Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 41

Contrary to Ricardo's claim that no one produces other than with a view to consume, what they produce, or to exchange for some other commodity to consume, Marx shows that this has nothing to do with capitalist production. Under capitalism, the producer most certainly does not produce in order to consume their own product. The capitalist may, in some instances, directly consume productively a part of their product. The farmer productively consumes a part of their grain as seed, the machine maker a part of their production of machines to replace any worn out, the coal producer consumes productively, in their steam engines, some of the coal they produce. But, in none of these cases is the purpose of production this direct consumption. The purpose is to produce exchange-value, and realise surplus value, so as to accumulate capital, and produce once more on an expanded scale. 

But, still less is the object of the production the personal consumption of the capitalists. For private capital, a portion of the output may be consumed personally by the owner. A farmer may feed his family from the output of the farm, for instance. But, again, this is not the purpose of the production, and even where such direct personal consumption is possible, it constitutes a tiny proportion of the output. Moreover, as capital moves beyond the monopoly of private capital, and becomes socialised capital, in the form of joint stock companies, such direct consumption is itself legally precluded. The shareholders do not own the company or its capital. They only own shares in return for having loaned money-capital to the company. So, the output of the company, its commodity-capital, also does not belong to them, as a number of legal cases have demonstrated. 

"A company is an entity distinct alike from its shareholders and its directors.” (Shaw & Sons (Salford) Ltd v Shaw [1935] 2 KB 113 by Greer LJ. 

“Previously it was forgotten that the product is a commodity. Now even the social division of labour is forgotten. In a situation where men produce for themselves, there are indeed no crises, but neither is there capitalist production. Nor have we ever heard that the ancients, with their slave production ever knew crises, although individual producers among the ancients too, did go bankrupt.” (p 502-3) 

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