Thursday, 12 July 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 14

If the flax grower had expanded their production, but the spinner, weaver and machine maker had not, then the flax grower would be left with excess output that could not be sold. Marx is setting out here the various points in the circuit of capital where a breakdown can occur, resulting in overproduction and crisis. He details these far more, later in the chapter. What we see here are breakdowns in the circuit as a result of disproportions arising within different interlinked spheres of production. 

“If these relations exist, then in the first place the producers constitute a market for the capitals which they must replace for one another. The newly employed, or more fully employed workers constitute a market for some of the means of subsistence; and since the surplus-value increases in the following year, the capitalists can consume an increasing part of their revenue, to a certain extent therefore they also constitute a market for one another. Even so, a large part of the annual product may still remain unsaleable.” (p 482-3) 

As Marx puts it, if the weaver is taken as representing capital in general, all of which seeks to accumulate, 

“... what are the conditions of this general accumulation, what does it amount to? Or, since the linen weaver may be taken to represent the capitalist in general, what are the conditions in which he can uninterruptedly reconvert the £5,000 surplus-value into capital and steadily continue the process of accumulation year in, year out? The accumulation of the £5,000 means nothing but the transformation of this money, this amount of value, into capital. The conditions for the accumulation of capital are thus the very same as those for its original production or for reproduction in general.” (p 483) 

And the condition for this is that all of these commodities are produced, and become available on the market, in the correct proportions. Some commodities can only be consumed whereas others can only be used as means of production, whilst others may fulfil both roles. The producers of consumption goods require means of production, but, because the producers of means of production cannot consume their own product, they require the producers of consumption goods to produce a sufficient surplus of them to meet the consumption needs of the producers of means of production. And similarly, the producers of means of production must produce means of production in the proportions required to meet the needs of producers of consumption goods, as well as producing enough to meet their own needs, so as to replace the means of production used in their own production. 

In analysing the development of capital, it was seen that all of these commodities were available in the market precisely because capital does not come into existence from nothing. Thousands of years of production of products for direct consumption, and then of commodities that are produced and exchanged by petty commodity producers takes place, before capital comes into existence. Consequently, a capitalist baker is able to buy flour, eggs, milk and butter from a peasant farmer, because the peasant farmer has surplus of these commodities that they take to market to sell, in order to obtain other commodities, or money, in order to be able to buy other commodities. As capitalist production spreads, these commodities become available on the basis of that production, and the division of labour. 

“... as a result of the division of labour carried out in capitalist production on a social scale (distribution of labour and capital between the different spheres of production); as a result of parallel production and reproduction which takes place simultaneously over the whole field. This was the condition of the market, of the production and the reproduction of capital. The greater the capital, the more developed the productivity of labour and the scale of capitalist production in general, the greater is also the volume of commodities found on the market, in circulation, in transition between production and consumption (individual and industrial), and the greater the certainty that each particular capital will find its conditions for reproduction readily available on the market. This is all the more the case, since it is in the nature of capitalist production that: 1. each particular capital operates on a scale which is not determined by individual demand (orders etc., private needs), but by the endeavour to realise as much labour and therefore as much surplus-labour as possible and to produce the largest possible quantity of commodities with a given capital; 2. each individual capital strives to capture the largest possible share of the market and to supplant its competitors and exclude them from the market—competition of capitals.” (p 483-4) 

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