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Friday, 21 June 2013

Capital acting as a barrier to itself

Many economists and Marxists too have struggled with the reasons for crises in the capitalist system. Well the whole system is based on contradictions which become greater and greater as the system develops into a more advanced economic system. As a Marxist I follow the writings of Karl Marx not dogmatically but by applying his theories to the current situation today. I am a big supporter of Marx’s theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and believe firmly that this is where Marxists and economists alike should be focusing their studying time. I’ve just finished the section the 3 chapters which I think are crucial in Marx’s capital Vol 3 are chapters 13, 14 and 15. In the first chapter 13 Marx sets out his theory of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in a superb fashion going on in the other two chapters to explain what counter actions could be put in place to slow or decrease the fall of the rate of profit to fall whilst upholding that this can only ever be temporary and eventually the economic crash is not far away and counter measures o stem the crisis like we are seeing right now will only delay the eventual slump and depression. Capitalists area always having to update and improve their modes of production speed up the process buy more effective and efficient machinery and this as a result takes away the role of a labourer or two this as we know diminishes the rate of surplus value due to the need to improve production forces yet the source of a capitalist profit from the embodiment of human wage labour is reduced to the addition of new machines causing the rate of profit to fall s a result. This is a natural process as to remain competitive the capitalist must cut his production costs in terms of his constant capital and his means of production. The e rules of competition require the capitalist to constantly try and out do his competitors to steal a march in the market and to eventually drive out his competitors he does this in several ways. Karl Marx writes in his supplementary remarks in chapter 15 of volume 3 “While the circulating part of constant capital, such as raw materials, etc., continually increases its mass in proportion to the productivity of labour, this is not the case with fixed capital, such as buildings, machinery, and lighting and heating facilities, etc. Although in absolute terms a machine becomes dearer with the growth of its bodily mass, it becomes relatively cheaper. If five labourers produce ten times as much of a commodity as before, this does not increase the outlay for fixed capital ten-fold; although the value of this part of constant capital increases with the development of the productiveness, it does not by any means increase in the same proportion. We have frequently pointed out the difference in the ratio of constant to variable capital as expressed in the fall of the rate of profit, and the difference in the same ratio as expressed in relation to the individual commodity and its price with the development of the productivity of labour. [The value of a commodity is determined by the total labour-time of past and living labour incorporated in it. The increase in labour productivity consists precisely in that the share of living labour is reduced while that of past labour is increased, but in such a way that the total quantity of labour incorporated in that commodity declines; in such a way, therefore, that living labour decreases more than past labour increases. The past labour contained in the value of a commodity — the constant part of capital — consists partly of the wear and tear of fixed, partly of circulating, constant capital entirely consumed by that commodity, such as raw and auxiliary materials. The portion of value deriving from raw and auxiliary materials must decrease with the increased productivity of labour, because with regard to these materials the productivity expresses itself precisely by reducing their value. On the other hand, it is most characteristic of rising labour productivity that the fixed part of constant capital is strongly augmented, and with it that portion of its value which is transferred by wear and tear to the commodities. For a new method of production to represent a real increase in productivity, it must transfer a smaller additional portion of the value of fixed capital to each unit of the commodity in wear and tear than the portion of value deducted from it through the saving in living labour; in short, it must reduce the value of the commodity. It must obviously do so even if, as it occurs in some cases, an additional value goes into the value of the commodity for more or dearer raw or auxiliary materials over and above the additional portion for wear and tear of the fixed capital. All additions to the value must be more than offset by the reduction in value resulting from the decrease in living labour. This reduction of the total quantity of labour going into a commodity seems, accordingly, to be the essential criterion of increased productivity of labour, no matter under what social conditions production is carried on. Productivity of labour, indeed, would always be measured by this standard in a society, in which producers regulate their production according to a preconceived plan, or even under simple commodity-production. But how does the matter stand under capitalist production? Suppose, a certain line of capitalist industry produces a normal unit of its commodity under the following conditions: The wear and tear of fixed capital amounts to ½ shilling per piece; raw and auxiliary materials go into it to the amount of 17½ shillings per piece; wages, 2 shillings; and surplus-value, 2 shillings at a rate of surplus-value of 100%. Total value = 22 shillings. We assume for the sake of simplicity that the capital in this line of production has the average composition of social capital, so that the price of production of the commodity is identical with its value, and the profit of the capitalist with the created surplus-value. Then the cost-price of the commodity = ½ + 17½ + 2 = 20s. the average rate of profit 2/20 = 10%, and the price of production per piece of the commodity, like its value = 22s. Suppose a machine is invented which reduces by half the living labour required per piece of the commodity, but trebles that portion of its value accounted for by the wear and tear of the fixed capital. In that case, the calculation is: Wear and tear = 1½ s., raw and auxiliary materials, as before, 17½s. wages, 1s., surplus-value 1s., total 21s. The commodity then falls 1s. In value; the new machine has certainly increased the productivity of labour. But the capitalist sees the matter as follows: his cost-price is now 1½s. For wear, 17½s. For raw and auxiliary materials, 1s. For wages, total 20s., as before. Since the rate of profit is not immediately altered by the new machine, he will receive 10% over his cost-price, that is, 2s. The price of production, then, remains unaltered = 22s., but is 1s. Above the value. For a society producing under capitalist conditions the commodity has not cheapened. The new machine is no improvement for it. The capitalist is, therefore, not interested in introducing it. And since its introduction would make his present, not as yet worn-out, machinery simply worthless, would turn it into scrap-iron, hence would cause a positive loss, he takes good care not to commit this, what is for him a utopian, mistake. The law of increased productivity of labour is not, therefore, absolutely valid for capital. So far as capital is concerned, productiveness does not increase through a saving in living labour in general, but only through a saving in the paid portion of living labour, as compared to labour expended in the past, as we have already indicated in passing in Book I (Kap. XI II, 2, 5. 409/398). [English edition: Ch. XV, 2. — Ed.] Here the capitalist mode of production is beset with another contradiction. Its historical mission is unconstrained development in geometrical progression of the productivity of human labour. It goes back on its mission whenever, as here, it checks the development of productivity. It thus demonstrates again that it is becoming senile and that it is more and more outlived.] [1] Under competition, the increasing minimum of capital required with the increase in productivity for the successful operation of an independent industrial establishment, assumes the following aspect: As soon as the new, more expensive equipment has become universally established, smaller capitals are henceforth excluded from this industry. Smaller capitals can carry on independently in the various spheres of industry only in the infancy of mechanical inventions. Very large undertakings, such as railways, on the other hand, which have an unusually high proportion of constant capital, do not yield the average rate of profit, but only a portion of it, only an interest. Otherwise the general rate of profit would have fallen still lower. But this offers direct employment to large concentrations of capital in the form of stocks. Growth of capital, hence accumulation of capital, does not imply a fall in the rate of profit, unless it is accompanied by the aforementioned changes in the proportion of the organic constituents of capital. Now it so happens that in spite of the constant daily revolutions in the mode of production, now this and now that larger or smaller portion of the total capital continues to accumulate for certain periods on the basis of a given average proportion of those constituents, so that there is no organic change with its growth, and consequently no cause for a fall in the rate of profit. This constant expansion of capital, hence also an expansion of production, on the basis of the old method of production which goes quietly on while new methods are already being introduced at its side, is another reason, why the rate of profit does not decline as much as the total capital of society grows. The increase in the absolute number of labourers does not occur in all branches of production, and not uniformly in all, in spite of the relative decrease of variable capital laid out in wages. In agriculture, the decrease of the element of living labour may be absolute. At any rate, it is but a requirement of the capitalist mode of production that the number of wage-workers should increase absolutely, in spite of its relative decrease. Labour-power becomes redundant for it as soon as it is no longer necessary to employ it for 12 to 15 hours daily. A development of productive forces which would diminish the absolute number of labourers, i.e., enable the entire nation to accomplish its total production in a shorter time span, would cause a revolution, because it would put the bulk of the population out of the running. This is another manifestation of the specific barrier of capitalist production, showing also that capitalist production is by no means an absolute form for the development of the productive forces and for the creation of wealth, but rather that at a certain point it comes into collision with this development. This collision appears partly in periodical crises, which arise from the circumstance that now this and now that portion of the labouring population becomes redundant under its old mode of employment. The limit of capitalist production is the excess time of the labourers. The absolute spare time gained by society does not concern it. The development of productivity concerns it only in so far as it increases the surplus labour-time of the working-class, not because it decreases the labour-time for material production in general. It moves thus in a contradiction. We have seen that the growing accumulation of capital implies its growing concentration. Thus grows the power of capital, the alienation of the conditions of social production personified in the capitalist from the real producers. Capital comes more and more to the fore as a social power, whose agent is the capitalist. This social power no longer stands in any possible relation to that which the labour of a single individual can create. It becomes an alienated, independent, social power, which stands opposed to society as an object, and as an object that is the capitalist's source of power. The contradiction between the general social power into which capital develops, on the one hand, and the private power of the individual capitalists over these social conditions of production, on the other, becomes ever more irreconcilable, and yet contains the solution of the problem, because it implies at the same time the transformation of the conditions of production into general, common, social, conditions. This transformation stems from the development of the productive forces under capitalist production, and from the ways and means by which this development takes place. No capitalist ever voluntarily introduces a new method of production, no matter how much more productive it may be, and how much it may increase the rate of surplus-value, so long as it reduces the rate of profit. Yet every such new method of production cheapens the commodities. Hence, the capitalist sells them originally above their prices of production, or, perhaps, above their value. He pockets the difference between their costs of production and the market-prices of the same commodities produced at higher costs of production. He can do this, because the average labour-time required socially for the production of these latter commodities is higher than the labour-time required for the new methods of production. His method of production stands above the social average. But competition makes it general and subject to the general law. There follows a fall in the rate of profit — perhaps first in this sphere of production, and eventually it achieves a balance with the rest — which is, therefore, wholly independent of the will of the capitalist. Three cardinal facts of capitalist production: 1) Concentration of means of production in few hands, whereby they cease to appear as the property of the immediate labourers and turn into social production capacities. Even if initially they are the private property of capitalists. These are the trustees of bourgeois society, but they pocket all the proceeds of this trusteeship. 2) Organisation of labour itself into social labour: through co-operation, division of labour, and the uniting of labour with the natural sciences. In these two senses, the capitalist mode of production abolishes private property and private labour, even though in contradictory forms. 3) Creation of the world-market. The stupendous productivity developing under the capitalist mode of production relative to population, and the increase, if not in the same proportion, of capital-values (not just of their material substance), which grow much more rapidly than the population, contradict the basis, which constantly narrows in relation to the expanding wealth, and for which all this immense productiveness works. They also contradict the conditions under which this swelling capital augments its value. Hence the crises. References Karl Marx capital volume 3 Penguin edition http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch15.htm

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