Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 55

Ricardo, Marx says, also does not deal with the question of foreign trade adequately. His treatment is one sided, looking only at the consequence for its effect on wages, and thereby profits

“The development of the product into a commodity is fundamental to capitalist production and this is intrinsically bound up with the expansion of the market, the creation of the world market, and therefore foreign trade.” (p 423) 

But, Marx says, Ricardo is correct that everything that raises productivity, be it the division of labour, technological improvements, better communications and transport or comparative advantages from foreign trade, which act to reduce the value of commodities and of labour-power, thereby also raise profits and enrich the capitalist class. 

Marx then gives a number of quotes from Ricardo, which describe his position in relation to relative wages, and thereby to relative surplus value. In the first, Ricardo responds to criticism from Malthus and others. If the wages of a labourer are reduced from 10 shillings to 8 shillings, with no variation in the value of money, Ricardo says, it is likely that the labourer can still obtain more food etc. than they did before with 10 shillings. 

“...but this is owing, not to a rise in the real value of his wages, as stated by Adam Smith, and more recently by Mr. Malthus, but to a fall in the value of the things on which his wages are expended, things perfectly distinct; and yet for calling this a fall in the real value of wages, I am told that I adopt new and unusual language, not reconcilable with the true principles of the science” (l.c., pp. 11-12).” (p 423-4) 

Ricardo argues that it is a fall in real wages, because although the labourer may obtain more use values with the 8 shillings, this fall in the wage means a rise in the profit. It is a fall in wages relative to profit. 

“By improvements in machinery and agriculture, the whole produce may be doubled; but if wages, rent, and profit be also doubled, these three will bear the same proportions to one another as before, and neither could be said to have relatively varied. But if wages partook not of the whole of this increase; if they, instead of being doubled, were only increased one-half …it would, I apprehend, be correct for me to say that …wages had fallen while profits had risen; for if we had an invariable standard by which to measure the value of this produce, we should find that a less value had fallen to the class of labourers …, and a greater to the class of capitalists, than had been given before” (l.c., p. 49).” (p 424) 

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