Thursday, 22 August 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 22 - Part 3

[2. Ramsay’s Views on Surplus-Value and on Value. Reduction of Surplus-Value to Profit. The Influence Which Changes in the Value of Constant and Variable Capital Exert on the Rate and Amount of Profit] 

Ramsay almost gets to a correct definition of surplus value, but is prevented from doing so, because he fails to distinguish between labour and labour-power. He recognises that what happens is that a quantity of labour is able to employ a greater quantity of labour, and that, unless this happens, there is no possibility of profit, and so no reason why the capitalist would advance their capital. But, his understanding of this process remains confused. 

““… a circulating capital will always maintain more labour than that formerly bestowed upon itself. Because, could it employ no more than had been previously bestowed upon itself, what advantage could arise to the owner from the use of it as such?” (op. cit., p. 49). “There is no possible way of escaping this conclusion, except by asserting that the quantity of labour which any circulating capital will employ is no more than equal to that previously bestowed upon it. […] This would be […] to say, that the value of the capital expended is equal to that of the product” (loc. cit., p. 52).” (p 328) 

Marx explains that the way Ramsay explains this goes back to the arguments put forward by Malthus. It requires a concept of continual expansion. So, it is presented that 100 labourers produce a product that is able to set to work 150 labourers, the 150 labourers would then produce a product able to set to work 225 labourers, and so on. In other words, this is rather back to front, whereby the surplus value is seen as nothing more than this expansion of employment, rather than that it is the production of surplus value that provides the basis for capital accumulation, and the expansion of employment. 

Its quite obvious that 100 days labour cannot be equal to 150 days labour, and so 100 days labour cannot buy 150 days labour. If wages equal to 100 days labour are paid to a worker, but the worker provides 150 days labour in exchange, then its clear that the worker has provided 50 days labour for free. Ramsay does not make this clear, and his lack of clarity leads to his explanation referred to above that although the product of 100 days labour sets to work the 150, the product at the end of the year is that of the 150. 

“It will indeed be the result of the labour of 150 men in the same way as the product of 100 men was the result of the labour of 100 men. The ambiguity (and certainly the lack of clarity, more or less derived from Malthus) is to be found in this: It appears as if the profit arises merely from the fact that 150 men are now employed instead of 100. Just as if the profit derived from the 150 workers arose from the fact that 225 workers can now be set in motion by the product of the 150 [in the ratio of] 100:150= 150:225 [or] 20:30=30:45 [or] 4:6=6:9. But that is not the point.” (p 329-30) 

The point is that the product of any quantity of labour will be x, whilst the wages paid to the workers who provide that labour will be less than x. If, as in this case, the workers provide 4 hours free labour, out of a 12 hour day, then wages will equal ⅔x, and surplus-value will equal ⅓x. In that case, either we must assume that surplus value is the product of unequal exchange, so that workers are systematically paid less for the labour they sell to the capitalist, or else we must assume that what the worker sells to the capitalist is not their labour, or the product of their labour. 

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