Chapter 10: The Working Day

Section 1: "The limits of the Working Day"
Outline of Marx's Discussion

The working day is a "variable," "fluid" or "indeterminate" quantity that can be represented thus:

1. A ---------- B ----- C

where the length A---------B represents the part of the day that produces V
and B------C represents that part of the working day that produces S

But B-----C can be "variable," longer or shorter
B-----C, or
B-------C, or
B---------C, depending on the power of business to impose work

2. But there are limits:

There is a minimum limit to A---B for workers to enable the reproduction of their labor power
so the capitalists must obtain a working day at least A---B + B---C,
where B---C = average profit (or they will withdraw from this form of investment).

There is a maximum limit of A----C, which is a function of:

"”the "physical limits" set by workers' needs for sleep, food, etc.
"”a "moral/social" limit set by workers' needs for intellectual and social requirements.
"”both of these are elastic though within 24 hours.

3. In LP"”M (and M"”LP) we have an exchange between two subjects with two different views on the implications of the exchange.

Capitalists: demand the use of daily working power, LP, in exchange for wages

Workers: demand enough time so that along with their wages they can re-produce LP and live, i.e., a normal working day

4. Thus, capitalist rights as purchaser vs. workers' rights as sellers

"Between equal rights force decides. Hence it is that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists and collective labor, i.e., the working class."

In the first place, the choice of working day rather than week, month or year is appropriate enough in a period where workers are working 7 days out of the week and day labor is common. Today we might well choose another unit of time, for example the working week, because since the successful working class struggle in the 1930s to create the five-day week (and thus the weekend "”a hitherto unknown entity) this has been a common frame of reference. In the early 1970s even this shortened week came under attack by many workers advocating the 4-day week or the reduction of the 40-hr. week to the 36 hr. week, etc. More recently, since the early 1980s, the initiative again passed to the capitaist class that has succeeded at imposing somewhat longer working days, though the weekend is still intact.

The choice of unit is really an historical question, in the mid-1800s workers fought for the 10-hour day, 8-hour day, etc. Later workers demanded shorter weeks or even years (more paid holidays). We can adopt Marx's analysis to whichever unit is relevant to a particular situation.

More importantly, today we must extend Marx's analysis beyond the factory to a "working day" defined not only in terms of the production of commodities on whose sale a surplus value is realized, but also in terms of work aimed at the reproduction of labor-power. The working day thus includes the time of production and the time of reproduction. This extension is required not only because capital has extended its despotism beyond the factory into the home, family and community, but because working class struggle has also developed in these areas, and the terrain of struggle over the "working day" has expanded accordingly.

In Marx's discussion of this section, which sets the tone for the rest of the chapter, there are clearly two subjects in contention: the capitalist and working classes. Capital demands one thing, workers demand another (Marx even has the workers speak in their own behalf.) There are capitalist rights and worker rights. In the Hegelian language of Chapter Two, two wills or sets of wills confront each other. The determination of the length of the working day is thus achieved through struggle, through the opposition of force. This we will see to be true of most of the key variables in Marx's analysis: they denote moments of struggle and their value is determined by struggle.

In the case of the minimum limit to the working day: v + s Marx will ultimately make clear that in general capitalists must earn at least the average rate of profit (s/{c+v}) = Ï€ in order to continue in a given line of investment. If Ï€ falls below the average for very long, the capitalist will close up shop. This is why the minimum cannot fall to v in a sustained manner. What determines the average rate of profit is the balance of class forces, both directly and in mediated ways. This minimum as Marx defines it here is purely in terms of production hours. Once we include capitalist organized reproduction then this minimum amount of working time is analogous (the time "”both in and out of production"” required for the reproduction of labor power) but expanded.

In the case of the maximum limit we can see two kinds of changes over time. First, capital pushes beyond these physical limits, tries to reduce them, e.g., meal times, sleep. Such times are increasingly organized by capital to be short and to guarantee that they reproduce the willingness and ability to work rather than to fight against capital. (See section below on industries without limits and over work.) In response, workers try to defend the limits, and where possible expand them. Second, the "moral/social" limits which are a function of working class needs for intellectual and social activity undergo two kinds of transformations: a) they are colonized by capital and structured to become non-threatening, b) they come more and more to dominate the maximum limit as opposed to the "physical" limits. That is to say as workers succeed in forcing the working day down and creating more and more "free" time, that time is increasingly in excess of what is required for mere physical reproduction. Thus with the reduction of the working day through the development of a militant working class for-itself, that class is creating more and more time for the fulfillment of its own, self-defined needs. It is just this development of the working class subject that forces capital to invade this "free" time and try to colonize it, to control it through educational institutions, etc., so that it does not become threatening. Thus the terrain of struggle over the working day shifts to include the time of reproduction as well as the time of production.
Section 2: The Voracious Appetite for Surplus Labor
Outline of Marx's Discussion
1. "Capital did not invent surplus labor."
Class society with the monopolization of MP has long produced surplus labor. (generic)

2. Where use-value predominates
"”surplus labor is limited by set of wants
"”no boundless thirst from production itself

3. Where exchange-value (capitalist market) dominates
"”there is just that boundless thirst, the aim is not use-value and therefore not limited by wants
"”this comes with capitalist world market and production for export, e.g., in the United States slavery transformed from paternalism to the using up of slaves' lives to maximize exchange-value and profit.

4. Corvee labor
"”in Danubian Principalities, Reglement Organique (1831)
"”a "positive" expression of thirst for surplus labor. It is positive, because explicitly defined and expanded
"”here "surplus labor in an independent and immediately perceptible form," i.e., work on seignoral estate.

5.Factory Acts in England (1850)
"”negative expression of thirst, negative because the Acts set limits to surplus labor
"”limits set through state, forced by working class struggle & exhaustion of LP
"”capital responds with "nibbling and cribbling" at working day in a way that shows the nature of surplus value is no secret to anyone.

6. Full-timers, half-timers: people defined as personified labor time.
Capitalism as Endless Work
Points 1-3 bring out something of fundamental importance in Marx's analysis of surplus value. It is not the existence of surplus labor that makes capitalism unique or that defines it. There has been surplus labor in many different societies. Marx names several. Rather it is the boundlessness of surplus labor under capital that makes it unique. In other societies surplus labor was subordinated to use-value, to the production of use-values for the ruling classes. In capitalism it is the other way around, the production of use-value is subordinated to surplus value, i.e., the extraction of surplus labor. This is absolutely basic. Significantly, Marx discusses it here without regard to the "form" of surplus labor, i.e., surplus value. The form in capital, exchange-value, or surplus value, is important, but it is not as fundamental as the content. First of all capital seeks endless amounts of surplus labor. Secondarily it seeks this through the commodity form, and thus surplus labor appears in the form of surplus value, and ultimately surplus money and profit. On this subject of form, it is worth noting that Marx uses American slavery to illustrate capital's boundless thirst for surplus labor despite the fact that slaves are not waged "”the most common form of domination in capitalism.

Because capitalism is not defined by the existence of surplus labor, the end of capitalism cannot be defined by the end of surplus labor. What must be ended to bring about a post capitalist society, is the endlessness of surplus labor and the subordination of useful labor to surplus labor. We must reverse the relationship and subordinate surplus labor to the multidimensional needs defined by post-capitalist society. Thus post-capitalist society is not a no-growth society but one whose growth is organized to meet needs and not the other way around.

This can also be put in terms of the relation between work time and leisure time, or between production time and reproduction time. With capital we see an effort to subordinate reproduction to production, to make non-factory life such that it only prepares one to enter or reenter the factory. This includes the subordination of culture to capitalist organized work, commodity production and education as discipline and training for work. Thus the reversal and overthrow of capital must include the reversal and overthrow of these relations. We seek the subordination of work to non-work life, the subordination of production to reproduction, to culture. Education for living not just training. It would appear that only through these reversals can we begin to think and live work as one fruitful element of life among others, no longer antagonistic because no longer the mechanism for domination and for defining the rest of life.

In points 4 & 5 the juxtaposition of the Danubian corvee with the Factory acts is interesting not only because it presents two cases where surplus labor is obvious and non-obvious, but also because we see two moments of class confrontation when first one side and then the other has the initiative. In the case of the corvee the dominant class is moving and imposing more work. In the case of the factory acts the working class has moved and forced a reduction of work. What happens depends on the balance of class power.
Nibbling and Cribbling
Marx's comments about how capital "nibbles and cribbles" at the working day, stealing a few extra minutes from workers here and a few more minutes there, are both accurate and of continuing relevance "”as every student knows whose class has run overtime or who has been given more homework. Unfortunately, Marx's comments are also very one-sided. He fails to examine the similar ways in which workers nibble at the time they are forced to give to capital, stealing back moments of their lives when they can, biting off big chunks when possible. It is clear that the struggle over the working day goes on in this fashion just as it does at the level of legislation. Playing on the job, absenteeism, slow down, sabotage "”withdrawal of efficiency as Veblen said"” are all ways in which workers seek to reduce the amount of their lives they give up to business. See the ad from a business magazine denoucing "time theft" patterned after a wanted poster.

Several contemporary examples of this kind of "nibbling" are given in a 1971 article on the auto industry: "Counter-Planning on the Shop Floor" by Bill Watson. Two went as follows:

Sabotage is also exerted to shut down the process to gain extra time before lunch and in some areas, to lengthen group breaks or allow friends to break at the same time. In the especially hot months of June and July, when the temperature rises to 115 degrees in the plant and remains there for hours, such sabotage is used to gain free time to sit with friends in front of a fan or simply away from the machinery.
A plant-wide rotating sabotage program was planned in the summer to gain free time. At one meeting workers counted of nuimbers from 1 to 50 or more. . . . Each man took a period of about 20 minutes during the next two weeks, and when his period arrived he did something to sabotage the production process in his area, hopefully shutting down the entire line. . . .
The "sabotage of the rationalization of time" is not some foolery of men. In its own context it appears as nothing more than the forcing of more free time into existence; any worker will tell you as much. . . .
What stands out in all this is the level of co-operative organization of workers in and between areas. While this organization is a reaction to the need for common action in getting the work done, relationships like these also function to carry out sabotage . . . Such was the case in the motor-test area.
The inspectors organized a rod-blowing contest which required the posting of lookouts at the entrances to the shop area and the making of deals with assembly, for example, to neglect the torquing of bolts on rods for a random number of motors so that there would be loose rods. When an inspector stepped up to a motor and felt the telltale knock in the water-pump wheel, he would scream out to clear the shop, the men abandoning their work and running behind boxes and benches. The he would arc himself away from the stand and ram the throttle up to first 4,000 and then 5,000 rpm. The motor would knock, clank, and finally blur to a cracking halt with the rod blowing through the side of the oil pan and across the shop. The men would rise up from their cover, exploding with cheers, and another point would be chalked on the wall for that inspector. This particular contest went on for several weeks, resulting in more than 150 blown motors. No small amount of money was exchanged in bets over the contests.

Such conflict goes on throughout the social factory, not just in commodity producing work alone. When students arrive late to class or blow off studying, this happens on a small scale. When they insist on taking courses such as philosophy, or Marxism, or labor history as vehicles for their own education and needs instead of more "practical" courses that are job oriented, they are nibbling at the time capital is trying to convert into reproduction time on a much larger scale. This kind of perpetual conflict characterizes life within capitalist society. When women resist having any, or more, children, they are often fighting for more time for their own life "”including, perhaps, life with their husband (or existing children)"” and undermining the reproduction of labor power for capital. Working class action therein is sometimes overt and aggressive, sometimes covert and passive in its resistance, but it is never absent.
Section 3: Sectors of Industry with No Legal Limits
Outline of Marx's Discussion

1. The lace trade "”children used up by being worked 15 hours and more
2. Potteries "”life span shortening, chest diseases (pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis) etc., function of long hours, poor conditions
3. Lucifer matches "”tetanus (lockjaw), long hours in rooms with phosphorus.
4. Paper hangings "”no stoppage for meals
5. Baking "”adulteration and overwork related; bread contains "human perspiration, discharge of abscesses, etc." "”sleeping on kneading boards "”workers organized and won the abolition of night labor in some areas, were defeated in other areas
6. Agricultural workers "”long hours, formation of trades union
7. Railway men "”accidents from overwork, failure of labor power
8. Dressmaking (milliners) "”Mary Anne Walkley, 20, death from overwork.
9. Blacksmithing "”die at rate of 31 per thousand/year, 11 above mean
In this section Marx mixes his discussion of the length of the working day with that of its conditions and finds the two closely interrelated. He will do this again later with relative surplus value and speed-up. There he will focus on the results of working too fast. Here working too hard to the detriment of the worker is associated with working too long. In these examples, we see not only the lengths to which capital will go in extorting absolute surplus value when the working class is too weak to resist, but also how, in its fetishistic pursuit of monetary profit, capitalists lose sight of their social role of putting people to work and by their fanaticism sometimes wind up putting people to death "”undermining the very society they are trying to control and structure. Here fetishism is not simply failing to perceive social relations behind things, but is a mentality and way of behaving which undermines the reproductive capacity of the system itself.

Although by definition Marx is here examining those sectors of industry where the working class is too weak to achieve reduction in hours, Marx does mention from time to time (e.g. bakers and agricultural workers) instances where workers are or have been struggling in these sectors to change the situation. What we have little of here, as all too often in Marx, is any analysis of why some workers were successful and others were not. Here we have only the results.

In the passage below, taken from the 1855 novel North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, we have a very vividly described example of the kind of working situation Marx was writing about. The conversation takes place between Bessy, a working class girl whose health has been destroyed by working long hours in the textile mills, and Margaret, the book's main character, the daughter of an ex-minister who has recently moved from the rural South to the industrial North. Bessy describes the circumstances under which she contracted what we now call byssinosis.


[Bessy:] 'I think I was well when mother died, but I have never been rightly strong sin' somewhere about that time. I began to work in a carding-room soon after, and the fluff got into my lungs and poisoned me.'
'Fluff?' said Margaret, inquiringly.
'Fluff,' repeated Bessy. 'Little bits, as fly off fro' the cotton, when they're carding it, and fill the air till it looks all fine white dust. They say it winds round the lungs, and tightens them up. Anyhow, there's many a one as works in a carding-room, that falls into a waste, coughing and spitting blood, because they're just poisoned by the fluff.'
But can't it be helped?' asked Margaret.
I dunno. Some folk have a great wheel at one end o' their carding-rooms to make a draught, and carry off th' dust; but that wheel costs a deal of money "” five or six hundred pound, maybe, and brings in no profit: so it's but a few of th' masters as will put 'em up; and I've heerd tell o' men who didn't like working in places where there was a wheel, because they said as how it made 'em hungry, at after they'd been long used to swallowing fluff, to go without it, and that their wage ought to be raised if they were to work in such places. So between the masters and men th' wheels fall through. I know I wish there'd been a wheel in our place, though.'
(Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, London: Penguin Classics, 1988.)

In his 1905 novel The Jungle, about the life and struggles of Lithuanian immigrants in and around the Chicago stockyards, Upton Sinclair provided shocking descriptions of the conditions under which workers were compelled to labor. In the next passage we are given a description of the vile conditions under which the main character Jurgis is forced to work (after losing a better job on the killing floor due to an ancident). His problem is similar to Bessy's with "fluff" but worse.


His labour took him about one minute to learn. Before him was one of the vents of the mill in which the fertilzer was being ground "”rushing forth in a great brown river, with a spray of the finest dust flung forth in clouds. Jurgis was given a shovel, and along with half a dozen others it was his task to shovel this fertilizer into carts. . . .In five minutes he was, of course, a mass of fertilizer from head to feet; they gave him a sponge to tie over his mouth, so that he could breathe, but the sponge did not prvent his lips and eyelids from caking up with it and his ears from filling solid. . . .
Working in his shirt-sleeves, and with the thermometer at over a hundred, the phosphates soaked in through every pore of Jurgis' skin, and in five minutes he had a headache, and in fifteen was almost dazed. The blood was pounding in his brain like an engine's throbbing; there was a frightful pain at the top of his skull, and he could hardly control his hands. Still, with the memory of his four months' siege [without a wage] behind him, he fought on, in a frenzy of determination; and half an hour later he began to vomit "”he vomited until it seemed as if his inwards must be torn into shreds. A man could get used to the fertilizer mill, the boss had said, if he would only make up his mind to it; but Jurgis now began to see that it was a question of making of his stomach.
. . .
Of course Jurgis had made his home a miniature fertilizer mill a minute after entering. The stuff was half an inch deep in his skin "”his whole system was full of it, and it would have taken a week not merely of scrubbing, but of vigorous excersize, to get it out of him. . . . He smelt so that he made all the food at the table taste, and set the whole family to vomiting; for himself it was three days before he could keep anything upon his stomach . . . And still Jurgis stuck it out! In spite of the splitting headaches he would stagger down to the plant and take up his stand once more, and begin to shovel in the blinding clouds of dust. And so at the end of the week he was a fertilizer man for life "”he was able to eat again, and though his head never stopped aching, it ceased to be so bad that he could not work.
(Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, New York: Penguin Classics, 1986.)

[Read the articles from The New York Times and from Mother Jones on working conditions in the contemporary meatpacking industry.]

Unfortunately, these examples find their counterparts in any number of employments today. Conditions like those described in the passages above not only continue to exist in many of the world's textile mills and meat packing plants, but also obtain in a great many other work places. The peculiar attitude of some English workers toward the evacuation of "fluff" is similar to that sometimes encountered in American coal mines where workers refuse to wear the masks designed to protect them from coal dust and "black lung" because the equipment is so uncomfortable! On the other hand, one imagines that Jurgis would have given a great deal for such a mask.

Sinclair describes the toxic effects of the fertilizer on Jurgis but he doesn't follow the stuff downstream. We know today that such poisoning continues as such materials are applied to the fields by agricultural laborers who, like Jurgis, are exposed to it for hours at a time. Moreover, as the 20th Century has progressed this situation deteriorated as even more toxic pesticides and herbicides have become common in modern corporate farming. The exposure and poisoning of farm workers exposed to lethal pesticides such as parathion has been well documented. The most recent United Farm Workers' boycott of California table grapes is part of the struggle against such practices. [Listen to Tish Hinojosa's song "Somthing in the Rain"] Moreover, we now know that not only the workers but the entire environment has become increasingly poisoned by the growing quantities of chemicals used in agriculture. From these observations we can derive a methodology for studying the breath of such problems "”following the material circuits of production and consumption of particular products. In the case of Sinclair's beef industry derived fertilizer we would want to follow the toxic trail both upstream (back through the production and transport of phosphates and beef waste) and downstream (transport, use in fields, effects on workers, consumers and environment). At each point we could examine the hours worked, the conditions of work and the human and environmental costs incurred. In the process we would discover all the real costs of this product, including those hidden by the capitalists because they don't have to pay for them.

Where workers have the power, they have set strict limits to the time spent in dangerous jobs. For example, there have been jobs in steel mills where the temperature is so high a worker will only work for ten minutes before being replaced. In the nuclear industry workers also refuse to work for more than a few minutes when exposed to high radiation levels "”another kind of heat. These are jobs where longer exposure will kill quickly. On the other hand, there are far more jobs like Bessy's which are ultimately more dangerous because the threat is less immediate and longer term. The killing occurs through poisoning (pesticides) or diseases (white or black lung) that shorten workers' lives but in ways that are not so transparently associated with a particular job. In such cases business fights tooth and nail to deny any responsibility, even hires researchers and lawyers to dispute connections between working conditions and the destruction of workers' health. In this, as in so much of what Marx analyzes about 19th Century capitalism we are forced to say "plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose" (the more things change, the more they remain the same).

Book after book has been written on questions of job safety. Struggles to improve working conditions "”including the reduction of work time"” continue. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created as part of these conflicts. This issue is even more pertinent today than it has been for some time. As a result of attacks by the Reagan-Bush Administrations on safety regulations, wages and employment, American workers have been forced to accept a subtantial increase in the length of the working week "”the first in decades"” as well as more dangerous working conditions.

The subject of adulteration appears in this section as a byproduct of the preoccupation with the long working hours of unregulated business. The counterpart of trying to extract the most work from the workers was minimizing other costs; both contributed to increasing profit. The lack of regulation of work conditions is associated with the lack of regulations concerning the quality of the product. Both derive from capital's power to resist government interference which would raise costs and undermine profits. If baking hours had been regulated so that workers had time to go home to sleep, there would be no "perspiration, discharge of abcesses, etc." on the bread boards. But then the costs would be born by the capitalists rather than the workers and consumers. (Naturally, the capitalists would do their best to pass the costs along in some other way, e.g., higher costs of bread.) As you might suspect, since the time Marx wrote Capital the struggle over such issues has continued apace with workers "”qua workers"” doing their best to reduce hours and improve working conditions, and workers "”qua consumers"” trying to avoid suffering the consequences of such adulteration. An integral part of the struggle against such mistreatment of workers and consumers by cost minimizing, profit maximizing capitalists came to be the public "exposé" of such conditions to provoke public pressure on government to impose regulations and bring such practices to a stop. At the turn of the century in America the writing of such exposés was called "muckraking"; today it is one kind of "investigative reporting" and has become institutionalized by such groups as those organized by Ralph Nader.

Sinclair's The Jungle was such a muckraking work and alongside its vivid descriptions of horrid working conditions it also detailed the kinds of adulteration carried on in the meat packing industry. Some of the worst adulteration occured in the production of sausage. The following passage was probably one of those that spurred President Theodore Roosevelt (who read the book) to push through the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act in 1906.

It was only when the whole ham was spoiled that it came into the department of Elzbieta. Cut up by the two-thousand-revolutions-a-minute flyers, and mixed with half a ton of other meat, no odour that ever was in a ham could make any difference. There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausages; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was mouldy and white "” it would be dosed with borax and glycerine, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumpiton. There would be meat that had tumbled out on the floor, in the dirt and sawdust, where the workers had tramped and spit uncounted billions of consumption germs. There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go into the hoppers together. This is no fairy story and no joke: the meat would be shovelled into carts, and the man who did the shovelling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one "” there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisioned rat was a tidbit. There was no place for the men to wash their hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice of washing them in the water that was to be ladled into the sausage. There were the butt ends of smoked meat, and the scraps of corned beef, and all the odds and ends of the waste of the plants, that would be dumped into old barrels in the cellar and left there. Under the system of rigid economy which the packers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it; and in the barrels would be dirt and rust, and old nails and stale water "” and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out to the public's breakfast.
(Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Edited by James R. Barrett, Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988.)

Not long ago, despite the meat inspection laws that resulted from Sinclair's novel, 60 Minutes reported that in American chicken packing plants as much as 35% of the meat is infected with salmonella bacteria. And if you think the problems stop at the factory gate, read and compare the following two texts: the first from the Jungle and the second a poem written recently by a worker in a supermarket.

Jonas had told them how the meat that was taken out of pickle would often be found sour, and how they would rub it upwith soda to take away the smell, and sell it to be eaten on free-lunch counters; also of the all the miracles of chemistry which they performed, giving to any sort of meat, fresh or salted, whole or chopped, any color and any flavor and any odor they chose. In the pickling of hams they had an ingenious apparatus, by which they saved time and increased the capacity of the plant "”a machine consisting of a hollow needle attached to a pump; by plunging this needle into themeat and working with his foot, a man could fill a ham with pickle in a few seconds. And yet, in spite of this, there would be hams found spoiled, some of them with an odor so bad that a man could hardly bear to be in the room with them. To pump into these the packers had a second and much stronger pickle which destroyed the odor "”a process known to the workers as "giving them thirty per cent."


A woman brings a ham back.
She found maggots
eating Easter dinner.

A display of twenty hams
against the wall,
fat dripping down.

Each one unwrapped finds
maggots burrowed in.
We pour Clorox on the tiles,

behind the baseboard.
Armies of maggots boil out.
Butcher wipes the hams

in vinegar, wraps them up
marked down by ten percent.
We sell them all.

Herbert Scott in Tom Wayman (ed),
Going for Coffee, An Anthology of Contemporary North American Working Poems, Madeira Park: Harbour, 1981.
Section 4: Day and Night Work
Outline of Marx's Discussion
1. Day and night relay shifts are designed to avoid losses due to under-utilization of capacity "”double time rather than double plant size
2. Mixed night work (men and women) "” deterioration of "character"
3. Night work especially bad for health "” no sunlight
4. Often workers work sequential shifts "” incredibly long work days glossed over
5. Children/adult hierarchy
Much of what is described here still holds true. Children may no longer be used, hours may be shortened, wages raised, etc., but the principle of night work to maximize capacity utilization and hold down costs remains. Even where there is no extra cost associated with daily shutdowns of operations capital seeks maximum labor and surplus labor.

This is as true outside the factory as within. Child rearing, the traditional province of women, is notoriously a 24 hour a day undertaking "” 24 hours which, to the degree that it is capable, capital structures to obtain the production of labor power, not just human life. Schooling, as it replaced factory work for children, also finds its province of night-work, its way of extending itself into the evening and night in the form of homework (problems, research papers, etc. done under the spur of the piece-rates of grades or the direct disciplinary power of the school or parental authorities.) So too does the struggle ultimately reproduce itself in these new areas, e.g. cheating and plagiarism to shorten night time homework or just refusal, in favor of self-determined activity. Similarly the paid work of teachers also involves the same kind of pressures for night work. Again the factory hierarchy of age is reproduced in the school in fine gradations, not only teacher/student, but in years of schooling, upper classmen/lower classmen, etc. And when days are taken up with schooling and income low, nighttime may be taken up with waged work for survival "”by either students or teachers.
Section 5: Struggle Over Extension of Work Day
Outline of Marx's Discussion

1. The struggle has two subjects

"” capital for which "the worker is nothing other than labor-power for the duration of his whole life." Capital, with its "were-wolf hunger for surplus labor"

"” the working class which seeks "time for education, for intellectual development, for the fulfillment of social functions, for social intercourse, for the free play of the vital forces of his body and his mind..."

2. Capital will try to use up workers' lives as fast as possible, if new recruits are available. If not, it may have them imported, e.g. from agricultural areas or poor houses by "flesh agents." True for slave labor, true for wage labor. Its treatment of labor is purely a function of profitability.

3. This excessive using up of human life is not a question of subjective viciousness but of competition between capitalists that keeps pressure on all.

4. "The establishment of the normal working day is the result of centuries of struggle between the capitalist and the worker . . . [14th C -- 18th C] . . . Centuries are required before the 'free' worker, owing to the greater development of the capitalist mode of production, makes a voluntary agreement, i.e., is compelled by social conditions to sell the whole of his active life, his very capacity for labour, in return for the price of his customary means of subsistence, to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage."

Among the uses made by capitalism of the state were laws extending the working day (and limiting wages) were:

Statute of Labourers (23 Edward III, 1349)
Statute of 1496 (Henry VII)
Statute of Elizabeth (1562)

5. "Still, during the greater part of the 18th C, up to the epoch of large-scale industry, capital in England had not succeeded in gaining control of the worker's whole week..." "The fact that they could live for a whole week on the wage of four days did not appear to the workers to be a sufficient reason for working for the capitalist for the other two days." In general: the working class was attacked for being "naturally inclined to ease and indolence."

6. This includes attack on idleness of children and praise of Germans for "children there are educated from their cradle at least to 'something of employment'"
Capitalism and the Extension of Work

Marx is dealing with the rise of capitalism when the emerging capitalist class had the power to mobilize the state to enforce an ever greater imposition of work. In this period the capitalists clearly had the initiative and the workers were fighting a defensive battle against the loss of their life time. He suggests that this battle was fought long and tenaciously, through "centuries of struggle" and even through most of the 18th Century workers still preserved some time free from capitalist control.

In terms of understanding what capitalism as a social system is all about, this period is of great interest because it reveals the kind of world capital shaped when it had the power to arrange things according to its own needs. It shaped a world in which life was entirely subordinated to work and the mere existence of any time for other activities was derided (ideologically) as a threat to the morality and (more accurately ) as undermining the submissiveness of the working class.

Marx's comment about workers who could live on four day's wages not wanting to work another two days for the capitalists is reminiscent of his wonderful reference in the Grundrisse to a similar situation in the West Indies:

"The Times of November 1857 contains an utterly delightful cry of outrage on the part of a West-Indian plantation owner. This advocate analyses with great moral indignation "”as a plea for the re-introduction of Negro slavery"” how the Quashees (the free blacks of Jamaica) content themselves with producing only what is strictly necessary for their own consumption, and, alongside this 'use-value' regard loafing (indulgence and idleness) as the real luxury good; how they do not care a damn for the sugar and the fixed capital invested in the plantations but rather observe the planter's impending bankruptcy with an ironic grin of malicious pleasure."

This phenomenon of workers making enough wages to want to work less, in order to have the time to enjoy the possibilities created by their wages has been recurrent in capitalism, growing more common as standards of living have risen. Indeed, it can be argued that success in the wage struggle inevitably leads to intensified struggle over time because, from a worker's point of view, the real object of wages is to live and life requires time. Over time, more and more money (and the wealth and possibilities it buys) is useless if there is no time to put it to use.
Escaping Work
When work is imposed, and the workplace an alienated hell, then escaping from it (with enough means to survive) means a flight into liberty and freedom. As Marx wrote in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, when work is imposed workers feel "outside" themselves at work and only feel "at home" when they are not working. Thus, escape from work is not only a victory won, but a freeing of the body and, at least potentially, a rebirth of the spirit, a rediscovery of life-for-itself after life-as-work-for-capital. Of course, such escape and such joy of liberty can only be obtained by most workers for brief periods. Through the processes of primitive accumulation capital has removed the means of production from most people and thereby also removed the possibility of sustained independence. Freedom can last only as long as available resources (saved or directly appropriated) permit. As those resources are used up, workers are driven back into work for the capitalists who alone can provide the wages necessary for survival.

Nevertheless, the joy of such escapes into freedom from work and into freedom to be and to do independently of the whims of any employer can be sweet indeed "”no matter how short or how long. The fleeting opportunities of the "weekend" or the joys of "vacation" may not last long but they can give a taste of freedom and the possibilities of self-valorization. The exhileration of telling a boss to "take this job and shove it" derives partly from casting off alienation, partly from the sweet taste of free activity it makes possible.

Among American writers who have written in protest against the conditions of human life under capitalism, the theme of escape from the universal life sentence of hard labor and the joy it can bring has been recurrent. In Jack London's short story "The Apostate" the main character "”a boy named Johnny who had spent all his life in factories"” finally walks away from a life that had stunted and twisted him. What will become of him we don't know, but in the escape from work there is bliss.


He passed out of the house and down the street. A wan delight came into his face at the sight of the lone tree. "Jes' ain't goin' to do nothin'," he said to himself, half aloud, in a crooning tone. He glanced wistfully up at the sky, but the bright sun dazzled and blinded him.
It was a long walk he took, and he did not walk fast. It took him past the jute-mill. The muffled roar of the loom room came to his ears, and he smiled. It was a gentle, placid smile. He hated no one, not even the pounding, shrieking machines. There was no bitterness in him, nothing but an inordinate hunger for rest.
The houses and factories thinned out and the open spaces increased as he approached the country. At last the city was behind him, and he was walking down a leafy lane beside the railroad track. He did not walk like a man. He did not look like a man. He was a travesty of the human. It was a twisted and stunted and nameless piece of life that shambled like a sickly ape, arms loose-hanging, stoop-shouldered, narrow-chested, grotesque and terrible.
He passed by a small railroad station and lay down in the grass under a tree. All afternoon he lay there. Sometimes he dozed, with muscles that twitched in his sleep. When awake, he lay without movement, watching the birds or looking up at the sky through the branches of the tree above him. Once or twice he laughed aloud, but without relevance to anything he had seen or felt.
After twilight had gone, in the first darkness of the night, a freight train rumbled into the station. When the engine was switching cars on to the side-track, Johnny crept along the side of the train. He pulled open the side-door of an empty box-car and awkwardly and laboriously climbed in. He closed the door. The engine whistled. Johnny was lying down, and in the darkness he smiled.
(Jack London, "The Apostate," in Jack London, Novels & Stories, New York: Library of America, 1982.)

In Sinclair's The Jungle, a very similar event occurs in the life the main character Jurgis Rudkus who flees the hell of working class Chicago and briefly escapes from work and all its miseries. This event occurs late in the novel, after he and his family have been exploited and beaten down on the job and off, after all their hopes and dreams have been destroyed, after his wife has died in an unheated garret and his baby son drowned in an unrepaired street. After all this, Jurgis "”like London's Johnny"” jumps a train and flees the city and the horrors of his life. But in Sinclair's novel, unlike London's short story, we find out what happens next. Jurgis soon finds himself in the countryside, a countryside not so unlike what he had known in Lithuania as a peasant child before immigrating to America. The passages below describe his reawakening from the nightmare of his life working for and being destroyed by capital.


When ever the cars stopped a warm breeze blew upon him, a breeze laden with the perfume of fresh fields, of honeysuckle and clover. He snuffed it, and it made his heart beat wildly "” he was out in the country again! He was going to live in the country! When the dawn came he was peering out with hungry eyes, getting glimpses of meadows and woods and rivers. At last he could stand it no longer, and when the train stopped again he crawled out. Upon the top of the car was a brakeman, who shook his fist and swore; Jurgis waved his hand derisively, and started across the country.
Only think that he had been a countryman all his life; and for three long years he had never seen a country sight nor heard a country sound! Excepting for that one walk when he left gaol, when he was too much worried to notice anything, and for a few times when he had rested in the city parks in the winter-time when he was out of work, he had literally never seen a tree! And now he felt like a bird lifted up and borne away upon a gale; he stopped and stared at each new sight of wonder "” at a herd of cows and a meadow full of daisies, at hedgerows set thick with June roses, at little birds singing in the trees.
. . .
In a few minutes he came to a stream, and he climbed a fence and walked down the bank, along a woodland path. By-and-by he found a comfortable spot, and there he devoured his meal, slaking his thirst at the stream. Then he lay for hours, just gazing and drinking in joy; until at last he felt sleepy, and lay down in the shade of a bush.
When he awoke the sun was shining hot in his face. He sat up and stretched his arms, and then gazed at the water sliding by. There was a deep pool, sheltered and silent, below him, and a sudden wonderful idea rushed upon him. He might have a bath! The water was free, and he might get into it "”all the way into it! It would be the first time that he had been all the way into the water since he left Lithuania!
When Jurgis had first come to the stockyards he had been as clean as any working-man could well be. But later on, what with sickness and cold and hunger and discouragement, and the filthiness of his work, and the vermin in his home, he had given up washing in winter, and in summer only as much of him as would go into a basin. He had had a shower-bath in gaol, but nothing since "”and now he would have a swim!
The water was warm, and he splashed about like a very boy in his glee. Afterwords he sat down in the water near the bank, and proceeded to scrub himself "”soberly and methodically, scouring every inch of him with sand. While he was doing it he would do it thoroughly, and see how it felt to be clean. He even scrubbed his head with sand and combed what the men called 'crumbs' out of his long black hair, holding his head under water as long as he could, to see if he could not kill them all. Then, seeing that the sun was still hot, he took his clothes from the bank and proceeded to wash them, piece by piece; as the dirt and grease went floating off downstream he grunted with satisfaction and soused the clothes again, venturing even to dream that he might get rid of the fertilizer.
He hung them all up, and while they were drying he lay down in the sun and had another long sleep. . . .
Such was the beginning of his life as a tramp.
. . .
He was a free man now, a buccaneer. The old Wanderlust had got into his blood, the joy of the unbound life, the joy of seeking, of hoping without limit. There were mishaps and discomforts "” but at least there was always something new; and only think what it meant to a man who for years had been penned up in one place, seeing nothing but one dreary prospect of shanties and factories, to be suddenly set loose beneath the open sky, to behold new landscapes, new places, and new people every hour! To a man whose whole life had consisted of doing one certain thing all day, until he was so exhausted that he could only lie down and sleep until the next day "”and to be now his own master, working as he pleased and when he pleased, and facing a new adventure every hour!
Then, too, his health came back to him, all his lost youthful vigor, his joy and power, that he had mourned and forgotten! It came with a sudden rush, belwildering him, startling him; it was as if his dead childhood had come back to him, laughing and calling! What with plenty to eat and fresh air and exercise, that was taken as it pleased him, he wold waken from his sleep, and start off not knowing what to do with his energy, stretching his arms, laughing, singing old songs of home that came back to him.
(Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.)

Lest this passage be taken as an example of pastoral romanticism, examination of the novel will reveal that Jurgis soon began to learn that the countryside too was a factory, only organized differently, in farms rather than in plants. He learned not only the ways of tramps but of the migrant agricultural labor force as well "”with plenty of work and good wages for a few months in the fall and no work and no wages throughout the long months of winter. Thus the escape into freedom proved to be only temporary and through the unrolling of the story of this individual Sinclair makes it very clear that such flights by individuals can only be temporary and fleeting. At the time Sinclair was writing, workers were organizing collectively and little by little were able to hammer down the length of the working day. However, as I will discuss shortly, that would lead to a broadened struggle. Ultimately, the only general and permanent way to end the subordination of life to work is the elimination of capitalism as a social system. The momentary joys of the individual in these stories figure as evocations of the possibilities open to humankind through the transcendence of capitalism.
The Struggle over Free Time
Although, as Marx shows in the next section, the working class was ultimately able to blunt the capitalist expansion of the working day, and indeed eventually was able to pass over to the offensive and successfully reduce the length of the working day, capitalists are forever trying to increase the amount of work they get out of workers, not only on the job (as this section discusses "”and as recent calls to delay the age of retirement or to lengthen the school year repeat) but also off.

Sometimes, the effort to convert free time into a part of the working day is obvious, many times it is not. In many jobs the employer expects the workers to use their "free" time for company business. Corporate employees, for example, are expected to take work home at night if necessary, as well as putting in long formal hours. An example has been the effort on the part of high tech computer firms to convince its employees to spend their time driving to and from work listening to tapes on which have been recorded articles on the latest developments in their area. Students are expected to use their "free" time for homework. Secondary school teachers are regularly forced, by the size of their classes and the occupation of their time at school, to take home papers to be graded or other work. University professors, whose raises and promotions depend upon publishing inevitably convert many hours that might be "free" into work. Perhaps the most extreme example of such efforts were the hopes a few years back for "sleep-learning" in which everyone could be plugged into a tape recorder a night and go on working while asleep! Such was the modern version of the capitalist fantasies Marx relates in the 17th through the 19th Century.

On the other hand, much of the capitalist colonization of free time has been more subtle and indirect. The conversion of all of society into a "social factory" proceeded over a long period of time and paralleled the liberation of time from waged labor. From the time of the progressive era with the rise of public schooling through the post-WWII period, capital invaded the time workers had liberated from waged work and shaped it for purposes of social control. Perhaps the most obvious moment of this colonization was the re-incarceration in schools of the young (who were expelled from the factories by child labor laws) such that what might have been free time was structured to convert their life energies into labor power. In this way the possibilities of "the free play of mind" which Marx had envisioned for time set free from work were converted into the labor of creating labor power "”as the learning process was sharply structured with the student-teacher opposition.

While Marxist cultural critics have also elaborated an extensive critique of the capitalist colonialization of free time through the structuring of consumption, probably the most instructive of what has been written on this theme has been written by women. For the distinction between work time and free time has always been nebulous for housewives. Unlike factory workers where work time and free time, at least apparently, are separated by the gates of the plant or the doors of the office, women working in the home and community have no clear cut division between what is "housework" and what is supposed to be self-fulfilling activities. In fact, as any number of feminist writers have pointed out, much of what has been justified as "love and nurturing" has often been work "”either for men or for capital or for both"” with little or no self-fulfillment involved. Shopping, house cleaning, child care and even sexual activity can and often has been reduced to the work of reproducing labor power. The increasingly common observation that husbands retire but housewives never do speaks to this muddled boundary between work and freedom. We can also examine the cultural society of the spectacle, as the Situationists have done, to see how working class time is occupied and structured to merely restore the vitality necessary to work rather than infusing energy for struggle. Observations such as these lead us to see that the boundary between work and non-work is fuzzy because so much of "non-work" time is actually structured to reproduce work time.

However, unlike those who see only domination and no effective struggle in such spheres, who see, for example, only the instrumentalization of the wage struggle "”wage driven consumer demand contributing to the expansion of capital"” we must also see the ways struggle often ruptures accumulation and causes crisis. One critical theorist, Herbert Marcuse, understood how the autonomous appropriation of consumption had revolutionary potential in the youth revolts of the 1960s. But, having written off the working class as sold out, he failed to see how the rupture of the Keynesian productivity deal in the factories could also undermine capital and lead to the refusal of what he, following Freud, called the sublimation of libidal energies into work.

We can recast the critical theory preoccupation with consumerism both by seeing how consumption is shaped by capital to reinforce a life based on work and how this is resisted. Critical theorists have often argued that consumption has replaced work as the key category of advanced capitalism. What they fail to demonstrate is that the subordination of consumption to work has been reversed. It seems to me on the contrary that it is rather easy to show how most spheres of consumption are structured as spheres of the reproduction of labor power, i.e., of life as the capacity to work.

Yet, at the same time, we must also examine the struggles against this subordination of free time to life-as-work. We must recognize how students have resisted being conditioned into dutiful workers. We must learn from feminist literature how women have fought against their subordination to men (and to capital). We must examine how the passivity inculcated by the spectacle has been repeatedly ruptured and people have taken the initiative in the shaping of their own and their communities lives. We must see how people have either refused or taken and subverted the consumerist commodities through which capital has sought to structure our lives. We must listen to hear how music has escaped the limits of commercialism and fired resistance and revolt. We must watch to see how, even in Hollywood, films have reproduced and circulated people's struggles against their integration as passive pawns in others games. All this is what is involved in extending Marx's analysis of the fierce working class resistance to the expansion of the working day to the class struggle over whether free time will really be free.
Section 6: Struggle for the Limitation of Working Hours
Outline of Marx's Discussion

Capital: last 1/3 of 18th Century: avalanche of violent and unmeasured extensions of working day

Working class: Began to resist: "As soon as the working class, . . . had recovered its senses . . . it began to offer resistance, first of all in England the native land of large-scale industry."

1802 - 1833 Five labor laws are passed in response to working class struggle
"”but there is no enforcement
"”children and young people are worked all night, all day or both

1833: The Factory Act of 1833 is passed, will last till 1844
"”applied to cotton, wool, flax & silk factories
"”regulated hours of children and young people
"”set working day at 15 hrs (5:30 - 8:30)
"”set maximum hours at 12 (during this 15 hr period)
"”set minimum meal times of 1 1/2 hrs
"”no children under 9 yrs (mostly)
"”set maximum hours of children 9 - 13 yrs at 8 hrs
(except in silk industry with 10 hrs)
"”banned night work for ages 9 - 18
"”no regulation of adult workers over 18 yrs, could work 15hrs

Capital: the capitalist response was to find new ways to lengthen hours

"”mainly the development of the relay system
"”ages 9-13 worked in two shifts (5:30-1:30; 1:30-8:30)
"”made it hard to judge compliance with law
"”sought to lower age of childhood from 13 to 12 "”this was defeated by working class:
"”"'the pressure from without' became more threatening"
"”sought to repeal corn laws to lower wages

Working Class: during this period workers began to demand the Ten Hours Bill, achieved:

1844: Factory Act of 7 June 1844
"”protected women workers over 18
"”by limiting hours to 12
"”by banning night work
"”reduced hours for children under 13 to max. 6 1/2 hrs
"”except silk which got 10hrs for 10-13 yr olds
"”attacked the relay system (a main object of the law)
"”all labor must end at same time
"”labor time regulated with public clocks
"”hrs to be posted
"”still no regulation of hours of adult male workers
"”The results of this was the generalization of the working day to 12 hrs

1847: Factory Act of 8 June 1847 (10 Hours Act)
"”reduced hours for young persons (13 - 18) and all women to 11 hours
"”hours to be reduced to 10 on 1 May 1848
"”still no regulation of hours of adult male workers

1848: Revolutions of 1848 swept Europe

Capital: the capitalist response to these laws included:

"”use of crisis of 1846-47 to repeal corn laws, proclaim free trade
"”reduce wages (about 25%)
"”attempt to get workers to demand repeal of Act of 1847 (failed)
"”attack on factory inspectors (failed)
"”counterattack against working class in wake of uprisings of 1848
"”dismissals of young people and women (regulated hours)
"”restored night work for adult males
"”shifted meal times to before and after work (failed, courts ordered otherwise)
"”reorganized "relay system"
"”divided up hours into "shreds of time" (p.403)
"”kept workers in factory longer than work hours
"”"hours of enforced idleness" (paid 10 hr wages for control over 12-15hrs)
"”Home Secretary George Gray told factory inspectors to lay off
"”local courts acquitted mill-owners of violations of Act
"”1850: Court of the Exchequer ruled Act of 1844 was meaningless

Working Class: Against these counterattacks, the workers struggled harder:

"So, far, the workers had offered a resistance which was passive, though inflexible and unceasing. They now protested in Lancashire and Yorkshire in threatening meetings . . . class antagonisms had reached an unheard-of degree of tension."

1850: The Factory Act of 5 August 1850
"”ended the relay system
"”set work day at 6am to 6pm (except for children:attack on adults)
"”set 1.5 hrs for mealtime, same time for all
"”but allowed increase in hours of young and women from 10-10.5 M-F, reduced to 7.5 on Saturday
"”silk again the exception, children 10--13 could still be worked 10.5 in some branches: silk-twisting and silk winding

1853: a law was passed limiting time children could be kept at work to 6am to 6pm
"”forced by adult males who didn't want children used against them
"”cumulative result was to achieve 12 hr day for all, including adult males
"”result: "physical and moral regeneration of the factory workers"
"”"capital's power of resistance gradually weakened, while at the same time the working class's power of attack grew"

1860: dye works and bleach-works brought under Factory Act of 1850

1861: lace and stocking factories brought under Factory Act of 1850

1863: earthernware products, matches, percussion caps, cartridges, carpets, baking, etc.

The first point I want to make about this section is methodological. Throughout his historical sketch, although from time to time he discusses specific groups of businessmen and and workers, Marx mainly discusses the class struggle in terms of two personifications of the classes: capital and the working class. He thus carries on his discourse at two levels of abstraction: specific industries, general classes. He even, from time to time, cites specific individuals who took particular actions at points in time --a third level of analysis. Clearly a complete history of this period would require an interweaving of all three levels: class, industry, individual. The point here is to see the circumstances in which he feels free to talk about "capital" in a general way. He does this when and where the actions of specific groups represent or express the interests of classes as a whole. When a specific group of capitalists introduced the relay system to outflank the law, Marx saw them acting as representatives of their class, others followed their lead, they were the most innovative at that point of the class struggle, thus they represented not just themselves but "capital."

The second point I want to make concerns the fundamental shift that takes place from the last section to this section. In the last section (and indeed in the opening sentences of this one too) Marx was emphasizing the way in which capital was on the offensive, pushing out the limits of the working day, imposing longer hours etc. Thus he points to the last 1/3 of the 18th Century as a period in which the capitalists at the height of their power pushed working hours beyond all bounds. In these circumstances the working class plays a defensive role, it merely resists even if this resistance is "inflexible and unceasing." But in this section, we see a shift in initiative in the class struggle. This occurs as the workers' resistance grows to the point where they can block further extension of the working day, and then, the workers pass over to the attack, they take the initiative in the class struggle. From the Factory Act of 1933 on, the regulation of the working day means not only a setting of the maximum number of hours, but that maximum is steadily being reduced. What Marx is describing here are defensive manoeuvres by capital to defend the long hours they were able to impose originally and then to resist the reduction of those hours. But first work for children, then that of women and finally that of adult men is limited and reduced.

This was a fundamental turning point in the history of class struggle in capitalism. After this point for decades the workers were on the offensive the majority of the time. The achievement of ten hours limit on the working day was followed by agitation for the 8 hours day, and by the 1930s not only had most workers in the United States achieved the 8 hours day, they also achieved the five day week with the liberation of the weekend from capitalist time. In the United States the working week was chopped down by working class struggle from an average of 75-80 hours in 1880 to 40 hours in 1940. For forty years after that the struggles shifted from the working week to the working year and life cycle as workers fought for more paid holidays and early retirement. Although in recent years capital has regained the initiative, it must be seen that the historical trend throughout most of the 20th Century was successful working class struggles to reduce the portion of their lives given up to capital. As in early periods, capital resisted each and every such reduction. It seems to understand intuitively that a reduction of hours is not only a threat to its immediate profits but also a long run threat to the very survival of the capitalist system. As the portion of life time devoted directly to work drops, it becomes ever more untenable to demand that the rest of life be subordinated to that diminishing percentage.

Which brings us to another important point. Given the success of workers struggles to limit and then reduce the working day, the expansion of "free time," as we saw earlier, has led to capitalist attempts to colonize that time. The reduction of commodity production time has led to ever greater efforts to reduce "free time" to the work of reproducing labor power within the social factory. Now, just as I argued in the last section that we must learn to recognize struggles against this encroachment on free time, so too must we learn to recognize when such struggles pass over from defense to offense in ways that parallel the shift in factory struggles Marx describes in this section. We must learn to differentiate between resistance and offense. For example, with respect to school we can argue confidently that while prior to the mid 1960s students were fighting a defensive "”and often fragmented and individualistic"” battle against capitalist efforts to subordinate education to business, the mid- and late-1960s saw the kind of shift we are looking for. Instead of merely resisting the functioning of the school as factory, students took the initiative and attacked its structures, demanding more time for their own projects, their own courses of study. So successful were these attacks that a wide variety of spaces were opened for study critical of capital and unsubordinated to its needs. By forcing the creation of courses and fields such as women's studies, radical economics, insurgent sociology, black studies, chicano studies, and so on, students were beating back their working day and expanding the time available to them for their own purposes. This reduction in the time during which students could be forced to work for capital (i.e., being disciplined into dutiful workers) is analogous to the reductions of factory work time Marx is describing in this section.

What is missing in this section, as in other parts of Capital, is adequate discussion of just how workers were able to achieve these changes in their benefit. Just as we need to know how they failed to block the extension of work in the previous period, so to do we need to know how they were able to pass over from an ineffective defence, to an effective one and then take the initiative. We know a few things from this section: for example, that the working class used Parliament, the Factory Inspectors, the Courts, and "threatening meetings" to fight for less work. To truly understand, we obviously need much more detail and analysis. The same is true about the struggle against the work of reproducing labor power, e.g., in the school. In this period in which students have been mostly on the defensive, there is an obvious need to go back and understand how a previous generation of students were able to take the offensive and force changes in their own interests. In Capital Marx draws our attention to such struggles and shows how important they have been in the development of capitalism. This is a vital step. But we must push the method further and deeper to learn all we need to learn.
Section 7: The Impact of English Legislation on Other Countries
Outline of Marx's Discussion
First Point: after having been imposed first in the earliest large scale industries (textiles) the factory legislation was gradually extended to all of industry.

Second Point: isolated workers are helpless, organization and a "more or less concealed civil war between the capitalist class and the working class" is necessary to limit and then reduce the working day."

France: "limps slowly behind England"
"”factory legislation brought by February Revolution
"”but legislation is comprehensive and becomes a general principle

United States: struggle for less work was impossible as long as slavery s urvived
"”"Labor in a white skin cannot emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin."
"”first fruit of Civil War was 8 Hours agitation
"”1866 General Congress of Labour in Baltimore calls for 8 hrs

First International: The International Working Men's Association
"”Congress in September 1966 calls for 8 hrs universally

Conclusion: "the workers have to put their heads together and, as a class, compel the passing of a law, an all-powerful social barrier b y which they can be prevented from selling themselves and their families into slavery and death.."
The main emphasis in this short section is to point to the obvious conclusion from the foregoing historical sketch: namely, that to bring about changes beneficial to themselves workers have to "put their heads together," organize and fight collectively. They must overcome the divisions which separate and pit them against each other (e.g., racial divisions) and organize on all levels, including the international level. As Marx argued, the struggles of Southern slaves were key to the struggle of "free" workers in the North. Marx's participation in the First International was testimony to how strongly he felt that workers had to organize and circulate the experience of their struggle from country to country and not let themselves be isolated "”down that path his studies showed nothing but defeat. Today the struggle of workers in Mexico, and elsewhere in the Third World, are key to those of Americans. The weakness of the former has been used to undercut the power of the latter "”a division the North American Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization and the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas are aimed at exploiting. Without the gains won in the North (U.S., Western Europe and Japan) being extended to the South (the Third World), capitalists will continue to pit poor, weaker Southern workers against more powerful Northern ones. With that extension the international circulation of struggle will strengthen all. One attempt to achieve such circulation has been through the International Labor Organization with its calls for international labor standards (e.g., of working hours, conditions etc). Another example is the collaboration of workers in different countries, such as the support by steveadores all over the world for the Liverpool Dockers a few years ago. Even more important has been the emergence of a global movement against the current neoliberal capitalist attack on workers around the world. Pushed not only by national governments but by supra-national institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the WTO, such policies are under- cutting worker rights and wages and giving capitalist the leverage to extend working hours. Against these efforts, ever since the Intercontinental Encounter in Chiapas in 1996 tens of thousands of grassroots and labor organizers have been mobilizing a global movement to counter the capitalist offensive. From Chiapas to Geneva, from Seattle to Davos, from Prague to Genoa capitalist efforts have been brought under ever increasing attack. Perhaps Marx's dream of an effective "international" of workers is finally being realized.

With respect to this aspect of his analysis of the struggles, we can note that what has been true about factory workers has also been true for workers in reproduction. Isolated individuals, be they students, housewives, children, or the homeless are usually defeated in their struggles. When and where they have been able to build collective movements as in the student movement of the 1960s or the women's movement of the 1970s (or perhaps the homeless movement of today?) they have been more successful.
The Work Week and Popular Music
In Marx's time the "working day" was the most common measure of working time because most people worked every day and there was no such thing as a week end. In the United States the weekend was created in the 1930s during the cycle of struggle that imposed the 40-hour week as the norm. Given the history of the struggle for the 8 hour day which had been going on since the 19th Century, a 40-hour week has meant 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for most people. As a result, since that period the "week end" of two days, usually Saturday and Sunday, has become standard and most discussions of further shortenings of work time have concerned an extension of the week end. For example, in the early 1970s there was a brief renewal of overt demands for a reduction in work time as unemployment began to rise and once againk, as in the 1930s, workers suggested spreading existing work over more people by shortening the amount of work time for each individual. In practice, however, most reductions of work time that have occurred over the period since WWII have involved marginal increases in annual vacation time rather than reductions in the working week.

Given this situation, coupled with most people's experience of work as an onerous, imposed activity which they would prefer to avoid, a great deal of popular culture which deals with work has focused on the working week. The almost universal critical attitude toward it is manifest in the resentment of, and attacks on, Monday "”the day people must return to work"” and celebrations of Friday "”the day people escape from work. We find these attitudes recurrent in such widely appreciated cultural icons as the cartoon strip in which the main character Garfield detests Monday and "lives for the weekend". People identify with this attitude despite the fact that Garfield himself never goes to work, no matter what day it is! It is the attitude that matters, the almost universal loathing of the obligated return to the job. In a parallel fashion, the most common prayer in America, regardless of one's religious faith, is "Thank God, It's Friday" or TGIF which, among other things, was adopted as the name of a chain restaurant because of its widespread appeal.

These attitudes have also been reproduced, elaborated on and circulated in almost every form of popular music. Rock & roll, country-western and punk song writers and bands have all contributed to the construction of a corpus of musical denunciation of the working week and of the rhythm of the working days which constitute it. The songs that follow are a small sampling of this body of music. The first of these is a general attack on the working week as a whole. "I know it won't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you", Elvis Costello sings. The points are well taken because not only do most people dislike working but work does kill, thousands of people each year, either through on-the-job accidents or through its byproducts such as stress and insanity.

Welcome to the Working Week
Now that your picture's in the paper
Being rythmically admired and you can
have anyone you have ever desired
All you've got to tell me now
Is why, why, why, why

Welcome to the working week
Well I know it don't thrill you
I hope it don't kill you
Welcome to the working week
You've gotta do it till you're through it,
So you'd better get to it

All of your family had to kill to survive
And they're still waiting for their big day to arrive
But if they knew how I felt
They'd bury me alive


I hear ya saying that the city's allright
When you're only reading 'bout 'em in books
Spending all your money getting so convinced
That you never even bothered to look.
Sometimes I wonder if we're living
In the same land
Why'd you want to be my friend
When I feel like the children are
Running out of hand


Elvis Costello
My Aim is True

The next two songs are both attacks on Monday, the first and most despised day of the working week. In the first, by the women's rock group the Bangles, the unpleasantness of getting up and going to work is contrasted with the pleasures of Sunday, making love and dreaming. Despite the unpleasantness of a "run day" when she must hurry, hurry, get dressed, catch a train and make it to work on time, the singer will get up and go to work for exactly the classic reason within capitalism: in order to eat! In this case the pressures on her are even greater because her lover is unemployed and they both depend on her job for survival "”the traditional situation of the family with only one wage earner.

Manic Monday

Six o'clock already
I was just in the middle
of a dream
I was kissin' Valentino
By a crystal blue Italian stream
But I can't be late
'Cause then I guess I just won't
get paid
These are the days
When you wish your bed was
already made
It's just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
'Cause that's my funday
My I don't have to runday
It's just another manic Monday

Have to catch an early train
Have to be to work by nine
And if I had an air-o-plane
I still couldn't make it on time
'Cause it takes me so long
Just to figure out what I'm
gonna wear
Blame it on the train
But the boss is already there

All of the nights
Why did my lover
have to pick
last night
To get down
Doesn't it matter
That I have to feed both of us
Employment is down
He tells me in his bedroom
Come on honey, let's go make
some noise
Time goes by so fast
When you're having fun.

The Bangles, Different Light,
Columbia Records, 1985,
(Words & Music by Christopher)

In the second of these two songs, the dislike for Monday takes dramatic form: violent resistance. This song "I Don't Like Mondays" was written by the Boomtown Rats as a memorial to the actions of a student in California who, one Monday morning, decided that not only did she not want to go to school but that no one else should go either. To implement her decision, this school girl who apparently lived across the street from the school took a rifle and started shooting. In their song, the Boomtown Rats reflect on the general amazement that followed this event as no one could understand how this hitherto quite ordinary 16 year old "”who was always "good as gold""” could do such a thing. In the Rats interpretation, "the silicon chip inside her head got switched to overload" "”in other words her programmed behavior of going to school every Monday became more than her humanity could tolerate. "Why?" everyone asked, "what were the reasons?" Well, the Rats respond, "They can see no reason "” Cause there are no reasons "” What reasons do you need to be shown?" In other words, what needs explaining is not why she flipped out, but why it didn't happen long before. How was it possible for a healthy human being to be programmed into weekly self-destruction without revolting? That is what needs to be explained, not why she didn't want to go to school. All of this, of course, is based on the understanding that school like the factory is a place of encarceration, that schoolwork really is work, and is imposed on most people just like other kinds of work; and therefore, that revolt against unwaged schoolwork, like the revolt against waged work is a perfectly sane response. The song is reminescent of the analysis of schizophrenia by Richard Cooper and R. D. Laing who have argued that people sometimes find themselves in insane situations to which the only sane response is insanity.

I Don't Like Mondays

The silican chip inside her head
got switched to overload
and nobody's gonna go to school today
She's gonna make them stay at home
And daddy just doesn't understand it
He always said she was good as gold
And he can see no reasons
Cause there are no reasons
What reasons do you need to be shown

Tell me why, I don't like Mondays
Tell me why, I don't like Mondays
Tell me why, I don't like Mondays
I want to shoot the whole day down

The telex machine is kept so clean
And it types to a waiting world
But they are so shocked and the world is rocked
Sweet sixteen, ain't that peachy keen
Now it ain't so late to admit defeat
They can see no reason
Cause there are no reasons
What reasons do you need


The playin's stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys awhile
And schools out early and soon we'll be learnin
And then the bullhorn crackles
And the captain tackles with
the where's and the how's and why's
And he can see no reason
What reasons do you need to die?
die, die, oh oh oh

And the silican chip inside her head

The Boomtown Rats,
The Fine Art of Surfing

The last four songs that I have included here all deal with the daily routine and pains of the working day. Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" is from the movie of the same name and describes not only the morning rituals of drugging one's self awake and dragging one's self to the job, but also the exploitation on the job where "they just use your mind and they never give you credit" and "you're just a step on the boss man's ladder". Without ever speaking of "capitalist society" as such Parton says the same thing in American vernacular: "It's a rich man's game, no matter what they call it "” And you spend your life puttin' money in his wallet".

9 to 5

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawn and stretch and try to come to life

Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin
Out on the streets the traffic starts jumpin
With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Workin 9 to 5 what a way to make a livin
Just gettin by, its all taken and no givin
They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it

Working 9 to 5 for service and devotion
You would think that I would deserve a better promotion
Want to move ahead but the boss won't seem to let me

I swear sometimes that man is out to get me

They let you dream just to watch them shatter
You're just a step on the boss man's ladder
But you've got dreams he'll never take away

You're in the same boat with a lot of your friends
Waitin for the day your ship will come in
And the tide's gonna turn and it's all gonna run your way

Workin 9 to 5

Workin 9 to 5 they got you where they want you
There's a better life and you think about it don't you
It's a rich man's game, no matter what they call it
And you spend your life puttin money in his wallet

Workin 9 to 5

Dolly Parton, 9 to 5,
RCA PB-12133, 1980.

The second of these four songs is by The Clash, the second best known British Punk band (after the Sex Pistols). Like Parton's "9 to 5" it rails against the working day from dragging one's self from bed at 7 a.m. through work, till quiting time and beyond to a life poisoned by work. The title of the song "Magnificent Seven" is, of course, ironic. Seven in the morning is NOT magnificent but rather damned because it is the time you have to start getting ready for work "Move y'self to go again "” cold water in the face "” brings you back to this awful place". On the job "clocks go slow in a place of work "” minutes drag and the hours jerk" till lunch when you can "wave bu-bub-bub bye to the boss" and get away from the grind. The Clash are very clear about the qualitative nature of time in this song, when they sing about lunch time that "It's our profit, its his [the boss'] loss" they emphasize the work situation when our work is his profit and our loss. Work is money for the boss, loss of life for us. Time away from work is life for us, loss of profit for capital. Work in the afternoon, the after lunch, the after freedom (such as it is, watching cops kickin' gypsies on the pavement!) is no better: "So get back to work and sweat some more . . . It's no good for man to work in cages". But what follows, once you "get out the door" and escape at the end of the day? The worker "hits the town, he drinks his wages" Workers never make enough money to change their basic condition: "did you notice you ain't gettin?" At the end of the song there is an evocation of various people who have struggled against some aspects of capitalism, Marx and Engels, Martin Luther Kind and Mahatma Ghandi. The reference to Marx and Engels is humorous and refers to Marx being poor and having to borrow money from Engels. The reference to King and Ghandi is much more bitter, "they was murdered by the other team".

Magnificent Seven
Ring! Ring! It's seven A.M.!
Move y'rself to go again
cold water in the face
brings you back to this awful place
Knuckle Merchants and you bankers too
must get up --and learn those roles
Weather man and the crazy chief
one says sun and one says sleet
AM the FM the PM too
churning out that Boogaloo
Gets you up and gets you out
But how long can you keep it up?
Gimme Honda, gimme SONY
so cheap and real phony
Hong Kong dollars, and Indian cents
English pounds and Eskimo pence

You Lot! What? Don't Stop!
Give it all you got!

Working for a rise, better my station
take my baby to sophistication
she's seen the ad's, she thinks its nice
better work hard, I seen the price
never mind that its time for the bus
we got to work, and you're one of us
clocks go slow in a place of work
minutes drag and the hours jerk
("When can I tell 'em wot I do?
In a second mann...oright Chuck!")

Wave bu-bub-bub bye to the boss
It's our profit, its his loss
But anyway lunch bells ring
take one hour and do your thaning!
What do we have for entertainment?
Cops kickin gypsies on the pavement
now the news, snap to attention!
The lunar landing of the dentist convention
Italian mobster shoots a lobster
sea-food restraurant gets out of hand
wanna car in the fridge
or a fridge in the car?
like cowboys do
In TV land.

You lot! What? Don't Stop, huh?

So get back to work and sweat some more
the sun will sink an we'll get out the door
Its no good for man to work in cages
hits the town, he drinks his wages
you're frettin, you're sweatin
But did you notice you ain't gettin?
Don't you ever stop long enough to start to get your car outta that gear?

Karlo Marx and Fredrich Engels
came to the checkout at the 7-11
Marx was skint but he had sense
Engels lent him the necessary pence

What have we got? Yeh, o, magnificence!!

Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi
went to the park to check on the ball
but they was murdered by the other team who went on to win 50-nil
You can be true, you can be false
you be given the same reward
Socrates and milhous Nixon
both went the same way, thru the kitchen
Plato the Greek or Rin Tin Tin?
Who's more famous to the billion millions?
News flash! Vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie
Oh, Bub-bye, Magnificence!!

The Clash, Sandinista

The last two songs by the British rock band The Kinks comes from a concept album entitled Soap Opera. Most of the songs on side A of that album deal with the working day and its consequences: before, during and after official work hours. I have reproduced only two here, those dealing with getting to work ("Rush Hour Blues") and with the job itself ("Nine to Five" "”the same title as Parton's song). Once again, 7 a.m. begins the day "”well before the official job itself at 9 o'clock. As this and the other songs make clear the real working day is much longer than the official one and includes getting ready for the job and getting there. From Parton's "cup of ambition" through The Clash's "cold water in the face" to The Kinks' cup of tea, the story is the same: there is no spontaneous enthusiasm that brings one springing from bed in joyous anticipation of going to work. On the contrary, dreams, yawns and reluctance require shock and drug treatment to be overcome. In The Kinks song, the reluctance becomes resistance to being hurried to the unpleasantness of both commuting and work itself. "The Rush Hour Blues" laments all the details of the daily annoyances of commuting, "waiting for the train", "rushing up the stairs and in the elevator", being "caught in the crush", being "pushed" and "shoved", "fightin with my briefcase and my umbrella". And the worst of it is "some people do it every day of their lives"!!

The second Kink's song "Nine to Five" has something of the same tenor as that of The Clash. Work life "is so incredibly dull", "the hours tick away "” the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days "” each day, each week "” seems like any other". And the result, like the little girl in California is "he's starting to lose his mind" "”or take it back, depending on your perspective.

Rush Hour Blues
He gets up early, about 7 o'clock
the alarm goes off and then
the house starts to rock
In and out of the bath by 7:03
by 7:10 he's downstairs
drinking his tea

So put a shine on his shoes
put on his blue striped suit
gotta lose those early morning
can't stop yawnin, pushin, shovin,
rush hour blues

Darling, are you ready
you'll be late for the bus
Don't rush me baby
while I'm using my brush

Get a move on darling
you're cutting it fine
Cool it baby
I got plenty of time

So put a shine on his shoes

Soon I'll be just one of the commuters
waitin for the subway train
I'll be rushing up the stairs
and in the elevator
By the time I get there bout
I'll almost feel like a mole in the ground

I'll be caught in the crush
I'll be pushed and be shoved
and I'll be tryin to get the subway train
I'll be fightin with my briefcase
and my umbrella
every morning and every night
Some people do it every day of their lives

I got the rush hour blues

My, my, every day, every night

Some people do it every day of their lives

Mr. Paper later you'll get caught in the queues
Don't rush me baby
While I'm reading the news

Darling get a move on
You're cutting it fine
Cool it baby, I've got plenty of time

Nine to Five

Answering phones and dictating letters
Making decisions that affect no one
Stuck in the office from 9 to 5
Life is so incredibly dull
Working from 9 to 5
9 to 5, 9 to 5, working from 9 to 5

And time goes by
the hours tick away
the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days
each day, each week
seems just like any other
all work, no play
its just another day

He's caught in a mass of computerized trivia
ciphering data for mechanical minds
He's lost in the paper work right to his eyes
He's checking a list, that's been checked out before
He's starting to lose his mind
9 to 5, 9 to 5, working from 9 to 5
Oh, . . . repeat

The Kinks,Soap Opera,
1974RCA, AYL1-3750
Recommended Further Reading
On the history of struggle over work time in America see David R. Roediger and Philip S. Foner, Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day, New York: Verso, 1989. On the same struggle in recent years see Juliet Schor's book The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, New York: Basic Books, 1991.
Concepts For Review
limits of working day
normal working day
free time
nibbling and cribbling
day and night work
child labor
Factory Acts
Chartist movement
Questions For Review
(An * means that one possible answer can be found at the end of the study guide.)

1. Explain what determines the maximum and minimum limits to the working day.

2. Explain why it made sense in Marx's day to look at the time workers worked in terms of the length of the working "day". Discuss what measures would be appropriate in our time period.

*3. Discuss the argument that the concept of the length of the working day should be understood to include not only the phase of production but also activities of reproduction. What is "free" time? How can we tell if it is really free?

*4. Explicate: "Between equal rights force decides. Hence it is that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists and collective labor, i.e., the working class."

*5. In Section 2 of Chapter 10 Marx says that "Capital did not invent surplus labor." What then did it invent? What is the relation of this invention to the form of value? to primitive accumulation? to valorization? to our understanding surplus labor in a dynamic sense? to our understanding of what needs to be transformed in the sphere of reproduction?

6. What, according to Marx, was the impact on slavery in the United States of the mobilization of slaves to produce for the world market? Why did this occur? Explain its relation to the logic of the system?

*7. Discuss "nibbling and cribbling."

8. What parallels can you find today to the murderous conditions of work in many English industries in the 19th Century? Are they, too, associated with working too long?

*9. Explain the logic of the capitalist move to keep production going day and night and demanding that the workers work all night long. To what degree does this pattern find itself repeated in the case of reproduction? Discuss this last question with reference to the age hierarchy.

*10. Discuss the pattern of struggle over the length of work time since the rise of capitalism. During what periods was capital on the offensive? What methods did they use? During what periods did the working class take the initiative? What methods did they use? What can we say about these trends during the 20th Century? Today?

11. What will be the effect on capitalist attempts to impose long hours of labor of the ready availability of large amounts of unemployed cheap labor? What will be the effects on the lives of workers? What conclusions might one draw for immigration policy?

12. What does this chapter tell us about competition among capitalists?

*13. Discuss the relationship between the labor theory of value and the struggle over the length of the working day.

*14. What motives may lie behind recent moves by workers in Western Europe for a shortening of the working week? In other words, what were the pressures on the European Commission that prompted it on September 20, 1983 to endorse the shortening of the working week? What are the likely reasons why European business strongly opposes such a change? Explain this from the point of view of the firm and from that of the capitalist class viewed as a social power.

*15. Discuss the international ramifications of working class success in struggling over working time in a given country -- but not in all. Discuss this, in particular, in a contemporary context in the light of the multinational corporation.

16. Discuss the implications of Marx's analysis of the struggle for a normal working day for our understanding of the way he uses the concept of "law of motion" of capitalism.