Thursday, July 8, 2021

Socially Ambivalent Labour Time III: Theories of Surplus Value, chapter 7 and addenda to part 1

In an earlier post, I mentioned that in chapter seven of TSV Marx explicitly excluded William Godwin from his historical review of theories of surplus value:

In accordance with the plan of my work socialist and communist writers are entirely excluded from the historical reviews. These reviews are only intended to show on the one hand in what form the political economists criticized each other, and on the other hand the historically determining forms in which the laws of political economy were first stated and further developed. In dealing with surplus-value I therefore exclude such eighteenth century writers as Brissot, Godwin and the like, and likewise the nineteenth-century socialists and communists. The few socialist writers whom I shall come to speak of in this survey either themselves adopt the standpoint of bourgeois economy or contest it from its own standpoint.
Godwin was not a socialist or communist writer. Marx did discuss Malthus and Thomas Chalmers, whose works were presented as refutations of Godwin, so presumably that should have been relevant to the question of "in what form the political economists criticized each other." In the addenda to part 1, which immediately followed chapter 7, Marx discussed all manor of eighteenth century and earlier writers including Hobbes, Petty, Locke, Hume, North, Berkeley, and Quesnay.

In part, Dilke's The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties was a rebuttal to Malthus and Chalmers on Godwinian and Ricardian grounds. In chapter 21 of TSV, Marx mistakenly identifies the author of The Source and Remedy as "a captive of the economic categories as he finds them" who "stands rather on Ricardian ground":

The author stands rather on Ricardian ground and is only consistent in stating one of the consequences inherent in the system itself and he advances it in the interests of the working class against capital.

For the rest, the author remains a captive of the economic categories as he finds them.

Dilke stood on Ricardian ground to criticize political economy immanently. I will return to chapter 21 in due course but there is one passage in it that is directly relevant to "Necessary labour. Surplus labour. Surplus population. Surplus capital." In the passage from chapter 21, Marx complained that "[o]ur pamphleteer overlooks two things":

As a result of the introduction of machinery, a mass of workers is constantly being thrown out of employment, a section of the population is thus made redundant; the surplus product therefore finds fresh labour for which it can be exchanged without any increase in population and without any need to extend the absolute working-time.

What the pamphleteer overlooked was precisely the point Marx addressed in "Necessary labour, etc." The creation of redundant labour capacity -- a reserve army of the unemployed, so to speak -- is a necessity for engaging the surplus capital that results from the production of relative surplus value.

(An update to my review of chapter four of TSV: the term "labour-time necessary" appears twice in chapter four. By context, it would appear to be a synonym for socially necessary labour time or labour time [socially] necessary. Labour-time necessary also appears in chapter 1, "The Commodity" of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy where "socially necessary labour time" does not occur. Marx also made an important distinction there about what he meant by "social" in reference to exchange value: is assumed that the labour-time contained in a commodity is the labour-time necessary for its production, namely the labour-time required, under the generally prevailing conditions of production, to produce another unit of the same commodity.

From the analysis of exchange-value it follows that the conditions of labour which creates exchange-value are social categories of labour or categories of social labour, social however not in the general sense but in the particular sense, denoting a specific type of society.

In volume 1 of Capital, Marx used the shorter phrase "labour-time necessary" fifteen times, with seven of those referring to the labour-time necessary for the reproduction of labour power.)

Index to all posts on socially necessary labour time.

I will take the opportunity to plug my publication, "The Ambivalence of Disposable Time" in each of these episodes. I am linking to the published journal article. If anyone needs free access to the author's preprint, let me know in comments and I will leave a link there. 


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