Sunday, 20 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 53

Marx then gives a series of long quotes from Chapter I of Ricardo's “Principles”, to justify the description of Ricardo's theory he has just set out. 

In the first of these, Ricardo describes the exchange value of a deer as against a salmon. The value of each is determined by the amount of labour required for the production of each, and Ricardo says, 

“The comparative value of the fish and the game, would be entirely regulated by the quantity of labour realised in each, whatever might be the quantity of production, or however high or low general wages or profits might be.” (p 419) 

And, he goes on, 

The proportion which might be paid for wages, is of the utmost importance in the question of profits; for it must at once be seen, that profits would be high or low, exactly in proportion as wages were low or high; but it could not in the least affect the relative value of fish and game, as wages would be high or low at the same time in both occupations” (l.c., Chapter I “On Value”, pp. 20-21).” (p 419) 

So, as Marx points out, it is the total labour that workers perform (constant capital is not considered in Ricardo's example), which determines the value of the deer and the salmon, and the exchange relation between them. What the wages determines is only how much of this value they have created comes back to them, and how much is appropriated by capital

The next long quote from Ricardo reinforces this idea that a rise in wages does not result in a rise in value or prices. So, Ricardo says, 

““Adam Smith, and all the writers who have followed him, have, without one exception that I know of, maintained that a rise in the price of labour would be uniformly followed by a rise in the price of all commodities. I hope I have succeeded in showing, that there are no grounds for such an opinion” (l.c., p. 45).” (p 420) 

And, he also says, 

““It has been one of the objects of this work to shew, that with every fall in the real value of necessaries, the wages of labour would fall, and that the profits of stock would rise—in other words, that of any given annual value a less portion would be paid to the labouring class, and a larger portion to those whose funds employed this class.”” (p 421) 

And, in this statement, Marx says, Ricardo, though he may not have known it, expressed the actual nature of capital as a social relation

“It is not accumulated labour which is employed by the labouring class, by the labourers themselves, but the “funds”, “accumulated labour”, which “employ this class”, employ present, immediate labour.” (p 421) 

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