Monday, 2 December 2019

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Chapter 24 - Part 42

The introduction of the cotton gin represents intensive accumulation. It demonstrates the point that Marx makes in setting out the difference between his law of a falling rate of profit and that of his predecessors. In other words, here, the new machine relatively replaces labour, whilst the actual amount of labour, and mass of surplus value rises, i.e. 20,000 workers are employed, rather than 10,000, so the mass of surplus value doubles, but this is 30,000 fewer than would otherwise have been required to produce the 5 million kilos. And, here, the rate of surplus value rises rather than falls. 

Marx, then, describes more fully this difference between extensive and intensive accumulation. 

“The conversion of a part of the surplus product into auxiliary capital can take place in two ways: [firstly,] increase in the auxiliary capital already in existence, that is, its reproduction on a larger scale; [secondly,] discovery of new use-values or of a new use for well-known use-values, and new inventions of machinery or of motive power leading to the creation of new kinds of auxiliary capital. In this context, extension of knowledge is obviously one of the conditions for increasing the auxiliary capital or, what amounts to the same thing, for the conversion of surplus product or surplus money (foreign trade is important in this connection) into additional auxiliary capital. For example, the telegraph opens up a whole new field for the investment of auxiliary capital, so do the railways, etc., and so does the whole gutta-percha and India rubber production. 

This point about the extension of knowledge is important.” (p 440-1) 

Extensive accumulation always sets additional labour in motion. If a firm has one machine and one worker, if it buys an additional identical machine, it must also employ an additional worker to operate it. But, in addition, its consumption of raw material will double, so additional labour must be employed by its suppliers, to produce this additional material. But, this is not the case with intensive accumulation. The firm that now employs 2 machines and 2 workers, may process 1,000 units of material. If it introduces a new machine that replaces the 2 older machines, it will now require only 1 worker, and its consumption of raw material is not changed, so no additional labour is required by its suppliers either. 

“When a machine replaces labour, it always demands less new labour (for its own production) than it replaces. Perhaps the old labour is simply given a new direction. In any case, labour is freed, which after a greater or lesser amount of trials and tribulations may be used in other ways. The human material for a new sphere of production is thus provided.” (p 441) 

And, as set out previously, capital is also, thereby freed. If £1,000 was previously laid out as variable-capital, and now, £200 is laid out for the machine, and only £300 for variable-capital, because fewer workers are required, then £500 of this variable-capital is released. Whether this £500 of variable-capital can be used to employ the workers who were laid off depends on a series of other factors, for example, whether the fall in value of the commodity causes an expansion in demand for it, whether some other line of production opens up, whether the unemployed workers are of the right type, in the right place to take up such employment etc. 

This also the point referred to elsewhere, in relation to Marx's comments in the Grundrisse about how this development of productivity frees capital and labour, which is then employed in new spheres, widening the range of production and consumption, with this new production, thereby, also forming the means whereby the surplus production in the old spheres can be realised. 

No comments: