Friday, 7 December 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 33

12. The Social Essence of Malthus’s Polemic Against Ricardo. Malthus’s Distortion of Sismondi’s Views on the Contradictions in Bourgeois Production] 

“Malthus correctly draws the conclusions from his basic theory of value. But this theory, for its part, suits his purpose remarkably well—an apologia for the existing state of affairs in England, for landlordism, “State and Church”, pensioners, tax-gatherers, tenths, national debt, stock-jobbers, beadles, parsons and menial servants (“national expenditure”) assailed by the Ricardians as so many useless and superannuated drawbacks of bourgeois production and as nuisances.” (p 51-2) 

Both Malthus and Ricardo actually wanted to see the development of capital, but, where Malthus only wants to see such development in so far as it enables the landed aristocracy et al to leech off the surplus product, to an increasing extent, Ricardo sees capitalist production as an end in itself, production for the sake of production

“For all that, Ricardo championed bourgeois production insofar as it [signified] the most unrestricted development of the social productive forces, unconcerned for the fate of those who participate in production, be they capitalists or workers. He insisted upon the historical justification and necessity of this stage of development.” (p 52) 

For Malthus, the condition was that the rate of profit was high, by maximising the surplus product, which, in terms of his theory, meant keeping the price of necessaries high, so that workers could not buy back an increasing proportion of their output. 

“... the condition of this development is the poverty of its main basis, the working classes, but at the same time he wants it to adapt itself to the “consumption needs” of the aristocracy and its branches in State and Church, to serve as the material basis for the antiquated claims of the representatives of interests inherited from feudalism and the absolute monarchy. Malthus wants bourgeois production as long as it is not revolutionary, constitutes no historical factor of development but merely creates a broader and more comfortable material basis for the “old” society.” (p 52) 

In Malthus' model society, and the economy, look something like this. There is the working class, which, according to Malthus' population theory, always exists in larger numbers than required by capital. Capital is always, thereby, able to sell necessaries back to workers at prices that prevent workers buying back all they have produced, and thereby creating a surplus product. The higher these prices of necessaries, the larger the surplus product, subject only to the workers being able to reproduce their labour-power

For Smith, the problem is that, if the surplus is accumulated, capital grows, relative to labour, and so wages rise, and profit is competed away. Malthus sees the solution being a limit on accumulation, so that labour is always in excess supply, and wages are kept to a minimum. To prevent excess accumulation of capital, part of the surplus product is consumed unproductively, by parasitic elements of society. Malthus' theory implies under-production, because it requires a portion of the surplus product to be consumed unproductively by “an enormous section of society consisting of parasites and gluttonous drones, some of them masters and some servants, who appropriate, partly under the title of rent and partly under political titles, a considerable mass of wealth gratis from the capitalists, whose commodities they pay for above their value with money extracted from these same capitalists; the capitalist class, driven into production by the urge for accumulation, the economically unproductive sections representing prodigality, the mere urge for consumption. This is moreover [advanced as] the only way to avoid over-production, which exists alongside over-population in relation to production.” (p 52) 

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