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Capital Vol 1 Reading Group: Chapter 7-9

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Spartacus
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Nov 7 2008 12:56
Capital Vol 1 Reading Group: Chapter 7-9

replacing a motherboard takes surprisingly long when the factory is probably in the same city somewhere... anyway, i've finally got my computer back so 5 days later than intended, here is the 4th thread for the reading group. for reference, the index of all threads to do with the reading group is here.

i will post my notes sometime next week, i haven't typed them up yet, but here's a very brief summary:

chapter 7:

- first the labour process is considered isolated from particular social conditions. as such it is the application of the forces of nature against nature, the materialisation of humanities will and intellect. use-values enter the process to come out as new use-values, to then enter a new labour process or to be consumed.

- then consider the valorisation process, the labour process under capitalism. now the labourer works under the control of the capitalist and the product belongs to the capitalist. the labourer is paid the value of his labour-power, which is the value of all the things he needs to reproduce it each day. but then the labour-power belongs to the capitalist for the duration of one day, so it is consumed by being put to work as labour, and produces (the capitalist assumes at any rate) more value than was paid for it, the value being surplus value. eg if one day's labour is valued at $3 representing 6 hours social labour-time and the labourer works for twelve, $6 value is produced. only socially necessary labour counts in the value, so any extra expended either by the labourer or more than average consumption of the means of production in the process does not count in the value of the product and will be a loss for the capitalist. finally, skilled labour is just considered as simple labour multiplied as the labour put into training etc. is counted.

chapter 8:

- since the value of the means of production (instruments and raw materials) are transferred to the finished product as they are consumed, never transferring more than their total value, the capital put into them is called constant capital. that put into labour power on the other hand creates new value, consisting on the equivalent of that which it cost plus an increment of surplus value, so it is variable capital.

chapter 9:

- the surplus value created in the production process over the value of labour power gives us the degree of exploitation of labour power. this ratio is reflected in the working day, where first the labour creates the value necessary to reproduce his labour power, so is necessary labour since he would have to do this regardless of social conditions, and after that point all labour is surplus labour. in the same way we can have fun splitting up the total time spent creating a product (or indeed the product itself) into sections during which a partial product was produced (or in which the value is embodied) with the value of the constant capital advanced, the variable capital advanced and the surplus value created. but of course this does not mean that in that time all that value was created, as a portion of that value will have been preserved from the means of production. marx then pulls apart some daft arguement claiming all profit comes from the last hour so if you reduce the working day by an hour the capitalist loses all his profit.

is anyone else still reading this at this speed? i will try to post some thoughts and questions etc. to stimulate debate, but while i'm happy to keep posting my notes and stuff if people find it useful, it doesn't seem like much of a reading group, i could rename the threads to "help spartacus understand capital" or something at the moment...

oh, and i think now is when revol68 would be most welcome back into the debate, because marx seems to be addressing the whole "are workers paid the value of their labour power" question which seemed to be the point of disagreement from what i gathered.

Dave B
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Nov 9 2008 10:16

Sorry put it in the wrong place, try again.

Hi all

As the capital reading group seems to be fizzling out I thought I would throw the following in. It was something I wrote a while ago just for myself as an exercise to sort out a problem that was bothering me at the time. Hence perhaps its peculiar nature.

I am by the way not looking for an argument over it.

I actually think all the hard work has already been done once we cracked the meaning of value in the discussion that even preceded the reading group. The rest is just a matter of hacking your way through the gothic literary style and converting it into plain English.

I am going to refer to one of the first expression of Karl's value
formulations as it appeared in Volume one, chapter IX;

"for example, if £500 is the capital advanced, its components may be
such that the £500 = £410 const. + £90 var. When the process of
production is finished, we get a commodity whose value = (c + v) +
s, where s is the surplus-value; or taking our former figures, the
value of this commodity may be (£410 const. + £90 var.) + £90
surpl. "

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch09.htm

This can be translated into its more familiar form;

410c + 90v + 90s = 590

There are I believe several ambiguities in this expression that
although they may seem trivial at first can later on lead to error
in that two different things can be or are by Karl conflated. I also
believe this can lead to an understandable confusion as to what is
going on or what this type of formula is supposed to represent.

First of all we need to understand that Karl in analysing or
accounting for value in the production process, sets up an idealised
model based on a set of premises.

There is nothing wrong with this as it is a standard scientific
technique, to simplify the process, as a kind of thought experiment
if necessary, to get a handle on the basic process. You can then
afterwards start playing around with any complexities.

I am for simplicity, if not realistically, going to assume that
one `1' is or represents one once of gold that contains one hours of
(socially necessary) labour (time).

What happens in the model is that the capitalist starts of with 500
ounces of gold that contains 500 hours of human effort or labour,
hence that is its value, 500.

The capitalist then goes and purchases raw material, c, that
contains 410 hours of effort with 410 ounces of his gold that
likewise have 410 hours of effort in them. The 410 hours of gold and
the 410 hours of raw material `c' exchange at their values, 410
hours of embodied labour.

The next bit seems trivial but is in fact critical. The capitalist
takes the remaining 90 ounces of gold and puts it in the company
safe or strongbox. This 90 ounces which contains 90 hours of labour
is destined to pay the wages for his workers at the end of the week.
The workers for this 90 hours of gold will perform or add 180 hours
of labour to the 410 hours of raw material or commodity to produce
a `new' commodity which will then contain 590 hours of labour or
human effort and will therefore have a value of 590 hours or its
equivalent 590 ounces of gold.

To return to the formula;

410c + 90v + 90s = 590

The 180 hours that is worked by the labourers on the raw material is
conceptually or abstractly split into two. 90 hours that will be
paid for, and 90 hours that will not be paid for.

`V' can therefore now means two different things;

1) A portion or part of the newly added labour embodied in the
final product (that is going to be paid for)

2) And the capitalist's real `variable capital', the 90 ounces of
gold that he has invested in the business ( in the company safe
until the end of the working week or pay day).

This next bit is not important but; taking an idealised model again
and assuming that the workers get paid just after the work is
completed the capitalist is before paying the wages, briefly in
possession of in fact 590 + 90 =680 hours worth of labour. 590 hours
in the new commodity and the 90 hours which is embodied in the gold
in the safe.

However he unfortunately is obliged to hand over the 90 hours of
gold to the workers as wages so that they can use it to purchase
other commodities to refuel and restore their labour power.

The capitalist is then, minus his `variable capital', left with the
final commodity or finished product that has 590 hours of labour in
it which is therefore worth an amount of gold that has 590 hours of
labour in it. In other words it has an exchange value or value of
590 ounces of gold.

With an idealised quick sale before the next working week starts, he
obtains the said 590 ounces of gold for his product. He pockets 90
ounces for himself, puts another 90 ounces back in the company safe
(for the following weeks wages, variable capital) and ideally
purchases another 410 ounces of gold worth of raw material to repeat
the process the following Monday.

This then has an impact on the calculation of the rate of surplus
value, `s/v' or s'.

This s' can be calculated by the amount of labour time that the
labourer works, living labour or `labour power in motion', that he
will not be paid for divided by the labour time that he will be paid
for.

But it needs to be born in mind that time spent working or time that
is going to be spent working or has been spent working is just that,
it isn't value in itself.

What is value or has value is a thing or a use-value on which that
living labour HAS been, past tense, been expended or incorporated or
embodied into.

`Human labour power in motion, or human labour,'

Or living labour

`creates value, but is not itself value. It becomes value only in
its congealed state, when embodied in the form of some object.'

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm

Products and thus their value are or is the expended or dead labour
that is embodied or contained in them.

`Only because products ARE labour can they be measured by the
measure of labour, by labour time, the amount of labour consumed in
them.'

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch12.htm

However s' expressed as the time spent working, the living labour,
that is not going to be paid for, s, divided by the time spent that
is going to be paid for, v.,is the same as the labour time or value
embodied in the product that the capitalist keeps for himself (the
surplus product or surplus value) or `s', divided by the value of
the product that the capitalist sells to pay his workers and replace
his variable capital `v' that, he has permanently invested in the
business.

Karl actually makes a note of this `duality' of v ;

`the surplus-value is determined by the surplus portion of the
working-day, it follows that surplus-value bears the same ratio to
variable capital, that surplus-labour does to necessary labour, or
in other words, the rate of surplus-value, s/v = (surplus labour)/
(necessary labour).'

There is another ambiguity here as he seems to mean surplus living
labour time )/(necessary living labour time). Thus;

`Both ratios, s/v and (surplus labour)/(necessary labour), express
the same thing in different ways; in the one case by reference to
materialised, incorporated labour,'

s/v

`in the other by reference to living, fluent labour.'

(surplus labour)/(necessary labour)

He then goes immediately on to conflate these two things together in
the calculation of the rate of surplus value s/v or s' and continues
to do so throughout all three volumes of the book; eg.

Thus in the following footnote 5 pages into the chapter IX, The Rate
Of Surplus Value.

`Although the rate of surplus-value is an exact expression for the
degree of exploitation of labour-power, it is, in no sense, an
expression for the absolute amount of exploitation. For example, if
the necessary labour 5 hours and the surplus-labour = 5 hours, the
degree of exploitation is 100%. The amount of exploitation is here
measured by 5 hours.

If, on the other hand, the necessary labour = 6 hours and the
surplus-labour = 6 hours, the degree of exploitation remains, as
before, 100%, while the actual amount of exploitation has increased
20%, namely from five hours to six.'

It probably would have been a bit pedantic to make an issue of it at
this point in volume one but it has I believe an impact on how we
understand the formula as such and potentially on the rate of profit;

Thus with;

410c + 90v + 90s = 590

There is a tendency I believe to look at it in two ways as;

1) a kind of cake mix where 410 ounces of gold or hours worth of raw
materials plus 90 ounces of gold in wages plus 90 hours of unpaid
labour time produce a product that is worth 590 ounces of gold
and/or 590 hours of labour.

Or, better I think;

2) 410 hours of labour in the raw material is added to by 90 hours
that is to be paid for and another 90 hours that is or will be
unpaid for, to produce a product that contains 590 hours of labour
and is thus worth its equivalent in gold, 590 ounces.

If you equate the rate of surplus value or rate of exploitation with
s/v as we are encouraged to do by Karl. And we equate v, the
variable capital, with the amount that the capitalist has
permanently invested in his business to pay for wages, gold money in
the safe, what happens with a chef or cook in a capitalist
restaurant.

The capitalist owner of the restaurant lays out cash for his raw
material, in this case uncooked filet mignon, his constant capital.
Then a customer, Byron, places his order and gets Dave to expend his
labour power on the dead labour embodied in the filet mignon, `c'
thus adding value to the new commodity or product, the cooked filet
mignon.

(Dave then adds a little extra surplus value gratis in the form of
bodily fluids that Byron will know nothing of, but this does not
really effect our economic calculation.)

The capitalist then sells the cooked filet mignon to Byron. The
money that the capitalist receives for the cooked filet mignon is
then divided by him into 3 portions. One portion of the money he
sets aside to replace or repurchase the used uncooked filet mignon,
another portion he pockets for himself as surplus value and the
remainder he looks after for Dave, the chef, until pay day at the
end of the week.

He has no variable capital invested in the business at all. The
variable capital is = 0, however s/v or my rate of exploitation will
not be s/0 or infinity and infinitely large.

It also has a particular impact on how modern capitalism operates
today with electronic money transfers etc as the capitalists no
longer have the problem of potentially shuffling gold money from one
place to another. When in the 19th century there was little time for
the capitalist to send the money set aside for wages, variable
capital or future wages, to the bank lend it to someone else and get
it back again all in a week.

It is also possible now as it was to some extent then in industrial
production to sell at least a proportion of the product to cover
wages before pay-day.

In fact if we take;

410c + 90v + 90s = 590

Half way through the week the capitalist could even then sell half
his product and receive in cash 295 hours of gold, in which case he
would not need 90 hours worth of gold set aside to pay wages. So
again variable capital, `v' could be zero.

But that would not mean that the value of the product would be;

410c + 0v + 90s = 490

As the product would still contain 590 hours of labour.

Highlighting I think the problem of conflating variable capital with
paid labour time or labour time that is going to be paid for.

Although Karl could legitimately accuse me of just moving away from
the original model and premise.

On the rate of profit; fortunately surplus living labour time is
always equal to surplus labour and surplus value.

The rate of profit, P', is designated;

P' = s/(c+v)

We now need two terms for v, Vi = capital permanently invested in a
business to cover wages and Vt = paid labour time.

So;

P' = s/( c + Vi)

If we designate s as surplus living labour time, St and do the
Sweeney transformation and divide the numerator and the denominator
by Vt we get;

P' = (St/Vt) / {c/Vt + Vi/Vt}

Or

P' = s'/(c/Vt + Vi/Vt)

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Feb 10 2009 12:07

here are my notes then, for those who want them. i shall try to start some discussion on the last two chapters tomorrow, and will read through dave b's post (i'm not just ignoring it).

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Spartacus
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Nov 13 2008 11:59

ok, i've read through dave's post, and here are my comments.

the first problem i see with your arguement is here:

Quote:
The 180 hours that is worked by the labourers on the raw material is conceptually or abstractly split into two. 90 hours that will be paid for, and 90 hours that will not be paid for.

this is not as i understand marx's arguement. the labourer is paid for his labour power for the duration of a specified time, not his labour-time. if it was the latter than marx would be arguing that the worker is swindled on the bourgeoisie's own terms, which i think at this stage in the book it is becoming fairly clear is not his arguement. so the split is between 90 hours' value that replaces the value of their labour power's use during the whole time they are working, and a further 90 hours.

this confusion continues throughout, such as here:

Quote:
This s' can be calculated by the amount of labour time that the labourer works, living labour or `labour power in motion', that he will not be paid for divided by the labour time that he will be paid for.

again, s is not the time the labourer is not paid for, it is the time over and above that necessary to reproduce the value of his labour power - his capacity to work for the same length of time at the same task with the same quality and intensity on the following day - and v is that time that would be required to reproduce the value of his labour power regardless of whether he continued afterwards or not. since value is socially necessary labour-time, and at the moment we are considering the labour in question to be average social labour, then of course he is conflating the two, they are the same, just considered at two different moments. it wasn't clear to me how you were seeing a problem in marx's arguement on this point. i'm not going to go through your whole post and rephrase everything to reflect this point as i'm sure you can do that yourself to see why i'm not understanding your point, so i'll let you reply to explain further before arguing further down this route.

there is a further problem though with your examples, which jump ahead of marx and do not use the same assumptions as he is at this point, namely that we are currently assuming that the labourer is paid for his labour-power before commencing work, which means that v is not going to be 0 under any circumstances. this is not a minor assumption, so i don't think it should be ignored at this point, if later in the work we abandon this assumption, then feel free to bring it up again then, otherwise i think discussing the implications of this now will only lead to confusion.

but even if we allow this, your arguement doesn't make sense. you say:

Quote:
The capitalist then sells the cooked filet mignon to Byron. The money that the capitalist receives for the cooked filet mignon is then divided by him into 3 portions. One portion of the money he sets aside to replace or repurchase the used uncooked filet mignon, another portion he pockets for himself as surplus value and the remainder he looks after for Dave, the chef, until pay day at the end of the week.

He has no variable capital invested in the business at all. The variable capital is = 0, however s/v or my rate of exploitation will not be s/0 or infinity and infinitely large.

how does he have no variable capital? he has "the remainder he looks after for Dave" which is variable capital. the fact that he gets this after the production and sale of the commodity doesn't change the fact that this is variable capital of a deffinite, non-zero quantity that was advanced for the production of the commodity. of course if the prduct doesn't sell, the value of the product isn't realised and Dave doesn't get paid, but in terms of the laws of exchange that means that Dave has been robbed and can sue for damages. the same applies to your other example:

Quote:
Half way through the week the capitalist could even then sell half his product and receive in cash 295 hours of gold, in which case he would not need 90 hours worth of gold set aside to pay wages. So again variable capital, `v' could be zero.

i don't think i need to point out the problem here, it is the same.

Quote:
Highlighting I think the problem of conflating variable capital with paid labour time or labour time that is going to be paid for.

variable capital is the value paid for the labour-power employed, which in our hypothetical world of pure bourgeois laws that we're considering is, if the labour employed is socially average labour, the time expended to reproduce the value of that labour power. its not a question of conflating, they are two sides of the same equation: value of labour power = socially necessary labour time needed to produce the products needed to reproduce that labour power.

Dave B
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Nov 13 2008 20:43

Hi Sparticus

Thanks for the reply.

I think most of this revolves around which way you want to look at it at.

What is going to happen.

What is happening.

And what has happened.

Any way you said;

Quote:
the labourer is paid for his labour power for the duration of a specified time, not his labour-time.

I think in here there does seem to be a contradiction probably revolving around the meaning of labour power. .

If a worker is to be paid ‘for the duration of a specified time’ then that is his/her labour time.

The question of the productivity of an individuals labour power which I think is being thrown in here s a separate one.

So for instance one ‘unskilled’ bricklayer may be able to build 10 yards of wall in 10 hours.

Another more productive ‘skilled’ worker may be able to build 10 yards of wall in 5 hours.

The capitalist however purchases ‘labour power’, which is the ability to build walls.

This is a problem, but Karl deals with it early on. So when he his talking about labour time and labour power he is measuring it according to a fixed standard, and that is unskilled labour time,

So;

Quote:
“Skilled labour counts only as simple labour intensified, or rather, as multiplied simple labour, a given quantity of skilled being considered equal to a greater quantity of simple labour. Experience shows that this reduction is constantly being made. A commodity may be the product of the most skilled labour, but its value, by equating it to the product of simple unskilled labour, represents a definite quantity of the latter labour alone.[15]

The different proportions in which different sorts of labour are reduced to unskilled labour as their standard, are established by a social process that goes on behind the backs of the producers, and, consequently, appear to be fixed by custom. For simplicity’s sake we shall henceforth account every kind of labour to be unskilled, simple labour; by this we do no more than save ourselves the trouble of making the reduction.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S2

So assuming a rate of exploitation of 100% the unskilled bricklayer works for 10 hours and gets in return from his wages what an unskilled worker can produce in five hours.

The skilled and more productive worker works for five hours and gets in return what an unskilled worker can produce in five hours.

Or the skilled and more productive worker works for five hours and gets in return in wages the equivalent of 2 1/2 hours of another ‘skilled’ productive workers product.

To escape this kind of problem, labour power and labour time has to be denominated, as part of his analysis, as a standard, unskilled or simple labour time.

So when a capitalist purchases labour power he is purchasing unskilled labour time, the standard measure of labour power, or its equivalent. He pays for the potential of what ‘unskilled’ labour power can produce.

So when a capitalist wants 20 yards of wall built it may in fact be done in 10 hours by one skilled bricklayer. But as far as Karl is concerned, as well as the capitalist, it may as well have been done and remunerated as such by the 20 hours of 2 ‘unskilled’ bricklayers as a standard measure.

So it is true labour power can not be measured by an un-standardised method of time worked alone. But standardised, it is measured in unskilled labour time.

The issue of the skilled versus unskilled labourer is I think a complex one and there is an element of the ‘accidental’ to it. Karl didn’t do very well in anticipating how things might turn out regarding muscular computer programmers and six stone geeky bricklayers.

Quote:
“The distinction between skilled and unskilled labour rests in part on pure illusion, or, to say the least, on distinctions that have long since ceased to be real, and that survive only by virtue of a traditional convention; in part on the helpless condition of some groups of the working-class, a condition that prevents themfrom exacting equally with the rest the value of their labour-power. Accidental circumstances here play so great a part, that these two forms of labour sometimes change places. Where, for instance, the physique of the working-class has deteriorated, and is, relatively speaking, exhausted, which in the case in all countries with a well developed capitalist production, the lower forms of labour, which demand great expenditure of muscle, are in general considered as skilled, compared with much more delicate forms of labour; the latter sink down to the level of unskilled labour.

Take as an example the labour of a bricklayer, which in England occupies a much higher level than that of a damask-weaver. Again, although the labour of a fustian cutter demands great bodily exertion, and is at the same time unhealthy, yet it counts only as unskilled labour. And then, we must not forget, that the so-called skilled labour does not occupy a large space in the field of national labour.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htm

The issue of skilled work versus unskilled work can become transparent when after spending six hours trying to sort out a word document with tables etc with no success you are ‘humbled’ by a secretary sorting it out for you in 5 minutes.

On the rate of exploitation thing you don’t have to think of it as the first six hours are my own and the last are seniors surplus value.

You can in capitalist mode of production do a kind of differential calculus on it. So I work for one second for myself and the next second’s worth of surplus work belongs to the capitalists. However for every portion of time, however sub-divided, part of it is my own and another belongs to the other.

In a way it is accidental that in capitalism this sub- division of the surplus labour time and the necessary labour time is obscured by the fact that each is not clearly separated in time and space/place.

Elsewhere in a clearer example however it can be;

Quote:
“But this identity of surplus-value with unpaid labour of others need not be analysed here because it still exists in its visible, palpable form, since the labour of the direct producer for himself is still separated in space and time from his labour for the landlord and the latter appears directly in the brutal form of enforced labour for a third person.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch47.htm

As far as the rate of profit is concerned ‘variable capital’ it is either part of the capital advanced or invested by the capitalist on which the actual rate of profit is calculated or it is not.

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Nov 19 2008 03:56
Quote:
If a worker is to be paid ‘for the duration of a specified time’ then that is his/her labour time.

well marx quite specifically defines them as separate things, he doesn't say that labourers' labour-time is bought, he says it is their labour power that is bought, which when put to use is labour. i don't think he would define them as separate things if that wasn't significant to his analysis, which it is in the chapter on the working day. it only becomes labour-time once it starts being used. the point being, or at least what seems to me to be emerging from his analysis, is that otherwise the exact degree of exploitation would not be hidden behind the fetishism of the commodity. i also don't think you would be able to divide the time any way you like (the first 6 hours is yours or every other second, or however) if it was labour-time itself that was being sold, and not labour-power. but maybe i'm getting tangled up in things here...