Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 17 - Part 75

Partial overproduction, i.e. overproduction in individual spheres, is admitted, but not simultaneous overproduction in all spheres. But, the only thing that could then prevent such a simultaneous overproduction, in all spheres, is if it is assumed that commodity exchanges for commodity, as happens under systems of barter. Even then, this requires other assumptions not consistent with capitalist production. For example, suppose A produces 10 litres of wine, with a value of 100 hours, and B producers 10 metres of linen with a value of 100 hours. But A may only require 8 metres of linen. They exchange so that A is left with 2 litres of wine, and B with 2 metres of linen. This may not matter, in a system of barter. A simply consumes the overproduced wine, and B either uses the overproduced linen themselves, or takes it to market another day. 

But, this does not apply to capitalist production. If GM overproduces 2 million cars, they cannot simply shrug, and consume them directly, as part of their own personal consumption! And this applies more generally with capitalist production. Any overproduction cannot simply be swallowed up by the capitalists increasing their own unproductive consumption of the overproduced commodities. This is where the distinction between use value and exchange value takes on particular significance. 

“But this loop-hole is blocked by the very fact that trade [under capitalist conditions] is not barter, and that therefore the seller of a commodity is not necessarily at the same time the buyer of another. This whole subterfuge then rests on abstracting from money and from the fact that we are not concerned with the exchange of products, but with the circulation of commodities, an essential part of which is the separation of purchase and sale.” (p 532-3) 

The circuit of capital, as seen, contains the possibility of crisis, because the commodity-capital must be metamorphosed into money-capital, and the money-capital must be metamorphosed into productive-capital. Precisely because purchase and sale are separated, there is no reason why the commodity-capital must be metamorphosed into money. The capitalist has bought labour-power and materials. The sellers of these commodities have, in turn, obtained money. But, having obtained this money, there is no obligation on them to once again spend it, and thereby realise the value of the capitalists output. Indeed, as seen earlier, there are a whole range of commodities that are produced with the labour-power bought by the capitalist, which are never bought by the workers, with the wages they receive for this labour-power. Even if they simply do not spend the money received as wages, or for the materials bought, within a specific time, this can prevent the capitalist from realising the value of the commodities that have been produced, and thereby disrupt the circuit of capital. 

Secondly, even if the value is realised, the money then, as money-capital, must not only find the replacement labour-power, and material, but must do so at the same price, or less, in order for reproduction to continue on the same scale. 
“A very significant part of these elements of reproduction, which consists of raw materials, can however rise in price for two reasons. Firstly, if the instruments of production increase more rapidly than the amount of raw materials that can be provided at the given time. Secondly, as a result of the variable character of the harvests. That is why weather conditions, as Tooke rightly observes, play such an important part in modern industry. (The same applies to the means of subsistence in relation to wages.) The reconversion of money into commodity can thus come up against difficulties and can create the possibilities of crisis, just as well as can the conversion of commodity into money.” (p 533) 

No comments: