Thursday, 7 February 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 48

What the anonymous writer does is the same thing here. They assume that a proportionate increase in capital, and of produced values is mirrored in a similarly proportionate increase in demand for the various commodities. But, that is to effectively deny the existence of capitalist production. It would require that either a) the production was some kind of production for direct consumption, or else it requires that production itself, as a whole, is planned, so that accumulated capital is directed proportionally to those spheres where the increased output will be absorbed by increased demand. What the writer does is to take capitalist production, the nature of which is necessarily unplanned and unregulated, and then they remove the very contradictions between production and consumption, demand and supply, which this entails, and, instead, to proceed on the basis that this production is somehow organised, so as to be always proportionate to the demands of society. Of course, with the development of socialised capital, as the dominant form of capital, by the end of the 19th century, but more notably after WWII, and with the development on the basis of it, of the social-democratic state that kind of planning and regulation is precisely what capitalism has been increasingly forced towards. 

“On this assumption—if capitalist production were entirely socialist production—a contradiction in terms—no over-production could, in fact, occur.” (p 118) 

But, there is no reason to assume that the accumulation of capital in different spheres is or should be proportionate. Moreover, even if the accumulation of capital were proportionate, there is no reason why an accumulation of capital, of the same amount,in value, in different industries, should result in the proportionate increase in output, in terms of use values, because levels of productivity will vary. Even if that were the case, there is no reason that the demand for the output of each industry should increase proportionate to the increase in supply, and this is the fundamental basis of crises of overproduction. 

“By the way, in the various branches of industry in which the same accumulation of capital takes place (and this too is an unfortunate assumption that capital is accumulated at an equal rate in different spheres), the amount of products corresponding to the increased capital employed may vary greatly, since the productive forces in the different industries or the total use-values produced in relation to the labour employed differ considerably. The same value is produced in both cases, but the quantity of commodities in which it is represented is very different. It is quite incomprehensible, therefore, why industry A, because the value of its output has increased by 1 per cent while the mass of its products has grown by 20 per cent, must find a market in B where the value has likewise increased by 1 per cent, but the quantity of its output only by 5 per cent. Here, the author has failed to take into consideration the difference between use-value and exchange-value.” (p 118-9) 

Unfortunately, many Marxist economists today, probably in fear of being labelled Keynesian or underconsumptionist, also thereby ignore this fundamental question of demand, when it comes to explaining crises of overproduction. As a result, they tacitly accept Say's Law, and are thereby forced to seek the cause of such crises in more esoteric explanations such as the role of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. But, as Marx's says, 

“Say’s earth-shaking discovery that “commodities can only be bought with commodities” simply means that money is itself the converted form of the commodity. It does not prove by any means that because I can buy only with commodities, I can buy with my commodity, or that my purchasing power is related to the quantity of commodities I produce. The same value can be embodied in very different quantities [of commodities]. But the use-value—consumption—depends not on value, but on the quantity. It is quite unintelligible why I should buy six knives because I can get them for the same price that I previously paid for one.” (p 119) 

No comments: