Archive for the ‘Capital Volume 1, Part 4: The Production of Relative Surplus-Value’ Category

In many respects this long (nearly 150 pages) chapter, superficially a simple historical account of the emergence of the factory system, acts as the hinge around which the whole volume turns. The preceding theoretical exposition has been necessary to prepare the possibility for such an historical account, the account a necessary precondition for the theoretical developments to follow. But the chapter is no simple historical narrative: at the end of its course, we shall see why it is that Marx believed that capitalism formed but one stage in human history, one that moreover created the conditions for its own surpassing. Reading it, it is difficult not to keep thinking of the outline contained in the 1859 Preface; in fact, in my view, Chapter 15 can be read as a developed and historicised recapitulation of Marx’s historical model therein summarised.

More (pdf: 170 KB): capital_v1_ch15

Read Full Post »

1  The Dual Origin of Manufacture

(The manufacturing period: from the middle of the sixteenth century to the last third of the eighteenth.)

Manufacture arises in two ways:

1. By assembling in one place workers of different handicrafts in the production of a single product or group of products. Here, the trades assembled adopt a one-sided character through their application in the production of one single product, by acquiring the character of a component part of a more general labour process.

2. By assembling in one place a number of the same craftspeople who all do the same type of work. Here, the division of labour asserts itself through the splitting up of the handicraft into its component operations.

In both cases the result is that previously independent trades lose their independent character and are reduced to merely supplementary and partial operations within a broader social production process.

More (pdf: 100 KB): capital_v1_ch14

Read Full Post »

A large number of workers working together, at the same time, in one place (or, if you like, in the same field of labour), in order to produce the same sort of commodity under the command of the same capitalist, constitutes the starting-point of capitalist production. This is true both historically and conceptually.

The first stages of capitalist production (what Marx calls ‘manufacture’) are distinguished from guild handicraft production only quantitatively. But, even so, the fact that production – and producers – now act not only in a concerted way, but physically in the same space, impacts on the mode of production.

More (pdf: 70 KB): capital_v1_ch13

Read Full Post »

1  Surplus labour and the value of labour-power

So far we have seen that both the rate of surplus-value and the length of the working day are dependent on to what degree the work of the worker is prolonged beyond the time necessary to reproduce her labour power. Given a working day of ABC, AB represents necessary labour, and BC surplus labour. If the total length of the working day, i.e. AC, is fixed, would it be possible to increase the time spent in producing surplus-value by decreasing AB, i.e. decreasing the time spent in reproducing labour-power? On the face of it, it would appear not: reducing the time spent on reproducing labour-power could, on the strength of what we have seen so far, only be achieved by paying the worker a wage below the value of her labour-power. Despite the fact that this indeed happens in real life, owing to the fact that this would amount to prolonging surplus labour by prolonging its natural limits, we are here going to rule it out, and assume here, as we have been assuming all along, that all commodities, including labour-power, are bought and sold at their full values. Given this, and given the length of the working day, a rise in the time spent producing value, i.e. a fall in the time spent reproducing labour-power, can only come about through a fall in the value of labour-power itself. This in turn can only come about through a rise in the productivity of labour, a cheapening of the commodities necessary for labour-power’s reproduction, and this presupposes a revolution at the level of production: ‘when surplus-value has to be produced by the conversion of necessary labour into surplus labour, it by no means suffices for capital to take over the labour process in its given or historically transmitted shape, and then simply to prolong its duration. The technical and social conditions of the process and consequently the mode of production itself must be revolutionised before the productivity of labour can be increased.’

More (pdf: 108 KB): capital_v1_ch12

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: