Archive for the ‘Capital Volume 1’ Category

1  The Sale, Use and Purchase of Labour-Power

When the labour of the worker begins it has already ceased to belong to her: labour-power is sold before it is used. To put it another way, the use-value of labour-power passes into the hands of the buyer after it is sold as an exchange-value. Its exchange-value is determined before it is sold, according to the labour time previously expended to produce it. ‘The exchange-value of this commodity existed […] before its sale, while its use-value consists only in the subsequent expression of its power.’ But the money laid out by the buyer functions as means of payment, not means of purchase, for, even though labour-power is sold before it is used, it is routinely only paid for afterwards. The worker, by advancing her labour-power to the capitalist, effectively allows her credit.

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1  The Commodity as Both the Premise of Capitalist Production and Its Immediate Result

Capitalist production is the production of surplus-value, and is, as such, also accumulation, the production of capital and the production and reproduction of the capital relation on an ever-expanding scale.

But what is the form that surplus-value takes? Surplus-value exists as a part of the value of commodities, in the form of a specific quantity of surplus product. ‘Capital produces only surplus-value and reproduces itself only in its capacity as the producer of commodities.’ The commodity is ‘the foundation and premise of capitalist production.’ It is also its immediate result, the form in which capital re-emerges from the process of production. We now therefore turn again to the commodity as the immediate product of capital.

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1  Capitalist Production as the Production of Surplus-Value

Marx notes the ‘elementary forms’ of capital – commodities and money – and that when capital takes these forms the capitalist appears as the owner of commodities and money. But, despite this, commodities and money are not automatically capital, nor their owner automatically a capitalist; they become so only under specific circumstances.

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Marx here illustrates some of the theoretical points just made by reference to the conditions of production in the ‘colonies’; the contrast between these conditions and those obtaining in Western Europe, where ‘the process of primitive accumulation has more or less been accomplished,’ where ‘the capitalist regime has either directly subordinated to itself the whole of the nation’s production, or, where economic relations are less developed, it has at least indirect control of those social layers which, although they belong to the antiquated mode of production, still continue to exist side by side with it in a state of decay’; and to the measures proposed in the colonising countries (i.e. Britain) to hasten the development of truly capitalist relations of production, i.e. to push forward the expropriation of the private producer.

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The function of this – short, but theoretically highly important – chapter is to situate original (‘primitive’) accumulation in its historical context. ‘What,’ Marx asks first, ‘does the primitive accumulation of capital, i.e. its historical genesis, resolve itself into?’

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1  The Moments of the Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist

The genesis of the capitalist farmer was, as we have just seen, a gradual and historically long-drawn out process. The genesis of the industrial capitalist, as we shall see, stands in this regard in sharp contrast.

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The expropriation of the agricultural population and their expulsion from the land provided urban industries with a mass of wage-labourers uncontrolled by the guilds, and standing outside of them. But it also had another effect.

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