Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 8 - Part 30

Reproduction occurs in all forms of production, but its only in agriculture that it coincides with a natural reproduction, Marx says. In other words, agriculture, in producing grain, also produces seed, the chaff and other waste vegetable matter forms fertiliser, chickens not only produce eggs and poultry for consumption, but also produce a replacement generation of chickens and so on.

We might today consider recycling so that, for example, scrap steel is used in the production of new steel, but this is not a use of the product in its natural or original form. It does not reproduce the iron ore consumed in the original production. Similarly, although coal is used to fuel the steam engines in coal mines, it forms an auxiliary material, rather than a raw material. It does not reproduce coal, but only participates in the extraction of existing coal, as a means of reproducing that consumed.

All products, whether agricultural or industrial, become means of production unless they are solely for consumption. Even in respect of the latter, they are thereby a means of production of the producer themselves. In other words, they form part of the commodities required for the reproduction of the worker.

Nor is agricultural production differentiated from industrial production by the fact that agricultural products enter into production as commodities.

“... they go into production just as they come out of it. They emerge from it as commodities and they re-enter it as commodities. The commodity is both the prerequisite and the result of capitalist production.” (p 63)

Agricultural products act as means of production in the production of themselves, but the same is true with machines that build machines, coal that helps extract coal, transport coal and so on.

In agriculture, the process of natural reproduction may mean that these means of production are reproduced in kind, as use values, directly from output, but that does not change the fact that these use values are also commodities.

“He is evidently thinking of the time when agriculture was not as yet a trade, when only the excess of its production over what was consumed by the producer became a commodity and when even those products, in so far as they entered into production, were not regarded as commodities. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the application of the capitalist mode of production to industry. For the capitalist mode of production, every product which has value—and is therefore in itself a commodity—also figures as a commodity in the accounts.” (p 64)

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