3) Relative Surplus Value

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MECW, Volume 30, p. 233-255

3) Relative Surplus Value[edit source]

[III-125] We call the form of surplus value considered so far absolute surplus value because its very existence, its rate of growth, and its every increase is at the same time an absolute increase of created value (of produced value). It arises, as we have seen, from an extension of the necessary working day beyond its limits, and its absolute magnitude is equal to the magnitude of this extension, whereas its relative magnitude — the proportional surplus value, or the rate of surplus value — is given by the ratio of this extension, this fluxion, to its fluent, [176] necessary labour time. If the necessary labour time is 10 hours, the working day will be extended by 2, 3, 4, 5 hours. As a result, a value of 12-15 hours of labour will be created instead of one of 10. The extension of the normal working day, i.e. the total of necessary labour time + surplus labour time, is here the process by which surplus value grows, is increased.

Let us assume that the overall working day has reached its normal limits. Now there emerges, in the manner peculiar to and characteristic of it, capital’s tendency to posit surplus value, i.e. surplus labour time. Let the normal working day consist of 12 hours, of which 10 are necessary labour time, and 2 surplus labour time. Let an extension beyond this duration, hence a growth in absolute surplus value, be out of the question. It is of course clear that such a barrier — however one may fix it — is bound to assert itself, to be reached. (One may also assume, in order to have the problem present in its purest form, that the sum total of absolute surplus value cannot be raised any further, since the working population is given.) In this case, therefore, where the surplus value cannot be raised any further by lengthening the overall working day, how can it be raised any further at all? By shortening the necessary labour time. Given an overall working day of 12 hours (10 hours necessary labour time, 2 hours surplus labour time) the surplus value or the surplus labour time may e.g. grow by 50%, may grow from 2 hours to 3 — without any extension of the overall working day — lf the necessary labour time is shortened from 10 hours to 9 hours, by 1/10. The quantum of surplus labour time, consequently surplus value, may grow not only through a direct increase of surplus labour time achieved by a simultaneous lengthening of the overall working day, but also through the shortening of the necessary labour time, hence the conversion of labour time from necessary to surplus labour time. The normal working day would not be lengthened, but necessary labour time would be reduced and there would have been a change in the ratio governing the division of the overall working day into labour which replaces wages and labour which creates surplus value.

As we have seen, necessary labour time (as paid labour time) is nothing but the labour time which replaces the labour time contained in the wage, in the purchasing price of labour capacity (which is in reality the labour time required for the production of the wage). It could be reduced by reducing the wage. If the value of the wage is forcibly cut down, so also is the labour time contained in the wage, hence the labour time paid for the reproduction, the replacement, of the wage. As the value fell, so would the equivalent for the value: the equivalent value corresponding to, or rather equal to, this value. This is exactly what happens in practice, of course. The price of labour capacity, like that of every other commodity, does in practice rise and fall above and below its value. But this is of no concern to us, as we proceed from the assumption that the price of the commodity corresponds to its value, or we consider the phenomena on this assumption. The reduction of necessary labour time which is under discussion here has therefore to be analysed under the presupposition that labour capacity is sold at its value, that the worker receives the normal wage, and therefore that no reduction occurs in the amount of the means of subsistence which are required for the normal and traditional reproduction of his labour capacity.

[III-126] //An increase in surplus value achieved by reducing wages below their average level (without increasing the productivity of labour) is an increase in profit achieved by forcing the worker below the level of his normal conditions of life. On the other hand, an increase in wages over their normal average level is, on the part of the worker, a sharing in, an appropriation of, a part of his own surplus labour (similarly assuming the productive power of labour remains constant). In the first case * the capitalist encroaches upon the vital conditions of the workman, and upon the times of labour necessary for its own sustenance.* In the second case * the workman expropriates part of his own surplus labour. In both cases the one loses what the other gains, but the workman loses in life, what the capitalist gains in money, and in the other case the workman gains in enjoyment of life, what the capitalist loses in the rate of appropriating other people’s labour. *//

Any reduction in necessary labour time which takes place on the assumption that the price of labour capacity is equal to its value, hence that wages are not forced down below normal wages, is possible only through an increase in the productivity of labour, or through a higher development of the productive forces of labour, which is the same thing.

We saw when we were considering the commodity[10] that if the productive power of labour increases, the same use value will be produced in a shorter labour time, or a greater quantity of the same use values will be produced in the same labour time (or a shorter time, but this is included in case 2). The use value of the commodity remains the same although its exchange value has fallen, i.e. a smaller quantity of labour time is objectified in it, less labour is required to produce it. The amount of the means of subsistence required for the normal reproduction of labour capacity is not determined by their exchange value but by their use value — qualitatively and quantitatively. It is therefore not determined by the labour time required to produce them, objectified in them, but by the result of this labour time, by the real labour, to the extent that it is present in the product. Hence if the same amount of the means of subsistence can be produced in a shorter working period owing to an increase in the productivity of real labour, the value of labour capacity will fall, and along with that the labour time required for its reproduction, for the production of its equivalent value, the necessary labour time, although labour capacity will continue to be sold at its value. Just as any other commodity continues to be sold at its value if it costs 1/100 less today than before, because 1/100 less labour time is contained in it, although it continues to possess the same use value as before. Here the value of labour capacity falls, and therefore the necessary labour time too, not because the price of labour capacity has fallen below its value but because its value has itself fallen, i.e. because less labour time is objectified in the labour capacity, and therefore less labour time is required for its reproduction. In this case surplus labour time grows because necessary labour time has diminished. A part of the overall working day which was previously reserved for necessary labour is now set free, is annexed to the surplus labour time. A part of the necessary labour time is converted into surplus labour time; hence a portion of the overall value of the product, which previously entered the wage, now enters the surplus value (the capitalist’s gain). I call this form of surplus value relative surplus value.

It is clear from the outset that an increase in the productive power of labour can only lessen the value of its labour capacity or its necessary labour time to the extent that the products of this labour either directly enter into the worker’s consumption, such as means of nourishment and heating, housing, clothing, etc., or go into the constant capital (raw material and — instrument of labour) which is required for the manufacture of those products. The value of the constant capital entering into the product re-appears in the value of the product, and therefore the value of the product clearly falls, not only when there is a fall in the labour time required for its own manufacture but also, and just as much, when there is a fall in the labour time required for the manufacture of its conditions of production; that is to say the value of the raw material and instrument of labour required for the manufacture of the products which enter into the consumption of the worker, in short the value of the constant capital (see Ramsay [177]).

//The distinction between the re-appearance or simple preservation of the value in the product and the reproduction of that value is as follows: In the latter case a new equivalent replaces the exchange value lost through the consumption of the use value in which it was contained. In the first case no new equivalent is put in the place of the original value. For example, the value of the wood which re-appears in the table is not replaced by a newly created equivalent. The value of the wood only re-appears in the table because the wood previously possessed value and the production of its value is a prerequisite for the production of the table’s value.//

But, secondly: Take the worker in the branch of labour in which he himself works. If, owing to a rise in the productive power of labour, a worker in a weaving-mill produces 20 yards of calico in one hour, whereas he previously produced only 1 yard, the 20 yards, after deduction of the increased amount of constant capital contained in them, therefore in so far as they are, in general, value created by the worker himself, [III-127] possess no more value than the 1 yard, did previously. If the productive power of labour remains the same in all the other branches as it was before this transformation in the weaving trade, the worker would be unable to buy more of the means of subsistence than before with his 1 hour, despite the heightened productive power of his labour — i.e. he could only buy commodities in which 1 hour of labour is objectified, just as before. The growth of productive power in his own branch of labour, the increased productivity of his own labour, would therefore only cheapen the reproduction of his own labour capacity and hence only diminish his necessary labour time, in so far as and to the extent to which calico enters into his own consumption as, say, an element in his clothing. Only in this proportion. But this is true of every specific branch of production, hence of every individual capital, taken for itself, in the sphere of its own industrial functioning.

If we take the total capital of society, hence the whole capitalist class vis-à-vis the working class, it is clear that the capitalist class can only increase surplus value without extending the overall working day and without lessening the normal wage in so far as a greater productivity of labour, a higher development of the productive power of labour, makes it possible to maintain the working class as a whole with less labour, to produce the total amount of its means of subsistence more cheaply, and therefore to reduce the amount of labour time in total that the working class requires for the reproduction of its own wages. But this total amount consists simply of the total amount of individual means of subsistence and the total amount of the specific branches of labour; hence of the total amount of the individual branches of labour which produce these means of subsistence; hence of the total amount of the reductions in labour time on account of the increased productive power of labour in each of these individual branches. For the purpose of generalising the presentation, however, we are justified in viewing the process as if the worker lived from the use values he produces himself — and we can only view the process by picturing a particular individual capital with particular workers in a particular sphere. (It is not assumed here that the worker’s need for necessary labour time declines in the same measure as the amount of product he provides in the same period increases, but that his own product, which has now become cheaper, enters into his own consumption in proportion as his necessary labour time declines. This is valid for the whole of society, hence for the sum total of all the individuals, since the social sum of relative surplus labour is nothing but the sum of all the surplus labours of the individual workers in the individual branches of labour. It is only that compensations and adjustments come into the picture, the consideration of which does not belong here, although they hide the true relation.

A reduction in necessary labour time is therefore an increase in surplus labour time. The one grows smaller in proportion as the other grows larger, and inversely. This rise and fall does not, however, affect the overall working day and its magnitude.) The worker himself can in fact only create relative surplus value to the extent that he creates it in the sphere of his own activity, i.e. produces products entering into his own consumption in less time than previously. The political economists therefore always take flight to this assumption, in so far as they go into the nature of relative value at all (see Mill[178]).

In fact, one looks at the usual course of events. If the working day was = 12 hours, surplus labour time = 2 hours, and the capitalist, in consequence of increased productivity of labour, produces e.g. twice as much. Then surplus value can grow — his gain can emerge — only from two sources. Either the product of labour enters in a certain proportion into the reproduction of labour capacity, and labour capacity is cheapened in this proportion, so that the wage, i.e. the value of labour capacity falls in this ratio, hence there is also a fall in the part of the total working day required until then for the reproduction of this part of the value of labour capacity. Or the manufacturer sells the commodity above its value, i.e. as if the productivity of labour had remained the same. Only in the proportion to which he sells it above its value, hence buys all other commodities below their value, cheaper than the ratio between the amount of labour time contained in them and that contained in his commodity would require, does he posit a new surplus value. The worker, however, only receives the same normal wage as before. He therefore obtains a smaller part of the total value of the product, or a smaller part of that value is expended in the purchase of labour capacity than before the increase in the productivity of labour. A smaller part of his whole day is therefore expended in reproducing his wages, a larger part for the capitalist. It is the same thing, in practice, as if his cost of upkeep were lessened as a result of the increased productivity of his labour, or as if he could buy all other means of subsistence cheaper as a result of the greater productivity of his labour in the same proportion as the capitalist receives new value.

[III-128] In any case, we do not need to repeat here that the general presupposition of a sale of commodities above their value negates itself, and competition in fact compensates for sale above the value by sale below the value. What is involved here is the case where an increase in the productivity of labour has not yet become universal in the same branch of business, where the capitalist therefore sells (in a certain proportion at least, for he will always sell cheaper than the other) as if more labour time had been needed for the manufacture of his product than was really necessary. He sells e.g. the product of 3/4 of an hour as the product of 1 hour, because the majority of his competitors still need 1 hour to manufacture this product. If the total working day was 12 hours, he sells, in the given case, as if it had been 15 hours. (12/4 = 3, 12 + 3 = 15.) He has not lengthened the working day. If necessary labour time was = 10, and surplus labour time was = 2, it is still = 2. Actually, however, he sells as if necessary labour time were only 7 hours and surplus labour 5 hours (7 + 5 = 12). In fact, the labour of his own workers relates to that of average workers in such a way that they buy with the value of 7 hours as much as the latter buy with the value of 10 (since value has not fallen in proportion to productivity). With the original ratio, he had to give the workers 10 hours out of the 12, i.e. 5/6 (12/6 = 2; 5× 12/6 = 10).

Now, in consequence of the rise in the productivity of labour, he sells 12 at 15. If an hour of labour were paid for as an hour that stands 1/4 above average labour, the workers, instead of 10 hours, would only have to work 10 — 10/4. If the necessary working day until then was 10 hours, and 2 hours of surplus labour, the workers would now only need to work 10×3/4 hours instead of 10×4/4 hours (since their labour would count for 1/4 more than the average hour of labour), hence they would need to work 71/2 hours instead of 10, and the surplus value, just as before, would come to 1/5 of the necessary labour time (10/5 = 2). It would now be 1/5 of 7 1/2 hours, or 15/2 hours. 1/5 of 15/2 = 15/10 = 1 5/10 = 1 1/2, or 3/2, or 6/4. In fact if 3/4 of an hour of this labour = 1, or 4 /4 of an hour of average labour, 6/4 of the same labour = 8/4, or 2 hours of labour. The working day would thereby be reduced to 7 1/2 + 3/2 = 9 hours. The capitalist has the workers work 12 hours, as before, pays for the necessary labour time with 7 1/2, and therefore pockets 4 1/2 hours.

His gain derives from the fact that the necessary labour time of 10 hours has fallen to 7 1/2, or the worker can buy all his necessary means of subsistence with the product of 7 1/2 hours. It is exactly the same as if he were to produce the whole of his means of subsistence himself and were to be able to produce as much in 3/4 of an hour as previously in 1 hour, owing to the higher productivity of his labour, hence producing in 7 1/2 hours as much as he previously produced in 10. If with the increased productivity of labour the proportion had remained the same, the overall Working day would have become shorter, because necessary labour would have been lessened while the proportion between necessary labour and surplus labour would have remained the same. In practice it comes to exactly the same thing: Whether the value of labour capacity and therefore the necessary labour time is lessened, because the worker’s product enters into his own consumption in a certain proportion and therefore the necessary labour time declines and the surplus labour time, hence also surplus value, increases in this proportion; or whether as a result of the increased productivity of labour this particular branch of labour rises above the level of the socially average worker in the same branch, therefore the value e.g. of the hour of labour rises relative to all other commodities, the capitalist pays this labour as average labour — according to the previous standard — but sells it as labour of a higher than average level. In both cases a smaller number of hours is sufficient to pay the wage, i.e. the [III-129] necessary labour time has been reduced and in both cases the relative surplus value, i.e. surplus value not attained through an absolute prolongation of the working day, results from the decline in the amount of labour time required for the reproduction of the wage consequent on the increased productivity of labour; relative surplus value results in the one case directly, because the worker produces the same quantity of use values in a lesser labour time, although the product continues to be sold at its value. In the other case it results because a smaller quantity of labour time is equated with a greater quantity of average labour time as a result of the rise in productivity, and the worker therefore receives the same quantity of use values with labour time which is smaller but sold at a higher price. In both cases the relative surplus value results from a reduction in the necessary labour time.

The following is in any case clear in itself: If the productivity of labour grows, and the ratio remains the same, the worker would either have to work less labour time to reproduce his wages, say 7 1/2 instead of 10 hours, thereby shortening the working day as a whole; or he would have to receive a greater quantity of means of subsistence, his wages would rise above the [average] level. If neither the one thing nor the other takes place, it is clear that the result of the increased productivity of labour has only been to increase the amount of labour he performs for the capitalist, and to reduce the amount of labour he performs for himself.

The whole difficulty arises from this, that when the individual capitalist raises the productivity of labour, he is not thinking directly of a diminution of necessary labour time, but of its sale above its value — of raising it above average labour time. Of this raised labour time, however, a smaller proportion is needed for the replacement of wages; i.e. the surplus labour time grows, although this growth presents itself in a roundabout way, through sale above value.

The working day as a whole does not grow along with the growth in relative surplus value, hence relative labour time. It therefore follows that there is only a fall in the proportion in which the worker participates in his own working day. There is a fall in relative wages, or the weight of capital rises in relation to labour.

Further: As a result of the growth in the productivity of labour the quantity of products is increased. The same value is present in their total amount (e.g. the total for one working day) as was present previously in a smaller total. The individual product or the individual commodity therefore falls in value, but it is multiplied by a larger factor, which is indicated by the number of products. 6×4 is not more than 12×2. Here, then, we have a growth in the real wealth of use values, without any growth in their exchange value or the labour time contained in them, whereas in the first case — absolute surplus value — the amount of products also grows, but simultaneously with their exchange value, i.e. in proportion to the labour time contained in them.

This is to be understood as follows. If 10 [lbs] of cotton are converted into twist in the same time as previously 1 lb, the 10 lbs have not absorbed more spinning labour than the previous 1 lb. The value added to the 10 lbs is no greater than the value of the 1 ]b. Every 1 lb of twist contains ten times less spinning labour in the first case than in the second. And since they both contain the same amount of cotton, every 1 lb of twist, caeteris paribus, is 1/10 cheaper if the spinning labour amounts to 1/10 of the value. [III-130] If the added day of spinning labour = 10, and the value of 1 lb of cotton = 20 (for the sake of simplicity the instrument is set = 0 in both cases), in the first case 1 lb of twist = 10 + 20 = 30; in the second case 10 lbs of twist = 100 + 10 = 110, making 1 lb of twist = 11, and 10 lbs = 110, whereas in the first case 10 lbs = 300.

Relative surplus value is therefore distinguished from absolute as follows. In both, surplus value = surplus labour, or, the ratio of surplus value is equal to the ratio of surplus labour time to necessary labour time. In the first case the working day is extended beyond its limits and the surplus value grows (or the surplus labour time grows) in proportion as the working day is extended beyond its limit. In the second case the working day is given. Here, the surplus value, or the surplus labour time, is increased owing to the reduction of the portion of the working day that was required, or was necessary, for the reproduction of the wage. In the first case a given level of the productivity of labour is presupposed. In the second case the productivity of labour is raised. In the first case the value of an aliquot part of the total product or a part of the product of the working day remains unchanged; in the second the value of the part of the product changes, but its quantity (number of articles) grows in the same proportion as its value diminishes. The value of the total amount thus remains unchanged, whilst the total amount of products or use values has increased. Further the matter is to be presented simply as follows:

As we saw in our analysis of the commodity[10], the productivity of labour does not increase the value of the product or the commodity in which the labour manifests itself. If we presuppose that the labour time contained in the commodities is, under the given conditions, necessary labour time, socially necessary labour time[70] — and this is always the presupposition we start from once the value of a commodity is reduced to the labour time contained in it — what takes place is rather the following: The value of the product of labour is in an inverse ratio to the productivity of labour. This is in fact an identical proposition. It means nothing more than this: If labour becomes more productive, it can represent a greater quantity of the same use values in the same period, it can embody itself in a greater amount of use values of the same kind. Accordingly, an aliquot part of these use values, e.g. a yard of linen, contains less labour time than previously, has therefore less exchange value and indeed the exchange value of the yard of linen has fallen in the same proportion as the productivity of the labour of weaving has grown. Inversely, if more labour time than previously were required to produce a yard of linen (let us say, because more labour time was required to produce a pound of flax), the yard of linen would now contain more labour time, hence would have a higher exchange value. Its exchange value would have increased in the same proportion as the labour required to produce it had become less productive.

If we therefore take the whole working day — the average normal working day — the value of the sum total of its products remains unchanged, whether the labour becomes more or less productive. For the sum total of use values produced comes to one working day, just as before, it continues to represent the same quantity of socially necessary labour time. If, on the other hand, we take an aliquot part of the daily overall production, or a part of the product, its value rises and falls in inverse ratio to the productivity of the labour contained in it. For example, if 1 quarter or 8 bushels are the product of a month’s labour, let agriculture double its productivity in one case, and halve its productivity in another case. We should then have 3 cases: 8 bushels the product of a month’s labour; 16 bushels the product of the same labour time; 4 bushels the product of the same labour time. The value of the total amount produced during the month, 8, 16 or 4 bushels, would continue to contain respectively the same quantity of necessary labour time. The value of this total amount would therefore have remained unchanged, although in one case the productivity of labour would have doubled, in the other case declined to half its original level. But in the first case 1 bushel would contain 1/8 of a month = 2/16, in the second case 1/4 or 1/8 = 4/16, and in the third case only 1/16. With the productivity of agriculture doubled, the value of the bushels fell by a half; with productivity declining to half its original level, the value doubled. The value of a commodity can therefore never increase as a result of [increases in] the productivity of labour. This would involve a contradiction. Growth in the productivity of labour means that it brings forth the same product (use value) in less time. Growth in the exchange value of the product means that it contains more labour time than previously.

If, therefore, the value of the individual commodity stands in an inverse ratio to the productivity of labour, whilst the value of the total amount of products in which a given labour time is embodied remains untouched, unchanged, by any variation in the productivity of labour, the surplus value in contrast depends on the productivity of labour: if, on the one hand, the commodity is sold at its value, and on the other hand the length of the normal working day is given, the surplus value can only increase as a result of a rise in the productivity of labour. The surplus value is not related to the commodity; it expresses rather a relation between two parts of the overall working day — a relation namely between the part during which the worker works to replace his wage (the value of his labour capacity) and the part during which he works for the capitalist over and above this replacement. Since these two parts together make up the whole of the working day, since they are parts of the same whole, their magnitudes clearly stand in inverse ratio to each other, and the surplus value, i.e. the surplus labour time, rises or falls according to whether the necessary labour time falls or rises. The growth or diminution of the latter, however, stands in inverse ratio to the productivity of labour.

[III-131] But if there were to be a general doubling of the productivity of labour, i.e. in all branches of industry providing directly or indirectly the commodities (use values) required for the reproduction of labour capacity, providing products which enter into the consumption of the workers, the value of labour capacity would fall in proportion as this general productivity of labour uniformly increased, hence the labour time necessary for the replacement of this value would fall, and the part of the day which forms surplus time, which is worked for the capitalist, would increase in the same proportion as the former would decline. However, the development of the productive forces in these different branches of labour is neither uniform nor simultaneous, being subject to uneven, diverse and often mutually opposed motions. If the productivity of labour increases in a branch of industry which enters directly or indirectly into the worker’s consumption, e.g. the industry supplying fabrics for clothes, we cannot say that the value of labour capacity falls in the same proportion as the productivity of this particular industry grows. Ii is only this means of subsistence that is produced more cheaply. The cheapening only affects an aliquot part of the worker’s vital requirements. The increased productivity of labour in this one branch does not lessen the necessary labour time (i.e. the labour time required for the production of the means of subsistence needed by the workers) in proportion to the growth in productivity, but only in proportion as the product of this labour enters, on the average, into the worker’s consumption. No definite calculation of this can be made for each individual branch of industry (excepting perhaps the products of agriculture).

This does not change the general law in any way. It remains correct, just as before, that relative surplus value can only arise and increase in the proportion to which use values (means of subsistence) directly or indirectly entering into the worker’s consumption are cheapened, i.e. not in the proportion to which the productivity of a specific branch of industry has grown, but rather in the proportion to which this increase in its productivity lessens necessary labour time, i.e. produces more cheaply a product which enters into the worker’s consumption. In considering relative surplus value therefore, we not only can but we must always proceed from the presupposition that the development of productive power or the development of the productivity of labour in every particular branch in which capital investment takes place directly reduces the necessary labour time in a definite proportion, i.e. that the product produced by the worker forms a part of his means of subsistence and its cheapening therefore reduces the labour time required for the reproduction of his life in a definite proportion. Since relative surplus value arises only on this condition, we can and must always assume the presence of this condition in considering relative surplus value.

It is clear, further, that the presence and the growth of relative surplus value by no means require as a condition that the worker’s life situation should remain unchanged, i.e. that his average wage should always provide the same quantitatively and qualitatively determined amount of means of subsistence and no more. This is not the case, although relative surplus value can neither arise nor grow without a corresponding fall in the value of labour capacity or the value of wages (average wages). Indeed, relative surplus value might well rise continuously, and the value of labour capacity, hence the value of average wages, fall continuously, yet despite this the range of the worker’s means of subsistence and therefore the pleasures of his life could expand continuously. For this is conditioned by the quality and quantity of the use values (commodities) he can appropriate, not by their exchange value.

Let us assume a doubling of productivity which is universal, covering all branches of production.[179] Assume that before this doubling the normal day was 12 hours, 10 of them necessary labour time, 2 surplus labour time. The total amount of the worker’s daily means of subsistence, which previously cost [10] hours of labour, could now be produced in 5 hours. Instead of needing 10 hours of labour to replace the value (price) of his labour capacity every day, i.e. to provide an equivalent for his daily wages, the worker would now need only [5] hours. The value of his labour capacity would have fallen by a half, for the means of subsistence required for its reproduction would now be the product of 5 hours; instead of 10 as before. If the worker now — after this revolution in the productivity of labour — received a daily wage equivalent to 6 hours, that is to say, if he had in future to work 6 hours [IV-138] [180] a day, his material living situation would have improved in the same proportion as if, under the previous conditions of production, he had worked the whole day of 12 hours for himself (i.e. for the reproduction of his wages) and a labour time of 0 for the capitalist; as if the whole of the working day necessary labour time had been worked, and no surplus labour time at all. For 5:6 = 10:12. (5×12 = 6×10.) Nevertheless, surplus labour time would have increased in this case from 2 hours to 6 hours, and a relative surplus value of 4 hours would have been added to the absolute surplus value of 2 hours. Instead of working as before 10 hours for himself and 2 for the capitalist, hence 10/12 ( = 5 /6), therefore 5/6 of the day, for himself and 1/12 = 1/6 of the day for the capitalist, the worker now works only 6/ 12 or 1/c, of the day for himself and, instead of 1/6 he also works 3 /6, half the day, for the capitalist. Necessary labour time would have fallen from 10 to 6, hence the value of the day’s labour capacity, instead of being 10 hours, would only be 6 hours: 4 hours less, i.e. it would have fallen by 40% (10:4 = 100:40). Surplus value would have increased to 300%, from 2 to 6. //Instead of 1/6 of the day 3/6. 2 2/6 added to 1/6 gives 3/6, therefore a 200% increase. This for the surplus value. On the other hand, from 5 /6 down to 3/6 is a reduction of 2/6, i.e. the increase on the surplus labour [time] side or the side of the capitalist is exactly as much, viewed absolutely, as the reduction on the necessary labour time side or the value of labour capacity side. It amounts to 2 /6 of a day, or 4 hours of labour. (2 /6 = 4/ 12.) But if we look at the increase on one side in proportion to the original surplus labour time, and the decrease on the other side in proportion to the original necessary labour time (or the value of labour capacity), the increase on one side and the decrease on the other are expressed in different proportions, although the absolute magnitude of the time subtracted from one side and added to the other is the same identical magnitude.

Thus in the above case: 10/12 or 5/6 are related to 6/12 or 3/6 or (5-2)/6 as 5:3, as 60% (should be 40%, see the other page[181]), for 5:3 = 100:60 (5×60 = 300 and 3×100 similarly = 300), while 2/12 or 1/6 is related to 6/12 or to (1 + 2)/6 (3 /6) as 1:3, i.e. 100:300, hence as 300%. Therefore, although the absolute increase in surplus labour [time] = the absolute decrease in necessary labour time, which has occurred as a result of the raised productivity of labour, the proportion in which the value of labour capacity declines or the necessary labour time falls is not identical with the proportion in which the surplus labour time or the surplus value rises, but depends rather on the original proportion in which surplus labour time and necessary labour time shared in the normal overall working day, participated in it.//

//It follows from this that in the proportion in which total surplus labour time (both the part of it which arose from the reduction of necessary labour time consequent on the increase in the productivity of labour, and the part which arose from the lengthening of the working day up to its normal limits) already forms a greater part (a more significant portion) of the overall working day, any increase in the productive power of labour and resultant reduction in necessary labour time (or increase in relative surplus value) can only increase the proportional surplus value in a smaller ratio. Or that a reduction of necessary labour time causes an increase in surplus labour time in a proportion which is smaller, the greater the already achieved total magnitude of surplus labour time, and greater, the smaller the achieved total magnitude of the surplus labour time. Therefore (and this must be dealt with in more detail under profit[182]) the more advanced the industry, the smaller the proportional growth of surplus value, if productive power continues to increase in the same degree. Productive power in general, or productive power altogether, to the extent that it influences the reproduction of labour capacity. In other words, the proportion in which an increase in the [IV-139] productive power of labour reduces necessary labour time (hence the value of labour capacity) and raises surplus labour time, hence surplus value, stands in an inverse relation to the proportion in which necessary labour time and surplus labour time originally, i.e. each time before the coming of the new increase in productive power, shared in, or participated in, the overall working day.

Assume that the working day = 12 hours, 10 hours of necessary labour, and 2 hours of surplus labour. Let there be a general doubling of productive power. Now 5 hours would suffice for necessary labour time, surplus labour time would be increased by 5 hours, by the same amount as the decrease in necessary labour time (hence in the value of labour capacity) — i.e. 5 hours. Necessary labour time would have declined from 10 to 5, i.e. by half = 50%. //(If the necessary labour time were to decline from 10 to 6, this would be a reduction of 4 hours. 10:4 = 100:40, therefore by 40%. 1 said 60% before.[181] This is wrong, because I calculated 10:6 = 100:60, whereas in fact what we are concerned with is the ratio of 10 to the remainder of the 10 when 6 is taken away from it, hence the ratio of 10 to 4. After all, the labour time has not been reduced by 6 hours, i.e. not by 60%.) On the other hand surplus labour time has risen from 2 to 7 hours (with the addition of 5 hours of surplus labour time), and 2:7 = 100: 350 (2 × 350 = 700 and 7 × 100 also = 700); hence a rise to 3 5 0 %. I t would have increased to three and a half times its original magnitude.

Let us now. assume that once this proportion has become established, with the overall working day falling into 5 hours of necessary labour, 7 hours of surplus labour, the general productive power of labour is redoubled, i.e. necessary labour time diminishes by 21/2 hours, surplus labour time therefore rising by the same 2 1/2 hours; hence from 7 to 9 1/2 hours. Here the necessary labour time has again fallen by 50%, and surplus labour time risen in the ratio 14 /2 (7) to 19/2 (9 1/2), thus 14:19. 14:19 = 100:x; x = 1900/14, = 135 5/7%. (19×100 = 1,900 and 14×135 5/7 (or 135 10/14) also = 1,900). Therefore, although in both cases the productive power of labour has doubled and the necessary labour time has therefore fallen by a half, by 50%, surplus labour time or surplus value would have risen to 350% in one case and only to 135 5/7% in the other. (The proportion in which the productive power generally increases would always be the same, = the proportion in which the necessary labour time fell as compared with itself, i.e. with its extent before this increase in productive power.) But in the first case the surplus labour time amounted to only 1/6 of the whole working day, 2 hours, = 2/12, before the doubling of the productive power took effect, while in the second case it amounted to 7 hours or 7/12. (The same peculiarity holds for the increase of money, as has been demonstrated by Jacob, for example. It grew more in the 18th century than in the 17th. But the proportional increase was smaller.)

[IV-140] If we now take an actual case, in which productive power is e.g. doubled in one branch, but not in the other branches at the same time, perhaps remaining unaltered in the branches of production which provide constant capital for this one branch, so that the expenditure on raw materials remains the same, i.e. grows along with the increase in productive power, and the expenditure on machinery increases, even if not in the same ratio, it is clear that the profit, i.e. the ratio of the surplus value to the total value of the capital expended, does not increase in the same proportion as the necessary labour falls through the increase in productive power. There are two reasons why this does not happen. Firstly because with the more developed productive power of labour, surplus value does not grow in the same proportion as necessary labour diminishes. Secondly because this surplus value, which has grown in a smaller proportion, is calculated on capital which has increased its value approximately in proportion to the heightening of productive power.//

//One can calculate the diminution in necessary labour time in two ways: 1) in proportion to its own magnitude before the increase in the productive power of labour; 2) in proportion to the whole of the working day. It is clear in the first calculation that — presupposing an overall heightening of productive power — necessary labour time (and therefore the value of labour capacity) declines in the same measure as productive power increases; but the proportional growth of surplus labour time or surplus value depends on the proportion in which the overall working day was originally divided between necessary labour time and surplus labour time. Thus if the working day was 12 hours originally, divided into 10 of necessary and 2 of surplus labour, and if the productive power of labour doubled, necessary labour time would fall from 10 to 5, i.e. by 50%, while productive power doubled. (This proportion is expressed in the case of productive power by a 100% growth, in the case of necessary labour time by a 50% fall. That necessary labour time falls from 10 to 5, i.e. by 50%, means that in 1 hour I can produce as much as I did previously in 2, i.e. twice as much, i.e. the productive power of labour has increased by 100%.) Surplus labour, on the other hand, has grown from 2 to 7, i.e. to 350% (a threefold increase, 2×3, or [6] hours, and a rise by a half, = 2/2 = 1, thus the whole has gone up from 2 to 7), because it originally only amounted to 2 hours out of 12. If it had originally already amounted to 3 hours, and necessary labour only 9 hours, the latter would have fallen by 4 1/2 hours, again by 50%, while surplus labour would have risen from 3 to 7 1/2; i.e. to 250% (for 3:7 %, or 6/2:15/2, or 6:15, = 100:250. 15×100 = 1500 and 6×250 = 1500). If we now consider the whole of the working day, the ratio is not altered. [Necessary] labour time originally amounted to 10 hours or 10/12 of the working day; now it only amounts to 5/12 in the first case. (In the second it was originally 9/12 of the working day, and afterwards came to no more than 4 1/2/12.) It is all the same whether I compare necessary labour time with itself or with the working day as a whole. All that is added is the divisor 12. This Fix has therefore been dealt with. //

Now back to page 138 before the bracket. The worker’s life situation would have improved despite the fall in the value of his labour capacity, the reduction by 4 hours in his necessary labour time and the increase of 4 hours in his surplus labour time for the capitalist, because he himself would have received a share of 1 hour in the time now set free. I.e., the labour time he worked for himself, i.e. for the reproduction of his wages, would not have been reduced to the full extent of the shortening of this necessary labour time resulting from the [increased] product of the labour. He would receive more use values of less value — i.e. containing less labour time than previously. But the degree in which new surplus labour would have been formed in general, in which relative surplus value would have arisen, would correspond completely to the degree in which a part of his necessary labour time had been converted into surplus labour time for the capitalist, or in which the value of his labour capacity had declined. This is enough here. Later on the proportional elements in the matter must in general be put together [183] (see also above) . Thus this in no way alters the nature and the law of relative surplus value — that a greater part of the working day is appropriated by capital as a result of rises in productivity. Hence the preposterousness of wanting to refute this law by statistical demonstrations that the material condition of the worker has improved here or there, in this or that aspect, [IV-141] as a result of the development of the productive power of labour.

//Standard. October 26, 1861. We read here of proceedings taken by the firm of John Bright and Co. against its workers,, before the Rochdale magistrates,

  • to prosecute for intimidation the agents of the Carpets’ Weavers’ Trades Unions. Bright’s partners had introduced new machinery which would turn out 240 yards of carpet in the time and with the labour previously required to produce 160 yards. The workmen had no claim whatever to share in the profits made by the investment of their employers’ capital in mechanical improvement. Accordingly, Messrs. Bright proposed to lower the rate of pay from 1 1/2d. per yard to 1d., leaving the earnings of the men exactly the same as before for the same labour. But there was a nominal reduction, of which the operatives, it is asserted, had not had fair warning beforehand.*[184][IV-141]

* * *

[IV-138a] [185] 1) The surplus value capital receives through the development of the productive forces does not flow from an increase in the amount of products or use values created by the same amount of labour, but from a reduction in necessary labour and an increase of the same proportion in surplus labour. The surplus value capital receives through the production process consists in nothing more than the excess of surplus labour over necessary labour.

Surplus value exactly equals surplus labour; an increase in surplus labour is exactly measured by a reduction in necessary labour. With absolute surplus value the reduction in necessary labour is relative, i.e. necessary labour falls relatively because overtime is increased directly. If the necessary labour = 10 hours, and the surplus labour = 2 hours, and if the latter is now increased by 2 hours, i.e. the total working day is lengthened from 12 hours to 14, the necessary labour remains 10 hours, as it was before. But previously its ratio to the surplus labour was 10:2, i.e. 5:1, and now it is 10:4, = 5:2, or, in other words, previously it was equal to 5/6 of the working day, now it is only 5/7. Here, therefore, necessary labour time is reduced relatively, because total labour time, and therefore surplus labour time, has grown absolutely. In contrast to this, if the normal working day is given, and the increase in relative surplus value occurs through an increase in productive forces, the necessary labour time is lessened absolutely and the surplus value is thereby increased both absolutely and relatively without any increase in the value of the product. In the case of absolute surplus value, therefore, there is a relative fall in the value of wages as compared with the absolute growth in surplus value; whereas in the case of relative surplus value there is an absolute fall in the value of wages. Nevertheless, the first case is always worse for the worker. In the first case the price of labour falls absolutely. In the second case the price of labour may rise.

2) The surplus value of the capital is increased not by the multiplier of the productive power but by the fraction of the working day which originally represented the necessary labour time, divided by the multiplier of the productive power.

3) The greater the surplus value prior to the new increase in productive power, i.e. the greater the part of the day worked for no return already is, and the smaller therefore the paid part of the day, the fraction of the day which forms the worker’s equivalent, the less the growth in surplus value which capital obtains from the new increase in productive power. Its surplus value rises, but in an ever smaller proportion to the development of the productive forces. The barrier remains the ratio between the fraction of the day which expresses necessary labour and the whole of the working day. Movement can only take place within these limits. The smaller the fraction allotted to necessary labour, and the greater therefore the surplus labour, the smaller the ratio in which an increase in productive power lessens necessary labour time, since the denominator of the fraction is that much larger. The rate of capital’s self-valorisation therefore grows more slowly in the measure to which it is already valorised. This does not, however, happen because the wage or the worker’s share in the product has risen but because the fraction of the working day which represents necessary labour has already fallen very low in proportion to the working day as a whole. [IV-138a]

[IV-141] A certain development of the productivity of labour is in general presupposed, even for the existence of absolute surplus value, i.e. surplus labour in general, and therefore for the existence of capitalist production, as for all earlier modes of production in which one part of society works not only for itself but also for the other part of society.

  • "The very existence of the former (the master-capitalists) as a distinct class is dependent on the productiveness of industry"* (Ramsay, An Essay on the Distribution of Wealth etc., Edinburgh, [London,] 1836, [p.] 206).
  • “If each man’s labour were but enough to produce a his own food, there could be no property” * (this word is used here for capital) (Piercy Ravenstone, Thoughts on the Funding System, and its Effects, London, 1824, p. 14).

In any case, the capital-relation develops at a historical stage of the economic formation of society which is already the result of a long series of previous developments. The level of the productivity of labour from which it proceeds is not of natural origin but is something created historically; by that time labour has long emerged from its first raw beginnings. It is clear that if a country possesses soil that is naturally fertile, waters teeming with fish, rich coal deposits (combustible materials in general), metal mines, etc., in comparison with other countries, where these natural conditions for the productivity of labour are present to a lesser degree, less time is required in the first country to produce the necessary means of subsistence, hence a greater quantity of excess labour for others over and above labour for oneself is possible from the outset; and therefore absolute surplus labour time, thus absolute surplus value, is greater here from the outset. Capital (or any other relation of production whereby surplus labour is enforced) is therefore more productive here than under less favourable natural conditions. The ancients were already aware that natural cheapness of labour capacity, i.e. of its cost of production and reproduction, was a great factor in industrial production. For example, it says in Diodorus’ Historical Library, b. 1, ch. 80, in relation to the Egyptians:

“It is altogether incredible how little trouble and expense the bringing up of their children causes them. They cook for them the first simple food that comes to hand; they also give them the lower part of the papyrus stem to eat, if it can be roasted in the fire, and the roots and stalks of marsh plants, some raw, some boiled, and some roasted. Most of the children go without shoes and unclothed, since the air is so mild. Hence a child, until he is grown up, costs his parents no more than twenty drachmas altogether. This is the main reason why the population of Egypt is so numerous, and, therefore, why it has been possible to undertake so many great works.”

// Once the ratio of surplus value is given, its amount depends on the size of the population; if the size of the population is given, it depends on the ratio of surplus to necessary labour. // All that follows from this is that, in places where the capital-relation predominates (or a similar relation of production which enforces absolute surplus labour, for this natural fertility only facilitates the prolongation of surplus labour time and its existence; it does not create relative surplus value in our sense), the productivity of capital is at its greatest — i.e. the most surplus labour is available and therefore the most surplus value, or the value of labour capacity is naturally at its lowest, which is the same thing — where the natural conditions of labour, [IV-142] hence in particular the soil, are at their most fruitful. This by no means implies that the most fertile countries are the most well suited to the development, thus also the fruitfulness, of the capital-relation itself. When Ricardo speaks of the fertility of the soil as one of the main conditions for the productivity of labour, he assumes capitalist production, and the proposition is only uttered on this assumption. He is naturally inclined everywhere to presuppose bourgeois relations of production as given. This does not interfere with the development of his argument as he deals exclusively with production in this particular form. The following passage is important, both for the concept of surplus labour in general and for the misunderstanding about the point we have just touched on.

“In different stages of society, the accumulation of capital, or of the means of employing labour* is more or less rapid, and must in all cases depend on the productive powers of labour. The productive powers of labour are generally greatest, where there is an abundance of fertile land (Ricardo).

“If, in the first sentence, the productive powers of labour mean the smallness of that aliquot part of any produce that goes to those whose manual labour produced it, the sentence is nearly identical, because the remaining aliquot part is the fund whence capital can, if the owner pleases, be accumulated. But then this does not generally happen where there is most fertile land. It does in North America, but that is an artificial state of things. It does not in Mexico. It does not in New Holland. The productive powers of labour are, indeed, in another sense, greatest where there is much fertile land, viz. the power of man, if he chooses it, to raise much raw produce in proportion to the whole labour he performs. It is, indeed, a gift of nature, that men can raise more food than the lowest quantity that they could maintain and keep up the existing population on; but ‘surplus produce’ (the term used by Mr. Ricardo p. 93) generally means the excess of the whole price of a thing above that part of it which goes to the labourers who made it; a part, which is settled by human arrangement, and not fixed” (Observations on Certain Verbal Disputes in Political Economy, Particularly Relating to Value, and to Demand and Supply, London, 1821, pp. 74-75).

* It is only in such passages as this that the nature of capital breaks through in Ricardo. So capital is not the means of labour for producing a certain result, but it is “the means for employing labour”, and this involves that the possessor of the means, or those means themselves, employs labour, the means are the power over labour.[186]

This man does not see that in fact “The smallness” or bigness “of that aliquot part that goes” to the labourer depends on the proportional quantity of raw produce which “the whole labour” of a man can perform daily. He is only right against Ricardo to the extent that he says: Natural fertility brings it about that with one day’s labour I could produce, if I chose, much more than what is absolutely necessary for existence (the lowest quantity to keep the existing population upon). It does not mean that I work a lot, hence produce a lot; still less that the work I do over and above what is necessary forms the fond of capital. This “is settled by human arrangement”. For Ricardo the capital-relation is itself a naturally given relation and is therefore presupposed everywhere.

If capitalist production is presupposed, necessary labour time, i.e. the time required for the reproduction of the worker, will differ in different countries according to how favourable the natural conditions of labour are, and therefore according to its natural level of productivity, and it will stand in inverse relation to the productivity of labour, hence it will be possible for surplus labour time or surplus value to be greater in one country than in the other, in direct relation, even if the same number of hours is worked.

All this concerns* the very existence of absolute surplus labour, and its relative quantity in different countries according to their respective natural facilities for production *. We do not have to deal with this here.

[IV-143] Since it is assumed that the normal working day is already divided into necessary labour and absolute surplus labour, the existence, and indeed a definite level, of the latter is presupposed, hence a definite natural basis for it is also presupposed. The question here is rather the productive power of labour — hence the shortening of necessary labour time, the prolongation of surplus labour time — in so far as it is itself the product of capitalist (in general, of social) production.

The chief forms are: Cooperation, Division of Labour, and Machinery or the application of scientific power, etc.

α) Cooperation[edit source]

This is the basic form Division of labour presupposes cooperation or is only a specific form of cooperation. The same is true of a workshop based on the use of machinery, etc. Cooperation is the general form on which all social arrangements for increasing the productivity of social labour are based, and it merely receives further specification in each of these. But cooperation is itself at the same time a specific form, existing alongside its more highly developed and closely specified forms (just as it is a form which transcends its hitherto developments).

As a form which is distinct from its own further developments or specifications, and which exists in distinction, separately from them, cooperation is the most rooted in nature, the crudest and the most abstract of its own varieties; but in any case it continues in its simplicity, in its simple form, to be the basis and prerequisite of all its more highly developed forms.

Cooperation is therefore first of all the direct collective labour — unmediated by exchange — of many workers in order to produce the same result, the same product and the same use value (or utility). In production under slavery. (Cf. Cairnes.) [187]

It is firstly the collective labour of many workers. Hence its initial prerequisite is the existence of an agglomeration, a heaping up of many workers in the same area (in one place), all working at the same time; or this already constitutes the material existence of cooperation. This prerequisite underlies all its more highly developed forms.

The simplest, as yet not further specified mode of cooperation is evidently the performing, not of different operations, but of the same one by people working simultaneously and in association in the same area; but their activity must be simultaneous in order to bring about a definite result or to achieve this within a definite time. This side of cooperation, too, persists in its more highly developed forms. Many people do the same thing at the same time under the division of labour as well. Even more so in the automatic workshop.

Hunting presents one of the oldest forms of this kind of cooperation. The same can be said of war, which is only a man-hunt, a more highly developed hunt.[188] The effect produced by, for example, the charge of a cavalry regiment could not be produced by the individual members of the regiment, taking each one in isolation, even though during the charge each individual only acts as an individual, in so far as he acts at all. The gigantic structures erected by the Asiatics are another example of this kind of cooperation, indeed the importance of this simple form of cooperation emerges very strikingly in building. An individual may build a hut, but the construction of a house requires that many people should do the same thing at the same time. An individual may row a small boat; a large skiff requires a definite number of oarsmen. In the division of labour this side of cooperation emerges in the principle of the proportion of multiples, which are to be apportioned to each particular branch. In the automatic workshop the main effect stems not from the division of labour but from the sameness of the work performed by many people at once. For example, the spinning mules set in motion simultaneously by the same motor are watched over simultaneously by so and so many spinners.

The merit of Wakefield’s new system of colonisation is not that he discovered or [IV-144] promoted the art of colonisation, nor that he made any fresh discoveries whatsoever in the field of political economy, but that he naively laid bare the narrowmindedness of political economy without being clear himself as to the importance of these discoveries or being to the slightest degree free from that narrow-mindedness.

The point is that in the colonies, particularly in their earliest stages of development, bourgeois relations are not yet fully formed; not yet presupposed, as they are in old established countries. They are in the process of becoming. The conditions of their origin therefore emerge more clearly. It appears that these economic relations are neither present by nature, nor are they things, which is the way the political economists are rather inclined to view capital, etc. We shall see later how Mr. Wakefield solves this mystery in the colonies, to his own astonishment.[67] Here we shall confine ourselves, for the time being, to citing a passage which bears on this simple form of cooperation:

  • “There are numerous operations of so simple a kind as not to admit a division into parts, which cannot be performed without the cooperation of many pairs of hands. For instance the lifting of a large tree on a wain, keeping down weeds in a large field of growing crops, shearing a large flock of sheep at the same time, gathering a harvest of corn at a time when it is ripe enough and not too ripe, moving any great weight; everything in short, which cannot be done unless a good many pairs of hands help each other in the same undivided employment, and at the same time” * (E. G. Wakefield, A View of the Ail of Colonization etc., London, 1849, p. 168).

Catching fish for example. Result when many act at once — as in hunting. Building railways. Digging canals, etc. This kind of cooperation in the public works of the Egyptians and Asiatics. The Romans employed their armies like this in Public Works. (See the passage in Jones.) We have already seen, in considering absolute surplus value, that once the rate is given the amount of surplus value depends on the number of workers simultaneously employed; so far, therefore, on their cooperation. However, it is precisely here that the difference between absolute and relative surplus value — in so far as the latter presupposes an increase in and therefore a development of the productive power of labour — emerges in striking fashion. If, in place of 10 workers, each of whom works 2 hours of surplus labour, 20 workers are employed, the result will be 40 surplus hours instead of 20, as in the first case. 1:2 = 20:40. The ratio is the same for the 20 as for the one. Here we only have the addition or multiplication of the hours worked by the individuals. Cooperation as such makes absolutely no difference to the ratio here. Now, in contrast, we are considering cooperation as a natural force of social labour, in so far as the labour of the individual attains a productivity by means of cooperation which it would not have attained as the labour of the isolated individual. E.g. if 100 people mow simultaneously, each of them only works as an individual and does the same work. But the result achieved, that in this definite period of time, before the hay has rotted, etc., the mowing has been done — this use value has been produced — is alone the result of the fact that 100 people have simultaneously borne a hand in this work. In other cases an actual increase of strength occurs. E.g. in lifting etc. Loading a heavy burden. A power is created here which is not possessed by the individual in isolation, but only when he works together with others at the same time. In the first case he could not extend his sphere of action as far afield as would be necessary for the achievement of the result. In the second case he could not develop the necessary power at all, or only with infinite loss of time. The time taken by 10 people to load a tree into a cart is less than one-tenth of the time one individual would take to achieve the same result (if he could do it at all). The result is that through cooperation things can be produced in a shorter time than would be possible for the same individuals when working in the same numbers but scattered about in isolation, or use values can be produced which would otherwise be impossible to produce at all. An individual cannot do in 100 days, indeed often 100 individuals cannot do in 100 days, what 100 can do in one day through cooperation. Here, therefore, the productive power of the individual is increased by the social [IV-145] form of labour. Since this makes it possible to produce more in less time, the necessary means of subsistence or the conditions required for their production can be produced in less time. Necessary labour time diminishes. Relative surplus time is thereby made possible. The latter can be extended, the former reduced.

“The strength of each man is very small, but the union of a number of very small forces produces a collective force which is greater than the sum of these partial forces, so that merely by being joined together these forces can reduce the time required, and extend their field of action” (G. R. Carli, note 1, p. 196, to Pietro Verri, Meditazioni sulla economia politica etc., Custodi, Parte Moderna, Vol. XV).

//It may perhaps be recalled here that in many branches of industry this simple form of cooperation permits the communal use of the conditions of labour, e.g. fuel, buildings, etc. But this does not concern us here. It should rather be considered under Profit.[189] Here we only need to look at how far the ratio of necessary to surplus labour is directly affected, not the ratio of surplus labour to the total amount of capital laid out. This must also be kept in mind in the sections that follow.//

//It is not absolutely necessary for the workers to be united together in the same location. If 10 astronomers make the same observations from the observatories of different countries, etc., that is not a division of labour but the performance of the same labour in different places, a form of cooperation. // But also, at the same time, concentration of the means of labour.

Extension of the sphere of action; curtailment of the time during which a particular result is attained; and finally, the creation of forces of production the isolated worker is completely incapable of developing: all these are characteristic both of simple cooperation and of its more differentiated forms.

In simple cooperation it is only the amount of human force which produces the effect. The place of the one individual with two eyes, etc., is taken by a many-eyed, many-armed, etc., monster. Hence the gigantic works of the Roman armies. The great public works of Asia and Egypt. Here, where the state spends the revenue of the whole country, it has the power to set in motion great masses of people.

  • “It has happened in times past that these Oriental States, after supplying the expenses of their civil and military establishments, have found themselves in possession of a surplus which they could apply to works of magnificence or utility, and in the construction of these their command over the hands and arms of almost the entire non-agricultural population [ ... ], and this food, belonging to the monarch and the priesthood, afforded the means of creating the mighty monuments which filled the land ... in moving the colossal statues and vast masses, of which the transport creates wonder, human labour almost alone was prodigally used ... topes and reservoirs of Ceylon, the Wall of China, the numerous works of which the ruins cover the plains of Assyria and Mesopotamia” * (Richard Jones, Text-book of Lectures on the Political Economy of Nations, Hertford, 1852, p. 77).
  • “The number of the labourers, and the concentration of their efforts sufficed"*

// The number and concentration of workers is the basis of simple cooperation. //

  • “We see mighty coral reefs rising from the depths of the ocean into islands and firm land, yet each individual depositor is puny, weak and contemptible. The non-agricultural labourers of an Asiatic monarchy have little but their individual bodily exertions to bring [IV-146] to the task; but their number is their strength, and the power of directing these masses gave rise to the palaces and temples etc. It is that confinement of the revenues which feed them to one or a few hands, which makes such undertakings possible” * (l.c., [p.] 78).

// Continuity of labour is, in general, peculiar to capitalist production; but it only develops fully with the development of fixed capital, which we shall discuss later.[190]//

This power of the Egyptian and Asiatic kings and priests or the Etruscan theocrats in the ancient world has in bourgeois society passed to capital and therewith to the capitalists.

Simple cooperation, as also its more developed forms, and altogether any means of heightening the productive power of labour, fall under the labour process, not the process of valorisation. They heighten the efficiency of labour. The value of the product of labour, on the other hand, depends on the necessary labour time required for its manufacture. efficiency of labour can therefore only reduce the value of a particular product, it cannot raise it. But all the methods which are employed to heighten the efficiency of the labour process reduce necessary labour time (to a certain degree), and thus increase surplus value, the part of the value which accrues to the capitalist, although the value of the total product remains determined as before by the total quantity of labour time employed.

“The mathematical principle that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts becomes false when applied to our subject. regarding labour, the great pillar of human existence, it may be said, that the entire product of combined exertion infinitely exceeds all which individual and disconnected efforts could possibly accomplish” (Michael Thomas Sadler, The Law of Population, Vol. 1, p. 84).

Cooperation — i.e. its application by the capitalist, i.e. the owner of money or commodities — naturally requires concentration in his hand of means of labour, and likewise of means of subsistence (the part of capital exchanged for labour). The employment of one man for 360 days during the year requires a capital 360 times smaller than the employment of 360 men on one and the same day.

The social productive power which arises from cooperation is a free gift. The individual workers or rather labour capacities are paid, and paid as separate ones. Their cooperation, and the productive power which arises therefrom, is not paid for. The capitalist pays 360 workers; he does not pay for the cooperation of the 360 workers: for the exchange between capital and labour capacity takes place between capital and the individual labour capacity. It is determined by the exchange value of the latter, which is just as independent of the productive power this labour capacity attains under certain social combinations as it is of the fact that the time for which the worker works and can work is longer than the labour time required for his own reproduction.

Cooperation, which is a productive power of social labour, appears as a productive power of capital, not of labour. And this transposition takes place within capitalist production in respect of all the productive powers of social labour. This refers to real labour. just as the general, abstractly social character [IV-147] of labour — i.e. the exchange value of the commodity — presents itself as money, and all the qualities the product possesses as the representation of this general labour present themselves as qualities of money, in the same way does the concrete social character of labour present itself as the character and quality of capital.

In fact: Once the worker enters into the actual labour process he is already incorporated qua labour capacity into capital, he no longer belongs to himself but to capital, and therefore the conditions under which he works are rather the conditions under which capital works. However, before he steps into the labour process he enters into contact with the capitalist as the individual owner or seller of a commodity; this commodity is his own labour capacity. He sells it as an isolated commodity. It becomes social once it has entered into the labour process. The metamorphosis his labour capacity undergoes thereby is something external to it, in which it does not participate; it is rather something which is done to it. The capitalist buys not one but many individual labour capacities at the same time, but he buys them all as isolated commodities, belonging to isolated, mutually independent commodity owners. Once they enter into the labour process, they are already incorporated into capital, and their own cooperation is therefore not a relation into which they put themselves; it is the capitalist who puts them into it. Nor is it a relation which belongs to them; instead, they now belong to it, and the relation itself appears as a relation of capital to them. It is not their reciprocal association, but rather a unity which rules over them, and of which the vehicle and director is capital itself. Their own association in labour — cooperation — is in fact a power alien to them; it is the power of capital which confronts the isolated workers. In so far as they have a relation to the capitalist as independent persons, as sellers, it is the relation of isolated, mutually independent workers, who stand in a relation to the capitalist but not to each other. Where they do stand in a relation to each other as functioning labour capacities, they are incorporated into capital, and this relation therefore confronts them as a relation of capital, not as their own relation. They find that they are agglomerated. The cooperation which arises from this agglomeration is for them just as much an effect of capital as the agglomeration itself. Their interconnection and their unity lies not in themselves but in capital, or, the social productive power of their labour arising therefrom is a productive power of capital. just as the power of individual labour capacity not only to replace but to increase itself — surplus labour — appears as a capacity of capital, so does the social character of labour and the productive power which arises from that character.

This is the first stage at which the subsumption of labour under capital no longer appears as a merely formal subsumption but changes the mode of production itself, so that the capitalist mode of production is a specific mode of production.[55] The subsumption is formal, in so far as the individual worker, instead of working as an independent commodity owner, now works as a labour capacity belonging to the capitalist, [IV-148] and therefore under his command and supervision; also works no longer for himself but for the capitalist; the means of labour, moreover, no longer appear as means to the realisation of his labour: his labour appears instead as the means of valorisation — i.e. absorption of labour — for the means of labour. This distinction is formal in so far as it can exist without causing the slightest alteration of any kind in the mode of production or the social relations within which production takes place. 71 With cooperation a specific distinction already enters the picture. The work takes place under conditions in which the independent labour of the individual cannot be carried on — and indeed these conditions appear as a relation dominating the individual, as a band with which capital fetters the individual workers.

The collaboration of many people, whose association itself is a relation alien to them, whose unity lies outside them, gives rise to the necessity for command, for overall supervision, as itself a condition of production, as a new kind of labour, labour of superintendence, made necessary and conditioned by the cooperation of the workers, just as in any army there is a need for people with the power of command, a need for command, if it is to function as a unified body, even when all its members belong to the same arm of the service. 16 This command is an attribute of capital, although the individual capitalist can in his turn hand over its implementation to specialised workers, who nevertheless represent capital and the capitalist over against the army of workers. (Slavery, Cairnes.[187])

In so far as specialised work of this kind arises out of functions created by capitalist production itself, it is of course absurd to use capital’s performance of these functions to prove the necessity of its existence. It is a tautology. It is as if one were to wish to justify slavery to the Negroes by saying that as slaves they needed the overseer with his whip, who was as necessary to their production as they themselves. But he is necessary only because and in so far as they are slaves — on the basis of slavery. In contrast to this, in so far as cooperation requires a director, as in an orchestra for example, the form this takes under the conditions of capital and the form it might take otherwise, e.g. in the case of association, are completely different things. In the latter case it is a specialised function of labour alongside others, but not as the power that brings about the workers’ own unity as something alien to them, and the exploitation of their labour as an act committed upon them by an alien power.

Cooperation may be continuous; it may also be merely temporary, as in agriculture with the harvest, etc.

The essence of simple cooperation remains simultaneity of action, a simultaneity whose results can never be attained by the temporal succession of the activities of the individual workers.

What remains most important is: This first transposition of the social character of labour as social character of capital, of the productive power of social labour as productive power of capital; and finally the first transformation of the formal subsumption under capital into a real alteration of the mode of production itself.

[IV-138a][191] Destutt de Tracy distinguishes as means for increasing the productivity of labour:

1) Concours de forces. (simple cooperation.) “Is it a matter of defending oneself? Ten men can easily resist an enemy who would have destroyed all of them by attacking them one after another. Is a heavy object to be moved? The burden heavy enough to oppose an invincible resistance to the efforts of a single individual yields straight away to several people acting together. Is it a question of undertaking a complex piece of labour? Many things must be done simultaneously. One person does one thing, while another does something else, and they all contribute to an effect that a single man would be unable to produce. One rows while the other holds the rudder, and a third casts the net or harpoons the fish; in this way fishing enjoys a success that would be impossible without this cooperation” (l.c., p. 78).

In this second form of cooperation there is already a division of labour taking place, because many things must be done simultaneously, but this is not a division of labour in the true sense. The 3 people can alternately row, steer and fish, although in the act of cooperation each of them only does the one thing. The real division of labour, in contrast; consists in this, that

“when a number of men work for each other, each of them can devote himself exclusively to the occupation for which he is most suited, etc.” (l.c., p. 79). [IV-138a]

β) Division of Labour[192][edit source]

[IV-149] The division of labour is a particular, differentiated, further developed form of cooperation, a powerful means of heightening the productive power of labour, performing the same work in less labour time, hence reducing the labour time necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity and extending surplus labour time.

Simple cooperation involves many people working together to perform the same work. In the division of labour many workers cooperate under the command of capital to produce different parts of the same commodities, each particular part requiring a specific kind of labour, a specific operation, and each worker or definite multiple quantity of workers performing one specific operation only, with the others performing others and so forth; the totality of these operations, however, producing a single commodity, a particular specific commodity; the latter therefore representing the totality of these specific forms of labour.

We say commodity from a twofold point of view. Firstly, a commodity produced under the division of labour can itself be a semi-manufacture, a raw material, a material of labour for another sphere of production. A product of this kind therefore by no means needs to be a use value which has taken on its final form, the form in which it ultimately enters consumption.

If different production processes are required for the manufacture of a use value, e.g. printed calico-spinning, weaving, printing — the printed calico is the result of these different production processes and of the totality of the specific modes of labour, spinning, weaving, printing. No division of labour in the sense we are now considering has yet taken place on that account. If the spun yarn is a commodity, the woven cloth a commodity, and the printed calico a specific commodity alongside the other two commodities — those use values which are the product of processes which must precede the printing of calico — no division of labour in the sense we are now considering takes place, although there is a social division of labour, because the yarn is the product of spinners, the cloth is the product of weavers and the calico is the product of printers. The labour necessary for the production of printed calico is divided into spinning, weaving and printing and each of these branches forms the occupation of a particular section of workers, each of whom performs only the one particular operation of spinning or weaving or printing. Here, then, what is needed is firstly a totality of particular kinds of labour, in order to produce the printed calico; and secondly the subsumption of different workers under each of these particular labour operations. But it cannot be said that they cooperate in producing the same commodity. They rather produce commodities independent of each other. The yarn is on our assumption as much a commodity as the printed calico. The existence of a use value as a commodity does not depend on the nature of that use value, hence it does not depend, either, on its distance from or nearness to the shape in which it finally enters consumption, whether as means of labour or means of subsistence. It depends solely on this, that a definite quantity of labour time is represented in the product and that it forms the material for the satisfaction of certain needs, whether these are the needs of a further production process or those of the consumption process. On the other hand, if the printed calico first came onto the market as a commodity after having passed through the processes of spinning, weaving and printing, it would have been produced by division of labour.

We have seen that the product only becomes a commodity at all, and the exchange of commodities as a condition of production only takes place at all, given a social division of labour, [IV-150] or a division of social labour. The specific commodities are the repositories of specific modes of labour, and the producer or owner of the individual commodity only takes possession of his aliquot part of social production, i.e. of the products of all the other branches of labour, through exchange, namely the sale of his product, through the conversion of his commodity into money. That he produces a commodity at all implies that his labour is one-sided and does not directly produce his means of subsistence, that these are rather obtained only by the exchange of his labour for the products of other branches of labour. This social division of labour, which is presupposed in the existence of the product as a commodity and of the exchange of commodities, differs essentially from the division of labour we are investigating here. The latter presupposes the former as its point of departure and basis.

A division of labour occurs in the former case in so far as every commodity represents the other commodity, hence every commodity owner or producer represents a specific branch of labour vis-à-vis the other one; and the totality of these specific branches of labour, their existence as the whole gamut of social labour, is mediated through the exchange of commodities, or, more closely defined, the circulation of commodities, which as we have seen includes the circulation of money. A considerable division of labour in this sense may take place without there being any division of labour in the other sense. But the second type cannot occur without the first under conditions of commodity production, although it can occur where products are not produced as commodities at all, where production does not, in general, take place on the basis of the exchange of commodities. The first division of labour shows itself in the fact that the product of a specific branch of labour confronts as a specific commodity the producers of all other branches of labour as independent commodities differing from it. The second division of labour, in contrast, takes place when a specific use value is produced before it comes onto the market, enters into circulation, as a specific, independent commodity. In the first case the different kinds of labour complement each other through the exchange of commodities. In the second there is direct, cooperative action by the different kinds of labour, not mediated through the exchange of commodities, with the aim of manufacturing the same use value under the command of capital. In the first division of labour the producers meet as independent commodity owners and representatives of specific branches of labour. In the second they appear rather as dependent, since they only produce a complete commodity, indeed only produce a commodity at all, through their cooperation, and each of them represents not a specific piece of work, but rather the individual operations which are combined, which meet, in a specific piece of work, while the commodity owner, the producer of the complete commodity, confronts the dependent workers as capitalist.

Adam Smith constantly confuses these very different senses of the division of labour, which admittedly complement each other, but are also in certain respects mutually opposed. In order to avoid confusion, more recent English writers call the first type division of labour and the second subdivision of labour, although this fails to bring out the conceptual distinction.[193]

Pins and twist are two specific commodities; each of them represent a specific branch of labour and their producers confront each other as commodity owners. They represent a division of social labour, each section of which confronts the other as a specific sphere of production. In contrast to this, the different operations required for the production of a pin constitute a division of labour in the second sense if they represent just as many modes of labour under which particular workers are subsumed — it being presupposed, namely, that the particular parts of the pin do not emerge as specific commodities. Characteristic of this kind of division of labour is the differentiation of the operations within the sphere of production which belongs to a particular commodity, and the distribution of each of these operations among particular workers, whose cooperation creates the whole product, the commodity, but whose representative is not the worker but the capitalist. [IV-151] Even this form of the division of labour, which we are considering here, by no means exhausts the subject of the division of labour, which is in a certain respect the category of categories of political economy. But here we have only to consider it as a particular productive power of capital.

It is clear, 1) that this division of labour presupposes the social division of labour. First the exchange of commodities develops the differentiation of social labour, and then the branches of labour become so widely separated that each specific branch is traced back to a specialised kind of labour, and the division of labour, its analysis, can take place within this specialised labour. It is equally clear, 2) that the second division of labour must, in its turn, extend the first — reacting back upon it. Firstly in so far as it, like all other productive forces, reduces the amount of labour required for a particular use value, therefore sets labour free to take part in a new branch of social labour. Secondly, and this is specific to it, in so far as it is able In its analysis to split up a speciality in such a way, that the different components of the same use value are now produced as different commodities, independent of each other, or also that the different varieties of the same use value, which previously all fell to the share of the same sphere of production, are now allotted to different spheres of production through the analysis of the individual varieties.

The one is division of social labour into different branches of labour, the other is division of labour in the manufacture of a commodity, hence not division of labour in society but social division of labour within one and the same workshop. Division of labour in the latter sense presupposes manufacture, as a specific mode of production.

Adam Smith does not distinguish these two senses of the division of labour. The second division of labour therefore does not appear with him as something specific to capitalist production.

The chapter on the division of labour with which he opens his work (book I, chapter I) (On the Division of Labour) begins like this:

“The effects of the division of labour, in the general industry of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner these effects operate in some particular manufactures — [Garnier, p. 11] [Vol. I, p. 15].[194]

The division of labour within the atelier (which really means workshop, factory, mine, or farm here, the only assumption being that the individuals employed in the production of a particular commodity cooperate under the command of capital), the capitalist division of labour, is only of interest to him, and he only discusses it in particular, as being a more easily comprehensible, more tangible and clearer example of the effects of the division of labour within society in general and upon the “general industry of society”. The following passage proves this:

“It is commonly supposed that this division is carried furthest in some manufactures which produce articles of little value; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance: but in those trifling manufactures which are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in even different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator. In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all [IV-152] into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch of the work. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts than in those of the first kind, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed” [l.c., pp. 11-12].

Firstly, this passage demonstrates the small scale on which industrial enterprises still operated in Adam Smith’s time.

Secondly, the division of labour in a workshop and the division of a branch of labour within society into distinct, mutually independent branches, are only subjectively different matters for him, not objectively. In the first case one sees the division at a glance, in the second case one does not. The change is not in the real situation but only in the way the observer sees it. For example, if one looks at the whole of the iron-producing industry, starting from the production of pig iron and going through all the different types of product into which the industry is divided, each of which forms an independent branch of production, an independent commodity, whose connection with its preceding or subsequent stages is mediated by the exchange of commodities, the social division of this branch of industry probably involves more subdivisions than we meet with inside a pin factory.

Hence Adam Smith does not grasp the division of labour as a particular, specifically distinct form characteristic of the capitalist mode of production.

The division of labour, as we regard it here, presupposes firstly that the social division of labour has already attained a considerable level of development, that the various spheres of production are separated from each other, and that within each sphere there are further divisions into independent subspecies; indeed, capital can only develop on the basis of a circulation of commodities which is already relatively extensive, and is identical with a relatively extensive development of the division (autonomisation) of branches of business within society as a whole. Once this is presupposed, hence e.g. once the production of cotton yarn exists as an independent, autonomous branch of business (hence is no longer e.g. a subsidiary occupation of the countryside), the second prerequisite for the division of labour, which precedes this one and exists before it, is that many workers in this branch should be associated in a workshop under the command of capital. This association, the agglomeration of workers under the command of capital, which is the condition for capitalist cooperation, comes about for two reasons. Firstly, surplus value does not depend only on its rate; its absolute amount, magnitude, depends at the same time on the number of workers who are simultaneously being exploited by the same capital. Capital functions as capital in proportion to the number of workers it simultaneously employs. The independence of the workers in their production is thereby at an end. They work under the supervision and command of capital. In so far as they work together and are interconnected, this interconnection exists in capital, or, this interconnection itself is for them merely external, a mode of capital’s existence. Their labour becomes compulsory labour because once they enter into the labour process it belongs not to them but already to capital, is already incorporated in capital. The workers are subjected to the discipline of capital and placed in completely changed conditions of life. The first manufactories in Holland, and in all countries where they developed independently and were not imported ready-made from abroad, were little more than conglomerations of workers who produced the same commodity, with the means of labour being concentrated in the same workshop under the command of the same capital. A developed division of labour was not a feature of those places, the development rather took place first within them as its natural basis. In the medieval guilds the master [IV-153] was prevented from becoming a capitalist by the guild regulations, which restricted to a very low maximum the number of workers he was permitted to employ at any one time.

Secondly, the economic advantages which arose from the common utilisation of the buildings, of furnaces, etc., and soon gave these manufactories such an advantage in productivity over the patriarchal or guild-based enterprises — apart from any effect of the division of labour — do not belong to our subject here, as we have only to consider, not the economy made on the conditions of labour,[189] but the more productive application of variable capital; the extent to which these means directly raise the productivity of the labour employed in a particular sphere of production.

Even where a particular branch of business — see e.g. Blanqui is very subdivided, but patriarchal, so that the product of each part exists as a specific commodity independently of the others, or is only mediated by the exchange of commodities, association in a single workshop is by no means merely formal. In these circumstances the work almost always takes the form of domestic-rural subsidiary labour, there thus being no absolute subsumption of the worker under an entirely one-sided and simple operation. It is not his exclusive task. But then the main feature is lacking. These workers work with their own means of labour. The mode of production itself is in fact not capitalist, instead, the capitalist merely steps between these independent workers and the definitive purchaser of their commodities as middleman, as merchant. This form, in which capital has not yet taken control of production itself, still predominates over much of the Continent; it always constitutes the transition from the subsidiary industries of the countryside to the capitalist mode of production proper. Here the worker himself appears as commodity owner, producer and seller, and the capitalist still confronts him as buyer of commodities, not of labour. The basis of capitalist production is therefore still absent.

Where, as in Blanqui’s example, the division of labour exists in the form of independent branches of production, a multiplicity of time-consuming and unproductive intermediate processes takes place, conditioned by the existence of the different stages of the commodity as commodities in their own right, and by the fact that their interconnection in the overall production of the commodity has first to be mediated through the exchange of commodities, through sale and purchase. Working for each other in the different branches is subject to all kinds of accidents, irregularities and so on, for it is the compulsion of the workshop which first introduces simultaneity, regularity and proportionality into the mechanism of these different operations, in fact first combines them together into a uniformly operating mechanism.

If the division of labour — once it proceeds, now on the basis of the existing workshops, to a further subdivision of the operations and subsumption under them of definite multiple numbers of workers — if the division of labour carries itself further, it is also its opposite. For in so far as the disjecta membra poetae were previously autonomous, existing side by side as an equal number of independent commodities, and hence as the products of an equal number of independent commodity owners, the division of labour is also their combination in one mechanism; an aspect entirely overlooked by Adam.

Later on We shall investigate in more detail why the division of labour within society, a division which through the exchange of commodities emerges as the totality of production and only has an impact on its individual representatives through competition, the law of supply and demand, develops further at the same pace as, goes hand in hand with, the division of labour within the workshop, the division of labour characteristic of capitalist production, in which the independence of the workers is completely annihilated and they become parts of a social mechanism standing under the command of capital.[55]

[IV-154] This much is clear. Adam Smith did not grasp the division of labour as something peculiar to the capitalist mode of production; something whereby, in addition to machinery and simple cooperation, labour is transformed not only formally, but in its reality — through subsumption under capital. He conceives it in the same way as Petty and others of his predecessors after Petty. (See the East Indian pamphlet.)

Like his predecessors, Smith in fact still views the division of labour from the standpoint of antiquity, in so far as they lump it together with the division of labour within society. They only differ from the conception held by the classical world in their view of the result and purpose of the division of labour. They conceive it as from the outset a productive force of capital, in so far as they stress and almost exclusively discuss the fact that the division of labour cheapens commodities, reduces the amount of necessary labour time required to produce a particular commodity, or increases the quantity of commodities that can be produced in the same necessary labour time, thereby lessening the exchange value of the individual commodities. They lay all their emphasis on this aspect — exchange value — and the modernity of their point of view consists in this. And this is of course the decisive point if the division of labour is conceived as a productive force of capital, for it is such a force only in so far as it cheapens the means of subsistence required for the reproduction of labour capacity, reduces the amount of labour time needed for their reproduction. The ancients, on the other hand, had their eyes fixed exclusively on use value, in so far as they made any attempt at all to reflect upon and understand the division of labour. The consequence of the division of labour for them was that the products of the individual branches of production attained a better quality, whereas the quantitative point of view predominates among the moderns. The ancients, therefore, consider the division of labour not in relation to the commodity but in relation to the product as such. What interests the commodity owners who have become capitalists is the influence of the division of labour on the commodity; its influence on the product as such only has a bearing on the commodity in so far as it is a matter of the satisfaction of human needs in general, a matter of use value as such. The historical background of the Greeks’ views is always Egypt, which they regarded as the model of an industrial country, in just the same way as Holland and later England were regarded by the moderns. The division of labour therefore occurs with them, as we shall see later, in relation to the hereditary division of labour and the caste system deriving from it, as it existed in Egypt.

Adam Smith confuses the two forms of the division of labour later on too. Thus he says further in the same book I, chapter I:

“The division of labour, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and employments from one another seems to have taken place in consequence of this advantage. This separation, too, is generally carried furthest in those countries which enjoy the highest degree of industry and improvement; what is the work of one man in a rude state of society being generally that of several in an improved one” [Garnier, p. 15] [Vol. I, p. 181.

Adam Smith explicitly picks out the quantitative point of view, i.e. the curtailment of the labour time needed for the production of a commodity, as the exclusive consideration, in the passage where he is enumerating the advantages of the division of labour:

This great increase in the quantity of work which, in consequence of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances ([Garnier,] Book I, Chapter I [p. 18]) [Vol. 1, p. 21].

According to him these advantages consist in 1) the dexterity the worker attains in his one-sided branch [IV-155] of labour:

“First, the improvement of the dexterity of the workman necessarily increases the quantity of the work he can perform; and the division of labour, by reducing every man’s business to some one simple operation, and by making this operation the sole employment of his life, necessarily increases very much the dexterity of the workman.” (Hence rapidity of the operations.)

Secondly: saving of the time which gets lost in moving from one task to another. In that connection both “change of place” and “different tools” are required.

“When the two trades can be carried on in the same workhouse, the loss of time is no doubt much less. It is even in this case, however, very considerable. A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand from one sort of employment to another” [Garnier, pp. 20, 21] [Vol. I, p. 23].

Finally Smith mentions

“that the invention of all those machines by which labour is so much facilitated and abridged seems to have been originally owing to the division of labour” [Garnier, p. 22] [Vol. I, p. 24]

(invented by the workers themselves, the whole of whose attention is exclusively directed towards a simple object). And even the influence exerted on the invention of machinery by philosophers or men of speculation is due to the social division of labour, for it is through it that

“philosophy or speculation becomes, like every other employment, the principal or sole trade occupation of a particular class of citizens — [Garnier, p. 24] [Vol. I, p. 25].

Adam Smith remarks that if on the one hand the division of labour is the product, the result, of the natural diversity of human talents, the latter are to a much greater degree the result of the development of the division of labour. In this he follows his teacher Ferguson.

“The difference of natural talents, in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour.... All must have had the same duties to perform — (without the division of labour and without exchange, which he makes into the basis of the division of labour), “and the same work to do, and there could have been no such difference of employment as could alone give occasion to an), great difference of talents”. “By nature a philosopher is not in genius and disposition half so different from a street porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound” [Garnier, pp. 33-35] [Vol. I, pp. 33-35].

Smith explains the very existence of the division of labour by referring to

men’s inclination to trade and exchange”, without which “every man must have procured to himself every necessary and conveniency of life” ([Garnier,] Book I, Chapter II, [p. 34]) [Vol. I, p. 34].

Thus he assumes exchange in order to explain the division of labour, and assumes the division of labour in order that there be something to exchange.

The naturally evolved division of labour precedes exchange, and the exchange of products as commodities first develops between different communities, not within the some community. (The division of labour rests in part not only on the naturally evolved differences between human beings themselves, but on natural elements of production found available by these different communities. [195]) Of course, the development of the product into a commodity and the exchange of commodities react back onto the division of labour, so that exchange and division enter into a relation of interaction.

[IV-156] Smith’s main merit in dealing with the division of labour is that he stresses it and puts it in the forefront, indeed views it directly as a productive power of labour (i.e. capital). In his conception of it, however, he is dependent on the contemporary level of development of manufacture, which was still far removed from the modern factory. Hence also the relative preponderance conceded to the division of labour over machinery, which still appears merely as its appendage.

In the whole section on the division of labour Adam Smith essentially follows his teacher Adam Ferguson, often to the extent of copying from him ([A. Ferguson,] Essai sur l'histoire de la société civile, translated by M. Bergier, Paris, 1783). Under conditions of barbarism the human being inclines to sloth:

“He is, perhaps, by the diversity of his wants, discouraged from industry; or, by his divided attention, prevented from acquiring skill in any kind of labour” ([A. Ferguson, l.c.,] Vol. II, p. 128).

Among the different circumstances which gradually lead men “to subdivide their professions without any conscious end in mind”, Ferguson similarly indicates “the prospect of being able to exchange one commodity for another”, although he does not imitate Smith’s one-sidedness in giving it as the sole reason. He goes on to say:

“The artist finds, that the more he can confine his attention to a particular part of any work, his productions are the more perfect, and grow under his hands in the greater quantities. Every undertaker in manufacture finds, that the more he can subdivide the tasks of his workmen, and the more hands he can employ on separate articles, the more are his expenses diminished, and his profits increased.... The progress of commerce is but a continued subdivision of the mechanical arts([p.] 129).

Adam Smith asserts that originally the workers invented the machine, because, owing to the division of labour,

“when the whole of every man’s attention is directed towards some one object”, they devised “all those machines by which labour is so much facilitated and abridged — ([Garnier,] Book 1, Chapter 1 [p. 22]) [Vol. I, p. 24].

Adam Ferguson speaks of

“the methods, the means, the devices ... which the artist, attentive to his own affair, has invented, to abridge or to facilitate his separate task” (p. 133).

Adam Smith says:

“In the progress of society, philosophy or speculation becomes, like every employment, the principal or sole occupation of a particular class of citizens” ([Garnier,] Book I, Chapter I [pp. 23-24]) [Vol. I, p. 25].

Adam Ferguson:

“This method, which yields such great advantages in regard of industry, can be applied with equal success to more important things, in the various departments of policy and war ... in this age of separations, [thinking] itself may become a peculiar craft” (pp. 131, 136).

Ferguson, like Adam Smith, makes special mention of the application of science to industrial practice (p. 136). What distinguishes him from Adam Smith is the fact that he brings out more sharply and emphatically the negative aspects of the division of labour (and with Ferguson the quality of the commodity still plays a role, while Adam Smith, from the capitalist point of view correctly, leaves it aside as a mere ACCIDENT).

“It may even be doubted, whether the measure of national capacity increases with the advancement of arts. Many mechanical arts require no capacity; they succeed perfectly without recourse to sentiment and reason; and ignorance is the mother of industry as well as of superstition. Reflection and fancy are subject to err; but a habit of moving the hand, or the foot, is independent of either. One might therefore say that perfection, in regard of manufactures, consists in the ability to proceed without consulting the mind” (especially, and this is an important point with regard to the workshop) “in such a manner that the workshop may [IV-157], without any great effort of imagination, be considered as an engine, the parts of which are men” (pp. 134, 135).

The concept of manufacture comes out much more clearly here than in Adam Smith. Furthermore, Ferguson emphasises the change in the relationship between manufacturer and worker which occurs as a result of the division of labour.

“Even in manufacture, the genius of the master, perhaps, is cultivated, while that of the inferior workman lies waste.... The general officer may be a great proficient in the knowledge of war, while the soldier is confined to a few motions of the hand and the foot. The former may have gained what the latter has lost” (pp. 135, 136).

What he says of the general in relation to the ordinary soldier is true of the capitalist or his MANAGER in relation to the army of workers. The intelligence and independent development which were applied on a small scale in autonomous work are now applied on a large scale for the whole workshop, and monopolised by the boss; the workers are thereby robbed of these attributes.

“He [the general] may practise on a larger scale all the arts of preservation, of deception and of stratagem, which the savage exerts in leading a small party, or merely in defending himself” (p. 136).

Hence Ferguson also expressly treats of the “subordination” consequent on the “separation of arts and professions” (l.c., p. 138). Here the antagonism of capital, etc. With regard to entire nations, Ferguson has this to say:

“Nations of tradesmen come to consist of members who, beyond their own particular trade, are ignorant of all human affairs” (p. 130). “We make a nation of helots, and have no free citizens” (l.c., p. 144).

He contrasts this with classical antiquity, although he points out at the same time that slavery was the foundation for the more complete all-round development of the free citizens. (See the Frenchman, [196] who indulges in more speechifying on the whole of this Fergusonian theme, but wittily.)

Thus if one takes Ferguson, who was Smith’s teacher directly, and Petty, whose example of watchmaking was replaced by Smith with the one of the pin factory,[197] Smith’s originality consists only in his putting the division of labour in the limelight and his one-sided (hence economically correct) estimation of it as a means for increasing the productive power of labour.

It says in A. Potter, Political Economy, New York, 1841 (Part 2 of which is almost exclusively a reprint of Scrope’s Political Economy, London, 1833):

  • “The first essential towards production is labour. To play its part efficiently in this great business, the labour of individuals must be combined; or, in other words, the labour required for producing certain results must be distributed among several individuals, and those individuals thus be enabled to cooperate” * (Scrope, p. 76).

Potter remarks on this, in a note on the same page:

  • “The principle here referred to is usually called the division of labour. The phrase is objectionable, since the fundamental idea is that of concert and cooperation, not of division. The term of division applies only to the process; this being subdivided into several operations, and these being distributed or parcelled out among a number of operatives. It is thus a combination of labourers effected through a subdivision of processes."* It is: Combination of labour.

The title of Ferguson’s book is: Essay on the History of Civil Society.

[IV-158] Dugald Stewart, Collected Works, Ed. by Sir W. Hamilton, Edinburgh. I cite from Vol. VIII of the Collected Works, which is Vol. I (published in 1855) of the Lectures on Political Economy.

On the way in which the division of labour increases the productivity of labour, he says among other things:

  • “The effects of the division of labour, and of the use of machines ... both derive their value from the same circumstance, their tendency, to enable one man to perform the work of many"* (p. 317).
  • “It produces also an economy of time, by separating the work into its different branches, all of which may be carried into execution at the same moment ... by carrying on all the different processes at once, which an individual must have executed separately, it becomes possible to produce a multitude of pins for instance completely finished in the same time as a single pin might have been either cut or pointed"* ([p.] 3 19).

This goes beyond Adam Smith’s second argument above, that the single worker who passes through the whole circuit of the different operations loses time in the transition from one operation to another.

The different operations performed successively by a worker in a patriarchal or craft-based business in order to make his product, which are mutually intertwined as different modes of his activity, and follow each other in chronological sequence; the different phases through which his work passes, and in which it undergoes variation, are separated from each other, isolated, as independent operations or processes. This independence becomes solidified, personified, when each simple and monosyllabic process of this kind becomes the exclusive function of a particular worker or a definite number of workers. They are subsumed under these isolated functions. This work is not divided among them; they are divided among the various processes, each of which becomes the exclusive life-process of one of them — in so far as they function as productive labour capacity. The heightened productivity and complexity of the production process as a whole, its enrichment, is therefore purchased at the cost of the reduction of labour capacity in each of its specific functions to nothing but a dry abstraction — a simple quality, which appears in the eternal uniformity of an identical function, and for which the whole of the worker’s productive capacity, the multiplicity of his capabilities, has been confiscated. The processes separated out in this way, and performed as functions of these living automatons, allow combination precisely through their division and autonomy; allow these different processes to be carried out simultaneously in the same workshop. Here division and combination condition each other. The overall production process of a single commodity appears now as a combined operation, a complex of many operations, all of which complement each other independently, and can be carried out simultaneously alongside each other. The complementarity of the different processes is here transferred from the future to the present, whereby a commodity which is begun at one side is finished at the other. At the same time, since these different operations are performed with virtuosity, because they have been educed to simple functions, there is added to this simultaneity, which is in general characteristic of cooperation, a reduction in labour time, which is attained in each of the simultaneous and mutually complementary functions which are combined together into a single whole; so that within a given time not only more whole commodities, more commodities finished and ready for use are in general delivered, but also more finished commodities. Through this combination the workshop becomes a mechanism of which the individual workers form the different elements.

But the combination — cooperation, as it appears in the division of labour, no longer as the parallel existence of the same functions or their temporary subdivision, but as the separation of a totality of functions into their constituent elements, and the unification of these different components — now has a twofold existence: it exists on the one hand, if we look at the production process itself, in the workshop as a whole, which, as a total mechanism of this kind (although in fact it is nothing other than the manifestation of the workers’ cooperation, their social mode of action in the production process) confronts the workers as [IV-159] an external power, dominating and enveloping them, in fact as the power of capital itself and a form of its existence, under which they are individually subsumed, and to which their social relation of production belongs. On the other hand, it exists in the finished product, which is in turn a commodity belonging to the capitalist.

For the worker himself no combination of activities takes place. The combination is rather a combination of the one-sided functions under which every worker or number of workers is subsumed, group by group. His function is one-sided, abstract, partial. The totality which is formed from this is based precisely on his merely partial existence and isolation in his separate function. It is therefore a combination of which he forms a part, but it depends on the fact that his labour is not combined. The workers form the building blocks of this combination. However, the combination is not a relation that belongs to them, nor is it subsumed under them as a united group. This point is also directed against Mr. Potter’s pretty phrases about combination and concert as opposed to division.

Here the capitalist mode of production has already seized upon the substance of labour and transformed it. The subsumption of the worker under capital is no longer merely formal: the fact that he works for someone else, under alien command and alien supervision. Nor is the situation any longer merely as it was in the case of simple cooperation, where the worker cooperates with many others, performing the same work with them at the same time, while his work as such remains unchanged and a merely temporary connection is created, a contiguity, which by the nature of things may easily be dissolved and which in most cases of simple cooperation takes place only for specific, limited periods, to satisfy exceptional requirements, as with harvesting, road-building, etc. Nor is it like manufacture in its simplest form, where the main thing is the simultaneous exploitation of many workers and a saving on fixed capital, etc., and where the worker only formally becomes a part of a whole, whose head is the capitalist, but in which he is not further affected — as a producer — by the fact that many other workers are doing the same thing alongside him, also making boots, etc. With the transformation of his labour capacity into what is merely a function of part of the complete mechanism, the whole of which forms the workshop, he has altogether ceased to be the producer of a commodity. He is only the producer of a one-sided operation, which in general produces something solely in connection with the whole of the mechanism that forms the workshop. He is thus a living constituent of the workshop, and has himself become an accessory to capital through the manner of his work, since his skill can only be exercised in a workshop, only as a link in a mechanism which confronts him as the presence of capital. Originally he had to sell to the capitalist, instead of the commodity, the labour that produced the commodity, because he was not in possession of the objective conditions for the realisation of his labour capacity. Now he has to sell it because his labour capacity only continues to be labour capacity in so far as it is sold to capital. Thus he is now subsumed under capitalist production, has now fallen under the control of capital, no longer just because he lacks the means of labour, but because of his very labour capacity, the nature and manner of his labour; now capital has in its hands no longer just the objective conditions, but the social conditions of subjective labour, the conditions under which his labour continues to be labour at all.[55]

The increase of productive power which arises from the division of labour, this social mode of existence of labour, is therefore not only capital’s, instead of the worker’s, productive power. The social form of the workers’ combined labours is the existence of capital over against the worker; combination confronts him as a paramount destiny to which he has fallen victim through the reduction of his labour capacity to an entirely one-sided function, which is nothing apart from the mechanism as a whole, [IV-160] and therefore depends entirely upon it. He has himself become a mere detail.

Dugald Stewart, l.c., calls the workers subordinated to the division of labour

  • — living automatons ... employed in the details of the work”,* while the “employer will be always on the stretch to economize time and labour” * (p. 318).

Dugald Stewart cites maxims from classical antiquity relating to the division of labour within society.

Cuncta nihilque sumus.” “In omnibus aliquid, in toto nihil.

[We are everything and nothing. We can do something of everything, but nothing as a whole]

"poll hpistato erga, kakws d’ hpistato panta.”

[He knew many crafts, but he knew all of them badly] [198]

(this from the Margites, cited in the Second Alcibiades, one of the spurious dialogues of Plato). Thus, in the Odyssey, XIV, 228:

“allos gar t alloisin anhr epiterpetai ergois”,

[For different men take joy in different works]

and the statement by Archilochus, quoted in Sextus Empiricus

“allos allj ep ergj kardihn iainetai”.

[Men differ as to what things cheer their hearts]

Thucydides makes Pericles contrast the agriculturalists of Sparta, where consumption was not mediated through the exchange of commodities, hence no division of labour took place either, with the Athenians, describing the Spartans as “autourgoi” [working for themselves] (working not for gain but for subsistence). This is what Pericles says about nautical matters in the same speech (Thucydides, Book I, Chapter 142):

“Seamanship, like any other skill, is a matter of art, and practice in it may not be left to odd times, as a sideline; on the contrary, no other pursuit may be carried on as a subsidiary occupation” [199]

We shall come to Plato directly, although he actually belongs before Xenophon. The latter, who possesses a considerable amount of bourgeois instinct, and is therefore often reminiscent of both bourgeois morality and bourgeois political economy, looks more closely than Plato at the division of labour, in so far as it takes place in the individual workshop as well as on a broad scale. The following account by Xenophon is interesting, 1) because he shows the dependence of the division of labour upon the size of the market; and 2) because in contrast to Plato he does not confine himself to the division of occupations, but rather stresses the reduction of labour to simple labour brought about by the division of labour, and the skill which can more easily be attained under that system. Although as a result he is much closer to the modern conception, he still retains the attitude which is characteristic of the ancients: he is concerned only with use value, with the improvement of quality. He is not interested in the curtailment of labour time any more than is Plato, even in the one passage where, exceptionally and in passing, the latter indicates that more use values are provided. Even here it is only a matter of an increased quantity of use values; not of the effect of the division of labour on the product as commodity. Xenophon relates that it is not only an honour to receive food from the table of the King of Persia, but a joy as well (because the food tastes better).

“But the food that is sent from the king’s board really is much superior in the pleasure it gives to the palate as well. That this should be so, however, is no marvel. For just as all other arts are developed to superior excellence in large cities, in the same way the food at the king’s palace is also elaborately prepared with superior excellence. For in small towns the same workman makes dining couches and doors and ploughs and tables and often this same artisan builds houses, and even so he is thankful if he can only find [IV-161] enough employers to allow him to make a living. And it is of course impossible for a man of so many trades to be proficient in all of them. In large cities, on the other hand, where every workman finds many customers, one trade alone, and often even less than a whole trade, is enough to support a man: one man, for instance, makes shoes for men, another. for women. It happens that one man earns a living by only stitching shoes, another by cutting them out, another by cutting the uppers to shape, while there is another who performs none of these operations but only assembles the parts. It follows therefore that he who performs the simplest Work must needs to the thing best (he is compelled to provide the best work). Exactly the same thing holds true with the art of cooking. He for whom one and the same man arranges the dining couches, lays the table, bakes the bread, prepares now one sort of dish and now another, he must take things as they come. But where it is all one man can do to stew meats and another to roast them, for one man to boil fish and another to bake them, for another to bake bread, and not every sort at that, but where it suffices if he makes one kind that has a high reputation — everything that is prepared in this manner will, 1 think, necessarily be worked out with superior excellence. Thus Cyrus by far exceeded everyone when, as a sign of attention, he sent someone food prepared in this way.” (With this kind of preparation, the food at Cyrus’ table surpassed all others in its excellence.) (Xenophon, Cyropoedia, ed. E. Poppo, Lipsiae, 1821, Book VIII, Ch. Il.) 199

Plato’s discussion in the Republic forms the direct basis and point of departure for a group of English writers who wrote about the division of labour after Petty and before Adam Smith. See e.g. James Harris (later Earl of Malmesbury), the 3rd Treatise of Three Treatises etc., 3rd ed., London, 1772, in which however he presents the Division of Employments as the Natural foundation of society (pp. 148-55). He himself says in a footnote that he drew the whole argument from Plato. In the 2nd book of the Republic, which we cite from the edition by Bailer, Orelli etc., Zurich, 1839, Plato starts with the origin of the polis; (city and state coincide here).

“The polis ... comes into existence ... once each of us is no longer self-sufficient, but has need of many.” [IV-162] “It” [the polis] “is founded b). our needs.” [199]

Now the most immediate requirements are enumerated: food, a dwelling-place, clothing:

“The first and most important requirement is the procurement of food in order to be able to exist and live.... The second is the construction of a dwelling-place, the third the making of clothes and the like.”

How should the polis satisfy these different needs? One man becomes a farmer, another a house-builder, others become weavers, cobblers, etc. Should each of them divide his labour time, cultivating the land in one part of it, building in the second, weaving in the third, etc., in order to satisfy his different requirements himself, or should he devote the whole of his labour time exclusively to one single occupation, so that he, e.g., produces corn, weaves, etc., not only for himself but also for the others? The second plan is better. For, in the first place, people differ in their natural aptitudes, which means that their capacity to perform different kinds of work differs. //To the range of different needs there corresponds a range of different aptitudes, enabling the individuals to perform the different kinds of work necessary for the satisfaction of those needs.// Someone practising one single skilled craft will perform his task better than one who exercises many skills. If something is carried on merely as a subsidiary occupation, the appropriate time for production will often be allowed to slip by. The work cannot wait for the leisure of the person who has to perform it; rather must the person doing the work be guided by the conditions of his production, etc. Therefore he should not do it as a sideline. Hence if one person exclusively does one particular kind of work (in accordance with the nature of the thing, and at the right time) and does not concern himself with other work, everything will be produced in greater quantity, better, and more easily. The main emphasis lies on the better: the quality. The word pleiw [more] only occurs in the passage we are about to quote; otherwise it is always kallion [better],

How will our polis be able to supply all these demands? Will one man have to be a farmer, another a builder, and a third a weaver?” etc .... .. Is each one of them to bring the product of his work into a common stock? Should our one farmer, for example, provide food enough for four people and spend the whole of his time and industry in producing corn, so as to share with the rest; or should he take no notice of them and grow just a quarter of this corn, for himself, in a quarter of the time, and divide the other three quarters between building his house, weaving his clothes, and making his shoes, so as to save the trouble of sharing with others and attend himself to all his own concerns, ... The first plan is easier, of course.... Firstly, no two people are born exactly alike. They have different aptitudes, which fit them for different occupations.... And will a man do better working at many trades, or keeping to one only? Keeping to one.... Also, work may be ruined, if you let the right time go by.... For the workman must wait upon the work; it will not wait upon his leisure and allow itself to be done in a spare moment — Yes, he must. — So the conclusion is that more will be produced of every thing and the work will be more easily and better done, when every man is set free from all other occupations to do, at the right time, the one thing for which he is naturally fitted.”

Plato goes on to show how a further division [IV-163] of labour or the setting up of different branches of business becomes necessary. E.g.

“if the farmer is to have a good plough and hoe and other farming tools, he will not make them himself. Nor will the house-builder, or the weaver” etc. “Now how does the individual gain a share in the excess product of the other producers, and how do the others participate in the excess of the first individual’s product? Through exchange, through selling and buying.” [199]

Plato then examines different kinds of trade and therefore different kinds of trader. Wage labourers are also mentioned, as a particular kind of human being owing their existence to the division of labour.

“There are also the services of yet another class, who have the physical strength for heavy work, though on intellectual grounds they are hardly worth including in our society — wage labourers, as we call them, because they sell the use of their strength for wages.”

After he has indicated a large number of different occupations made necessary by the further refinement of city life, etc., he comes to the separation of the craft of war from other crafts, and therefore to the formation of a special warrior estate.

“We agreed ... that no one man can practise many trades satisfactorily .... . Well, how do things stand now? Is not the conduct of war an art?... — But we would not allow our shoemaker to try to be also a farmer or weaver or builder, because we wanted our shoes well made. We gave each man one trade, for which he was naturally fitted; he would do good work, if he confined himself to that all his life, free from other occupations and never letting the right moment slip by. Now in no form of work is efficiency so important as in war.... So it is our business ... to select those men who are by nature fitted to be guardians of the polis” (l.c., pp. 439-41 passim).

Different activities are required to satisfy the different needs there are in a community; different gifts enable people of different natures to perform one activity better than another. Hence the division of labour and the different social estates corresponding to it. What Plato always emphasises as the main point of the system is that it allows each piece of work to be done better. Quality, use value, is for him, as for all other writers of antiquity, the decisive point, and the exclusive way of looking at things. For the rest, the basis of his whole conception is an Athenian idealisation of the Egyptian caste system. The writers of antiquity in general ascribed the remarkable level of industrial development attained by the Egyptians to their hereditary division of labour and the caste system which was based on it.

“In Egypt ... the arts, too, have ... reached the requisite degree of perfection. For it is the only country where craftsmen may not in any way interfere in the affairs of other classes of citizens, but must follow that calling alone which by law is hereditary in their clan.... Among other peoples it is found that tradesmen divided their attention between too many objects.... At one time they try agriculture, at another they take to commerce, at another again they busy themselves with 2 or 3 occupations at once. In free countries they mostly frequent the popular assemblies.... In Egypt, on the contrary, a craftsman is severely punished if he meddles with affairs of state, or carries on several trades at once. Thus,” says Diodorus, “there is nothing to disturb their application to their calling.... In addition to having inherited from their forefathers ... numerous rules of their trade, they are [IV-164] eager to discover still more advantageous ways of practising it” (Diodorus, Historische Bibliothek b. I, ch. 74).

With Plato the division of labour is presented as the economic foundation of a community in which each member is dependent on the others, and does not satisfy the whole range of his needs himself, independently, without any connection with other people. The division of labour within the community develops out of the many-sidedness of needs and the one-sidedness of aptitudes, which differ with different people, who therefore perform more successfully in one occupation than in another. The main point for him is that if one person makes a craft into his exclusive vocation, he does it better, and adapts his activity completely to the requirements, the conditions, of the work he has to perform, whereas if he engages in it as a sideline, the work has to wait for the opportunities left to him by his involvement in other matters. This point of view, that the teknh [skill] cannot be carried on as a parergon, subsidiary occupation, also appears in the passage from Thucydides, cited earlier.

Xenophon goes further, in that he firstly emphasises the reduction of labour to the simplest possible activity, and secondly makes the degree to which the division of labour can be implemented dependent on the extension of the market.

For comparison.

Blanqui distinguishes, in the passage we referred to earlier, between the “regulated and in some degree forced labour of workers under the system of large-scale manufacture — and the industries of the countryside, carried on as handicrafts or as subsidiary domestic work.

“The disadvantage of manufacture ... is that it subjugates the worker, placing him ... and his family, at the discretion of the work.... Compare, for example, the industry of Rouen or Mulhouse with that of Lyons or Nîmes. Both have as their aim the spinning and weaving of two yarns: one of cotton, the other of silk; and yet they do not resemble each other at all. The former only takes place in giant establishments, with much expenditure of capital ... and with the aid of veritable armies of workers, confined in their hundreds, nay their thousands, in gigantic barrack-like factories, as high as towers, and studded with windows resembling loopholes. The latter, in contrast, is entirely patriarchal; it employs a large number of women and children, but without exhausting or ruining them; it allows them to stay in their beautiful valleys of the Drôme, the Var, the Isère, the Vaucluse, cultivating their silkworms and unwinding their cocoons; it never becomes a true factory industry. However, although. it is applied to as high a degree in this industry as in the first one, the principle of the division of labour takes on a special character here. There do indeed exist winders, throwsters, dyers, sizers, and finally weavers; but they are not assembled in the same workshop, nor are they dependent on a single master; they are all independent. Their capital, which is made up of their tools, their looms, and their braziers, is not large, but it is sufficient to put them on a certain footing of equality with their employer. Here there are no factory regulations, no conditions to submit to; everyone makes his own stipulations, in complete freedom” (A. Blanqui ainé, Cours d'économie industrielle, ed. etc. by A. Blaise, Paris, 1838-39, pp. 44-80 passim).

On the basis of modern industry an out of doors factory system is growing up once again which shares all the disadvantages of the original system without enjoying any of its advantages. But this does not belong here, and will be dealt with later.[200]

[IV-165] “Everyone knows from experience that if the hands and the intelligence are always applied to the same kind of work and the same products, these will be produced more easily, in greater abundance, and in higher quality, than if each individual makes for himself all the things he needs.... In this way, men are divided up into various classes and conditions, to their own advantage and to that of the commodity” (Cesare Beccaria, Elementi di economia pubblica, Custodi, Parte Moderna, Vol. XI, [p.] 28).

“For in so vast a city” (as London) “manufactures will beget one another, and each manufacture will be divided into as many parts as possible, whereby the work of each worker will be simple and easy. As for example in the making of a watch: if one man shall make the wheels, another the spring, another shall engrave the dialplate, and another shall make the cases, then the watch will be better and cheaper, than if the whole work be put upon one man” (W. Petty, An Essay Concerning the Multiplication of Mankind etc., 3rd ed., [London,] 1698, [p. 35]).

He then goes on to explain how the division of labour brings it about that specific manufactures are concentrated in specific towns, or streets of great towns.

Here “the commodity peculiar to those places is made better and cheaper than elsewhere” (l.c.).

Lastly he goes into the commercial advantages, such as the saving on unnecessary incidental expenses, like carriage charges, etc., whereby in consequence of this distribution of interrelated manufactures in one place the prices of their products are reduced and the profit from foreign trade is increased (l.c., [p.] 36).

What from the outset distinguishes Petty’s conception of the division of labour from that of classical antiquity is his grasp of its influence on the exchange value of the product, on the product as commodity — its cheapening.

The same point of view is put forward, but expressed more emphatically, as the curtailment of the labour time necessary for the production of a commodity, in The Advantages of the East-India Trade to England Considered etc., London, 1720. [201]

What is important is to make each commodity with “The least and easiest labour”. If a thing is made with “less labour”, it is made “consequently with labour of less price”. Thus the commodity is cheapened, and then competition will make it a universal law to reduce labour time to the minimum necessary for its production.

  • “If my neighbour, by doing much with little labour, can sell cheap, I must contrive to sell as cheap as he"* [p. 67].

He lays particular stress on the following aspect of the division of labour:

  • “The more variety of artists to every manufacture, the less is left to the skill of single persons” * [p. 68].

Later writers such as Harris (see above b) merely develop Plato’s arguments. Then Ferguson. What distinguishes Adam Smith — who in some respects lags behind his predecessors — is that he employs the phrase “ increase of the productive powers of labour”. Adam Smith’s conceptions still remain located in the epoch of large-scale industry’s infancy. How much this is the case is shown by his view of machinery as merely the corollary to the division of labour; with him, the workers still make mechanical inventions in order to case and shorten their labour.

Division of labour through simplification facilitates learning a trade; therefore lessens the overall production costs of labour capacity.

[IV-166] The workshop, which is based on the division of labour, always involves a certain hierarchy of skills, since some operations are more complex than others, some require more physical strength, some a more delicate touch or greater dexterity. In the workshop, as Ure says,

“a workman is assigned to each operation, his wage corresponding to his skill.... It is still the adaptation of the labours to the different individual capacities ... the division of labour in manifold gradations ... the division of labour according to different degrees of skill”.

The dexterity of the individual continues to be important. It is in fact an analysis of the process into operations which can each be performed by an individual worker; each operation is separated from the one that accompanies it, but the fundamental principle remains that of viewing it as a function of the worker, so that in analysis it is distributed among different workers and groups of workers according to their level of skill, physical development, etc. The process is not yet analysed as such, independently of the worker who performs it, whereas in the automatic factory, the system

“decomposes a process into its basic constituents, and embodies each part in the operation of an automatic machine”, whereupon one can ,entrust a person of ordinary capacity with any of the said elementary parts after a short probation” [p. 32].

“The master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be executed into different operations, each requiring different degrees of skill or of force, can purchase exactly that precise quantity of both which is necessary for each operation; whereas, if the whole work were executed by one worker, that person must possess sufficient skill to perform the most delicate, and sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the operations” (Ch. Babbage, On the Economy of Machinery etc., London, 1832, Ch. XIX).

“When — according to the particular nature of the products of each kind of manufacture — the most advantageous method of dividing the manufacturing process into partial operations and the number of workers to be employed in them have been ascertained by experience, then all factories the number of whose workers is not a direct multiple of that number will produce with less economy(Babbage, l.c., Ch. XXII).

If e.g. 10 workers are needed for various operations, the number of persons employed must be a multiple of 10.

“If that is not the case, the workers cannot each of them constantly be used to perform the same operation in the manufacturing process.... That is one cause of the colossal size of industrial establishments” (l.c.).

Here, as with simple cooperation, we again have the principle of multiples. But now in proportions that are determined in their proportionality by the division of labour itself. In general, it is clear that the larger the scale on which the work is done, the further the division of labour can be carried. In the first place, the correct multiple can be applied in that way. Secondly, the extent to which the operations are subdivided and to which the whole of an individual worker’s time can be absorbed by one operation naturally depends on the magnitude of the scale. If, therefore, the division of labour requires a greater capital, because more raw material is worked up over the same period of time, whether it is implemented at all depends on the scale on which the work is done, hence on the number of workers who can be simultaneously employed. A greater capital — i.e. its concentration in one hand — is necessary for the development of the division of labour, which in turn uses the productive power attained thereby [IV-167] to work up a greater amount of material, thus increasing the size of this component of capital.

“He who was reduced to doing a very simple operation in a manufactory entered into dependence upon the man who wished to employ him. He no longer produced a complete piece of work, but only part of one, and to do this he had as much need for the assistance of the labour of others as he did for raw materials, machinery, etc .... He was always in a subordinate position over against the head of the workshop ... he confined his demands to what was strictly necessary to make possible the continuation of the labour he offered, while the head of the workshop alone profited from the whole of the increase of the powers of production which was brought about by the division of labour” (Sismondi, Nouveaux principes etc., Vol. 1, pp. 91-92).

  • “Division of labour shortens the period required for learning an operation"* (F. Wayland, The Elements of Political Economy, Boston, 1843, p. 76).
  • In establishing a manufactory, it is important so to adjust the number and kind of workmen, that, when the different operations of a process have been assigned to different persons, these persons may be in such proportions as exactly and fully to employ each other. The more perfectly this is accomplished, the greater will be the economy and, this having been once ascertained, it is also evident that the establishment cannot be successfully enlarged, unless it employ multiples of this number of workmen* (l.c., p. 83).

At the end of his section on the division of labour Adam Smith once again slips back into the assumption that the various workers among whom the labour is divided are the owners and producers of commodities (we shall see that he abandons this illusion later).

“Every workman has a great quantity of his own work to dispose of beyond what he himself has occasion for; and every other workman being exactly in the same situation, he is enabled to exchange a great quantity of goods of his own production for a great quantity, or, what comes to the same thing, for the price of a great quantity of theirs” [Garnier, pp. 24-25] [Vol.. I, p. 26].

The transmission of skill from generation to generation is always important. This aspect is decisive in the case of the caste system, as later with guilds.

  • "Easy labour is only transmitted skill"* (Th. Hodgskin, Popular Political Economy, London, [Edinburgh,] 1827, p. 48).

“For dividing labour, and distributing the powers of men and machinery, to the greatest advantage, it is in most cases necessary to operate upon a large scale; in other words, to produce wealth in great masses. It is this advantage which gives existence to the great manufactories — (J. Mill, Elémens d'économie politique. Traduit par J. T. Parisot, Paris, 1823 [p. 11]).

The division of labour — or rather the workshop based on the division of labour — merely increases the surplus value received by the capitalist (at least this is its only direct effect, and the direct effect is the only thing we are concerned with here). Or, in other words, this increase in the productive power of labour only stands the test as a productive force of capital in so far as it is applied to use values which are consumed by the workers, hence curtails the labour time necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity. From precisely this circumstance, that the division of labour on a large scale is chiefly applied just to object of common use, Parson Wayland draws the opposite conclusion, that it is the poor, and not the rich, who benefit from its advantages. The parson is in one sense correct, with regard to the middling class. But here we are not concerned at all with the non-conceptual relation between poor [IV-168] and rich, but with the relation of wage labour and capital. The passage from the parson runs as follows:

  • "The greater the cost of the product, the smaller will be the number of persons who are able to purchase it. Hence, the less will be the demand; and hence, also, the less opportunity will there be for division of labour. And, besides, the greater the cost of the article, the greater amount of capital is required in order to produce it by division of labour.... Hence it is, that division of labour is but sparingly used in the manufacture of rich jewellery, and in articles of expensive luxury; while it is so universally used in the production of all articles of common use. Hence we see, that the benefits of the use of natural agents and of division of labour, are vastly greater and more important to the middling and lower classes than to the rich. These means of increased production, reduce the cost of the necessaries and of the essential conveniences of life to the lowest rate, and, of course, bring them, as far as possible, within the reach of all” * (F. Wayland, The Elements of Political Economy, Boston, 1843, [pp.] 86-87).

In addition to an increase in the amount of capital, the division of labour requires for its application, as a basic prerequisite, the cooperation, agglomeration, of workers, which will in any case only occur where the population has reached a certain density. // It is required at the same time that the population should be taken from its scattered dwellings in the countryside and collected together in the centres of production. On this see Steuart.[156] This to be discussed in more detail in the section on accumulation. [150]//

  • “There is a certain density of population which is convenient, both for social intercourse, and for that combination of powers by which the produce of labour is increased” * (James Mill, Elements of Political Economy, London, 1821, [p.] 50).

The development of the division of labour leads to the disappearance of every individual product of labour — although such a product is still entirely possible when the subsumption of labour under capital is purely formal. The finished commodity is the product of the workshop, which is itself a mode of existence of capital. The fact that the exchange value of labour itself — labour, not its product — becomes the only thing the worker is able to sell, is due not only to the nature of the contract between capital and labour but also to the mode of production itself. Labour becomes in fact the worker’s sole commodity, and the commodity altogether becomes the general category under which production is subsumed. Our starting-point was the commodity as the most general category of bourgeois production. It first becomes a general category of this kind through the transformation which the mode of production has itself been subjected to by capital.[60]

  • “There is no longer any thing which we can call the natural reward of individual labour. Each labourer produces only some part of a whole, and each part, having no value or utility of itself, there is nothing on which the labourer can seize, and say: it is my product, this I will keep for myself"* ([Th. Hodgskin,] Labour defended against the claims of Capital etc., London, 1825, p. 25).

“The progress of wealth has brought about the division of conditions and that of trades; what is exchanged is no longer each person’s superfluous product but subsistence itself... In this new situation, the life of each man who works and produces depends not on the completion and success of his labour, but on its sale” (Sismondi, Etudes, Vol. 1, p. 82).

  • The greater productiveness of human industry, and the diminished price of the necessaries of life, conspire to swell productive capital in modern times * (S. P. Newman, Elements of Political Economy, Andover and New York, 1835, [pp. 88-] 89).

In so far as in the division of labour one aspect of the worker’s natural individuality, as a natural basis, is further developed, it is put in place of his overall capacity for production and trained up to a specific skill, which can only prove itself useful by being exercised in the context of the workshop as a whole; exercised as a particular function of the workshop. [IV-169] Storch, like Adam Smith, conflates the two types of division of labour, except that with him one type appears as the most extreme development of the other; one appears as the point of departure for the other, which is a step forward.

“The division of labour proceeds from the separation of the most widely different professions to the point where several workers divide between them the preparation of one and the same product, as in manufacture” (This should read not product but commodity. Different people work on the same product in the other division of labour too.) (H. Storch, Cours d'économie politique, avec des notes etc. par J.-B. Say, Paris, 1823, Vol. 1, p. 173).

“It is not sufficient that the capital required for the subdivision of trades should be in readiness in society; it must also be accumulated in the hands of the entrepreneurs in sufficiently large quantities to enable them to work on a large scale.... The more the division of trades increases the greater an outlay of capital in tools, raw material, etc., is required for the constant employment of a given number of workers. Increase of the number of workers with the division of labour. Increased amount of capital in buildings and means of subsistence” (Storch, 1. c., pp. 250, 251).

  • “Labour is united ... whenever employments are divided.... The greatest division of labour takes place amongst those exceedingly barbarous savages who never help each other, who work separately from each other; and division of employment, with all its great results, depends altogether on combination of labour, cooperation"* (Wakefield, note to his edition of A. Smith, Wealth of Nations, London, 1835, Vol. 1, p. 24).

This distinction between the separation of employments and the division of labour” is Wakefield’s hobbyhorse. What he vaguely feels is precisely the distinction, not emphasised by Adam Smith, between the division of labour within society and that within the workshop. Adam Smith has the employments cooperate with one another by means of exchange, and not only knows — which is a matter of course — but says expressly that the division of labour within the individual manufactory automatically implies its combination. What is a real step forward in Wakefield — and we shall come to this later — is his feeling that the latter division of labour, based on free bourgeois labour, is a form peculiar to the capitalist mode of production and therefore only occurring under definite social conditions.[67] Adam Smith makes exchange the foundation of the division of labour, whereas it is (but does not have to be) the opposite, its result. Hodgskin remarks correctly that a division of employments, hence of social labour, takes place in all countries and under all political institutions. It exists originally in the family, where it emerges spontaneously from physiological differences, differences of sex and age. Variations in individual organisation, in physical and mental capacities, form a fresh source for the division of employments. But then, owing to the diversity of natural conditions, differences in the soil, in the distribution of water and land, mountain and plain, climate, situation, the presence of minerals in the earth and peculiarities of its own spontaneous creations, there is added the difference in the naturally available instruments of labour, which divides the employments of different tribes, and it is in the exchange between them that we have, in general, to look for the original transformation of product into commodity [195] (see Th. Hodgskin, Popular Political Economy etc., London, 1827, Chs IV, V and VI). Where the population is stagnant, as in [IV-170] Asia, the division of labour is stagnant too.

  • “Improved methods of conveyance, like railroads, steam vessels, canals, all means of facilitating intercourse between distant countries act upon the division of labour in the same way as an actual increase in the number of people; they bring more labourers into communication etc.” [p. 119].

Population and the progress of the same is the chief basis for the division of labour.

  • “As the number of labourers increases, the productive power of society augments in the compound ratio of that increase, multiplied by the effects of the division of labour and the increase of knowledge"* (l.c., p. 120).

“It is by means of an additional capital only, that the undertaker of any work can ... make a more proper division of labour among his workmen. When the work to be done consists of a number of parts, to keep every man constantly employed in one way, requires a much greater capital than where every man is occasionally employed in every different part of the work” (A. Smith, [Garnier,] Book II, Ch. III [pp. 338-39]) [Vol. II, pp. 115-16].

“The productive powers of the same number of labourers cannot be increased, but in consequence either of some addition and improvement to those machines and instruments which facilitate and abridge labour; or of a more proper division and distribution of labour” (1. c.).

“The owner of capital which employs a great number of labourers, necessarily endeavours, for his own advantage, to make such a proper division and distribution of tasks, that the labourers may be enabled to produce the greatest quantity of work possible. For the same reason, he endeavours to supply them with the best machinery which either he or they can think of. What takes place among the labourers in a particular workhouse, takes place, for the same reason, among those of a great society. The greater their number, the more they naturally divide themselves into different classes and subdivisions of employment. More heads are occupied in inventing the most proper machinery for executing the work of each, and, it is, therefore, more likely to be invented” (A. Smith, [Garnier,] Book I, Ch. VIII [pp. 177-78]) [Vol. I, pp. 145-46].

In the beginning of the present century Lemontev (Oeuvres complètes, Vol. I, Paris, 1840, pp. 245 sq.) wittily reworked Ferguson’s discussion of the subject (“Sur l'influence morale de la division du travail”).[202]

“Society as a whole has this in common with the interior of a workshop, that it too has its division of labour. If one took as a model the division of labour in a modern workshop, in order to apply it to a whole society, the society best organised for the production of wealth would undoubtedly be that which had a single chief employer, distributing tasks to the different members of the community according to a previously fixed rule. But this is by no means the case. While inside the modern workshop the division of labour is meticulously regulated by the authority of the employer, modern society has no other rule, no other authority for the distribution of labour than free [IV-171] competition” (Misère de la philosophie, Paris, 1847, p. 130).

“Under the patriarchal system, under the caste system, under the feudal and guild system, there was division of labour in the whole of society according to fixed rules.... As for the division of labour in the workshop, it was very little developed in all these forms of society. It can even be laid down as a general rule that the less authority presides over the division of labour inside society, the more the division of labour develops inside the workshop, and the more it is subjected there to the authority of a single person. Thus authority in the workshop and authority in society, in relation to the division of labour, are in inverse ratio to each other” (l.c., pp. 130, 131).

“The accumulation and concentration of instruments and workers preceded the development of the division of labour inside the workshop.... The development of the division of labour supposes the assemblage of workers in a workshop.... Once the men and the instruments had been brought together, the division of labour, such as it had existed in the form of the guilds, was reproduced, necessarily reflected inside the workshop” (l.c., [pp.] 132, 133).

“The concentration of the instruments of production and the division of labour are as inseparable one from the other as are, in the political sphere, the concentration of public powers and the division of private interests” (l.c., p. 134).

The prerequisites for adopting the division of labour are therefore:

1) Conglomeration of workers, for which a certain density of population is necessary. Means of communication can replace density to a certain degree. Depopulation of the country (see the 18th century). In a thinly populated country this conglomeration could only take place at a few points. However, conglomeration is also brought about if agriculture only requires a sparse population, and the mass of the population, separated from the land, can therefore conglomerate around the available means of production, the centres of capital. Relative concentration on the one side can be brought forth by relative rarefaction on the other, even with a given population, the existence of which originally remains rooted in the non-capitalist mode of production.

What is needed first, therefore, is not an increase in the population, but an increase in the purely industrial population, or a different distribution of the population. The first condition for this is that the population directly employed in the production of the means of subsistence, in agriculture, be diminished, that people be separated from the land, from mother earth, and that they be thereby set free (free hands, as Steuart says 156), mobilised. The separation from agriculture of the kinds of work bound up with it, and the — progressive — limitation of agriculture to fewer hands, is the main condition for the division of labour and for manufacture in general, if it is to emerge not in individual cases, at isolated points, but playing a predominant role. //All this belongs to accumulation.//[150] The same population, distributed differently, does not need a greater supply of the means. of life, but only a different apportionment, distribution, of them. The capitalist who applies the division of labour, hence employs a greater number of workers agglomerated at one point, pays larger amounts in wages than the master craftsman, requires more variable capital, which is ultimately reduced to means of subsistence; but for this it is necessary that the same wage that was previously paid to the workers by 100 people [IV-172] should now be paid by one. All we have here, then, is a greater concentration of variable capital in fewer hands, and the same thing goes for the means of subsistence for which these wages are exchanged. What is required here is not an increase in this part of capital but only its concentration; just as we have, not a bigger population, but a greater agglomeration of the population under the command of one and the same capital.

2) Concentration of the instruments of labour.

The division of labour leads to a differentiation and accordingly a simplification of the instruments which serve as means of labour; and therefore to their improvement. But under the division of labour the means of labour remains an implement of labour, an instrument which can only be employed thanks to the personal dexterity of the individual worker. It is the conductor of his own skill; in reality it is an artificial organ added on to his natural organs. The same number of workers requires a greater variety of instruments, not more of them. In so far as the workshop is a conglomeration of workers it also presupposes an agglomeration of instruments. And in any case this part of constant capital grows only in the same proportion as does the variable capital, which is laid out in wages, or the number of workers employed simultaneously by the same capital.

The other conditions of labour, particularly accommodation, factory buildings, can be regarded as a new addition to constant capital, since in the days before manufacture the workshop did not yet exist separately from the private house.

With this exception, a greater concentration takes place of the part of capital which consists of the means of labour; not necessarily a growth in capital and by no means a relative growth in capital as compared with the component laid out in wages.

3) Increase in raw material. The part of capital laid out in raw material grows absolutely against the part laid out in wages, since the same quantity of raw material absorbs a smaller quantity of labour time, or the same quantity of labour time realises itself in a greater quantity of raw material. Nevertheless, this can also have occurred originally, without an absolute increase in the raw material in a country. The same amount of raw material available in a country may absorb less labour, i.e. a smaller number of workers over the whole country may be employed in working it up, in transforming it into new product, although this number of workers is now concentrated in larger groups at various points under the command of individual capitalists, instead of being scattered over a wide area, as previously.

In absolute terms, therefore, nothing is required for manufacture, i.e. for the workshop based on the division of labour, but a change in the distribution of the different constituents of capital, concentration instead of dispersal. As long as they are dispersed, these conditions of labour do not yet exist as capital, although they do exist as the material constituents of capital, in the same way as the working part of the population exists, although not yet in the quality of wage labourers or proletarians.

Manufacture (as distinguished from the mechanical workshop or the factory) is the mode of production or form of industry which specifically corresponds to the division of labour. It emerges independently, as the most developed form of the capitalist mode of production, before the invention of machinery proper (although machines and particularly fixed capital are already being employed).

[IV-173] With Petty and the apologist for the East India Trade, cited earlier (with the moderns, therefore)a it is from the outset a characteristic feature of their discussion of the division of labour that the cheapening of the commodity — the diminution of the labour socially necessary for the production of a particular commodity — is the main aspect considered. With Petty this is mentioned in connection with foreign trade. With the East Indian it is presented directly as a means of underselling competitors on the world market, just as he presents world trade as itself a means for attaining the same result in less labour time.

In Book I, Chapter I, where he treats the division of labour ex professo, Adam Smith discusses at the end of the chapter the extraordinary multiplicity of the kinds of work , either derived from different countries or present in their many-sidedness in a single “civilised country”, i.e. a country where the product universally assumes the commodity form, which contribute to provide e.g. the furniture, the clothing, the tools of an ordinary day labourer.

“Observe,” begins this conclusion, “the accommodation of the most common artificer or day labourer in a civilised and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people of whose industry a part, though but a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation. The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of. a great multitude of workmen” and so on [Garnier, p. 25] [Vol. I, p. 26].

And Adam Smith concludes his reflections with these words:

“Perhaps the accommodation of an European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of some African king, the absolute master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages” [Garnier, p. 28] [Vol. I, pp. 28-29].

The whole of this passage as well as this way of viewing the matter is copied from de Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, first published in 1705 as a poem, with the 2nd part, which consists of a series of six dialogues (prose), having been published in 1729. In 1714 he added the prose notes which make the bulk of the first volume of the work as we have it now. It says there, among other things:

  • “If we trace the most flourishing nations in their origin, we shall find, that, in the remote beginnings of every society, the richest and most considerable men among them were a great while destitute of a great many comforts of life that are now enjoyed by the meanest and most humble wretches; so that many things which were once looked upon as the inventions of luxury are now allowed even to those that are so miserably poor as to become the objects of public charity.... A man would be laughed at that should discover luxury in the plain dress of a poor creature that walks along in a thick parish gown, and a coarse shirt underneath it; and yet what a number of people, how many different trades, and what a variety of skill and tools must be employed to have the most ordinary Yorkshire cloth?” * etc. (Remark P., Vol. I, pp. 181-83 of 1724 ed.).

“What a bustle is there to be made in several parts of the world before a fine scarlet or crimson cloth can be produced; what multiplicity of trades and artificers must be employed! Not only such as are obvious, as woolcombers, spinners, the weaver, the cloth-worker, the scourer, the dyer, the setter, the drawer, and the packer; but others that are more remote, and might seem foreign to it, — as the mill-wright, the pewterer, and the chemist, which yet all are necessary, as well as a great number of handicrafts, to have the [IV-174] tools, utensils, and other implements belonging to the trades already named.” * He then goes over the contribution to this of shipping, foreign countries, in a word the world market (Search into the Nature of Society (Appended to the Second Edition), pp. 411-13).

The content of all this enumeration is merely this: Once the commodity becomes the general form of the product, or production takes place on the basis of exchange value and therefore of the exchange of commodities, the production of each individual, first of all, becomes one-sided, whereas his needs are many-sided. Innumerable independent branches of labour must therefore contribute to satisfy the needs, even the simplest needs, of the individual. Secondly: The whole range of the objective conditions which are required for the production of a single commodity, such as the raw materials, instruments, matières instrumentales, enter into the production of that commodity as commodities, are conditioned by the sale and purchase of these elementary constituents of the commodity, which have been produced independently of each other. This takes place to the extent that the individual elements which are required for the production of a commodity exist as commodities outside it, hence originally enter into this individual branch of production as commodities from outside, through the agency of circulation. That is to say, this takes place the more the commodity becomes the general elementary form of wealth, i.e. the more production ceases to be for the individual the direct creation of his own means of subsistence, and becomes trade, as Steuart says, [203] with the commodity therefore ceasing to be the form of the part of the individual’s production which goes beyond the individual’s needs, i.e. the part which is superfluous and therefore saleable for the individual. Here the product as such is still the basis and production is for subsistence. Here the production of commodities still rests on the foundation of a production the main product of which does not become a commodity. It is not yet a situation where subsistence itself depends on sale; where the producer, unless he produces a commodity, produces nothing at all; where to be a commodity is therefore the general, elementary, necessary form of his product, which alone makes it into an element of bourgeois wealth W This distinction is strikingly demonstrated when one compares large-scale modern agriculture with the agriculture in which production for the individual’s own subsistence still forms the basis, and which itself creates most of the conditions for its production; so that these conditions do not enter it as quantities of commodities, through the agency of circulation.

In reality, therefore, the views expressed by de Mandeville and others mean nothing more than that the commodity is the general elementary form of bourgeois wealth; that what is decisive for the producer is no longer the use value of the product but its exchange value alone, the use value being only the vehicle of the exchange value for him; that he must in fact produce not merely a particular product, but money. This prerequisite, that the product is universally produced as a commodity, hence is mediated by the conditions of its own production as commodities, by circulation, into which they enter, implies an all-embracing division of social labour, or, in other words, the separation of the various mutually conditioning and complementing labours into independent branches of labour only brought into contact with each other through the circulation of commodities, through sale and purchase. Or, it is identical with this situation, since for products to confront each other generally as commodities presupposes a mutual confronting of the activities producing them [...] This way of viewing things is therefore historically important [...]

[V-179] [204] At this stage of the development of society it is more interesting to examine the contrast with the situation where the individual family itself directly satisfies almost all its needs, as we see in e.g. Dugald Stewart, l.c., p. 327[-28]:

  • “In some parts of the Highlands of Scotland, not many years ago, every peasant, according to the Statistical Accounts, made his own shoes of leather tanned by himself. Many a shepherd and cottar too, with his wife and children, appeared at church in clothes which had been touched by no hands but their own, since they were shorn from their sheep and sown in their flaxfields. In the preparation of these, it is added, scarcely a single article had been purchased, except the awl, needle, thimble, and a very few parts of the iron work employed in the weaving. The dyes, too, were chiefly extracted by the women from trees, shrubs, and herbs"* (Lectures on Political Economy, Vol. 1, 1.c.). [V-179]

[V-175] In contrast to this, at a more advanced stage of the development of bourgeois society, of the kind that already faced Adam Smith, the simple reproduction of these Mandevillian, Harrisian, etc., reflections does not appear without an admixture of pedantic childishness; and in particular the churning out of such remarks by Smith has the effect that he fails to grasp the division of labour clearly and definitely as a specifically capitalist mode of production; while, on the other hand, the extraordinary importance he attaches to the division of labour in manufacture shows that in his time the modern factory system was only in its origins. Ure remarks on this, correctly:

“When Adam Smith wrote his immortal work on the elements of political economy, automatic machinery being hardly known, he was properly led to regard the division of labour as the grand principle of manufacturing improvement.... But what was in Dr. Smith’s time a topic of useful illustration, cannot now be used without risk of misleading the public as to the real principle of modern industry.... The scholastic dogma of the division of labour into degrees of skill has been exploited[205] by our enlightened manufacturers” (Andrew Ure, Philosophie des manufactures etc., Vol. I, Ch. 1) (first appeared in 1835).

This strikingly demonstrates that the division of labour dealt with here — and, in fact, by Adam Smith too — is not a general category common to most states of society, and the most varied ones, but a particular historical mode of production, corresponding to a particular historical stage of development of capital; indeed a mode of production which belonged, in the all-embracing and predominant form in which one sees it in Adam Smith, to the stage of development of capitalist production reached by his own epoch and since then already overcome and passed. In the passage we have just cited, Ure says,

1) “He” (Adam Smith) — therefore concludes that to each of these operations a workman can naturally, be appropriated, with a wage corresponding to his skill. This appropriation forms the very essence of the division of labour.”

So we have firstly the appropriation of the worker to a particular operation, his subsumption under it. From now on he belongs to this operation, which becomes the exclusive function of his labour capacity now reduced to an abstraction. Firstly, then, labour capacity is appropriated to this specific operation. Secondly, however, since the basis of the operation itself remains the human frame, it happens that this appropriation is at the same time, as Ure says,

“a distribution, or rather adaptation of labour to the different individual abilities”.

That is, the operations themselves are adapted in the course of division to the natural and acquired abilities of the workers. This is not a dissolution of a process into its mechanical components, [V-176] but a dissolution that takes into account the fact that these individual processes have to be performed as functions of human labour capacities. In the volume of notes he added to his translation of Adam Smith, Germain Garnier, in Note 1 to Smith’s chapter on the division of labour, pronounced himself opposed to popular education. Garnier says it is contrary to the division of labour, and with it

“our whole social system would be proscribed” (l.c., Vol. V, p. 2).

Some of his comments are worth noting here.

“The labour which feeds, dresses and houses all the inhabitants of a country is a burden which lies on society as a whole, but which it necessarily transfers to one part of its members alone” (l.c., p. 2).

And the greater the industrial progress of society, the more do its material demands grow,

“and consequently the more labour will be employed in producing them, preparing them” (the means of subsistence in general) “and bringing them to the consumers. At the same time, however, and as a consequence of the same progress, the class of people released from this manual labour increases in size relatively to the other class. The latter, therefore, has at once more people to provide for and more abundant and elaborate provisions to furnish for each of them. Thus, the more society prospers, i.e. the more its industry, its commerce, its population grows, etc. ... the less time does the man destined to a mechanical trade have to spare. The richer society becomes, the more valuable” (this should rather be “the greater the value of”) “the time of the worker “Thus, the more society advances towards a state of splendour and power, the less time the working class will have to give to studying and to intellectual and speculative work” (pp. 2-4).

That is to say, the free time of society is based on the absorption of the worker’s time by compulsory labour 154 ; thus he loses room for intellectual development, for that is time.[153]

“From another angle, the less time the working class has to exploit the domain of knowledge, the more time remains for the other class. If the men of this latter class can devote themselves consistently and assiduously to philosophical observations or literary compositions, it is because they are free from all concern for the production, manufacture or transportation of the objects of their daily subsistence, and because other people have undertaken the burden of these mechanical operations for them. Like all other divisions of labour, that between mechanical and intellectual labour becomes more pronounced and more clear-cut in proportion as society advances towards a wealthier condition. This division, like every other, is an effect of past and a cause of future progress.... Ought the government then to work to counteract this division of [V-177] labour and hinder its natural course? Ought it to expend a part of the public money in the attempt to confound and blend together two classes of labour which are themselves striving towards separation?” (l.c., pp. 4, 5).

The amount of production grows when the efficiency of labour and at the same time the extent and intensity of labour time is increased, the number of workers remaining the same. On this presupposition, the further growth of production is conditioned by a growth or increase in the number of wage labourers facing capital. This number is in part directly increased by capital, when previously independent craftsmen, etc., are subjected to the capitalist mode of production and thereby converted into wage labourers; and similarly when the introduction of machinery, etc., effects the conversion of women and children into wage labourers. Thus the number of workers undergoes a relative increase even though the total population remains the same. But capital also produces an absolute increase in the number of people, above all of the working class. The population can only grow absolutely, leaving aside the operations we have just mentioned, if not only more children are born but more children grow up, can be nourished until they are old enough to work. The development of the productive forces under the régime of capital increases the quantity of means of subsistence annually produced and cheapens them to such an extent that the average wage can be calculated to allow the reproduction of the workers on a larger scale, even though the wage itself falls in value, represents a smaller quantity of materialised labour time. The wage level may even sink, if only the magnitude of the wage’s value does not fall in exactly the same proportion as the productive power of labour rises. On the other hand, the life-situation in which capital places the working class, its conglomeration, its deprivation of all the other pleasures of life, the utter impossibility of attaining a higher social standing and maintaining a certain decorum, the vacuity of their lives, the mixing of the sexes in the workshop, the isolation of the worker himself, all these things impel marriage at an early age. The curtailment and practically the abolition of the necessary period of apprenticeship, the early age at which children can themselves step forward as producers, the shortening therefore of the period during which they must be provided for, increases the stimulus to a more rapid production of human beings. If the average age of working-class generations declines, there is always available on the market a superfluous and constantly increasing mass of short-lived generations, and that is all capitalist production needs.

On the one hand, therefore, it can be said (see Colins, etc.) that a country is the richer, the more proletarians it has, and that the growth of wealth is displayed in the increase of poverty. On the other hand, there is a relative growth in the number of people not dependent on manual labour, and although the mass of workers grows, the population of the social strata they have to provide for materially through their labour grows in the same proportion. (Colins, Sismondi, etc.) The rising productivity of capital is directly expressed in the rising quantity of surplus labour appropriated by capital, or the rising amount of profit, which is an amount of value. Not only is this amount of value growing: the same magnitude of value is represented in an incomparably greater amount of use values. The revenue of society (we disregard wages), the part of the revenue which is not [V-178] re-converted back into capital, therefore grows, and thereby also the substance on which lives the stratum of society not directly involved in material production. This applies, in particular, to the part of society which concerns itself with the sciences; just as to the part concerned with the business of circulation (trade, the money business), and to the idlers, who only consume; as well as to the serving part of the population. This section of society amounts e.g. in England to 1 million people, more than all the workers directly employed in weaving and spinning in the factories. With the separation of bourgeois from feudal society this part of the population is very much reduced. At a more developed stage this voluntary serfdom (see Quesnay on servants[206]) undergoes an extraordinary increase along with luxury, wealth and the display of wealth. The working class has to feed, and to work for, this gang — who have become separated from the working class — since they themselves are not directly involved in material production. (The same goes for armies.) [V-178]

[V-179] [207] Although the number of workers grows absolutely, it declines relatively, not only in proportion to the constant capital which absorbs their labour, but also in proportion to the part of society not directly involved in material production or indeed engaged in no kind of production whatsoever.

  • “In every stage of society, as increased numbers and better contrivances add to each man’s power of production, the number of those who labour is gradually diminished.... Property grows from the improvement of the means of production; its sole business is the encouragement of idleness. When each man’s labour is barely sufficient for his own subsistence, as there can be no property” //capital//, “there will be no idle men. When one man’s labour can maintain five, there will be four idle men for one employed in production: in no other way can the produce be consumed ... the object of society is to magnify the idle at the expense of the industrious, to create power out of plenty.... The industry which produces is the parent of property; that which aids consumption is its child.... It is the growth of property, this greater ability to maintain idle men, and unproductive industry, that in political economy is called capital” * (Piercy Ravenstone, M.A., Thoughts on the Funding System, and Its Effects, London, 1824, pp. 11-13).

“The less numerous the exploiting population, the less of a burden it is to those it exploits” (Colins, L'économie politique. Source des révolutions et des utopies prétendues socialistes, Vol. 1, Paris, 1856, [p.] 69).

“If one understands by social progress, in a harmful direction, the increase of poverty resulting from a rise in the numbers of the exploiting class and a fall in the numbers of the exploited class, then there has been, from the 15th to the 19th century, social progress, in a harmful direction” (l.c., [pp.] 70-71). [V-179]

[V-178] The separation of science from labour, in so far as it concerns labour itself — the separation of science from the industrial and agricultural workers to become, in its application, the industries and agriculture, is a subject which belongs to the section on machinery. [208]

(Otherwise all these reflections belong to the concluding chapter on capital and labour.[30])

The mediaeval master is a craftsman as well, and works himself. He is a master of his craft. With manufacture-based as it is on the division of labour — this comes to an end. Apart from the commercial business he conducts as a buyer and seller of commodities, the activity of the capitalist consists in applying all possible methods of exploiting labour, i.e. making it productive, to the maximum.

  • “The class of capitalists are from the first partially, and then become ultimately completely discharged from the necessity of manual labour. Their interest is that the productive powers of the labourers they employ should be the greatest possible. On promoting that power their attention is fixed, and almost exclusively fixed. More thought is brought to bear on the best means of effecting all the purposes of human industry; knowledge extends, multiplies its fields of action, and assists industry"* (Richard Jones, Text-book of Lectures on the Political Economy of Nations, Hertford, 1852) (Lecture III).
  • “The employer will be always on the stretch to economize time and labour” (Dugald Stewart, l.c., p. 318).

“These speculators, who are so economical of the labour of workers they would have to pay” (J. N. Bidaut, Du Monopole qui s'établit dans les arts industriels et le commerce, Paris, 1828, p. 13 ).

  • “The numerical increase of labourers has been great, through the growing substitution of female for male, and above all childish for adult labour. Three girls at 13, at wages of 6 to 8 sh. a week, have” * (in a large number of cases) *"replaced the one man of mature age, at wages varying from 18 to 45 sh."* (Thomas [de] Quincey, The Logic of Political Economy, Edinburgh, 1844, [p.] 147, footnote).

“Economies in the cost of production can only be economies in the quantity of labour employed in production” (Sismondi, Etudes etc., Vol. 1, p. 22).

[V-180] Adam Smith remarks as follows on the growth of capital, which is a prerequisite of the division of labour, since the division of labour simultaneously increases the number of workers employed:

The quantity of materials which the same number of people can work up, increases in a great proportion as labour comes to be more and more subdivided; and as the operations of each workman are gradually reduced to a greater degree of simplicity, a variety of new machines come to he invented for facilitating and abridging these operations.”

(This is peculiar logic — because labour is reduced to an ever greater degree of simplicity, machines are invented to facilitate and abridge it. Hence because labour is facilitated and abridged by the division of labour! He ought to have said, the tools which when combined later give rise to the machine are simplified and subdivided.)

“As the division of labour advances, therefore, in order to give constant employment to an equal number of workmen, an equal stock of provisions, and a greater stock of materials and tools than what would have been necessary in a ruder state of things, must be accumulated beforehand. But the number of workmen in every branch of business generally increases with the division of labour in that branch, or rather it is the increase of their number which enables them to class and subdivide themselves in this manner” (A. Smith, [Garnier,] Vol. II, introduction to Book II, pp. 193-94) [Vol. II, pp. 2-3].

In the same place, Adam Smith presents the capitalist to us as always on the watch for ways of raising the productive power of labour. Here the accumulation of capital is a prerequisite for the division of labour and machinery (since this appears as a capitalist mode of production), and, inversely, accumulation is the result of this raising of the productive forces. We read in the same place:

“As the accumulation of stock is previously necessary for bringing about this great increase in the productive powers of labour, so that accumulation naturally leads to this increase. The person who employs his stock in maintaining labour, necessarily wishes to employ it in such a manner as to produce as great a quantity of work as possible. He endeavours, therefore, both to make among his workmen the most proper distribution of employment, and to furnish them with the best machines which he can either invent or afford to purchase. His abilities, in both these respects, are generally in proportion to the extent of his stock, or to the number of people whom it can employ. The quantity of industry, therefore, not only increases in every country with the increase of the stock which employs it, but, in consequence of that increase, the same quantity of industry produces a much greater quantity of work” ([Garnier,] pp. 194-95) [Vol. II, p. 3].

[V-181] * “Not beyond a fourth part of our whole population provides everything which is consumed by all” * (Th. Hodgskin, Popular Political Economy, London, [Edinburgh,] 1827, [p.] 14).

“The base and petty management, which follows him” (the day-labourer) “with wary eyes, overwhelms him with reproaches when he grants himself the slightest relaxation, and claims he is stealing from it when he allows himself an instant of rest” (S. N. Linguet, Théorie des loix civiles, Vol. II, London, 1767, p. 466).

In Book I, Chapter 1, where Adam Smith treats the division of labour ex professo, he only touches lightly on its (evil) consequences, but in Book V, in contrast, which deals with the revenue of the state, he follows Ferguson in speaking out directly on this subject. We read there Book V (Ch. I, Article II):

“In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. But the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of developing or exercising these faculties, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his moral faculties ... the uniformity of his stationary life naturally corrupts the courage of his mind .... It corrupts even the activity of his body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance in any other employment than that to which he has been bred. His dexterity at his own particular trade seems, in this manner, to be acquired at the expense of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues. But in every improved and civilised society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall.... It is otherwise in the barbarous societies as they are commonly called, of hunters, of shepherds, and even of husbandmen in that rude state of husbandry which precedes the improvement of manufactures and the extension of foreign commerce. In such societies the varied occupations of every man oblige every man to exert his capacity by continual efforts, etc.... Though [V-182] in a rude society there is a good deal of variety in the occupations of every individual, there is not a great deal in those of the whole society.... In the civilised state, on the contrary, though there is little variety in the occupations of the greater part of individuals, there is an almost infinite variety in those of the whole society” [Garnier, pp. 181-84] [Vol. III, pp. 295-98].

//Digression: (On Productive Labour)//[edit source]

A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we take a closer look at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as “commodities”. This brings with it augmentation of national wealth, quite apart from the personal enjoyment which — as a competent witness, Professor Roscher, [tells] us (see ... ) [209] — the manuscript of the compendium brings to its originator himself. The criminal moreover produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc. ; and all these different lines of business, which form just as many categories of the social division of labour, develop different capacities of the human mind, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them. Torture alone has given rise to the most ingenious mechanical inventions, and employed many honourable craftsmen in the production of its instruments. The criminal produces an impression, partly moral and partly tragic, as the case may be, and in this way renders a “service” by arousing the moral and aesthetic feelings of the public. He produces not only compendia on Criminal Law, not only penal codes and along with them legislators in this field, but also art, belles-lettres, novels, and even tragedies, as not only Mullner’s Schuld and Schiller’s Räuber show, but Oedipus and Richard the Third. The criminal breaks the monotony and everyday security of bourgeois life. In this way he keeps it from stagnation, and gives rise to that uneasy tension and agility without which even the spur of competition would get blunted. Thus he gives a stimulus to the productive forces. While crime takes a part of the redundant population off the labour market and thus reduces competition among the labourers — up to a certain point preventing wages from falling below the minimum — the struggle against crime absorbs another part of this population. Thus the criminal comes in as one of those natural “counterweights” which bring about a correct balance and open up a whole perspective of “useful” occupations. The effects of the criminal on the development of productive power can be shown in detail. Would locks ever have reached their present degree of excellence had there been no thieves? Would the making of bank-notes have reached its present perfection had there been no [V-183] forgers? Would the microscope have found its way into the sphere of ordinary commerce (see Babbage) but for trading frauds? Does not practical chemistry owe just as much to the adulteration of commodities and the efforts to show it up as to the honest zeal for production? Crime, through its ever new methods of attack on property, constantly calls into being new methods of defence, and so is as productive as strikes for the invention of machines. And if one leaves the sphere of private crime: would the world market ever have come into being but for national crime? Indeed, would even the nations have arisen? And has not the Tree of Sin been at the same time the Tree of Knowledge ever since the time of Adam?

In his Fable of the Bees (1705) Mandeville had already shown that every possible kind of occupation is productive, and had given expression to the tendency of this whole line of argument:

  • “That what we call Evil in this World, Moral as well as Natural, is the grand Principle that makes us Sociable Creatures, the solid Basis, the Life and Support of all Trades and Employments without exception; there we must look for the true origin of all Arts and Sciences; and the moment Evil ceases, the Society must be spoiled if not totally destroyed."*

Only Mandeville was of course infinitely bolder and more honest than the philistine apologists of bourgeois society.

What strikes us in looking at the division of labour, as with all forms of capitalist production, is the character of the antagonism.

[Firstly.] In the division of labour within the workshop, the workers are quantitatively distributed, in strict system, between the individual operations according to certain numerical proportions, as required by production as a whole, by the product of their combined labours. If instead we look at the whole of society — the social division of labour — there are now too many producers to be found in one branch of business and now in another. Competition, through which the price of a commodity is now raised above its value and now lowered beneath it, constantly adjusts these inequalities and disproportions, but just as constantly reproduces them. It is the movement of commodity prices, mediated by competition, that regulates the distribution of the mass of producers among the specific branches of production, bringing about a constant efflux from, or influx into, particular spheres of production — the so-called law of supply and demand, which on the one hand determines prices, and on the other hand is determined by them. Even without going into this point more closely, one’s eye is immediately struck by the difference between this anarchic distribution of labour within society and the regulated, fixed distribution within the workshop itself.

Secondly. There are different branches of business within society which themselves merely represent the different phases of production a product must pass through in order to attain its ultimate, its final form, the form in which its use value is a finished product, as for example flax cultivation, the spinning of flax, and weaving of linen cloth. These different branches are brought into contact with each other through the circulation of commodities, so that they ultimately cooperate in the manufacture of a product. The flax confronts the spinner [V-184] as a commodity, the yarn confronts the weaver as a commodity. Here the purchase and sale of commodities mediate the connection which exists internally — as an inner necessity — between these branches of production which operate independently of each other. In contrast to this, the division of labour within manufacture presupposes a direct combination of the various operations which provide a particular product. This product first becomes a commodity as a result of these combined operations. But the portion of the product created by each of these partial operations is not converted into a commodity. Here cooperation is not mediated through the product of one process entering into the other process as a commodity and thus causing the divided labours to supplement each other. Instead, the direct combination of labours is the prerequisite here for the entry of their joint product into the market as a commodity.

Thirdly:

//After relative surplus value, absolute and relative surplus value are to be considered in combination.[210] Then their proportional rise and fall. After this, or rather before it, the alteration the mode of production itself undergoes in becoming capitalist. No longer a merely formal subsumption of the labour process under capital.[75] The different means whereby capital creates relative surplus value, raises the productive forces, and increases the mass of products, are all social forms of labour; but they appear, even within production, rather as social forms of capital — modes of capital’s existence. So that one not only sees how capital produces, but how capital is itself produced — its own genesis. It then also emerges that this particular form of the social relation of production, the form through which past labour becomes capital, corresponds to a particular stage of development of the material production process, to particular material conditions of production, which are themselves first created historically, conditions of production whose point of departure naturally belongs to a pre-capitalist stage of social production; their formation and development coincides with the genesis of capital itself, until the movement of production starts to take place on the capitalist basis now obtained, from which point there occurs simply an expansion and reproduction of those conditions of production. Moreover, this genesis of capital appears at the same time as a process of divestiture of labour, of alienation, whereby its own social forms are presented as alien powers. Also, in view of the mass of people required by capitalist production, capital appears as a social form, not as a form of the labour of the independent individual. After this we need to show how far capital is productive, which leads on to questions about productive and unproductive labour.[108] Then wages and surplus value as revenue, in general the form of revenue, which we need for the transition to the accumulation of capital. [127] //

Within the workshop, the different operations are separated out systematically, according to a plan, and different workers are assigned to them according to a rule which they are faced with as a compelling and alien law imposed on them from outside. The interconnection of the combined labours, their unity, similarly confronts the individual worker as the will, personal unity, command and overall supervision of the capitalist; just as their own cooperation itself appears to them not as their deed, their own social existence, but as the presence of the capital that keeps them together, as a form of existence of [V-185] capital in the direct production process, the labour process. Within society, in contrast, the division of labour appears free, i.e. in this case accidental, admittedly bound together by an inner connection, which however presents itself as just as much the product of circumstances as of the arbitrary actions of the mutually independent individual commodity producers. Although the division of labour as a specifically capitalist mode of production, the division of labour within the workshop, is essentially different from the division of labour in the whole of society, they condition each other. This means in fact only that large-scale industry and free competition are mutually conditioning forms, creations of capitalist production. Nevertheless, we need to avoid any introduction of competition here, for this is the impact of capitals upon each other, hence already presupposes the development of capital as such.

The commodity, as the most elementary form of wealth, was our point of departure. Commodity and money are both elementary modes of the presence, of the existence, of capital, but they first develop into capital under specific conditions. The formation of capital can only take place on the basis of the production and circulation of commodities, hence at a stage of commerce which is already given, and has already grown to a certain volume, whereas the production and circulation of commodities (which includes the circulation of money) on the contrary by no means require capitalist production for their existence, appearing rather as the necessary, given, historical prerequisite of capitalist production.[20] On the other hand, it is only on the basis of capitalist production that the commodity first becomes the general form of the product, that every product has to assume the form of a commodity, that sale and purchase seize hold of not only surplus production but also subsistence itself, and that the different conditions of production themselves enter extensively into the production process itself as commodities, mediated through sale and purchase. If, therefore, on the one hand the commodity appears as the prerequisite for the formation of capital, on the other hand the commodity, as the general form of the product, appears just as much as essentially the product and result of capital.[60] Products assume in part the form of the commodity under other modes of production. Capital, in contrast, necessarily produces commodities, produces its product as commodity, or it produces nothing. Therefore the general laws formulated in respect of the commodity, e.g. that the value of the commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time contained in it, first come to be realised with the development of capitalist production, i.e. of capital.[70] This demonstrates how even categories belonging to earlier epochs of production receive a specifically distinct character — an historical character — on the basis of a different mode of production.[211]

The conversion of money — which is itself only a converted form of the commodity — into capital only takes place once labour capacity (not the worker) has been converted into a commodity, hence the category of the commodity has already from the outset taken possession of a whole sphere which was otherwise excluded from it. Only when the working mass of the population have ceased to enter the market as commodity producers, and begun to sell, instead of the product of labour, labour itself, or rather their labour capacity, does production in its entire extent, in its entire breadth and depth become the production of commodities, with all products being converted into commodities, and the objective conditions of every individual sphere of production entering into it as themselves commodities. Only on the basis of capital, of capitalist production, does the commodity in fact become the general elementary form of wealth. But this already implies [V-186] that the development of the division of labour in society, where it appears in an accidental form, and the capitalist division of labour within the workshop, condition and produce each other. For the producer to produce commodities alone, i.e. for the use value of the product to exist for him exclusively as a means of exchange, it is necessary that his production should be based entirely on the social division of labour, that he therefore should satisfy only an entirely one-sided need through his production. On the other hand, however, this general production of products as commodities only takes place on the basis of capitalist production and in the measure of its spread. If, for example, capital has not yet taken control of agriculture, a great part of the product will still be produced directly as means of subsistence, not as commodity; a great part of the working population will not yet have been turned into wage labourers, and a great part of the conditions of labour will not yet have been converted into capital.[95]

Capitalist production, hence the division of labour within the workshop according to certain rules, directly increases the free division of labour within society (quite apart from the extension of the sphere of exchange, the world market, conditioned by mass production), by making the labour of a particular number of workers more effective, therefore by constantly setting free a part of the labour force for new kinds of employment and thereby simultaneously developing needs which were so far latent or not present at all, and modes of labour to satisfy those needs. This process is also promoted by the increase of the population, by the cheapening of the means of subsistence required for the reproduction and multiplication of labour capacities; also by the fact that the surplus value, which becomes a part of revenue, now seeks to realise itself in the most diverse use values.

Where the commodity appears as the dominant form of the product, and the individuals, in order to produce anything at all, must produce not merely products, use values, means of subsistence, where the use value of a commodity is for them, rather, simply a material repository of exchange value, a means of exchange, money potentia, where they therefore have to produce commodities, their relation to each other — in so far as the material interchange between their activities, their relation within production generally, comes into consideration — is that of owners of commodities.[20] But just as the commodity first develops in the exchange of commodities — i.e. the circulation of commodities — so also does the owner of commodities develop in the characters of seller and buyer. Sale and purchase, first the representation of the product as commodity, then the representation of the commodity as money and the metamorphosis of the commodity, in which it presents itself in successive stages as commodity, money, and commodity once again, these are the movements through which the production of the mutually independent individuals is socially mediated. The social form of their product and their production, i.e. the social relation into which the commodity producers as such enter, is constituted precisely by the representation of their product as commodity and money, and the acts of sale and purchase, the movements in which their product alternately assumes these different functions.

Therefore, whatever the necessary inner connection arising out of the nature of their needs and the manner of the activities themselves that produce them, which binds together the different use values, hence also the different modes of labour producing them, contained within them, so as to form a whole, a totality, a system of activities and riches — in whatever relation the use value of one commodity as a means of consumption or a means of production is a use value for the other owners of commodities — the social relation into which the owners of commodities enter is the representation of their product as commodity and money, and the movement in which they confront each other as vehicles for the metamorphosis [V-187] of the commodities. So that if the existence of the products for each other as commodities and therefore the existence of the individuals as owners of commodities, further developed as sellers and buyers, in and for itself presupposes the social division of labour — for without this the individuals would not produce commodities but rather directly use values, means of subsistence for themselves — this presupposes further a particular division of social labour, namely a division which is formally absolutely accidental, and is left to the free will and dealings of the commodity producers.

Where this freedom is restricted, the restriction does not come about through the influence of the state or any other external factor, but through the conditions of existence, the characteristics, that make a commodity a commodity. It must possess a use value for society, i.e. the buyers, hence it must satisfy certain real or imagined needs. Here is a basis on which the individual producer of commodities builds, but it is his affair whether he satisfies existing needs or calls forth new ones with his use value, or whether he has miscalculated and produced something useless. His task is to discover a buyer for whom his commodity has a use value. The second condition he has to fulfil is not to utilise more labour in making his commodity than the labour time socially necessary for its production, and this means that he does not need more labour time to produce it than the average producer who is producing the same commodity. The production of the product as a commodity — if the commodity is the necessary form of the product, the general form of production, and hence the satisfaction of the requirements of life is mediated through sale and purchase — therefore necessitates a social division of labour which admittedly rests on a basis of needs, an interconnection of activities, etc., in its content, but in formal terms this interconnection is only mediated through the representation of the product as commodity, the confrontation of the producers with each other as owners of commodities, as sellers and buyers. It therefore appears as on the one hand equally the product of a concealed natural necessity, which appears in the individuals only as a need, a requirement, a capacity, etc., and on the other hand the result of their independent wills, conditioned only by the essence of the product — namely that it must be both use value and exchange value.

On the other hand: the product only assumes the form of the commodity generally — the relation of the producers to each other as sellers and buyers only becomes the social connection that rules over them — where labour capacity has itself become a commodity for its owner, where the worker has therefore become a wage labourer and money has become capital. The social connection between the owner of money and the worker is also only a connection between owners of commodities. [20] The relation is modified, brings forth new social relations, through the specific nature of the commodity the worker has to sell and the peculiar manner in which the buyer consumes it, and equally the special purpose for which he buys it. Capitalist production brings with it, among other things, the division of labour within the workshop, and it is this, like the other means of production employed by capital, which further develops mass production, hence the irrelevance of the use value of the product for the producer, production merely for sale, production of the product [V-188] merely as a commodity.

This explains, therefore, how the free, apparently accidental, uncontrolled division of labour within society, which is left to the commodity producers to deal with at their discretion, corresponds with the systematic, planned, and regulated division of labour within the workshop, which proceeds under the command of capital, and how both develop in step with each other, and produce each other through mutual interaction.

In contrast to this, in forms of society where social division itself appears as a fixed law, an external norm, and is subject to rules, the division of labour, as forming the basis of manufacture, does not take place, or exists only sporadically and in its initial stages.

For example, the guild regulations establish a very low maximum for the number of journeymen a master can set on. This is precisely what prevents him from becoming a capitalist. The division of labour is thereby of itself excluded from the workshop. (This must be dealt with somewhat more extensively.)

Plato’s main argument for the division of labour, that if one person does several different kinds of work, i.e. if he does one or the other of them as a subsidiary occupation, the product must Wait until an occasion offers itself to the worker for dealing with it, whereas the work ought to be determined in the opposite way, by the requirements of the product, has recently been put forward by the bleachers and dyers against their inclusion in the Factory Acts // the Bleaching and Dyeing Works Act came into operation on 1st August 1861 //. For according to the Factory Act, whose provisions in this connection are reproduced for bleaching, etc.,

  • “during any meal time which shall form any part of the hour and a half allowed for meals no child, young person, or female shall be employed or allowed to remain in any room in which any manufacturing process is then carried on; and all the young persons and females shall have the time for meals at the same period of the day* (Factory Report for the half year ending 31st Oct. 1861).
  • “The bleachers complain of the required uniformity of meal times for them, on the plea that whilst machinery in factories may he stopped without detriment at any moment, and if stopped the production is all that is lost, yet in the various operations of singeing, washing, bleaching, mangling, calendering and dyeing, none of them can be stopped at a given moment without risk of damage ... to enforce the same dinner hour for all the workpeople might occasionally subject valuable goods to the risk of danger from incomplete operations” * (l.c., pp. 21, 22).

(The same dinner hour was fixed because otherwise it would have been impossible to check whether the workers had received their mealtimes at all.) Different Kinds of Division of Labour

Among peoples which have reached a certain level of civilisation, we meet with three kinds of division of labour: the first, which we shall call general, brings about the division of the producers into agriculturalists, manufacturers, and traders, it corresponds to the three main branches of the nation’s labour; the second, which one [V-189] could call particular, is the division of each branch of labour into species. It is thus, for example, that in primitive industry one needs to distinguish the trade of the ploughman from that of the mineworker, etc. The third division of labour, which one should designate as a division of tasks, or of labour properly so called, is that which grows up in the individual crafts and trades, and which consists in the division made by numerous workers between themselves of the tasks which need to be performed to manufacture a single object of use and commerce, each of them having only one kind of work to perform, not resulting in itself in the production of the whole of the manufactured object; the latter result only occurs thanks to the combination of the labour of all the workers who are occupied in the manufacture of the product. Such is the division of labour which is established in the majority of the manufactories and workshops, where one sees a greater or lesser number of workers engaged in producing a single kind of commodity, all of them carrying out different tasks” (F. Skarbek, Théorie des richesses sociales, 2nd ed., Vol. I, Paris, 1839, pp. 84-86).

“The third kind of division of labour is that which occurs within the workshop itself... It arises from the moment when there emerge capitals destined to establish manufactures and heads of workshops who make all the advances necessary to put the workers to work, and who are able, thanks to their reserves, to wait for the return of the outgoings utilised in the manufacture of the products they provide for exchange” (l.c., pp. [94-]95).

Simple Cooperation

It should be noted further that this partial division of labour can occur even when the workers are engaged in the same task. Masons, for example, engaged in passing bricks from hand to hand to a higher stage of the building, are all performing the same task, and yet there does exist amongst them a sort of division of labour. This consists in the fact that each of them passes the brick through a given space, and, taken together, they make it arrive much more quickly at the required spot than they would do if each of them carried his brick separately to the upper storey” (Skarbek, l.c., pp. 97-98).

γ) Machinery. Utilisation of the Forces of Nature and of Science (Steam, Electricity, Mechanical and Chemical Agencies)[edit source]

[V-190]John Stuart Mill remarks:

  • “It is questionable, if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being."*

He should have said, of any toiling human being. But on the basis of capitalist production the purpose of machinery is by no means to lighten or shorten the day’s toil of the worker.

  • “Articles are cheap, but they are made of human flesh” * ([J. B. Byles,] Sophisms of Free-Trade, 7th edit., London, 1850, p. 202).

The purpose of machinery, speaking quite generally, is to lessen the value, therefore the price, of the commodity, to cheapen it, i.e. to shorten the labour time necessary for the production of a commodity, but by no means to shorten the labour time during which the worker is employed in producing this cheaper commodity. In fact it is not a matter of shortening the working day but rather, as in any development of productive power on a capitalist basis, of reducing the labour time the worker needs for the reproduction of his labour capacity, in other words for the production of his wages; it is therefore a matter of shortening the part of the working day during which he works for himself, the paid part of his labour time, and thereby lengthening the other part of the day, during which he works for capital for no return, the unpaid part of the working day, his surplus labour time. Why the mania for devouring alien labour time grows everywhere with the introduction of machinery, and why the working day, instead of being shortened is rather extended beyond its natural limits — until legislation is obliged to take a hand — why therefore not only relative surplus labour time but also total labour time increases, is a phenomenon we shall examine in Chapter 3.[212] [V-190]

[V-196] [213] — Simultaneously, however, with the increase of numbers has been the increase of toil. The labour performed by those engaged in the processes of manufacture, is three times as great as in the beginning of such operations. Machinery has executed, no doubt, the work that would demand the sinews of millions of men; but it has also prodigiously multiplied the labour of those who are governed by its fearful movements” * (Ten Hours’ Factory Bill. Lord Ashley’s Speech, London, 1844, p. 6).

[V-190] Only in isolated cases does the capitalist intend to secure a direct reduction of wages by introducing machinery, although this is always the case when he replaces skilled labour with simple labour, and the labour of grown men with that of women and children. The value of the commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time contained in it. With the introduction of new machinery, and as long as the major part of production continues to be based on the old means of production, the capitalist can sell his commodity at less than its social value, even though he sells it at more than its individual value, i.e. for more labour time than he requires to manufacture it under the new production process. Here, therefore, the surplus value appears to originate for him from selling — from his taking advantage of the other owners of commodities, from the fact that the commodity’s price has risen above its value; not from the reduction in necessary labour time and the lengthening of surplus labour time. Yet, this too is merely the way things appear. Through the exceptional productive power attained here by labour in contrast to average labour in the same branch of industry, it becomes higher labour in relation to the average, so that e.g. an hour of this higher labour would be equal to 1/4 hours of average labour; simple labour raised to a higher power. But the capitalist pays it as average labour. Thus a smaller number of hours of labour becomes equal to a greater number of hours of average labour. He pays for this labour as average labour and sells it as what it is, higher labour, a given quantity of which = a greater quantity of average labour. Here, therefore, the worker needs to work, on our assumption, for a shorter time than the average worker in order to produce [V-191] the same value. He therefore in fact works less labour time — than the average worker — in order to produce an equivalent for his wages, or in other words to produce the means of subsistence necessary for the reproduction of his labour capacity. He therefore gives the capitalist a greater number of hours of labour as surplus labour, and it is only this relative surplus labour which provides the latter, when selling the commodity, with the excess of its price over its value. The capitalist only realises this surplus labour time, or this surplus value, which is the same thing, by selling the commodity; the surplus value therefore originates not in the sale but in the reduction of necessary labour time and the concomitant relative increase of surplus labour time. Even if the capitalist who introduces the new machinery were to pay a higher than average wage, the surplus realised by him over and above the normal surplus value, the surplus value realised by the other capitalists in the same branch of industry, would originate solely from the fact that the wage was not increased in the same proportion as this labour rose above the level of average labour, that a relative increase in surplus labour time continued to occur. Therefore this case can also be subsumed under the general law that surplus value = surplus labour. In its early stages machinery is mostly nothing but a more powerful craftsman’s tool; but as soon as it is applied in the capitalist fashion, it presupposes simple cooperation, and indeed, as we shall see later, [214] simple cooperation appears as a much more important element in the application of machinery than in the system of manufacture resting on the division of labour, where it only asserts itself in the principle of multiples, i.e. the principle that the different operations are not only distributed between different workers but according to certain numerical proportions, in which a definite number of workers, organised in groups, is assigned to, subsumed under, each individual operation. In the mechanical workshop, the most developed form of the capitalist application of machinery, it is essential that many should do the same thing. Indeed, this is its main principle. The application of machinery further presupposes as the original condition of its existence the system of manufacture based on the division of labour, since the construction of machines — hence the existence of the machine — is itself based on a workshop in which the principle of the division of labour has been completely implemented. Only at a further stage of development does the construction of machines itself take place on the basis of machinery, by means of the mechanical workshop.

“In the infancy of mechanical engineering, a machine-factory displayed the division of labour in manifold gradations — the file, the drill, the lathe, having each its different workmen in the order of skill; but the dexterous hands of the filer and driller are now superseded by the planing, the key-groove cutting, and the drilling machines; and those of the iron and brass turners, by the self-acting slide-lathe” (Ure, l.c., Vol. 1, pp. 30-31).

On the one hand, the division of labour developed under the system of manufacture is repeated within the mechanical workshop, although on a greatly reduced scale; on the other hand, as we shall see later on, the mechanical workshop overturns the most essential principles of the system of manufacture based on the division of labour.[215] And finally, the application of machinery increases the division of labour within society, that is to say it multiplies the number of specialised branches of industry and independent spheres of production.

Its fundamental principle is the replacement of skilled labour by simple labour; hence also the reduction of the amount of wages to the average wage, or the reduction of the worker’s necessary labour to the average minimum and the reduction of the production cost of labour capacity to the production cost of simple labour capacity.

[V-192] The increase in productive power achieved through simple cooperation and the division of labour costs the capitalist nothing. They are natural forces provided free of charge by social labour in the particular forms it takes on under the rule of capital. The application of machinery does not just bring the productive forces of social labour into play, as opposed to the labour of the isolated individual. It transforms simple natural forces, such as water, wind, steam, electricity, etc., into powers of social labour. This apart from the exploitation of the mechanical laws which operate in the actual working part of the machinery (i.e. the part which directly transforms the raw material, mechanically or chemically). However, this form of increasing the productive forces, hinc [of reducing] necessary labour time, is distinguished as follows: A part of the pure force of nature which is applied is, in this, its applicable form, a product of labour, as for example the conversion of water into steam. Where the motive power is naturally available, e.g. when water is available as a waterfall and the like flit is highly characteristic, by the way, that in the course of the 18th century the French let their water work horizontally, whereas the Germans always made artificial earthworks for it[216]//, the medium through which its motion is transferred to the actual machinery, e.g. the water-wheel, is the product of labour. But this point is even truer for the machinery itself which directly recasts the raw material. Therefore machinery, unlike simple cooperation or the division of labour in manufacture, is a productive force which has been produced; it costs money; when it enters into the sphere of production in which it functions as machinery, functions as a part of the constant capital, it does so as a commodity (directly as machinery, or indirectly as a commodity which must be consumed in order to give the motive power the required form). Like any portion of constant capital, the machinery adds to the product the value contained in it, i.e. it makes it dearer to the extent of the labour time required for its own production. In this chapter we are exclusively examining the ratio of variable capital to the magnitude of the value in which it is reproduced, in other words the ratio of the necessary labour employed in a sphere of production to the surplus labour; we therefore deliberately refrain from investigating the ratio of surplus value to constant capital, and to the total amount of capital advanced. Nevertheless, the analysis of the application of machinery demands that we also investigate the other parts of capital, besides that laid out in wages. For the principle that the employment of means whereby productive power is increased increases relative surplus time and therewith relative surplus value, rests upon the cheapening of the commodities, hence the curtailment of the labour time necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity, in consequence of these contrivances through which productive power is increased, i.e. more use values are produced by the same number of workers in the same period of time. In the case of the employment of machinery, however, this result is only attained by an increase in the outlay of capital, by the consumption of already existing values, therefore by the introduction of an element which increases the magnitude of the product’s, the commodity’s, value to the amount of its own value.

To begin with, as far as the raw material is concerned, its value naturally remains the same, in whatever manner it is treated — it is, to be precise, the value it has when it enters the process of production. [V-193] Furthermore, the employment of machinery reduces the amount of labour absorbed by a given amount of raw material, or, in other words, increases the amount of raw material transformed into product over a given labour time. Considering both these elements, the commodity produced with the assistance of machinery contains less labour time than the one produced without machinery, it represents a smaller magnitude of value, it is cheaper. But this result is only attained by the industrial consumption of commodities — commodities existing in the machinery — whose value enters into the product.

Therefore, since the value of the raw material remains the same whether machinery is employed or not, and since the amount of labour time which converts a given amount of raw material into product and hence into commodity is reduced by the employment of machinery, it follows that the cheapening of the commodities produced by machines depends on one circumstance alone: the labour time contained in the machinery itself is less than the labour time contained in the labour capacity replaced by it; the value of machinery which enters into the commodity is less than — i.e. = less labour time than — the value of the labour replaced by it. And this value = the value of the number of labour capacities whose employment is made unnecessary by machinery.

As machinery emerges from the stage of infancy, as it diverges in dimensions and character from the craft tool it originally replaced, it becomes more massive and expensive; more labour time is required to produce it, and its absolute value rises, although it becomes cheaper relatively, i.e. although more efficient machinery costs less in proportion to its efficiency than less efficient machinery, i.e. the amount of labour time it costs to produce it grows in a much smaller proportion than the amount of labour time it replaces. But in any case its absolute dearness rises progressively, it therefore adds to the commodity produced by it a value which is greater absolutely, particularly in comparison with the craft tool or even the simple instruments of labour or those based on the division of labour which it replaces in the production process. Why then is the commodity produced by this more expensive instrument of production cheaper than the commodity produced without it? Why is the labour time contained in the machinery itself less than the labour time replaced by it? This is due to the two following circumstances:

1) As the efficiency of the machinery grows, as the productive power of labour is thus raised, the quantity of use values and therefore of commodities which are produced in the same labour time with the help of machinery grows, in the proportion to which the machinery enables one worker to do the work of many workers. This means an increase in the number of commodities in which the value of the machinery re-appears. The total value of the machinery only re-appears in the totality of the commodities in whose production it has assisted as a means of labour; this total value is distributed in aliquot parts among the individual commodities which when added together make up the total amount of the commodities. Therefore, the greater this total amount the smaller the portion of the machinery’s value that re-appears in the individual commodity. In spite of the difference in value between the machinery and the tool or simple instrument of labour, a smaller portion of value will enter the commodity from the machinery than from the instrument of labour and from the labour capacity replaced by the machine, in proportion as the value of the machine is spread over a greater total amount of products, of commodities. A spinning machine which absorbs a given labour time in 1,000 pounds of cotton re-appears in the individual pound of yarn as a fraction of value of only 1/1000, whereas if it only helped to spin 100 pounds in the same time, 1/l00 of its value would re-appear in the single pound of yarn, it would therefore contain in this case ten times more labour time, ten times more value, be 10 times dearer, than in the first case. [V-194] Machinery can therefore only be employed (on a capitalist basis) under circumstances in which mass production, production on a large scale, is possible (see p. 201, quotation from Rossi).

[V-201][217] “The division of labour and the use of powerful machines are only possible in establishments which offer enough labour to all classes of worker and provide results on a large scale. The more considerable the product the smaller the proportional expenditure on tools and machines. If two equally powerful machines produce respectively 100,000 metres and 200,000 metres of the same cloth in the same space of time, you may say that the first machine costs twice as much as the second, that one of these enterprises has employed a capital double that employed in the other” (Rossi, Cours d'économie politique, p. 334). [V-201]

[V-194] 2) It is already the case in manufacture resting on the division of labour as in industry on the craft basis, etc., that the instruments of labour (in the same way as other parts of the conditions of labour, like factory buildings) enter into the labour process to their whole extent, either directly as means of labour or indirectly as conditions (such as buildings) which are necessary for the labour process to take place. But they only enter into the valorisation process piece by piece, partially — i.e. they enter to the extent to which they are used up in the labour process, to the extent to which their exchange value is consumed in the labour process simultaneously with their use value. Their use value as means of labour enters into the labour process wholly, but it is preserved over a period which comprises a number of labour processes, during which these means of labour serve repeatedly for the production of the same kind of commodity, i.e. serve over and over again as means of labour used by new labour for working up new material. Their use value as means of labour of this kind is only used up at the end of a period, which may be shorter or longer, during which the same labour process has been constantly repeated. Their exchange value therefore only re-appears completely in the total amount of commodities they have helped to produce during such a period — the whole period, from their entry into the labour process to their removal from it. Only a certain aliquot part of the value of the instrument of labour therefore enters into each individual commodity. If the instrument served for 90 days, 1/90 of its value would re-appear in the commodities produced on each day. A notional average calculation necessarily enters the picture here, for the value of the instrument only re-appears as a whole in the whole period of labour processes during which it has been completely used up — therefore in the sum total of the commodities it has helped to produce during this period. The calculation is therefore made in this way: on each day on the average an equal aliquot part of the instrument’s use value is used up (this is the fiction), and therefore an equal aliquot part of the value of the instrument re-appears in the product of this one day.

With the introduction of machinery, as a result of which the means of labour assumes a very extensive value and is represented in a massive quantity of use values, there is an increase in this difference between the labour process and the valorisation process, which becomes a significant element in the development of productive power and in the character of production. If a workshop is equipped with mechanical looms, and they perform their function, e.g., over 12 years, the wear and tear of the machinery, etc., during the labour process in the course of one day is insignificant, and therefore the portion of the value of the machinery which re-appears in the Individual commodity or even in the product of a whole year is relatively insignificant. Past, objectified labour here enters massively into the labour process, whereas only a relatively insignificant portion of this part of capital, the portion used up in the same labour process, enters into the valorisation process and therefore re-appears in the product as part of the value. Therefore, however considerable the magnitude of the value that is represented by the machinery that enters into the labour process, and the factory buildings, etc., associated with it, the part of this overall value that enters into the daily valorisation [V-195] process, hence into the value of the commodity, is always relatively small; it makes the commodity relatively more expensive, but only insignificantly, to a much smaller extent than the manual labour replaced by the machinery would have done. Therefore, however large the part of the capital laid out in machinery may appear to be in comparison with the part laid out for the living labour which this machinery serves as means of production, this proportion appears to be very small if the part of the value of the machinery which re-appears in the individual commodity is compared with the living labour absorbed in the same commodity, and the part of the value added to the individual product by both of them — machinery and labour — appears to be small in proportion to the value of the raw material itself.

It is with the coming of machinery that social production on a large scale first obtains the power of introducing into the labour process in their entirety, wholly as means of production, products which represent a large amount of past labour, hence large masses of value, whereas only a relatively small aliquot part of those products enters into the valorisation process taking place during the individual labour process. The capital which enters in this form into every individual labour process is large, but the proportion in which its use value is used up, consumed, during this labour process, making necessary the replacement of its value, is relatively small. The machinery functions in its entirety as means of labour, but it only adds value to the product in the proportion to which the labour process diminishes its value, a devaluation which is conditioned by the degree of the reduction of its use value through wear and tear during the labour process.

The conditions enumerated under 1) and 2), on which it depends whether the commodity produced by the dearer instrument is cheaper than the commodity produced by the cheaper one, or whether the value contained in the machinery itself is smaller than the value of the labour capacities it replaces, therefore amount to the following: The first condition is mass production; this depends on the degree to which the amount of commodities 1 worker can produce in the same labour time is large in comparison with the amount he would produce without machinery. In other words, it depends on the degree to which labour is replaced by machinery; hence the number of labour capacities which is used in regard to the amount of the product is reduced as far as possible, as many labour capacities as possible are replaced by the machinery, and the part of the capital which is laid out in labour appears relatively small in comparison with the part of the capital which is laid out in machinery. And secondly: however large the part of the capital which consists in machinery, the part of the value of the machine which re-appears in the individual commodity, the part of the value, therefore, which is added by the machinery to the individual commodity, is small in comparison with the parts of the value of labour and raw material contained in the same commodity, and indeed small because during a given labour time the machinery enters in its entirety into the labour process but only a relatively insignificant portion of it enters into the valorisation process; the whole of the machinery enters into the labour process, but there always enters merely an aliquot part of the total magnitude of the machinery’s value [into the valorisation process].

Accordingly, the following criticism of Ricardo needs itself to be corrected:

“Ricardo speaks of “a portion of the labour of the engineer in making machines — * as contained, e.g., in a pair of stockings. * “Yet the total labour that produced each single pair of stockings, if it is of a single pair we are speaking, includes the whole labour of the engineer, not a portion; for one machine makes many pairs, and none of those pairs could have been done without any part of the machine"* (Observations on Certain Verbal Disputes in Political Economy, London, 1821, [p.] 54).

[V-196] The part of the capital laid out in raw material grows disproportionately more rapidly in comparison with the part laid out in wages than where there is a mere division of labour. The new and relatively large amount of capital laid out in means of labour, machinery, etc., comes additionally into consideration. The progress of industry is therefore accompanied by a growth in the auxiliarypart of capital[218] as against the part laid out in living labour.

[V-197] One of the first effects of the introduction of new machinery, before it has become dominant in its branch of production, is to prolong the labour time of those workers who continue to work with the old, imperfect means of production. Although the commodity produced with the machinery is sold at more than its individual value, i.e. at more than the quantity of labour time contained in it, it is sold at less than the previous social, general value of the same species of product. The labour time socially necessary for the production of this particular commodity has therefore fallen, but not the labour time necessary for the worker using the old instruments of production. If, therefore, 10 hours of labour time suffice for the reproduction of his labour capacity, the product of his 10 hours is no longer 10 hours of necessary labour time, that is to say labour time necessary under the new social conditions of production for the manufacture of this product; it is instead perhaps only 6 hours. Therefore, if he works for 14 hours, those 14 hours of his represent only 10 hours of necessary labour time and only 10 hours of necessary labour time have been realised in them. Hence the value of the product also does not exceed the value of the product of 10 hours of general, necessary, social labour. If he works independently, he will have to prolong his labour time. If he works as a wage labourer, hence necessarily also works surplus time, then however much the absolute labour time is prolonged, average surplus labour for the capitalist will only emerge through a reduction of his wage below the previous average, i.e. he works more hours but less of them are appropriated by him personally, not because his labour has become more productive but because it has become less productive, not because he creates the same quantity of product in less labour time but because the quantity falling to his share is reduced.

The surplus value ( = surplus labour, absolute as well as relative) which capital brings into existence through the employment of machinery does not arise from the labour capacities replaced by the machinery but from the labour capacities employed by it.

“According to Baines *a first rate cotton-spinning factory cannot be built, filled with machinery, and fitted with the steam engines and gasworks, under £100,000. A steam-engine of 100 horse power will turn 50,000 spindles, which will produce 62,500 miles of fine cotton thread per day. In such a factory 1,000 persons will spin as much thread as 250,000 persons could without machinery"* (S. Laing, The National Distress, London, 1844, p. 75).

In this case the surplus value of the capital comes not from the saving made on the labour of 250 persons, but from the 1 person who replaces them; not from the 250,000 persons replaced, but from the 1,000 employed. It is their surplus labour which is realised in the surplus value. The use value of the machine, and its replacement of human labour is its use value, does not determine its value; this is determined by the labour required to produce the machine itself. And this value, which it possesses before being employed, before entering into the production process, is the sole value it adds to the product qua machinery. The capitalist paid for this value when he bought the machine.

On the presupposition that the commodities are sold at their value, the relative surplus value created by capital by means of the machinery, as in applying all other arrangements which increase the productive power of labour and thereby reduce the price of the individual product, consists simply in this, that the commodities necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity are cheapened, hence that there is a reduction of the labour time necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity, which is only an equivalent of the labour time contained in wages; and therefore that the surplus labour time is prolonged, with the [V-198] overall length of the working day remaining the same. (There are a number of circumstances modifying this, which will be dealt with later.) This curtailment of necessary labour time is a result which redounds to the benefit of capitalist production as a whole and reduces the production costs of labour capacity altogether, because on our assumption the commodity produced by the machinery in fact contributes to the reproduction of labour capacity. However, this is not a motive for the individual capitalist to introduce machinery — it is a general result which is not particularly advantageous to him.

Firstly: Machinery may be introduced, either in replacement of a craft-based industry (as e.g. in the case of spinning), hence in subjecting a branch of industry for the first time to the capitalist mode of production; or in revolutionising a form of manufacture which previously rested merely on the division of labour (as in a factory for making machines); or, lastly, in driving out older by more efficient machinery or in extending the field of application of machinery in a workshop to parts of the operation it had not as yet previously seized hold of. In all these cases, as remarked above, it prolongs necessary labour time for the workers still subsumed under the old mode of production, and also prolongs their overall working day. On the other hand, in workshops where it is newly introduced it curtails necessary labour time, relatively speaking. If 2 hours of labour by a hand loom weaver are only equivalent to 1 socially necessary hour of labour after the introduction of the power loom, 1 hour of labour by the power loom weaver is now, before the power loom has been introduced generally into this form of weaving, of greater magnitude than one hour of necessary labour. Its product has a higher value than the product of one hour of labour. It is the same as if simple labour were realised in it at a higher power, or a higher sort of weaving labour were realised in it. This concerning the extent to which the capitalist who employs the power loom, while admittedly selling the product of 1 hour below the level of the old hour of labour, below its previous socially necessary value, even so sells it at more than its individual value, i.e. at more than the labour time he himself has to employ to produce it with the help of the power loom. The worker therefore needs to work fewer hours for the reproduction of his wage, his necessary labour time is curtailed in the same measure as his labour has become higher labour in the same branch, that is to say the product of an hour of his labour is sold at perhaps more than the product of two hours of labour in the workshops where the old mode of production still prevails. If, therefore, the normal day remains the same — equally long — surplus labour time increases here because necessary labour time has been curtailed. This would occur even in the case of an increase in wages, always on the assumption that in the new circumstances the worker does not employ as large an aliquot part of the day as previously in replacing his wage or reproducing his labour capacity. This curtailment of necessary labour time is of course temporary, and it disappears once the general introduction of machinery into this branch has reduced the value of the commodity again to the labour time contained in it. Nevertheless, this is at the same time an incentive to the capitalist to raise the labour time he employs above the general level of the necessary labour time in the same sphere of production, by introducing ever new, small improvements. This is true whatever branch of production the machinery is employed in, and it is independent of whether the commodities produced by the machinery enter into the consumption of the worker himself.

Secondly. It is a general experience that as soon as machinery is employed in the capitalist way — i.e. emerges from the infant stage in which it originally appears in many branches, namely as merely a more productive form of the old handicraft tool, which is, however, still employed in the old industrial mode [V-199] by independent workers and their families — once it takes on an independent existence as a form of capital vis-à-vis the worker, the absolute labour time, the overall working day, is not curtailed but prolonged. The investigation of this case belongs to Chapter III.[212] But the main points should be presented here. In this context we must distinguish between two things. Firstly the new conditions in which the worker finds himself and which enable the capitalist forcibly to prolong labour time. Secondly the motives which impel capital to undertake this operation.

In looking at 1) we have firstly to consider the converted form of labour, its apparent ease, which transfers all muscular exertion to the machinery, and similarly all skill. For the first reason, prolongation does not initially come up against physical impracticability; the second change breaks the resistance of the worker, who can no longer dig his heels in because his dexterity, still predominant under the system of manufacture, has now been broken; instead of this capital is able to replace skilled workers by unskilled ones, who therefore are more under its control. Then the new class of workers, who enter the situation as a determining element, alter the character of the whole workshop, and by their nature are more obedient to the despotism of capital. The element, namely, of female and child labour. Once the working day has been prolonged forcibly by tradition, generations are required, as in England, before the workers are capable of bringing it back to its normal limits. Thus the prolongation of the day beyond its natural limits, nightwork, is an offshoot of the factory system.

  • “It is evident that the long hours of work were brought about by the circumstance of so great a number of destitute children being supplied from the different parts of the country"* (from the workhouses) *"that the masters were independent of the hands, and that, having once established the custom by means of the miserable materials which they procured in this way, they could impose it upon their neighbours with the greater facility — * (J. Fielden, The Curse of the Factory System London, 1836, [p. 11]).
  • “ ‘Mr. E., a manufacturer, informed me that he employs females exclusively at his power looms; it is so universally; gives a decided preference to married females, especially those who have families at home dependent on them for support; they are attentive, docile, more so than unmarried females, and are compelled to use their utmost exertions to procure the necessaries of life.’ Thus are the virtues, the peculiar virtues, of the female character to be perverted to her injury, — thus all that is most dutiful and tender in her nature is to be made the means of her bondage and suffering!” * (Ten Hours Factory Bill. The Speech of Lord Ashley, London, 1844, p. 20).

Fielden, already cited above, says:

  • “As improvements in machinery have gone on, the avarice of masters has prompted many to exact more labour from their hands than they were fitted by nature to perform” * (Fielden, I.e., [p.] 34).

A keen appetite for alien labour (surplus labour) is not a feature specific to the person who employs machinery, it is the driving motive of the whole of capitalist production. Since the factory master is now in a better position to indulge this urge, he quite naturally lets go of the reins. A further remark: As long as the motive force proceeds from human beings (and indeed animals too) [V-200] it can only physically function for a certain portion of the day. A steam engine, etc., needs no rest. It can continue operating for any length of time. [V-200]

[V-199] However, there are yet further circumstances which give this urge a very special impetus in the case of the employment of machinery.

[V-200] Machinery, etc., is valorised over a lengthy period, during which the same labour process is constantly repeated in order to produce new commodities. This period is determined by calculating the average time it takes for the whole value of the machinery to be transferred to the product. The extension of labour time beyond the limits of the normal working day shortens the period over which the capital laid out in the machinery is replaced by the total amount of production. Let us assume the period is 10 years if 12 hours are worked every day. If 15 hours are worked every day, hence if the day is lengthened by 1/4 over one week this makes 1/2 days = 18 hours. The whole week comes to 90 hours on our assumption. 18/90 = 1/5 week. And so 1/5 of the 10 years would be saved; 2 years, therefore. Hence the capital laid out in machinery would have been replaced in 8 years. Either it has in fact been used up in that time. Then the reproduction process has been hastened. If not — if the machinery is still capable of functioning — the ratio of variable capital to constant capital is raised, because the latter continues to function without however having to enter into the valorisation process any more. This brings about an increase, if not in the surplus value (which has already grown as a result of the prolongation of labour time), at least in the ratio of that surplus value to the total amount of capital laid out — and therefore an increase in profit. And additionally: When new machinery is introduced the improvements come thick and fast. Thus a large part of the old machinery constantly loses part of its value or becomes entirely unusable before it has passed through its circulation period, or its value has re-appeared in the value of the commodities. The more the reproduction period is curtailed, the slighter this danger is, and the more the capitalist is able, the value of the machinery having returned to him in a shorter period, to introduce the new improved machinery and sell cheaply the old machinery, which can again be profitably employed by another capitalist, since it enters into his production as from the outset the representative of a smaller magnitude of value. (We shall deal with this point in more detail under fixed capital, bringing in Babbage’s examples as well.)

What has been said here is valid not only for machinery but for the whole of the fixed capital which the employment of machinery brings in its train and is the condition for.

Yet, the capitalist is by no means concerned merely to get back the amount of value laid out in the fixed capital as soon as possible, so as to protect it from devaluation and to possess it again in disposable form; he is concerned above all with the profitable employment of this capital — of the great quantity of capital fixed in a form in which it both decays as exchange value and is useless as use value, except to the extent that it is brought into contact with the living kind of labour whose fixed capital it constitutes. Since the part of capital laid out in wages has become much smaller in relation to the total capital — particularly in relation to the fixed capital — and since the magnitude of surplus value depends not only on its rate but on the number of working days simultaneously employed, while profit depends on the ratio of this surplus value to the total capital, the consequence is a fall in the rate of profit. The simplest means to prevent this is of course to prolong the absolute surplus labour as far as possible by prolonging the working day, thereby making the fixed capital the means of appropriating the greatest possible quantity of unpaid labour. If the factory is not in operation, the manufacturer regards this as being robbed by the workers; for his capital has obtained a form in fixed capital in which it is directly a draft entitling him to alien labour. This is all expressed very naively by Mr. Senior, who in the year 1837 still was of the opinion [V-201] that the working day — hence absolute labour time — would necessarily have to become longer with the development of machinery.

Senior says, giving, moreover, the honourable Mr. Ashworth as his authority:

“The difference between the hours of work usual over the whole world in cotton factories and other employments derives front two sources. 1) The great proportion of fixed to circulating capital, which makes long hours of work desirable” (Senior, Letters on the Factory Act etc., London, 1837, p. 11) (XL 4).[219]

With the constant growth of fixed capital in relation to circulating capital

  • “the motives to long hours of work will become greater, as the only means by which a large proportion of fixed capital can be made profitable. ‘When a labourer,’ said Mr. Ashworth to me, ‘lays down his spade, he renders useless, for that period, a capital worth 18d. When one of our people leaves the mill, he renders useless a capital that has Cost £100,000[220]'” * l.c., [p.] 14).

He renders useless! After all the machinery is there — such a great capital has been invested in it — precisely to squeeze labour out of the worker. In fact he has already committed a great crime against a capital that has cost £100,000 by leaving the mill at all!

(this was the original reason for nightwork: “later our factories usually worked 80 hours a week”) (XI, 5).

“If a steam engine, or other kind of machine, only works for some hours or some days a week, there is a loss of energy. If it works for the whole day it produces more, and it produces still more if it works night and day” (J. G. Courcelle-Sencuil, Traité théorique et pratique des entreprises industrielles etc., 2nd ed., Paris, 1857, p. 48).

“The first machines for weaving patent net, when first installed, were very expensive, costing from £1,000 to £1,200 [or £1,300]. Though the machines increased the quantity produced, the possessors were nevertheless unable, with the workers’ working time being limited to 8 hours, to compete with the old methods in price terms. This disadvantage arose from the large capital the instalment of the machinery cost; but the manufacturers quickly perceived that with the same expense of fixed capital, and a small addition to their circulating capital, they could work the same machines during the whole 24 hours” (Babbage, p. 279).

[V-206] *"It is self-evident, that, amid the ebbings and flowings of the market, and the alternate contractions and expansions of demand, occasions will constantly recur, in which the manufacturer may employ additional floating capital without employing additional fixed capital ... if additional quantities of raw material can be worked up without incurring an additional expense for buildings and machinery"* (R. Torrens, On Wages and Combination, London, 1834, p. 64).[221]

This is, in general, an advantage associated with the prolongation of labour time — saving of an additional expense for buildings and machinery. [V-206]

[V-201] Thirdly. To the extent that the employment of machinery curtails the labour time during which the same commodity can be produced, it lessens the value of the commodity and makes the labour more productive, because it provides more product in the same time. To that extent the machinery only affects the productive power of normal labour. But a definite quantity of labour time continues to be represented in the same magnitude of value. Therefore as soon as competition has reduced the price of the commodity produced by machinery to its value, the employment of machinery can only increase the surplus value, the profit [V-202] of the capitalist, in so far as the cheapening of the commodity leads to a reduction in the value of wages or the value of labour capacity or in the time necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity.

There is, however, an additional circumstance here owing to which the employment of machinery increases absolute labour time, and therefore absolute surplus value, even without any prolongation of the working day. This happens through the, so to speak, condensation of labour time, in which every part of the time increases its labour content; the intensity of labour grows; there is growth not only in the productivity (hence the quality) of the labour owing to the employment of machinery, but in the quantity of labour performed within a given period. The pores of time are so to speak shrunk through the compression of labour. One hour of labour thereby represents the same quantity of labour as perhaps 6 /4 hours of the average labour performed without the employment of machinery or with the employment of less efficient machinery.

Where machinery has already been introduced, the improvements which reduce the number of workers in relation to the amount of commodities produced and the machinery employed are accompanied by the circumstance that the labour of the individual worker who replaces 1 or 2 workers grows with the improvements in the machinery, hence that the machinery only enables him to do what 2 or 3 workers did previously by compelling him to increase his labour and fill each period of time more intensively with labour. Thus labour capacity is more rapidly worn out during the same hour of labour.

Let us look first at the way those who have investigated factory labour at different times have spoken about the growth in labour accompanying improvements in machinery. This follows on the one hand from the greater rapidity of the machine, which the worker has to follow; and on the other hand from the greater quantity of machine labour the individual worker has to overlook, as for example when the number of spindles on the MULE is increased, with double rows of spindles (double decking) as well, or when 1 weaver has to supervise 2 or 3 POWER LOOMS instead of 1.

  • “The labour now undergone in the factories is much greater than it used to be, owing to the greater attention and activity required by the greatly increased speed which is given to the machinery that the children have to attend to, when we compare it with what it was 30 or 40 years ago"* (J. Fielden, The Curse of the Factory System, [London, 1836,] p. 32).

This was in the year 1836. John Fielden was himself a manufacturer. Lord Ashley (now Earl of Shaftesbury) stated in his speech on the Ten Hours Factory Bill on March 15, 1844:

  • “The labour performed by those engaged in the processes of manufacture, is 3 times as great as in the beginning of such operations. Machinery has executed, no doubt, the work that would demand the sinews of millions of men; but it has also prodigiously multiplied the labour of those who are governed by its fearful movements” * (l.c., [p.] 6). * “In 1815, the labour of following a pair of mules spinning cotton yarn of Nos. 40 — reckoning 12 hours to the working day — involved a necessity for walking 8 miles. In 1832, the distance travelled in following a pair of mules spinning cotton-yarn on the same numbers, was 20 miles, and frequently more. But the amount of labour performed by those following the mules, is not confined merely to the distance walked. There is far more to be done. In 1835,a the spinner put up daily on each of these mules 820 stretches; making a total of 1,640 stretches in the course of the day. In 1832, the spinner put upon each mule 2,200 stretches, making a total of 4,400. In 1844, according to a return furnished by a practised operative spinner, the person working puts up in the same period 2,400 stretches on each mule, making a total of 4,800 stretches in the [V-203] course of the day; and in some cases, the amount of labour required is even greater"* (pp. 6, 7).
  • “I have a document here, signed by 22 operative spinners of Manchester, in which they state that 20 miles is the very least distance travelled, and they believe it to be still greater. I have another document sent to me in 1842, stating that the labour is progressively increasing — increasing not only because the distance to be travelled is greater, but because the quantity of goods produced is multiplied, while the hands are, in proportion, fewer than before; and, moreover, because an inferior species of cotton is now often spun, which it is more difficult to work"* (l.c., pp. 8, 9).
  • “In the carding room there has been also a great increase of labour — one person there does the work formerly divided between two. In the weaving room where a vast number of persons are employed, and principally females ... the labour has increased, within the last few Years, fully 10 per cent, owing to the increased speed of the machinery. In 1838, the number of hanks spun per week was 18,000; in 1843 it amounted to 21,000. In 1819, the number of picks in power loom weaving per minute was 60 — in 1842 it was 140, showing a vast increase of labour, because more nicety and attention are required to the work in hand” * (p. 9).

//As long as machinery enables a manufacturer to sell the commodity for more than its individual value, the following passage applies, showing that even in this case the surplus value derives from a curtailment of necessary labour time, is itself a form of relative surplus value:

  • “A man’s profit does not depend upon his command of the produce of other men’s labour, but upon his command of labour itself. If he can sell” * (by, raising the money prices of the commodities) *"his goods at a higher price, while his workmen’s wages remain unaltered, he is clearly benefited by the rise, whether other goods rise, or not. A smaller proportion of what he produces is sufficient to put that labour into motion, and a larger proportion consequently remains for himself” * (Outlines of Political Economy (by a Malthusian), etc., London, 1832, pp. 49-50).[222]//

The Factory Reports show that in those branches of industry which were covered (until April 1860) by the Factory Act, and ill which therefore the working week had been reduced by law to 60 hours, wages did not fall (comparing 1859 with 1839) but rather rose, whereas they positively fell during this period in factories where

“The labour of children, young persons and women” was still “unrestricted”.

The reference here is to

“Printing, bleaching and dyeing works, in which until 1860 the hours of work remain now the same as they were 20 years since, in which the protected classes under the Factory Acts are at times employed 14 and 15 hours per day.”

[V-204] The following list shows in general that, with the progress of industry in the last 20 years, wages have fallen considerably in a number of branches of industry.

* Calico printing, dyeing and bleaching, 60 hours per weekFustian dyeing, 61 hours per week.
1839185918391859
Colour mixer35s.32Dressers1822
Machine printer4038Bleachers2118
Foreman4040Dyers2116
Block Cutter3525Finishers2122
Block printer4028
Dyer1816
Washer and Labourer16 & 15ditto

(Factory Reports. For Half Year ending 30 April 1860, p. 32).* [V-204]

[V-203] In the first kind of factory, production increased more, relatively speaking, than previously, and at the same time the profits of the manufacturers increased, as is demonstrated by the rapid spread of the factories.

  • “The great improvements that have been made in machinery, of all kinds, have vastly improved their productive powers, improvements to which a stimulus was doubtless given, especially as regards the greater speed of the machines in a given time, by the restrictions of the hours of work. These improvements, and the closer application which the operatives are enabled to give, have had the effect ... of as much work being turned off in the shortened time as used to be in the longer hours"* (Factory Reports for the Half Year Ending October 31, 1858, [p.] 10. Cf. Reports for the Half Year Ending 30th April 1860, p. 30 sqq.).

[V-204] The phenomenon that the Ten Hours’ Bill has not cut down the profits of the English manufacturers, in spite of the shortening of the working day, is explained by two reasons: 1) The English hour of labour stands above the Continental one, it is related to it as more complex labour to simple labour. (Hence the relation of the English to the foreign manufacturer is the same as the relation of a manufacturer who has introduced new machinery to his competitor.)

  • “All things being equal, the English manufacturer can turn out a considerably larger amount of work in a given time than a Foreign manufacturer, so much as to counterbalance the difference of the working days, between 60 hours a week here and 72 or 80 elsewhere; and the means of transport in England enable the manufacturer to deliver his goods upon a railway, almost at his factory, whence they may be almost directly shipped for exportation"* (Reports of Inspectors of Factories. 31 October 1855, London, 1856, [p.] 65).

2) What is lost through the reduction of absolute labour time is gained in condensation of labour time, so that in fact 1 hour of labour is now equal to 6/5 or more hours of labour. just as the absolute extension of the working day beyond certain limits (beyond the natural day) is defeated by natural obstacles, so does the condensed working day have its limits. It is questionable whether the amount of labour which is now provided in the factories under the Ten Hours’ Law would be possible at all for 12 hours at e.g. an equal level of intensity.

  • “In fact one class of manufacturers, the spinners of woollen yarn,”

(since they do not wish to employ two sets of half timers, children under 13 years who work for 6 hours)

  • “now rarely employ children under 13 years of age, i.e. half-timers. They have introduced improved and new machinery of various kinds, which altogether supersedes the necessity of the employment of children, for instance, as an illustration, by the addition of an apparatus, called a piecing machine, to existing machines, the work of 6 or 4 half-timers, according to the peculiarity of each machine, can be performed by one young person ... the half-time system had some share in stimulating the invention of the piecing machine” * (Factory Reports for the Half Year Ending 31 October 1858, London, 1858, pp. 42-43).

In any case this effect of the shortening of absolute labour time shows us how the manufacturers look for means of curtailing necessary labour time in order to prolong relative surplus labour time. It also shows us how machinery not only enables one individual to perform the labour of many, but increases the amount of labour required of that individual, thus giving the hour of labour a higher value, and thereby lessening the proportion of his time the worker himself needs for the reproduction of his wage. [V-205] As we have said, this occurs as a result of the increase both in the machine’s rapidity of action and in the amount of working machinery the individual worker has to supervise. This result is attained partly through changes in the construction of the machine which supplies the motive power, changes enabling a machine of the same weight to set in motion, and in more rapid motion, with a relative, and often an absolute reduction in cost, a greater quantity of machinery than before.

  • “The facts thus brought out by the Return appear to be that the Factory system is increasing rapidly; that although the same number of hands are employed in proportion to the horsepower as at former periods there are fewer hands employed in proportion to the machinery; that the steam engine is enabled to drive an increased weight of machinery by economy of force, and other methods, and that an increased quantity of work can be turned off by improvements in machinery, and in methods of manufacture, by increased speed of the machinery, and by a variety of other causes” * (Factory Reports for the Half Year Ending 31st October 1856, p. 20).

“In the *Report for October 1852, Mr. Horner quotes ... a letter from Mr. Jas. Nasmyth, the eminent civil engineer, of Paticroft, near Manchester, explaining the nature of recent improvements in the steam engine, whereby the same engine is made to perform more work with a diminished consumption of fuel.... ‘It would not be very easy to get an exact return as to the increase of performance or work done by the identical engines to which some or all of these improvements have been applied; I am confident, however, that could we obtain an exact return, the result would show, that from the same weight of steam-engine machinery, we are now at least obtaining 50 per cent more duty or work performed on the average, and that ... in many cases, the identical steam engines which, in the days of the restricted speed of 220 feet per minute, yielded 50 horsepower, are now yielding upwards of 100."'

  • “The return of 1838,"* says Horner *(Reports, 31st October 1856), “gave the number of steam engines and of water wheels, with the amount of horsepower employed. At that time the figures represented a much more accurate estimate of the actual power employed than do the figures in the returns either of 1850 or 1856. The figures given in the Returns are all of the nominal power of the engines and wheels, not of the power actually employed or capable of being employed. The modern steam engine of 100 horsepowers is capable of being driven at a much greater force than formerly, arising from the improvements in its construction, the capacity and construction of the boilers, etc., and thus the nominal power of a modern manufacturing steam engine — cannot be considered more than an index from which its real capabilities are to be calculated"* (l.c., pp. 13-14).

Fourthly: Replacement of simple cooperation by machinery.

Just as machinery removes or revolutionises cooperation in its developed form of division of labour, so also in many cases does it do away with or revolutionise simple cooperation. For example, if operations such as mowing corn, sowing seed, etc., require the simultaneous employment of many hands, they can be replaced by mowing or sowing machines. The same with the production of wine, when the wine-press replaces treading by foot. This is equally true of the application of steam engines to raise building materials to the top of a building or to the height at which they [V-206] are required.

“The turnout of the Lancashire workmen in the building trade (1833) has introduced a curious application of the steam engine. This machine is now employed in some towns, instead of manual labour, in hoisting the various building materials to the top of the edifices where they are intended to be used” ([E. C. Tufnell,] Character, Object and Effects of Trades’ Unions etc., London, 1834, [p.] 109).

Fifthly: Invention and employment of machinery against strikes, etc., and against wage demands.

Strikes usually originate from attempts either to prevent a cut in wages or enforce an increase in wages, or to settle the limits of the normal working day. What is at stake in a strike is always the limitation of the positive or relative amount of surplus labour time or the appropriation of part of it by the worker himself. The capitalist counters this with the introduction of machinery. Here the machine appears directly as a means of curtailing necessary labour time; it also appears as a form of capital — an instrument of capital — a power of capital — over labour — for the suppression of any claim by labour to autonomy. Here machinery comes into play as a form of capital inimical to labour in intention as well. Selfactors, wool-combing machines in the spinning industry, the so-called “condenser” which replaces the hand-turned “slubbing machine” (in the woollen industry as well), etc., are all machines invented in order to defeat strikes.

[V-207] Likewise

the self-acting apparatus for executing the dyeing and rinsing operations was invented “under the high pressure of the same despotic confederacies” (namely the workers’ associations)

(what is being referred to here is the printing of calico, where from 4 to 6 colours can now be printed at once with the application of steam-driven engraved cylinders). Ure comments further, with reference to the invention of a new machine in the weaving industry:

“The combined malcontents, who fancied themselves impregnably entrenched behind the old lines of division of labour, found their flanks turned and their defences rendered useless by the new mechanical tactics, and were obliged to surrender at discretion” (l.c., p. 142). [V-207]

[V-206] The result of these new machines is either to make the previous kind of work completely superfluous (as the selfactor makes the spinner superfluous) or to lessen the number of workers required and make the new kind of work simpler in comparison with the previous kind (as the work of the comber with combing machines).

“The most frequent cause of strikes in the cotton trade has been the introduction of improved machinery, and especially the enlargement of mules, by means of which the number of spindles a spinner is capable of superintending has been continually increasing a master, on the introduction of such improved machinery into his establishment stipulates with his spinners to pay them less per piece, but still at such a rate that, owing to the greater power of the machine, their weekly earnings shall rise rather than fall.... But such a bargain is injurious to the masters and men in the manufacturies where the improved machine is not introduced” ([E. C. Tufnell,] Character, Object and Effects of Trades’ Unions etc., London, 1834, [pp.] 17-18).

“1829 a serious turnout. A little before this time, several masters had rejected mules, carrying from 4,500 spindles, which enabled the spinners who worked at them to receive a less sum in the proportion of 3 to 4 for a given quantity of work, and at the same time to earn at least an equal amount of wages with those who were employed on the old machinery. 21 mills and 10,000 persons were thrown idle for 6 months by this strike” (l.c., p. 19).

“The strike of 1833 at Messrs. Hindes and Derham (West Riding of Yorkshire) was the cause of the invention of a wool-combing machine, which wholly superseded the labour of that class of men, who were the chief ringleaders in this affair. and which has struck a blow at their combination, that it can never recover” (pp. 61-62).

[V-207] Similarly “The introduction of steam as an antagonist to human power” (P. Gaskell (Surgeon), Artisans and Machinery etc., London, 1836, p. 2 3).

“The surplus hands would readily enable the manufacturers to lessen the rate of wages, but the certainty that any considerable reduction would be followed by immediate immense losses from turnouts, extended stoppages, and various other impediments which would be thrown in their way, makes them prefer the slower process of mechanical improvement, by which, though they may triple production, they require no new men” (l.c., p. 314).

  • “The factory operatives should keep in wholesome remembrance the fact that theirs is really a low species of skilled labour; and that there is none which is more easily acquired or of its quality more amply remunerated, or which, by a short training of the least expert can be more quickly as well as abundantly, supplied.” “The master’s machinery really plays a far more important part in the business of production than the labour and skill of the operative, which 6 months’ education can teach, and a common labourer can learn” * (The Master Spinners and Manufacturers’ Defence Fund. Report of the Committee Appointed for the Receipt and Apportionment of This Fund, to the Central Association of Master Spinners and Manufacturers, Manchester, 1854, pp. 17, 19).

Ure says with regard to the “Iron Man” (self-acting, mule [223]):

“When capital enlists science in her service, the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility (p. 140).

“The necessity of enlarging the spinning-frames, created by the decrees of the workers’ associations, has recently given an extraordinary stimulus to mechanical science.... In doubling the size of his mule, the owner is enabled to get rid of indifferent or restive workers, and to become once more the master of his mill, which is no small advantage” (Ure, Vol. II, p. 134).

This expedient tends

“to raise, or uphold at least, the wages of each spinner, but to diminish the numbers of workers necessary for the same quantity of work, so that those employed would prosper, but the combined body of workers would thereby be impoverished” (l.c., [pp.] 133, 134).

“The Iron Man ... a creation destined to restore order among the industrious classes” (p. 138).

“The first manufacturers, who had to trust entirely to hand labour, were subjected periodically to severe immediate losses through the refractory spirit of their hands, who timed their opportunity, when the markets were particularly pressing, to urge their claims. .. a crisis was rapidly approaching, which would have checked the progress of manufactures, when steam and its application to machinery at once turned the current against the man” (Gaskell, l.c., [pp.] 34, 35).

[V-208] Sixthly. Presumption of the workers in wishing to appropriate part of the productivity of their labour brought about by machinery.

Trades unions, in their desire to maintain wages endeavour to share in the profits of improved machinery.... They demand higher wages because labour is abbreviated ... in other words: they endeavour to establish a duty on manufacturing improvements” (On Combinations of Trades, New Edit., London, 1834, p. 42).

“The principle of adjusting wages to the supposed profits of the employer, which is involved in claiming higher remuneration from improved machinery, is wholly inadmissible. The application of this principle is not, however, confined to one description of profit. The dyers, on August 7th 1824, turned out ... setting forth in a placard that their masters had obtained an increase of price for dyeing, more than adequate to the advance they claim ... wages thus change their character completely, and either absorb or become an ad valorem tax upon profits” (l.c., pp. 43, 44).

Seventhly. More continuity of labour. Utilisation of waste etc. More work can be done at a finishing stage if more raw materials are provided with the help of machinery.

Continuity of labour generally increases with the employment of machinery (of fixed capital altogether).

The machine has the further effect that it provides a more plentiful supply of the material of labour for the branches of industry for which its product serves as raw material. For example in the 18th century the handloom weavers always suffered from the impossibility of supplying themselves with materials (yarn) for their labour. Considerable vacations were frequently occurring in this respect, and at these periods they found themselves suffering “privations”.

“What was now gained from the improvement in the spinning machine had arisen not so much from any increase in the rate of payment for labour, as from a market generally understocked, and a constantly increasing production of yarn, which enabled them to work full hours” (Gaskell, l.c., p. 27).

This is one of the main results of machinery,

“this possibility of continuously working full hours in the same department”.

This would be the possibility of working full hours for the small man who works on his own account. For the capitalist it is the possibility of having other people work full hours. What the spinning machine does for weaving, by providing the yarn, was done for the spinner by the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, by Eli Whitney, of Connecticut. This machine provides the cotton. The plantation owner had enough black slaves to sow a large amount of cotton, but not enough to separate the fibres from the seed. This therefore considerably reduced the amount of raw production, and increased what it cost to produce e.g. a pound of cotton.

  • “It was an average day’s work to separate a pound of cotton fibre perfectly from the seed.... Whitney’s invention enabled the owner of his gin to separate the Seed completely from [100] pounds of fibres per day per hand, [and] the efficiency of the gin [has] since increased."* [224]

[V-209] The same thing in India.

  • "The next evil in India is one which one would scarcely expect to find in a country which exports more labour than any other in the world, with the exception perhaps of China and England — the impossibility of procuring a sufficient number of hands to clean the cotton. The consequence of this is that large quantities of the crop are left unpicked, while another portion is gathered from the ground, where it has fallen, and of course discoloured and partially rotten, so that for want of labour at the proper season, the cultivator is actually forced to submit to the loss of a large part of that Crop, for which England is so anxiously looking” * (Bengal Hurkaru. Bi-Monthly Overland Summary of News, 22nd July 1861).
  • "A common churka worked by a man and woman turned out 28 lbs daily. Dr. Forbes’ churka worked by 2 men and a boy turns out 250 lbs daily"* (Bombay Chamber of Commerce Report for 1859-60, p. 171). *"16 of these (last named machines), driven by bullocks, would clean a ton of cotton per day, which was equal to the ordinary day’s work of 750 people” * (Paper Read before the Society of Arts, on the 17th April 1861).

Machinery can work with materials which are too inferior to be worked by hand.

  • “The demand for cheap goods"* (woollen in the West Riding of Yorkshire) *"has given an immense impulse to this kind of manufacture, the economy of which consists not so much in improved machinery and labour-saving processes, as in the employment of an inferior staple and woollen rags, brought again, by powerful machinery, to the original condition of wool, and then either spun into yarn for inferior cloths, or mixed with new wool, spun into yarn for better kinds of cloths. This manufacture prevails nowhere to so great an extent as in England, although it is considerable in Belgium"* (Reports of Inspectors of Factories for 31st October 1855, London, 1856, [p.] 64).
  • “There is frequently a great saving of materials, as in the change from making boards with the adze, to that of making them with the saw; and again the labour of natural agents is so much cheaper, that many articles which would otherwise have been worthless, are now deserving of attention, as they may now be profitably endowed with some form of value” * (F. Wayland, The Elements of Political Economy, Boston, 1843, [pp.] 72-73).

In production on a large scale, moreover, the waste products are so considerable that they themselves can in turn more readily become simple articles of commerce, whether for agriculture or for other branches of industry. [V-210] Eighthly. Replacement of labour.

Perfection of the crafts means nothing other than the discovery of new ways of making a product with fewer people, or (which is the same thing) in less time than previously” (Galiani, Della Moneta, Custodi, Parte Moderna, p. 158 [159]).

This is true as much for simple cooperation or the division of labour as it is for machinery — fewer people and less time for the manufacture of a product are identical. If someone can do in 1 hour what he previously did in 2, one person can do in one working day what previously was done by two; and what therefore previously required two simultaneous working days. Therefore every means of reducing the necessary labour time of an individual worker implies at the same time a reduction in the number of workers required to bring about the same effect. If we look now at the employment of machinery, is there only a difference of degree in this reduction, or is there some specific additional feature? Sir James Steuart says in his Principles of Political Economy, Book I, Ch. XIX:

“Machines therefore I consider as a method of augmenting (virtually) the number of the industrious, without the expense of feeding an additional number” [p. 123].

Indeed, in the same passage he asks:

“Wherein does the effect of a machine differ from that of new inhabitants?” (1. c.).

//Price of the commodity and wages.[225] We [shall] speak [in] another place of Proudhon’s nonsense. But what he is replied to by Mr. Eugène Forcade, one of the best economical critics in France, is as false and ridiculous as Proudhon’s assertions Forcade says:

“If Proudhon’s objection ... that the worker cannot buy back his own product (on account of the interest which is added to it) “were correct, not only would it apply to the profits of capital; it would eliminate the very possibility of industry. If the worker is compelled to pay 100 for something for which he has only received 80, if his wages can buy back only the value he has put into a product, this amounts to saying that the worker cannot buy back anything”

//hence even if he gets back the whole value he has put into the product, that is to say, if there exists no profit and no other form of surplus value expressing surplus labour; and holding such notions Forcade claims to understand anything whatever of political economy! Proudhon’s nonsense consists in his belief that the worker must buy back with the money he receives (as wages) a higher value in commodities than is contained in the money, or in other words that the commodity is sold above its value because profit, etc., is realised in the sale. But now here comes Forcade, declaring that industry becomes impossible as soon as the wage is only able to buy back in a product the value that the worker has put into it. The reverse is true. Capitalist industry becomes impossible if the wage is sufficient to buy back in a product the whole of the value the worker has put into it. In that case, there would neither be surplus value, nor profit, nor interest, nor rent, nor capital. In fact: Forcade’s comment has a bearing not only on the “worker” but on the producer in general//,

“that wages cannot pay for anything”.

(Thus we have in fact the general proposition: if the producer can only buy back in a product the value he has put into it, the producer cannot pay for anything. Because the commodity contains constant capital apart from the labour added.)

“In fact the cost price always contains something more than the wage”

(This is already a very crude way of putting it. He means to say that there is always something more than the last piece of labour added to, and realised in, the commodity.)

“e.g. the price of the raw material, often paid out abroad ...

(And even if it were not paid out abroad the situation would not be changed in the least. Forcade’s objection, which [V-211] is based on a crude misconception, remains the same. The point is this: the amount of the total product which forms the payment of wages contains no particle of value due to the value of the raw material, etc., although every single commodity, considered for itself, is composed of the value due to the last labour added and to the value of the raw materials, etc., independent of that labour. The same applies to the whole of that part of the produce which constitutes the surplus value. (Profit, etc.) as to the value of the constant capital, it is replaced either by itself, in natura, or by exchange with other forms of constant capital.)

“Proudhon has forgotten the continual growth of the national capital; he has forgotten that this growth takes effect for all workers, both the entrepreneurs and the labourers” (Revue des Deux Mondes, Vol. 24, Paris, 1848, Eugène Forcade, [pp.] 998, 999).

And with this meaningless phrase Forcade endeavours to evade solving the problem; and yet he is indisputably one of the “most critical” political economists![1]

Here we want to bring together immediately the whole of Proudhon’s rubbish.[226]//


At this point (March 1862) Marx abandoned the systematic exposition of problems reated to surplus value and turned to a detailed analysis of bourgeois political economists known as Theories of Surplus Value. In late 1862-early 1863 he returned to the issue of the use of machinery by capitalists. See letters to Engels of 24th January 1863 and 28th January.


  1. The passage on Forcade and Proudhon was written by Marx in a mixture of German, French and English.— Ed.