Friday, 22 December 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 10 - Part 37

Marx then sets out a series of notes in relation to Chapter X of The Wealth of Nations. The contents of the chapter, which Marx says are very good, in their own way, actually belong to his study of competition, a study he was never to complete.

He notes a number of comments by Smith in relation to wages and productive and unproductive labour.

““The lottery of the law … is very far from being a perfectly fair lottery; and that, as well as many other liberal and honourable professions, is, in point of pecuniary gain, evidently under-recompensed” ([O.U.P., Vol. I, p. 118; Garnier,] Book I, Chapter X, pp. 216-17).

Similarly he says of soldiers:

“Their pay is less than that of common labourers, and, in actual service, their fatigues are much greater” ([O.U.P., Vol. I, pp. 121-22; Garnier,] l.c., p. 223).

And of sailors in the navy:

“Though their skill and dexterity are much superior to that of almost any artificers; and though their whole life is one continual scene of hardship and danger … their wages are not greater than those of common labourers at the port which regulates the rate of seamen’s wages” ([O.U.P., Vol. I, p. 122; Garnier,] l.c., p. 224).


“It would be indecent, no doubt, to compare either a curate or a chaplain with a journeyman in any common trade, The pay of a curate or chaplain, however, may very properly be considered as of the same nature with the wages of a journeyman” ([O.U.P., Vol. I, p. 148; Garnier,] l.c., p. 271).” (p 230-31)

Smith says men of letters are underpaid due to their excessive numbers, which had only partially been amended by the introduction of printing. Marx says the chapter has many acute observations and important comments.

Marx quotes Smith's observation that where the market is small a high rate of profit may exist, but the amount of profit is, and so of accumulation is limited. In larger towns and cities, the market is more extensive, and so even though a lower rate of profit may obtain, a greater mass of profit exists.

Smith also deals with the way wage rates were falsely presented in previous centuries. The amount of wages tended to be taken only from what was actually paid as formal wages, but workers at the time, often spent only a small part of their time in such formal wage labour.

“... Adam Smith quite rightly observes that the wages here were only, for example, the wages of cotters, who, when not occupied around their cottages or working for their masters (who gave them a house, “a small garden for pot-herbs, as much grass as will feed a cow, and, perhaps, an acre or two of bad arable land”, and, when he employed them, a very poor wage)

“are said to have been willing to give their spare time for a very small recompense to anybody, and to have wrought for less wages than other labourers… This daily or weekly recompense, however, seems to have been considered as the whole of it, by many writers who have collected the prices of labour and provisions in ancient times, and who have taken pleasure in representing both as wonderfully low” ([O.U.P., Vol. I, pp. 131-32; Garnier,] l.c., p. 242).” (p 231)

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