Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 8 - Part 43

[c) Rodbertus’s Third Thesis]

“III) “The level of capital gain is solely determined by the level of the value of the product in general and by the level of the value of the raw product and the manufactured product in particular; or by the productivity of labour in general and by the productivity of labour employed in the production of raw materials and of manufactured goods in particular. The level of ground-rent is, apart from this, also dependent on the magnitude of the value of the product or the quantity of labour, or productive power, which, with a given state of productivity, is used for production” (pp. 116–17).” (p 86) 

As Marx says, there are nearly as many errors in this passage as there are words.

What Rodbertus is claiming is that the rate of profit depends solely on the rate of surplus value. This is also, essentially, the error that lies behind the false theories of a law of a falling rate of profit proposed by Ricardo, Malthus and others.

Rodbertus is also arguing that the rate of surplus value depends solely on labour productivity. But, this is false, because it depends also on the length of the working day. In other words, it depends not just on relative surplus value, but also absolute surplus value. Moreover, if we consider the issue from the perspective of abstract rather than concrete labour, this length of working day, is itself extensible beyond 24 hours. A particular type of worker can only work for 24 hours, less what is required for their own recuperation. But, if the labour undertaken is complex labour, this 24 hours may represent 100, 200, or more hours of abstract labour.

Rodbertus is also arguing that with a given level of productivity the amount of ground-rent depends on the amount of labour employed.

In terms of the rate of surplus value, Marx showed in Capital I, how this could increase, even if productivity fell. Take a situation where a worker works for 12 hours a day. They perform 10 hours of necessary labour, and 2 hours of surplus labour; a rate of surplus value of 20%. The wages paid to them represents 10 hours of value required to reproduce their labour-power, including that required to produce the next generation of workers, by covering the necessaries of their wife and two children. If capital now draws in the labour of the wife and children, the wages for the whole family now employed, may rise to be equal to say 12 hours. However, instead of just the 12 hours of labour of the original worker, capital now might obtain those 12 hours, plus 8 hours by his wife, and 4 hours each by the children.

In that case, wages would have risen from 10 hours to 12 hours of value, but the new value now created is equal to 28 hours, so that the amount of surplus value produced has risen from 2 hours to 16 hours. The rate of surplus value has then risen from 20% to 133.3%, even though its inevitable that productivity would have fallen under such conditions.

This applies on a wider scale. In Capital III, Marx makes the comment that many have misunderstood and misapplied about rising productivity coming up against the limit of the working-day. Marx says that the surplus value produced by 2 workers producing 23 hours of surplus value each is less than 24 workers producing just 2 hours of surplus value each. But, if we consider a social working-day, comprised of say 1 million workers working a normal working day of 10 hours that gives a social working day of 10 million hours, and within that 2 million hours may constitute surplus value. It means that 8 million hours are devoted to necessary labour. 

However, aside from any changes in productivity, it may occur that instead of 1 million workers being employed, say 1.5 million workers are employed. It may be that female workers, or children, are employed, that other, former dependents are employed and so on. In that case, the amount of new value produced rises to 15 million hours. Yet, the amount of necessary social-labour-time may remain unchanged at 8 million hours, so that surplus value rises from 2 million hours to 7 million hours, without any change in productivity, or any change in even the length of the normal working day.

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