Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 56

Finally, in this chapter Marx summarises some of the arguments by de Quincey, contrasting Ricardo's position to other economists. 

““When it was asked” [by the economists before Ricardo] “what determined the value of all commodities: it was answered that this value was chiefly determined by wages. When again it was asked—what determined wages ?—it was recollected that wages must […] be adjusted to the value of the commodities upon which they were spent; and the answer was in effect that wages were determined by the value of commodities.” ([Thomas de Quincey], Dialogues of Three Templars on Political Economy, Chiefly in Relation to the Principles of Mr. Ricardo in The London Magazine, Vol. IX, 1824, p. 560.)” (p 424) 

And, in the same journal, the question of the determination of value by the quantity of labour, as opposed to the value of labour, is taken up. 

““So far are the two formulae from presenting merely two different expressions of the same law, that the very best way of expressing negatively Mr. Ricardo’s law (viz. A is to B in value as the quantities of the producing labour) would be to say—A is not to B in value as the values of the producing labour” [l.c., p. 348].” (p 424) 

Marx adds that if the organic composition of the capital in A and B were the same, then it could be said that the relation of A to B was proportional to the value of the labour in A and B. But, that does not mean that the value of A or B is equal to the value, i.e. the wages of labour in A and B. The exchange value of A and B would be proportional to the wages in each for the same reason as it would be proportional to the constant capital in each. 

“Assume the composition to be 80 c+20 v and the rate of surplus-value equal to 50 per cent. If one capital were equal to £500 and the other to £300, then the product in the first case would be £550 and in the second £330. The products would then be as 5×20=100 (wages) to 3×20=60; that is as 100:60, as 10:6, as 5:3. [And] 550:330=55:33 or as 55/11:33/11(5×11=55 and 3×11=33); i.e., as 5:3. But even then one would only know their relation to one another and not their true values, since many different values correspond to the ratio 5:3.” (p 425) 

de Quincey writes, 

““If the price is ten shillings, then […] wages and profits, taken as a whole, cannot exceed ten shillings. […] But do not the wages and profits as a whole, themselves, on the contrary, predetermine the price? No; that is the old superannuated doctrine.” (Thomas de Quincey, The Logic of Political Economy, Edinburgh and London, 1844, p. 204.) 

“The new economy has shown that all price is governed by proportional quantity of the producing labour, and by that only. Being itself once settled, then, ipso facto, price settles the fund out of which both wages and profits must draw their separate dividends” (l.c., p. 204). “Any change that can disturb the existing relations between wages and profits, must originate in wages” (l.c., p. 205).” (p 425) 

And Marx summarises de Quincey's conclusion in his own words. 

“Ricardo’s doctrine is new in so far as he poses the question whether in fact it sets aside the law of actual value (l.c., p. 158).” (p 425)

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