capital etc.” (p 63)

Today, that argument would not apply, as mechanisation has been introduced into more or less all forms of physical production. However, today the vast majority of industry is service industry, where it is only in limited areas where raw material is processed. Bars and restaurants may take raw materials from agriculture that is processed on the premises, in the production of meals, but, more often, their raw material comes to them semi-processed by industry – breweries, food processing etc.

The largest part of service industry production consists almost entirely of fixed capital, labour-power and auxiliary materials.

“In all these instances, the size of the profit, i.e., the ratio of surplus-value to capital advanced, would not depend on whether the advanced capital—after deduction of variable capital, or the part of capital spent on wages—consists of machinery or raw material or both, but it would depend on the magnitude of the capital advanced relative to the part of the capital spent on wages. Different rates of profit (apart from the modifications brought about by circulation) would thus exist in the different spheres of production, the result of their equalisation being the general rate of profit.” (p 63)

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