3) Relative Surplus Value (end)

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Volume 34, MECW, p. 61-86

h) Relative and Absolute Surplus Value [1][edit source]

[XX-1283] We have considered absolute and relative surplus value separately. But in capitalist production they are bound together. And it is precisely the development of modern industry which shows how they develop simultaneously, how the working day is prolonged in the same degree as necessary labour time is reduced by the development of the social productive powers of labour. It is capital’s tendency to develop surplus value simultaneously in both forms. It thereby calls forth at once the struggle for the normal working day, depicted previously, and its enforced establishment as a law imposed on capital by the. state. The tendency of capitalist production is shown clearly when one compares the state’s intervention in the first dawn of bourgeois industry (as this appears e.g. in the labour statutes of the 14th century) with modern factory legislation. In the former case, labour time is fixed in order to compel the workers to perform a certain quantity of surplus labour for their employers (or even labour in general), to compel them to perform absolute surplus labour. In the latter case, the aim is forcibly to establish a boundary, beyond which the capitalist may not prolong absolute labour time, so as to prevent the prolongation of labour time beyond a definite limit. The necessity of such an intervention by the state, which was first demonstrated in England, the home of large-scale industry, and the necessity of extending this intervention progressively to new branches of industry, in the same measure as capitalist production seizes hold of those branches, proves at once, on the one hand, that capitalist production knows of no limits to the appropriation of alien labour time, and that, on the other hand, the workers are incapable within the established conditions of capitalist production — without acting as a class upon the state, and, through the state, upon capital — of saving from the harpy’s claws of capital even the free time necessary for their physical preservation.[2] The working day for children and adults in France is 12 hours.[3] According to the Law of 1833, which preceded the Ten Hours’ Bill, labour in England from 1835 onwards was to last 9 hours a day for children under 12 years old (since 1836 for children of 13 as well), and 12 hours a day for young persons below 18 years (not after 8.30 in the evening and not before 5.30 in the morning). 1 1/2 hours pour les repas, mais ce temps n'est pas compris dans les neuf ou 12 heures de travail. (At the same time the Law of 1833 included 2 hours of compulsory school attendance.) (As late as 1844 the manufacturers had the workers work 14 to 16 hours in those branches where children could be dispensed with or replaced by adults who had lost any other means of support.)

May 1844 12 hours for adults and 6 1/2 for children. (12 hours inclusive of free hours.) (*Half an hour for breakfast and an hour for dinner.*) In 1672 Petty wrote his Political Anatomy of Ireland. There he says[4]:

  • “Labouring men work 10 hours per diem and make 20 meals per week, viz. 3 a day for working-days, and two on Sundays;” * (now only 2 meals) * “whereby it is plain, that if they could fast on Friday nights, and dine in one hour and a half* (now breakfast and dinner only amount to 1 1/2 hours), * “whereas they take two, from eleven to one; thereby thus working 1/20 more, and spending 1/20 less, the 1/10 * //for taxes// * “abovementioned might be raised” * (10th Ed., London, 1691).

It follows from this passage that in those days the labour time for adults was not greater than what is now legally prescribed for children over 13 years old, and that the workers had more to eat. And we already find this favourable situation for the workers in England in the 15th century.

“It appears from the Statute of 1496 that the diet was then considered equivalent to 1/3 of the income of an artificer, and 1/2 the income of a labourer, which indicates a greater degree of independence among the working classes than prevails at present; for the board, both of labourers and artificers, would now be reckoned at a much higher proportion of their wages. The hours for meals and relaxation were more liberal, too, than at this day. They amounted to e.g. from March to September one hour for breakfast, an hour and a half for dinner, and half an hour for noon-meate. Hence 3 hours altogether. In winter they worked from 5 o'clock in the morning until it went dark. In contrast, in the factories of the present there is only half an hour for breakfast, one hour for dinner, exactly half what there was in the 15th century” (John Wade, History of the Middle and Working Classses, 3rd Ed., London, 1835, [pp.] 24, 25 and 577, 578).

[XX-1284] The absolute surplus labour which is gained from lengthening the working day is of course the basis from which the individual capitalist proceeds, since an increase in the productivity of labour only brings about a relative reduction in the wages paid by the individual [capitalist], in so far as he is able to sell the product of labour above its individual value; in so far as the article he produces enters the consumption of the worker the effect is, with the exception of articles of decisive importance, not sudden, and secondly it is common to all capitalists, whether it is they or their brother capitalists who bring about this alteration in the value of the means of subsistence. With the individual [capitalist], however, where there are piece-wages, it appears that with improvements in machinery, as Ure himself concedes, the piece-wage is reduced in the same proportion, or, if the state of business does not allow this, roughly in the same, as the productive power of labour grows, although the price of the product at first stands above its value, i.e. is not reduced in the same proportion as the amount of labour required to make it. There is a striking general example in the fact that directly after the abolition of the Corn Laws the manufacturers undertook a fairly general reduction of wages by 10%, an act which as late as 1853 produced a strike of 8 months in Preston.[54] Wages rose later owing to a combination of circumstances which produced an extraordinary demand for labour and were entirely independent of the general laws governing average wages.

Ratio of Wages to Surplus Value[edit source]

The question we [have] now to consider is the ratio of wages to surplus value.

Let us first take the working day as given. In this case the value of the product of the working day — or the total amount of value, part of which forms the wage, the other part the surplus value — remains constant. And it is clear that the magnitude of value of both parts and the change in their value stand in an inverse proportion. The greater the one, the smaller the other, and vice versa. Furthermore, we have seen a that the rate of surplus value is, generally speaking, nothing but the ratio of surplus to necessary labour, or, and this is the same thing, the ratio of the surplus value to the variable capital; it follows from this that a change in the relative value of wages and surplus value can only come about through a change in the magnitude of the variable capital, or, and this is the same thing, a change in the necessary labour time or in wages altogether. If, as a result of an increase in the productive power of labour, the value of labour capacity falls, there is a rise in the part of the value of the product which represents unpaid labour or surplus value. If the productivity of labour falls, e.g. as a result of bad harvests, etc., the surplus value also falls. For it should not be forgotten that the proportion of necessary labour time to surplus labour time is determined not by the productivity of the sphere of industry in which the worker works, but by the productivity of all the branches whose results enter into his reproduction process. Whatever the circumstances, a rise or fall in surplus value can only emerge here from a change in the value of labour capacity, and this is conditioned by, and stands in an inverse ratio to, the productivity of labour.

The presupposition here is that labour capacity is paid at its value, hence there is an average wage, and no rise above this average takes place, no fall below this level. If the length of the working day is given, it is clear that the more productive the labour, the shorter the part of the working day the worker works for himself, and the longer the part he works for capital, and vice versa.

But even an increase of wages over the average would change nothing in this law. Surplus value could only increase to the extent that there was a fall in the value of labour capacity and therefore in wages, and it could only fall for the opposite reason.

The average wage, or the value of labour capacity, as stated earlier, is not a constant magnitude quoad exchange value. But it expresses a constant quantity of use values, a constant quantity of commodities for the satisfaction of needs, i.e. means of subsistence. The value of this quantity of use values depends on the general productivity of all the branches of industry the results of which enter into the worker’s necessary consumption. Assume now that industry becomes more productive. Then the following cases are possible. The worker receives the same quantity of use values as before. In this case there is a fall in the value of his labour capacity or his wage. For there has been a fall in the value of this quantity, which has remained constant. The worker has to work less labour time to pay the equivalent of his wage. A greater part of the working day therefore falls to the share of capital. The proportion in which the worker participates in the value of the product of his working day has fallen, while on the other hand there has been an increase in unpaid labour time, or capital’s part of the value, surplus value. Hence the relative wage, the proportion of the wage, has dropped.

[XX-1285] Assume, secondly, that there is a rise in the amount, the quantity, of the means of subsistence, and therefore in the average wage, but not in the same proportion as in the worker’s productivity. In this case the value of labour capacity falls; and surplus value rises in the same proportion. For although the worker receives a greater amount of commodities than before, they are the product of a smaller part of his working day than before. His paid labour time has fallen, his unpaid has risen. Although his real wage has risen (relating the real wage to use value), its value, and therefore the worker’s relative wage — the proportion in which he shares with capital the value of his product — has fallen. Finally the third case: The worker continues to receive the same value — or the objectification of the same part of the working day — as before. In this case, because the productivity of labour has risen, the quantity of use values he receives, his real wage, has risen, but its value has remained constant, since it continues to represent the same quantity of realised labour time as before.. In this case, however, the surplus value too remains unchanged, there is no change in the ratio between the wage and the surplus value, hence the proportion [of surplus value] to the wage remains unchanged.

The cases can be summarised as follows: quantity remains the same, proportion falls; quantity rises, proportion falls; proportion remains the same, quantity rises. But in all these cases the surplus value, the rate of surplus value, its ratio to the capital laid out in wages, can only grow through a fall in the value of wages; the growth can only be in inverse ratio to the value of wages, and only as a result of changes occurring in the value of wages arising from a change in the productivity of labour. (If, on the other hand, the industry became less productive, the value of wages, relative wages, would rise if the quantity remained the same, and therefore surplus value, and hence the ratio of surplus value to variable capital, would fall.)

Assume a situation where wages remain constant in value, although the productivity of labour increases, hence there is an increase in the quantity of commodities in which this value is embodied. Then there would be no change in surplus value, although the latter would represent, just as wages would, a greater quantity of use values than before. It is therefore possible, looking at this from the point of view of use value, of the quantity of commodities in which wages and surplus value are expressed, for both to rise in the same proportion, but it is impossible for the exchange value of one to rise unless the exchange value of the other falls.

If the industry becomes less productive and wages do not fall below the average, their value rises. Quantity remains the same. Proportion rises. If real wages fall, but in such a way as nevertheless to represent more labour time than before, proportion rises, although quantity falls. Proportion remains the same, quantity falls: if the worker only receives the product of the number of hours that was normal before the change in productive power.

  • “When an alteration takes place in the productiveness of industry, so that either more or less is produced by a given quantity of labour and capital, the proportion of wages may obviously vary, whilst the quantity which that proportion represents remains the same, or the quantity may vary, whilst the proportion remains the same” * ([J. Cazenove,] Outlines of Political Economy, London, 1832, [p.] 67).

“In a country where the *gross return* is *small, a larger proportion of the whole may give the labourer a less command of necessaries, than in other countries,* where the * gross return * is greater, * a smaller proportion of the whole” * (Ramsay, [An Essay on the] Distribution of Wealth, Edinburgh, 1836, p. 178).

What Ricardo says about the ratio between profits and wages is true of the ratio between wages and surplus value.

“In proportion as less is appropriated for wages, more will be appropriated for profits, and vice versa” ([Ricardo, on the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation, 3rd ed., London, 1821, p.] 500).

“It is not the progress of mechanical science that is to blame, but the social order, if the worker, who gains the power of doing in two hours what he did previously in twelve, does not thereby become richer” (Sismondi, Nouveaux principes, Vol. I, [p.] 349).55

[XX-1286] “It is a remarkable result of the philosophical history of mankind that the progress of society in population, industry, and enlightenment is always achieved at the expense of the health, the skill and the intelligence of the great mass of the people ... the individual happiness of the great majority is sacrificed to the happiness of a small number of individuals; and it would be doubtful which of these two conditions, that of barbarism or prosperity, is to be preferred, if the insecurity inherent in the first did not incline the scales in favour of the second” (H. Storch, Cours d'économie politique, Vol. III, ed. by Say, [Paris,] 1823, [pp.] 342-43).

  • 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 c improvements” * (On Combinations of Trades, new ed., London, 1834, [p.] 42).

In the case considered, Ricardo is correct in saying that the sum of wages+profit = a constant magnitude of value, in so far as they always represent the same quantity of labour time.

We come now to the second case, the lengthening of the working day, and for the sake of simplification we assume here that the productive power of labour remains the same.

There are in fact only two possibilities to investigate.

1) Surplus labour time is lengthened, without any increase in wages, or any appropriation by the worker himself of a part of this overtime. This was for the most part the case throughout the period in which the factory system pushed overtime to an unlimited extent, both in its own sphere and in other spheres (outside it). (The example of the London bakeries.) (Also shown in the fact that wages rose relatively more in the branches subject to the Ten Hours’ Bill than where there was no normal working day laid down by law.) (See the list quoted earlier.') The value of labour capacity apparently remains the same here, while surplus value rises. Or the value of labour capacity, although it remains the same absolutely, falls relatively, because surplus value rises. surplus labour does not grow because necessary labour is lessened absolutely, but necessary labour falls in comparison with surplus labour, because the latter grows absolutely. If we compare the magnitude of the value of labour capacity or wages here with surplus value — or compare the paid with the unpaid part of the working day — the latter has risen absolutely, and therefore the former has fallen relatively, while in the first case (of a change resulting from a change in the productivity of labour) any rise or fall in surplus value arises only from a direct change in the value of labour capacity, or in the magnitude of the necessary labour time. Here too, a relative fall in wages corresponds to the growth of surplus value, but this is a relative fall which is caused by a change in surplus labour, a movement independent of necessary labour time — or of the value of labour capacity.

There are, however, two comments to be made here.

If this lengthening of labour time is not temporary, and the lengthened and lengthening working day becomes firmly established as normal, if this lengthening becomes established as normal, as was previously the case in all the branches of labour now subject to the Ten Hours’ Bill, and is now the case in a very large part of the spheres of production not yet subject to it, this fall in relative wages also rests on an absolute devaluation of labour capacity, a fall in its value. For, as we have seen, the daily, weekly average wage presupposes a normal number of years, which comprises a working life — the active existence of the worker, and therefore of his labour capacity. As a result of the lengthening of labour time this working life is shortened. If, e.g., the period = 20 years, and the daily necessary wage = x, then the total value of the labour capacity is:

In 1 day the wage is x,

in 365 days the wage is 365x,

in 20 years the wage = 365×20×x.

In 365 days×20 the wage = 365×20×x.

In 1 day the wage = x [365 x 20]/[365×20]

[XX-1287] If now the cycle of labour capacity is shortened by overtime from 20 years to 15, the value of labour capacity has fallen from 365×20x to 365×15x, from 4 to 3, or from 1 to 3/4. Hence by 1/4. If the daily value of labour capacity is to remain constant, despite its accelerated consumption, x must be changed into y, hence the following equation must take place:

365 × 15y = 365×20x. y = (365×20x)/(365×15) = 20x/15 = 4/3 x =(1+ 1/3)x. In other words, the necessary wage would now have to grow by 1/3 in order to remain the same.

Assume, e.g., that the weekly wage = 10s. With about 52 weeks, in the year this = 520s., and in 20 years = 520×20 = 10,400s. = (= £26 a year) = £520 in 20 years. Therefore, if the value of labour capacity is to remain the same, when its duration is reduced from 20 to 15 years by overtime, the annual wage would have to = £520/15 (or £34 2/3) and weekly wage = £520/(52×15) = £10/15 = 10×20/15 s. = 10×4/3 s. = 13 1/3 s. Therefore, for the daily value of labour capacity to remain the same, not only nominally but in reality, the worker would have to appropriate for himself as necessary labour time ‘/3 more of the total working day.

Under all circumstances, however, we must note (which is important for our later discussion) that when we look at the value of the product in which the total working day is objectified, this value naturally always = wages+surplus value, in other words necessary labour time+surplus labour time. It would on the other hand be wrong to invert this and say, as in the first case, that the total amounts of wages and surplus value always represent the same constant sum of value, because they represent the same labour time. They rather represent a changing labour time and therefore a variable sum of value.

Ferrand’s witticism in his speech of April 27, 1863 in the House of Commons, cited above, contains no element of contradictio in adjecto:

  • “The cotton trade of England had existed for 90 years. It had existed through three generations of the English race, and he believed he might safely say that during the same period it had destroyed nine generations of factory operatives.” *

What Professor Cairnes says in The Slave Power, London, 1862, is even truer of the manufacturers, since they do not even have to pay the fee-simple for the workers:

  • “The rice-grounds of Georgia or the swamps of the Mississippi may be fatally injurious to the human constitution; but the waste of human life, which the cultivation of these districts necessitates, is not so great that it cannot be repaired from the teeming preserves of Virginia and Kentucky”

(read Ireland and the agricultural districts of England, as long as their surplus population was not yet used up or withered in the bud).

“Considerations of economy, moreover, which, under a natural system, afford some security for humane treatment by identifying the master’s interest with the slave’s preservation, when once trading in slaves is practised, become reasons for racking to the uttermost the toil of the slave; for, when his place can at once be supplied from foreign preserves, the duration of his life becomes a matter of less moment than its productiveness while it lasts. It is accordingly a maxim of slave management, in slave importing countries, that the most effective economy is that which takes out of the [XX-1288] human chattel in the shortest space of time the utmost amount of exertion it is capable of putting forth. It is in tropical culture, where annual profits often equal the whole capital of plantations, that negro life is most recklessly sacrificed. It is the agriculture of the West Indies, which has been for centuries prolific of fabulous wealth, which has engulfed millions of the African race. It is in Cuba, at this day, whose revenues are reckoned by millions, and whose planters are princes, that we see, in the servile class, the coarsest fare, the most exhausting and unremitting toil, and even the absolute destruction of a portion of its members every year, by the slow torture of overwork and insufficient sleep and rest” * ([pp.] 110, 111).

Converted Form of the Value of Labour Capacity in the Value or Price of Labour[edit source]

Consideration of the case cited above leads us further to a different conception of the value of labour capacity, which is of little importance in our analysis of capital, but becomes very important in considering wages specifically.

  • “The price of labour is the sum paid for a given quantity of labour; the wages of labour is the sum earned by the labourer ... the wages of labour depend upon the price of labour and the quantity of labour performed” * (Sir Edw. West, Price of Corn and Wages of Labour, London, 1826, [pp.] 67, 68).
  • “An increase in the wages of labour does not necessarily imply an enhancement of the Price of labour. From fuller employment, and greater exertions, wages of labour may be considerably increased, whilst the price of labour may continue the same” * (l.c.,[p.] 112).

//Malthus maintains that the value of labour is constant, and that only the values of the commodities in which labour is paid change. This assertion, which like everything else is also found at certain points in Adam Smith, rests on the following train of thought, of which Malthus himself is by no means conscious a : Assume that the length of the working day is given, e.g. = 12 hours. At a certain level of productive power, let necessary labour = 10 hours and surplus labour = 2. If there is a general growth in the productivity of labour, the results of which enter into the worker’s necessary means of subsistence, the ratio will be changed into 9 hours of necessary and 3 hours of surplus labour. If the general productivity of labour declines, it will be changed into 11 hours of necessary and 1 hour of surplus labour. If we look at this from the point of view of the worker, his wage always costs him 12 hours of labour, although the commodities into which the wage can be resolved represent in turn the value of 10, 9 and 11 hours, according to the different levels of productivity of labour, and, corresponding with this, his surplus labour = 2, 3 and 1 hour, hence the profit is entirely different in each case. But to say that, because the worker — presupposing that the length of the working day is given — must work a given number of hours, e.g. 12, in order to obtain the product of 9, 10, or 11, the value of labour is constant, and therefore is the standard of value, is preposterous. The same quantity of labour appears here rather in an expression which is variable, and entirely different from the product of that quantity of labour. It would, as Bailey rightly says, be the same as declaring 1 yard of cloth to be the standard of value because the yard of cloth always remains identical whether it costs 5 or 1 or 6s.//[5]

So far we have not spoken of the value of labour but only of the value of labour capacity, since a direct exchange of more labour for less would contradict the law of commodity exchange, and the form, whether the labour is active or objective, is entirely irrelevant, and the more irrelevant in that the value of a definite quantity of objectified labour is measured not by the quantity of labour objectified in it but by the average quantity of living labour required to reproduce the same commodity. On the other hand, the concept of the commodity in and for itself excludes labour as process — i.e. the value of the commodity — : labour as process, in actu, is the substance and measure of value, not value. Only as objectified labour is it value. Therefore, in considering capital in general — where the presupposition is that commodities are exchanged at their value — labour can only function as labour capacity, which is itself an objective form of labour.

In the production process, however, this mediation disappears. If we disregard the formal process of the exchange [XX-1289] between capital and labour and consider what really occurs in the production process, and appears as the result of the production process, a certain quantity of living labour is exchanged for a smaller quantity of objective labour, and at the end of the process a certain quantity of objectified labour is exchanged for a smaller quantity of objectified labour.

A working day of 12 hours, e.g., is exchanged on the part of the worker for the product of 12-2 hours, or 10 hours, if the surplus labour = 2 hours.

It appears as a result that a commodity of the value of 10 hours = the value of the labour capacity, the value of the manifestation of this labour capacity of 12 hours, i.e. 12 hours of labour. In fact the reproduction of the worker’s labour capacity = 10 hours of labour, costs him 12 hours. He must work for 12 hours — must deliver a product in which 12 hours of labour are realised — in order to obtain commodities in which 10 hours are realised. The value of his labour capacity, determined by the 10 hours of labour time required for its daily reproduction, is the equivalent he receives for 12 hours of labour, and thus appears as the value of a 12-hour working day.

Price is at the outset merely the monetary expression of value. Assuming that the quantity of money which can be produced in an hour is 6d., this makes 6 x 12d., or 6s., for 12 hours of labour. If now the necessary labour time = 6 hours, the price of labour capacity = 3s. (its value expressed in money) and these 3s. — the value or price of the labour capacity — appear as the value or price of a working day of 12 hours.

They are in fact the price, or the amount of value, the worker receives in payment for the 12 hours — as equivalent. It is in this sense that we speak of the value or price of labour. //Once again, this is as distinct from the market price of labour, which stands now above, now below, its value, as with every. other commodity.// And it is in fact the form in which the relation appears. For our investigation we must hold fast to what is essential. So if we speak of the value (or, expressed in money, the price) of labour, this must always be understood to mean the value of labour capacity. But since this value of labour capacity (which is its daily, weekly, etc., value) in fact forms the wage, hence the sum of money the worker receives in payment for the whole of his working day, this price, in which only the paid part of the working day is objectified, appears as the price or value of the whole working day. And in this way 3s. are the value of a working day of 12 hours, although they are only the product of 6 hours of labour. In this form, the value, price of labour is a specific expression, which directly contradicts the concept of value. But this contradiction exists. It is mediated through a series of intermediate elements, which we have developed. In reality the relation appears unmediated, and therefore the wage appears as the value or price of a definite quantity of living labour. This form becomes important when one is examining wages in their real

movement. It is also important in understanding many misconceptions in the theory. But at this point we shall only consider [XX-1290] it incidentally in relation to the passage from West quoted above, and the CASE we are examining at present.

One can see that initially the phrase

  • “the price of labour is the sum paid for a given quantity of labour"*

is correct. It is the unconceptual form in which the value of labour appears (i.e. the value of labour capacity). We do not de prime abord see from this sum paid what difference there exists between the labour the worker performs and the labour required for the production of his wage. Let us take the above example. The labour time of 1 hour is objectified in 6d., and the labour time of 12 hours in 6s. Since the worker only receives 3s. for 12 hours of labour, the ratio of his surplus labour to his necessary labour = 100:100, or, this is the difference between the value of his labour capacity, which is paid him in wages, and its valorisation, which constitutes surplus value for the capitalist. This cannot, however, be perceived in the expression that the value of a working day of 12 hours = 3s.

[Let us assume that a commodity is sold at its price of production. If one deducts from its value the value of the constant capital contained in it, as well as the part of the wage contained in it, one might imagine that the excess was the surplus value, and thus the difference between the value and the valorisation of labour capacity could be calculated from the wage. We shall see later that this is not the case.]

Even so, this form too allows certain conclusions to be drawn which are relevant to our case.

Assume the total working day = 10 hours, assume further that the necessary labour time = 6 hours, and assume finally that 1 hour of labour is objectified in 6d. For 10 hours of labour the worker receives the product of 6 hours = 36d. = 3s. Thus the price or value of 1 hour (value or price in the sense developed above) comes to 3/10 s. or 3 3 /5d., and the surplus value comes to 2 2/5d. an hour. 2 2/5:3 3/5 = 12/5:18/5 = 12:18 = 2:3. Or, inversely, 3 3/5:2 2/5 = 3:2. In fact the ratio of total surplus labour [to necessary labour] is 4 hours:6 hours = 2/3:1.

The total working day = 10 hours, of which 6 are necessary labour . 6/10 = 3 /5. The worker works for himself for 3/5 of 10 hours, and he works for his capitalist for 2/5. (This is again the ratio of 3:2 or 2:3, according to whether one takes the ratio of necessary labour to surplus labour or the inversion of this.) He therefore works /, of every hour for himself, and 2/5 for his capitalist. Or 36 minutes for himself and 24 minutes for capital. And 2 these 36 minutes are represented by 3 3/5d., the 24 minutes by 2/5d. If surplus labour is now lengthened from 4 hours to 6, hence by 2 hours, the value of the working day remains 3s. as before, = the value of the labour capacity. The price of an hour of labour time now only comes to 3/ 12s. or 3d.; it has therefore fallen from 3 3/5 to 3, or by 3/5d. Whereas the surplus value has risen from 2 2/5 to 3, or by 3/5. Previously the worker worked 36 minutes of each hour for himself, and 24 for the capitalist; now he works 36-6 for himself and 24+6 for the capitalist. This change in the ratio of necessary labour to surplus labour, brought about by the absolute prolongation of the working day, therefore finds expression as a fall in the price or value of a certain quantity of labour, of an hour of labour in the given case. Here it appears as an absolute (not merely relative) fall. (But, as we have seen, it also implies a real depreciation of labour capacity, in so far as 12 hours’ use of labour capacity presupposes a different duration of labour capacity from 10 hours’ use.)

[2)] a Now let us assume the opposite case, where the worker receives the same price in payment for the 2 additional hours as for the 10, hence 2(3 +3/5)d. or 7 1/5d. The surplus value then comes to 2(2 +2 /5) = 4 4/5d. In the 12 hours, 6s. are now produced altogether. And of these 6s. the worker receives 3s. 7 1/5d., while the capitalist receives 2s. 4 4/5d. In this case the value of labour has risen from 3s. to 3s. 7 1/5d., and the surplus value from 2s. to 2s. 4 4/5d. This simultaneous rise in the value of labour and in surplus value is only possible given an absolute lengthening of the working day. //Except when the labour time becomes more intensive; but this can only apply to individual branches of labour. If the intensification becomes general, it is the normal intensity of labour, and the more intensive hour of labour is now the normal hour of labour, which is presupposed when one speaks of 1 hour of labour.// This rise in the wage (in its value) takes place without any increase in the price of labour or the value of labour. It only shows that labour time has been lengthened, and this absolute lengthening of the working day is not entirely a free gift for the capitalist. This shows the correctness of a [XX-1291] further remark by West:

  • “The wages of labour is the sum earned by the labourer ... the wages of labour depend upon the price of labour and the quantity of labour performed... An increase in the wages of labour does not necessarily imply an enhancement of the price of labour... Wages of labour may be considerably increased, whilst the price of labour may continue the same."*

It is therefore wrong to conclude that the value or price of labour has increased if the exchange value of the wage has risen, where this rise is connected with a growth in the quantity of labour or a lengthening of the working day.

In this case the surplus value has grown, but not its rate, for the increase in the variable capital has kept pace with the growth in the surplus value.

As long as 10 hours, were worked, capital paid a wage of 3s. (36d.) and made a surplus value of 2s. This is therefore a rate of surplus value of 2 /3 = 66 2/3%. Once 12 hours are worked, ca ital pays 3s. 7 1/5d. (or 43 1/5d.), and the surplus value = 2s. 4 4/5 d. (=284 /,d.). 43 1/5d. = 216/5 d., and 28 4/5 d. = 144/5. Hence the ratio of surplus value to variable capital = 144/216 = 72/108 = 36/54 = 18/27, and 18:27 = 66 2/3: 100.

Here, therefore, there takes place a growth in the value of the wage and a growth in surplus value, without any change in the proportion between them, nor therefore in relative surplus value or in the relative wage.

[In the case indicated here, however, there would be a relative increase in profit, for reasons which can only be explained later.]

But in this case the rise in the value of the wage is not accompanied by a rise in the price or value of labour, understanding this phrase to mean the total amount paid for a given labour time.

In the given case the worker works 7 1/5 of the 12 hours for himself and 4 4/5 for capital. Previously he worked 6 hours for himself and 4 for capital. But 7 1/5 is related to 4 4/5 as 6 is related to 4. I.e. the ratio of paid to unpaid labour time has remained unchanged. But since 6 hours was the labour time necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity, the wage now in fact appears to have risen above the minimum, above the value of labour capacity. The value of this labour capacity, however, was calculated on its being consumed for ten hours every day. With a twelve-hour consumption there is a change in its total duration, and therefore in the total value of this labour capacity, if the wage does not rise in the same proportion as the length of exploitation — the duration — of the labour capacity diminishes. It depends on the circumstances whether a lengthening of the working day, with the price of labour remaining constant, hence an increase in the wage, brings about a real depreciation of labour capacity, which is not indicated by any change in the price of labour, and indeed is accompanied by an increase in the value of the wage.

We have examined 1) the case where the lengthening of the absolute labour time is entirely appropriated by capital; and 2) the case where the ratio between paid and unpaid labour remains the same while labour time has been lengthened. Now we come 3) to the case where the overtime is admittedly divided between capitalist and worker, but not in the same ratio as existed previously between paid and unpaid labour time.

As long as 10 hours were worked the worker worked 6 hours for himself (3s.) and 4 hours for the capitalist (2s.).Once 12 hours are worked, let him receive 6d. in payment for 1 hour, and work one hour for the capitalist (= 6d.). The total labour time the worker now works for himself = 7 hours, the labour time he works for the capitalist = 5 hours. Previously the ratio was 4 /6 (= 2/3), now it is 5 /7. 2 A= 14 /21, and 5/7 = 15/21. The worker now receives 3s. 6d. for 12 hours; this makes 3 1/2d. for one hour, instead of the previous 3 3/5d. The price of labour has therefore fallen by 1/10 d. And the wage has risen from 3s. to 3s. 6d. [XX-1292] Here, therefore, a rise in wages has taken place (disregarding the depreciation of the labour capacity by its more rapid consumption) at the same time as a fall in the price of labour, and the surplus value has risen in the same proportion as the price of labour has fallen. Previously, the 2 capitalist laid out 3 and received 2, = 2/3; now he lays [out] 3s. 6d. and receives 2s. 6d.; hence he lays out 42d. and receives 30. 30/42 = 15/21; = 5/7. The rate of surplus value has therefore risen from 2/3 to 5/7, or from 14/21 to 15/21 or by 1/21.

Conversely, if the worker received 11/2 of the 2 hours, hence 9d., the relation would be this: His wage now = 3s. 9d., = 45d., this makes 3 3/4d. an hour, whereas previously he received only 3 3/5. 3 /4-3/5 = 15/20-12/20 = 3/20. In this case the rise in the wage is accompanied by a rise in the price of labour, to which there would correspond a fall in the rate of surplus value. The capitalist lays out 3s. 9d., there therefore remain for him 2s. 3d. 3s. 9d. = 45d. = 45d., and 2s. 3d. = 27d. 27/45 = 60%. Previously it was 66 2/3%. A fall of 6 2/3%. We shall see later on that relative profit may grow even in this case, where the amount of surplus value increases although its rate declines.

A rise in wages — seen from the point of view of exchange value, not use value, and with the productivity of labour remaining constant, as is the overall assumption in this part of the investigation — can therefore take place with the price of labour remaining constant, whereby a depreciation of labour capacity is possible. It can take place with the price of labour falling, a depreciation of labour capacity accompanied by not only an absolute but also a relative increase in surplus value.

It is necessary to subdivide this form in this way, as value of labour or price of labour, in which the value of labour capacity presents itself in practice and in its direct manifestation, in order to solve certain problems connected with the movement of wages. In considering the general relation we have only to take account by way of exception of this inverted form in which the value of labour capacity appears. This inverted form is, however, the way in which it appears in the real process of competition, where everything appears in an inverted form, and in the consciousness of both worker and capitalist.

We saw earlier: Given the length of the working day (and as long as we are not speaking of a fall of wages below the minimum or of their rise above the minimum, hence of price fluctuations which do not concern value itself), any alteration can only proceed from changes in the productivity of labour. So, assuming the case of a rise in the price of the necessary means of subsistence (e.g. the products of agriculture) as a result of a fall in the productivity of agriculture — with all other circumstances remaining the same, hence no fall for example in the price of the non-agricultural means of subsistence which might cancel out the above price rise — the value of labour capacity would have to rise, there would have to be an increase in necessary labour time at the cost of surplus labour time, and surplus value would have to fall. The quantity of the means of subsistence received by the workers would remain constant in spite of the rise in the value of labour capacity. If not, if it declined, the level of wages, or wages, would fall below its established minimum, in spite of the increased value of labour capacity and in spite of the resultant rise in relative wages and fall in relative surplus value. But this law does not by any means apply if the working day functions not as a constant but a variable magnitude, i.e. is prolonged beyond its previous normal limit. If absolute surplus labour is prolonged in. this way, then despite the rise in the value of labour capacity relative surplus value can not only remain the same but even grow. This was unquestionably the case in England, e.g., for the period 1800 to 1815. During this time the products of agriculture became dearer but it was at the same time the main period of the lengthening of the normal working day.

[There were other circumstances in that period which brought about not only a relative, but an absolute fall in the average wage. One of these factors was the continuous depreciation of money, and, as is well known, in epochs of the depreciation of money the nominal wage rises in the same proportion as money is depreciated. The value of money, is taken as constant throughout our investigation.]

Derived Formulae for the Ratio of Surplus Value to Variable Capital or of Surplus Labour To Necessary Labour[edit source]

[XX-1293] We have seen a that the rate of surplus value is to be calculated simply by reference to the magnitude of the variable capital, or, and this is the same thing, is to be expressed as the ratio of surplus labour/necessary labour. In the first expression surplus value/variable capital, the ratio of surplus value to the capital, whose variation it is, is expressed; it is a value relation; in the ratio of surplus labour to necessary labour both values, the variable capital and the surplus labour, are reduced to the basic ratio which measures them both, since the ratio of the two values is determined by the labour time contained in them, and the values are therefore in the same relation to each other as the labour times. Surplus value/variable capital and surplus labour/necessary labour or unpaid labour/ paid labour are all the original, conceptual expressions of the same relation.

[I have already used the expression (paid labour/ unpaid labour) in my original presentation of the rate of surplus value. This must not be done. Since it presupposes the payment of quantities of labour, not labour capacity. Unpaid labour is the expression used among the bourgeois themselves for abnormal overtime.]

The same relation can also be expressed in other derived forms, but these do not present the essential points with the same conceptual rigour.

Necessary labour+surplus labour = the total working day. Assuming that necessary labour = 8, and surplus labour = 4, the ratio = 4/8 = 1/2. Or 50% is the rate of exploitation of labour. The total working day = 12 (= necessary = necessary labour+surplus labour), necessary labour time = 12×2/3, and surplus labour time = 12/3. Both can be expressed as aliquot parts of the total working day, and if we compare these expressions, the same proportion emerges. (12×2)/3 or 24/3:12/3 = 24:12 = 8:4. But the rate of exploitation is not given directly by this expression. E.g., if surplus labour is 50% of necessary, it is 1/3 or 33 1/3%, of the total working day. This 33 1/3% does not, unlike the 50%, directly express the rate of exploitation. Although this derivative form is serviceable in some investigations, it can lead to entirely false conclusions.

For example, if we assume that necessary labour = 6 hours, and surplus labour = 6 hours, the rate of surplus value, or the rate of exploitation, will be 100%. If we assume that necessary labour = 4 hours, and surplus labour = 8 hours, the rate of surplus value, or the degree of exploitation, will be 200%. It is clear, on the other hand, that — (surplus labour)/( total working day) can never = 100%, since this ratio always = (total working day — necessary labour)/(total working day), in other words the surplus labour always forms an aliquot part of the total working day, is always smaller than the total working day, hence never = 100/100. Still less can it ever = (100+x)/100. The total working day is a limit which surplus labour can never reach, however great the reduction in necessary labour.

[This applies to the worker in so fat. as he is employed. For the total day composed of many simultaneous working days the day of the individual worker can be left out of account.]

Since surplus labour = the = the total [working day] — necessary labour, it will grow in the same ratio as necessary labour becomes smaller. But if the latter became 0, surplus labour would also be 0, since it is only a function of necessary labour. Various writers on political economy (some of whom also confuse profit with surplus value) have drawn from this the incorrect conclusion that the rate of surplus value can never amount to 100%,[57] thus taking a derived expression, which does not directly express the ratio, for the direct expression of the ratio. The expression must first be converted back in order to find the real ratio. If, e.g., we have the ratio of surplus labour to the surplus labour total working day, or (surplus labour)/(working day), it results front this that necessary labour = the total working day. And we therefore also have the ratio of the necessary working day to the total working day. The two ratios: (necessary labour)/(total working day) and surplus labour (surplus labour)/(total working day) yield (surplus labour)/(necessary labour) and only with this ratio do we have the real rate of exploitation, which can amount to 100% and more.

[XX-1294] Just as the expressions of necessary labour and surplus labour as fragments of the total working day are derived forms of the ratio (surplus labour)/(necessary labour), (paid labour)/( unpaid labour), so the expression of wages and surplus value as aliquot parts of the total product (i.e. of the value of the total product) is a derived form of the conceptual relation (surplus value)/( variable capital). The value of the product = constant capital+ (variable capital+surplus value). If we put constant capital = 0, i.e. if we abstract from its value, which does not affect the ratio between surplus value and variable capital, or does not affect the value the newly added labour has imparted to the product, the value of the total product = the value of the variable capital+the surplus value, = wages+ surplus value. Hence once the production process is extinguished in its result, in the product, once the living labour exchanged for objectified labour has again objectified itself, wages and surplus value can be expressed as fractions of value, as proportional parts of the total value of the product. Thus if the variable capital of £8 is reproduced by £8, and if in addition the surplus labour has objectified itself in £4, the value of the product = 8v+4s, = £12. The values £8 and £4, in which necessary and surplus labour have respectively been objectified, can then be expressed as proportional parts of the total product of £12.

Firstly, this derived ratio suffers from the same disadvantage as the derived formula we considered earlier. It does not directly express the rate of exploitation. Secondly, because the finished product always expresses labour time of a specific magnitude, all relations emerging from variations in the working day, in absolute surplus labour, disappear in this form. We find, therefore, that in fact the writers on political economy who make particular use of this form a treat the sum of necessary time+surplus time, the total working day, as a constant magnitude, hence they also treat the total value of the product, in which the total working day is expressed, solely as a constant magnitude. Lastly, however, when this formula is treated as the original formula, it blurs and falsifies the qualitative character of the exchange relation between capitalist and worker, the exchange between living labour and objectified labour, which really takes place in the production process, by dealing solely with objectified labour, labour objectified in the product. The essential relation, the fact that the worker has no share in the product, and that this exchange, instead of giving him a share, excludes him from any share in the product as such, this vital point of the whole relation, disappears, and its place is taken by the false semblance that the capitalist and the wage labourer form a partnership, and share out the product in proportion to their different contributions to its formation. This is therefore a favourite formula of bourgeois apologists for the relation of capital.

Nevertheless, this derived formula is an expression that emerges from the result of the production process itself, in which both wages and surplus value are ultimately represented as parts of the value of the product, the total amount of objectified labour. We shall learn the true meaning of this formula for the development of the relation of capital later on — when considering accumulation. This formula becomes all the more important because money figures as means of payment, i.e. labour is first paid for once it is objectified, hence has itself already passed over from the form of the process to that of rest, from the form of value-creating activity to that of value.

The value or price of labour (expressed in money) is the direct form in which the value of labour capacity appears. The situation appears to the worker as if he sells his labour for a certain sum of money; to the capitalist too it appears as if he buys this commodity for a certain sum of money. This price is then regulated, like that of every other commodity, by the laws governing the demand for, and supply of, labour. But the question has then to be asked, what regulates the laws of supply and demand? Or, in the case of this commodity (labour), as with all other commodities, one must ask what regulates its value, or the price corresponding to its value? Or its price, once supply and demand are evenly balanced? With labour as such, in contrast to all other commodities, we see that it is not directly covered by the law of value, for the value of a commodity, or the price which corresponds to that value, is determined by the quantity of [XX-1295] labour contained in this commodity, or the labour time objectified in it. It would be absurd to speak of the quantity of labour contained in a quantity of living labour, or of the determination e.g. of 12 hours of labour by 12 hours of labour. Here it is apparent that value can only be determined, one can only speak of the value of labour at all, in so far as the latter is a derivative form of the value of labour capacity.

Let us look first at the conceptual expression [of labour capacity], and then at its converted form as it appears on the surface — on the market. The comparison will serve also to clarify the relation between the two expressions.

Let us assume that the daily value of labour capacity = 6 hours of labour. Let 1 hour of labour be realised in 6d.; or let 6d. be the expression in money of 1 hour of labour. The worker sells his labour capacity to the capitalist for 6×6d. = 36d. = 3s. He has then sold his labour capacity at its value. The actual consumption of this commodity by the capitalist consists in the worker’s labour. But labour capacity is only sold for a certain part of the whole day. Assume the normal working day is 12 hours. The value of the product in which the 12-hour working day is realised = 12 hours. The first 6 hours in which it is realised are only an equivalent, for the wage. The value of the product (12 hours) minus the value of the labour capacity (6 hours), the difference between the value in which the working day is realised and the value of the labour capacity, forms the surplus value. Or, the difference between the total working day and the necessary labour time = the surplus labour.

The value in which the total working day is realised = 6s.; the value in which the value, or the price, of the labour capacity is replaced = 3s. The surplus value = 6-3s., or = 3s., or the surplus labour = 12 hours-6 hours = 6 hours. The surplus value appears here directly as the difference between the total amount of value in which the working day is realised and the value in which the part of the working day is realised which replaces only the wage, the value of the labour capacity; in other words it appears as the difference between the total working day and the paid part of the working day.

But, as remarked earlier, labour capacity is one of the commodities where money figures as means of payment; i.e. it figures twice, first as means of purchase, in the sale, then as means of payment, when the sale is realised, once the use value of the commodity has passed into the possession of the buyer. The worker only receives payment, e.g. daily or weekly, once the capitalist has had his labour capacity work e.g. for a week during 12 hours of each day. The equivalent he receives therefore appears as an equivalent for his 12 hours of labour. Apart from this, he has sold his labour capacity, hence its consumption, for a particular period of time. But this time-determined consumption on the part of the capitalist is on the part of the worker a particular quantity, measured in time, of his own activity, i.e. his labour, hence e.g. the sale of 12 hours of his labour a day. And the price, the sum of money he receives, thus reappears, for him as for the capitalist, as the price of, or the equivalent for, his 12 hours of labour. It is the more natural, therefore, that this real result of the process — namely that a particular quantity of labour has been bought and sold for a particular quantity of money — should also appear to the capitalist as the content of the transaction, since what concerns him in the whole of the transaction is only this content.

Now what appears in this form as the value of labour or as its price, forming the limit of market prices? Precisely the value of labour capacity, or the sum of money in which the necessary labour is objectified. If the normal working day consists of 12 hours — and necessary labour time is 6 hours — then 3s. (the result of 6 hours of labour) will appear as the value of the 12-hour working day. Prices which stand above or below this are prices which diverge from the value of labour and oscillate around it as a central point. Under these circumstances, therefore, 3d. appears as the value of one hour of labour. We have already explained earlier that this would have a higher expression if the normal working day were less than 12 hours, and [a smaller expression] if it were more than 12 hours. However, we do not want to return to this discussion here. Here we are concerned with another side, the qualitative side. (The wage for a particular period of time, a particular quantity of labour (e.g. an hour of labour), is determined here by the ratio of necessary labour to the total working day. And the wage appears as the sum which is paid for the total working day. If the price of labour remains constant, the wage can rise if labour time is prolonged; if the wage remains constant, the price of labour can fall if labour time is prolonged; equally, if the price of labour falls, the wage can rise if [labour] time [XX-1296] is prolonged.)

Hence the value in which the necessary labour time is realised appears as the value of the working day, which = necessary labour time+surplus labour time. 3s. thus appears under the above presupposition as the value of a 12-hour working day, although the 12-hour working day is objectified in 6s. Thus the value of the working day appears in this example as half the size of the value of the product in which this working day is objectified. (See p. 40 of Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, Part One, 1859, where I announce that in my analysis of capital this problem will be solved:

“How does production on the basis of exchange value solely determined by labour time lead to the result that the exchange value of labour is less than the exchange value of its product?”)

If the necessary labour time = x, the total working day = y or = x+z, and if x is realised in a value x’, while y is realised in x'+z’, x’ appears as the value of x+z.

The value of labour (or of the working day), as it appears in this unconceptual form, is therefore something entirely different from the value of the commodity determined by the working day.

Before we go any further, two more remarks should be made.

Firstly: On the above presupposition, the value of an hour of labour = 3d., and this is the case because the value of the labour capacity, or the value in which the necessary labour is realised, = 6 hours, and the value of each hour = 6d., hence the value in which 6 hours are realised = 36d. This 36/12, or the value of the labour capacity — the value of the commodities in which the necessary labour time is realised — divided by the number of hours which form the total working day, necessary+surplus labour, appears here as the value of an hour of labour. If the total working day came to only 10 hours, the value of an hour would = 36/10; if it came to 18 hours, the value would = 36/ is. The constant factor is the value of the labour capacity, or the value in which the necessary labour is realised. But the price of a particular quantity of labour, e.g. the price of an hour, is determined by the ratio of the necessary labour time to the total working day, or to the necessary+the surplus labour.

It is therefore clear that if on the above presupposition 3d. per hour is established as the average value of an hour of labour, this is on the assumption not only that the total working day is twice as long as the necessary labour time, 12 hours instead of 6, but that the worker is employed for 12 hours every day, or that his average daily employment over the year comes to 12 hours. For only if he works 12 hours every day is he capable of reproducing the value of his own labour capacity, and therefore continuing to live as a worker under the same average conditions; or, only if he works 12 hours is he capable of producing for himself a daily value of 6 hours — the value of his labour capacity. If he were only employed for e.g. 10 hours at a price per hour of 3d., he would only receive 30d. = 2s. 6d., a wage which would fall below the daily value of labour capacity, and therefore below the average wage. If he were only. employed for 6 hours, he would receive precisely half the wage required to conduct his life in its traditional manner. The same phenomena occur when there is only half time work, 3/4 time, etc. It is for this reason that the London builders spoke out in their strike of 1860 sq. against payment by the hour instead of by the working day or the working week. This is also an important aspect in determining the case of the seasonal workers, etc.; here the worker perhaps overworks for 3 months and for the rest of the year is only half or 1/3 employed.

The second point follows from the specific nature of overtime. The calculation of the price or value of an hour has hitherto always been done on the presupposition that the worker is employed for longer than 6 hours, i.e. that he works his necessary labour time for himself. With overtime this limit does not exist. There it is not only presupposed that the worker works 1/2 an hour for himself, 1/2 an hour for his master, but that he works 12 /2 hours for himself in the course of the day. This is in fact the limit. If the master had him work only 6 hours, the necessary wage would be expressed as 3 /6x6, = 3s. I.e. the value of the labour = the value of the product of the labour; and the surplus labour, hence surplus value, would = 0. If the whole working day only came to 7 hours, the master would gain only 1 surplus hour, only the 6d. of surplus value in which the value of a surplus hour is expressed. If he now has the worker work more than the normal working time of 12 hours, and pays the wage of 6d. even for the 2 extra hours, the ratio of necessary to surplus labour no longer enters the picture. He can gain 1 surplus hour without having 6 necessary hours worked.

[XX-1291a] [6] The value concept is not only completely extinguished in this expression of the value of labour or the price of labour time, but inverted into something directly contradictory to it. The value in which one part of the normal working day is embodied (namely the part necessary for the reproduction of labour capacity) appears as the value of the total working day. Thus the value of 12 hours of labour = 3s., although the value of the commodity which is produced in 12 hours of labour = 6s., and indeed because 12 hours of labour are represented by 6s. This is therefore an irrational expression, somewhat like sqrt(-2) in algebra. But it is an expression which necessarily results from the production process, it is the necessary form of appearance of the value of labour capacity. It is already contained in the term wage of labour, in which the wage of labour = the price of labour = the value of labour. This form lacks conceptual rigour; but it is the form which lives both in the consciousness of the worker and in that of the capitalist, because it is the form which directly appears in reality; it is therefore the form vulgar political economy sticks to, making the specific difference which sets the science of political economy apart from all the other sciences the fact that the latter seek to uncover the essence which lies hidden behind commonplace appearances, and which mostly contradicts the form of commonplace appearances (as for example in the case of the movement of the sun about the earth), whereas the former proclaims the mere translation of commonplace appearances into equally commonplace notions to be the true business of science. In this inverted and derived form, the form in which the value of labour capacity presents itself on the surface of bourgeois society, possesses its commonplace expression (its exoteric shape) as the value or, expressed in money, the price of labour, the difference between paid and unpaid labour is entirely extinguished, since the wage is after all a payment for the working day and an equivalent for it — in fact, for its product. The surplus value the product contains must therefore in fact be derived from an invisible, mysterious quality, from constant capital. This expression, the difference between wage labour and serf labour, forms a delusion of the worker himself.

i) Formal and Real Subsumption of Labour under Capital. Transitional Forms[edit source]

Source: MECW, Volume 34, p. 93-121;

Translated: by Ben Fowkes;

Written: May 1863;

This section follows directly on from the Addenda following the last section of Relative Surplus Value at the start of Notebook XX. On the cover of Notebook XX, Marx wrote “May 1863”. Parts of XXI-1303, 1305, 1306 and 1318 were cut out and pasted into the text of “Chapter Six”, and much of the text of the remaining pages reappears in the text of “Chapter Six”.

We have considered the two forms of absolute and relative surplus value separately, but shown at the same time how they are interconnected, and that it is precisely with the development of relative surplus value that absolute surplus value is pushed to its uttermost limit. We have seen how the separation of the two forms brings forth differences in the ‘relations of wages and surplus value. Given the development of productive power, surplus value always appears as absolute surplus value, and in particular any change in it is only possible through a change in the total working day. If we presuppose the working day as given, the development of relative surplus value alone is possible, i.e. through the development of productive power.

But the mere existence of absolute surplus value implies nothing more than such a level of natural fertility, hence a productivity of labour of natural and spontaneous origin, that not all the (possible) (daily) labour time of a man is required for the maintenance of his own existence or the reproduction of his own labour capacity. The only further requirement is that he should be compelled — that an external compulsion should exist for him — to work more than the necessary labour time, a compulsion to do surplus labour. However, the physical possibility of a surplus produce, in which surplus labour is objectified, clearly depends on 2 circumstances: If needs are very limited, then even with a small natural productive power of labour a part of the labour time can suffice to satisfy them, and thus to leave another part over for surplus labour, and therewith for the creation of the surplus produce. On the other hand: If the natural productive power of labour is very high — i.e. if the natural fertility of the soil, the waters, etc., requires only — a slight expenditure of labour to be made to gain the means of subsistence necessary to existence, this natural productive power of labour, or, if you please, this productivity of labour of natural and spontaneous origin, naturally functions — if we consider the mere duration of the necessary labour time — in exactly the same way as the development of the social productive power of labour. A high level of productive power of labour, of natural origin, is connected with a rapid increase in the population — in labour capacities — and therefore in the material out of which the surplus value is cut. If, inversely, the natural productive power of labour is small, hence the labour time required for the satisfaction of even simple needs is great, the development of surplus produce (or surplus labour) can only come close to forming alien wealth if the number of people simultaneously exploited by one person is large. [XXI-1302] If we assume that the necessary labour time = 1 1 1/2 hours, and the working day = 12 hours, one worker provides a surplus value of 1/2 an hour. But since 23 /2 hours are required to maintain a single worker, the following calculation applies:


1 provides 1/2 an hour of surplus labour.

23 [provide] 23/2 hours.

Hence in this case 23 workers would be necessary in order to maintain one single person who lives without work, but only lives like a worker. For him to live 3 or 4 times better, and in addition to be able to turn a part of the surplus value back into capital, perhaps 23 x 8 workers, = 184 workers, would have to be employed for one single individual. Moreover, the real wealth at the disposal of the single individual would be very small here. The greater the productive power of labour, the greater can the number of non-workers be in proportion to the workers, and the greater the number of workers who are not employed in the production of the necessary means of subsistence, or are not employed in material production at all, or, finally, the greater the number of persons who either directly are proprietors of the surplus produce or who work neither physically nor intellectually but still perform “services” which the owners of the surplus produce pay for by setting aside a part of the latter for them.

In any case, to the two forms of surplus value — absolute and relative — if each is considered for itself in its separate existence, and absolute surplus value always precedes relative — there correspond two separate forms of the subsumption of labour under capital, or two separate forms of capitalist production, of which the first always forms the predecessor of the second, although the further developed form, the second one, can in turn form the basis for the introduction of the first in new branches of production.

I call the form which rests on absolute surplus value the formal subsumption of labour under capital. It is distinguished only formally from other modes of production, in which the actual producers provide a surplus produce, a surplus value. i.e. work more than the necessary, labour time, but for others rather than for themselves.

The compulsion which is exerted — i.e. the method by which the surplus value, surplus produce, or surplus labour, is called into existence — is of a different kind. We shall first examine the specific differences in the next section, under accumulation . But the essential points in this formal subsumption of labour under capital are:

1) that the worker confronts the capitalist, who possesses money, as the proprietor of his own person and therefore of his own labour capacity, and as the seller of the temporary use of the latter. Thus both meet as commodity owners, as seller and buyer, and thus as formally free persons, between whom in fact no other relation exists than that of buyer and seller, no other politically or socially fixed relation of domination and subordination;

2) (something which is implied by the first relation — for otherwise the worker would not have to sell his labour capacity) that the objective conditions of his labour (raw material, instruments of labour and therefore also means of subsistence during labour) belong, completely or at least in part, not to him but to the buyer and consumer of his labour, therefore themselves confront him as capital. The more completely these conditions of labour confront him as the property of another, the more completely is the relation of capital and wage labour present formally, hence the more complete the formal subsumption of labour under capital.

As yet there is no difference in the mode of production itself. The labour process continues exactly as it did before — from the technological point of view — only as a labour process now subordinated to capital. Nevertheless, there develops within the production process itself, as we have indicated earlier //and everything said about this earlier is only now in the proper place//, firstly a relation of domination and subordination, in that the consumption of labour capacity is done by the capitalist, and is therefore supervised and directed by him; and secondly a greater continuity of labour.

If the relation of domination and subordination replaces those of slavery, serfdom, vassalage, patriarchal relations of subordination, there takes place only a change in their form. The form becomes freer, in that the subordination is now only of an objective nature, it is formally speaking voluntary, affects only the position between worker and capitalist in the production process. And this is the change of form which takes place in agriculture in particular when former serfs or slaves are transformed into free wage labourers.

[XXI-1303] Or the relation of domination and subordination in the production process replaces an earlier independence in the production process, as e.g. with all self-sustaining peasants, farmers who only had to pay a rent in kind, whether to the state or to the landlord, with rural-domestic subsidiary industry, or independent handicrafts. Here, therefore, the loss of a previous independence in the production process is the situation, and the relation of domination of subordination is itself the product of the introduction of the capitalist mode of production.

Finally, the relation of capitalist and wage labourer can replace the master of the guild type and his journeymen and apprentices, a transition accomplished in part by urban manufacture at its very beginnings. The medieval guild relation, which developed in analogous form in narrow circles in Athens and Rome as well, and was of such decisive importance in Europe for the formation of capitalists on the one hand, and of a free estate of workers on the other, is a limited, not yet adequate, form of the relation of capital and wage labour. There exists here on the one hand the relation of buyer and seller. Wages are paid, and master, journeyman, and apprentice confront each other as free persons. The technological basis of this relation is the handicraft workshop, in which the more or less skilled manipulation of the instrument of labour is the decisive factor of production. Here independent personal labour and therefore its professional development, which requires a longer or shorter period of apprenticeship, determines the result of the labour. The master is admittedly in possession of the conditions of production, the tools of the trade, the material of labour //although the tools may also belong to the journeyman//, and the product belongs to him. To that extent he is a capitalist. But as a capitalist he is not a master. He is first and foremost a craftsman himself, and is supposed to be a master of his craft. Within the production process itself he figures as a craftsman as much as do his journeymen, and he is the first to initiate his apprentices into the mysteries of the craft. He has exactly the same relation to his apprentices as a teacher has to his pupils. His relation to apprentices and journeymen is therefore not that of the capitalist as such, but that of the master of a craft, who holds as such a hierarchical position in the corporation, and therefore towards them, which is supposed to rest on his own mastery in the craft. His capital is therefore restricted both in its material form and in the extent of its value; it has not by any means yet attained the free form of capital. It is not a definite quantity of objectified labour, value in general, which can take on this or that form of the conditions of labour, and takes on whatever form it chooses, according to whether it decides to be exchanged for this or that form of living labour, in order to appropriate surplus labour. Only after he has passed through the prescribed stages of apprentice and journeyman, etc., himself produced his masterpiece, can he put money to work in this particular branch of labour, in his own craft, partly by turning it into the objective conditions of the craft, partly by buying journeymen and keeping apprentices. Only in his own craft can he convert his money into capital, i.e. use it not only as the means of his own labour but also as a means of exploiting alien labour. His capital is tied to a particular form of use value, and therefore does not confront his workers as capital. The methods of work he employs are not only acquired by experience but prescribed by guild regulations — they count as the necessary methods, and thus from this angle too it is not exchange value but the use value of the labour which appears as the ultimate purpose. The delivery of work of this or that quality does not depend on his own discretion; the whole guild system is rather directed towards the delivery of work of a specific quality. The price of labour” is just as little subject to his arbitrary will as the method of work. The restricted form, which prevents his wealth from functioning as capital, is further shown by the fact that a maximum Is in fact prescribed for the extent of the value of his capital. He is riot allowed to keep more than a certain number of journeymen, since the guild is supposed to ensure for all masters a proportional share in the receipts of their craft. Finally there is the relation of the master to other masters as a member of the same guild; as such he belongs to a corporation, which has certain communal conditions of production (guild order, etc.), political rights, participation in the city administration, etc. He works to order — with the exception of his work for merchants — for immediate use value, and so the number of masters is regulated accordingly. He does not confront his workers as a mere merchant. Still less can the merchant convert his money into productive capital; he can only “transfer” the commodities, he cannot produce them himself. An existence of the estate type — the purpose and result of the exploitation of alien labour is here not exchange value as such, not enrichment as such. What is decisive here is the instrument. The raw material is in many branches of labour (e.g. tailoring) delivered to the master himself by his customers. The barrier to production within the whole range of the available consumption is here a law. It is therefore by no means regulated by the barriers of capital itself. In the capitalist relation the barriers disappear along with the politico-social bonds in which capital still moves here, hence not yet appearing as capital.

[XXI-1304] [...] in Carthage and Rome, it is restricted to peoples among whom the Carthaginians [...] had developed capital in the form of commercial capital, and therefore made exchange values as such into the direct [...] production, or where, as with the Romans, through the concentration of wealth, particularly of landed property, in a few hands, production was necessarily directed no longer towards use by the producer himself but towards exchange value, hence possessed this aspect of capitalist production. For although the purpose for the rich Roman was consumption, the greatest possible quantity of use values, this could only be attained through the magnitude of the exchange value of the product offered for sale, and thus production was directed towards exchange value, and what concerned him was to get as much money as possible, hence to squeeze out as much labour as possible from the slaves.

In comparison with the independent craftsman, who works for stray customers, the continuity of [labour of] the worker, who works for the capitalist, is naturally greater, for his work does not find any limit in accidental needs that set him to work or in the magnitude of those needs; he is rather employed day in, day out, by capital, continuously, and more or less regularly. In comparison with that of the slave, this work is more productive, because more intensive and more continuous, for the slave only works under the impulse of external fear, but not for his own existence, which does not belong to him; the free worker, in contrast, is driven on by his own wants. The consciousness of free self-determination — of freedom — makes the latter a much better worker than the former, and similarly the feeling of responsibility; for, like every seller of a commodity, he is responsible for the commodity he provides, and he must provide it at a certain quality, if he is not to be swept from the field by other sellers of commodities of the same species. The continuity of the relation between slave and slaveholder is preserved by the direct compulsion exerted upon the slave. The free worker, on the other hand, must preserve it himself, since his existence as a worker depends on his constantly renewing the sale of his labour capacity to the capitalist. Unlike both the slave and the serf, the worker receives an equivalent for his labour, since the wage, as we have seen, although it in fact only pays the necessary labour, appears as the value, the price of the working day; and although in fact his surplus labour is no more paid than the forced labour of the serf or the work the slave does over and above the time necessary for the reproduction of his keep. The difference here can only consist in the quantity of unpaid labour time, although a quantitative difference of this kind is not necessary, depending rather on the level of the customary value of labour capacity. But however much or however little surplus labour the free worker provides, however high or low the average wage stands, whatever the relation between his total working day and his necessary labour time, for him the form of the matter is always that he works for his wages, for money, and if he works for 12 hours to obtain an equivalent of 8 hours of labour, the 12 hours are only worked to buy with them the equivalent of 8. This is not the case with the slave. Even the part of the work he does for himself — i.e. in order to replace the value of his own keep — appears to him as labour he performs for the slave-owner, whereas with the free worker even the surplus labour he performs appears as labour performed in his own interest, i.e. as the means of purchasing his wages. The money relation, the sale and purchase between worker and capitalist, disguises the former’s labour for no return, whereas with slave labour the property relation of the slave to his master disguises the former’s labour for himself. If the working day = 12 hours, the labour time which is necessary and is therefore represented in the wage might = 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 hours, and therefore the surplus labour, i.e. labour for no return, might equal, respectively, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 hours or 1 hour, but the way the relation always appears to the worker is that he sells 12 hours of labour for a particular price, even if a variable one, and therefore always works only for himself, never for his master.

[XXI-1305] [...] The higher value of this labour capacity must be paid to the worker himself, and it is expressed in a higher wage. Great differences in wages are therefore found, according to whether the specific kind of labour requires a more highly developed labour capacity, necessitating greater production costs, or not, and this on the one hand opens up an area of free movement for individual differences, while on the other hand it provides a spur to the development of the individual’s own labour capacity. Certain as it is that the mass of labour must consist of more or less unskilled labour, and therefore that the mass of wages must be determined by the value of simple labour capacity, it remains possible for isolated individuals to make their way upwards into higher spheres of labour by particular energy, talent, etc., just as there remains the abstract possibility that this or that worker could himself become a capitalist and an exploiter of alien labour. The slave belongs to a particular master; it is true that the worker must sell himself to capital, but not to a particular capitalist, and thus he has a choice, within a particular sphere, as to who he sells himself to, and can change masters. All these differences in the relation make the activity of the free worker more intensive, more continuous, more agile, and more dexterous than that of the slave, quite apart from the fact that they fit the worker himself to undertake historical actions of an entirely different nature. The slave receives the means of subsistence necessary for his maintenance in a natural form, which is as fixed in kind as in extent — in use values. The free worker receives them in the form of money, of exchange value, of the abstract social form of wealth. However much the wage is now in fact nothing but the silver or gold or copper or paper form of the necessary means of subsistence, into which it must constantly be resolved — money functioning here as the merely transitory form of exchange value, as mere means of circulation — abstract wealth, exchange value, and not a specific traditionally and locally limited use value, still remains for the worker the purpose and result of his labour. It is the worker himself who turns the money into whatever use values he wants, buys the commodities he wants with it, and as an owner of money, as a buyer of commodities, he stands in exactly the same relation to the sellers of commodities as any other buyer. The conditions of his existence — and also the limited extent of the value of the money he has acquired — naturally compel him to spend it on a rather restricted range of means of subsistence. Nevertheless, some degree of variation is possible here, such as e.g. newspapers, which form part of the necessary means of subsistence of the English urban worker. He can save something, form a hoard. He can also waste his wages on spirits, etc. But in acting this way he acts as a free agent, he must pay his own way; he is himself responsible for the way in which he spends his wages. He learns to master himself, in contrast to the slave, who needs a master. To be sure, this only applies when one considers the transformation of a serf or slave into a free wage labourer. The capitalist relation appears here as a step up the social scale. It is the opposite when an independent peasant or craftsman is transformed into a wage labourer. What a difference there is between the proud yeomanry of England, of whom Shakespeare speaks,” and the English agricultural day labourers! Since the purpose of labour is for the wage labourer wages alone, money, a definite quantity of exchange value, in which any specific characteristics of use value have been extinguished, he is completely indifferent to the content of his labour, and therefore to the specific character of his activity. In the guild or caste system, on the other hand, this activity was regarded as the exercise of a vocation, whereas with the slave, as with the beast of burden, it is only a particular kind of activity, of exertion of his labour capacity, imposed on him and handed down from the past. Hence in so far as the division of labour has not made his labour capacity entirely one-sided, [XXI-1306] the free worker is in principle receptive to, and ready for, any variation in his labour capacity and his working activity which promises better wages (as is indeed demonstrated in the case of the surplus population of the countryside, which constantly transfers to the towns). If the developed worker is more or less incapable of this variation, he still regards it as always open to the next generation, and the emerging generation of workers can always be distributed among, and is constantly at the disposal of, new branches of labour or particularly prosperous branches of labour. In North America, where the development of wage labour has least of all been affected by reminiscences of the old guild system, etc., this variability, this complete indifference to the specific content of labour, this ability to transfer from one branch to another, is shown particularly strongly. Hence the contrast between this variability and the uniform, traditional character of slave labour, which does not vary according to the requirements of production, but rather the reverse, requiring that production should itself be adapted to the mode of labour introduced originally and handed down by tradition, is emphasised by all United States writers as the grand characteristic of the free wage labour of the North as against the slave labour of the South. (See Cairnes.) The constant creation of new kinds of labour, this continuous variation — which results in a multiplicity of use values and therefore is also a real development of exchange value — this continuing division of labour in the whole of the society — first becomes possible with the capitalist mode of production. It begins with the free handicraftguild system, where it does not meet with a barrier in the ossification of each particular branch of the craft itself. With the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital, the compulsion to do surplus labour and therewith on the one hand to create needs and the means to satisfy those needs, and on the other hand to produce in quantities which go beyond the measure of the worker’s traditional needs — and the creation of free time for development, independently of material production — merely takes on a different form from that of earlier modes of production, but it is a form which heightens the continuity and intensity of labour, increases production, is favourable to the development of variations in labour capacity and accordingly to the differentiation of kinds of labour and modes of gaining a living, and finally replaces the very relation between the owner of the conditions of labour and the worker by a new relation of purchase and sale, and eliminates all patriarchal and political admixtures from the relation of exploitation. To be sure, a relation of domination and subordination enters the relation of production itself; this derives from capital’s ownership of the labour it has incorporated and from the nature of the labour process itself. The less capitalist production goes beyond this formal relation, the less is this relation developed, since it presupposes small capitalists alone, who are only marginally distinct from the workers themselves in their training and mode of employment.

Technologically, therefore — where this transformation of earlier modes of production into the capitalist one takes place and initially appears only as a formal subsumption of labour under capital — hence the relation of purchase and sale between the owners of the conditions of labour and the owners of labour capacity also appears this way — the real labour process remains the same, and the way in which it is carried on depends on the relation from which it has developed. Agriculture remains the same, although the day labourer has replaced the serf; similarly with the handicraft system, when it makes the transition from the guild-like to the capitalist mode of production. The difference in the relation of domination and subordination, when the mode of production is not yet affected, is at its greatest where rural or in general domestic subsidiary trades, or side occupations carried on just for the needs of the family, are transformed into separate branches of labour carried on in a capitalist way.

The difference between labour formally subsumed under capital and the previous way of employing labour emerges here to the same extent as the growth in the magnitude of the capital employed by the individual capitalist, hence in the number of workers he employs simultaneously. Only when capital has grown to a certain minimum level does the capitalist cease to be a worker himself and begin to reserve his energies for management and commercial dealings with the commodities that have been produced. On the other hand, the proper form of capitalist production, which is now to be considered, can only enter the picture once capitals of a certain magnitude have directly taken control of production, whether through the merchant’s becoming a producer, or because larger capitals have gradually been formed within production itself.

“A free labourer has generally the liberty of changing his master; this liberty distinguishes a slave from a free labourer, as much as an English man-of-war sailor is distinguished from a merchant sailor... The condition of a labourer is superior to that of a slave, because a labourer thinks himself free; and this condition, — however erroneous, has no small influence on the character ... of a population — (Th. R. Edmonds, Practical Moral and Political Economy etc., London, 1828, [pp. 56-]57).---Themotive which impels a free man to labour is much more violent than the motive impelling a slave: a free man has to choose between hard labour [XXI-1307] and [starvation for himself and family; a slave has to choose between hard labour and] a good whipping — (l.c., [p.] 56). “The difference between the conditions of a slave and of a labourer under the money system is very inconsiderable ... the master of the slave understands too well his own interest to weaken his slaves by stinting them in their food; but the master of a free man gives him as little food as possible, because the injury done to the labourer does not fall on himself alone, but on the whole class of masters” (l.c.).

“In the old world, to make mankind labour beyond their wants, to make one part of a state work, to maintain the other part gratuitously, could only be brought about by slavery, and slavery was therefore introduced universally. Slavery was then as necessary towards multiplication, as it would now be destructive of it. The reason is plain. If mankind be not forced to labour, they will only labour for themselves; and if they have few wants, there will be few [who] labour. But when states come to be formed and have occasion for idle hands to defend them against the violence of their enemies, food at any rate must be procured for those who do not labour; and as by the suppositions, the wants of the labourers are small, a method must be found to increase their labour above the proportion of their wants. For this purpose slavery was calculated... The slaves were forced to labour the soil which fed both them and the idle freemen, as was the case in Sparta; or they filled all the servile places which freemen fill now, and they were likewise employed, as in Greece and in Rome, in supplying with manufactures those whose service was necessary for the state. Here then was a violent method of making mankind laborious in raising food... Men were then forced to labour, because they were slaves to others; men are now forced to labour because they are slaves to their own wants” * (Steuart, [An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy ....] Vol. 1, Dublin Edition, [1770,] pp. 38-40).

//In agriculture, capitalist production in particular — production directed towards exchange value on the one hand, buying labour on the other hand — brings about a greater intensity of labour because the number of workers is very much reduced. Wages by no means increase in proportion to this heightened intensity of labour.

In the 16th century, while on the one hand the lords were dismissing their retainers, the farmers, who were turning themselves into industrial capitalists, “were dismissing the idle mouths”

Agriculture was converted from a means of subsistence into a trade. The consequence, as Steuart says, was this:

“The withdrawing ... [of] a number of hands from a trifling agriculture forces, in a manner, the husbandmen to work harder; and by hard labour upon a small spot, the same effect is produced as with slight labour upon a great extent” (l.c., Vol. I, p. 105).

//Even in the handicrafts of the towns, production remained chiefly production of means of subsistence, although in the nature of things the product was produced directly as a commodity, since it had first to be converted into money before it could be converted into means of subsistence.// (Enrichment as such was not its direct purpose.)//

The Real Subsumption of Labour Under Capital[edit source]

//(Since the purpose of productive labour is not the existence of the worker but the production of surplus value, all necessary labour which produces no surplus labour is superfluous and worthless to capitalist production. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. The same proposition can also be expressed in this way, that all gross product which only replaces the worker’s subsistence (approvisionnement), and produces no net product, is just as superfluous as the existence of those workers who themselves produce no net product or no surplus value — or those who, although they were necessary for the production of surplus value at a given stage of the development of industry, have become superfluous to the production of that surplus value at a more advanced stage of development. Or, in other words, only the number of people profitable to capital is necessary. The same is true for a nation of capitalists.

“Is not the real interest of a nation similar” to that of a private capitalist, for whom it would be a matter quite indifferent whether his capital would “employ 100 or 1,000 men” provided his [profits on a] capital of 20,000 “were not diminished in all cases below 2,000? Provided its net real income, its rent and profits be the same, it is of no importance whether the nation consists of 10 or of 12 millions [XXI-1308] of inhabitants... If 5 millions of men could produce as much food and clothing as was necessary for 10 millions, food and clothing for 5 millions would be the net revenue. Would it he of any advantage to the country, that to produce this same net revenue, 7 millions of men should be required, that is to say, that 7 millions should be employed to produce food and clothing sufficient for 12 millions? The food and clothing of 5 millions would be still the net revenue” [D. Ricardo, Des principes de l'économie politique et de l'impôt, Paris, 1819].

Even the philanthropists can have no objection to bring forward against this statement by Ricardo. For it is always better that out of 10 million people only 50% should vegetate as pure production machines for 5 million, than that out of 12 million 7 million, or 58 1/3%, should vegetate in this way.)

“Of what use in a modern kingdom would be a whole province thus divided — //between self-sustaining little farmers as in the first times of ancient Rome//, “however well cultivated, except for the mere purpose of breeding men, which, singly taken, is a most useless purpose” (Arthur Young, Political Arithmetic etc., London, 1774, [p.] 47).

//Factory work:

A man becomes exhausted more quickly when he watches over the uniform motion of a mechanism for fifteen hours a day, than when he applies his physical strength over the same period of time. This labour of surveillance, which might perhaps serve as a useful exercise for the mind, if it did not go on too long, destroys both the mind and the body in the long run through excessive application” (G. de Molinari, Etudes economiques, Paris, 1846, [p. 49]).//

The real subsumption of labour under capital is developed in all the forms which produce relative, as opposed to absolute, surplus Value, though, as we have seen, this definitely does not exclude the possibility that they might increase the latter while increasing the former.

Agriculture for subsistence ... changed for agriculture for trade ... the improvement of the national territory ... proportioned to this change” — (Arthur Young, Political Arithmetic, London, 1774, [p.] 49, note).//

//Minimum of wages:

The possession of property and some interest in property are essential to preserve the common unskilled labourer from failing into the condition of a piece of machinery, bought at the minimum market price at which it can be produced, that is at which labourers can be got to exist and propagate their species, to which he is invariab ‘ ly reduced sooner or later, when the interests of capital and labour are quite distinct, and are left to adjust themselves under the sole operation of the law of supply and demand” (Samuel Laing, National Distress etc., London, 1844, [p.] 46).//

With the real subsumption of labour under capital, all the changes we have discussed take place in the technological process, the labour process, and at the same time there are changes in the relation of the worker to his own production and to capital — and finally, the development of the productive power of labour takes place, in that the productive forces of social labour are developed, and only at that point does the application of natural forces on a large scale, of science and of machinery, to direct production become possible. Here, therefore, there is 5 change not only in the formal relation but in the labour process itself. On the one hand the capitalist mode of production — which now first appears as a mode of production sui generis [in its own right] — creates a change in the shape of material production. On the other hand this change in the material shape forms the basis for the development of the capital-relation, whose adequate shape therefore only corresponds to a particular level of development of the material forces of production. We have examined the way in which the worker’s relation of dependence in production itself is thereby given a new shape. This is the first point to be emphasised. This heightening of the productivity of labour and the scale of production is in part a result of, and in part a basis for, the development of the capital-relation.

The second point is this, that capitalist production now entirely strips off the form of production for subsistence, and becomes production for trade, in that neither the individual’s own consumption nor the immediate needs of a given circle of customers remain a barrier to production; now the only barrier is the magnitude of the capital itself. On the other hand, where the whole of the product becomes a commodity (even where, as in agriculture, it partially re-enters production in natural form), all its elements leave the circulation and enter into the act of production as commodities. [XXI-1309] It is, finally, common to all these forms of capitalist production that, for production to occur in a capitalist way, an ever-growing minimum of exchange value, of money — i.e. of constant capital and variable capital — is required to ensure that the labour necessary to obtain the product is the labour socially necessary, i.e. that the labour required for the production of a single commodity = the minimum amount of labour necessary under average conditions. For objectified labour — money — to function as capital, it must be present in the hands of the individual capitalist in a certain minimum quantity; this minimum stands far above the maximum required in the case of the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital. The capitalist must be the owner or proprietor of means of production on a social scale, and the extent of their value, in one man’s concentrated possession, stands increasingly outside all relation with the amount an individual person or an individual family could accumulate over generations by their own hoarding. The extent of the conditions of labour required thus stands in no relation at all to what the individual worker could appropriate for himself in the most favourable case, by saving, etc. This minimum amount of capital in a given branch of business is the greater, the more developed it is capitalistically, the higher the development of the productivity of labour, the social productivity of labour or the productivity of social labour within it. Capital must increase the magnitude of its value to the same extent, and it must assume the extent of the means of production required for social production, hence shed its individual character entirely. It is precisely the productivity, and therefore the quantity of production, the numbers of the population and of the surplus population, created by this mode of production, that constantly calls forth new branches of industry, operating with the capital and labour that have been set free. In these branches capital can once again work on a small scale and again pass through the various phases of development required until with the development of capitalist production labour is carried on on a social scale in these new branches of industry as well, and accordingly capital appears again as a concentration of a great mass of social means of production in a single person’s hands. This process is continuous.

With the real subsumption of labour under capital a complete revolution takes place in the mode of production itself, in the productivity of labour, and in the relation — within production — between the capitalist and the worker, as also in the social relation between them.

Only the simplest form, that of simple cooperation, is possible under earlier relations of production as well (see above, Egypt, etc.) //where this simple cooperation takes place for the building of pyramids, etc., instead of railways// and in the slave relation (on this see later”). The relation of dependence worsens here through the introduction of female and child labour, so that it again approximates to the slave relation. (See Steuart. [An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy])

What all these forms of production have in common, apart from the growing minimum amount of capital required for production, is that the common conditions for the labour of a large number of associated workers permit, as such, economies to be made in contrast with the fragmentation of these conditions when production is on a small scale; since the effectiveness of these common conditions of production, which does not appear to have any direct connection with the raising of the productivity of labour itself through cooperation, division of labour, machines, etc., does not require an equal increase in their amount and value. The common, simultaneous use of the conditions of production leads to a fall in their relative value, even though there is an increase in the absolute amount of value they represent.

//The positive result here is a fall in the labour time needed to produce an increased quantity of means of subsistence; this result is attained through the social form of the labour, and the individual’s ownership of the conditions of production appears as not only unnecessary but incompatible with this production on a large scale. This is represented in the capitalist mode of production by the fact that the capitalist — the non-worker — is the owner of these social masses of means of production. He never in fact represents towards the workers their unification, their social unity. Therefore, as soon as this contradictory form [XXI-1310] ceases to exist, it emerges that they own these means of production socially, not as private individuals. Capitalist property is only a contradictory expression of their social property — , i.e. their negated individual property — in the conditions of production. (Hence in the product. For the product is constantly changing into the conditions of production.) It appears at the same time that this transformation requires a certain stage of development of the material forces of production. E.g., in the case of the small peasant the piece of land he tills is his. The ownership of this, as his instrument of production, is the necessary spur to, and condition of, his labour. Similarly with handicrafts. In large-scale agriculture, as in large-scale industry, this labour does not first have to be separated from property in the conditions of production, the separation already in fact exists; this separation of property from labour, which is bemoaned by Sismondi, is a necessary transition to the conversion of property in the conditions of production into social property. The individual worker could only be restored as an individual to property in the conditions of production by divorcing productive power from the development of labour on a large scale. The alien property of the capitalist in this labour can only be abolished by converting his property into the property of the non-individual in its independent singularity, hence of the associated, social individual. This naturally brings to an end the fetishistic situation when the product is the proprietor of the producer, and all the social forms of labour developed within capitalist production are released from the contradiction which falsifies them all and presents them as mutually opposed, e.g. by failing to present a reduction in labour time in such a way that all work for 6 hours, saying instead that the 15-hour labour of 6 people is sufficient to maintain 15.//

Production for production’s sale — i.e. the productive power of human labour developed without being determined in advance by any barrier of needs established beforehand. Later we shall discuss in more detail the fact that, even within capitalist production, this contradicts its own barriers, although it is the tendency to aim at this. For while it is the most productive of all modes of production so far, it includes — owing to its contradictory character — barriers to production, which it constantly endeavours to transcend, hence crises, overproduction, etc. On the other hand, production for production’s sake therefore appears as its precise opposite. Production not as the development of human productivity; but as the display of material wealth, in antithesis to the productive development of the human individual.

All the methods by which relative surplus value, and therewith the specifically capitalist mode of production, is developed, can be reduced in the most abstract form to this, that this mode of production aims at bringing the value of the individual commodity down to its minimum, and therefore producing as many commodities as possible in a given labour time, or operating the transformation of the object of labour into a product with the smallest possible quantity of labour in the shortest possible labour time. Productivity of labour is in general nothing but the production of a maximum of product with a minimum of labour, or the realisation of a minimum of labour time in a maximum of product, hence the reduction of the value of the individual product to its minimum.

Two remarks should be made in this connection:

Firstly: It appears to be a contradiction that production directed towards exchange value, and dominated by it, endeavours to reduce the value of the individual product to a minimum. But the value of the product as such is a matter of indifference to capitalist production. Its goal is the production of the greatest possible amount of surplus value. And it is therefore determined, not by the value of the individual product, the individual commodity, but by the rate of surplus value, the ratio of the part of the commodity which represents variable capital to its variation, or the surplus labour contained in the product in excess of the value of the variable capital. Its purpose is not to make the individual product and therefore the total amount of product contain as much labour as possible, but to make it contain as much unpaid labour as possible. This contradiction was perceived by the Physiocrats. See Quesnay, in Supplementary Notebook Q p. 29 (and further 31).

[XXI-1311] Secondly:

The reduction of the commodity to its minimum value, i.e. its greatest possible cheapening, only produces relative surplus value directly in so far as those commodities enter into the consumption of the worker as necessary means of subsistence, and their cheapening is therefore identical with the cheapening of labour capacity, i.e. with the reduction of necessary, and hence of paid, labour time, which as we have seen is in turn expressed from the point of view of the whole working day as a fall in the value or price of labour.

But this law is not just valid for this particular sphere of capitalist production; it covers all the spheres of production which capital seeks gradually to control and subordinate to its mode of production. We have seen’ that the individual capitalist’s cheaper production of his particular commodity does not directly achieve a cheapening of labour capacity (at least, there is no cheapening of labour capacity arising out of this cheapening of his product) and that to the extent that this cheapening is achieved, this does not redound to the benefit of this individual capitalist but to that of capital in general — the capitalist class — in that it produces a general cheapening of labour capacity.

But because the value of a commodity is determined by the average labour time necessary to produce it at a given stage of production, the individual value of the commodity which is produced by way of exception with more productive methods of labour, above the average level characteristic of the given stage of production, stands below the general or social value of that commodity. If, therefore, it is sold below the social value of commodities of the same kind, but above its individual value — hence sold at a certain value which retains some of the difference between its individual and its general value — it is sold above its value, or, in other words, the labour contained in it is momentarily higher labour than the average labour with which it is produced in general. But the labour capacity of the labour employed to produce it is not paid as higher labour capacity. This difference is pocketed by the capitalist and forms surplus value for him. This kind of surplus value, which is based on the difference between the individual and the social value of a commodity, brought about by a change in the mode of production, is of diminishing magnitude, and falls to 0 once the new mode of production is in general use, thereby itself becoming the average mode of production. And it is this diminishing surplus value that results directly from changes in the mode of production. It therefore forms the direct motive of the capitalist, and this thus holds sway over all the spheres of production which come under the control of capital equally, independently of the use value they produce and therefore independently of whether the product does or does not enter into the worker’s necessary means of subsistence or into the reproduction of labour capacity. This form of surplus value, however, is transitory, it can only relate to the individual capitalist and not to capital as a whole, and although it produces a relative depreciation of labour capacity or the price of labour in the particular branch, this is not because the price falls but because it does not rise.

Therefore, this form does not affect surplus value in general, because it does not call forth a permanent (relative) diminution of the price of labour in its own branch, any more than it produces a general cheapening of labour capacity and therefore a curtailment of necessary labour time, since its product does not enter into the worker’s necessary means of subsistence.

But, secondly, the gradual introduction of the capitalist mode of production in these branches of production, for the motive we have indicated, leads here, as in the branches devoted to producing the necessary means of subsistence, to a reduction in the labour employed to simple average labour, combined at the same time with a tendency to prolong the absolute working day. Here, therefore, entirely the same depreciation of labour capacity as in the other branches takes effect, a depreciation which arises not from the cheapening of the means of subsistence but from the simplification of labour. its reduction to simple average labour.

If the worker works 12 hours, and, e.g., 10 hours of this is for himself and 2 hours for the capitalist, the ratio of the surplus value to the variable capital admittedly remains the same whether the 10 hours are labour of a higher or lower type. The value of the variable capital rises or falls with the level of the labour, and since the surplus labour has the same character as the necessary labour, the ratio between the surplus value and the variable capital remains the same.

The introduction of machine labour, etc., both provides new motives for the prolongation of absolute labour time, and at the s me time facilitates this, since it robs the labour of its singularity, so to say. And it exerts this effect entirely independently of the particular nature of the branch of production into which it is introduced, and independently [XXI-1312] of whether the product of this branch enters or does not enter into the consumption of the workers.

As soon as the capitalist mode of production (i.e. the real subsumption of labour under capital) has taken control of agriculture, the mining industry, the manufacture of the main fabrics for the clothing industry and the transport system, means of locomotion, it gradually conquers the other spheres too, which are either subject to formally capitalist enterprise alone, or are still carried on by independent handicraftsmen, and it does this in the same measure as capital itself develops. This is capital’s tendency. It has already been remarked, in our consideration of machinery that the introduction of machinery into one branch brings with it its introduction in other branches — as well as in other varieties of the same branch. For example machine spinning led to machine weaving; machine spinning in the cotton industry led to machine spinning in wool, linen, silk, etc. The increased employment of machinery in coal mines, cotton factories, etc., made necessary the introduction of the large-scale mode of production in machine-building itself. Apart from the increased means of transport required by this mode of production on a large scale, it is only the introduction of machinery in machine-building itself — in particular the Cyclopean prime motor, etc. — which made possible the introduction of steamships, steam vehicles and railways (in particular it revolutionised the whole of the shipbuilding industry). The introduction of large-scale industry throws such masses of human beings into the branches not yet subjected to it, or creates in those branches such an amount of relative surplus population as is required for the transformation of the handicrafts or of small, formally capitalist, enterprise into large-scale industry; the industry then passes in turn through the various stages — and at the same time constantly releases capital. Actually the whole of this discussion does not belong here. But it is necessary briefly to indicate, as we have just done, the way large-scale industry seizes hold of all around it, and point to its gradual conquest of all the spheres of production. (Railway construction itself — we mean the building of the railway lines — displays merely the form of the concentration of capital, on the one hand, and the cooperation of workers, on the other hand. The employment of machinery itself is very slight here.)

(Price of labour. Price of labour, not value of labour, is the correct expression when one is speaking of labour itself, rather than of labour capacity. What the worker really provides is a particular quantity of labour, since it is only therein that the use value of his labour capacity finds expression, or rather exists. And this quantity of labour, labour measured by time, is what the capitalist receives, and the only thing that interests him in the transaction. The wage therefore appears to the capitalist, as to the worker himself, as the price of the labour itself. And it is this in so far as the amount of money paid for any commodity is its price. But the price of a commodity — in so far as we are not dealing here with the accidental quantity of money for which a commodity is exchanged in accidental transactions — is above all (the more developed forms of market price, etc., can themselves only be explained in this way) nothing but its value, which is represented as value, separately from its use value, in the money form, its value itself being expressed in the material of money. Although this is the case, there is contained in the price, in and for itself, something we discussed earlier in dealing with money, the possibility that price and value may not correspond. The price of a commodity does not need to correspond to its value. The value of a commodity is the adequate expression of this value. But price — or the money form of the value — contains two moments, 1), that the value of the commodity receives a particular qualitative expression, that the labour time contained in it is expressed as general social labour time, i.e. in a form common to all commodities as values — in the measure of values, in the money form; and 2), that the amount of value — the quantitative expression — is expressed similarly, hence the commodity is expressed in a quantity of money of the same magnitude of value, in an equivalent — because this is the expression of the value of the commodity in the use value of another commodity — not its direct, unmediated expression. Therefore, because it is inherent in price that the commodity takes on a converted form, passes through a process of alienation, first ideally then in reality, it lies in the nature of this process that value and price may [XXI-1313] diverge. E.g., if a yard of linen has a value of 2s. and a price of Is., the magnitude of its value is not expressed in its price; and its price is not an equivalent, not the adequate monetary expression, of its value. Nevertheless, it remains the monetary expression of its value — the value expression of the yard of linen — in so far as the labour contained in it is represented as general social labour, as money. Owing to this incongruence between price and value it is possible to speak directly of the price of an object, although one cannot speak directly of its value. Initially, to be sure, this concerns only the possible incongruence between the magnitude of value of a commodity and the amount of value expressed in its price. But price can also become an irrational expression, namely a monetary expression for objects which have no value, although price is in and for itself the expression of an object as money and therefore qualitatively (if not necessarily quantitatively) as value. E.g. a false oath can have a price, although it has no value (viewed economically; we are not speaking of use value here). For if money is absolutely nothing but the converted form of the exchange value of a commodity, exchange value represented as exchange value, it is on the other hand a definite quantity of a commodity (gold, silver or the representatives of gold and silver), and anything can be exchanged for anything, the birthright can be exchanged for a mess of pottage.’ The price relation is the same as the irrational expression in algebra, as — L, etc. It can be found by further investigation whether or not a rational relation lies hidden behind this irrational expression, i.e. whether or not there is a real value relation. Since the monetary expression or the price of a commodity, of a thing, is an expression in which the use value of the object is completely extinguished, which also means the extinction of the connection existing between the use value of this commodity and its value, i.e. the labour contained in it, which obtains an abstract expression in exchange value, abstraction from the use value or the nature of the object can proceed further, to the point where abstraction is made from whether it is expressed according to its nature as value, i.e. whether it is a use value which contains and can contain objectified labour. Things which have no value may have a price. If one now asks further what value relation lies at the basis of this price of labour which appears in practice — or one asks, as Adam Smith does, what is the natural price of labour — it turns out that the regulating price of labour is determined by the value of labour capacity, and is nothing but a derivative expression of the latter. Let the quantity of money which is paid as the price of a working day of 12 hours be = 3s. or 36d. If necessary labour time = 6 hours, 3s. is thus the value of the daily labour capacity which is consumed for 12 hours every day. This sum of money, in which 6 hours are realised, is expressed here as the price of a working day of 12 hours because the worker must work for 12 hours in order to obtain the monetary expression of 6 hours of labour time, and he in fact receives in exchange for 12 hours this price, this sum of money, alone. This price is therefore not the expression of the value of his labour — this is something one cannot speak of at all — but rather the value of his labour capacity, which requires 6 hours of labour a day for its reproduction. How this price relates to the value of the labour capacity, and secondly to the daily value in which the use of this labour capacity, daily labour, is realised, depends on the one hand on the value of labour capacity, and on the other hand on the daily duration of its use or, in other words, the length of the normal working day. But this relation to the value of labour

a Genesis 25:29-34. Cf. also K. Marx, Capital Vol. I, Part III, Ch. X — Ed. See MECW, Vol. 30, pp. 401-03, Vol. 31, pp. 529-32, and Vol. 32, p. 36-- — Ed.

capacity and therefore the relation of necessary labour to surplus labour is completely extinguished in the price of labour. If the price of the working day of 12 hours = 3s., the price of 6 hours = 1 1/2s., and the price of one hour = 3d. Thus the whole of the labour time appears as paid. No distinction between paid and unpaid labour is expressed here. And it does in fact look as if the 3s. are the value created by 12 hours of labour, although they are only half of that value; this is how the expression value of labour arose. Here, value of labour as distinct from price of labour means nothing but what Adam Smith calls the natural price of labour, i.e. its regulating price, determined by the value of labour capacity, as distinct from its accidental prices. This wholly irrational expression, value of labour, leads on the one hand to a confusion [XXI-1314] between the determination of the value of commodities by the labour time contained in them, and the determination of their value by the price of labour, two expressions which have absolutely nothing in common, since the value of a commodity is determined by the total amount of labour time contained in it, whereas the price of labour expresses only the part of this total amount paid to the worker. On the other hand, those political economists, such as Ricardo, who found this out, used very clumsy methods to contradict this contradiction. Nevertheless, the relation of the price of labour to the value of labour capacity makes itself felt in practice even in individual cases. Thus for example in the polemic of the London builders, etc., in 1860 and subsequently against the introduction of wages by the hour instead of a daily wage.’ If, e.g.. the worker is only employed for 6 hours, and on the above assumption the following calculation is made: 3s. = the price of 12 hours of labour, hence 1 1/2s. is the price of 6, or 3d. is the price of 1 hour of labour, a worker would provide e.g. 1 1/2 s. of surplus labour, or 3 hours, while he would not be paid for his necessary labour of 6 hours. In order to squeeze out 3 hours of surplus [labour], the master must allow him to work 6 hours of necessary labour for himself. In the long run, of course, it is impossible to continue this attempt to squeeze out surplus labour without allowing the worker to work the necessary labour. But the builders perceived very clearly, as one can see from their polemical publications, that at least in the medium term these methods of payment made possible an attempt of this kind on the part of the masters, and that it was, on the other hand, a very clever method of reducing the average w age, of depreciating labour capacity. The value of labour capacity expressed in money is the price paid to the worker for the whole working day, and it appears as the direct price of the whole working day, since although the sale and purchase of this commodity occurs before the labour is performed, payment takes place only after it has been performed.)

The point we analysed in dealing with relative surplus value, namely that the value of labour capacity stands in an inverse relation to the productivity of labour, and falls to the same degree as the productivity of labour develops,’ is nothing other than an individual application of the general rule that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour, or the magnitude of the labour time, which is realised in it, that its value falls in the proportion to which it can be produced with less labour, and that the development of the productive power of labour means absolutely nothing but the development of conditions under which the same quantity of commodities (use values) can be produced with a declining quantity of labour; hence that the value of a commodity falls with the development of the productive power of the labour which produces it.

Transitional Forms[edit source]

I am not speaking here of forms transitional between the formal subsumption of labour under capital and its real subsumption under capital, and thereby of forms leading to the specifically capitalist mode of production; but of forms in which the capital-relation does not yet exist formally, i.e. under which labour is already exploited by capital before the latter has developed into the form of productive capital and labour itself has taken on the form of wage labour. Such forms are to be found in social formations which precede the bourgeois mode of production; on the other hand they constantly reproduce themselves within the latter and are in part reproduced by the latter itself.

//Forms transitional to capitalist production. One can only speak of transitional forms of this kind where the relation of buyer or seller (or, in modified form, of borrower and lender) prevails formally between the real producer and the exploiter, in general where the content of the transaction between the two parties is not conditioned by relations of servitude and domination, but they confront each other as formally free. The two forms in which capital appears (this will be discussed in more detail later, in Section III) before it takes control of the direct relation of production — becoming in — this sense productive capital — and therefore appears as the relation which dominates production, are trading capital and usurers’ capital (interest-bearing capital). Both kinds of capital, which appear within capitalist production as a special and derivative form of capital, but in previous forms of production as the sole and the original forms of capital, may enter into such relations to the actual producer that they either appear as antediluvian forms of capital, or, in the capitalist mode of production itself, as transitional forms, and are in part called forth by the capitalist mode of production in modes of production that have not yet been subordinated to the former.

[XXI-1315] For example, in India the usurer (who de prime abord makes the Ryot mortgage his future crop to him before it is grown) advances to the Ryot the money he needs to plant the cotton. The Ryot has to pay 40-50% per annum. Here labour is not yet formally subsumed under capital. It [capital] does not employ the Ryot as labourer; he is not a wage labourer, any more than the usurer who employs him is an industrial capitalist. The product is not the property of the usurer, but it is mortgaged to him. The money the Ryot converts into means of production is admittedly alien property, but he disposes of it as his own, since it has been lent to him.

The Ryot is his own employer, and his mode of production is the traditional one of the independent, small, self-sustaining peasant. He does not work under alien direction, for another and under another, and thus he is not subsumed as a wage labourer to the owner of the conditions of production. These therefore do not confront him as capital. Thus even the formal capital-relation does not take place, still less the specifically capitalist mode of production. And yet the usurer appropriates not only the whole of the surplus value created by the Ryot, i.e. all the surplus produce over and above the means of subsistence necessary for his reproduction, but he also takes away from him part of the latter, so that he merely vegetates in the most miserable manner. The usurer functions as a capitalist in so far as the valorisation of his capital occurs directly through the appropriation of alien labour, but in a form which makes the actual producer into his debtor, instead of making him a seller of his labour to the capitalist. This form heightens the exploitation of the producer, drives it to its uttermost limits, without in any way, with the introduction of capitalist production — even if at first with the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital — introducing the resulting heightened productivity of labour and the transition to the specifically capitalist mode of production. It is rather a form which makes labour sterile, places it under the most unfavourable economic conditions, and combines together capitalist exploitation without a capitalist mode of production, and the mode of production of independent small-scale property in the instruments of labour without the advantages this mode of production offers for less developed conditions. Here in fact the means of production have ceased to belong to the producer, but they are nominally subsumed to him, and the mode of production remains in the same relations of small independent enterprise, only the relations are in ruins. We find the same relation between e.g. the patricians and plebeians of Rome, or the peasants owning small parcels of land and the usurers. And at the same time it is a form in which the capital of the Jews was created everywhere in the Middle Ages, where they appear as money-lenders in the pores of purely agricultural peoples. (Debt slavery in distinction to wage slavery.)

We find further in India, where the old communities have dissolved, that this money-lending is replaced by the loan of the instruments of labour, e.g. looms, at an interest of 50-100%. In England, on the other hand, this is reproduced in e.g. the shape taken on by domestic industry under the impact of large-scale industry; e.g. among the stocking weavers, etc. The mass of people thrown out through the introduction of machinery, robbed of their means of production, continue to be exploited by the owners of the means of production in this caricatured form of domestic industry, although those means of production do not develop into capital, and labour does not develop into wage labour. What appears here in the form of interest is not only the total surplus value, it is also a part of the normal wage of labour. A critique on the level of Mr. Carey’s would be needed to calculate the rate of interest in a country from such relations. (See the Court of Exchequer case cited in another Notebook.) This form can be transitional to the capitalist mode of production. It is itself the extraneous produce of the capitalist mode of production.

What we have said of usurers’ capital is true of merchants’ capital. It can equally be a form transitional to the subsumption of labour under capital (initially its formal subsumption). This is the case wherever the merchant as such plays the role of manufacturer. He advances the raw material. He appears originally as the buyer of the products of independent industries. But this point should be presented in more detail in the next section.

Yet it should only be presented in the next section in so far as it is a form transitional to capitalist production, and displays the alienation of the conditions of labour as a process of development of capitalist production with reference to an historical example.

On the basis of capitalist production, however, this form, in the changed shape in which it reproduces domestic industry, is reproduced as one of the most dreadful forms of production existing, a form which is only brought to an end by the introduction of machinery, and in comparison with which the formal subsumption of labour under capital appears as a redemption. [XXI-1316] The immense surplus population created by large-scale industry in agriculture and the factory system is exploited here in a way which saves the “capitalist” a part of the production costs of capital, and allows him to speculate directly upon the misery of the workers. It is so in jobbing work, the system under which some of the tailors, cobblers, needlewomen, etc., are employed in London. The surplus value created here depends not only on overwork and the appropriation of surplus labour, but also directly on deductions from wages, which are forced down far below their normal average level.

The system of middlemen and sweaters follows on from this one. The actual “capitalist” distributes among the middlemen a certain quantity of raw material which is to be worked on, and they in their turn distribute these materials among those unfortunates, living in cellars, who have sunk down below the average level of the normal workers who are combined together in trade unions, etc., etc. Thus the profit of these middlemen, among whom there are often in turn further middlemen, consists exclusively of the difference between the normal wage they let themselves be paid, and the wage they pay out, which is less than normal. Once a sufficient number of workers of the latter kind is organised through this system, they are often directly employed by capitalist No. I on the same conditions as those under which the middlemen employed them. This is a shining example of the travail de direction [supervision]. Colossal fortunes are made in this way. (See the example of the needlewomen cited in the other Notebook.)

“In wages, besides the rate of wages, which results from the demand for it in proportion to its supply, there is a lower rate which may be the result of the necessities of the workmen. For example, in those trades where there is what is called the ‘Sweating System’ practised, the fair result of the demand and supply rate of wages is represented by the amount received by the ‘sweater'” (Trades’ Unions and Strikes: Their Philosophy and Intention, by T. Dunning etc., London, 1860, [p.] 6). “A ‘sweater’ is one who takes out work to do, at the usual rate of wages, and who gets it done by others at a lower price; the difference, which is his profit, being ‘sweated’ out of those who execute the work” (l.c., [p.] 6, note).//

k) Productivity of Capital. Productive and Unproductive Labour[edit source]

Source: MECW, Volume 34, p. 121-146

Translated: by Ben Fowkes

Written: May 1863

(To be cited in addition to the above on the subsumption of the different spheres of production under capital:

“In the good old times, when ‘Live and let live’ was the general motto, every man was contented with one avocation. In the cotton trade, there were weavers, cotton-spinners, bleachers, dyers, and several other independent branches, all living upon the profits of their respective trades, and all, as might be expected, contented and happy. By and by, however, when the downward course of trade had proceeded to some extent, first one branch was adopted by the capitalist, and then another, till in time, the whole of the people were ousted, and thrown upon the market of labour, to find out a livelihood in the best manner they could. Thus, although no charter secures to these men the right to be cotton-spinners, manufacturers, printers, finishers, etc., yet the course of events has invested them with a monopoly of all... They have become Jack-of-all-trades, and as far as the country is concerned in the business, it is to be feared, they are masters of none” (Public Economy Concentrated etc., Carlisle, 1833, p. 56).

“One of two things ought to have resulted from the use of machinery, either that men should have laboured less, or that they should have more comforts. Unfortunately, neither of those things have happened. Men’s comforts have been lessened since the introduction of machinery; they have had to work double time, and infant labour has been called in to aid them, and even to work for their own daily bread... The Jewish historian has remarked upon the overthrow of Jerusalem, by Titus, that it was no wonder [that] it should have been destroyed, with such a signal destruction, when one inhuman mother sacrificed her offspring to satisfy the cravings of absolute hunger” * (l.c., [p.] 66).)

[XXI-1317] We have seen not only how capital produces, but how it is itself produced, and how it emerges from the production process as a relation changed in essence, how it develops in the production process. On the one hand it transforms the mode of production, on the other hand this changed shape of the mode of production, as well as the attainment of a specific level of development of the material forces of production, is the foundation and the condition — the presupposition — of capital’s own formation.

Since living labour is incorporated into capital — through the exchange between capital and the worker — since it appears as an activity belonging to capital, as soon as the labour process starts, all the productive powers of social labour present themselves as productive powers of capital, just as the general social form of labour appears in money as the quality of a thing. Thus the productive power of social labour, and the specific forms of it, now present themselves as productive powers and forms of capital, of objectified labour, of the objective conditions of labour, which — as such an independent entity — are personified in the capitalist and confront living labour. Here once again we have the inversion of the relation, the expression of which we have already characterised as fetishism in considering the nature of money.

The capitalist himself only holds power as the personification of capital. (In double-entry book-keeping this role he has as capitalist, as capital personified, is constantly counterposed to his existence as a mere person; in the latter capacity he only appears as a private consumer and debtor to his own capital.)

The productivity of capital consists first of all, even when it is only the formal subsumption of labour under capital that is being considered, in the compulsion to perform surplus labour; to work beyond the individual’s immediate needs. The capitalist mode of production shares this compulsion with previous modes of production, but exerts it, carries it out, in a manner more favourable to production.

Even from the point of view of this merely formal relation — the general form of capitalist production, which has its less developed mode in common with the more developed — the means of production, the objective conditions of labour — material of labour, means of labour (and means of subsistence) — do not appear as subsumed under the worker; rather, he appears as subsumed under them. He does not employ them, they employ him. And they are thereby capital. capital employs labour. The means of production are not means by which he can produce products, whether in the form of direct means of subsistence, or as means of exchange, as commodities. He is rather a means for them, partly to preserve their value, partly to valorise it, i.e. to increase it, to absorb surplus labour.

Even this relation in its simplicity is an inversion, a personification of the thing and a reification of the person, for what distinguishes this form from all previous ones is that the capitalist does not rule the worker in any kind of personal capacity, but only in so far as he is “capital”; his rule is only that of objectified labour over living labour; the rule of the worker’s product over the worker himself.

But the relation becomes still more complex — and apparently more mysterious — in that, with the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, not only do these directly material things — all of them products of labour, viewed from the angle of use value the objective conditions of labour as well as the products of labour, viewed from the angle of exchange value objectified general labour time, or money — stand on their hind legs vis-a-vis the worker and confront him as “capital”, but also the forms of socially developed labour, cooperation, manufacture (as a form of the division of labour), the factory (as a form of social labour organised on the material basis of machinery) appear as forms of the development of capital, and therefore the productive powers of labour, developed out of these forms of social labour, hence also science and the forces of nature, appear as productive forces of capital. In fact, unity in cooperation, combination in the division of labour , the application of the forces of nature and science, as well as the products of labour in the shape of machinery, for the purpose of production, are all things which confront the individual workers themselves as alien and objective, as a mere form of existence of the means of labour which are independent of them and rule over them — just as the means of labour, in their simple visible shape as material, instrument, etc., confront the workers as functions of capital and therefore functions of the capitalist. The social forms of their own labour, or the form of their own [XXI-1318] social labour, are relations constituted quite independently of the individual workers; the workers as subsumed under capital become elements of these social constructions, but these social constructions do not belong to them. They therefore confront the workers as shapes of capital itself, as combinations which, unlike their isolated labour capacities, belong to capital, originate from it and are incorporated within it. And this assumes a form which is the more real the more, on the one hand, their labour capacity is itself modified by these forms, so that it becomes powerless when it stands alone, i.e. outside this context of capitalism, and its capacity for independent production is destroyed, while on the other hand the development of machinery causes the conditions of labour to appear as ruling labour technologically too, and at the same time to replace it, suppress it, and render it superfluous in its independent forms. In this process, in which the social characteristics of their labour confront them as capitalised to a certain extent — in the way that e.g. in machinery the visible products of labour appear as ruling over labour — the same thing of course takes place for the forces of nature and science, the product of general historical development in its abstract quintessence: they confront the workers as powers of capital. They become in fact separated from the skill and knowledge of the individual worker, and although — if we look at them from the point of view of their source — they are in turn the product of labour, they appear as incorporated into capital wherever they enter the labour process. The capitalist who employs a machine does not need to understand it (see Ure). But vis-à-vis the workers, realised science appears in the machine as capital. And in fact all these applications of science, of the forces of nature and of large masses of products of labour — applications based on social labour — appear only as means of exploitation of labour, means of appropriating surplus labour, hence, vis-à-vis labour, as forces belonging to capital. Capital naturally employs all these means only to exploit labour, but in order to exploit labour, it must employ them in production. And thus the development of the social productive powers of labour and the conditions for this development appear as the work of capital, and not only does the individual worker relate passively to this work, it also takes place in antagonism to him.

Capital itself is dual since it consists of commodities.

Exchange value (money), but self-valorising value, value which creates value, grows as value, obtains an increment, through the fact that it is value. This can be reduced to the exchange of a given quantity of objectified labour for a greater quantity of living labour.

Use value, and here capital appears according to its particular situation in the labour process. But precisely here it does not just remain material of labour, means of labour to which labour belongs, and which have incorporated labour, but involves also, along with labour, its social combinations and the development of the means of labour which corresponds to these social combinations. Capitalist production first develops the conditions of the labour process on a large scale — first develops them separately from the single independent worker — developing both its objective and its subjective conditions, but developing them as powers which dominate the individual worker and are alien to him.

Thus capital becomes a very mysterious being.

Our investigation of profit differs from our investigation of surplus value in this way, among others: If surplus labour remains the same, profit may rise owing to the economical utilisation of communal conditions of labour, of which there are many kinds, e.g. savings on building costs, heating, lighting, etc.; or because the value of the prime motor does not rise in the same measure as its power increases, so that the value of the prime motor is not so costly for big factories as it is for scattered small workshops; economics in the prices of raw materials by purchase on a large scale (a point we shall not examine any further, since it presupposes the development of relations which do not come into consideration here, where we presuppose the value of the commodity as given, rather than market prices); savings where the transmission machinery is on a large scale; or due to the fact that waste products occur in such amounts that these excrements of production themselves again become saleable commodities (or [XXI-1319] are able to enter afresh as means of production into the reproduction of the same sphere of production or of another one); or savings deriving from a reduction in administration costs or from the fact that the masses of commodities concentrated in the warehouses do not become dearer in the same proportion but rather become relatively cheaper, etc. The whole of the economy in the use of these conditions of labour, all this relative cheapening of constant capital, while its absolute value increases and its ratio to variable capital grows, rests on the fact that the conditions of labour, raw material as much as the means of labour, etc., are employed communally, and this communal utilisation //concentration in a smaller space is one of the essential points here// has as its absolute presupposition the communal cooperation of a conglomeration of workers. This conglomeration of human beings involves the concentration of the conditions of labour, and the latter involves the relative cheapening of these conditions. Hence the relative cheapening of constant capital — which raises the profit when the surplus value is given — //the replacement of the means of transport, etc., must be added to this, as also that of the means of storing the commodities required for production// — is itself only an objective expression of the productive power of social labour, and follows from the social combination of labour alone. //And apart from this economy in the direct production process there is only one more change possible, a second change, in the value of the constant capital. This change proceeds from the cheapening of the elements of constant capital which are supplied to it from outside; an economising which is therefore not a result of the organisation of the labour process into which these commodities enter as elements. But these commodities are the result of another labour process in another sphere of production.// They appear, however, as independent of surplus labour and surplus value, since these are presupposed to them as given. That the worker delivers more of the product in the same time, on the other hand, is a result of cooperation, of the division of labour, and lastly of the association of his labour with machinery (natural forces) and methods of work (science). Machinery itself (just like chemical processes, etc.) is initially only the visible product of a combination of labour by head and hand; but in its employment it is the employment of combined labour, and it only produces surplus value as a means of exploiting to a higher degree the worker’s powers of labour and the combination of workers.

Science, the general intellectual product of social development, equally appears here as directly incorporated into capital (and the application of science as science to the material processes of production, separated from the knowledge and skill of the individual worker, proceeds from the social form of labour alone) as the forces of nature as such and the natural forces of social labour itself. Because it is exploited by capital against labour, because it acts as a productive power of capital over against labour, the general development of society as such equally appears as the development of capital, and the more so because the emptying of labour capacity [of all content], at least of the vast majority of labour capacities, proceeds at the same pace.

The material result of capitalist production — apart from the development of the productive powers of social labour itself, which here appear to be merely means for the exploitation of labour — is an increase in the amount of products, and all these means for the exploitation of labour equally appear to be means for the multiplication and diversification of products, since the increased productivity of labour is expressed in this increased production. Yet seen from this angle, capitalist production appears to be the rule of things over people. For the creation of use values in increasing extent, quality, diversity — the creation of great material wealth — appears as the purpose for which the labour capacities are only means, and a purpose which can only be attained by their own restriction to a single activity and deprivation of humanity.


“Every fresh application of machinery and horse labour is attended with an increase of produce and, consequently, of capital; to whatever extent it may diminish the ratio which that part of the national capital forming the fund for the payment of wages bears to that which is otherwise employed, its tendency is, not to diminish, but to increase the absolute amount [XXI-1320] of that fund, and hence to increase the quantity of employment”. (The Westminster Review, January 1826, [p.] 123).

“The class of capitalists, considered as a whole, is in a normal position in that its well-being follows the course of social progress” (Cherbuliez, Riche[sse] et pauvre[], [Paris, 1841, p.] 75). “The capitalist is the social man par excellence, he represents civilisation” (l.c., [p.] 75). “The productive power of capital can only mean the quantity of real productive power which the capitalist, by means of his capital, can command” (J. St. Mill, Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, London, 1844, p. 91). “Capital is ... collective force” (John Wade, History of the Middle and Working Classes etc., 3rd ED., London, 1835, [p.] 162). “Capital is only another name for civilisation” (l.c., [p.] 164).

//Economy in the use of the conditions of production depends entirely on their communal use by the concentrated and cooperating mass of workers — hence it depends on this social character of their labour. The conditions of labour, as the conditions of the labour of many people acting in cooperation, are cheaper than the scattered conditions, repeated on a small scale, of the labour of the isolated individual worker or small groups of workers; they are cheaper as conditions of combined labour than as those of fragmented labour. More precisely: 1) a saving in the “subjective” conditions of labour communally required by many people, such as buildings, heating, light; 2) a saving that arises from the concentration of the instruments of production, hence a saving in the machinery of transmission; 3) economy in the use of the power which sets in motion the prime motors. Other ways of making things cheaper depend on inventions, and belong to the second kind of cheapening of constant capital — namely a cheapening which arises not from the arrangements directly made for its use, but from the development of the productivity of labour in spheres of production of which it is the result.

Nevertheless, capitalist production does not limit itself to these economies which arise from the concentration of workers and of the means of labour. A second kind of economy proceeds from the contempt with which human material “which does not cost anything” is treated; thus it is packed together in confined and badly ventilated rooms, and rules of safety and comfort are ignored, as with the failure to fence in dangerous machinery, and the inadequate numbers of shafts, etc., in the mines. These points must be backed up with a few examples later on.//

Capital is therefore productive:

1) as the compulsion to do surplus labour,

2) as absorbing within itself and appropriating the productive powers of social labour and the social powers of production in general, such as science.

The question is, how or through what means does labour appear productive towards capital, or as productive labour, since the productive powers of labour are transposed into capital? And can the same productive power count twice, once as productive power of labour and once as productive power of capital? //Productive power of labour = productive power of capital. But labour capacity is productive owing to the difference between its value and its valorisation.//

Only bourgeois narrowness, which considers the capitalist forms of production to be the latter’s absolute forms — and therefore the eternal natural forms of production — is able to confuse the question of what productive labour is from the standpoint of capital with the question of what labour is productive in general, or what productive labour is in general, and therefore esteem itself very wise in giving the reply that all labour which produces anything at all, results in anything whatsoever, is eo ipso productive labour.

[Firstly:] Only labour which is converted directly into capital is productive; hence only labour which posits variable capital as variable, and therefore = C+ D. If the variable capital = x before its exchange with labour, so that we have the equation y = x, that labour is productive labour which converts x into x + h and therefore makes y = x into y’ = x + h. This is the sole point that needs to be discussed. Labour which posits surplus value, or serves capital as an agency for the positing of surplus value and therefore enables it to posit itself as capital, as self-valorising value.

Secondly: The social and general productive powers of labour are productive powers of capital; but these productive powers concern the labour process alone, or affect use value alone. They appear as qualities capital possesses as a thing, they appear as its use value. They do not directly affect exchange value. Whether 100 work together or each of the 100 works in isolation, the value of their product = 100 working days, whether this is represented by many products or a few. That is to say, the productivity of labour is irrelevant to exchange value.

[XXI-1321] There is only one way in which differences in the productivity of labour affect exchange value.

If the productivity of labour develops e.g. in a single branch of labour — if e.g. weaving with powerlooms instead of handlooms ceases to be an exception — and if the weaving of a yard with the powerloom requires only half as much labour time as with the handloom, the 12 hours of the handloom weaver are no longer represented in a value of 12 hours, but in a value of 6, since necessary labour time has now become 6 hours. The 12 hours of the handloom weaver now only = 6 hours of social labour time, although he continues to work for 12 hours, as before. But this is not the point under discussion. If we take a different branch of production, in contrast, such as typesetting, in which no machinery is yet employed, 12 hours in this branch will produce just as much value as 12 hours will in branches of production where machinery, etc., has been developed to the uttermost extent. As productive of value, therefore, labour always remains the labour of the individual, only expressed generally. Productive labour — as valueproducing labour — therefore always confronts capital as the labour of the individual labour capacity, of the isolated worker, whatever social combinations these workers may enter in the production process. Whereas capital thus confronts the worker as the social productive power of labour, the productive labour of the worker never represents towards capital anything more than the labour of the isolated worker.

Thirdly: If it appears as a natural quality of capital — and therefore as a quality which gushes forth from its use value — that it compels the performance of surplus labour and claims the social productive powers of labour as its own, it appears, conversely, as a natural quality of labour that it posits its own social productive powers as productive powers of capital and its own surplus as surplus value, as the self-valorisation of capital.

These 3 points must now be developed and the distinction between productive and unproductive labour derived from them.

Ad 1. The productivity of capital consists in positing labour as wage labour towards itself, and the productivity of labour consists in positing the means of labour as capital towards itself.

We have seen that money is converted into capital, i.e. a given exchange value is converted into self-valorising exchange value, into value + surplus value, by the conversion of a part of the money into such commodities as serve labour as means of labour (raw materials, instrument, in short the material conditions of labour), and the employment of another part of the money for the purchase of labour capacity. However, it is not this first exchange between money and labour capacity, or the mere purchase of the latter, which converts money into capital. This purchase incorporates into capital the use of labour capacity for a certain period of time, or, in other words, it makes a definite quantity of living labour into one of the modes of existence of capital itself, its entelechy so to speak. In the real production process, living labour is converted into capital by on the one hand reproducing the wage — hence the value of the variable capital — and on the other hand positing a surplus value, and through this process of conversion the whole sum of money is converted into capital, although the only part which varies directly is that which is laid out in the wage. If the value was = c + v, it now = c + (v + x), which is the same thing as = (c + v) + x, or, in other words, the original sum of money, magnitude of value, has valorised itself, has been posited at the same time as self-preserving and self-multiplying value.

(The following should be noted: The circumstance that only the variable part of the capital brings forth its increment changes absolutely nothing in the fact that by means of this process the whole of the original value is valorised, is increased by a surplus value; that therefore the whole of the original sum of money has been converted into capital. For the original value = c + v (constant and variable capital). It becomes in the process c + (v + x); the latter is the reproduced part, which arose through the conversion of living into objectified labour, a conversion which is conditioned and introduced by the exchange of v for labour capacity or its conversion into wages. But c + (v + x) = c + v (the original capital) + x Apart from this the conversion of v into v + x, hence of (c + v) into (c + v) + x, could only occur through the conversion of a part of the money into c. One part can only be converted into variable capital through the conversion of the other into constant capital.)

In the real production process labour is converted in reality into capital, but this conversion is conditioned by the original exchange between money and labour capacity. It is only through this direct conversion of labour into objectified labour which belongs not to the worker but to the capitalist that the money is converted into capital, including the part which has taken on the form of the means of production, the conditions of labour. Previously money was only capital in itself, whether it existed in its own form or in the form of commodities (products) which possessed a shape enabling them to serve as the means of production for new commodities.

[XXI-1322] It is only this particular relation to labour which converts money or commodity into capital, and that labour is productive labour which — by means of this relation it has to the conditions of production, to which there corresponds a particular position in the real production process — converts money or commodity into capital, i.e. preserves and increases the value of the objective labour which has attained an independent position vis-à-vis labour capacity. Productive labour is only an abbreviation for the whole relation in which, and the manner in which, labour capacity figures in the capitalist production process. It is however of the highest importance to distinguish between this and other kinds of labour, since this distinction brings out precisely the determinate form of labour on (hich there depends the whole capitalist mode of production, and capital itself.

Productive labour, therefore, is labour which — in the system of capitalist production — produces surplus value for its employer or which converts the objective conditions of labour into capital, and their owners into capitalists, hence, labour which produces its own product as capital.

Hence in speaking of productive labour we are speaking of socially determined labour, labour which implies a highly definite relation between the buyer and the seller of labour.

Although the money in the possession of the buyer of labour capacity — or, as a commodity, the buyer of means of production and subsistence for the worker — only becomes capital through the process, is only converted into capital in the process, and therefore these things are not capital before their entry into the process, but are only about to become capital, they are even so capital in themselves; they are capital through the independent shape in which they confront labour capacity and in which labour capacity confronts them, a relation which conditions and ensures the exchange with labour capacity and subsequent process of the real conversion of labour into capital They already possess at the outset the social determinacy vis-à-vis the workers which makes them into capital and gives them command over labour. They are therefore posited in advance as capital vis-à-vis labour.

Productive labour can therefore be characterised as labour which exchanges directly with money as capital, or, and this is merely an abbreviated expression of the same thing, labour which exchanges directly with capital, i.e. with money which is in itself capital, has the determination of functioning as capital, or confronts labour capacity as capital. The expression “labour which exchanges directly with capital means that labour exchanges with money as capital and converts it actu [by that action] into capital. What the determination of immediacy implies will soon become more clearly apparent.

Productive labour is therefore labour which reproduces for the worker only the previously determined value of his labour capacity, but at the same time, as value-creating activity, it valorises capital or places the values created by labour in confrontation with the worker himself as capital.

In examining the exchange between capital and labour, as we saw in considering the process of production, two moments need to be distinguished, which are fundamentally distinct, although they condition each other.

Firstly: The first exchange between labour and capital is a formal process, in which capital figures as money and labour capacity figures as commodity. The sale of labour capacity takes place notionally or legally in this first process, although the labour is paid for only after it has been done, at the end of the day, of the week, etc. This does not change anything in this single transaction in which labour capacity is sold. What is sold here directly is not a commodity in which labour has already been realised but the use of labour capacity itself, hence in practice labour itself, since the use of labour capacity is its action — labour. It is therefore not an exchange of labour mediated through the exchange of commodities. If A sells boots to B, they both exchange labour, the first labour realised in boots, the second in money. But here objectified labour in its general social form, i.e. as money, is exchanged for labour which exists as yet only as a capacity, and what is bought and sold is the use of that capacity, hence labour itself, although the value of the commodity that has been sold is not the value of labour (an irrational expression) but the value of labour capacity. A direct exchange therefore takes place between objectified labour and labour capacity which de facto amounts to living labour; hence an exchange between objectified labour and living labour. The wage — the value of labour capacity — therefore presents itself, as explained previously,’ as the direct purchase price, the price of labour.

The relation between worker and capitalist in this first moment is the relation between the seller of a commodity and its buyer. The capitalist pays the value of the labour capacity, hence the value of the commodity, which he is buying.

At the same time, however, the labour capacity is only bought because the labour it can perform, and enters into an obligation to perform, is greater than the labour required for the reproduction of this labour capacity, and is therefore represented by a value greater than — the value of the labour capacity.

[XXI-1323] Secondly: The second moment of the exchange between capital and labour has in fact nothing to do with the first, and strictly speaking is not an exchange at all.

In the first moment an exchange of money and commodity takes place — an exchange of equivalents — and the worker and the capitalist confront each other solely as the owners of commodities. Equivalents are exchanged (i.e. the relation is not affected at all by the time when they are exchanged, and whether the price of labour stands above or below the value of labour capacity or is equal to it changes nothing in the transaction. It can therefore take place according to the general law of the exchange of commodities.) In the second moment no exchange at all takes place. The owner of money has ceased to be the buyer of a commodity, and the worker has ceased to be the seller of a commodity. The owner of money now functions as a capitalist. He consumes the commodity he has bought, and the worker provides it, since the use of his labour capacity is his labour itself. Labour has itself become a part of objective wealth through the earlier transaction. The worker performs the labour, but it belongs to capital and is now nothing more than a function of the latter. It therefore occurs directly under capital’s control and direction, and the product in which it is objectified is the new shape in which capital appears, or rather the shape in which it realises itself actu as capital. Labour therefore directly objectifies itself in this process, converts itself directly into capital, after it has already been incorporated formally into capital through the first transaction. And indeed more labour is here converted into capital than was previously laid out as capital in the purchase of labour capacity. A portion of unpaid labour is appropriated in this process, and only in this way is money converted into capital.

Although no exchange in fact takes place here, the result, if one disregards the intervening stages, is that in the process — taking both moments together — a definite quantity of objectified labour has exchanged for a greater quantity of living labour, which is expressed in the result of the process in the following way, that the labour which has increased its size in its product>than the labour which is objectified in labour capacity, and therefore>than the objectified labour which is paid to the worker, or that in the real process the capitalist receives back, hence obtains, not only the part of the capital he laid out in wages, but also a surplus value, which costs him nothing. Here the direct exchange of labour for capital means 1) the direct conversion of labour into capital, the objective component of capital in the production process, 2) the exchange of a definite quantity of objectified labour for the same quantity of living labour + a surplus quantity of living labour, which is appropriated without exchange.

The statement that productive labour is labour which exchanges directly with capital comprises all these moments, and is only a derivative formula for the fact that it is labour which converts money into capital, exchanges with the conditions of production as capital, and therefore by no means relates to the former as simple conditions of production, does not relate to them as labour in the absolute sense, without any specific social determinateness.

This implies 1) the relation of money and labour capacity to each other as commodities, sale and purchase between the owner of money and the owner of labour capacity; 2) the direct subsumption of labour under capital; 3) the real conversion of labour into capital in the production process, or, and this is the same thing, the creating of surplus value for capital. A twofold exchange between labour and capital takes place. The first merely expresses the purchase of labour capacity and therefore, actu, of labour, hence of its product. The second expresses the direct conversion of living labour into capital, or its objectification as the realisation of capital.

The result of the capitalist production process is neither a mere product (use value) nor a commodity, i.e. a use value which has a particular exchange value. Its result, its product, is the creation of surplus value for capital, and therefore in fact the conversion of money or a commodity into capital; whereas before the production process these were capital merely in intention, in themselves, in terms of their determination. More labour is absorbed in the production process than was bought, and this absorption, [XXI-1324] this appropriation of alien unpaid labour, which is accomplished in the production process, is the immediate purpose of the capitalist production process, for what capital wants to produce as capital (hence the capitalist as capitalist) is neither direct use value for its own consumption, nor a commodity to be converted first into money and later into use values. Its purpose is enrichment the valorisation of value, its magnification, hence the preservation of the old value and the creation of surplus value. And it achieves this specific product of the capitalist production process only in the exchange with labour, which for that reason is called productive labour.

In order to produce commodities; labour must be useful labour, it must produce use values; it must be represented in use values. And therefore only labour which is represented in commodities; hence in use values, is able to make the exchange with capital. This is a presupposition which goes without saying. But it is not this concrete character of the labour, its use value as such, the fact that it is e.g. tailoring, cobbling, spinning, weaving, etc., which forms its specific use value for capital, stamps it therefore as productive labour in the system of capitalist production. Its specific use value for capital consists not in its particular useful character, any more than in the specific useful features of the product in which it is objectified. It is rather its character as the element which creates exchange value, abstract labour; not in the sense that it represents any particular quantity of this general labour, but that it represents a greater quantity than is contained in its price, i.e. in the value of the labour capacity. The use value of labour capacity is for it the excess amount of labour it provides over and above the labour which is objectified in it, and is therefore required for its reproduction. It naturally provides this quantity in the particular form appropriate to it as a specific kind of useful labour, as the labour of spinning, of weaving, etc. But this concrete character of labour, which generally enables it to be represented in a commodity, is not its specific use value for capital. This consists for capital in its quality of being labour in general, and in the difference between the quantity of labour it performs and the quantity of labour it costs, in the fact that the former is greater than the latter.

A particular sum of money, x, becomes capital through the fact that it is represented in its product as x + h; i.e. the fact that the quantity of labour contained in it as a product is greater than the quantity of labour originally contained in it. And this is the result of the exchange between money and productive labour, or, in other words, only that labour is productive which enables objectified labour to be represented in the exchange with it as an increased quantity of objectified labour.

The capitalist production process is therefore not merely the production of commodities. It is a process which absorbs unpaid labour, a process which makes the material and means of labour — the means of production — into means for the absorption of unpaid labour.

It emerges from what has been said so far that to be productive labour is a determination of labour which has at first absolutely nothing to do with the particular content of the labour, its specific utility or the peculiar use value in which it is represented.

The same kind of labour can be productive or unproductive.

E.g. Milton, who did the Paradise Lost for £5, was an unproductive worker. But a writer who does factory labour for his publisher is a productive worker. Milton produced Paradise Lost for the same reason as a silkworm produces silk. It was an expression of his own nature. Later on he sold the product for £5. But the Leipzig proletarian of literature who assembles books (such as compendia of political economy) under the direction of his publisher is a productive worker, for his production is from the outset subsumed under capital, and only takes place so that capital may valorise itself. A singer who sells her songs on her own account is an unproductive worker. But the same singer, engaged by an impresario, who has her sing in order to make money, is a productive worker. For she produces capital.'

[XXI-1325] There are various questions to be distinguished here.

Whether I buy a pair of trousers, or I buy some cloth and take a journeyman tailor into the house, paying him for his service (i.e. his tailoring labour) of converting this cloth into trousers, is a matter of complete indifference to me, in so far as only the trousers are at stake. I buy the trousers from the merchant tailor, instead of operating in the second way, because the latter way of doing things is dearer, and the trousers cost less labour, and are therefore cheaper if the capitalist tailor produces them than if I have them produced in the latter manner. But in both cases I do not convert the money with which I buy the trousers into capital but into trousers, and what is important to me in both cases is to use the money as a mere means of circulation, i.e. to convert it into this particular use value. Here, therefore, the money does not function as capital, although in one case it is exchanged for a commodity, and in the other case it buys labour itself as a commodity. It functions only as money, and more precisely as means of circulation. On the other hand, the journeyman tailor is not a productive worker, although his labour provides for me the product, the trousers, and for him the price of his labour, the money. It is possible that the quantity of labour provided by the journeyman is greater than the amount contained in the price he receives from me. And indeed this is likely, since the price of his labour is determined by the price received by the productive journeymen tailors. But this is a matter of complete indifference to me. Whether he works 8 or 10 hours, once the price has been fixed, is completely indifferent to me. The only thing at stake here is the use value, the trousers, in which connection I naturally have an interest in paying as little as possible for them, whether I buy them in one way or the other; but I am not concerned to pay more or less in one case than in the other — or only to pay the normal price for them. This is an outgoing for the purpose of my consumption, not an increase of my money but a lessening of it. It is definitely not a means of enrichment, just as little as any other kind of expenditure of money for my personal consumption is a means of enrichment. One of the savants of Paul de Kock may tell me that I cannot live without this purchase, just as I cannot live without the purchase of bread, hence I also cannot enrich myself, that it is therefore an indirect means — or at least a condition — for my enrichment. The circulation of my blood and my respiration would in the same way also be conditions for my enrichment. But neither the circulation of my blood nor my respiration in themselves enrich me on that account; both of these processes rather presuppose a costly metabolism without whose necessity there would be no poor devils at all. The mere direct exchange of money for labour therefore does not convert money into capital or labour into productive labour. What then is the characteristic feature of this exchange? What distinguishes it from the exchange of money with productive labour? On the one hand the fact that the money is expended as money, as the independent form of exchange value, which is to be converted into a use value, into means of subsistence, an object of personal consumption. Therefore the money does not become capital but rather the reverse, it loses its existence as exchange value so as to be consumed as use value. On the other hand, labour only interests me as a use value, as a service by means of which cloth is turned into trousers; the service which it performs for me thanks to its particular useful character. But when the journeyman tailor is employed by a merchant tailor, the service he performs for this capitalist by no means consists in his converting cloth into trousers, but rather in the fact that the necessary labour time which is objectified in a pair of trousers = 12 hours of labour, and the wage the journeyman receives = 6 hours. The service he performs for the capitalist therefore consists in the fact that he works 6 hours for nothing. That this occurs in the form of the making of trousers only conceals the real relation. Hence as soon as the merchant tailor is able to do this, he endeavours to convert the trousers back into money again, i.e. into a form in which the particular character of tailoring has completely disappeared, and in which the service performed is expressed in such a way that instead of a labour time of 6 hours, which [XXI-1326] is expressed in a particular amount of money, a labour time of 12 hours is available, which is expressed in twice the amount of money.

I buy the work of the tailor on account of the service it performs as tailoring, which is to satisfy my need for clothing, hence to serve one of my needs. The merchant tailor buys it as a means of making two thalers out of one. I buy it because it produces a certain use value, performs a certain service. He buys it because it provides more exchange value than it costs, he buys it merely as a means of exchanging less labour for more labour.

Where money is exchanged directly for labour, and the latter does not produce any capital, hence is not productive labour, it is bought as a service; this is nothing more than an expression for the particular use value provided by labour, just like every other commodity; but it is a specific expression for the particular use value of labour, in so far as labour does not provide services as an object but as an activity, which however by no means distinguishes it e.g. from a machine, e.g. a clock. Do ut facias, facio ut facias, facio ut des, do ut des ["I give that you may make”, “I make that you may make”, “I make that you may give”, “I give that you may give “ — contractual formulas in Roman law] are here completely indifferent forms of the same relation, whereas in capitalist production the do ut facias expresses a very specific relation of the objective value, which is given, and the living activity, which is appropriated. Thus, because the specific relation of labour and capital is not contained at all in this purchase of services; because it has either been completely extinguished or was never present, it is naturally the favourite form used by Say, Bastiat and their associates to express the relation of capital and labour.

How the value of these services is regulated, and how this value is itself determined by the laws of wages, is a question which has nothing to do with the investigation of the relation currently under discussion, and which belongs to the chapter on wages.

The result is that the mere exchange of money for labour does not convert the latter into productive labour, and that the content of this labour, on the other hand, is initially a matter of indifference.

The worker himself can buy labour, i.e. can buy commodities which are provided in the form of services, and when he expends his wage in such services this expenditure does not differ in any respect from the expenditure of his wage to buy any other commodity. The services he buys may be more or less necessary, e.g. he can buy the service of a doctor or a priest, just as he can buy bread or spirits. As a buyer — i.e. a representative of money towards the commodity — the worker is in exactly the same category as the capitalist, when the latter steps forward as buyer alone, i.e. when it is only a matter of transferring money into the form of a commodity. How the price of these services is determined, and what relation it has to the actual wage, how far it is regulated by the laws governing the latter, and how far not, are questions which should be treated in a discussion of wages and are a matter of complete indifference for the present investigation.

If the mere exchange of money and labour does not convert the latter into productive labour, or, and this is the same thing, does not convert the former into capital, the content the concrete character, the particular utility of the labour, also appears at first to be a matter of indifference; as we have just seen, the same labour of the same journeyman tailor appears as in one case productive, in another case not.

Some services or use values, the results of certain activities or kinds of labour, are incorporated in commodities; others, however, leave behind no tangible result as distinct from the persons themselves: or they do not result in a saleable commodity. E.g. the service a singer performs for me satisfies my aesthetic needs, but what I enjoy exists only in an action inseparable from the singer himself, and once his work, singing, has come to an end, my enjoyment is also at an end; I enjoy the activity itself — its reverberation in my ear. These services themselves, just like the commodities I buy, may be necessary or merely appear necessary, e.g. the service of a soldier, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or they may be services which provide me with pleasure. This does not change their economic determination in any way. If I am healthy and do not need a doctor, or I am fortunate enough not to have to engage in any lawsuits, I avoid like the plague the expenditure of money for medical or legal services.

[XXI-1328] One can also have services thrust upon one, the services of officials; etc.

If I buy the services of a teacher, not in order to develop my own capacities, but to acquire skills with which I can earn money — or if other people buy this teacher for me — and if I really learn something — which is in itself entirely independent of my paying for his services — these costs of learning form as much a part of the costs of production of my labour capacity as do my subsistence costs. But the particular utility of this service changes nothing in the economic relation; and this is not a relation in which I convert money into capital, or by which the performer of the service, the teacher, converts me into his capitalist, his master. Whether the doctor cures me, the teacher is successful in instructing me, or the lawyer wins my case, is therefore a matter of complete indifference for the economic determination of this relation. What is paid for is the performance of a service as such, and its result cannot by its nature be guaranteed by the person performing it. A large part of services belong to the costs of consumption of commodities, as with cooks, maids, etc.

It is characteristic of all unproductive labours that they are only at my disposal in the same proportion as I exploit productive workers — as is the case with the purchase of all other consumption commodities. It is the productive worker, therefore, who of all persons has the least command over the services of unproductive workers, although he has to pay the most for involuntary services (the state, taxes). Inversely, however, my ability to employ productive workers does not at all grow in the proportion to which I employ unproductive workers; it is rather the reverse, it declines in the same proportion.

Productive workers may themselves be unproductive workers as far as I am concerned. If e.g. I have my house decorated, and these decorators are the wage labourers of a master, who sells me this function, it is the same for me as if I had bought a readydecorated house, expended money for a commodity I intend to consume, but for the master who sets these workers to decorating, they are productive workers, for they produce surplus value for him.

But what is the situation with independent handicraftsmen or with peasants who do not employ any workers, hence do not produce as capitalists? Either they are producers of commodities; as always in the case of peasants //but not e.g. in the case of a gardener I take into my household//, and I buy the commodities. from them, in which connection it makes no difference e.g. that the handicraftsman supplies the commodities to order, whereas the peasant delivers his supply according to the measure of his means of producing it. In this relation they meet me as sellers of commodities, not as sellers of labour, and this relation therefore has nothing to do with the exchange between capital and labour, hence it also has nothing to do with the distinction between productive and unproductive labour, which depends merely on whether the labour is exchanged for money as money or for money as capital. They therefore belong neither to the category of productive workers nor to that of unproductive workers; although they are producers of commodities. Their production is not subsumed under the capitalist mode of production. These producers, who work with their own means of production, may not only reproduce their labour capacity, but also create surplus value, in that their position allows them to appropriate their own surplus labour, or a part of it (for a part is taken away from them in the form of taxes, etc.). And here we meet with a peculiarity characteristic of a society in which a determinate mode of production predominates, although all relations of production have not yet been subjected to it. In feudal society, for example, which can best be studied in England, because here the system of feudalism was introduced in finished form from Normandy, and its form was imprinted upon a social foundation which differed in many respects, relations which are far from belonging to the essence of feudalism also take on a feudal expression. Such is the case with e.g. purely monetary relations, where there is no element at all of reciprocal personal services between suzerain and vassal. E.g. the fiction that the small peasant possesses his farm as a fief. It is exactly the same with the capitalist mode of production. The independent peasant or handicraftsman is cut into two.

“In the small enterprises ... the entrepreneur is often his own worker — (Storch, Vol. II St. Petersburg edition, [p.] 242).

As owner of the means of production he is a capitalist, as worker he is his own wage labourer. He therefore pays himself his wages as a capitalist and draws his profit from his capital, i.e. he exploits himself as wage labourer and pays himself in surplus value the tribute labour owes to capital. Perhaps he pays himself yet a third part as landowner (rent), just as the industrial capitalist, as we shall see later,’ when he works with his own [XXI-1329] capital, pays himself interest and regards this as something he owes himself not as industrial capitalist but as capitalist in the absolute sense. The social determinacy of the means of production in capitalist production — so that they express a particular relation of production — is so intertwined with, and in the understanding of bourgeois society so inseparable from, the material existence of these means of production as means of production, that that determinacy (categorial determinacy) is applied even where the relation directly contradicts it. The means of production only become capital in so far as they achieve an autonomous position as an independent power vis-à-vis labour. In the given case, the producer — the worker — is the owner, the proprietor of his means of production. They are therefore no more capital than he is a wage labourer vis-à-vis them. Nevertheless, they are considered to be capital, and he himself is split in two, so that he as capitalist employs himself as wage labourer. In fact this way of presenting the matter, irrational as it may be on first view, is nevertheless correct so far: The producer admittedly creates his own surplus value in the given case //assuming that he sells his commodity at its value//, or the whole product objectifies his own labour alone. But he owes his ability to appropriate for himself the whole product of his own labour, whereby the excess of the value of his product over the average price for instance of his day’s labour is not appropriated by a third master, not to his labour — which does not distinguish him from other workers — but to his ownership of the means of production. It is therefore only through ownership of the latter that he obtains control of his own surplus labour, and thus he relates to himself as wage labourer as his own capitalist. The separation of the two appears as the normal relation in this society. Therefore where it does not take place in practice it is assumed, and, as we have just shown, so far correctly; for (unlike e.g. the conditions of ancient Rome or Norway) (or American conditions in the North West of the United States) the unification of the two appears here as accidental, their separation as normal, and therefore the separation is retained as the relation, even when one person unites the different functions. It emerges in very striking fashion here that the capitalist as such is only a function of capital, and the worker a function of labour capacity. Then there is also the law that economic development divides the functions among different persons, so that the handicraftsman or peasant who produces with his own means of production is either turned little by little into a small capitalist who also exploits alien labour, or loses possession of his means of production flat the outset this may occur even though he remains their nominal owner, as with the mortgage system// and is turned into a wage labourer. This is the tendency in the form of society in which the capitalist mode of production predominates. In considering the essential relations of capitalist production, therefore, it can be assumed //since this tends to occur more and more, is the principal purpose, and the productive powers of labour are developed to the highest point in this case alone// that the whole world of commodities, all the spheres of material production — the production of material wealth — have been subjected (either formally or really) to the capitalist mode of production. In this presupposition, which expresses the limit, and therefore approximates ever more closely to exact accuracy, all the workers engaged in the production of commodities are wage labourers and the means of production confront them as capital in all spheres of production. It can then be described as the characteristic feature of productive workers; i.e. of workers producing capital, that their labour is realised in commodities, material wealth. And thus productive labour would have obtained a second, subsidiary determination distinct from its decisive characteristic, for which the content of the labour is a matter of complete indifference and which is independent of that content.

With non-material production, even when it is conducted purely for exchange, hence produces commodities, two things are possible: 1) It results in commodities, use values, which possess an independent shape separate from the producers and consumers; hence may exist in the interval between production and consumption, may circulate in this interval as saleable commodities as in the case of books, paintings, in short all the products of artistic creation, which are distinct from the artistic performance of the executant artist. Here capitalist production is only applicable to a very limited degree. To the extent that e.g. the writer of a joint work — encyclopaedia — e.g. exploits a number of others as hacks.

[XXI-1330] Here things usually remain at the level of the forms transitional to capitalist production, where different scientific or artistic producers, artisanal or professional, work for a common merchant capital, the publisher; a relation which has nothing to do with the capitalist mode of production proper, and is itself not yet formally subsumed under it. The fact that the exploitation of labour is at its worst precisely in these transitional forms does not change anything in the situation. 2) The product is not separable from the act of producing, as with all executant artists, orators, actors, teachers, doctors, clerics, etc. Here too the capitalist mode of production only occurs to a slight extent, and can in the nature of things only take place in certain spheres. E.g. teachers in educational institutions may be mere wage labourers for the entrepreneur who owns the institution; there are many such education factories in England. Although they are not productive workers vis-à-vis the pupils, they are such vis-à-vis their employer. He exchanges his capital for their labour capacity, and enriches himself by this process. Similarly with enterprises such as theatres, places of entertainment, etc. Here the actor’s relation to the public is that of artist, but vis-à-vis his employer he is a productive worker. All the phenomena of capitalist production in this area are so insignificant in comparison with production as a whole that they can be disregarded entirely.

With the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, in which many workers cooperate in the production of the same commodity, the direct relations between their labour and the object under production must of course be very diverse. E.g. the assistants in the factory, mentioned earlier,’ have no direct involvement in the treatment of the raw material. The workers who constitute the overseers of those who are directly concerned with this treatment stand a step further away; the engineer in turn has a different relation and works mainly with his brain alone, etc. But the whole group of these workers; who possess labour capacities of different values, although the total number employed reaches roughly the same level, produce a result which is expressed, from the point of view of the result of the pure labour process, in commodities or in a material product, and all of them together, as a workshop, are the living production machine for these products., while, from the point of view of the production process as a whole, they exchange their labour for capital, and reproduce the money of the capitalist as capital, i.e. as self-valorising value, self-multiplying value. It is indeed the peculiarity of the capitalist mode of production that it separates the different kinds of labour, hence also brain and hand labour — or the kinds of labour in which one or the other aspect predominates — and distributes them among different people, although this does not prevent the material product from being the common product of these persons or their common product from being objectified in material wealth. Nor, on the other hand, does this prevent, or change in any way, the fact that the relation of each individual person is that of a wage labourer to capital, and in this eminent sense it is the relation of the productive worker. All these people are not only employed directly in the production of material wealth, they exchange their labour directly for capital’s money, and therefore, as well as directly reproducing their wage, they create a surplus value for the capitalist. Their labour consists of paid labour + unpaid surplus labour.

In addition to extractive industry, agriculture, and manufacturing, there exists yet a fourth sphere of material production, which also passes through the different stages of the handicraft system, the system of manufacture, and mechanised industry; it is the transport industry, transporting human beings, it may be, or commodities. Here the relation of the productive worker, i.e. the wage labourer, to capital is exactly the same as in the other spheres of material production. Here too the object of labour undergoes a material alteration — a spatial alteration, or change of place. In regard to the transport of human beings, this appears merely as a service, performed for them by an entrepreneur. But the relation between the buyer and the seller of this service has no more to do with the relation of the productive worker to capital than the relation between the buyer and the seller of twist. If, however, we look at the process in regard to commodities, [XXI-1331] we find that there does occur an alteration to the object of labour, the commodity, in the course of the labour process. Its spatial location is altered, and a change in its use value accompanies this, in that the spatial location of this use value is altered. Its exchange value increases in the measure to which this alteration in its use value requires labour, a total amount of labour which is in part determined by the depreciation of the constant capital, hence the amount of objectified labour which enters into it, in part by the amount of living labour, as in the valorisation process of all other commodities. Once the commodity has arrived at its destination, this alteration which has taken place to its use value disappears, and is now expressed only in its increased exchange value, in the greater dearness of the commodity. Although the real labour has here left behind no trace in the use value, it has nevertheless been realised in the exchange value of this material product, and thus it is true of this industry, as of the other spheres of material production, that it is embodied in the commodity, although it has left behind no visible trace in the use value of the commodity.

Here we are still only concerned with productive capital, i.e. capital employed in the direct production process. We shall come later to capital in the circulation process; and in view of the particular shape capital assumes as mercantile capital it will only be later that we can answer the question as to how far the workers employed by it are productive or not productive.

“The productive labourer” he that “directly” increases “his master’s wealth” (Th. R. Malthus, Principles of Political Economy, 2nd ed., London, 1836, [p.], 47 [note]).

  1. In accordance with the plan of the third chapter of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy which he drew up in 1860, Marx intended to examine this problem in the section "Primitive Accumulation" (see present edition, Vol. 29, pp. 513-14). In the course of his work on the Manuscript of 1861-63, however, he made a new plan for the arrangement of the material, under which this problem was to be dealt with in Section 5 of Part I (see present edition, Vol. 33, p. 347). Here and below, the titles of subsections, given in square brackets, have been taken from the summary of contents Marx wrote on the inside front cover of Notebook XX (see present edition, Vol. 33, p. 7).—61
  2. In Notebook XXIII Marx makes use of additional material to illustrate these propositions (see this volume, pp. 290-98).—62
  3. For Marx's assessment of the French factory legislation, see present edition, Vol. 30, pp. 220-21.—62
  4. The passage quoted by Marx is to be found in Petty's Verbum Sapienti, a supplement to The Political Anatomy of Ireland.—62
  5. In the margin opposite this paragraph Marx wrote: "Malthus' theory of value".—71, 343
  6. Originally Marx correctly marked this page as 1297, but he wrote the figure 7 rather indistinctly and apparently misread it later as 1, so he marked the following pages as 1292, 1293 and 1294. On discovering the error, Marx added "a" to each of the wrong page numbers.—85