Sunday, 13 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 46

Ricardo, in so far as he considers surplus value at all, only deals with relative surplus value. Like Smith, he takes the length of the working day as given. Adam Smith refers to different lengths of working-day, in different industries, but he sees this as merely a function of the type of work, or intensity of work. So, for example, in the most unpleasant types of work, the unpleasantness might be offset by a shorter working-day, or, in those jobs where the pace of work is more rapid, the worker is unable to keep up that pace for such long periods, and vice versa. However, Marx says, Ricardo does, more or less, explain relative surplus value correctly, and it is one of his achievements that he does so. Before discussing Ricardo's theory of relative surplus value, Marx gives a number of other examples of his failure to deal with absolute surplus value

Ricardo says, 

““The labour of a million of men in manufactures, will always produce the same value, but will not always produce the same riches” (l.c., p. 320).” (p 414) 

This is wrong, Marx says, because it assumes the same length of working-day. A million men, working a 10 hour day, produces 10 million hours of value, whereas 1 million men, working a 12 hour day produces 12 million hours of value. And, this assumes that the intensity of labour is the same. If the former work at an intensity 50% greater than the latter, they will produce 15 million hours of value. Moreover, as Marx points out in Capital I, if the former work with machines that raise their productivity, as against the latter, it is as though their labour is complex labour, and thereby produces multiple hours of value compared to an hour of labour of the latter. 

If 1 million workers in Britain work a 10 hour day, and produce 200 million tonnes of coal, whereas 1 million workers in India work a 10 hour day, and produce only 50 million tonnes of coal, the labour of the British miners is four times as productive as the Indian miners, and produces four times as much value, in an hour, as the Indian labour, because value here, when considering it as a component of exchange value, is social or market value, and not individual value. It is the quantity of current social labour-time it represents, not the amount of labour that has been actually embodied in the specific commodity units. And that applies to complex labour in general. If 1 million workers work a 10 hour day, as computer programmers, they may produce the equivalent of 20 million hours of simple labour. 

Moreover, Marx says, Ricardo's statement is only correct if the only capital advanced is variable capital. In considering the value of total national output, Ricardo does only consider the variable capital, because, following Smith, he sees the total national output resolving into revenues

“If the capital advanced consisted only of variable capital, i.e., only of the capital which is laid out in the wages of these 1 million men, then Ricardo would be right.” (p 414) 

But, the capital does not just consist of variable capital. Although taking into account the provisos set out above, 1 million might produce the same amount of new value, but the amount of total value produced will also depend upon the value of materials processed etc. Ricardo follows Smith in believing that the value of output resolves into revenues, and thereby only labour. This illusion is facilitated by the fact, previously noted, that what is variable-capital for one firm becomes constant capital for another. In other words, if a miller takes £100 of grain and employs £20 of their own labour to turn it into flour, this flour, now with a value of £120, becomes the constant capital of the baker. What was £20 of variable capital, for the miller becomes £20 of constant capital for the baker. 

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