Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 16 - Part 20

The intervention of landed property, and so of rent only complicates the underlying process here, which applies to the process of social reproduction itself, as a process of the reproduction of material balances. In other words, for social reproduction to continue, on the same scale, (simple reproduction) the use values that constitute the means of production must be physically reproduced on a “like for like basis”, and the same applies to the use values required to reproduce the labour-power that processes those means of production. If the level of social productivity remains constant, then the values of these components will remain constant, but if social productivity changes, the requirement to reproduce these material balances does not change, only the relative proportion of social labour-time required to do so, with a corresponding effect on the social surplus product/surplus value, and rate of profit

“The rent in kind in so far as it is differential rent comes into being as the result of two processes: the transformation of the surplus-produce into rent, and not into profit, and the transformation of a portion of the product which was previously allotted for the replacement of the value of the constant capital into surplus-product, and thus into rent. The latter circumstance, that a part of the product is converted into rent instead of capital, has been overlooked by Ricardo and all his followers. They only see the transformation of surplus-product into rent, but not the transformation of a part of the product which previously fell to the share of capital (not of profit) into surplus-product.” (p 452-3) 

In other words, here, the exchange value of grain rises, relative to the exchange-value of the components of constant capital. Less grain needs to be sold to replace the constant capital, and this physical surplus thereby released increases the surplus product, and surplus value. But, if we were to consider the process of social reproduction in total, the same principle applies. Suppose we determine the physical components of social production as comprising entirely of grain, or we could consider it in terms of standard commodity units. If we start the process of social reproduction with a situation whereby we have the following balances:- 

1,000 tons c + 1,000 tons v + 1,000 tons s, 

the 1,000 tons of means of production are thrown into the production process, whilst workers who process these means of production consume wages out of the material fund of variable capital, and the capitalists consume their profits in the form of the store of 1,000 units of grain that represents the previous year's surplus product. 

If social productivity remains constant, at the end of the year, the workers will have produced a total product equal to 3,000 tons. It will be comprised of 1,000 tons of means of production from the previous year, which has been processed and transferred its use value and value to the current year's output, and it will comprise 2,000 tons of grain newly produced by this year's labour. Half of this new value created will be set aside to cover the worker's wages for the next year, and the other half is set aside for the capitalists to consume as profit. However, if social productivity changes, so that the 1,000 tons of means of production can be produced in half the time, that means that the social labour-time required for the reproduction of the means of production falls, and the amount of surplus labour-time increases. 

Even if we assumed that this change in social productivity has no effect on the labour-time required to reproduce the labour-power, and so no change in the rate of surplus value, the release of social-labour-time required to reproduce the means of production results in a larger social surplus product, and rate of profit, because the released social labour-time allows more production, and so more v and s. But, even if production does not expand, so that there is no additional surplus product, the surplus product/surplus labour-time rises relative to c + v, because c declines. In other words, when viewed in terms of the replacement of these material balances, and the allocation of social labour-time to achieve it, the historical cost of producing those use values is irrelevant, because their value, and the proportion of available labour-time required for their reproduction is determinant. 

This is the fundamental point that Marx is making against Ricardo and his followers that there is no requirement that the rate or mass of surplus value should fall, for the rate of profit to fall, or vice versa, because the rate of profit depends not just on the variable-capital, but also on the constant capital. 

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