the capitalist income

Image: Ingo Joseph


Something as irrational as a yellow logarithm


Economics is indeed a curious science. The more “scientific” a group of its thinkers tries to make it, the less it proves capable of going beyond the surface of real economic problems, that is, the greater the degree of abstraction reached by it, the greater, also, seems to be the degree of abstraction. shallowness of their explanations of real-world economic phenomena. However, even more serious is the observation that the greater its degree of “scientific” autonomy, the greater the distance it takes from what it should relate to and transform; society and politics. However, such a distance appears to the most attentive eyes as a mere illusion, since Economic Science, like everything else that was touched by capital, had become a mere servant of its designs.

Roughly speaking, it is as if there were a “scientific truth”, very closely related to the interests of capital (and financed and directed by it), and a “social truth”; understood by mainstream not as an existing reality of a material basis of social relations, but as a theory - often ahistorical, asocial and apolitical - which has yet to be realized. Both “truths” are thus born as “non-truths” (if we understand by the term truth the close correspondence between thought and existing reality).

The former closes in on itself and the owners of this “truth”, scientists, form a class apart from society and, often, even from their peers. Well, the inclusion and recognition, in each area of ​​research, happen almost as a privilege. It depends much more on the researcher accepting what is “true” for a given research group, than on the very importance of his topic or its implications on an existing reality (something as if science had a life of its own independent of the researcher, his social context and your interests). In turn, the “social truth”, as an existing reality, seems not to be directly part of the “scientific truth” or, even worse, is treated either as a deviation, error or even a failure, in relation to a certain model or model. theory. Clearly, this is the case with the problem of income in economic science.

Traditional economic theory has moved towards giving the market, as a central scientific category of economic analysis, the character of a necessary and sufficient mechanism that explains everything and, in which, in it, everything is resolved; a mechanism created by society, but which at the same time dispenses with it, as it is self-sufficient. Through this procedure, it naturalized the processes of production and distribution of society's total income between wages, interest-profits and rents and, at the same time, covered up the real forms of distribution based on methods of expropriation, exploitation and domination of the social workforce. .

In other words, if something is wrong with society, it is only because of a lack of market, a failure in the market or too much interference by the State. Something as if the process of capital accumulation had no implications or even, ultimately, determinations on economic processes and real social relations, by perpetually reproducing capitalists, on the one hand, and salaried workers, on the other, thus ensuring that it also forms the perpetuation of social relations of exploitation and expropriation of the workforce.

The income problem dealt with in this article is part of the contradiction outlined above. However, there is some confusion in the specialized literature on the subject of “income”. Generally, when it comes to the term in the context of classical economics and Marxian economics, we directly relate it to the issue of land rent. Although the problem was initially proposed in this way (Ricardo), it presents a much larger dimension of which land rent constitutes only a fraction. This problem, as will become clear throughout the article, concerns the very form of sociability established by capitalism.

The problem, in its classic form, was proposed for the first time by Ricardo, in the preface to his “Principles of political economy and taxation”, published in 1817. For him, the problem of income is related to the formulation of a “true theory of income ”, something that his predecessors (“Adam Smith” and other “competent authors”) had not achieved. This "true income theory" had only been outlined by Malthus and a "member of the University College"Of Oxford. And, only from it, according to Ricardo, was it possible to formulate knowledge possible to “[…] understand the effect of the progress of wealth on profits and wages, or even satisfactorily monitor the influence of taxes on the different classes of society [ …]” (RICARDO, 1982, p. 39).

Ricardo, when treating the “economic question” as a problem of income, submitted the problems of production to the problem of distribution. But, for the author, the distribution already appears as a given, as it reflects the relationships between land rent, profit and wages, corresponding, respectively, to the three classes of society, the landowner, the owner of capital and salaried workers. . Ricardo thus treats the consequence as a cause, and gives a certain configuration of distribution, the one that favors profit, the character of being the only rational way for the economy to function. By naturalizing income into wages, profit and land rent, he also naturalizes capitalist society and justifies its form of sociability. In this respect, Ricardo only reaffirms Smith's distributive solution.


The income problem in Ricardo

Thus, the “problem of rent” for Ricardo was related to the laws that govern, on the one hand, land rent and profits and, on the other, profits and wages. Therefore, the “problem of rent” originates from land rent, which is understood as the “[...] compensation paid to its owner for the use of the original and indestructible forces of the land” (RICARDO, 1982, p. 66)

From this perspective, land rent constitutes the remuneration of a productive factor, as is profit for capital and wages for the workforce. However, when Ricardo added the assumptions of population growth and the cultivation of more distant lands of different qualities, he also changed the concept of income. This income no longer referred to the remuneration of the land factor, but rather to a difference in the productivity of equal capital invested in land that resulted in different income (the idea of ​​differential income). As there is a need to cultivate portions of land that are more distant and less fertile, their production costs begin to determine the market prices of agricultural products. Ricardo is right when he states that “[...] the reason why there is an increase in the comparative value of agricultural products is the use of more labor to produce the last portion obtained and not the payment to the landowner [...]”.

However, by not making the distinction between income as remuneration and income as a difference in productivity in the cultivation of land of different qualities, Ricardo generated a major problem on the issue of distribution. He suggested that the entire value of the difference in productivity be appropriated by the landowner (the differential rent). However, for a correct understanding of this issue, we need to consider the role of the capitalist tenant in the rent appropriation process; including the part of income that refers to the economic surplus. Ricardo, perhaps because he thought strictly in an abstract way, went directly to the relationship between the increase in the cost of the products of the land, its repercussion on labor costs and from there to the reduction of the profit rate of the economic system.

In Chapter VI, “About Profits”, Ricardo introduced the figure of the tenant as a totally passive agent, the one who hands over the entire value of the difference in productivity from land income to its owner. It is as if the land rent always accompanied the increase in the price of agricultural products, when in fact the land rent, as established by the author himself, refers to the payment for the use of that land, which is supposed to have been established by means of a contract. Treating rent in this way ultimately implies disqualifying the tenant as a capitalist. But, on the contrary, just as Marx also understands (2017b, p.675), “[...] agriculture is operated by capitalists, who at first differ from other capitalists by the way their capital is invested and by the salaried work put into it. moving through this capital [...]”. In this way, the rent that falls to the landowner is nothing more than a part of the surplus value produced by capital. Land rent can only be considered an autonomous component when it is defined as income from the land productive factor, since, in general, it only presents itself as a transfer of a part of the surplus value produced by capital.

If our reasoning is correct, the increase in prices provided by the increase in the costs of production of the more distant and less fertile land may increase the profit of the capitalist tenant of the land closer to the market and of better quality; instead of generating a higher return to the landowner (the differential rent), as defined by Ricardo in his theory of land rent. This is because the rent paid by the tenant to the landlord represents a sum of money fixed by contract. In this sense, if economic conditions are favorable to the tenant during the lease period, assuming that the tenant's extra profit will simply be transferred to the owner does not seem to constitute a valid assumption. There is a paragraph in the 37th chapter of Book III, of The capital, quite illuminating in this regard.

“The prerequisite for the capitalist mode of production is therefore the following: the true cultivators of the soil are wage-earners, employed by a capitalist, the tenant, who only dedicates himself to agriculture as a specific field of exploitation of capital, as an investment of its capital in a particular sphere of production. This tenant-capitalist pays the landlord, the owner of the land he exploits, at specified times, say annually, a sum of money fixed by contract (in exactly the same way as the borrower of money capital pays fixed interest for him) in exchange for of permission to apply his capital in this particular field of production. This sum of money is called land rent, regardless of whether it is paid for arable land, building land, mines, fishing grounds, forests, etc. It is paid for all the time during which the landowner has lent, leased by contract, the land to the lessee. In this case, ground rent is the way in which land ownership is economically realized, the way in which it is valued. Furthermore, here, together and confronted, are the three classes – the salaried worker, the industrial capitalist and the landowner – that constitute the framework of modern society” (MARX, 2017b, p. 679)

A brief analysis of the transformations that took place in the countryside between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries reveals both the active role of the capitalist tenant in the development of capitalism and the growing decline in the influence and power of the landlord. landlord about the economy. As Marx (2017a, p. 814) pointed out, “[…] The agricultural revolution, which took place in the last third of the XNUMXth century and lasted for almost the entire XNUMXth century [...], enriched the tenant as quickly as it impoverished the rural population […]”. Other factors that contributed enormously to this enrichment were the drop in the value of precious metals and the constant increase in the prices of agricultural products:

“In the XNUMXth century […] the continuous fall in the value of noble metals and, consequently, of money, yielded golden fruits to the lessee. She reduced […] the salary level. A fraction of the latter was incorporated into the lessee's profit. The constant rise in the prices of corn, wool, meat, in short, of all agricultural products, swelled the money capital of the tenant […], while the rent of land, which he had to pay, was contractually fixed in values outdated currency. In this way he enriched himself at the same time at the expense of his wage-workers and his landlord. It is not surprising, then, that England, at the end of the sixteenth century, had a class of 'capitalist tenants', considerably wealthy by the standards of the time” (MARX, 2017, p. 814-815).

The problem with Ricardo's theoretical formulation was that he treated agriculture, in particular land rent, as the destabilizing element of the system. However, it was a period in which industrialization was making great strides, already towards the department of production goods, through the creation of the railway sector, which would end up giving capital complete autonomy over its accumulation process. As Hobsbawm (2009, p. 181) noted, “[…] British agriculture ceased to constitute the general support of the entire economy, becoming just a branch of production, something similar to an 'industry', although, of course, , by far the largest activity in terms of employment [...]”. Agriculture's share of gross national income fell steadily between 1811 and 1851, from 1/3 to 1/5.

We want, once again, to draw attention to the role of the capitalist tenant. The social and political structure of Great Britain, as Hobsbawm (2009) explains again, was controlled by landowners. According to him, “the degree of concentration of land ownership was unparalleled in other industrial countries”, and in this aspect also lay “the strength of British farming in the 2009th and 186th centuries. XVIII and XIX”. Because it was in the interest of large landowners to rent out their land, they were “[…] willing to encourage efficient partners with the terms of their landlords, able to make substantial investments and shoulder at least part of the burden of hard times, reducing the leasing or allowing the accumulation of debts […]” (HOBSBAWM, 2009, p. 97). In turn, the tenant was a “'progressive' farmer”, a fact expressed in his “more commercial spirit”. Contrary to what Ricardo thought, tenants were thus active capitalists who enriched and applied their wealth as capital in other economic sectors, through the “inhuman economy of commercial agriculture”. Hobsbawm (XNUMX, p. XNUMX), highlights this aspect of wealth from the daily life of these families: “the very opulence of farmers, increasingly prosperous, with their pianist daughters”.

Even when dealing with the class of landowners, we have to consider that they could constitute a sterile class in the productive sense, but that was not their only role. On the other hand, in terms of capitalist dynamics, it contributed to the growth of cities and, consequently, to the increase in the effective demand of the system as a whole; and it must have been a considerable contribution, as landowners constituted the wealthiest class of people in Great Britain. The landowner's income was an active element of the economy. It was not limited to luxury consumption, it was also used as a means of obtaining new income. Thus, Hobsbawm's (2009) historical study of the period clarifies:

“While the owner of really large lands, the rural lord did not necessarily depend on agricultural rents. He could enjoy the income from urban real estate, which was rising in value, or the profits from mines and railroads that a blessed Providence had placed on his lands, or the interest on his gigantic profits, invested in the past” (HOBSBAWM, 2009, p. . 99)

Based on the analysis carried out in the previous paragraphs, we do not confirm differential income, as defined by Ricardo, as a destabilizing element in the economic system. Differential income is more like a logical device formulated by the referred author to justify the cause of what he thought to be the limiting element of the accumulation process; the increase in land rents. Ricardo's problem was to find a way to justify a single rate of profit for the economy. He did this through the abstraction that the difference in profit arising from the use of land at different levels of productivity was simply transferred from the tenants to the landowner. Generally speaking, it was an artifice designed to logically close his theory of land rent. A different solution to this problem was hinted at by Marx, in book III of Capital (2017b, p. 861):

“It is possible to think that the mere entry of the capitalist tenant into agricultural production provides proof that the price of agricultural products, which have always paid rent in one form or another, must be situated, at least at the time of this entry, above the prices of production of manufacture, either because it rises to the level of a monopoly price, or because it rises until it reaches the value of agricultural products and their value is, in fact, above the price of production regulated by average profit […].”

Ricardo had already referred to the capitalist tenant on two other previous occasions. The first time to deduce that “[…] There cannot be an increase in the value of labor without a decrease in profits […]”:

“[…] If the wheat has to be divided between the farmer (lessee) and the worker, the larger the share given to the latter, the smaller will be left over for the former. In the same way, if the woolen fabric or the cotton product is divided between the worker and his employer, the greater the share given to the former, the less will remain for the latter” (RICARDO, 1982, p. 55).

It is interesting to note in this quote that Ricardo treats the income of the tenant and the manufacturer as having equal qualities. Even more interesting is to observe income as a deduction from the product of labor, as Smith had formulated it. However, Ricardo's objective, like Smith's, in posing the question was simply to show the existence of an inverse relationship between profit and wages. Today, we know that this relationship is only valid under very restrictive hypotheses. In the industry-led economy, increased productivity can benefit both profits and wages.

The second time Ricardo mentioned the capitalist tenant was to derive his concept of rent. Here the confusion between rent as a difference in productivity (differential) and rent as payment for land use appeared for the first time. By comparing the different return on equal capital invested in land of different qualities, he concludes that since there cannot be two rates of profit in the economy, the difference will necessarily be pocketed as rent by the landowner. We have already dealt with this issue in the previous paragraphs.

In any case, it was not our aim to carry out a complete critique of Ricardo's theory of land rent. Our only interest was to show that the treatment of the distribution of the economic surplus, in Ricardo, obeyed the same logic established by Smith. The only difference was that in Ricardo the “steady state” became the “exclusive fault” of the landowner. However, it was an inopportune time for such a formulation, as capital accumulation was heading towards its complete autonomy. There is a passage in chapter 47, “Genesis of capitalist ground rent”, of book III, of “Capital”, which is very enlightening and summarizes our argument about the problem of rent in Ricardo, as we present it. The citation, despite being quite long, deserves our attention.

“[…] With the emergence of the capitalist tenant between the landowner and the farmer who actually works, all relations stemming from the old rural mode of production are severed. The tenant becomes the real commander of these agricultural workers and the real exploiter of their surplus labour, whereas the landowner only establishes a direct relationship with this capitalist tenant, that is, a mere contractual monetary relationship. In this way, the nature of rent is also transformed, not only in fact and fortuitously, as it already happened in part under the previous forms, but in a normal way, in its recognized dominant form. In the normal way of surplus-value and surplus-labour, it is reduced to a surplus of that surplus-labour over the part of it which comes to be appropriated by the exploiting capitalist in the form of profit; in the same way, now this capitalist directly extracts all surplus labor – profit and surplus over profit – in the form of total surplus product and converts it into money […] Thus, in the normal way of surplus value and surplus value surplus labour, rent then turns into a surplus of this particular sphere of production, the agricultural sphere, into a surplus over that part of surplus labor which capital claims as belonging to it in advance and standard [normally]. Instead of rent, it is profit which has now been converted into the normal form of surplus-value, and rent is considered only as a form, autonomous under special circumstances, not of surplus-value in general, but of a certain branch of the latter: of extra profit […] No longer land, but capital, now began to directly subject agricultural work to itself and its productivity” (MARX, 2017b, p. 860)

Ricardo's theoretical formulation was a great contribution to make economics a science, in the modern sense of the term, but at the same time it became an obstacle to understanding the character of exploitation of the workforce in capitalism. Because, as Teixeira (2004) very appropriately put it, it was with him that the theory of value was formulated in a precise way, eliminating its ambivalent character given by Smith (value as contained labor and as commanded labor).

“If, in the name of the principle of coherence, Ricardo was forced to conceal the origin of surplus value, how does he explain profit and land rent? This issue becomes more dramatic, considering that, for him, the entire value of the product is resolved in work. If so, profit and rent are but titles under which capitalists and landlords share in the extra value generated by work; therefore, of a value that exceeds the paid labor employed for its production. Thus, the previous question is restored: how to explain the origin of profit and income without violating the principle of coherence? For Ricardo, there is only one way out: simply admit them as a fact. It was precisely what he did (TEIXEIRA, 2004, p. 57).”


The problem of income in Marx

The problem of income was only adequately formulated from the distinction between labor and labor power. For, only from such a distinction and from the understanding of work as a substance of value, in the context of bourgeois private ownership of the means of production and subsistence, could it be possible to carry out a real analysis of the appropriation of social income, outside the commonplace of economics. classic division of the social product between salary, profit and income. It is impressive, in the face of this problem, to observe that even after a century and a half of the publication of Capital, this still constitutes the theoretical contribution that represents the contribution that can free us from the alienation of an economic theory that understands the distribution of the social product in the capitalism as a “natural aspect” of our sociability.

Thus, the starting point of the income problem is not in the sphere of distribution, it is in work as a source of value, as an element that transforms nature into social utilities. Smith rightly identified rent as a “labour deduction” arising from the moment land becomes private property. In this sense, the problem of income is related to the question of the appropriation of value. Therefore, the problem of rent goes far beyond the treatment given by Ricardo, for whom this problem is basically related to the increase in the share of land rent as a destabilizing element of capitalist profit.

In summary, the problem of income is directly related to the very form of sociability determined by the capitalist mode of production. From this perspective, no author understood the dimension of this problem so appropriately, nor formulated such an adequate analysis, as Marx himself. We need to follow the development of his thought up to section VII, “Income and its sources”, of book III, de The capital, to understand the possible form of sociability based on the social combination of bourgeois private property with the generalization of exchanges (establishment of a mercantile economy).

First, however, it is necessary to add some preliminary considerations to eliminate any doubt about the confusion between rent, in general, and rent as rent for the use of land. Therefore, we believe it is sufficient to present the “three main errors” that must be avoided in the treatment of land rent, as exposed by Marx himself (2017b, p. 695-698). First, the “[…] confusion between the different forms of income, which correspond to the different degrees of development of the social production process […].” Second, that “[…] all ground rent is surplus value, the product of surplus labor. It is still directly more-product in its undeveloped form […]”. Finally, “[…] precisely in the case of the economic valuation of land property, in the development of land rent, the fact that its quantity is not determined at all by the intervention of its recipient, but rather by the development of the social work, which is independent of the action of this receiver and in which he does not participate at all [...].” Thus, our analysis here will be basically restricted to the problem of the Trinitarian form of income, as a form of sociability necessary for the process of expanded reproduction in capitalism.

The comment following this sentence is not directly part of Marx's ideas, but it is necessary for the continuation of our analysis. Thus, like money and merchandise, private property, in the strict sense of “autonomy of the individual being”, has always existed throughout human social history (of course, in a situation of slavery or servitude, the “autonomy of the being” is found compromised). Unlike private property, as “autonomy of being”, private property, as “objective right” (bourgeois), is a bourgeois construction (the French Revolution abolished feudal private property and instituted capitalist private property); aims to separate society into owners (means of production and subsistence) and non-owners (salaried workers). In economics, bourgeois private property implies the right of a single individual to make individual decisions (or by economic groups) about the resources and outcomes of a large group of individuals, within the limits of an entire society. Therefore, it no longer concerns only the property over a particular individual being, or over a set of slaves or servants, but provides a single individual with the possibility of deciding on the condition and destiny of thousands of individuals. Bourgeois private property is thus presented as the legal counterpart of the process of separation between workers and ownership of the conditions for carrying out work, when the generalization of exchanges develops, that is, the establishment of the mercantile economy and capital. mercantile, consequently. The declaration that every man has the right to own property constitutes a misleading construction, as it opens up the possibility for individual individuals to appropriate natural resources (which belong to every society) and the social product privately and indiscriminately. The social construction of the idea of ​​total income divided between salary, interest-earnings and land rent, and the resulting general law of capitalist accumulation that occurs with the consolidation of capitalism, obey this humanly harmful logic.

Let us continue with our analysis of capitalist income. As Marx explains in Chapter 48, “The Trinitarian Formula”, of Book III of “Capital”, the capital-profit trinity (profit plus interest), land-land rent and labor-wages, contains “all the secrets of the process of social production” of the capitalist mode of production. In appearance, they present themselves as distinct sources of wealth, each one “[…] separately related to its product as what is derived and produced by it […]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 879). In essence, it only represents a specific historical-social formation, based on a certain configuration of value production, surplus-value, and distribution historically socially manufactured.

In capitalism, value as a social product resulting from the work applied to the transformation of nature into social utilities ceases to have a real existence and takes on an abstract character (autonomization of value in relation to use value). This inversion, perhaps the first derivative of the generalization of exchanges, constitutes a first step in the process of alienation of the singular individual in relation to the commodity and, also, in the direction of creating a valid (legally established) way of justifying another abstraction necessary for the existence of the commodity. capitalism, as a particular form of sociability; that the social product maybe shouldn't be so social after all. The abstract character of value already constitutes capital, as it presupposes production for exchange, money; the existence of capitalists on the one hand and salaried workers on the other, and the necessary appropriation of value in terms of surplus labor by the former. Thus, as Marx (2017b, p. 882) explains to us: “[…] Capital has as one of its civilizing aspects the fact of extracting this surplus labor in a way and under conditions more favorable to the development of productive forces, of relations social to the creation of elements for a new formation, superior to previous forms of slavery, servitude [...].”

However, this “higher education” led capitalist sociability to a dead end, in which the degree of social polarization, inequality, the predation of nature, have strained human society to the point of its own destruction; without, however, causing the very overcoming of capitalism as a form of sociability. We are, therefore, in a situation in which it seems that capitalism has more strength to destroy society (humanity) than it has the strength to destroy the harmful sociability promoted by it. Capitalism's power to create a fantasy in which humanity itself brings about its destruction cannot be underestimated. The capitalist adventure is a stage in social history that urgently needs to be overcome.

Marx (2017b), logically demonstrates how the compositions of the trinity land-rent, capital-interest, work-salary (price of labor) are, first faction, impossible.

“First, there is the land use value, which has no value at all, and the rent exchange value ‒ so that a social relationship, conceived as a thing, is placed in relation with nature; therefore, two incommensurable magnitudes that keep a reciprocal proportion between them. Then capital-interest. If capital is understood first faction as a certain sum of value, autonomously represented in money, so it is foolish that a value should be worth more than its real value. In the interest-capital form, all intermediation disappears, and capital is reduced to its most generic form, but also for that reason to an inexplicable and absurd formula [...] Finally, work-wage, the price of work [...] contradicts the concept of value, as well as price, which, in general, is nothing more than a determined expression of value; and 'price of labor' is likewise something as irrational as a yellow logarithm (MARX, 2017b, p. 880-881).”

If the quote above still seems too abstract, let's go a little further on the problem of income. Labor productivity is related to the amount of use value it produces during working time and surplus labor. On the latter depends the effective material wealth of society and the possibility of increasing the capacity of the production process. In capitalist society, surplus labor, in the form of surplus value, is distributed among capitalists “as dividends in proportion to the share of social capital belonging to each.” In this way, capital profit (“corporate profit plus interest”) and land rent are nothing more than specific components of surplus value, that is, private appropriation of the surplus of the social product. On the other hand, work-wage, as it is presented in capitalism, has nothing to do with the distribution of production value between capital and income, because, as mentioned above, the price of work is an irrational expression; it does not have “any relation with work as a general agent of production”. However, from the point of view of concrete reality, profit, land rent and wages “are all part of the same sphere, that of value”. The trinity appears, therefore, as an inversion, as it separates by classes and in a very disproportionate way what is produced by society: “[…] Distribution presupposes, on the contrary, the existence of this substance, that is, the total value of the product annual, which is nothing more than objectified social work. However, the question does not present itself in this form for the agents of production, who exercise different functions in the production process, but, rather, in an inverted form […]” (MARX, 2017b, p. 885). Thus, this social construction, that of a sociability based on profit-interest, salary and land rent, may have been the possible social form of distributing the value of the social product possible until now, but it has been increasingly averse ( contrary) to social existence, in general, and to the human condition, in particular, in its plural sense; for the simple fact that we are all human beings, unlike the “understanding” of capital.

The problem of income appears, then, as a result of the process of autonomization of working conditions (means of work and land) in relation to work. The mystifying force of this process is revealed in the inversion that makes capital, landed property and salaried work appear as “[..] MARX, 2017b, p. 889).

“[…] In this way, capital already becomes a highly mystical entity, insofar as all the social productive forces of labor appear as forces belonging to capital, and not to labor as such, as forces that originate in its own bosom [...] Surplus value, in the form of profit, no longer refers to the part of capital expended in labor, from which it derives, but to the total capital [...] All this contributes to hide more and more the true nature of the most -value and, therefore, the true mechanism that moves capital […] Average profits themselves appear to be intrinsic to capital; independent of exploitation [...] The autonomization of the surplus-value form, its ossification in relation to its substance, its essence, is completed with the division of profit into entrepreneurial profit and interest [...] then, as independent either of the wage labor of the worker or of the capitalist's own work, and as having their origin in capital as its own and independent source [...] The mystification of the capitalist mode of production, the reification of social relations [ …] the enchanted, distorted, upside-down world […] (MARX, 2017b, p. 890-892).”

There can be no clearer way of describing the rent problem, as outlined in this article, than that expressed by Marx in the above paragraph. With it we complete our analysis on the subject. I believe that if this text has any virtue, it is due to the demonstration that the Trinitarian form is a social construction, not a law of nature (although this is not an original idea, we try to approach it from a perspective, let's say, different) . Since it is a social construction and having led us, as a society, to a dead end, regarding a specific form of sociability, either we alter this construction or it will destroy us, as humanity and as nature.

Finally, it never hurts to remember, Marx had the inestimable greatness, the intellectual feat, of solving the enigma of the sphinx (capitalism as a system founded on the perpetual exploitation of the social work force, with a level and intensity defined by the technical state of the accumulation process achieved). What we did in this article was just to show that if the sphinx continues to devour us, it's because we haven't killed it yet.



Economic theory, with the exception of Marx and his theoretical tradition, contributed and has contributed in a decisive way to justify an unjustifiable form of sociability: the natural distribution of the value of social production (income generated by the social work force), between profit -interest, land rent and salary. The income problem, thus considered, needs to stop being seen as a merely distributive issue and start to be understood from its foundation; the process of production of value and surplus-value, in the context of social relations, historically specific, that social subjects establish among themselves in the daily material production of their existences.

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and the revolution of value: apogee and annihilation.

Article extracted from the book The problem of income in Smith, Ricardo and Marx + contemporary considerations. São Paulo, Amazon (Independently Published), 2021.



HOBSBAWM. Eric J. From the English Industrial Revolution to Imperialism. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Forense Universitária, 2009.

MARX, Carl. Capital: critique of political economy. Book I: the capital production process. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017a.

________. Capital: critique of political economy. Book III: The Global Process of Capitalist Production. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017b.

RICARDO, David. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. São Paulo: Abril Cultural, 1982. (The Economists)

SMITH, Adam. The Wealth of Nations: Inquiry into its Nature and Causes. São Paulo: Editora Nova Cultural Ltda, 1996. (The economists, vol. I)

TEIXEIRA, Francisco José Soares. Work and value: contribution to the critique of economic reason. São Paulo: Cortez Editora, 2004.

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