Saturday, 8 December 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 19 - Part 34

The consequence of Malthus' plagiarism, Marx says, is that whenever he comes to try to engage in any independent thought, the result is extremely weak, such as Malthus' attempt to develop a theory of value in opposition to that of Smith and Ricardo. Where Malthus is more at home is where he is acting more openly as an apologist for those parasitic social layers he represents, and where he is putting forward practical proposals in support of those elements. But, even here, Marx says, Malthus cannot escape the innate plagiarism that runs through his work. 

“Who at first glance would believe that Malthus’s Principles of Political Economy is simply the Malthusianised translation of Sismondi’s Nouveaux Principes d’économie politique? But this is the case. Sismondi’s book appeared in 1819. A year later, Malthus’s English caricature of it saw the light of day. Once again, with Sismondi, as previously with Townsend and Anderson, he found a theoretical basis for one of his stout economic pamphlets, in the production of which, incidentally, he also turned to advantage the new theories learned from Ricardo.” (p 53) 

Malthus attacks all of the progressive and revolutionary aspects of Ricardo, whilst absorbing all of the reactionary elements of Sismondi. His use of Sismondi's ideas is shown in the title of one of the chapters in the “Principles of Political Economy”: “Of the Necessity of a Union of the Powers of Production with the Means of Distribution, in order to ensure a continued Increase of Wealth” ([second ed.,] p. 361).” 

Malthus writes here, 

““… the powers of production […] not alone […] secure the creation of a proportionate degree of wealth. Something else seems to be necessary in order to call these powers fully into action. This is an effectual and unchecked demand for all that is produced. And what appears to contribute most to the attainment of this object, is, such a distribution of produce, and such an adaptation of this produce to the wants of those who are to consume it, as constantly to increase the exchangeable value of the whole mass” (Principles of Political Economy, [second ed.,] p. 361).” (p 53-4) 

In other words, Malthus here utilises what Sismondi recognised, but Ricardo dismisses, which is the potential for overproduction, arising from the contradictions within capitalism, and then turns it to his particular advantage. The contradictions that Sismondi recognises are those between use value and value, between production and consumption. It is the problem that Marx also refers to in Capital III, Chapter 15, between the production and realisation of surplus value. Malthus' solution, as set out earlier, is to have the landed aristocracy and other parasitic elements resolve the problem of realisation via their consumption. It is essentially the same solution, in a repackaged form, that Keynes puts forward a century later. 

Aiming at Ricardo, who dismisses the possibility of overproduction, Malthus says, 

““… the wealth of a country depends partly upon the quantity of produce obtained by its labour, and partly upon such an adaptation of this quantity to the wants and powers of the existing population as is calculated to give it value. Nothing can be more certain than that it is not determined by either of them alone” (op. cit., p. 301). 

“But where wealth and value are perhaps the most nearly connected, is in the necessity of the latter to the production of the former (loc. cit., p. 301).” (p 54) 

No comments: