Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 24 - Part 16

2. Richard Jones, “An Introductory Lecture on Political Economy etc.” [The Concept of the “Economical Structure of Nations”. Jones’s Confusion with regard to the “Labour Fund”] 

The “Labour Fund” is a concept developed by Malthus

“By “labour fund” Jones understands: 

“…the aggregate amount of the revenues consumed by the labourers, whatever be the source of those revenues” ([Syllabus,] p. 44).” (p 413-4) 

As stated earlier, the advance represented by Jones is his recognition of different modes of production, of which capitalism is merely one, and one which arises late in the progress of human society. Jones describes these different modes of production, all of which commence, he says, from “property in the soil”, which 

“rests, at one time of a people’s career, either in the general government, or in persons deriving their interest from it” (p. 14).” (p 413) 

In each of these different modes of production, the labourer must reproduce themselves, by providing for their own subsistence, from their production. Each mode of production is distinguished by the form in which this production takes place, and by which the labourer then appropriates their subsistence requirements. 

“It is only in Richard Jones’s work that the important differentiation—between labour that is paid out of capital and labour paid directly out of revenue—made by Adam Smith receives the full elaboration of which it is capable and becomes a major key for understanding the various economic formations of society. And with it disappears the absurd notion that, because in capital the worker’s revenue first takes the form of something appropriated, alias saved, by the capitalist, this signifies more than a formal difference.” (p 414) 

What this means is that there is no substantial difference in the fact that the slave owner directly appropriates the surplus product of the slave, and the landlord appropriates the surplus product of the peasant with the fact that the capitalist appropriates the surplus product of the wage labourer. The capitalist appears to give the wage labourer something in exchange for their labour, in a way that the slave owner does not, in respect of the slave, or the landlord in respect of the peasant. In other words, the capitalist appears to pay the worker a wage for their labour, and this wage appears to arise as a result of saving by the capitalist. The slave owner sets the slave to work, and the slave's production immediately goes, in part, to meet their own subsistence, handed back to them by the slave-owner, whilst their surplus production is appropriated by the slave owner. The peasant, who owns their own means of production, undertakes labour which produces their own subsistence directly. Their surplus production is handed to the landlord as rent, with nothing being provided in exchange for it. 

But, under capitalism, it appears that first the capitalist must save so as to possess capital, and then from this capital, pays a wage to the labourer. The wage, therefore, appears an exchange for all of the labour provided by the worker. This obscures the fact that a) the wage worker still produces their own means of subsistence, which is the physical equivalent of the wage paid to them, and b) they still undertake surplus labour over and above that required to produce those means of subsistence, and that this surplus labour is likewise appropriated by the capitalist, without any equivalent being given in exchange for it. 

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