Sunday, 6 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 39

3. Surplus-Value. [An Analysis of the Source of Surplus-Value Is Lacking in Ricardo’s Work. His Concept of Working-Day as a Fixed Magnitude] 

Setting aside the fact that Ricardo, like Smith, fails to distinguish between the commodity labour-power, sold by the worker, and labour, the essence of value, he correctly defines wages, or the value of labour-power. 

“For he says that it [the value of labour] is determined neither by the money nor by the means of subsistence which the labourer receives, but by the labour-time which it costs to produce it; that is, by the quantity of labour materialised in the means of subsistence of the labourer. This he calls the real wages.” (p 404) 

This follows necessarily from Ricardo's theory whereby the value of commodities is determined by the quantity of labour required for their production, or as Marx points out, more correctly their reproduction, “taking into account the continuity of the process.” (p 404)  If the value of labour (power) is equal to the value of the commodities required for its reproduction, it is thereby equal to the quantity of labour required for the reproduction of those commodities. Yet, Marx says, this formulation by Ricardo is still inadequate. It is so for a number of reasons. Firstly, as seen earlier, Ricardo fails to distinguish between an exchange of commodity with labour, and capital with labour. This leaves him in the same error as Smith, whereby the value of the wage is equated with the value of the product of the labour, which would mean that surplus value was impossible. 

Secondly, there remains a Physiocratic element here in that Ricardo fails to draw out the distinction between the reproduction of the use values required for the reproduction of labour-power, and the reproduction of the value of the labour-power, and, in fact, this flows from the failure to distinguish between the exchange of commodities with labour, and the exchange of capital with labour. It is absolutely true that the use values required for the reproduction of labour-power must occur on a like for like basis, but, not all labour is devoted to the production of those use values. Some labour is used in the production of commodities that form no part of workers' consumption, for example, some produce luxury goods, whilst others may produce means of production. 

If the product of labour was equal to the use values consumed by labour that would be impossible. Moreover, even labour employed in producing use values consumed by labour, only produces a portion of the use values consumed by labour. 

“Although in replacement of his wages the individual labourer does not directly produce—or reproduce, taking into account the continuity of this process—products on which he lives {he may produce products which do not enter into his consumption at all, and even if he produces necessary means ‘of subsistence, he may, due to the division of labour, only produce a single part of the necessary means of subsistence, for instance corn—and even that only in one form (for example in that of corn, not bread)}, but he produces commodities to the value of his means of subsistence, that is, he produces the value of his means of subsistence.” (p 404-5) 

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