Is Trade Productive?

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Mon Oct 30 12:24:33 MST 2000

Is the following pertinent to this thread ?



Vol. II _Capital_
part I



1. The Time of Purchase and Sale


A few paragraphs in

To the capitalist who has others working for him, buying and selling becomes a primary
function. Since he appropriates the product of many on a large social scale, he must
sell it on the same scale and then reconvert it from money into elements of
production. Now as before neither the time of purchase nor of sale creates any value.
The function of merchant's capital give rise to an illusion. But without going into
this at length here this much is plain from the start: If by a division of labour a
function, unproductive in itself although a necessary element of reproduction, is
transformed from an incidental occupation many into an exclusive occupation of a few,
into their special business, the nature of this function itself is not changed. One
merchant (here considered a mere agent attending to the change of form of commodities,
a mere buyer and seller) may by his operations shorten the time of purchase and sale
for many producers. In such case he should be regarded as a machi!
ne which reduces useless expenditure of energy or helps to set production time

 In order to simplify the matter (since we shall not discuss the merchant as a
capitalist and merchant's capital until later) we shall assume that this buying and
selling agent is a man who sells his labour. He expends his labour-power and
labour-time in the operations C---M and M---C. And he makes his living that way, just
as another does by spinning or making pills. He performs a necessary function, because
the process of reproduction itself include unproductive functions. He works as well as
the next man, but intrinsically his labour creates neither value nor product. He
belongs himself to the faux frais of production. His usefulness does not consist in
transforming an unproductive function into a productive one, nor unproductive into
productive labour. It would be a miracle if such transformation could be accomplished
by the mere transfer of a function. His usefulness consists rather in the fact that a
smaller part of society's labour-power and labour-time is tied up in th!
is unproductive function. More. We shall assume that he is a mere wage-labourer, even
one of the better paid, for all the difference it makes. Whatever his pay, as a
wage-labourer he works part of his time for nothing. He may receive daily the value of
the product of eight working-hours, yet functions ten. But the two hours of
surplus-labour he performs do not produce value anymore than his eight hours of
necessary labour, although by means of the latter a part of the social product is
transferred to him. In the first place, looking at it from the standpoint of society,
labour-power is used up now as before for ten hours in a mere function of circulation.
It cannot be used for anything else, not for productive labour. In the second place
however society does not pay for those two hours of surplus-labour, although they are
spent by the individual who performs this labour. Society does not appropriate any
extra product or value thereby. But the costs of circulation, which he rep!
resents, are reduced by one-fifth, from ten hours to eight. Societ
this active time of circulation, of which he is the agent. But if this man is employed
by a capitalist, then the non-payment of these two hours reduces the cost of
circulation of his capital, which constitute a deduction from his income. For the
capitalist this is a positive gain, because the negative limit for the self-expansion
of his capital-value is thereby reduced. So long as small independent producers of
commodities spend a part of their own time in buying and selling, this represents
nothing but time spent during the intervals between their productive function or
diminution of their time of production.

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