Thursday, 14 March 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 20 - Part 83

Suppose I own a horse. In order to live, and reproduce itself, the horse must eat a certain amount of grass and hay each day. It might spend, say, 2 hours in such activity, ensuring its own reproduction, but, having done so, that in no way limits the amount of work the horse can do each day, to only this 2 hours. The same is true of, say, a slave. A slave may work for 4 hours, each day, growing food, making clothes, and so on, required for their own reproduction, but that does not mean that the slave may not work for 10 hours each day. A peasant may need to work for 3 days each week, to reproduce their own labour-power, but that does not mean that they do not work for 6 days of the week. 

The labour that must be undertaken, in order to ensure that labour-power, the capacity to perform labour, is reproduced, is then, as with any other commodity, the value of that commodity – labour-power. What distinguishes the wage-worker from a horse, a slave or peasant producer, is that they sell this commodity, labour-power, to the capitalist.  Having sold, this commodity, at its exchange-value, the wage-worker, unlike the horse, machine or slave (whose maintenance is paid for by their owners) must then buy the commodities required for their own reproduction, and they must buy them at their full value, which includes the surplus value embodied in them.  The wage-worker, unlike the horse, slave or machine, therefore, acts not just as the producer of surplus value, but also as an independent consumer.

A horse, clearly does not sell its capacity to undertake work to the capitalist. The horse itself is the property of its owner, just as would be a machine, for example. And, the same is true of a slave. Both a slave and a horse stand in the same relation, as does a machine, i.e. as constant capital, which simply transfers its value to the end product. That does not mean that the horse, machine or slave, do not produce a surplus product, i.e. a physical product greater than is required for their own reproduction. They do. It simply means that this surplus product does not represent a surplus value, because, unlike the free labourer, they do not create new value, and without the creation of new value, there can be no surplus of this new value, over and above the value required for their reproduction. 

If the only buyers in the market are themselves the owners of horses, slaves, or machines then when they come to evaluate the products they seek to buy, they will do so, in terms of their cost of production, and that cost of production will not now include any surplus value. If any of these, as producers of commodities, came to make a profit, it could only be a profit on alienation, i.e. they would add a surcharge to their cost of production. But, if each added such a 10% surcharge to their cost of production, they would simply cheat each other to an equivalent extent, so that it would be no different than had they sold at their cost of production, without the surcharge.  Wage workers are unable to do that, in selling labour-power, because a condition of the capitalist buying that labour-power is that it is sold at its value, and that the worker then provides them with a quantity of unpaid labour, i.e. surplus labour. 

A peasant producer does not sell their labour-power either, but they are themselves an independent commodity producer. They undertake their own labour, using their own means of production to reproduce their labour-power, during three days of the week. They do not sell their capacity to perform this labour, or the surplus labour they undertake in the remaining three days of the week. However, under feudalism, they are compelled to simply hand over this surplus labour to the landlord as feudal rent. Firstly, this surplus labour is apparent, because it takes the form of labour performed on the land of the landlord. Then it takes a less apparent form, as rent in kind, whereby the peasant undertakes the surplus labour on their own land, but hands over the surplus product created during the three days. Finally, it takes the form of money rent, whereby the peasant sells their surplus product on the market, and uses the money equivalent, thereby realised, to hand over to the landlord as rent, and to the state as taxes

In all these cases, what the peasant hands over is not just a surplus product, as in the case of the horse, the machine, or the slave/serf, but is also a surplus value, an amount of new value resulting from their excess free labour, over and above what was required for the reproduction of their labour-power. This surplus value takes the form of rent or taxes. Where the peasant is able to produce a surplus value in excess of that, they are able to accumulate it, and this creates the process which leads to a differentiation of the peasantry, out of which is created the bourgeoisie and proletariat. 

But, the wage-worker has no means of production of their own. In order to utilise means of production, owned by the capitalist, the worker must sell their labour-power itself, as a commodity, and it is the value of this commodity, determined by the labour-time required for its reproduction that the capitalist buys and pays for. However, as with all of the above instances, the labour that the worker can then undertake, during the day, is in no way limited to only that necessary for the reproduction of the worker's labour-power. The capitalist buys that labour-power at its value, and what the worker then provides is the application of that capacity to perform labour during the period of the normal working-day. The extent of the labour-time, in that normal working-day, is the measure of the new value created by labour, and its excess over the value of the labour-power is the extent of the surplus value produced. 

Consequently, Bailey's criticism evaporates, as soon as this distinction between labour, the activity of creating value, and labour-power the commodity sold by the wage worker, is made. 

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