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Accumulation

  • Ben Fine
Chapter

Abstract

In a system of commodity production it is logically possible that the supply and demand for each product would exactly match, with each commodity exchanging at its individual value (the labour-time of production whether it be by the most or least efficient method). Capitalism, however, is dominated by commodity production, and the extension ofthe market ensures that prices for identical products do notdiverge. Even if supply and demand match now, the only way that the owner of a commodity can ensure that it sells at (or above) its individual value is by ensuring that this value is at (or below) the market evaluation, by expanding only one and a half hours of labour-time on a shirt with a market evaluation of two hours. Competition is created between producers in the market. The reaction to this by an independent self-employed artisan, who had survived the vagaries of the market, would be to modify output either in quantity or type. These options are also open to the capitalist, but neither is likely to be as effective for the purpose of expanding value as joining in the battle of competition. Marx stressed that this battle is fought by the cheapening of commodities through reducing their value, that is to say the labour-time necessary for their production. This is achieved by technological advance, achieving lower cost per productunit by using the most productive technology, continued renewal of production methods and producing in larger units (scale advantages), which requires accumulation of capital.Accumulation, from the perspective of an individual capitalist, can be either aggressive or defensive. An attempt can be made to steal an advantage over rivals by reducing the labour-time of production through accumulation, or, being assured that aggressive accumulation will be undertaken by a rival, a response in kind is necessary to defend existing capital. But each capitalist is in the same boat. Socially a situation of competitive accumulation exists, the condition of survival being to take part. In brief, capital as self-expanding value creates competition which is fought by accumulation. The need to accumulate is felt by each individual capitalist as an external coercive force. Accumulate or die; there are few exceptions. Other modes of production and independent artisans are destroyed by the sweeping advance of productivity and the iron rule of market evaluation.

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Copyright information

© Ben Fine 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Fine
    • 1
  1. 1.Birkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonUK

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