Friday, 30 November 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 26

10. Malthus’s Theory of Value [Supplementary Remarks] 

Adam Smith fails to distinguish between labour as the essence and measure of value, and the use value labour-power, which is sold as a commodity by the wage labourer. All commodities, be it corn, salt, gold or labour-power have an exchange value, and as such can function as money. An exchange-value is an equivalent form of value, the means by which the value of the commodity is expressed in an equivalent form, i.e. in the form of a quantity of some other use value. Money is simply a universally accepted equivalent form of value. In other words, a money commodity is simply some single commodity that has been chosen to act as the universal equivalent of all other values

But, all such money commodities can only ever act as a measure of value as exchange-value. They cannot be a measure of value itself. Only labour acts as a measure of absolute value in that sense. That is really what Smith meant, when he talked about the value of labour being unchanging. It is only because products themselves have value, i.e. that they are the products of labour, and each contains different amounts of social labour, that they can be compared, on the basis of this value, and exchange-values be determined. 

The failure to distinguish between labour and labour-power, therefore, leads to all kinds of problems and contradictions. Labour is the only measure of value, but labour-power, as a commodity, can act, as with any other commodity, as a measure of exchange-value. In other words, to establish an exchange-value what is required is two commodities, both of which contain different amounts of value. If commodity A represents five hours labour, and B represents ten hours labour, then 1B = 2A. If A is designated the money commodity, and 1A is given the name £1, then 1B = £2. But, labour-power is also a commodity. Its value is determined by the labour-time required for its reproduction, as with any other commodity. So, A could then be one day's labour-power. In which case, the value of B can still be expressed as 2A, or 2 days labour-power. 

If the normal working-day is 10 hours, then during this 1 day of labour, 1B is produced, but this 1B is equal to 2A, or 2 day's labour-power. Put another way, the value of 1 day's labour is equal to, or commands, 2 days of labour-power. The value of labour-power, as with any other commodity, rises or falls in accordance with the labour required for its reproduction, and consequently the exchange value of any such commodity also rises or falls. If gold is the money commodity, its value rises or falls dependent on the labour required for its production. If a gram of gold has a value of 10 hours labour, and a coat has a value of 20 hours labour, then 1 coat equals 2 grams of gold, or put another way, the gold, or money price of a coat is 2 grams of gold. This concept of a "money price", which could also be a "corn price", or a "cotton price", i.e. a price of a commodity measured in a quantity of some other commodity, is important for Marx's later discussion on this topic.  But, if the value of gold rises to 20 hours of labour, then 1 coat = 1 gram of gold, or the price of a coat falls to 1 gram of gold, even though the value of the coat has not changed. It remains 20 hours of labour. Exchange value can only exist because value already exists, and is presupposed in the products whose values are being compared. Money can only act as a measure of value, because both the money commodity and the commodities whose exchange value it measures, already are values, representatives of quantities of social labour

So, using the commodity labour-power, or wages, as a measure of exchange values is not the same thing as measuring the value of products or commodities, according to the labour required for their production. The failure to recognise this leads Smith and others, like Malthus here, into irreconcilable contradictions. 

“Mr. Malthus believes that the capitalist pays sometimes more shillings, sometimes less, for the same labour. He does not see that the worker, correspondingly, performs either less or more labour for a given amount of produce.” (p 39) 

Marx quotes from the anonymously published “Observations on Certain Verbal Disputes etc.” 

““… giving more produce for a given quantity of labour, or getting more labour for a given quantity of produce, are one and the same thing in his”(Malthus’s) “‘view’; instead of being, as one would have supposed, just the contrary” (Observations on Certain Verbal Disputes in Political Economy, Particularly Relating to Value, and to Demand and Supply, London, 1821, p. 52).” (p 39) 

The anonymous author, Marx says, correctly also points out that labour (power) in the sense that Malthus borrows the term from Smith, could, like any other commodity, be a measure of value, but would, in fact, not be such a good measure as money already is. 

“Here it would be in general a question only of a measure of value in the sense in which money is a measure of value. 

In general, it is never the measure of value (in the sense of money) which makes commodities commensurable (see Part I of my book, p. 45). 

“On the contrary, it is only the commensurability of commodities as materialised labour-time which converts gold into money.” 

Commodities as values constitute one substance, they are mere representations of the same substance—social labour. The measure of value (money) presupposes them as values and refers solely to the expression and size of this value. The measure of value of commodities always refers to the transformation of value into price and already presumes the value.” (p 40) 

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