Monday, 19 February 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 13 - Part 14

Marx inserts here a brief discussion on the relation between the landlord and capitalist. He quotes from the Morning Star of 15th July 1862. The Morning Star was the paper of the free traders, and so, essentially, of the larger industrial capitalists. The editorial asked who had responsibility for the plight of textile workers, suffering as a result of the cotton famine due to the US Civil War. The textile capitalists undoubtedly, as they had benefited from the “skill, time, and bodily labour of the workers. But, the capitalists, who had also contributed their capital and skill to the development of industry were not the only beneficiaries, it noted.

“... but what have the landed proprietors of Lancashire given? Nothing at all—literally nothing; and yet they have made from it more substantial gains than either of the other classes … it is certain that the increase of the yearly income of these great landlords, attributable to this single cause, is something enormous, probably not less than threefold.” (p 328) 

Marx comments,

“The capitalist is the direct exploiter of the workers, not only the direct appropriator but the direct creator of surplus-labour. But since (for the industrial capitalist) this can only take place through and in the process of production, he is himself a functionary of this production, its director. The landlord, on the other hand, has a claim—through landed property (to absolute rent) and because of the physical differences of the various types of land (differential rent)-which enables him to pocket a part of this surplus-labour or surplus-value, to whose direction and creation he contributes nothing. Where there is a conflict, therefore, the capitalist regards him as a mere super-fetation, a Sybarite excrescence, a parasite on capitalist production, the louse that sits upon him.}” (p 328) 

By the end of the 19th century, socialised capital, in the form of the joint stock company and co-operative had replaced private capital, when it came to the big industrial capitals, which dominate the economy. This functional role of the capitalists had been taken over by the day to day professional managers – production managers, marketing and purchasing managers, technicians and administrators – now drawn from a more educated working-class, and paid only skilled wages accordingly. The big private capitalists became merely lenders of money-capital, in the shape of bonds and shares, and these became just as much a “sybarite excresence” on productive-capital as the landlords had been before them.

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