Archive for the ‘Capital Volume 1, Part 3: The Production of Absolute Surplus Value’ Category

How can we calculate the mass of surplus-value produced?

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1  The Degree of Exploitation of Labour-Power

Let us assume a given value of labour-power, say, 6 hours of labour-time a day (i.e. 6 hours of labour-time are socially necessary to produce the daily subsistence of the worker). These 6 hours are represented below by the line A B. The line B C represents the time which the working day is prolonged beyond this necessary labour of 6 hours:

Day 1 (7 hours)                      A – – – – – – B C

Day 2 (9 hours)                      A – – – – – – B – – – C

Day 3 (12 hours)                    A – – – – – – B – – – – – – C

Evidently, the ratio BC/AB gives us the rate of exploitation of labour, the rate of surplus-value.

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1  The Degree of Exploitation of Labour-Power


C =  total capital advanced,

c =  the portion of capital advanced which is turned into constant capital,

v =  the portion of capital advanced which is expended on labour-power,

s =  surplus labour, and

=  the value of the final product,

then, evidently,

C =  c + v, and

=  (c + v) + s

But where does s come from? From the expenditure of the labour-power in production over and beyond the limit set by its price (i.e., here, value).

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We have seen that the value of a commodity comes from two sources: from the new value created by the worker by means of her labour, and from the value of the means of production, which is preserved, and passed on, to the finished product. This double result arises from the dual character of labour. Insofar as it is concrete labour, directed at a specific activity, it preserves and passes on existing value; to the extent that it is abstract social labour, it creates new value.

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1  The Labour Process

The use-value of labour-power is labour; its buyer consumes it by setting the seller to work. For the worker, to embody her labour in commodities she must embody it in use-values: that is what she is set to work to do by the capitalist. We start here, then, by first considering the labour-process itself, in a general sense, independently of its manifestation in any concrete social formation.

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