Sunday, 1 September 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 22 - Part 13

Ramsay says,

““The second is, that, since the master-capitalist always makes an advance of wages to the labourers, instead of paying them out of the finished commodity, he considers this as well as the fixed capital consumed, a part of his expenses, though […] nationally speaking, it is not an element of cost” (loc. cit., p. 146).” (p 338)

But, as stated earlier, this is not the case either. The capitalist always pays workers in arrears, and in a physical sense, this is the case too. The capitalist always pays workers by handing back to them a portion of what they have already produced, retaining the rest as surplus product, and surplus value

Marx notes,

“Ramsay has the merit, firstly, that he contradicts the false notion—current since Adam Smith—of the value of the whole product dissolving into revenue under different names; secondly, that he defines the rate of profit in two ways, [once] by the rate of wages, i.e., the rate of surplus-value, and a second time, by the value of the constant capital.” (p 338)

But, Ramsay, thereby, sets up two parallel determinations of the rate of profit. He also fails to analyse the process involved in the transformation of surplus value into profit. That process not only involves the formation of an average rate of profit, and of prices of production, it involves the subdivision of this profit into rent, interest, taxes and profit of enterprise; it also involves the division into commercial profit, not to mention the role of demand on the role of produced surplus value.

“Whereas therefore Ricardo arbitrarily seeks to reduce the rate of profit to the rate of surplus-value in order to work out the theory of value consistently, Ramsay seeks to reduce surplus-value to profit. We shall see later that the way he describes the influence of the value of constant capital on the rate of profit is very inadequate, and even incorrect.” (p 338-9)

Marx's analysis of capital is an analysis of social reproduction of these material balances, within the historically specific context set by capitalism. That is in which the means of production take the form of constant capital, the means of subsistence for the producers takes the form of variable-capital, and the surplus product/value takes, in the first instance, the form of profit.

Ramsay says,

““Profit […] must rise or fall exactly as the proportion of the gross produce, or of its value, required to replace necessary advances, falls or rises… Therefore, the rate of profit must depend […] upon two circumstances; first, the proportion of the whole produce which goes to the labourers; secondly, the proportion which must be set apart for replacing, either in kind or by exchange, the fixed capital” (loc. cit., pp. 147-48).” (p 339)

So long as we have first arrived at a correct understanding of where the surplus value comes from, Marx says, then “then the whole matter is very simple. But if we only know that the profit depends on the ratio of the surplus to these outlays, then we can acquire the most inaccurate notions about the origin of this surplus, for example we can, like Ramsay, imagine that it originates in part in fixed (constant) capital.” (p 339)