Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 14 - Part 3

Marx cites Smith's comments in this regard,

““These three parts seem either immediately or ultimately to make up the whole price” ([O.U.P., Vol. I, p. 55; Garnier,] l. I, ch. VI, p. 101). 

“In the most improved societies, however, there are always a few commodities of which the price resolves itself into two parts only, the wages of labour and the profits of stock; and a still smaller number, in which it consists altogether in the wages of labour. In the price of sea-fish, for example, one part pays the labour of the fishermen, and the other the profits of the capital employed in the fishery. Rent very seldom makes any part of it… In some parts of Scotland, a few poor people make a trade of gathering, along the sea-shore, those little variegated stones commonly known by the name of Scotch pebbles. The price which is paid to them by the stone-cutter, is altogether the wages of their labour; neither rent nor profit makes any part of it. 

“But the whole price of any commodity must still finally resolve itself into some one or other or all of those three parts” ([O.U.P., Vol. I. pp. 56-57; Garnier,] l. I, ch. VI, pp. 103-04).” (p 343-4) 

Marx describes the way in these passages contained in Chapter I to XI of The Wealth of Nations, Smith jumbles together these two concepts of the resolution of values into revenues, and the determination of prices from revenues. On the basis of Smith's statement that the price of some commodities consist only of wages, whilst others comprise wages and profit, and a third group consists also of rent, it is not possible to argue that rent enters into price differently to profit and wages. However, given that wages enters into all three categories, it is possible to say that rent and profit enter into the price in a different way to wages. So, what is this difference? 

Smith should have investigated more thoroughly the nature of the price of the commodities he believes is only comprised of wages. This is an issue that arises with the question of productive-labour and labour-service, in a number of ways. Take a feudal retainer whose wages are paid out of the revenue of the feudal lord. Suppose the retainer is a cook. The value of their labour-power is equal to 6 hours labour, which may be paid to them as money wages, or in kind in the form of food, clothing shelter etc. However, the retainer actually provides 10 hours of labour to the feudal lord, thereby creating 10 hours of new value. But, as Marx identified in Chapter 4, this labour is not productive-labour, because although it creates new value, and in the process creates a surplus value of 4 hours, the surplus value, from the start, takes the form of a surplus product, intended only for the consumption of the feudal lord, and not as a means of expanding value and creating capital. 

The 10 hours of value produced by the retainer results only in a product destined for direct consumption by the feudal lord, and having consumed it, they have no basis for reproducing the labour of the retainer. In order to employ the retainer once more, and pay their wages, the feudal lord must once again obtain revenue, for example, in the form of rent. The wage labour of the retainer here, is not productive labour, because it does not exchange with capital, but only with the revenue of the feudal lord. 

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