Friday, 22 February 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 63

It may be the case that 10 hours of carpenter's labour exchanges for 20 hours of tailor's labour, but as soon as commodities have their values expressed indirectly, as exchange-values, in the shape of some money-commodity, the labour contained in them is automatically converted from a quantity of concrete labour to a quantity abstract labour. The money commodity itself represents a quantity not of concrete labour, but of abstract labour, or more correctly, the concrete labour required for the production of the money-commodity becomes the proxy for abstract labour. The 10 hours of concrete carpenter's labour, as complex labour, thereby becomes transformed into 20 hours of abstract labour, so that it exchanges on an equal basis with the 20 hours of abstract labour represented by the tailor's product

Ricardo, because he has an embodied labour theory of value, “is concerned only with the magnitude of value”. (p 131) He fails, therefore, to distinguish between the concrete labour embodied within the commodity, and the abstract labour that the commodity actually represents. Any commodity can have a nominal price, which is its value expressed as an amount of money, but, it is only when it is actually sold that the amount of socially necessary labour it represents can be known. The chair produced by Chippendale may have taken only the same amount of labour to produce as a chair produced by Bodgit and Sons, but the amount of abstract socially necessary labour that each represents is only known when both chairs are sold, and an amount of money is given in exchange. And, the same is true in relation to the price actually obtained from the sale of a chair as opposed to the sale of a coat. Moreover, as Marx sets out in Capital III, not only is the quantity of abstract labour subject to validation in the act of exchange, on the above basis, but it also depends upon whether the total supply of such commodities, to the market, finds an adequate level of demand at the market value. Speaking of Ricardo, Marx says, 

“Consequently his attention is concentrated on the relative quantities of labour which the different commodities represent, or which the commodities as values embody. But the labour embodied in them must be represented as social labour, as alienated individual labour. In the price this representation is nominal; it becomes reality only in the sale. This transformation of the labour of private individuals contained in the commodities into uniform social labour, consequently into labour which can be expressed in all use-values and can be exchanged for them, this qualitative aspect of the matter which is contained in the representation of exchange-value as money, is not elaborated by Ricardo. This circumstance—the necessity of presenting the labour contained in commodities as uniform social labour, i.e., as money—is overlooked by Ricardo.” (p 131) 

Capital itself presupposes not only that commodity production and exchange has led to the value of products taking the form of the exchange value of commodities, but that it has led to the development of money, as the general commodity, the universal equivalent form of value. Only money provides the basis upon which to put a rational numerical value upon that initial quantity of wealth, and thereby to determine the extent, and the proportion by which that wealth has expanded, i.e. to determine the amount of capital advanced, the amount of profit produced, and thereby the rate of profit. And, money enables this rational measurement to be undertaken, no matter what physical changes of form the capital value might assume. Money enables a numerical figure to be put on the seed, as well as the plough used as constant capital, by the farmer, just as well as it enables a similar numerical figure to be put on the wages of the agricultural worker.
All of these different commodities that comprise the productive-capital can be reduced to their monetary equivalent, not as their historical price, but as merely the money equivalent of their value, i.e. their current reproduction cost. And, when that production is complete, and a completely different set of commodities/use values arise out of it, they too can be reduced to their monetary equivalent, so that the capital value of this commodity-capital can be compared with the capital value of the productive-capital consumed in its production, and which must be reproduced out of it. And, when the commodities that comprise the commodity-capital are actually sold, the resultant capital value of the money-capital can likewise be compared and measured against the value of the commodity-capital, and the productive-capital, and can likewise be compared with the capital value that must once more be advanced in order to continue production on the same scale. 

“The relation between the value antecedent to production and the value which results from it—capital as antecedent value is capital in contrast to profit—constitutes the all-embracing and decisive factor in the whole process of capitalist production. It is not only an independent expression of value as in money, but dynamic value, value which maintains itself in a process in which use-values pass through the most varied forms. Thus in capital the independent existence of value is raised to a higher power than in money.” (p 131) 

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