Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 24

8. Malthus on Productive Labour and Accumulation 

[a)] Productive and Unproductive Labour 

Marx cites a number of definitions of productive and unproductive labour and consumption, provided by Malthus. 

“… Revenue […] is expended with a view to immediate support and enjoyment, and […] capital […] is expended with a view to profit” (op. cit., p. 86). 

A labourer and a menial servant are “two instruments […] used for purposes distinctly different, one to assist in obtaining wealth, the other to assist in consuming it” (op. cit., p. 94). 

The following is a good definition of the productive labourer

The productive labourer directly “increases his master’s wealth” (Principles of Political Economy, [second ed., London, 1836], p. 47, note). 

In addition the following passage should be noted. 

“The only productive consumption, properly so called, is the consumption or destruction of wealth by capitalists with a view to reproduction… The workman whom the capitalist employs certainly consumes that part of his wages which he does not save, as revenue, with a view to subsistence and enjoyment; and not as capital, with a view to production. He is a productive consumer to the person who employs him and to the state, but not, strictly speaking to himself” (Definitions, ed. by Cazenove, p. 30).” (p 34-5) 

[b)] Accumulation 

The following quotes by Malthus relating to accumulation are given by Marx. 

““No political economist of the present day can by saving mean mere hoarding; and beyond this contracted and inefficient proceeding, no use of the term in reference to the national wealth can well be imagined, but that which must arise from a different application of what is saved, founded upon a real distinction between the different kinds of labour maintained by it” (Principles of Political Economy, [London, 1836,] pp. 38-39). 

Accumulation of Capital. The employment of a portion of revenue as capital. Capital may therefore increase without an increase of stock or wealth” (Definitions, ed. by Cazenove, p. 11). 

“Prudential habits with regard to marriage carried to a considerable extent, among the labouring classes of a country mainly depending upon manufactures and commerce, might injure it” (Principles of Political Economy, [London, 1836,] p. 215).” (p 35) 

In this next quote, Malthus reveals why he thinks that workers are led to engage in the production of luxuries consumed by other classes. 

““It is the want of necessaries which mainly stimulates the labouring classes to produce luxuries; and were this stimulus removed or greatly weakened, so that the necessaries of life could be obtained with very little labour, instead of more time being devoted to the production of conveniences, there is every reason to think that less time would be so devoted” (op. cit., p. 334).” (p 35) 

Malthus, the high priest of the theory of overpopulation, however, slips into a Smithian view of capital expanding faster than the working population. 

““… from the nature of a population, an increase of labourers cannot be brought into the market, in consequence of a particular demand, till after the lapse of sixteen or eighteen years, and the conversion of revenue into capital by saving, may take place much more rapidly; a country is always liable to an increase in the quantity of the funds for the maintenance of labour faster than the increase of population” (op. cit., pp. 319-20).” (p 35) 

Marx cites a note from Cazenove, the editor of Malthus' Definitions, who rightly says, 

““When capital is employed in advancing to the workman his wages, it adds nothing to the funds for the maintenance of labour, but simply consists in the application of a certain portion of […] funds already in existence, to the purposes of production” (Definitions, ed. by Cazenove, p. 22, note).” (p 36) 

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