Capitalism Develops and Expands in Ironic Ways
Written by: Ned K. on 9 May 2020
The Covid -19 pandemic has caused illness and death on a scale not seen in developed capitalist economies for a hundred years. The shutdown of industries resulting from it has caused further misery for millions of working people thrown out of work for who knows how long. Despite this capitalism inevitably must find ways to extract surplus value and expand sometimes in unexpected ways.
For example, in Millicent South Australia, the paper mill owned by Kimberley Clark was contracting with local workers fearing the place may close altogether. Then along comes the Covid-19 and the paper mill is working 24/7 just making toilet paper. Boutique breweries, faced with no sales to closed pubs, found a new way to make profits by producing alcohol-based hand sanitiser!
On a larger scale the Chinese-American Mr Yuan who owns Zoom conferencing for virtual meetings announces $4 billion profit in the last 3 months! How ironic that a Chinese-American heads up Zoom while Trump escalates the war of words against the rising China world power!
That capitalism expands and creates whole new industries and occupations was pointed out by Marx in this amusing and brilliant example in Theories Of Surplus Value, or the fourth volume of Capital as it is sometimes called. The quote from Marx is lengthy but worth the read.
"A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we take a closer look at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crime but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures on to the general market as 'commodities'...The criminal moreover produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc; and all these different lines of business, which form just as many categories of the social division of labor, develop different capacities of the human mind, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them.
Torture alone has given rise to the most ingenious mechanical inventions, and employed many honourable craftsmen in the production of its instruments. The criminal produces an impression, partly moral and partly tragic, as the case may be, and in this way renders a 'service' by arousing the moral and aesthetic feelings of the public.
He produces penal codes and along with them legislators in this field, but also art, novels, and even tragedies, as not only Mullner's Schuld...but Oedipus and Richard The Third.
The effects of the criminal on the development of productive power can be shown in detail. Would locks ever have reached their present degree of excellence had there been no thieves?
Would making bank notes have reached its present perfection had there been no forgers?
And if one leaves the world of crime, would the world market ever have come into being but for the national crime? Indeed, would ever the nations have arisen?"
Now the captains of industry in Australia and the USA with Morrison and Trump faithfully following their commands want their capitalist economies to again generate maximum profits no matter what the cost of human life from a second wave or third or fourth of Covid-19.
Will this call to arms by capital create the conditions for another surge in previously low volume production such as coffin making or worse still more front-end loaders to bury the dead from Covid 19 outbreaks or even worse a catastrophic war of aggression by the US against China?
These and similar possibilities will occur as long as the system of capitalism remains and that is what Marx's brilliant work of Capital in all its Volumes is really all about
Print Version - new window Email article