Friday, 11 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 44

As stated previously, what has to be produced, in order to reproduce labour-power, is the physical use values, the wage goods, consumed by the worker. However, this fixed (at least in the short term) quantity of use values changes in value, as social productivity rises or falls, and so the value of labour-power rises or falls with it. If then necessary labour falls from 10 to 9 hours, as a result of a rise in social productivity, if the rate of surplus value remains 20%, surplus labour would fall from 2 hours to 1.80 hours, and the working day would fall from 12 hour to 10.80 hours. Moreover, the use values, in so far as they were the same wage goods, that could be bought with this 1.80 hours of surplus value would be the same as previously could only be bought with 2 hours of surplus value. The total value of production would fall from 12 hours to 10.80 hours, but the total quantity of output, the quantity of use values, would remain constant. 

The distinction that has been made between the amount of surplus value, and the rate of surplus value is very important, Marx says, because “it indicates the varying length of the working day.” (p 409) With a constant mass of surplus value, the rate of surplus value can vary, with a varying length of working day. Similarly, with a constant rate of surplus value, the mass of surplus value can vary with different lengths of working day. 

It has previously been demonstrated that with a given rate of surplus value, and length of working day, the mass of surplus value then depends upon the total amount of labour simultaneously employed. If the rate of surplus value is 20%, and length of working day is 12 hours, each worker produces 2 hours of surplus value, but if 10 workers are employed, 20 hours of surplus value is produced. But, the significance of this can be seen in relation to the rate of profit, because it measures the surplus value not against the variable capital, but the total advanced capital – variable and constant. Consequently, if the constant capital remains the same, but the variable capital rises, because more workers are employed, the rate of profit must rise, even as the rate of surplus value remains constant. 


c 100 + v 100 + s 100, s` = 100%, r` = 50% 

c 100 + v 200 + s 200, s` = 100%, r` = 66.6% 

c 100 + v 300 + s 300, s` = 100%, r` = 75% 

And, what this also demonstrates is that the rate of profit changes as the organic composition of capital changes. Here, the organic composition falls, as a given value of constant capital sets in motion increasing quantities of labour-power, which produces increasing quantities of surplus value. The rate of surplus value remains constant, but the rate of profit progressively rises. And, this is the situation across different industries. That can be a result of the specific nature of the industry, or because of variations in the level of productivity in each industry. A jeweller, for example, processes only a small amount of material with their labour, but the value of the material is high, so that the organic composition of the capital is high, not because of high levels of productivity, but because of the high value of materials. 

A potter may process a greater quantity of materials than the jeweller, but the value of the materials is low, by comparison, and so the organic composition of the capital is lower. But, if the work of the potter is transformed, by the introduction of machines, so, for example, he processes ten times as much material as before, the total value of the clay processed by the potter, during the day may exceed the value of the gold, silver and gems processed by the jeweller during the day. In that case, the rise in the potter's productivity brings about a rise in the technical composition of the capital, as they process far larger masses of material. This rise in the technical composition of the capital offsets the difference in the value composition of the capital, so that now the organic composition of capital, for the potter, is higher, and their rate of profit would be lower. 

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