Sunday, 18 November 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 14

4. Malthus’s One-sided Interpretation of Smith’s Theory of Value. His Use of Smith’s Mistaken Theses in His Polemic Against Ricardo 

Marx quotes Malthus. 

““Whatever may be the number of intermediate acts of barter which may take place in regard to commodities—whether the producers send them to China, or sell them in the place where they are produced: the question as to an adequate market for them, depends exclusively upon whether the producers can replace their capitals with ordinary profits, so as to enable them successfully to go on with their business. But what are their capitals? They are, as Adam Smith states, the tools to work with, the materials to work upon, and the means of commanding the necessary quantity of labour” [Definitions in Political Economy, ed. by Cazenove, London, 1853, p. 70].” (p 23) 

All of this capital, Malthus believes, represents the labour contained in the commodity. In respect of the constant capital, the tools and materials etc., the labour they contain is certainly transferred to the value of the commodity. But, that is not the case with the variable-capital. The variable-capital, whether conceived as the commodities required for the reproduction of labour-power, or their money equivalent, represents only that quantity of labour contained in those commodities, and it takes no part whatsoever in the production process. It only takes part in the process of reproducing labour-power itself, i.e. the worker, which occurs entirely outside the labour process. The labour required for the production of these wage goods is not at all the same as the labour performed by the labourer as part of the labour process, and if it were, then no surplus value could be produced. 

This conception, expressed by Malthus, that the value of labour was equal to the value of wages, was one shared by others. But, on this basis, profit must be an addition on top of the value of the commodity, on top of the labour it contains. In further support of this position, Malthus quotes Torrens. 

““… effectual demand consists in the power and inclination, on the part of consumers” [the antithesis of buyers and sellers becomes that of consumers and producers], “to give for commodities, either by immediate or circuitous barter, some greater proportion of all ingredients of capital than their production costs” ([R. Torrens, An Essay on the Production of Wealth… London, 1821, p. 349, quoted by T. R. Malthus:] loc. cit., pp. 70-71).” (p 24) 

Marx also quotes Malthus' apologist Cazenove, to the same effect. 

““Profit does not depend on the proportion in which commodities are exchanged with each other”” (p 24) 

The basis of that, as previously seen, is that if exchange were merely between capitalists, they would mutually rob each other. As workers only sell their labour-power, and cannot consume all of their product, others who produce the commodities must buy them with money, thereby enabling the profit to be realised. 

““… (seeing that the same proportion may be maintained under every variety of profit) but upon the proportion which goes to wages, or is required to cover the prime cost, and which is in all cases determined by the degree in which the sacrifice made by the purchaser (or the labour’s worth which he gives) in order to acquire a commodity, exceeds that made by the producer, in order to bring it to market” (op. cit., p. 46).” (p 24) 

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