Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV. Money Rent. - Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
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IV. Money Rent. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, by Karl Marx. Ed. Federick Engels. Trans. from the 1st German edition by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co. Cooperative, 1909).
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IV. Money Rent.
By money rent we mean here—for the sake of distinction from the industrial and commercial ground-rent resting upon the capitalist mode of production, which is but a surplus over the average profit—that ground-rent which arises from a mere change of form of rent in kind, just as this rent in kind, in its turn, is but a modification of labor rent. Under money rent, the direct producer no longer turns over the product, but its price, to the landlord (who may be either the state or a private individual). A surplus of products in their natural form is no longer sufficient; it must be converted from its natural form into money. Although the direct producer still continues to produce at least the greater part of his means of subsistence himself, a certain portion of this product must now be converted into commodities, must be produced as commodities. The character of the entire mode of production is thus more or less changed. It loses its independence, it remains no longer detached from the social connections. The proportion of the cost of production, which now is more and more complicated with the expenditure of money, now becomes a determining factor. At any rate, the excess of that portion of the gross product, which must be converted into money, over that portion, which has to serve either as means of reproduction or as means of direct subsistence, assumes a determining role. However, the basis of this rent remains the same as that of the rent in kind, from which it starts, although money rent likewise approaches its dissolution. The direct producer still is the possessor of the land, either by inheritance or by some other traditional right, and he has to perform for his landlord, who is the owner of the land, of his most essential instrument of production, forced surplus labor, that is, unpaid labor for which no equivalent is returned, and this forced surplus labor is now paid in money obtained by the sale of the surplus product. The property in requirements of labor separate from the land, such as agricultural implements and other movable things, is transformed into the property of the direct producer even under the preceding form of rent, first in fact, then legally, and this is the condition even more under money rent. The transformation of rent in kind into money rent, taking place first sporadically, then on a more or less national scale, requires a considerable development of commerce, of city industries, of the production of commodities in general, and with them of the circulation of money. It furthermore requires that products should have a market price, and that they are sold more or less approximately at their values, which need not necessarily be the case under the preceding forms. In the East of Europe we may still see in a certain measure this transformation with our own eyes. How little it can be carried through without a certain development of the social productivity of labor, is proved by various unsuccessful attempts to carry it through under the Roman emperors, and by relapses into rent in kind after the attempt had been made to convert at least that portion of rent in kind into a money rent which had to be paid as a state tax. The same difficulties of transition are shown, for instance, by the prerevolutionary time in France, when money rent was combined and adulterated by survivals of the forms preceding it.
Money rent, as a converted form of rent in kind and as an antagonist of rent in kind, is the last form, and the dissolving form, of that form of ground-rent, which we have considered so far, namely of ground-rent, which we have considered so far, namely of ground-rent as the normal form of surplus-value and of the unpaid surplus labor to be performed for the owner of the means of production. In its pure form, this rent, like labor rent and rent in kind, does not represent any surplus above the profit. It absorbs the profit, as it is understood. To the extent that profit arises in fact as a separate portion of the surplus labor by the side of the rent, money rent as well as rent in its preceding forms still is the normal barrier of such embryonic profit, which can only develop in proportion as the possibility of exploitation grows, whether it be the producer's own surplus labor or the surplus labor of another, which remains after the surplus represented by money rent has been paid. If any profit actually arises along with this rent, this profit is not a barrier of rent, but the rent is rather a barrier of this profit. However, we repeat that money rent is at the same time the disappearing form of the rent which we have considered so far, of that rent which is identical with surplus-value and surplus labor, of ground-rent as the normal and prevailing form of surplus-value.
In its further development money rent must lead—aside from all intermediate forms, such as that of the small peasant who is a tenant—either to the transformation of land into independent peasants' property, or into the form corresponding to the capitalist mode of production, that is, to rent paid by the capitalist tenant.
With the coming of money rent the traditional and customary relation between the landlord and the subject tillers of the soil, who possess and cultivate a part of the land, is turned into a pure money relation fixed by the rules of positive law. The cultivating possessor thus becomes virtually a mere tenant. This transformation serves on the one hand, provided that other general conditions of production permit such a thing, to expropriate gradually the old peasant possessors and to put in their place capitalist tenants. On the other hand it leads to a release of the old possessors from their tributary relation by buying themselves free from their landlord, so that they become independent farmers and free owners of the land tilled by them. The transformation of rent in kind into money rent is not only necessarily accompanied, but even anticipated by the formation of a class of propertyless day laborers, who hire themselves out for wages. During the period of their rise, when this new class appears but sporadically, the custom necessarily develops among the better situated tributary farmers of exploiting agricultural laborers for their own account, just as the wealthier serfs in feudal times used to employ serfs for their own benefit. In this way they gradually acquire the ability to accumulate a certain amount of wealth and to transform themselves even into future capitalists. The old selfemploying possessors of the land thus give rise among themselves to a nursery for capitalist tenants, whose development is conditioned upon the general development of capitalist production outside of the rural districts. This class grows very rapidly, when particularly favorable circumstances come to its aid, as they did in England in the 16th century, where the progressive depreciation of money made them rich, under the customary long leases, at the expense of the landlords.
Furthermore: As soon as rent assumes the form of money rent, and with it the relation between rent paying peasants and landlords becomes a relation fixed by contract—a development which is not possible unless the world market, commerce and manufacture have reached a relatively high level—the leasing of land to capitalists necessarily also puts in its appearance. These men, having stood outside of the rural barrier so far, now transfer to the country and to agriculture some capital acquired in the cities and with it the capitalist mode of production as developed in those cities, which implies the creation of the product in the form of a mere commodity and as a mere means of appropriating surplus-value. This form can become the general rule only in those countries, which dominate the world market in the period of transition from the feudal to the capitalist mode of production. When the capitalist tenant steps between the landlord and the actually working tiller of the soil, all conditions have been dissolved, which arose from the old rural mode of production. The capitalist tenant becomes the actual commander of these agricultural laborers and the actual exploiter of their surplus labor, whereas the landlord has any direct relations only with this capitalist tenant, the relation being a mere money relation fixed by contract. This transforms also the nature of the rent, not merely in fact and accidentally, as it did sometimes even under the preceding forms, but normally, by transforming its acknowledged and prevailing mode. Instead of continuing as the normal form of surplus-value and surplus labor, it becomes a mere surplus of this surplus labor over that portion of it, which is appropriated by the exploiting capitalist in the form of profit. And now the total surplus labor, both profit and surplus above the profit, are extracted by him directly, appropriated in the form of the surplus product, and turned into money. It is only the surplus portion of the surplus-value extracted by him from the agricultural laborer by direct exploitation, by means of his capital, which he turns over to the landlord as rent. How much or how little he gives away to him depends, as a rule, upon the limits set by the average profit which is realized by the capital in the non-agricultural spheres of production, and by the non-agricultural prices of production regulated by this average profit. From a normal form of surplus-value and surplus labor the rent has now transformed itself into a surplus peculiar to the agricultural sphere of production, exceeding that portion of the surplus labor, which is claimed at first hand by capital as its legitimate and normal share. Profit, instead of rent, has now become the normal form of surplus-value, and rent exists only as a form, not of surplus-value in general, but of one of its offshoots, called surplus profit, which assumes an independent existence only under very peculiar circumstances. It is not necessary to dwell any further upon the way in which this transformation is accompanied by a gradual transformation of the mode of production itself. This is shown by the mere fact that it is the normal thing for the capitalist tenant to produce the products of the soil as commodities, and that, while formerly only the surplus over his means of subsistence was converted into commodities, now but a relatively small part of these commodities is directly used as means of subsistence for him. It is no longer the land, but the capital, which has now brought under its direct sway and under its own productivity the labor of the agriculturalist.
The average profit and the price of production regulated by it are formed outside of the conditions of the rural country within the circles of city commerce and manufacture. The profit of the rent-paying farmers does not enter into it as a balancing element, for their relation to the landlord is not a capitalist one. To the extent that he makes profits, that is, realizes a surplus above his necessary means of subsistence, either by his own labor or by the exploitation of other people's labor, it is done behind the back of the normal relationship. Other circumstances being equal, the size of this profit does not determine the rent, but on the contrary, it is determined by the limits set by the rent. The high rate of profit in the Middle Ages is not entirely due to the low composition of the capital, in which the variable capital, invested in wages, predominates. It is due also to the robbery committed against the land, the appropriation of a portion of the landlord's rent and of the income of his vassals. While the country exploits the town politically in the Middle Ages, wherever feudalism has not been broken down by an exceptional development of the towns, the town, on the other hand, everywhere and without exception exploits the land economically by its monopoly prices, its system of taxation, its guild organizations, its direct mercantile fraud and its usury.
One might imagine that the mere advent of the capitalist tenant in agricultural production would prove that the price of those products of the soil, which had always paid a rent in one form or another, must stand above the prices of production of manufacture, at least at the time of this advent. And this for the reason that the price of such products of the soil had reached the level of a monopoly price or that it had risen as high as the value of the products of the soil, and that this value actually stood above the price of production regulated by the average profit. Unless this were so, the capitalist tenant could not very well realize first the average profit out of the price of these products, at the existing prices of the products of the soil, and then pay out of this same price a surplus above his profit in the form of rent. One might conclude from this that the average rate of profit, which guides the capitalist tenant in his contract with the landlord, had been formed without including the rent, and that as soon as this average rate of profit assumes a regulating part in agricultural production it finds this surplus ready at hand and turns it over to the landlord. It is in this traditional manner that, for instance, Rodbertus explains this matter.
But several points must be considered here.
1) This advent of capital as an independent and leading power in agriculture does not take place generally all at once, but gradually and separately in various lines of production. It seizes at first, not agriculture proper, but such lines of production as cattle raising, especially sheep raising, whose principal product, wool, offers a steady surplus of the market price over the price of production during the rise of industry, and this is not balanced until later. This was the case in England during the 16th century.
2) Since this capitalist production appears at first but sporadically, nothing can be argued against the assumption, that it takes hold in the beginning only of such groups of land as are able, through their particular fertility, or their exceptionally favorable location, to pay a differential rent in the long run.
3) Even assuming that at the time of the advent of this mode of production, which indeed requires an increasing preponderance of the demand in the towns, the prices of the products of the soil stood higher than the price of production, as was doubtless the case during the last third of the 17th century in England, nevertheless, as soon as this mode of production will have worked its way somewhat out of the mere subordination of agriculture to capital, and as soon as the improvement of agriculture and the reduction of its cost of production, which accompany its development, will have taken place, the balance will be restored by a reaction, a fall in the price of the products of the soil, as happened in the first half of the 18th century in England.
In this traditional way, then, rent as a surplus above the average profit cannot be explained. Whatever may be the historical circumstances of the time in which rent appears at first, once that it has taken root it cannot exist under any other modern conditions than those previously explained.
Finally, it should be noted in the transformation of rent in kind into money rent, that with it capitalized rent, or the price of land, and its salableness and sale become essential elements, and that with them not only the formerly rent-paying tenant may be transformed into an independent peasant proprietor, but also urban and other moneyed people may buy real estate, in order to lease them either to peasants or to capitalists and thus to enjoy rent in the form of interest on capital so invested; that, therefore, this likewise assists in the transformation of the former mode of exploitation, of the relation between the owner and the actual tiller of the land, and of the rent itself.