Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Theories of Surplus Value, Part III, Addenda - Part 36

The relation land – rent seems less irrational than the relation capitalinterest. Land is a use value that takes part in the production process. That it should obtain a price for having done so appears superficially rational. But, this relation capital – interest appears irrational because it involves an amount of money being equal to a larger sum of money, of £1,000 being equal to, say, £1,050. 

“Since land itself is productive (of use-value) and is itself a living productive force (of use-value or for the creation of use-values), it is possible either superstitiously to confuse use-value with exchange-value, i.e., to confuse it with a specific social form of the labour contained in the product. In this case, the reason for the irrationality lies in itself, since rent as a particular category is independent of the capitalist process as such. Or “enlightened” political economy may deny altogether that rent is a form of surplus-value, because it is not connected with either labour or capital, and declare that it is merely a surcharge which the landowner is able to make as a result of his monopoly of landownership.” (p 488-9) 

In other words, as Marx says, in Capital III, Chapter 48, value is labour, so surplus value cannot be land. Land is a use value, whereas rent is exchange-value. There is no equivalence between the two. Indeed, as Marx sets out in that chapter, the same is true of labour and wages. Labour-power is a use value, whereas wages are exchange-value. There is again no equivalence between the two. It is not labour-power, a use value, that creates value, but labour itself, i.e. the activity of labour. The theatre manager who buys the labour-power of the actor does not thereby create or even maintain the value of the labour-power they have bought. If they have bought this labour-power only to deprive their competitors of it, and so do not put the actor to work, this is just a straight transfer of of value from the theatre owner to the actor, and represents a loss to the former. Its only the act of labour, by the actor, that creates value, and, thereby, maintains the value that the theatre owner has advanced for it, plus, they hope, an amount of surplus value. 

It is not the use values land, capital, or labour-power that creates new value (revenue), but only he performance of labour itself. Value is labour. It is only the activity of labour that creates new value, a portion of which then enables labour-power to be maintained/reproduced, but a portion of which then constitutes a surplus value, some of which is claimed as rent by the owners of landed property, some as interest by the owners of loanable capital, and the rest as profit of enterprise by the industrial capitalist, apart from that claimed by the state as tax. In other words, we have value being created solely by labour in production, but this value is then distributed as revenues to the owners of these different use values/factors of production. But, this subsequent distribution of revenues cannot be separated from production precisely because the ability of each of the owners of these factors of production to compete for their share of this distribution is determined by their relation to the means of production. Whilst the industrial capitalist cannot sustainably increase their share of this distribution by paying wages below the value of labour-power, nor can the wage labourer push their wages above the value of labour-power, because the subsequent effect is to create a crisis of overproduction of capital, to which capital responds by making workers redundant, introducing labour-saving technologies and so on. 

The landlord cannot sustainably charge rents above the surplus profits, obtained by capital, employed in primary production, or capital will exit that sphere, leaving land uncultivated. The owners of loanable capital cannot increase their share of surplus value by raising interest rates, because the consequence would be that industrial capitalists would reduce their demand for capital, whilst themselves throwing more of their realised profits into the money markets, so that market rates of interest would then fall. 

As Marx says in The Critique of the Gotha Programme, 

“Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. The capitalist mode of production, for example, rests on the fact that the material conditions of production are in the hands of nonworkers in the form of property in capital and land, while the masses are only owners of the personal condition of production, of labour power. If the elements of production are so distributed, then the present-day distribution of the means of consumption results automatically. If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.” 

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