Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Addenda - Part 35

Whether the person who borrows money uses it as money-capital or simply as money is of no concern to the owner of money. In owning money they also thereby own its use value to act as money-capital, and charge a price for that use accordingly. 

“Interest-bearing capital functions as such only insofar as the money lent is really converted into capital and produces a surplus of which interest constitutes a part. This does not however invalidate the fact that interest and interest-bearing have become attributes of it independently of the [production] process. Any more than the use-value of cotton as cotton is nullified by the fact that it has to be spun or used in some other way, in order to demonstrate its useful properties. And thus capital [demonstrates] its capacity to yield interest only by becoming part of the production process.” (p 488) 

Marx compares this to the sale of other use values. The use value of cotton, for example, is only realised when the cotton is spun into yarn, or used for some other purpose. But, it is not the act of spinning the cotton into yarn that gives it its use value. That is intrinsic to the cotton as cotton. Cotton that grows, but, for one reason or another, is not harvested, and so does not get spun into yarn, nevertheless still has that use value that it could be so used. The same is true of labour. All free labour, be it that of the member of the primitive commune, the peasant household the wage worker, or the labourer under communism has the use value of creating value. Whether this labour is so engaged in creating value is another matter. If the labourer in the primitive commune, having produced enough to satisfy their needs for the day decides to then rest, it does not change the fact that, within certain physical limits, they could undertake additional labour, and so create additional new value. And the same applies to wage-labour. The ability to perform labour is the use value of labour-power itself sold as a commodity

“But labour-power likewise demonstrates its capacity to produce value when it functions as labour, is realised as labour in this process. This does not rule out that, in itself, as a faculty, it is a value-creating activity and does not merely become such as a result of the process, but rather is antecedent to the process. It is bought as such. A person can buy it without setting it to work (as, for example, when a theatre manager hires an actor not in order to give him a role in a play, but to prevent him from performing in a rival theatre). Whether or not a man who buys labour-power uses its faculty for which he pays, i.e., its faculty to create value, is of no concern to the man who sells it, and makes no difference to the commodity sold, just as it makes no difference whether the man who buys capital uses it as such, that is, employs the quality of creating value which is inherent in it, in the [production] process.” (p 488) 

The industrial capitalist who buys labour-power does so because they believe they will obtain surplus value by doing so. They anticipate that the labour-power will create a quantity of new value that will itself be sufficient to reproduce the value of the labour-power, but also a surplus value in excess of it. The industrial capitalist who buys the use value of capital, similarly, does so in the expectation of obtaining surplus value. They anticipate that if they borrow £1,000 and use it to buy a machine, then this machine will not return to them just its own value, via the wear and tear it transfers to production, but that, as capital, it will return to them the average rate of profit as well. 

“This is why the capitalist who operates with his own capital regards part of the surplus-value as interest, that is, as surplus-value which is yielded by the production process, because it has been brought into the production process by the capital independently of the process.” (p 488) 

In other words, they see the use value of capital itself being the ability to produce the average rate of profit, and the use value of capital has a price – the rate of interest. In the same way that labour, whether it engages in production or not, has the capacity to produce value, so too capital, whether it is used as capital or not, has the capacity to produce interest. 

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