Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 27

If we assume that the population and so supply of labour rises sufficiently, and that each producer increases their output in the necessary proportions, this expanded reproduction “encounters no further difficulties” (p 492). 
And, Marx makes a similar point in Capital III, that, taken at a purely abstract level of production, if everything increased in the appropriate proportions, the only reason for a crisis arising would have to be sought in the realm of consumption

“Let us suppose that the whole of society is composed only of industrial capitalists and wage-workers. Let us furthermore disregard price fluctuations, which prevent large portions of the total capital from replacing themselves in their average proportions and which, owing to the general interrelations of the entire reproduction process as developed in particular by credit, must always call forth general stoppages of a transient nature. Let us also disregard the sham transactions and speculations, which the credit system favours. Then, a crisis could only be explained as the result of a disproportion of production in various branches of the economy, and as a result of a disproportion between the consumption of the capitalists and their accumulation. But as matters stand, the replacement of the capital invested in production depends largely upon the consuming power of the non-producing classes; while the consuming power of the workers is limited partly by the laws of wages, partly by the fact that they are used only as long as they can be profitably employed by the capitalist class. The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit.” 

(Capital III, Chapter 30) 

And, indeed, the circuit of capital implies that not only must value and surplus value be produced, but, in order for it to be metamorphosed, once more, into productive-capital, it must first be realised, as commodity-capital is metamorphosed into potential money-capital. This process of realisation involves not just relations of value, but also of use value. Consumers do not demand commodities for their exchange-value (rather they themselves give up exchange-value in the form of money) but for their use value, and as Marx says, the laws governing this use value are completely different to those governing value. The contradiction inherent within the commodity, between value and use value are mirrored in the contradiction between supply and demand, whereby supply is determined by value, and demand by use value. 

“But the whole process of accumulation in the first place resolves itself into production on an expanding scale, which on the one hand corresponds to the natural growth of the population, and on the other hand, forms an inherent basis for the phenomena which appear during crises. The criterion of this expansion of production is capital itself, the existing level of the conditions of production and the unlimited desire of the capitalists to enrich themselves and to enlarge their capital, but by no means consumption, which from the outset is inhibited, since the majority of the population, the working people, can only expand their consumption within very narrow limits, whereas the demand for labour, although it grows absolutely, decreases relatively, to the same extent as capitalism develops. Moreover, all equalisations are accidental and although the proportion of capital employed in individual spheres is equalised by a continuous process, the continuity of this process itself equally presupposes the constant disproportion which it has continuously, often violently, to even out.” (p 492) 

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