Saturday, 28 April 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 31

Capital is self-expanding value, and the extent to which the surplus value has risen from £1 to £4 here indicates the extent to which the corn in the hands of the capitalist, to pay as wages, acted as capital to this greater extent, i.e. expanded its value to a greater extent.

Ricardo not only does not deal with the contradiction facing Smith, he does not even recognise it exists. Instead, Ricardo satisfies himself with demonstrating that rising wages do not cause higher commodity values/prices.

Ricardo is happy to simply state that,

““They are not equal”, that is “the quantity of labour bestowed on a commodity, and the quantity of labour which that commodity would purchase” (l.c., p.5).” (p 397)

But, Ricardo does not answer the question of how this commodity labour is different from every other commodity, other than saying that one is materialised labour and the other is living labour. In that case, Marx says, this is just two different forms of the same commodity, in which case, its still necessary to explain why the law of value applies to one of those forms and not the other.

“Ricardo does not answer—he does not even raise this question.” (p 398)

Nor is Ricardo's argument helped by the introduction of the role of supply and demand. In fact, as will be seen shortly, introducing supply and demand here opens up a weakness that is exploited by the proponents of theories of subjective value, such as Samuel Bailey.

Ricardo says,

““Is not the value of labour … variable; being not only affected, as all other things” (should read commodities) “are, by the proportion between the supply and demand, which uniformly varies with every change in the condition of the community, but also by the varying price of food and other necessaries, on which the wages of labour are expended?” (l.c., p. 7).” (p 398)

He understands that supply and demand does not affect the value of a commodity, whether that commodity is labour or linen, because he argues that market prices rotate around the value of commodities. Unless commodities have a value, there is nothing for their prices to rotate around, as supply and demand interact. But, this still leaves Ricardo having to explain why the value of labour is determined differently to other commodities.

Wages, which are the price of labour(power), rotate around the value of labour(power), in response to changes in the demand and supply for labour(power), just as the market prices of other commodities rotate around their exchange-value. But, this takes Ricardo no further forward in explaining why the value of labour should be determined differently than the value of linen, or any other commodity. Ricardo can't argue that its because the value of wage goods fluctuate, because these wage goods are only commodities, (inputs) required for the reproduction of labour (power), just as cotton is a commodity required as an input for producing yarn. The values and prices of cotton and other commodities can vary due to changes in demand and supply just the same as for wage goods.

“That the wages of labour are spent upon food and necessaries, means after all only that the value of labour is exchanged against food and necessaries. The question is just why labour and the commodities against which it is exchanged, do not exchange according to the law of value, i.e., according to the relative quantities of labour. 

Posed in this way, presupposing the law of value, the question is intrinsically insoluble, because labour as such is counterposed to commodity, a definite quantity of immediate labour as such is counterposed to a definite quantity of materialised labour.” (p 398)

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