Thursday, 8 November 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 4

“If one considers the utilisation of money or commodities as capital—that is, not their value but their capitalist utilisation— it is clear that surplus-value is nothing but the surplus of labour (the unpaid labour) which is commanded by capital, i.e., which the commodity or money commands over and above the quantity of labour it itself contains. In addition to the quantity of labour it itself contains (equal to the sum of labour contained in the elements of production of which it is made up, plus the immediate labour which is added to them), it buys a surplus of labour which it does not itself embody. This surplus constitutes the surplus-value; its size determines the rate of expansion of capital. And this surplus quantity of living labour for which it is exchanged is the source of profit. Profit (or rather surplus-value) does not result from the exchange of an amount of materialised labour for an equivalent amount of living labour, but from the portion of living labour which is appropriated in this exchange without an equivalent payment in return, that is, from unpaid labour which capital appropriates in this pseudo-exchange.” (p 15) 

On this basis, then, if the actual process by which this exchange of one amount of labour for a greater quantity of labour is mediated, is ignored, then Malthus is quite right in pointing out that this relation amounts to an unequal exchange. And, Malthus is able to ignore this process of mediation, because Ricardo himself ignores it, and fails to note, thereby, that capital does not exchange directly with labour, but with the commodity labour-power. It buys this commodity, at its value, and consequently the law of value is upheld; there is no unequal exchange, but an exchange of commodities of equal value. The surplus value does not arise, as Malthus argues, from an unequal exchange, but from the fact that the specific nature of one of these commodities – labour-power – is precisely that it creates new value, and thereby has the potential to create surplus value. 

Malthus' sole contribution is in pointing to this exploitative relation between capital and labour. 

“ However, this contribution is cancelled out by the fact that he confuses the utilisation of money or the commodity as capital, and hence its value in the specific function of capital, with the value of the commodity as such; consequently he falls back in his exposition, as we shall see, on the fatuous conceptions of the Monetary System, on profit upon expropriation, and gets completely entangled in the most hopeless confusion. Thus Malthus, instead of advancing beyond Ricardo, seeks to drag political economy back to where it was before Ricardo, even to where it was before Adam Smith and the Physiocrats. “ (p 16) 

No comments: