Study guide for Capital - Harry Cleaver

A study guide for Karl Marx's Capital vol 1 by Harry Cleaver.

Submitted by libcom on July 27, 2005

Chapter 2: The Process of Exchange

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion
Analysis of fetishism means we must move from study of commodities to that of their owners.
- possession
- embodied will
- consenting alienation
- private property and contract

Contradiction: commodities must be:
values before use-values
use-values before values

: resolution = exchange

Money - "crystallizes" out of exchange

History of Exchange
- reciprocity instead of exchange
- exchange of excess
- production for exchange
- emergence of money

It is in chapter two that Marx begins to respond to his own critique of chapter one as being "fetishistic." That is to say, after having analysed the commodity form purely in terms of commodities themselves, and money as a commodity, it will be recalled that in section 4 of chapter one, Marx turns upon himself and attacks this presentation saying that because it deals with the relationships between things and does not get to the social relations of which the things are a part, it is guilty of commodity fetishism. In this chapter he begins to remedy that situation.

From Things to Social Processes
He begins by recognizing that despite his discussion of commodities "doing this," and "doing that" (e.g., expressing value here, reflecting an essense there) it is indeed true that "Commodities cannot themselves go to market . . . we must, therefore have recourse to their guardians." We pass from the abstract world of chapter one, to the more realistic world of actual exchange - to that space within which the form of value is actually realized: the market where the owners or guardians of commodities meet.

Marx begins with an analysis of the relation between commodities and their owners and then passes to a summary of the logic of money as a requirement of exchange, and finally to a sketch of the historical emergence of exchange and money. His analysis of the relations between commodities and their owners, and among owners is very close to Hegel's in the Philosophy of Right.

1. Owners have possession of commodities
2. Owners are in relation to each other as having their "will" in the objects
3. Alienation of commodities only occurs in consenting acts
4. Juridical expression of this is private property and the contract of exchange

The primary and basic example of this in capitalism, of course, is the exchange of labor power for the means of subsistence. And the particular meaning of the above clauses we have already seen in Part VIII. The laborer must have possession of his labor power (not be a slave or serf). The capitalist must have possession of the means of production (having taken them from the workers). Given this pattern of possession the two parties are "free" to act. This "freedom" appears as an act of free "will" as well as an act between two freely consenting property owners. That Marx goes beyond Hegel on this is already apparent in Part VIII in his ironical attack on the meaning of such "freedom." This will recur in Chapter 6 on the "Sale and Purchase of labor power". Finally, the exchange of labor power for the means of subsistence takes the form of a legal contract, verbal or written. The union contract of collective bargaining being a recent formal example.

It is the introduction of the owner which adds concreteness to the analysis of the exchange process, partly because the owner, unlike the commodity, is not interested in just any exchange but in some specific exchange. "[The commodity] is always ready to exchange not only soul, but body, with each and every other commodity . . . the owner makes up for this lack [of specificity] in the commodity of a sense of the concrete, physical body of the other commodity by his own five and more senses." In other words the owner goes into the market with a will, and an object of acquiring some other particular commodity.

At this point Marx points out a contradiction -a discussion carried over from his earlier work Contribution To The Critique of Political Economy -- and, in a sense, from chapter one's discussion of the two sides of the commodity: use-value and exchange-value. He notes that for the seller the commodity exists only as exchange-value, "for himself its only direct use-value is as a bearer of exchange-value . . . all commodities are non-use-values for their owners . . . consequently [and this is the first point] commodities must be realized as values [which is to say exchanged] before they can be realized as use-values." Then he makes the second point: in order to be exchanged someone must see them as potential use-values: "they must stand the test as use-values before they can be realized as values." There is the contradiction. Before they can be use-values they must be exchange-values but before they can be exchange-values they must be use-values. And, in order to be complete as commodities they must be both.

Money in Exchange
It is in this dilemma that Marx sees the origin of the need for money in exchange. In so far as each owner of commodities looks at other commodities "as the particular equivalent of his own commodities [and] . . . his own commodity is the universal equivalent for all others . . . there is in fact no commodity acting as universal equivalent." This problem Marx notes was already discussed in chapter one somewhat more abstractly (the problem of the expanded form) and the solution perceived: the money form, but this he notes cannot be solved in the abstract, at the formal level of chapter one:

Only the action of society can turn a particular commodity into the universal equivalent . . . through the agency of the social process it becomes the specific social function of the commodity which has been set apart to be the universal equivalent. It thus becomes - money. Money necessarily crystalizes out of the process of exchange.

In other words the rise of the universal equivalent, i.e., money, is a real social phenomenon, not an abstract one, it emerges within the historical development of exchange. It comes with the "broadening and deepening of the phenomenon of exchange" and the "need to give an external expression to this opposition [between use-value and exchange-value] for the purposes of commercial intercourse produces the drive towards an independent form of value." So money within exchange is the outgrowth in real history of the exchanging of commodities by their owners, by real persons, and not an abstract process. Here again Marx fights the fetishism which would deal with these matters purely in terms of the relations between things.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to a sketch of the process by which money as universal equivalent emerged from widening exchange. However accurate Marx's treatment, the major methodological point is that we must locate this phenomenon in the real world of exchange, understand what is being designated by the term universal equivalent, money, and not be bemused by commodity fetishism into an equally mistaken money fetishism. As he terminates the chapter: "The riddle of the money fetish is therefore the riddle of the commodity fetish, now become visible and dazzling to our eyes."

Then and Now

1. There is no reciprocal isolation or foreigness in the "primitive" community - whether of patriarchal family, Indian commune, or Inca state
2. Exchange begins at the boundaries of communities, not produced for exchange
3. Commodities come to be produced for exchange
4. Repetition makes normal, fixes values at definite magnitudes
5. Articles come to only momentary equivalence with universal equivalent, comes and goes
6. Crystallizes out as money form - attached to most important articles of exchange from outside, or to local mobile wealth, i.e., cattle
7. Natural selection leads to money commodity being chosen among those that can be divisible at will, uniform in quality, i.e., precious metals
8. Value of money is determined by labor time of its production, expressed in other commodities.

All of this is a synopsis of his discussion in the Contribution To The Critique of Political Economy and in the Grundrisse's chapter on money - both of which can be consulted for a more developed analysis.

This discussion of the historical origins of money has contributed to an interpretation by some of this chapter, as well as of chapters one and three, as being about money in exchange in all kinds of society where money and exchange exist. And not just about money and exchange in capitalism. To such interpretations I would say this: the primary and central discussion in each chapter in Part I is about the determinations of exchange within a fully developed system of exchange. The only fully developed system of exchange is capitalism, for reasons that are presented in Part VIII and elsewhere (Part I, Vol. II). Marx just takes a few of these determinations at a time, adding them one to another as he goes, building up the full fleshed analysis of capital. Certainly he does give examples, such as those above, which draw on pre-capitalist societies, while making the point that money as universal equivalent is not an abstraction but designates real phenomenon, within the real world of exchange. And at times he points to the historical roots of various aspects of capital. Here it is money, in Vol. III it is rent, etc. But I would recall his discussion in the Introduction to the Contribution about bourgeois economy providing the key to the past, but not equating the past with the present. (See my book Reading Capital Politically.)

Commodification of Life
One aspect of Marx's analysis of the centrality of exchange in capitalism which has struck a sympathetic cord in many, even those who would never call themselves Marxists, is idea that in the pursuit of profit and social control capitalism tends to convert almost every thing and every relation into a commodity. This tendency toward the "commodification of life" has been recognized and deplored by a great many novelists, poets, social commentators and song writers. From Balzac's caustic condemnations of an infinitely invasive commerical logic to popular music, the tendency has long been denounced, made fun of and rejected in prose and lyrics. In reggae musician Jimmy Cliff's song "Commercialization" this aspect of capitalist Babylon is attacked vigorously. He decries the commercialization of women, people in general, food, drugs, war and time. Although written long before the Gulf War, its arcade video packaging and selling gives the lyrics about war an unfortunately all too contemporary relevance.

observation of this civilization
Advertise her
Sterilize her
Utilize her
Commercialize her
Cause commercialization is the
notion of the civilization

What kind of people?
What kind of people?
Civilize them
Brutalize them
Formalize them
Commercialize them
Cause commercialization is the
notion of the civilization

Commercialize it
Advertise it
Fertilize it
Commercialize it
Cause Commercialization is the
notion of the civilization

Investigate it
Instigate it
Motivate it
Commercialize it
Cause commercialization is the
notion of the civilization

Time is running out
Right here
Yes, time is running out
Right here
There isn't much left
Yes, time for people is
Running out right here
There isn't much left
No, there isn't
because they have
Utilized it
Mobilized it
Brutalized it
Commercialized it
Cause commercialization is
the notion of civilization

Jimmy Cliff

Tom Waits' song "Step Right Up" from the mid-1970s, is more light-hearted as he makes carnivalesque fun of advertising and the pretence that any and all problems can be solved by the purchase of some commodity -from the drudgery of housework to fears about personal appearance and relationships. Interlaced with a myriad sound bites of advertising hype and sexual inuendo is the real message of the song: all the junk is being sold for profit at the expense of the buyer ("how do we do it? Volume, volume turn up the volume", "we'll give you the business", "the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.") In this case the very length of the song is both a reproduction and a critique of the endlessness of the advertising noise that constantly bombards us all.

Step Right Up
Step right up
Step right up
Everyone's a winner
Bargains galore
That's right you too can be
The proud owner of the
Quality goes in before
the name goes on
One tenth of a dollar
One tenth of a dollar
We've got service after sales
How bout perfume we got perfume
How bout an engagement ring
Somethin for the little lady
Somethin for the little lady
Somethin for the little lady

Three for a dollar
We got a year end clearance
We got a white sale
and smoke damaged furniture
You can drive it away today
Act now
Act now
And receive as our gift to you
They come in all colors
One size fits all
No muss
No fuss
No spill
You tire of Kitchen drudgery
Everything must go
Goin' out of business
Goin' out of business
Goin' out of business sale
50% off original retail price
Skip the middle man
Don't settle for less
How do we do it?
How do we do it?

Volume, volume, turn up the volume
Don't hesitate
Don't be caught with your drawers down
Don't be caught with your drawers down
Step right up
Step right up
That's right
For ladies it chops, doesn't stop
Never stops, lots of luck!

It'll mow your lawn
And it picks up the kids from school
And it gets rid of unwanted facial hair
It gets rid of embarassing age spots
It delivers the pizza
And it lengthens
And it strengthens
And it finds that slipper that's been
at large under the chaise-lounge
for several weeks
And it plays a mean rythmn master
And it makes excuses
for unwanted lipstick on your collar
And it's only a dollar

Step right up
And it's only a dollar
Step right up
It forges your signature
If not completely satisfied
mail back unused portion
for complete refund of price of purchase

Step right up
Please allow thirty days for delivery
Don't be fooled by cheap imitations
Livin it
Livin it, laughtin it, lovin it, swim in it,
sleep in it, live in it, swim in it,
laugh in it, love in it

Removes embarassing stains from contour
sheets. That's right
And it entertains visiting relatives
It turns a sandwitch into a banquet
Tired of being the life of the party
Change your shorts
Change your life
Change your life
Change into a 9 year old kinda boy
Get rid of your wife
It walks your dog
It doubles on Sax
Jump back Jack

See you later alligator
See you later alligator
It steals your car
It gets rid of your gambling debts
It quits smoking
It's a friend
It's a companion
It's the only product you'll ever need
Follow these easy assembly instructions
It never needs ironing
It takes weight off hops
busts, thighs, chin, middrif
Gives you dandruff
It finds you a job
It is a job
And it stops the phone company prepaid
syndrome five exchange
It gives you denture breath
And you know it's a friend
It's a companion
And it gets rid of your travellers checks
It's new
It's improved
It's old fashioned
It takes care of business
Never needs winding
Never needs winding
Never needs winding
It gets rid of blackheads
Heart break of psoriasis
Christ you don't know the meaning of
heartbreak buddy
Come on, come on, come on
It's effective
It's defective
It creates household odors
It disinfects
It sanitizes
For your protection
It gives you an erection
That wins the election
Why put up with painful corns
any longer

It's a redeemable coupon
No obligation
No salesman will visit your home
We got a jackpot
Jackpot, jackpot

Prizes! Prizes! Prizes!
All work guaranteed
How do we do it?
How do we do it?
How do we do it?

We need your business
We're going out of business
We'll give you the business
Get on the business
Going out of business sale
Receive all
Free brochure
Free brochure

Read the easy to follow
assembly instructions
Batteries not included
Send before midnite tomorrow
Terms available
Step right up
Step right up
Step right up
You got it buddy
The large print giveth
And the small print taketh away

Step right up
Step right up
Step right up

Com'on step right up
Get away from me kid
Step right up
Step right up
right up
right up

Come on, come on


Tom Waits, Small Change, 1976
Elecktra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records
Asylum 7E-1078

Finally, as a third and final example, in the late 1970s the British group The Clash took up this theme more directly, attacking the idea that one can buy a "personality" through the purchase of commodities. Instead of being a "happy shopper" constructing his life through his purchases, the singer wanders confused amidst the mountains of commodities. He has done as the ads say, clipped his coupons, listened to the "hit" music and drunk his bottle of social brew; but low and behold, the alienation doesn't go away no matter how much he participates in "exchange".

Lost in the Supermarket (song)
I'm all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for the special offer
of guaranteed personality

I wasn't born so much as I fell out
Nobody seemed to notice me
We had a hedge back at home in the suburb
Over which I never could see

I heard the people who live on the ceiling
Scream and fight scarily
Hearing that noise was my first ever feeling
That's how its been all around me.


I'm all tuned in. I see your programs
I save coupons packets of tea
I've got my giant hit discoteque album
I empty a bottle I feel a bit free

The kids in the halls and the pipes in the walls,
Make me noises for company.
Long distance callers
Make long distance calls
And the silence makes me lonely


It's not here
It disappear


I'm all lost...
I'm all lost in the supermarket
I'm all lost...
I can no longer shop happily
I'm all lost...
I came in here for the special offer
of guaranteed personality
I'm all lost...

The Clash, London Calling,
CBS, 1979 (E2 36328)

Recommended Further Reading
For Hegel's discussion, on which Marx draws, see T. M. Knox (ed) Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952, First Part: "Abstract Right", Section i: "Property" and Section ii: "Contract". You might also want to read the 1820 preface which contains Hegel's famous remark about the limits of philosophy: "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk." (p. 13) as well as the Third Part: section ii on "Civil Society"; Subsection a on the "System of Needs" contains his discussion of needs, work, capital and class divisions.

Marx's work The Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), which deals primarily with value and money, was the first published fruit of his work in the late 1850s that produced the long unpublished manuscript the Grundrisse (1857-58). The Contribution to the Critique was intended as the opening salvo of a series of works critiquing political economy but instead of following it up with the next parts, Marx wound up writing Capital instead, whose first volume was published in 1867. Despite the fact that some of the Contribution is included in Capital (and some in Marx's three volume Theories of Surplus Value), there is much material in it which provides useful alternative formulations to the first part of Capital on value and money. The same, of course, is true of the first chapter of Grundrisse manuscripts which also deals with value and money. Both the Contribution and the Grundrisse are available on-line and in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, New York: International Publishers; the former can be found in Volume 29 and the latter in Volumes 28-29. The Grundrisse is also available in a Penguin paperback edition.

Along with Marx's own review of the history of the development of money and exchange, you might also want to look at Ernest Mandel's discussion in Chapter 2 of Volume I of his Marxist Economic Theory, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1962. At the same time you might also want to keep in mind that Mandel is a Trotskyist theorist whose understanding of these matters is quite different than the one I have been presenting to you. (Remember he is also the author of the introduction to the edition of Capital which you are using.) Another Marxist treatment, more thorough, is Pierre Vilar, A History of Gold and Money, 1450-1920, New York: Verso, 1991 (originally published in Spain in 1960).

There are many works by historians on the history of money and exchange and it has been a central area of contention in anthropology where "formalist" anthropologists have sought to find bourgeois rationality (homo economicus) in every society and "structuralist" anthropologists have sought to understand non-capitalist systems of exchange in their own right as alternative forms of social interaction. Among the latter, some of the most interesting work is by ex-Marxist Karl Polanyi whose book The Great Transformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1944 is a classic and well worth the read. Polanyi abandons Marx's framework of understanding the modern world in terms of "capitalism" in favor of "the market economy" but the subject is the same and and a great deal can be learned from studying his work. The Fall 1987 issue of Telos magazine has a special section on Polanyi with an interesting overview of his life and work by his daughter Kari Polanyi-Levitt and Marguerite Mendell.

On the commodification of war (as in Jimmy Cliff's song "Commercialization", see Doug Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War (1992) on how the pentagon and the news networks packaged and sold the Gulf War to the American people -against one of the most rapidly mobilized and nationwide anti-war movements in U.S. history. For further background see his earlier book: Television and the Crisis of Democracy, Boulder: Westview Press, 1990.

Concepts For Review
alienation of commodities
private property
free will
a contract
the money fetish
reciprocal isolation

Questions For Review
*1. Explain the role of Chapter Two in Capital. That is to say, explain its relation to Chapter One and to what comes after -- at least as far as you have studied to date.

2. Discuss the relationship between commodities and their owners as Marx analyses it here in Chapter Two. What is an "owner?" What is the distinction between "ownership" and "possession?"

3. Discuss the meaning of "freedom" with respect to commodity exchange.

4. What is the attitude of the owners of commodities toward those commodities when they want to exchange them. How do they look at those commodities? What is it about their commodities which concerns them first of all? What else must concern them if they are to actually realize an exchange?

*5. Explain the contradiction and the resolution of the contradiction that Marx says confronts commodities and their owners in exchange.

6. What does it mean to say that "money necessarily crystalizes out of the process of exchange?"

*7. Discuss the issue as to whether the analysis of Chapter Two is applicable to all forms of exchange or only to that within capitalism.

8. What new things do we learn about money in this chapter that we had not already learned in Chapter One?

*9. Apply the analysis of this chapter to the exchange of labor power for the wage.

10. Sketch the history that Marx cites of the development of exchange and money. What do you think is the relationship between this history and the presentation of the chapter?

11. Explain the solution to the "riddle" Marx refers to in his statement: "The riddle of the money fetish is therefore the riddle of the commodity fetish, now become visible and dazzling to our eyes."

12. If, in so-called "primitive" societies, people produced and shared collectively, or communally, with a division of labor, such that "exchange" relations were those of reciprocity and had no sense of "equality," what does this suggest about the possibilities of post-capitalist society?


Chapter 3: Money, or the Circulation of Commodities

Submitted by libcom on July 27, 2005

Chapter 3: Money, or the Circulation of Commodities
Outline of Marx's Argument
Section 1: The Measures of Money
a. money as measure of value
- ideal
- real
b. money as standard of price
- price
- money names
- weight names

Section 2: The Medium of Circulation
a. metamorphosis of commodities
C - M - C, (P - U - I)

b. the circuit of money

qualitative: M - C - M'
quantitative: M = PQ/V

c.coin and symbols of value
- role of the state
- paper money

Section 3: Money
a. hoarding
- money as store of value
- monetary reserves
b. means of payment
- credit
- credit and class struggle
- credit and crisis
c. universal money
- extension of analysis to world level
- universal :means of payment
:means of purchase
:embodiment of wealth
First and foremost, in capitalism money is power. Money both embodies the power capital has had to impose work on people and bestows the power (through investment) to do it again. At the same time, from the point of view of the rest of us, money --if only we can get our hands on enough of it-- gives us the power to resist or refuse that work. Not surprisingly then, money is a frequent subject of popular music. Big money --especially corporate wealth-- is desired for the power it gives and feared for the threat that it carries. Pink Floyd in their song "Money" (on their ablum The Dark Side of the Moon, 1972), written in a period when capitalists were resisting wage increases, mock the ideological contradictions of such a situation: "Money so they say - is the root of all evil today - but if you ask for a rise - it's no surprise - that they are giving none away." They, of course, are the capitalists and their apologists who preach the evils of money to the working class while using it for their own purposes of domination. Rush, in the following song, written during the Reagan years when capital was wielding its money like a bludgeon against the working class, are more blunt about the power of money:

The Big Money
Big money goes around the world
Big money underground
Big money got a mighty voice
Big money make no sound
Big money pull a million strings
Big money hold the prize
Big money weave a mighty web
Big money draw the flies
Sometimes pushing people around
Sometimes pulling out the rug
Sometimes pushing all the buttons
Sometimes pulling out the plug
It's the power and the glory
It's a war in paradise
It's a cinderella story
On a tumble of the dice

Big money goes around the world
Big money takes a cruise
Big money leave a mighty wake
Big money leave a bruise
Big money make a million dreams
Big money spin big deals
Big money make a mighty head
Big money spin big wheels

Sometimes building ivory towers
Sometimes knocking castles down
Sometimes building you a stairway-
Lock you underground
It's that old-time religion
It's the kindom they would rule
It's the fool on television
Getting paid to play the fool

Big money goes around the world
Big money give and take
Big money done a power of good
Big money make mistakes
Big money got a heavy hand
Big money take control
Big money got a mean streak
Big money got no soul.....

Rush, Power Windows, 1985
Mercury/PolyGram Records
CD 826 098-2

In another song, written only three years later, still during the unapologetic reign of Reagan/Bush and their rich capitalist friends, Randy Newman makes the same point in his own low-key, ironic manner. How is it, he wonders, as so many of us have, that the best and the brighest often just scrape by while the wheelers and dealers, the slimeballs and the crooks are living high off the hog in their "great big houses" with their "great big swimming pools". The answer, of course, is money.

It's Money That Matters
Of all of the people that I used to know
Most never adjusted to the great big world
I see them lurking in book stores
Working for the Public Radio
Carrying their babies around in a sack on their
Moving careful and slow
It's money that matters
Hear what I say
It's money that matters
In the USA

All of these people are much brighter than I
In any fair system they would flourish and thrive
But they barely survive
They eke out a living and they barely survive

When I was a young boy, maybe thirteen
I took a hard look around me and asked what
does it mean?
So I talked to my father, and he didn't know
And I talked to my friend and he didn't know
And I talked to my brother and he didn't know
And I talked to everybody that I knew

It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters
Whatever you do

Then I talked to a man lived up on the county line
I was washing his car with a friend of mine
He was a little fat guy in a red jumpsuit
I said "You look kind of funny"
He said "I know that I do"

"But I got a great big house on the hill here
And a great big blonde wife inside it
And a great big pool in my backyard and another
great big pool beside it
Sonny it's money that matters, hear what I say
It's money that matters in the USA
It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters whatever you do"

Randy Newman, Land of Dreams, 1988
Reprise CD 9-25773-2

Of course, most of us understand that "it's money that matters" and not just in the USA but throughout the whole capitalist world. The difficult questions concern why it is money that matters and how it can be the weapon as well as the fruit of power.

Marx's analysis in this chapter gives us a broader understanding about how and why money is power. He focuses on a variety of roles which money plays in the capitalist world of commodities. In Chapter One he discussed the forms of value. These forms, which are abstract determinations of the commodity form, identify general aspects of the commodity world as a whole. The general form of value for example:

xA = wM

expresses the interrelation of all the commodities to each other mediated via the universal equivalent. The universal equivalent itself is not isolated from the whole but rather expresses value in relation to the potentially infinite series of other commodities. These forms presuppose the actual world of capitalist commodity exchange and are determinations of it. They express aspects of the relations among commodities, most importantly, those of the central exchange relation between the classes --the exchange of labor power for means of subsistence.

Now in Chapters Two and Three Marx evaluates the form of that exchange process within the actual circulation of commodities in exchange. There is a transition as he isolates and identifies the exchange process, a transition from the form of value, to the exchange aspect of its actualization.

When we look at the money form of value we can see that the form of simple commodity exchange C - M - C emerges if we isolate the mediated relation xA - w gold - yB.

yB = w gold xA - w gold - yB C - M - C

The money form expresses money as the universal mediator. In C - M - C we isolate a single mediated exchange in order to explore the general structure of such exchange. Later, that understood, we can aggregate all such exchanges to obtain circulation as a whole. Marx's analysis of money in chapter three (i.e., the role of M in C - M - C) therefore develops that of the money form of chapter one. Money and the money-form will no longer be confused.

Structure of the Chapter
Marx's discussion begins with money within nationstates --because of the way national governments have come to mint and regulate money-- and then later moves on to an examination of money at the international level. Both of these analyses add concreteness to the much more abstract discussion of chapter one where there was no such reference to nationstates and their role in exchange. He discusses 5 aspects of money within areas controlled by a single state (generally but not always national boundaries):
1. Money as measure of value
2. Money as standard of price
3. Money as means of circulation
4. Money as hoard or store of value
5. Money as means of payment (credit)

1. The difference between measure of value and standard of price
The first aspect of chapter 3 that I want to discuss is Marx's distinction between money serving as the measure of value and money serving as a standard of price. In this discussion Marx is speaking of the ideal or imaginary expression of value and price that occurs before commodities are actually sold. In terms of C-M-C we are only at the first C, neither C - M (sale) nor M - C (purchase) has actually been completed. We can picture this phase of the analysis as concerning:
C - M - C or C - potential M - potential C

C is produced and real but M is only an anticipated ideal, as is the subsequent M - C, so - M - C is ony potential.

Now we saw in the money form of chapter one that money is the expression of value of commodities and its magnitude measures that value.(1) We also saw in the price-form that with respect to a single commodity money not only expresses value but also price. Money (gold) is a standard of price in so far as "it is a fixed weight of metal," i.e., a measure of the quantity of gold (the w in w gold). The setting of this standard is a function of the State. The State sets both the weight unit or quantum with which to measure the amount of gold, eg., ounce, and it gives the money names to those units.

Let's take an example: 1 ton of iron = 1 oz. of Au

Since the amount of socially necessary labor time in the production of one ton of iron is the same as that in the production of 1 oz. of gold, the gold serves as an expression of the value of the ton of iron -both are crystalized, abstract labor time. In terms of the class relationships, both represent the same amount of imposed labor in capital, the same amount of social control -just as many workers can be set to work just as long producing 1 oz. of Au as 1 ton of iron.(2) Now, because the gold is measured, in this case by the ounce, the quantity of value is given, and the gold simultaneously can serve as standard of price. The 1 oz. measures the quantity of gold by a unit weight of gold. It thus gives the price of the iron. The 1 oz. is the weight-name for the price of iron. The State also gives such a measure a money-name, e.g., $35.00. In the days of commodity money, these money-names were attached to gold coins minted by the state at a given, standard weight. To summarize:

Commodity: iron
Quantity: 1 ton
Measure of value: = 1 oz. Au
Standard of Price: = 1 oz. Au or 35 dollars(3)

Various examples: Country, weight, name, coin

U.S., 1 oz., 35 dollars, 35 gold one dollar coins
U.K.,1 oz., 12 pounds, 12 one Lpound; coins
France, 20 grams Au, 100 francs, 100 franc coins

For several historical reasons money names became separated from weight names. One of the more interesting of these reasons was the physical debasement of coins by users. (There was also the debasement of coin by official act of the sovereign and the mint.) The debasement of coin, e.g., the shaving or clipping of metal from metal coins, is interesting because it was both a form of class struggle --anyone who could get their hands on a coin could shave a bit here and there-- and a direct challenge not only to the power of the State but to the class relations embodied in money. With debasement, the money names (i.e., dollar, pounds, francs, etc.) are still applied to coins, but the coins no longer contain the weight of the metal that is the standard of money, thus as standards of price they misrepresent value. A gold coin that was worth $10 upon coinage, after clipping might be worth only $9.95 or $9.90 because it contained less gold. Yet it would continue to be exchanged as if it were worth $10 --until, of course, a general perception of the debasement led to its rejection as a standard. This was the danger to exchange and to the power of the State. As a result the government agency which was responsible for coinage was invariably also preoccupied with ferreting out and persecuting those responsible for such attacks on the value of money.

This is why the distinction between money as measure of value and as standard of price is important. Values can change and leave prices uneffected, or prices can change with value uneffected. Suppose the money name or price changes due to sudden changes in demand, i.e., all of a sudden everyone wants to buy some commodity x. The price of x will be raised as a reaction to the sudden increase in demand but its value, grasped in terms of the socially necessary labor time has not changed. Inversely there may be an inability to sell said commodity at a price which equals the value, and it is either sold at a price under its value or not sold at all. In such cases the full value of the commodity is not realized. It is either devalued or if the price goes to zero, it has no value at all. This is the so-called realization problem. For a commodity to have value it must be exchanged, i.e., have real exchange value. If the price is above or below the value, then there is unequal exchange. If this persists then there will be a change in the production of the commodity, i.e., if it can't be sold, it won't be produced and its production will no longer provide the opportunity for the imposition of work. If price rises more may be produced. In case of what is considered a normal (i.e., upward sloping) supply curve, socially necessary labor time may rise with the increase in production as more people are put to work producing the product at marginally lower levels of productivity.

As a general rule throughout this chapter, and throughout the book more generally, Marx abstracts from such discrepancies and assumes that value = price. This simplifies his analysis and exposition --he doesn't have to be constantly dealing with such discrepancies. However, he is quite explicit about the fact that not only are there some commodities which have a price but no value, e.g., unworked land, but also as a general rule market prices do NOT equal value. He recognizes that the constant fluxuations of supply and demand occur far more rapidly than changes in the socially necessary labor time required to produce commodities. He can make such an abstraction because his primary purpose here is a social/class understanding of the role of money in capitalism rather than explaining price variations.

There have been many who have complained that Marx's theory in chapters 1-3 does not provide an explanation of the fluctuations in relative prices. This is true, but that is because it is not the purpose of the theory. Neoclassical microeconomic theory (or "price theory" as it used to be called) was designed for the analysis of just such market fluctuations and it does the job much better than Marx's value theory --which, I repeat, was not designed for the purpose. However, what Marxist theory does better than neoclassical theory is provide an analysis of money as a moment of the antagonistic relations of capitalism. Neoclassical theory doesn't do this because its purpose is other. For that matter, it doesn't even recognize the existence of class society. When we examine Marx's discussions of historical price fluxtuations we find that he uses a mixture of his labor theory and supply & demand analysis to understand price changes.(4)

2. Money as Means of Circulation
The second aspect of chapter 3 I want to emphasize is money as medium of circulation of commodities, i.e., the role of M in C - M - C. Now this circuit is actually a combination of:
sale: C - M
purchase: M - C

In sale, a commodity C is exchanged for money M. In this transaction, the owner of C realizes its exchange-value. The exchange-value of C now has actual existence in the form of the money M. This original owner of C has accomplished the first metamorphosis or change of form.(5)

Now when this money (the exchange-value form of C) is then used as means of purchase (M - C) the second change of form occurs --the second metamorphosis-- as the value of the original commodity is transformed by exchange into a particular use-value which is consumed. Thus the original contradiction between the use-value and exchange-value of the commodity discussed at length in chapter one, is resolved as it sequentially becomes potential exchange-value and potential use-value are transformed into actual exchange-value and actual use-value.

If anything occurs to break this sequence then we do not have a commodity circuit. The total process of exchange-value and use-value must be complete, e.g. if goods are never sold they are realized as neither exchange-value nor use-value and they never become a commodity. This is quite possible because the separation of exchange into purchase and sale means that the "commodity" may be suspended either in its original form (no sale) or in the form of money (no purchase). This polarity of sale and purchase and possible rupture implies both the possibility of commercial crises and reflects the underlying antagonistic polarity of capitalist class relations. As Marx writes in the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

The "antagonistic nature of bourgeois production is, moreover expressed in the antithesis of buyer and seller" (Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 331)

"The division of exchange into purchase and sale . . . contains the general possibility of commercial crisis, essentially because the contradiction of commodity and money is the abstract and general form of all contradictions inherent in the bourgeois mode of labor." (Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 29, p. 332)

Commercial crisis is the rupture of the smooth flow of sale and purchase. The possibility of such a crisis reflects and indicates the possible rupture of the underlying class relation, i.e., the rejection and potential destruction of capital's commodity form by the working class -- the end of sale of labor power by the working class, its purchase by capital, and of the need of the working class to purchase its means of subsistence from capital, i.e., the LP - M - C as expression of the basic imposition of the sale of LP and hence work on the working class by capital.

It is important to see that C - M - C is one moment in the general circulation of commodities, and how it is linked. It would be indicative but misleading to picture circulation as simply the sum of the circuits, because each part of the circuit C - M - C is also a part of two other circuits. Let (C - M - C)1 also be represented by C1 - M1 - C1. Then the sale C1 - M1 is also simultaneously a purchase from the point of view of the owner of money M. In other words, if the perspective is that of the owner of C1 then M1 is the transformed value of C1 and we call it M1. But for the owner of M, its nature is not derived from C1 but from some previous commodity C2 which was sold. So from this point of view the M is M2. Etc. Etc. We can picture this interlinkage as follows:

(Purchase) C2 - M2 - C2

C1 - M1 - C1 (Sale)

Physically M2 = M1, C1 = C2, but the subscripts designate the fact that they play different roles when viewed from different perspectives.

Since the series of such interconnections is unlimited or infinite and since it is interlocked, that infinity is of the "good" variety - self related and mediated by the universal mediator.(6) This is an essential point. The commodity circuit of capital involves all the exchanges. It is one huge circuit of circuits in which exchange-value and use-value are defined within the whole. The role of money as mediator is even clearer now than when we studied the money-form. In the relation C - M - C, we have a clear syllogistic form of mediation which in the Contribution Marx identifies as P - U - I (from Hegel's Logic) or particularity - universality - individuality. C exists for the seller only in a particular aspect of itself, i.e., as potential exchange-value (the seller is not interested in its use-value). When the commodity is then sold it is converted in form into money which is the universal equivalent. The money is then converted subsequently into some individual commodity which is consumed as use-value. Money therefore mediates the two extremes. The most important such mediation, of course, is that between the working class and capital in labor markets and consumer markets:

LP - M - C.

This remains true when we understand LP - M - C as transformed by capital into LP - M - C(MS) . . . P . . . LP*. Money mediates the renewal of labor power via productive consumption.

Although money is determined in circulation by the exchange of commodities, both qualitatively and quantitatively, money itself also circulates as one moment in this process. This parallel circulation, Marx represents as M-C-M. In the Contribution, the two forms are set out immediately together:

C - M - C
M - C - M

In Capital, the second is talked about but not specified in this way till the chapter on capital. The reason is clear enough. M - C - M makes no sense in and of itself. As Marx says, when we look at M - C - M, "one will immediately recognize the predominant form of bourgeois production" (Contribution p. 123.) But in capital M-C-M must be M - C - M', the expanding form of capital. Marx doesn't want to talk specifically about this expanding aspect of capital just yet, and he therefore restricts himself to dealing with the circulation of money as a moment of the circulation of commodities. Which is fine because it is consistent with the basic perspective of the chapter, namely studying money as the result of the production and circulation of commodities --that is to say, it both embodies and forms a part of the imposition of work (production) through the commodity form (circulation).(7)

The movement in Chapter One from simple value form of the commodity xA = yB to the money form, is paralleled in Chapter 3 by the movement from the flow of commodities to the flow of money. The order emphasizes what is fundamental.

The quantitative aspect of money as medium of circulation concerns how much money is necessary to circulate a given quantity and value of commodities (at a given rapidity). The relation between the required amount of money (M), the total value of the commodities (PQ), assuming value = price, and the rapidity of circulation or velocity of money = V is given by the formula:

M = PQ/V

Although this formula appears to be exactly the same as the "quantity theory" of classical political economy, usually written MV = PQ, or M=PQ/V, Marx's interpretation is quite different. The usual interpretation of the quantity theory assumes that Q and V are given and states that the prices of the commodities will be determined by the amount of money thrown into the economy. In other words P = f(M) and dP/dM > 0.

For example, many quantity theorists interpreted the rise of prices which occurred in Europe in the 16th Century in the wake of the huge new gold flows from the the rape of the New World, as having been caused by the increase in the amount of precious metals, i.e., of money, in circulation. Marx says just the opposite about money gold. Since money exists in circulation only to circulate commodities its amount is determined by the amount and value of the commodities being bought and sold. The value of the commodities is determined by the SNLT, the value of gold by its SNLT. Therefore, the amount of money is determined by the value of gold and the value and quantity of other commodities, or M = f(V), not visa versa. So that he explains the inflation of the 16th Century by the fact that the discovery and rape of the Inca and Aztec civilizations and of the subsequent use of slave labor in the mines of the Western Hemisphere which produced the new flows of gold dramatically reduced the costs of producing gold and thus lowered its value. With a lower value for gold it took more of it to represent the values of a relatively unchanged quantity of commodities. Hence the price rise.(8)

It should be noted here that M = PQ/V, (if M = xAu where Au is gold and x is a quantifier and price = value, and q = the quantity of goods) has the form of the price-form with the additional determination of velocity of circulation --a measure of how fast the exchanges of commodities for money takes place-- a factor not taken into account in chapter one or two. Since Marx is talking here about the totality of circulation, he has essentially added up all of the exchanges of the price form xA = yAu (gold), added up all the goods taken at their values and all the gold at its value. By adding in the additional information of how fast the gold circulates, he then knows how much money is required for circulation.

The metal money circulating is called coin. Since in circulation money "never comes to rest" as Marx says, but flows restlessly and unceasingly, there is no need to have money as means of circulation exist as precise quantities of gold itself --undebased metal coins. Therefore coins of baser metal (tokens) and even paper will serve as symbols of the appropriate amounts of gold. But because any symbol can represent a given value, different amounts of paper (which designate prices) can represent the same amount of value. In these circumstances, which we have already discussed above, where value and price differ, the formula above requires reinterpretation. Now let us write it as:

(1) M = VQ/Vel with V = value of commodities and Vel = velocity

In this form the interpretation remains the same as above. But, when we write:

(2) Mp = PQ/Vel whereP = price of commodities, and Mp = paper money

we must interpret differently. The amount of paper is clearly arbitrary and its value not determined by its cost of production (SNLT) which we can assume = zero. If the state decides to finance expenditures with huge increases in paper money, the amount of Mp will rise. Since prices are expressed in paper money-names, they will clearly rise as a result. For example, if Mp is quickly doubled then on the average P will double if Q and V remain constant, (i.e. assuming no feedback on production Q from the injection of money). The value represented by the doubled quantity of paper money will not have changed, anymore than will the quantity of commodities Q. Because the increased paper and prices represent the same aggregate value, the value represented by an aliquot portion of paper and prices (e.g. one dollar) has dropped. Paper money has been devalued. In other words we see that there was some truth in the quantity theory but only in the case of paper money. The value of paper money (or rather represented by) is seen to be a function of its own quantity and the values it represents. The failure of the classical political economists to clearly distinguish between value and prices hindered them from seeing this. Their politics, perhaps, kept them from making the distinction.

3. Money as Store of Value
The third point I want to discuss concerns money as money, or money as store of value. When money drops out of circulation it comes to rest as it were. When it does so, when it is held by its owners as hoard, it takes several forms. Often it takes on its corporeal form of gold coin or bullion. Or it takes on the form of gold reshaped into jewlery, sculpture, etc. The less time money is held out of circulation the less likely it will differ from the reserve of coin. The reserves held by individuals or banks for short periods may be of coin or of paper money. But money is still money when it is independent of circulation --when it is non-means of circulation. But in what sense? When such money falls out of circulation it breaks the flow C - M - C and the first metamorphosis is not followed by the second.
In hoarding, value is "stored." Money as the conclusion of C - M we saw to be the money expression of the exchange-value of C. If M is set aside or hidden away, that exchange-value is congealed and suspended in gold. "Exchange-value which was merely a form is turned into the content of the moment." Contribution, p. 128. Yet this solidification of money as solid gold must be understood as a necessary moment in the functioning of gold as money which is means of circulation. How? First, the flow of money into and out of hoard is necessary to regulate the amount of money in circulation. That is, as value, price, quantity and velocity change, the M implied by VQ/V changes. Hoard therefore, like reserves of coin and paper, serves as a reserve which provides the system with flexibility. This is perhaps most obvious in recent years in the case of central and international banks where foreign exchange reserves accumulate as circulation of commodities drops off and are drained in periods when rapid growth of commodity production and circulation demands more "liquid" money, i.e., more money as medium of circulation. Second, it is only because gold (or silver, etc.) proves by the process of dropping out and then returning as means of purchase, i.e. universal equivalent in M-C, that it is not just one more commodity but money. Thus the paradox that gold only becomes "money" as non-means of circulation. "The withdrawal of commodities from circulation in the form of gold," Marx writes, "is thus the only means of keeping them (gold and silver) continually in circulation (as money)." Contribution p. 128. Hoard is thus not simply separate from circulation, it is in continuous tension with it, i.e. flowing in and out over shorter or longer periods. If it did not, it would cease to be money as money.

The hoarders behave as misers, they are caught in a contradiction. As money is piled up in hoard, exchange-value is being accumulated. Now, as we have seen, exchange-value expresses an endless expansion - it has infinite character. But money as hoard is necessarily limited in quantity, and thus no matter how much money the miser has stored away, it is never enough; there is always the contrast between the endless possibility and the limited achievement. The miser is thus driven to pile up money endlessly. This kind of hoarder is, as Marx says, "a martyr to exchange-value." Unlike the capitalist who has understood that the way to accumulate ever increasing quantities of money is to continuously throw it back into circulation, the miser appears as the "holy ascetic seated at the top of a metal column." Another way of saying this, in the language of part 4 of Chapter One, is that misers are the victims of their own money fetishism. Unlike the capitalist who understands that the purpose of money is investment and putting people to work, the miser thinks that the object of making money is the money itself.

This narrow and limited perspective was found among the early mercantile "bullionists" who believed that the objective of foreign trade and government policy should be to enrich a country through the gathering of precious metals, or "treasure" as they often said. They wanted to restrict imports (and thus gold or silver outflow) while encouraging exports (and thus gold or silver inflow). This view was attacked both by more sophisticated mercantilists (like Thomas Mun and Richard Cantillon) and by classical economists (like Adam Smith) who demonstrated how the export of gold and silver (spending money abroad) could result in even more gold and silver being brought into the country (from subsequent exports).

4. Money as Means of Payment
This is the form money takes as the its function of means of payment is separated from the means of purchase. Instead of M - C, purchase, we have buying on credit where the good C is obtained before the payment of money M takes place. In this case M is credit money - generally an IOU of immaginary money which is later paid. For example, when you use a credit card you sign a paper as you purchase and acquire the commodity, but you have not yet paid. You pay later with a check drawn on your bank checking account.

The polarity and separation of actions (M - C) and (C - M) in credit, like the polarity of simple sale and purchase opens the possibility of the disruption of the circulation process --credit crises-- like the 1974-1975 fiscal crisis in New York, where the city government piled up a huge number of IOU's by borrowing to pay for growing services, etc., but then had trouble acquiring the means of payment by taxing business' C - M, etc. --partly because the class struggle in New York was leading to business' pulling out of the city or cutting down operations and thus reducing the number and size of their taxable C - M's.

This crisis was subsequently repeated on a world scale in the 1980s after US President Jimmy Carter's appointee to the Chairmanship of the Federal Reserve tightened up money supplies, dramatically raised interest rates and plunged the world into depression. The combination of high interest rates (dramatically raising the cost of debt service on international loans) and depression (shrinking business sales in both domestic and foreign markets and thus reduced possibilities for earning the foreign exchange necessary to repay the suddenly augmented debt service obligations) caused an international debt crisis from which the world has still not fully recovered.

Similarly, but not exactly the same, during pre-capitalist times, as Marx points out, the struggle between debtor and creditor was often an important aspect of class struggle as it is today:

"The class struggle in the ancient world, for instance, took the form mainly of a contest between debtors and creditors, and ended in Rome with the ruin of the plebeian debtors, who were replaced by slaves." p. 233.
Marx notes that once you have a developed system of credit and money as means of payment, then this must be taken into account in the discussion of the quantitative determination of the amount of money needed to circulate goods. This is taken into account partly by netting out the payments which cancel each other out and adding on the payments left over to those commodities circulating due to direct payment. p. 237 The discussion of money as means of payment and of the credit system is continued by Marx, within the framework of capitalist production and circulation in Volume III of Capital and can there be followed by the student who desires more information on this point.

5. World Money
Marx's remarks on money at the level of the international economy are very brief. He notes mainly that money loses "the local functions it has acquired, as the standard of prices coin and small change, and as a symbol of value." Instead it serves mainly in its original form as bullion, as the commodity gold or silver. In this form it serves primarily as
universal means of payment to cover debts incurred
universal means of purchase to circulate goods in international trade directly
absolute social materialization of wealth when wealth is to be transferred between countries but not in the form of particular commodities.
Because these international payments fluctuate with world trade and capital flows, just as circulation fluctuates within countries, he notes the need for international reserves. In his days when gold and silver were the main international monies, reserves would be held as gold or silver. Today, of course, such reserves are held primarily as stocks of foreign currencies, i.e., as credit accounts denominated in foreign currencies.

Even from these brief remarks, we can see how Marx extends his analysis of domestic money to the world market insofar as it is appropriate. We can do the same with other aspects of his analysis. For example, take his discussion of the separation of price and value. We can find such a separation of money name from value when paper currency (with a purely symbolic value) was used the fixed exchange rate system of Bretton Woods after WWII. The exchange value of the dollar had been fixed at 1 oz. gold being represented by 35 dollars. But, during the post-WWII period, the gold supply grew more slowly than the rapidly expanding trade that accompanied the recovery of Western Europe and Japan. As the result of a growing unwillingness of other countries to hold more dollars and of problems at home, after 1971 the dollar was devalued such that it took some $70 to purchase 1 oz. of gold.(9) The value of the 1 oz. of Au hadn't changed but that amount of gold was given a new money name. At the same time, the prices of all other commodities --whose values could also be assumed to remain the same-- denominated in dollars rose. Thus price can change while the value of a commodity remains the same. In the case cited the devaluation of the dollar has no effect on the value of an ounce of gold (or a ton of iron) but the price of the gold (or iron) as expressed in its money name roses from $35 to $70.

Similarly we can find in Marx's discussions of credit the beginnings of a useful analysis of the rise and role of international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. The Fund was created along with the fixed exchange rate system as a lender of last resort. With a fixed rate system, countries needed to hold reserves in case their need to pay exceeded their inflows in a given period. The Fund managed a pool of reserves provided by participating countries who could borrow from it to cover short run needs --a kind of lender of last resort.

Most importantly however, we must always keep in mind the social relations which money embodies and represents, the class relations of power which are reflected and represented in the exchange form, the money form, etc. International money flows are international rearrangements in those structures of power, as are international commodity flows, and that must never be forgotten! It is always tempting to give in to the money fetish, to forget the social realities of money within the class context and be blinded by money and complicated money mechanisms as such. It is not always easy to translate the complexities of money into class terms. It is not always easy to avoid the fetishism that accompanies the failure to do so. But it must be done, the underlying class meaning must always be sought and laid bare.

To take an example, which extends Marx's analysis to the global level, we can examine the crises around the structure of debt and credit that exploded in the 3rd world in the wake of the two oil crises in the 1970s and in the wake of the fierce tightening of the supply of money in the U.S. in 1979-1981 which drove up interest rates and plunged the world into depression. The so-called Third World Debt crisis, however, must not be seen as merely the byproducts of OPEC price and U.S. monetary policies, but more importantly in terms of the class politics they embody.

Behind the OPEC price increases lay not merely greedy sheiks, but working class pressures for more income and better standards of living. Behind the tight money policies inaugerated by Carter, Volcker and Reagan lay the urgent need to attack a level of working class power within the United States which was driving an accelerating inflation, undercutting exports and business investment generally. Behind the build up of massive debt in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil lay the need for resources to cope with social and labor unrest (both through military and police repression and through development, i.e., more jobs and wages). Thus, behind the international negotiations between "creditor" and "debtor" nations lay the class politics within each, and within the world as a whole.

Paper Money and Credit
To put it simply, while we recognize that this chapter isolates and analyses only a limited number of the determinations of money and not all (e.g., not money as capital in all its complexity), we can also recognize that all the basic elements of Marx's analysis are just as correct today as they were when he wrote Capital. Money is still used to set prices ideally, still circulates commodities as universal mediator, etc. The fact that paper money has replaced virtually all coin does not change this, as Marx has showed. The value of the total paper money supply is determined by the value of the commodities and the conditions of circulation. The fact that in an earlier period paper was tied to gold, and today it is not, changes nothing in this respect. The same can be said about the rise of deposit banking and the rise of checking accounts -- of the replacement of coin and paper by IOU's and means of payment.
On the other hand, analysis of these new forms can show how they make it easier in some ways for capital to use money as a weapon against the working class in new ways (i.e., since the expansion of the money supply now has no legal limits fixed by a tie to gold production). Marx's analysis of credit-money here and in Volume III provides a beginning to understand the complex credit mechanisms of today. Marx did not know the credit card, but his theory grasps it easily. Already in chapter three, in footnote 54, p. 238, he marvels at how small a role is paid by the actual exchange of money (rather than credit) in the accounts of a London merchant bank. The fact that credit-money now functions as medium of circulation has many implications. But it does not change either the function of money as medium of circulation nor the fundamental relation between the value of the commodities in circulation and the supply of money. The latter is simply measured today largely in terms of the quantity of coin and paper plus the quantity of (credit) deposits: M1 (or, measured to include various other credit devices in M2 or M3, etc.).

It is through the new forms of credit that money is manipulated today via government monetary policy as a weapon against the working class in countries like the U.S. Bank reserves are reserves of coin and credit/money and these reserves are manipulated to expand or contract the money supply and thus have an impact on prices, demand for labor (and thus wages), and so on. This is the role of the Federal Reserve Banks in the U.S. -- by changing the legal reserve requirements as a percent of assets, and by changing the rate of interest at which it will lend money to the banks: the discount rate. (A third aspect of monetary policy tools is the buying and selling of government securities in open market operations -- this too depends on the manipulation of new forms of credit - but one which Marx already saw developing and describes in Part VIII on the role of national debt in primitive accumulation).

Yet through all these complex monetary relations we must discover the underlying class meaning. We must see for example how these new monetary tools can be used by capital to intentionally create or permit inflation that can be used to undermine the value of labor-power indirectly through the devaluation of money. However incomplete, Marx's discussion in this chapter provides keys to understanding such Keynesian strategies for lowering real wages, just as it can provide keys for understanding the more recent manipulation of commodity prices to achieve the same result, e.g., food and oil crises of the 1970s). Unfortunately, in far too many Marxist discussions of money in the past (and there have not been that many!) the interactions of money and commodities have been dealt with only in terms of those categories --in the fetishized fashion of chapter one. This tradition we must discard in this period in which the manipulation of money and prices, both nationally and internationlly has become one of the principal tools of capital against us.

Not surprisingly, given the role of money as a weapon of repression and exploitation in the Third World, it is common to find expressions of resentment against money, especially the dollar --the money most frequently used to finance repression-- throughout popular music, just as in the US. One good example of such resentment can be found in Peter Tosh's song "The Day the Dollar Die". One of the best known reggae musicians in the world, Tosh crafted an anticipatory song which celebrates the future (that he obviously thinks inevitable) death of the dollar, and of money more generally. The Day the Dollar Die
I see Johnny with his head hanging down
Wondering how many shillings left in that pound
Cost of living it is rising so high
Dollar see that, had heart attack and die
Bills and budgets awaiting
Finance Minister anticipating
Unemployment is rising and I hear my people
they're crying

The day the dollar die
Things are gonna be better
The day the dollar die
No more corruption
The day the dollar die
People will respect each other
The day the dollar die

Tell me Brother, is there something
I can do
Don't your let frustrations
Make you blue
Time is hard and I know that it's true
But if you pick yourself up
That's all you got to do

Things can be much better
If we can come together
Long time we've been divided
and it's time we be united

The day the dollar die
Gonna be better
The day the dollar die
I won't need no pockets
The day the dollar die
Don't have to be fretted
The day the dollar die

Now I see you're standing, on your feet
And you can also make two ends meet
Never your let life problems get you down
There is always a solution to be found

Bills and budgets are mourning
Finance Minister groaning
Unemloyment is rising and
I hear my people crying, down in the Ghetto

The day the dollar die
It's gonna be nice
The day the dollar die
Just you wait and see
The day this here dollar die
There'll be no more inflation
The day the dollar die, I say that
The day the dollar die
There'll be no more corruption
The day Sammy dollar die
We will love each other
The day the dollar die.

P. Tosh, Mystic Man, 1979

Recommended Further Reading
As mentioned in this section of my notes on Chapter 2, and as indicated by the multiple footnotes making reference to it in this chapter, Marx's earlier work Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy provides an interesting and useful supplement to this chapter, as does the chapter on money of the Grundrisse. In both cases you will discover something of Marx's political motivations that are not so obvious in Capital. In each of these books he critiques not only bourgeois political economy but also socialist theories, such as those of French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his followers, which are based, in Marx's view, on a missunderstanding not only of the relation between money and commodities but also of the relationship between both of these and the class relations of capitalism.
With respect to the class politics of the debasement of money, George Caffentzis' book Clipped Coins, Abused Words and Civil Government: John Locke's Philosophy of Money, New York: Autonomedia, 1989, contains both an account of such problems and an analysis of its class character. It also presents an analysis of how and why it was not inconsistent for Locke, a well-known exponent of the quantity theory, to argue for recoinage (which everyone thought would reduce the money supply and cause deflation) during a period of crisis and war. Caffentzis shows that not only did Locke think the internal threat to state power (attack on the state's ability to manage the money supply) was greater than the external one but also how he didn't think the effects of recoinage would be deflationary anyway.

On the class politics of the fiscal crisis of New York, which turned out to be the prototype for fiscal crises everywhere, including the U.S. federal government, see Donna Demac and Philp Mattera, "Developing and Underdeveloping New York: The 'Fiscal Crisis' and the Imposition of Austerity", Zerowork #2, 1977, pp. 113-139 and Eric Lichten, Class, Power & Austerity: The New York City Fiscal Crisis, South Hadley: Bergin & Garvey, 1986.

On the class politics of the international debt crisis, see my article "Close the IMF, Abolish Debt and End Development: A Class Analysis of the The International Debt Crisis," Capital & Class, #39, Winter 1989 and issue #10 of Midnight Notes on the "New Enclosures".

Concepts for Review
measure of value
standard of price
means of circulation
store of value
means of payment
money names
weight names
debasement of coin
the realization problem
metamorphosis of a commodity
quantity theory of money
Questions for Review
1. Explain the role of Chapter Three in Capital. That is to say explain its relationship to Chapters One and Two and to what comes after.
2. Explain the relationship between the general form of value and Marx's formula C - M - C.

3. What can you say about the price on a price tag in a store using Marx's discussion in this chapter?

4. What is the role of the state with respect to the role of money as a standard of price?

5. Explain the relationships among gold, the weight name for the price of a good, and the money name for such a price. How can debasement result in a difference between the price and value of a commodity?

6. Give an example and explain how a thing may have a price but no value.

7. Explain why the general possibility of crisis exists within exchange relationships where money plays the role of mediator. What is the relation between this and a labor strike against a business?

8. Locate c-m-c within the overall world of commodity exchange. Analyse it into its component parts and relate them to the rest of that world.

9. Explain the logic of Marx's comments that c-m-c can be usefully examined within the framework of Hegel's syllogism P - U - I.

10. Explain the difference between Marx's quantity theory of money and that of classical political economy. How do they differ? Under what conditions do their interpretations converge?

11. Discuss the relevance of post-WWII international monetary "liquidity problems" for interpreting the quantity theory.

12. What is the role of hoard in the money system of capitalism?

13. What is the miser's mistake according to Marx?

14. Explain "credit money" in Marx's analysis. How does it not remove the possibility of crisis?

15. "The class struggle in the ancient world," Marx says "took the form mainly of a contest between debtors and creditors..." In what sense are struggles over debt today, especially in the international arena, part of the class struggle?

16. What changes, if any, do we need to make to Marx's discussion of money in order to analyse the role of money internationally?

1 Because so many things and relationships become commodities in capitalism, money comes to be seen as the measure of everything, even things which might otherwise be thought of with no reference to money. In his song "Money Machine" on his album In The Pocket, James Taylor sings "you can measure your manhood by it". Now it is only in a capitalist society that your "manhood" is judged by how much money you earn, but in this society it takes a critical faculty to be able to avoid such attitudes.

2 This is an imaginary example, not based on any empirical evidence.

3 I give $35 here because for many years the exchange value of gold was fixed by the American government at $35/oz. That was the price it would pay for gold and that was the amount of gold it would give up (to foreigners) in exchange for their dollars. Since gold was demonetized after the onset of the international monetary crisis in 1971, the price of gold has been set by supply and demand in the gold market and its price has varied enormously but in recent times around $350/oz.

4 You should note that Marx's analysis of supply and demand is not the same as that of contemporary microeconomics. He, like almost every economist of his time, was working before anyone (with the exception of a little known French economist named Cournot) had developed an analysis of supply and demand in terms of mathematical functions relating price and quantity changes. You will not find in his discussion, therefore, distinctions such as those between the quantity demanded at a price and the "demand" conceived in terms of a downward sloping curve. This said, you will also find as competent a discussion of market forces as was available in the mid-19th Century.

5 N.B.:Marx's choice of "metamorphosis", "chrysalis" etc., makes a clear analogy with the evolution of an insects' growth: egg, pupa, larva, chrysalis, adult, etc. -where the form changes but the essence remains constant.

6 On the "good infinity" see the discussion of the general form of value in my commentary on Marx's discussion of the form of value in chapter one.

7 In M - C - M' money appears as the initiator of the process, an occurrance which helps make it a fetish - which hides the centrality of the production process - the control over labor power and the production of commodities, including labor power.

8 In this interpretation Marx shared the position of Adam Smith who was consistent in his value and money theories.

9 The dollar was repeatedly devalued between 1971 and 1973 after which it floated against the other currencies and against gold -with the result that gold was effectively demonetized and its role as an international money collapsed.


Chapter 4: The General Formula for Capital

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

First form of capital was money
-- merchant's capital
-- usurer's capital

In (M - C - M') as opposed to (C - M - C)
-- commodity is only a mediator, not the purpose
-- money is alpha and omega
-- only a quantitative expansion
-- valorization

Money, Marx says, is the first form of appearance of capital. Historically capital first appears in the form of merchants' capital, usurers' capital and monetary wealth. Daily capital appears in the form of money in the sense that it always first steps onto the stage of action in that form, i.e., the capitalists launch their enterprises with money. (as in M - C - M')

In this chapter that Marx repeats what he does in the Contribution when he juxtaposes C - M - C with M-C-M. And he points out that M - C - M "would be absurd and empty if the intention were, by using this roundabout route, to exchange two equal sums of money." The problem therefore is to analyse this form to discover its logic.

He begins by examining a series of formal distinctions within the forms. I want to follow his analysis but to supplement his abstract discussion of C - M - C with that of the most important case in capitalism: the sale of labor power by the working class in exchange for a wage which is then spent for the means of subsistence, LP - M - C(MS). This is the subject of chapter 6 so I won't go into detail here, yet it is useful to see how these two forms represent two class perspectives on exchange.

1. The order of the phases in M - C - M is inverted in comparison with the order of the phases in the circuit of the commodity. The phases in M - C - M appear as M - C, C - M, compared to the C - M, M - C in C - M - C. When we take LP -M - C(MS) as an example of C - M - C, then we can see that the counterpart of the worker's sale of labor power LP - M, is the capitalst purchase of labor power M - C (LP) as the first part of the circuit of M - C - M'. The second phase --when the worker spends the wage M on the means of subsistence M - C (MS) has as its capitalist counterpart the sale of such MS, i.e., C - M which constitutes the second part of the the circuit M - C - M'.

2. C - M - C has money as mediator whereas M - C - M has commodity as mediator. In the case of LP - M - C(MS) the money mediator is usually the wage although it might be some other form of income paid in exchange for labor power. In other words, for workers money is only the means to an end, it is not an end in itself -unless, of course, they have internalized the values and goals of capital. (In which case, to the degree that they are able they might save their wage rather than spend it, thus partially breaking/reducing the circuit LP - M - C(MS).)(1)

In the case of capital, money is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, the means and the goal. The mediating C is only simple in the case of merchant capital which buys a good in order to resell it at a higher price. When we turn to industrial capital -the quintessential form of capital for Marx- the analysis of what happens to this C will take us (in chapter 7) into the heart of production.

3. Money is "spent" in C - M - C, but only "advanced" in M - C - M (in the sense that while workers spend their money to get what they really want (the means of life), the capitalists expects to get their money back (-augmented, of course, as M' rather than M).

4. Money is displaced twice in M - C - M, but the commodity is displaced twice in C - M - C. Money flows out and back for the capitalist; one commodity (labor power) is traded away and another is acquired by the worker.

5. In the case of C - M - C, money passes from one set of hands to another, whereas in M - C - M money flows back to the original owner, in a reflux; this reflux is "conditioned by the very manner in which it is expended" (p. 250) -i.e., in the reflux the money will return (as revenue, including profit) upon the second sale.

6. In C - M - C use-value is the final goal; in M - C - M its determining purpose is exchange-value. This observation parallel's my discussion of use value and exchange value in chapter 3 of Reading Capital Politically. That is to say, just as there I argued that the working class was mainly interested in the use values of commodities (only concerned with their exchange values because they had to buy them) while the capitalists were primarily interested in their exchange value (only concerned with their use values because they had to sell them), so here Marx is pointing out that workers engage in exchange to meet their needs. They must buy commodities to live but their goal is the consumption of the use value as part of their lives, of living. On the other hand, the capitalists deal with C only because they must in order to augment their money, i.e., exchange value as profit.

7. In C - M - C the two extremes are qualitatively different use-values. In M - C - M the two extremes are qualitatively identical quantities of money; therefore M - C - M cannot draw its meaning from any qualitative change, but only from a quantitative one. Therefore "the complete form of this process is M - C - M'", and the increment of M' - M = surplus-value.

In the abstact formulation of this chapter, this conclusion that the second M must be augmented so that M'>M appears purely logical and formal. But the basic point is merely a continuation of the previous discussion. If the object of capitalists is exchange value rather than use-value, then we know from the analysis of chapter one that the exchange value is the form of value whose substance is one particular aspect of labor, i.e., its function as social organization and domination. Therefore, the only possible point of engaging in activities which begin and end with money is more money, whose social purpose lies the imposition of more work.

8. Final goal of C - M - C is a use-value whose realization lies outside of circulation as an integral part of the more general realization of people's lives. Final goal of M - C - M' is the circulation of capital --"an end in itself"-- and thus limitless. (Here we should remember the infinity of the expanded, general and money forms of value.)

As the "conscious bearer of this movement" Marx says, the capitalist has this "boundless drive for enrichment, this passionate chase after value." Thus, the objective content of M - C - M' is the "valorization of value" as increase in magnitude. The subjective content of the capitalist is just this objective movement, so the capitalist acts as "capital personified and endowed with consciousness and a will."

This is pretty much the way Marx treats capitalists throughout the book. He is not interested in them as individuals but as personifications or functionaries of capital. In this book, which sets out the logic of the class relations of capital he is not interested in any behavior on their part that might violate that logic, e.g., an individual's prediliction for consumption over investment. For the most part in Marx's treatment, the consumption of the capitalist falls outside the analysis. Unlike many anti-capitalists, he is not constantly inveighing against "fat cats" and pointing his finger at capitalist wealth and ostenstatious consumption. His interest is elsewhere: their behavior as they act as capitalists per se: as the agents of investment and the endless imposition of work.

However, despite his general lack of interest in the capitalist qua individual, Marx does comment here on the conscious mind-set of many capitalists: avarice, a passion for money-making. This is the kind of individual capitalist often portrayed and mocked in literature. In Charles Dicken's Hard Times, for example, the greedy and egotistical Mr. Bounderby is a good example of this type. On the other hand, not all capitalists are simply greedy. Some, who often rise to positions of policy making and political responsibility, can see beyond the money fetish and understand that in their investments which impose work on others they are, in fact, organizing society by shaping the lives of most people. Capitalists who come to understand this sometimes acquire a sense of "noblesse oblige", i.e., a sense of responsibility for the general social welfare. Thus, when David Rockefeller said "profits are the measure of our [business'] contribution to society", we can interpret him as meaning: profits are invested, investment creates jobs, jobs make it possible for people to live and improve their lives, thus business "contributes" to society with their profits. No matter that, from a workers' point of view, he has conveniently presented a process of exploitation as a kind of benevolence; the point is that his consciousness has grasped his profit making activity M - C - M' in social terms and understood that what is really at stake is the organization of society through work. At this point, in their own peculiar, class-biased way, they achieve something of what Marx's theory provides: an understanding of the social meaning of such fetishized categories as money and profit.

Based on the above analysis of the two forms, we now have a new perspective on the change of form discussed in Chapter Three. Instead of the metamorphosis of the commodity, we have the metamorphosis of capital in which money and commodities appear only as "different modes of existence" or "capital is money, capital is commodities." (2) Since value is the subject of this movement to change its own magnitude via changes in form, we can say that "valorization is therefore self-valorization". (3) The "independent form or existence of this self-activating movement is money . By means of which [value's] identity with itself may be asserted." Here Marx falls back into a Hegelian language in which value, if we fail to remember what it is, appears as a reified (thing-in-itself) relationship that acts independently. But value, that value which expands itself, we know to be the real social content of the capitalist-worker relationship: work, the imposition and struggle against work. So it is this work that finds money as its independent expression, and it is this struggle over the imposition of work which is constantly expanding. Self-valorization means that the capital/labor relation need not look outside itself but finds the motive of its own expansion within itself --within the struggle.

Because M - C - M' is the form peculiar to merchant's capital, industrial capital and interest-bearing capital, Marx concludes that M-C-M' is the general formula for capital in the sphere of circulation. Nota Bene: the qualifier at the end of the definition "in the sphere of circulation," this form is not adequate to express capital once we have examined its substance in the sphere of production. Then we must have M - C . . . P . . . C' - M' which explicitly recognizes both spheres.
Concepts For Review
merchants capital M - C - M
M - C - M'
metamorphosis of capital
industrial capital

Questions For Review

(An * indicates that one possible answer to the question can be found at the end of the study guide.)

1. Explain the purpose of Chapter Four. How does it relate to what comes before and what comes afterwards?

2. What is the theoretical origin of M-C-M and why is it absurd as it stands?

3. What can one deduce from the fact that the point of departure and the goal of M-C-M' are qualitatively identical?

4. Explain the ways in which C-M-C represents the viewpoint of the working class and M-C-M represents the viewpoint of capital.

5. What does the general formula for capital suggest about business attitudes toward the commodities they produce? How does this jive with their professed purpose of meeting consumer demand?

6. Given that there have been merchant capitalists around for thousands of years, why do we date the emergence of capitalism from only the 16th or 17th Centuries?

1 This is not to say that all, or even most, savings by workers is emmulation of capitalist habits. Most working class savings are merely means to redistribute income through time (e.g., pension funds) and to maintain a reserve against emergencies.

2 This simple way of putting the relationship holds a profound truth: not only are money and commodities moments of capital, but all the elements of the relationships Marx investigates are moments of capital, just as capital is each and every one of them.

3 Marx uses the term "self-valorization" to denote the expansion of capital. You will remember the discussion in my book on reading Capital politically about how this term has been appropriated and redefined to denote the self activity of workers against and beyond capital.


Chapter 5: Contradictions in the General Formula

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

Problem: explain source of prime in M', i.e., expanded value in the formula M-C-M'
Expanded value
: does not originate in exchange
: taken in the aggregate can not originate in cheating
: therefore, the expanded value must originate outside exchange

Having arrived at the general formula for capital M - C - M' through the analysis of circulation, Marx must now explain the source of the prime in M'. In this chapter he begins that explanation negatively by showing that the prime (designating surplus value) cannot originate within the circulation process. And if that is the case, then clearly we must turn elsewhere (to the sphere of production) for an answer. This chapter amounts therefore to a transitionary chapter between the analysis of circulation and that of production --the sphere of labor-- the only sphere in which surplus labor as surplus value could originate. (Note: if we keep in mind, from our studies of primitive accumulation and chapters 1-3, the understanding that value is work, then it is obvious that surplus value or surplus work could only originate in the sphere of production --which is the sphere of work-- since circulation by definition is the sphere of exchange pure and simple). Let us however follow Marx's reasoning by which he moves us beyond circulation.

Marx begins by noting that M - C - M' contradicts all the laws of exchange, value, money, etc. already developed. Why? Presumably because C - M' is unequal exchange. What goes?

First he looks at the inverted order of succession and asks if this can be the source? That is to say that we have M - C and then C - M' rather than C - M, M - C. After running through the process M - C and C - M' from the point of view of both buyer and seller at each step, he concludes that in terms of what actually happens the order is irrelevant , the actual acts are still those of simple commodity circulation. Therefore the question must be reposed:

"We must rather look to see whether this simple circulation, by its nature, might permit the valorization of the values [increase in magnitude of value] entering into it and consequently the formation of surplus value."

To answer this question he begins with:

1. The analysis of simple exchange: C - C wherein money appears only as money of account --to name price-- but does not enter into exchange. In this case Marx argues that in terms of use-value it can be said that each side gains because it gains more than it might otherwise have been able to produce [this is basically the argument of comparative advantage]. But in terms of exchange-value there is no reason to think that any gain has been made -assuming equal exchange of values.

2. Next he places money in the middle as means of circulation, i.e., C - M - C. While this makes sale and purchase distinct acts, it does not change the fact that equivalents are exchanged --as we have already seen in Chapters 1 - 3. All that happens is a change in form and such a change "does not imply any change in the magnitude of the value."

At this point Marx then reverses his line of reasoning, to work backwards from the conclusion to point out logical inconsistencies. He says "let us therefore assume an exchange of non-equivalents" We have two possibilities:

1. Suppose the seller sells his/her commodities above their value, i.e., 110 instead 100. If all sellers do this, then when the sellers become buyers, they lose the 10 gained. In the aggregate prices rise 10% but there is no net gain.

2. Suppose the buyer buys below value. If all do this then this buyer has already lost [in C - M, M - C] before buying and there is no net gain.

What Marx then goes on to argue is that if there is unequal exchange, i.e., someone sells above value and gets away with it, then there has merely been a redistribution of value that already exists. If there is a class that consistently buys without selling and is cheated therein, then he points out they must be getting their money from taxes, expropriation, etc., so the selling class is just getting back some of its own, previously stolen money. Moreover, cheating which does produce a redistribution does not raise the total quantity of value in circulation: "The sum of the values in circulation can clearly not be augmented by any change in their distribution"

In illustrating this argument he uses an example from the colonialism of antiquity: the towns of Asia Minor paid money tribute to Rome and then cheated them when selling the Romans supplies, etc. They "swindled back from their conquerors a portion of the tribute in the course of trade. Yet for all that, the provincials remained the ones who had been cheated. Their goods were still paid for with their own money." In other words there had been a one-way transfer of real wealth to the Romans. The same might be said concerning the relationship between the working class and capital. No matter how much the working class may cheat capital, either through the exchange LP - M (in which the working class can cheat by failing to provide LP in P) or through M - C(MS) via shoplifting, changing price tags, or what have you, as long as capital achieves some degree of surplus value and reinvestment, it is the working class which is, in the end, been cheated -- out of that part of its life realized in surplus value (surplus work), on the one hand, and out of that part of its life lost in the reproduction of labor power as such.

Therefore, Marx concludes, whether we are speaking of merchants capital M - C - M' or even of usurer's capital M - M', it is clear that the increase in value cannot arise in circulation, at least not in the aggregate (there can be redistribution), and it is equally clear that "something must take place in the background which is not visible in the circulation itself."

Marx at this point throws us into the world of production. Yet he does not immediately end the chapter. He goes on to spell out the paradoxical situation that there must be equal exchange, exchange of equivalents, and yet the capitalist must "at the end of the process withdraw more value from circulation than he threw into it at the beginning. His emergence as a butterfly must, and must not, take place in the sphere of circulation." Again he evokes the metamorphosis whose final product is the butterfly/capitalist. But mainly he seems insistent on making the point that his explanation for surplus value is not cheating and must not be interpreted as such.
Concepts For Review
equal exchange
cheating in exchange

Questions For Review

1. Trace and explain Marx's explanation as to why the prime in M' does not originate in circulation.

2. If we keep in mind that value is work and surplus value must be surplus work, then why is it obvious that surplus value does not originate in circulation?

3. Suppose there is cheating in exchange, say of peasants by a government set on extracting a surplus. Does this mean that surplus value, in this case, originates in exchange?

4. What does cheating do, if it does not create surplus value?

5. Give some examples of cheating in exchange from the world today as you know it.

6. What are the contradictions in the general formula of capital?


Chapter 6: The Sale and Purchase of Labour Power

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion
Expanded value of M - C - M'
-- must originate in C
-- can not occur in exchange value of C
-- must occur in use-value of C, esp. in labor power (LP)

Definition of labor power
-- aggregate of capabilities to produce use-values

Labor Market
-- buying and selling labor power
-- workers own their labor power (LP)
-- workers have no means of production (MP)

Value of labor power
-- socially necessary labor time to produce MS
-- MS is historically determined

Use-value of LP
-- source of expanded value
-- ability to work


It is in this chapter that Marx makes the transition from the sphere of circulation to the sphere of production --which was implied in the previous chapter. He makes this transition by deducing that it is within the realization of the use-value of labor-power that the origin of surplus value is to be found . In the process of doing this he examines briefly both the exchange-value and the use-value of labor-power. By focusing on the use-value of labor-power as production of surplus value, he is concentrating on the qualitative essence of surplus value. He will return again and again to the quantitative determination of surplus value but first he begins here and continues in Chapter 7 the analysis of qualitative aspect of the use-value of labor-power. His concern with the exchange-value of labor-power at this point is only to show that the origin of surplus-value lies not in cheating the workers during the sale of their labor-power, but rather that it [surplus-value] may occur even in the presence of equal exchange. Now let us follow Marx's reasoning by which he moves from circulation to production.

The first steps of Marx's reasoning are as follows:

1. The increase in the value associated with the formula of capital M-C-M' cannot take place within the M of M - C because it is determined by the value of C.

2. The increase cannot originate in the second act of sale C - M either for this too is only a change in form.

3. The increase "must therefore take place in the commodity which is bought in the first act of circulation,"i.e., in the C in M - C.

4. But it cannot occur within the exchange-value of C because exchange is equal.

5. Therefore, "the change can originate only in the actual use-value of the commodity."

6. The question is, is there a commodity whose use-value "possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value"?Whose consumption involves the creation of value?

7. The answer of course is yes, and the commodity is labor-power, or the capacity to labor.

Definition of labor-power: "the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in the physical form, the living personality, of a human being, capabilities which he sets in motion whenever he produces a use-value of any kind."

At this point there appears a conceptual problem in that Marx does not differentiate between mental and physical abilities, or personality, under capitalism and under any other regime. The definition appears to be a-historical, and abstracted from the concrete conditions of capital. But this will be at least partially resolved in the next chapter.

Marx then goes over the two conditions which must be fulfilled for labor-power to be available in a market:

1. The workers are free proprietors of their own labor capacity as commodity -- and this includes that labor-power be differentiated from the rest of self, i.e., that the workers are not slaves. Here Marx quotes Hegel from the Philosophy of Right and follows his discussion of alienation, independent wills, contract, etc.

2. The workers cannot produce commodities independently of capital, i.e., that capital has expropriated the means of production.

These are of course exactly those conditions whose historical origins Marx traces in Pt. VIII of Volume I, on primitive accumulation. Marx says he ignores detailing this history at this point in the book (he does mention it) saying, "We confine ourselves to the fact theoretically, as he does practically."

Marx then goes on to discuss first the exchange-value, and then a little of the use-value of labor-power, as it exists under capital.
The Value of Labor-Power

-- "is determined . . . by the labor-time necessary for the production and consequently, also the reproduction of this specific article."

-- "is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of its owner." [i.e., the M in LP - M - C(MS) is determined by the C(MS)]

-- "the number and extent of his so-called necessary requirements as also the manner in which they are satisfied, are themselves products of history . . . the determination of the value of labor-power contains a historical and moral element."

-- because the owner is mortal and must be replaced, "the sum of means of subsistence necessary for the production of labor-power must include the means necessary for the worker's replacements, i.e., his children"

-- because various skills and dexterity are required, special education or training is required and "this in turn costs an equivalent in commodities" and this amount will depend on the degree of training.

These then are the determinants of the amount of use-values labor must receive. As Marx immediately points out the value of these use-values will depend on the productivity in their production . We have determinants here not only of the value of labor-power in general but also by implication[though Marx does not point it out here] we also have at least the beginnings of a theory of the wage hierarchy and the waged/unwaged division of the class. This lies in the notion that the price of labor-power must include means of subsistence for families, so those with families, ceteris paribus, must earn more than those without. Also the training requirement that varies with skill, etc., implies that the more skills that are needed the greater will be the expenditure for the production of labor-power by capital. This might take the form of direct expenditures on the shop-floor, or indirect, in the allowance of higher wages to pay for schooling -- this fits in with the data that shows skill categories of families tend to reproduce themselves at the same level, i.e., doctors produce doctors, etc.

Another important point lies in the concept of the "family wage" -- the fact that the wage must pay for the production and reproduction of unwaged members of the family. This is the equivalent to seeing that the production of the means of subsistence must be adequate to reproduce the unwaged. In early forms of capital this may have worked partly through the extended family where unwaged members were supported by the family wage. Later, direct payments by the state as collective capitalist are differentiated in unemployment insurance, aid to dependent children, etc.

Finally, we should note that the famous "moral and historical element" remains very much unspecified at this point. It has little content. Saying this is determined by "the level of civilization" is not saying much. Later on Marx will make clear that the major factor is the balance of power between the classes -- that the exchange-value of labor-power is determined by working class power vis a vis capital, and that changes historically, and morally in the sense that the working-class imposes its "morality" of less exploitation on capital. But in general the value of labor-power is equal to the value of all the commodities which capital must consecrate to the reproduction of the working class. The higher the value per workers, the fewer workers capital can hire with a given amount of capital.

Toward the end of this discussion there is a curious passage in which Marx talks about a "minimum limit" of the value of labor-power. "The limit is formed by the value of the physically indispensable means of subsistence." Yet he then goes on to say that "if the price of labor-power falls to this minimum, it falls below its value" because the labor-power functions at less than normal quality. So there would seem to be no such thing as a "minimum limit" after all, unless it be the level necessary to sustain labor-power at its normal quality. What is at issue here, is the amount of use-values the workers receive. In principle their "value" can drop toward zero as productivity rises. The amount of use-values can fall either because the money wage falls with the value of use-value consumed remaining constant, or the wage is constant and the prices of those use-values rise -- either because of a rise in their value, or because of the devaluation of money. There is one other way in which the value of labor-power can be lowered -- that is through the kind of cheating Marx describes in his footnote on the adulteration of bread. When the worker spends his wage M in LP - M - C(MS) he expects to get a commodity C of a usual, recognized quality. If the use-value is reduced, by adulteration the bread seller is selling his bread at a price above its value. The adulteration is carried out to cheapen his costs, yet he sells it at the going price, or somewhat less.

As we will see shortly the lower limit to the value of labor-power is zero and its upper limit is set by the total amount of new value created in the work process. This later as we will see comes to include the cost of variable capital (v) and surplus value (s) and it is possible for s to fall in the short run to zero.
The Use-Value of Labor-Power

-- "consists in the subsequent exercise of that power" [of the aggregate mental and physical capabilities . . . of a human being].

-- "possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption is therefore an objectification of labor, hence creation of value" . In other words, if labor-power is the capacity to work, the use-value of labor-power is the actual work itself. As work for capital, it is abstract labor, and as such it is value.

-- "the process of the consumption of labor-power is at the same time the production process of commodities and of surplus-value." This last is an important point, work is value only when it produces surplus value, contributes the expansion of value. It is not that work which does not, is not serving a function of social control at the moment it occurs, but rather that it does not result in a form, a commodity through which that work can be realized and reproduced in the future. So capitalist work is always work that produces surplus value. If it does not, then it is not fulfilling its social role in the system. More on this in the next chapter.

Finally, Marx notes that it is normally the case that the workers give the capitalist their labor-power before they receives their wage. They are therefore, in effect, giving the capitalist credit during the period they work without pay. During which time the capitalist often turns around and exploits the worker by selling him/her things on credit -- credit on which the worker often has to pay credit interest!!!

We now pass as Marx says fully into "the hidden abode of production where . . . the secret of profit making must at last be laid bare".

We leave the realm of FREEDOM - free contracts
of EQUALITY -- equal exchange
of PROPERTY -- each sells his own
and of BENTHAM -- each looks to his own advantage

And enter into the realm of COERCION -- where, as we will see, the capitalist rules as a despot, and the workers slave as cogs in the machine -- at least in as much as the capitalist can make them do so!
Concepts For Review
labor power
value of labor power
LP - M - C(MS)
family wage
"moral and historical element"
means of subsistence
use-value of labor-power
LP - M - C(MS) . . . P. . . LP*

Questions For Review

1. Explain the reasoning through which Marx concludes that the origin of surplus value must lie within the C of M - C - M'.

2. Explain the difference between labor and labor-power. Why does Marx insist on this point?

3. What are the conditions which must be met for there to be a market for labor-power? What does this have to do with Primitive Accumulation?

4. In what double sense are workers free within capitalism?

5. Distinguish between the exchange-value and use-value of labor-power? Discuss the interests of the capitalists and the workers in these two sides. In what ways are they focal points of struggle?

6. Discuss the upper and lower limits of the value of labor-power. What factors determine where it will in fact be found between these two bounds?'

7. What is the relationship, if any, between work performed in consumption of the means of subsistence and the value of labor-power? Is this commodity producing work? What is the difference between this work and work done in the factory?

8. What is there in Marx's discussion of the determination of the value of labor power which might give us some insight into the structure of the wage hierarchy?

9. Should we include transfer payments such as social security, unemployment benefits of federal aid to students in the value of labor power?

10. When and where do workers give the capitalist credit? Do you know of situations in which there has been a crisis associated with such credit?

11. What is there about rural workers, or peasants, which often makes it possible for the capitalist to pay them wages which are well below subsistence for city workers?

12. What do you think constitutes "subsistence wages" today, here, in Austin?

13. Discuss the relationship between the representation LP - M - C(MS) . . . P. . . LP* and Critical Theory. What is . . . P . . . here? What is LP*? As . . . P . . . grows what would you expect to happen to LP*?

14. Evaluate the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two representations LP - M - C(MS) and LP - M - C(MS) . . . P . . . LP*. Does one represent the working class point of view and the other the capitalist's? In what sense, if any?


Chapter 7: The Labor Process and the Valorization Process

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

Section 1:

Labour as a particular kind of human activity
Labour as useful labor - production of use-values
(independent of social form)

Work- humans
both participants,
- Nature

Humans (active) act on Nature (passive) and change both, Nature in humanity.
Humans workers unique in Nature as having conscious will, work as one kind of fulfillment of humans actively being in the world.

Labour Process:
1. work - one kind of activity of living human

2. object of work productive
means of production
3. instruments of work consumption

Under capitalism:
1. worker works under control of capital, not for self.
2. the product is the property of the capitalist which is used against worker to dominate.

Section 2:

Labour as capitalist labor

Labour as abstract labor
- production of surplus value/surplus labor time
- distinct through its extension in time

A. formal subsumption of labor to capital
B. real subsumption of labor to capital (change in structure of labor process)

Capitalist concern is with labor time, not production as such; with exchange-value/value rather than with use-value

Value of product = C = value of means of production (labor time embodied)+ V = value of labor power (labor time necessary to produce MS)+
S = surplus value, surplus labor time

New labor time in the labor process makes up both V and S, problem of capital is to make sure labor time not limited to V.

All of these measures of labor time must be SNLT - socially necessary labor time, only that which is required on the average. This is necessary so we can ignore qualitative variations in labor and focus only on how long workers are forced to work.

So, production of commodities = unity of
1. labor process
2. value creation

capitalist production of commodities = unity:
1. labor process
2. valorization process (realizations of surplus value)

This chapter opens Part Three of Volume I of Capital. It is the first of a long series of chapters dealing with the sphere of production -that sphere in which people are put to work for capital producing commodities. This chapter resolves the problem set out in Part Two: the source of surplus value in the circuit of capital M-C-M'. At the same time this chapter renews several themes opened as early as chapter 1. It further develops the distinction between useful labor and abstract labor, between use-value and value. Moreover it delves into some of the most central and important issues raised by Marx's whole analysis: the meaning of work, what is central and determining in capitalism, the relation between human kind and nature, the social relations of work and domination. So far in Capital Marx has been using the term labor or work without much effort at critical definition. This chapter provides that definition.

1. The Labour Process

The chapter is divided into two parts, one on the labor process and one on the valorization process; this is basically a division between a generic discussion of work as human activity and a more specific one of work under capitalism. Much of what is laid out in this first part is an elaboration of the qualities of production discussed by Marx in the "introduction" to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. What Marx wants to address here are the characteristics of "production in general", independently "of the particular form it assumes under given social conditions."

He begins by juxtaposing humanity with nature.1 Humans he says, "confront" nature as one of its own forces and proceed to shape it and transform it into forms adapted to their own needs. This confrontation and transformation is stated to be a peculiarly human quality and Marx contrasts this with the activities of other animals, e.g., spiders or bees. What is the difference? In the case of other animals, he argues, activity is performed instinctually without thought or intent, whereas humans act with forethought and purpose, with a conscious will: "But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax." p. 284.

We have here two issues of considerable import: the relationship between humans and nature in general and the question of what distinguishes humans from other species - what is "human nature." With respect to the first, the relationship appears here as one of opposition, of antagonistic contradictions: Humans versus Nature, Humans conquer Nature. But there is no real opposition because Nature appears here without any independent consciousness or will, and thus as a collection of "things" on which humans act. This contrast seems to follow Hegel's in the Philosophy of Right chapters on "property" where "free mind" -an attribute of human beings- is distinguished from and counterpoised to "the external pure and simple, a thing, something not free, not personal, without rights." (paragraph 42) This is also similar to Jean-Paul Sartre's distinction between being in-itself and being for-itself (human being) in which only the latter has the power of self-transformation, of change, and the former is frozen into sameness, unless acted upon by some outside force. This distinction also exists in Marx's discussion of class in- and for-itself, where in the case of the working class we have working class in-itself when it exists only as factor of production for capital, and we have working class for-itself when it acts as subject in its own interest against capital.

Marx held this vision of humanity as active being, juxtaposed to the rest of Nature as passive existence, in one form or another, from a very early period and it was a position in which he was clearly influenced by Hegel. We find this analysis central to the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844: "The worker can create nothing without nature, without the sensuous external world. It is the material on which his labour is realized, in which it is active, from which and by means of which it produces." (Collected Works, Vol. 3, p. 273) Yet Marx presses beyond the theme of Humans against Nature even though they are part of it, one of its forces. In the Manuscripts and in Capital we find evidence of the way in which Marx saw humans transforming nature and giving it meaning only as a moment of humanity's own existence -a reversal of "humans in nature" to "nature in humanity." In the Manuscripts we find Marx defining the being of the human species as lying in its self-conscious treatment of itself "as a universal and therefore a free being." (p. 275, CW, 3) This free being appropriates all of nature and can subordinate it because it is unfree: "The universality of man appears in practice precisely in the universality which makes all nature his inorganic body - both inasmuch as nature is (1) his direct means of life, and (2) the material, the object, and the instrument of his life activity." (CW, 3, p. 276) Thus the oft repeated aim of some Eastern religions that humans should seek oneness with nature becomes nature's oneness with humankind. In Capital as we progress through the three volumes of the book we find an increasing appropriation of nature by humans within capitalism. In the chapters on machinery and modern industry, for example, humans appropriate the forces of nature (wind, water, steam, etc.) to drive machinery. In Vol. III on ground rent we find the problem that arises when the land has been so worked up that it becomes impossible to distinguish the productivity of the incorporated capital investment from the "natural" productivity of that soil -thus a conflict between capitalist farmer and landlord.

But as we will see this oneness of nature within humanity is no smooth, integrated process of development. It is one fraught with contradictions -contradictions directly related to the class contradiction. The subordination of nature under capitalism becomes not source of fulfillment to human beings' active creativity, but rather an element in the social control of the working class. Thus the rape of nature depicted in section 10 of chapter 15 on agriculture.

The second issue: what distinguishes humans from other species can now be seen to be a subset of the first issue. If humans are unique by their self-consciousness and will, then other animals must be simply parts of the "things" -without will and freedom- that constitute nature. "The animal," Marx says in the Manuscripts "is immediately one with its life activity. It does not distinguish itself from it. It is its life activity. Man [on the other hand] makes his life activity itself the object of his will and of his consciousness. He has conscious life activity." (CW, 3, p. 276) Compare to Hegel who says in the Encyclopaedia (paragraph 468): "the animal on the other hand, because it does not think is also incapable of possessing a will."

There are two comments I would make about this argument. First, it is obviously very anthropocentric. Hegel and Marx assume on the basis of what little they know about other species that those species do not think or have a will. Research since their time throws this into sharp question. Work with gorillas that have developed vocabularies of hundreds of words/symbols and who compose sentences with them, work with whales and porpoises whose brains are as complicated and as big as human brains, etc. suggests that both self-consciousness and will are present in other species -though perhaps neither the form nor the content of their consciousness resembles that of humanity. If this is true then some other differentiating characteristic will have to be found to indicate what is specifically human about humans. Perhaps what differentiates humanity is simply the greater or lesser amounts of, and particular combination of characteristics which we share with many other species. There is one further issue which Marx raises and to which I will return momentarily: humans' tool making and using activity.

The second comment is that the above issue is not determining for what follows. Even if other species are conscious and have wills, humans still can be so characterized and analysed. This chapter deals with the labor process, with a particular kind of interaction with the world. The central issue is the character of that interaction. That other animals might share this quality is secondary to its analysis within the human context.

In what follows it is important to remember that labor, or work, as Marx defines it, is only one kind of possible activity for humans. It is a process in which humans reach out, take possession of some aspect of nature and transform it, usually with tools. There are obviously other ways of being. Swimming in the sea, hiking a forest trail or climbing a mountain are both intensive interactions with nature but they involve no transformation per se. The same is true with contemplation -sitting on a hill and feeling the wind and watching clouds- or gymnastics, or running, etc. In all of these activities there is no tool building, no transformation, yet an intensive interaction with the environment. The labor process as Marx defines and analyses it is a very particular process.

What is this labor process? It has Marx says three elements: the workers, their tools, and the material on which they work. Here the human worker is the active element, the objects to be transformed and the tools for that transformation are passive - hence a particular interaction between willful humans and willless nature. Here Marx reinforces his suggestions of how humans make nature part of themselves: "nature becomes one of the organs of his activity, which he annexes to his own bodily organs" (Capital, p. 285). And again vis à vis other species: "The use and construction of instruments of labor although present in germ among certain species of animals, is characteristic of the specifically human labor process, and Franklin therefore defines man as 'a tool-making animal." (Capital, p. 286) In the Manuscripts Marx dealt with this distinction at greater length: an animal, he says, only produces what it needs, "It produces one-sidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom therefrom." (CW, 3, pp. 276-277).

Given the concept of humans acting upon passive nature with their will, labor appears as a kind of activity in which humans by transforming nature (say the raw material through the use of tools) impress their ideas (and thus themselves) upon it. [This is Hegel's second form of taking possession of a thing: by forming it -see paragraph 54-56 in the Philosophy of Right ] In Capital Marx describes this process: "In the labor process, therefore, man's activity, via the instruments of labor, effects an alteration in the object of labor which was intended from the outset . . . the product is a use-value . . . Labour has become bound up in its object: labor has been objectified, the object has been worked on. What on the side of the worker appeared in the form of unrest [Unruhe] now appears, on the side of the product, in the form of being [Sein], as a fixed immobile characteristic." (Capital, p. 287) In other words, in the way of being known by Marx as labor/work, humans translate their ideas into objects and externalize themselves in those objects. But this object, even though transformed by humans, is again but a thing, fixed and immobile. The robot is one advanced example of humans putting themselves into things -creating a machine in their own image that performs many of their own actions. But hence also the fear of creating a self-acting, thinking robot that could have a will of its own. Thus Asimov's programming rules for robots so that they never become a threat.

As nature transformed by humans, use-values appear even more closely to be an element of humankind's "inorganic body"; they embody the will of humans, their creation is a fulfillment of that will, they are thus an extension of their creators. Here humans do not dominate nature because it has no will, they merely shape it, and transform it in their own image. Here we have moved behind that fetishism of commodities that Marx discussed in part 4 of chapter 1: "The mysterious character of the commodity-form consists therefore simply in the fact that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men's own labor as objective characteristics of the products of labor themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things." (Capital, p. 164-5). What this chapter should remind us of, and show us how, is that commodities, as use-values are but the objectified results of human activity. They are not things-in-themselves, they are things-for-us that we have created. Furthermore, they have been created within certain social conditions and bear their stamp. But we will come to this anon.

So, from one point of view we have labor power in action as work, and on the other we have the passive things: tools and raw materials and intermediary goods which together constitute the means of production. To emphasize and sharpen this distinction between the active element: workers working, and the passive element: means of production, Marx uses a vivid metaphor: that of necromancy:

"Living labor must seize upon these things, awaken them from the dead, change them from merely possible into real and effective use-values. Bathed in the fire of labor, appropriated as part of its organism, and infused with vital energy..." (Capital. p. 289)

We can almost see Dr. Frankenstein hovering over his chunk of dead flesh infusing it with vital energy, bringing it to life. This image is certainly consistent with the view of the human/nature relationship as one of active/passive. Only here it becomes living/dead. This is a powerful metaphor and one to which Marx returns with many variations. As we will see he finds this process malevolent only when it falls under the control of capital -only then does Dr. Frankenstein's creation become a monster. At this stage, on the contrary, it is a life-giving process alone. Humans give life to unfree, passive things by incorporating them into the human world. Human life, at least from the view of humans (Marx) is the only true life. Obviously animals like sheep, cows and pigs are alive in the biological sense, but they become alive for humankind only in so far as they become the object of its labor. Hegel is explicit about this and Marx undoubtedly agrees: "What I do to the organic does not remain external to it but is assimilated by it. Examples are the tilling of the soil, the cultivation of plants, the taming and feeding of animals . . ." (Philosophy of Right, para. 56) If it is true that other species are endowed with consciousness and will, then truly humans have been involved in interspecial slavery and murder in their domination of other species, their genocides, and their consumption of animal flesh. The view that humans alone have a will, and impart life to other things is clearly one not limited to Marx and is a central feature and justification for much of our way of life. To believe, or to discover, otherwise would have the most profound ramifications. Ecologists and vegetarians push this kind of thinking: demanding that we find ways of living that do not kill off other species, either because they view the species as complementary to each other in an ecological balance or for simpler moral reasons: you don't murder other sentient beings.

Marx then discusses the labor process not only as production but as consumption -consumption of the means of production. Here again he is drawing on the previous discussion of this in the "introduction" to the Contribution (see Grundrisse, pp. 90-94) In Capital he limits himself to the distinction between labor as productive consumption of the means of production; and individual consumption which reproduces the individual. This is a distinction which becomes more complicated in capitalism where capital reaches beyond the factory to insure that all individual consumption is productive consumption within its own self-reproduction, e.g., that workers' consumption reproduces them as workers and not simply as human beings. In the general case Marx is discussing here where humans are making nature part of their world, part of themselves, it might even seem that productive consumption (i.e., labor process) is subordinated to and ultimately a part of individual consumption! Labor creates products but only as an extension of itself. From the point of view of the individual worker this is clearly less so than for human workers in general because of the division of labor. Workers ultimately produce things for each other, for the species as a whole in an interconnected pattern and not simply for themselves as individuals. But directly or indirectly, productive consumption is but a moment in the reproduction of both the individual and of the species, and thus part of its consumption of nature, individually and collectively.

It is in this sense that Marx speaks, in the Manuscripts of humans as "species-beings." "In creating a world of objects by his practical activity, in his work upon inorganic nature, man proves himself a conscious species-being, i.e., as a being that treats the species as its own essential being, or that treats itself as a species-being." (CW, 3, p. 276) In other words, humans act together as a species as they create things out of inorganic nature, as they transform the world in which they live for themselves. As they treat their own species as their own essential being -they act for themselves rather than for something else, or for someone else. Labor here is simply one form of "spontaneous, free activity"-that form which involves the transformation of nature. "The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man's species-life: for he duplicates himself . . . he sees himself in a world that he has created." (CW, 3, p. 277) It is free activity, free expression of life precisely because as we have seen humans act according to their will: being a conscious being means that humans' own lives are objects for them. "Only because of that is . . . activity free activity." (CW, 3, p. 276)

When at the end of part 1 of this chapter and in part 2 on the valorization process, Marx turns to the consideration of capitalist society. As he turns from the examination of labor as useful labor to the examination of labor as abstract labor, or labor under capital, we discover how the above relationships are distorted and warped. Marx shows how capital institutes the reversal of those relationships such that instead of labor and the products of labor appearing as one activity among many in the fulfillment of human life, labor becomes an imposed, all pervasive, activity and its products become the means of domination instead of the means of fulfillment.

2. The Valorization Process

When Marx turns from production in general, or the labor process in general to consideration of production and the labor process in capital he turns from (in the language of chapter 1) the analysis of useful labor to that of abstract labor -or, what is the same thing, useful labor within capital. He makes this turn at the end of part 1 where he notes that what capital purchases in the market (re: chap. 6) are the means of production (the objective factors of production ) and labor power (the subjective factor). At this point he makes an historical observation: namely that as capital appears on the historical scene and takes over control of production, it takes control of the labor process as it has existed: "The general character of the labour process is evidently not changed by the fact that the worker works for the capitalist instead of for himself; moreover, the particular methods and operations employed . . . are not immediately altered . . . The transformation of the mode of production itself which results from the subordination of labour to capital can only occur later on, and we shall therefore deal with it in a later chapter." (Capital, p. 291) This distinction Marx later develops (in chapters 14-15 and in the Appendix [Vintage/Penguin Ed.]) is the distinction between the "formal subsumption of labor to capital" and the "real subsumption of labor to capital." In the former the labor process is unmodified, in the later it is transformed within the dynamic of the class relations of production. This distinction is emphasized in Capital in the separation of Part 3 on Absolute Surplus Value where the focus is on "how long" workers work, and Part 4 on Relative Surplus Value where the focus is on the transformation of the labor process. Therefore if the labor process is at first untransformed then what changes when capital takes over?

Marx's first suggestion at the end of part 1 of this chapter is twofold: First, "the worker works under the control of the capitalist to whom his labor belongs". Second, the "product is the property of the capitalist". (Capital. pp. 291-2) What changes? The worker's activity of work is no longer free but is subordinated to and controlled by the capital, who by owning the labor-power-set-in-motion also owns the product. Thus the product is no longer the property of the worker but belongs to the capitalist. This part is entitled "The Valorization Process" because it considers the labor process from the point of view of value, both qualitatively and quantitatively, from the point of view of the goals and intentions of the capitalist - the realization of an increase in value or a surplus value, the prime in M - C - M'. Here we discover that labor as value is subordinated to surplus labor or surplus value, and to understand value we must restudy it from the capitalist optic of surplus value. From the point of view of the labor process we had actual labor and means of production. From the point of view of surplus value (work) what counts is the new living labor and the labor embodied in the means of production, or the embodied value and the new value. As Marx makes clear what interests the capitalist is that the new value, the new labor expended in the labor process be of sufficient quantity to cover the costs of the labor power and leave something left over as a surplus. As Marx develops in chapter 8, the value of the product embodies the value of the means of production (in the buying of which the capitalist has invested constant capital -constant because this value does not change) and value newly incorporated in the new product. This new value must contain sufficient value (labor time) to cover the costs of reproducing the workers' capacity to work or labor power (in the buying of which the capitalist has invested variable capital - variable because the amount of work the worker can do varies) and a surplus value over and above this. Symbolically, the value of the product =

C + V + S

where C = value (or socially necessary labor time) embodied in the means of production and V + S = newly produced value (labor time expended in this labor process) of which V = the amount necessary to reproduce the workers and S = surplus labor or surplus value. Since V + S or the total amount of time the workers may work is, and must be, greater than V the time necessary for the production of their means of subsistence, "Therefore the value of labour power, and the value which that labour-power valorizes in the labour process are two entirely different magnitudes," (Capital, p. 300) Since what the capitalist is concerned with here is surplus labor time, what is essential is the length of the labor process. This issue: the length of the working day is the central subject of chapters 7-10 and its determination will be seen to occur within the class struggle.

There is an important interaction here between qualitative and quantitative factors, central to the understanding of "capitalist" production. If the workers work only so long as is necessary to reproduce themselves (this may happen directly in agriculture if they are paid part of the crop, indirectly in manufacturing) then the capitalist obtains no surplus value, and fails qua capitalist. In order to retain control over labor the capitalist must extract surplus value -both to survive if not earning a wage through work, and to invest on a larger scale. The imposition of work must be quantitatively sufficient to result in surplus work or surplus value.

This is vital to his whole discussion -that the major qualitative determination of what is peculiar to capitalist control of the labor process is the amount of work imposed! What we have here is a central feature of capitalism: its tendency to continuously expand the amount of work it imposes, its tendency to expand investment (via reinvestment of surplus value), to expand its hold on human life, on the number of humans brought under its control. The creation of surplus value is the creation of surplus work -surplus over and above that needed to produce the workers as labor-power. The purpose of labor in the labor process in which the laborer controlled the process was the transformation of nature to meet workers' needs and to satisfy and fulfill their being through activity tout court. The purpose of labor under capital is simply more labor than the workers would perform for themselves -surplus labor. For the moment Marx does not question or analyse the reasons for this unending quest by capital for more labor. We can see the imposition of labor as the imposition of a certain kind of social control, but why does this expand? Why the quest for more and more control over more people, over more hours. This is not answered here. Marx simply notes that this is the case and goes on to analyse the implications of this for other aspects of the labor process and the role of humans within it.


A major result of this control by capital, besides forcing more work, is to transform the meaning of work for humans. Because the capitalist controls the labor process the workers work for the capitalist not for themselves. Because the product belongs to the capitalist and not to the worker it appears as something outside and indeed menacing. It is the capitalist who now brings living labor and dead labor together, the subjective element of the worker and the objectified labor of the means of production. It is the capitalist that orders the worker to infuse life into the dead. But now this necromancy has turned malevolent. The dead flesh endowed with life is "an animated monster". Why? Because it is owned by the capitalist and stands alongside the capitalist opposed to the worker. If the product is a machine then it is the capitalist machine which the capitalist will use to enslave the worker. If the product is a means of subsistence then the worker will only have access to it to the degree that he accepts the despotism of the capitalist over his life by working for him. The worker's labor is no longer simply one form of life activity in which there is human interaction with nature of a particular sort, it is now the means by which the worker is controlled and dominated. Where in the case of the free human, work would appear as one "free manifestation of life, hence as an enjoyment of life" (CW, 3, p. 228), now this particular kind of interaction with nature has become "an alienation of life." Whereas for the free human this kind of activity would be one way of affirming "the specific nature of my individuality", an exteriorization of myself in things, under capital this work process in which my own being and talents are embodied in a product is one in which the product is alien to me, owned by the capitalist and used against me. ". . .it is a forced activity and one imposed on me" only through "an external [capitalist] fortuitous need, not through an inner, essential one." (CW, 3, p. 228)

This theme of the "alienation" of work and of the products of work was elaborated by Marx in the 1840s and remains in his analysis even through Capital. It was particularly present and developed in the Manuscripts of 1844 (and in his "Comments on James Mill"). The "alienation" of work means that under capitalism with the capitalists in control of the work process, work is no longer the autonomous means of self-expression and fulfillment to workers but is rather an alien force imposed on them, dominating them. The "alienation" of the product of labor means that the product, rather than being a fulfilling objectification of the worker's personality becomes a weapon for controlling the worker.

Work as a form of life is "alienated" first of all because it is forced from the outside, imposed by capital: "His labor is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labor is shunned like the plague . . . it [labor] is not his own, but someone else's, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to himself, but to another . . . . it is the loss of his self" (CW, 3, p. 274)

The Resentment of Work

There are two elements here: first that the labor is forced, second that the worker feels it as such and shuns it. That the first of these is true is the main point, whether the second is true is secondary. It may well be that a worker feels that work is pleasant or enjoyable even though the work is being done for capital -certainly much of capitalist schooling and ideology is designed to instill the "work ethic" of enjoying work, including work for capital. Therefore whether or not workers like (subjectively) their work is secondary to the objective fact that it is imposed on them. It may be that, as Marx says: "The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working . . ." (CW, 3, p. 274) But then the worker may also have decided, consciously or not, to "make the best of a bad situation" and learned to enjoy working. The issue, it seems to me, is secondary.

However secondary it may be, it should be recognized that dislike for work is indeed pervasive in capitalist society. We are surrounded with cultural manifestations of people's resentment of work: from bumper stickers which say "Work Sucks, But I Need the Bucks" or "I'm in No Hurry, I'm On My Way to Work" through desk and office signs announcing "Work May Not Hurt You, But Why Take The Chance" or "I Love My Job, It's The Work I Hate" or "Work Is A Four-letter Word" to popular music of all sorts. In the previous treatment of primitive accumulation we discussed Bob Dylan's protest song "Maggie's Farm" from the 1960s with the refrain "Ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more". There are many such from all decades. Another, from the Austin punk era of the early 1980s is just as frank:

I Won't Go Back To Work

They tell me everyone has to do it
I better straighten up, I better get to it
But I don't want no one gettin in my face
Or tellin me I better stay in my place

They say everyone has just got to make it
What my life deals out you just got to take it
But I won't take that as white and black
If you push me man, I'll push you back!

No, I won't go back
No, I won't go back
I won't go back to work!!!!

If I don't dress just right, you'll have to excuse it
And if you press the issue I just might lose it
And I ain't got room for your ideas to fill up my head
When you lecture me man I just see red!

No, I won't go back
No, I won't go back
I won't go back to work!!!!
The Explosives
(EP) Black Hole Records,

During the countercultural revolution of the 1960s, the term "alienation" came to be used quite broadly to refer to all feelings of estrangement in society. Marx's Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 coupled with Capital can provide a theoretical weapon to understand not only alienation in work but of the experience of alienation throughout life once we recognize how capitalism has succeeded in subordinating so much of life to imposed work . The following two songs from the 1960s express such feelings of alienations, the first by Simon and Garfunkel from the point of view of the alienated individual and the second by Paul McCartney et al as a commentary on the isolation of others.

The Sounds of Silence

Hello darkness my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because the vision is softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the Sounds of Silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Down the streets of cobblestone
Beneath the halo of the 8th Street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
that split the night and touched the Sounds of Silence

And in the naked light I saw: 10,000 people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dares disturb the Sounds of Silence

Fools said oh you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words like silent raindrops fell
Echo the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words it was forming
And the sign said the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls, tenement halls
Disperse the Sounds of Silence.

Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence, 1965, in Collected Works,
Columbia, 1990, CD 45322

Elenor Rigby

Elenor Rigby picks up
the rice in the church
where her wedding has been
lives in dream
waits at the window
wearing a face
that she keeps
in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong

Father McKenzie
writing the words of a sermon
that no one will hear
look at him working
darning his socks in the night
when there's nobody there
what does he care

(repeat chorus)

Elenor Rigby
died in the church
and was buried along with her name
nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping
the dirt from his hands
as he walks from the grave
no one was saved

(repeat chorus)

sung by Joan Baez on Joan, 1967
Vanguard (LP) VRS-9200

In the first of these songs, the singer wanders the streets alone amidst thousands of equally isolated individuals talking and talking but never connecting -precisely the experience of the alienation of worker from worker, of person from person when all are merely workers-for-capital instead of being involved with each other as a result of their own self-activity. In the second song, the evocation of "all the lonely people" is generalized in the chorus but focused on Elenor Rigby who dies alone and Father McKenzie who buries her alone. These songs gave voice to the individual experiences and feelings of alienation within mass urbanized society and resonated in the emotions of millions. They are not intellectual essays on alienation, like Marx's texts, they are poetic evocations of daily pain and their favorable reception (measured by record sales) demonstrated just how widespread that pain was (and is).

Aliens and Monsters

Irrespective of the feelings of workers, however, work is imposed and that the product of the labor process is used to control the worker -it becomes as the property of the capitalist "something alien, as a power independent of the producer . . . . Under these economic conditions [capital] this realization of labour appears as loss of realization for the workers; objectification as loss of the object and bondage to it; appropriation as estrangement, as alienation." ". . . the greater this product, the less is he himself . . . the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien." (CW, 3, p. 272) As property of the capitalist, as either means of production or means of subsistence, the product of labor becomes the means of forcing laborers to labor, it becomes capital. The alien in this horror movie is capital. The worker has imbued dead, objectified means of production with life, created something new, but then this product raised from the dead turns monster and dominates its creator. This is a complete reversal of the labor process described in the first part of chapter 7. There humans are god-like, mobilizing passive or dead things, and endowing them with life. Here capital, by using dead things (MP, MS) as moments of itself, mobilizes and dominates living labor. It subordinates work as one kind of life activity to itself, the worker "is lost to himself" and has the misfortune to be "a living capital." Here the worker appears as a zombie - the living dead, human life suspended and used by death. Instead of working to live, we have living to work -the ideal of the capitalist work ethic. Humans become as Marx says "nothing more than workers" (CW, 3, p. 283) Or again in the Grundrisse (p. 708): "the positing of an individual's entire time as labor time, and his degradation therefore to mere worker, subsumption under labor." Instead of work being one form of being for humans, all forms of human being are eliminated except for work through the use of the products of labor to dominate labor, to force it to work, to produce ever more surplus value. Thus, under capital, alienation takes four forms:

1. The alienation of workers from their labor: living labor becomes alien to humans, a means for controlling them rather than fulfilling them

2. The alienation of workers from their product: the products humans create become alien to them, used for dominating and controlling them.

3. The alienation of workers from their "species-being": therefore work, which was one means of human interaction, one way of fulfilling human specie's-being as a collectivity, becomes merely a means to insure individual existence. "In tearing away from [humans] the object of [their] production [the product] estranged labor tears away from [them their] species-life, [their] real objectivity as a member of the species." (CW, 3, p. 277)

4. The alienation of workers from each other: the stripping away of their self-realization within their species means the "estrangement of man from man . . . . What applies to a man's relation to his work, to the product of his work, and to himself, also holds of a man's relation to the other man . . ." (CW, 3, p. 277) Thus capital ruptures the interactions between people and forces them to exist and to act only for capital, they are pitted against one another, estranged from one another precisely in so far as they are defined only in terms of capital and not in terms of one another -thus the loneliness and separateness of life in capitalist society portrayed in the songs above.

Gone are the positive phenomena associated with the interaction of humans with each other in their work and in the sharing of their products. Earlier, Marx wrote of these interactions: "In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man's essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man's essential nature. I would have been for you the mediator between you and the species . . . in the individual expression of my life I would have directly created your expression of your life, and therefore in my individual activity I would have directly confirmed and realized my true nature, my human nature, my communal nature. Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature." (CW, 3, p. 228) Thus capital is seen as undermining not only the individual human's self-realization through the transformation of nature, but also the mutual interactions of individuals each carrying on these activities communally.

In Capital all of this discussion is left out. Marx does not insert this long discussion of the Manuscripts into Capital which he wrote years later. This had led some interpreters to see a sharp rupture between the "young" Marx of the 1840s and the "mature" Marx of the 1860s.2 Yet, there are clearly important elements of this analysis which persist in Capital. The product produced by workers for capital does become a "monster" (Capital, p. 302) Later, in Chapter 10, we find this monster is pictured by Marx as a Vampire! "Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." (Capital, p. 342) But dead labor is precisely the products produced by workers, products that have become alien objects, part of capital, and are used to dominate workers. The expression "sucking living labor" clearly means forcing humans to work, and the more they are forced to work the more products are produced, the more surplus value, the more capital thrives. Still further (Capital, p. 353) he speaks of capital's "were-wolf hunger for surplus labor", again the alien monster seeking ever to impose more work. And then in Chapter 11 we find in somewhat less picturesque language: "It is no longer the worker who employs the means of production, but the means of production which employ the worker. Instead of being consumed by him as material elements of his productive activity, they consume him as the ferment necessary to their own life-process, and the life-process consists solely in its own motion as self-valorizing value." (Capital, p. 425). Further, in the chapters on machinery and modern industry there is a whole discussion about how under capital the worker comes to serve the machine rather than visa versa. Clearly the core of the analysis of alienation is very much alive in Capital in so far as it concerns the way capital distorts humans' relationship with nature as one form of activity, humans become the tools of capital, of things, rather than being their creator as creating them as extensions of self. What is missing, it seems, is the way Marx in the early writings spoke freely of the "feelings" of workers. Then he could discourse freely about workers "enjoying" activity, or finding it "hateful", of "feeling at home" or of "feeling outside", etc. In short what is absent in Capital is any extended discussion of working class consciousness and its relationship to their situation. Marx is concerned here with the dynamics of capitalist domination or with working class struggle against it (e.g., chap. 10) but he no longer spends time exploring the relationship between what is going on and what workers think or feel about it. He examines their subjectivity in their actions rather than in their minds.

The Alienated Capitalist

Although Marx is unconcerned with capitalists as individuals, many social commentators, novelists, song writers and film makers have been. A recurring theme in their treatment of the fate of individuals who become capitalists has been that "success" does not breed happiness. "Success", of course, being defined in terms of moving up the capitalist hierarchy of power, success in moving into positions where you are of a manager and less of a worker being managed. The payoff for such movement is power and wealth, income and status. The image of the successful capitalist having substituted in contemporary society for older images of the royalty and nobility. Against such ideology which portrays the capitalist as the hero of capitalist society has been pitted the more critical view that while "success" is materially rewarding it's achievement is also generally been spiritually and socially exhausting. The cost of competing has been the isolation of the workaholic -which is not all that different from the isolation of the worker enslaved to the factory. In both cases life is reduced to work with all its alienation, especially the isolation from fulfilling relationships with others. Sometimes this theme has been developed as critical commentary, sometimes as a warning to those tempted by the obvious payoffs of "success" but blind to the costs. One such treatment in the 1960s was Simon and Garfunkel's "Richard Cory":

Richard Cory

They say that Richard Cory
owns one half of this whole town
with elliptical connections
to spread his wealth around
born into society
a banker's only child
he had everything a man could want
power, grace and style

But I work in his factory
and I curse the life I'm livin
and I curse my poverty
and I wish that I could be
oh I wish that I could be
oh I wish that I could be
Richard Cory

The papers print his picture
almost everywhere I go
Richard Cory at the opera
Richard Cory at the show
and the rumours of his parties
and the orgies on his yacht
Oh he surely must be happy
With everything he's got

(repeat chorus)

He freely gave to charity
he had the common touch
and they were grateful for his patronage
and they thanked him very much
so my mind was filled with wonder
when the evening headlines read
Richard Cory went home last night
and put a bullet through his head

(repeat chorus)

Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence, 1965
in Collected Works, 1990, Columbia CD 45322

Recommended Further Reading

As indicated in the commentary above, the key references to Marx's work on "alienation" are his "Comments on James Mill" and the section on "Estranged Labor" in "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844", both of which are now available in the Karl Marx Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 3, New York: International Publishers, 1975, pp. 211-228, 270-282. Two contemporary Marxist treatments that interpret Marx and seek to expand upon his work are Ivan Mézáros, Marx's Theory of Alienation, London, 1970 and Bertell Ollman, Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971. There is today an enormous literature on alienation as a result of a virtual explosion of activity on the part of sociologists and psychologists in the wake of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and in response to widespread job dissatisfaction.

Concepts For Review

useful laborabstract laborcapital as vampire

nature in humanitylaborbeing in-itself

labor processalienationbeing for-itself

valorizationproductive consumption

species-beingc + v + s

formal subsumption of laborreal subsumption of labor

Questions For Review
(An * means that one possible answer to the question can be found at the end of this study guide.)

*1. Explain the difference between labor and the labor process and why it is important for Marx.

*2. Explain the connection between Chapter Seven and Chapter One, especially section two of Chapter One.

3. Discuss and critique Marx's comments on the relation between human beings and the rest of nature. What is particular about humans that distinguishes them from other animals for Marx and Hegel? In what sense are their views species-centric?

4. What are the three elements of the labor process and what are their relationships to each other? How do these relationships change under capitalism?

5. Compare Marx's concepts of class in-itself and for-itself with Sartre's concepts of being in-itself and being for-itself.

6. Compare Marx's concepts of class in-itself and for-itself with Sartre's concepts of being in-itself and being for-itself.

7. What does Marx mean by species-being? How does it relate to labor and production and how to the relations among human beings?

*8. Under what circumstances can labor be one form of "spontaneous, free activity" with the potential of being fulfilling for human beings.

9. What is valorization? Explain it in terms of its usual meaning and in terms of Marx's analysis.

10. Distinguish between the formal and the real subsumption of labor to capital and explain the relationship between this distinction and primitive accumulation.

11. Why is it that in order to understand value in Marx, we must also understand surplus value?

12. Explain the meaning of C = c + v + s. How central is s in understanding valorization and wherein lies the struggle between the workers and capital in this equation?

*13. What does Marx mean by "alienation"? Describe all the various aspects of work and life that fall under this rubric for Marx.

*14. Explain the following comment in social/class terms: "Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks."

15. From your reading of Chapter Seven, how much truth do you feel there is in the assertion that in this chapter Marx focuses more on the processes of alienation than he does on how workers feel about it.

1 In Capital Marx, like most writers in his day, used the term "Man" to designate the human species. I will use non-sexist alternatives such as humanity.
2 This was the position of French Communist Party philosopher Louis Althusser and his co-author Etienne Balibar in their book Reading Capital in which they argued the existence of an "epistemological break" between the "young" Marx of the Manuscripts and the "mature" Marx of Capital.


Chapter 8: Constant and Variable Capital

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

Constant Capital is the value invested in the means of production (MP) and thus embodied in them. Therefore, when Marx speaks of constant capital, he sometimes refers to the MP itself and sometimes to the value invested.

Variable Capital is the value invested in the hiring of labor power (LP) and embodied in the means of subsistence necessary for its reproduction. Therefore, when Marx speaks of variable capital, he sometimes speaks of the LP itself and sometimes of the value invested.

Labor: preserves old value, creates new value

Labor: "creates" value by virtue of its character as abstract labor
Labor: "preserves" value by virtue of its character as useful labor, i.e., because it has the specific character necessary to use the means of production and raw material and to transform them

Without the general character of abstract labor, there would be no value created.
Without the specific skill the product would not emerge or would emerge scarred or
unsellable "”i.e., with no, or less value.

LABOR, through working, creates new value, if more than the value of its labor power, then it creates surplus value. The more work, the more value. So the value transfer is variable.

The MEANS OF PRODUCTION transfer their value to the product as their use-value is expended. (Assuming they are themselves the product of labor and thus embody value.) This may be done quickly (raw materials that are consumed completely) or over a prolonged period of time (machines that are depreciated). It may include waste. But, "their value undergoes a metempsychosis. It deserts the consumed body to occupy the newly created one." So the value transfer is constant.

Secondary points:

1) Marx treats the repairs of machines, i.e., the value imparted to them during repairs, the same as their original creation. The repair labor is added to the original labor to determine their value. So depreciation in the text is that "which no doctor can cure."

2) Although the value transferred to the product = c + v + s, if for some reason the SNLT required for producing MP or LP should rise or fall, then the value of c + v in the product will rise or fall and s will diminish or increase accordingly.

This is one chapter where Marx's use of language can be particularly confusing. When he speaks of labor "preserving" or "creating" value, he makes value sound like some peculiar essence, some ethereal substance which can be conjured into being, conserved or transferred from one object to another. This is particularly true with his reference to value undergoing a "metempsychosis" which usually refers to the transmigration of souls from one body to another. Several of these verbs: preserve, create, transfer, are all transitive verbs which seem to have an object: value. Unfortunately, the meaning of value is obscured by this language.
Creating and Transferring Value

When Marx speaks of labor "creating" value, he is speaking simply of working within the context of capitalist institutions. Any labor which fills the prerequisites of capital "creates" value, that is to say it forms the substance of value. Workers "create" value every time they work within this context. To say labor "creates value by virtue of its character as abstract labor" is simply to say that it performs the roles capital assigns to it; it creates commodities which are sold and on which a profit is realized and in the process it serves as the basic means of social control, i.e., of organizing society around capitalist institutions.

When Marx speaks of labor "preserving" value, he refers simply to the way labor, if it is performed competently, guarantees that the labor already embodied in raw materials and means of production actually contributes to the creation of the final product, and therefore counts as part of the labor time required to produce that product.

We can see, therefore, that the language can be interpreted consistently with what we have already said about value before, it is just unfortunate that the language chosen is not clearer.

We should note, that in this chapter as in chapter 7, Marx is developing further aspects of the fundamental dichotomy he set out in chapter 1 between abstract labor and useful labor. Here it is the useful labor, which is to say the actual concrete processes of labor which produce a use-value, which preserves, through its competence the labor already invested in prior stages of production. It is the characteristic of that useful labor as labor as such, as labor within capital which makes it count as additional value.

With respect to Marx's comments on the repair of machinery, the point is a simple one: the labor it takes to create a machine and the labor it takes to keep it running are all necessary for its existence as a machine and must count as value. More interesting for us is the analogy we can draw between the labor that repairs machinery and the labor that repairs labor power. Later on in chapter 23 of Capital Marx has some discussion of this issue but we can at least mention it here.
Repairing and Producing Labor Power

In Marx's discussion in chapter 6 the labor required to reproduce the ability and willingness to work was that involved in creating the value of labor power, that is to say the labor embodied in the means of subsistence. The issue of the labor of repair, however, raises new issues. Partly such labor can be analogous to that already discussed. For example, the labor that produces on the job coffee that keeps workers going is much the same as that which produces the food they buy with their wages. The coffee is clearly part of a non-money wage. But what of the labor of cooking, of caring for the sick, of patching back together the psychological wounds incurred on the job? What, in short, of all the work called housework which contributes to the daily, weekly and annual repair of labor power? This labor does not create commodities purchased with the wage. Nor does it create commodities which the capitalist purchases and then provides to the worker. (Unless we want to see the family wage as purchasing such services from houseworkers.) Such labor, because it does not produce a capitalist marketed good, is not counted in the value of labor-power. It certainly effects that value, but it is not included in it.

How does it effect the value of labor power? It does so by influencing the value necessary for the reproduction of labor power. One of the reasons why labor power in rural areas of the Third World is so cheap is because a great deal of housework is done on subsistence plots of land. That housework produces subsistence crops and other forms of food as well as household implements and even sometimes clothing. In the cities, where such work cannot be done, wages in general must be higher simply to guarantee the reproduction of the labor force. It would seem that the more of this work is done the less the value of labor power, ceteris paribus.

Even in the developed countries such labor is important. In the early 1970s when food prices jumped as a result of Nixon Administration manipulation of the supply and demand for agricultural goods, there was a rapid expansion in home gardening and canning. This home production constituted an expansion of housework to offset an attack on the real wage (the value of labor power). People wanted to continue to eat as well as they did before prices jumped. Of course, they sometimes forgot that even when they were successful in maintaining their standards of consumption, the increase in the amount of work they were forced to perform meant a drop in that part of their standard of living made up of leisure time.

In general the amount of work involved in patching up, in repairing labor power is probably much greater than that involved in repairing machinery. When you count all the work done by individuals trying to take care of themselves and all the work done by spouses and even kids, you have a tremendous amount of work "”and none of it is taken into account by capitalist accounting methods, e.g., national income accounting which only tallies up the market values of sold commodities. Only when workers are forced to have such work done by professionals: cooks, housekeepers, cleaning establishments, prostitutes, psychotherapists, and so on, does such work produce a marketed service which is counted as part of the value of labor power.

In one area this has become a public point of contention. In recent divorce and separation legal cases women have argued persuasively that their work has economic value and should be reimbursed. Some economists have argued that housework should have a value imputed to it and should be included in measures of Gross National Product. There has even been an international "wages for housework" campaign of women demanding regular payment for their work "”by business, of course, through the state. To the degree that such payments become commonplace, such housework comes to be counted directly in the value of labor power.

All of this concerns a situation in which capital has more or less successfully extended its control into the community. But, of course, at the same time it creates a new terrain of struggle and one on which the working class has won some victories in recent years.
Recommended Further Reading

On the logic of the "wages for housework" analysis of the work of women in the home and their demands for payment for their work see the seminal work by Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, Bristol: Falling Wall Press, 1972.
Concepts For Review
creation of value
preservation of value
Questions For Review
(An * means that one possible answer to the question can be found at the end of the study guide.)

*1. What do you think Marx means by the "creation" or "preservation" of value? If you disagree with the interpretation I have set forward, explain your reasons.

2. Define and distinguish constant and variable capital. In what sense is there a conflict between the two?

3. Why might workers want more constant capital as opposed to less?

*4. Discuss the analogy I have suggested between the work of repairing constant capital and that of repairing variable capital. What do you think of the way Marx ignores housework in his calculation of the value of labor power?

5. What is there about subsistence peasants that makes it cheap for capitalists to hire them?

*6. What would be the counterparts of constant and variable capital in the "industry" of creating and repairing labor power?


Chapter 9: The Rate of Surplus Value

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion
Section 1: The Degree of Exploitation of Labor Power

surplus value = excess of value of product over value of inputs = s
value of inputs = constant capital (c) + variable capital (v) = c + v
total value of product = C' = (c+v)+s
C' - C = s

constant capital = fixed capital (machinery, plant, etc) + raw materials (c2)
but fixed capital gives up only a part of its value (c1) in each period
so, constant capital (c) in a given period = c1 + c2

new value created = v + s
= reproduction of value of labor power + a surplus
= necessary labor time + surplus labor time
= necessary labor + surplus labor

measures of s:
s/v = rate of surplus value = rate of exploitation
s/(c+v) = rate of profit

Partly these sections are just setting out some basic definitions that Marx will utilize in the rest of the text. Partly, he is explaining some of the implications of the last two chapters where he introduced surplus value, constant capital and variable capital.

The most interesting thing in this section concerns the difference between the two measures of the rate of extracting a surplus from the workers. The rate of surplus value compares surplus labor time with necessary labor time and measures the surplus in terms of the workers' labor as a whole; it gives an idea about what proportion of the workers' day is given up to the capitalist versus the amount spent on self-reproduction, i.e., reproducing the value of labor power. This is very much a worker's view of the issue because what is at issue is the worker's time and its allocation. Clearly, the higher the ratio s/v the higher percentage of the workers' day is being appropriated by the capitalist and the smaller the part the workers are working for themselves.

The rate of profit, on the other hand, which measures the surplus labor time against the capitalist's total investment, is a measure primarily of interest to the capitalists, in so far as it measures how much they earn in relation to how much they had to invest originally. This rate of profit, although expressed in value terms is a good first approximation for the actual calculations of rates of profit that occur in business and therefore expresses the capitalist point of view. (Of course, in actual calculations business would not only be measuring costs in money terms but would also take into account things like taxes on profits, from which Marx makes abstraction here.)

The rate of surplus value is never calculated by the capitalist, nor is it likely that any would ever attempt such a calculation, at least not publicly, for it would draw attention to the time the workers work for the capitalists. This of course is just Marx's purpose; he presents this moment of analysis to clarify what is going on from the workers' point of view, the view the capitalists would prefer to hide or cover up.

Another interesting point, not raised here by Marx, but worth contemplating, is the relations between necessary and surplus labor time understood dynamically. Isn't surplus labor today merely going to be invested tomorrow to raise the productivity of necessary labor and thus the standard of living? And if such investment is in fact necessary for such increases of productivity then does it make any sense today to speak of "surplus" labor? Shouldn't we rather speak of labor necessary today and labor necessary for the future? These questions throw us back to the issue of what is "necessary" about necessary labor, an issue first raised in chapter 6 and one that requires a more complex answer than Marx gave us there if we are to understand the dynamics of capitalist development and get beyond a static concept of exploitation. Marx addresses these questions in chapter 10.
Outline of Marx's Argument
Section 2: The Representation of Components of Value by Parts of the Product

Marx uses an example to show how the three components of value of the product: c, v, and s can be represented by proportional parts of the product itself. In his example the total product of 20 lbs of cotton yarn which is worth 30s (shillings) contains the following components of value:

c = 24s (shillings)
v = 3s
s = 3s
C' = 30s

These values of 24, 3 and 3 can be represented by 16, 2 and 2 lbs of yarn respectively. At the same time, following this logic, he also notes that newly created value of 12 hours work (and 6s value) can be represented by only 4 lbs of yarn. At 6s/12hrs, or .5s/hr, the 30s final product embodies 60 hrs labor, of which the other 48 derive from c.

Then, using the same example, Marx notes how the same components of value: c, v and s can be represented in terms of proportional parts of the total time employed in production, i.e., 12hrs. In this case the values of c = 24s, v = 3s and s = 3s, could be represented by 9hrs 38min, 1hr 12min, and 1hr 12min respectively.
Section 3: Senior's "Last Hour"
Marx here critiques Nassau Senior's argument, in defense of British manufacturers against the Factory Acts and against the workers efforts to reduce the working day to 10 hours, that the reduction of the working day by one hour would wipe out all manufacturing profits.

Senior's Argument (in Marx's jargon): the component parts of the total value of the final product can be represented by proportional parts of the time worked (as Marx described in section 2). In his case, the value of c + v is represented by 10.5 hours, the value of s by 1.0 hours. If, he therefore concludes, the working day is reduced by one hour, from 11.5 to 10.5, the surplus value s will be eliminated.

Marx's Critique: a) this is silly, why would a reduction of 1 hour drop s to zero? Why not drop c+v to 9.5 and use less constant capital and labor? b) more seriously he points out that in each hour of the working day, constant capital is being used up and its value transferred to the product through the exercise of labor, therefore a reduction of one hour would reduce not only total labor time but also the use of constant capital. Assuming the ratio of s/v equals unity, then 5.75 hours are producing v and 5.75 hours are producing s (where 5.75 + 5.75 = 11.5) A reduction of one hour, assuming wages constant would drop s from 5.75 to 4.75 and lower the rate of surplus value from 100% to 82.6%, hardly an elimination of profit! In a footnote, Marx notes that Senior "to his honor" later on came to support the factory legislation.

In another footnote, Marx notes with sarcasm Andrew Ure's argument that less work would also corrupt children's morals because "idleness is the parent of vice." This, of course, is an argument that has hardly disappeared and is often repeated to justify keeping children in school for long hours.

These two sections go together because Marx is preparing in section 2 the critique of Senior that he wants to make in section 3. At first he sets out what appears to be a rather formalistic argument that the components of value can be "represented" by either parts of the product, or by parts of the time used to produce the product. Why anyone would want to do this is unclear and the example given is tedious. We discover the motivation in the next section, however, when we see how Senior has used this kind of an argument to defend profits.

Marx's critique is simple enough. He has only to show the fallacy of Senior's reasoning by recalling that each hour of production processes elements of constant capital and, by Senior's assumptions, one half the total time of labor creates surplus value, not just the last hour. Now, Marx concludes his argument in terms of the rate of surplus value, which he points out will only drop from 100% to 82.6%. Some may find this argument troubling, however, not because it is wrong, in Marx's terms, but because it is not framed in terms of profit (or net profit) as Senior would have it. It is, however, easy to frame the conclusion in terms of absolute levels of profit, the rate of profit or the rate of exploitation as Marx has done.

Restating Senior's example in Marx's terms, the initial case of an 11.5 hr day gives the following results:
C' = 115,000 (total value of product)
c = 95,000 (constant capital, adding depreciation to other c)
v = 10,000 (wages, assuming s/v = 1, or 100%)
net profit or s = 10,000 (absolute level of surplus value)
so, c + v = 105,000
therefore s/(c + v) = 9.5%

Senior's horror story of a one hour drop in the working day gives the following calculations for a 10.5 hour working day:

C' = 105,000 (assuming production falls proportionately, prices constant)
({115,000/11.5}10.5 = 105,000)
c = 86,739.1 (assuming costs fall proportionately)
({95,000/11.5}10.5 = 86,739.1)
v = 10,000 (assuming the wage bill remains the same)
so, c + v = 96,739.1
net profit s = 8,260.9 (105,000 - 96,739.1)
therefore, s/(c + v) = 8.5%
therefore, s/v = 82.6% (as in Marx's calculations)

So, we see in Senior's example that if the working day is reduced one hour the result would be a drop in absolute profits from 10,000 to 8,260.9 or a drop in the rate of profit from 9.5% to 8.5%, both of which confirm the argument Marx is making that Senior drastically overstates the potential impact of the 10 hours law on profits. We can also note, that in the more likely case that the wage rate rather than the the wage bill remained the same, the reduction of one hour would drop the wage bill (v) from 10,000 to 9,130.4, c would still be at 86,739.1 and profits (C' - {c + v}) would therefore only fall to 9,130.5 + with a resultant negligible change in s/v and s/(c + v)!

The history of Senior's hour, and of all other episodes like it --such as the one Marx cites in 1848-- bespeak much more than false logic. The desperate arguments put forward by capitalists and their apologists to resist any reduction of work time reflect more than fear of losing profits, their arguments which often foretell doom and societal collapse reflect a deeper intuition that all reductions in work threaten the social fabric of capitalism as a civilization built on the subordination of life to work. Down the path of less and less work lies another kind of world, one in which capitalists as a class are completely superfluous.

Partly this can be seen in Ure's argument that Marx cites in a footnote: the panic concern that a life not structured by work would be both idle and immoral. This has been typical of the capitalist work ethic whose ghost can still be found lurking in the darker spirits of society. The greatest fear of teacher's strikes is that of an uncontrolled mob of children being turned loose on society --this despite all evidence of how school discipline destroys creativity and imagination --qualities which only grow when given free time for free development.
Section 4: Surplus-Product

surplus product = the portion of the product that represents surplus value

rate of surplus product = surplus product/necessary product
In this last, short section, Marx simply finishes his parallels between the distribution of value and the distribution of product. He emphasizes the ratio of surplus product to necessary product (i.e., the part that goes to working class consumption) for the same reason he emphasizes the ratio s/v: they both highlight distribution between the classes.

In the final footnote of this section (#13) Marx quotes T. Hopkins who writes:

"To an individual with a capital of £20,000, whose profits were £2,000 per annum, it would be a matter quite indifferent whether his capital would employ a hundred or a thousand men [ . . . ]"

Such indifference is an attribute of what I would call a narrow-minded, fetishistic capitalist who can not see beyond the bottom line --one who thinks that the point of business is merely profit making and self enrichment. Such capitalists rarely rise to the level of policy making because they cannot see that it often does matter whether a hundred or a thousand people are employed. Being organized around the endless and universal imposition of work, capitalists collectively must worry about whether they are providing enough employment to absorb the existing labor force. If they do not, and unemployment grows, and if it grows too large, their ability to control society is threatened. It has been the recognition of this that has driven policy makers in high unemployment areas to be concerned with the issue of "appropriate technology," i.e., whether a given technology will contribute to solving the "problem" of unemployment. [NB: a certain amount of unemployment is necessary in capitalism to keep pressure on workers to accept alienated low paying jobs; but too much unemployment creates a terrain of unrest.] It was also this recognition during the last twenty years of the 20th Century that led the International Labor Organization to warn of the need for the creation of a billion jobs by century's end to absorb the growth in the world's labor force --or risk widespread unrest.
Concepts For Review
necessary labor time
surplus labor time
rate of profit
rate of exploitation
Senior's last hour
surplus produce
Questions For Review
(An * means that one possible answer can be found at the end of the study guide.)

*1. Explain the difference between the rate of exploitation and the rate of profit. Why is the former a reasonable measure for workers and the latter a reasonable measure for capitalists?

*2. Discuss the concept of necessary labor. What is included; what is excluded? What would be the results of redefining the concept in dynamic terms, e.g. over time, rather than statically as Marx defines it?

3. Keeping in mind that one pound = 20 shillings, that a quarter = 8 bushels, examine Marx's example taken from Jacob. What would the total value of the produce have to be for his example to be consistent? What would this imply for his measures of price and productivity?

4. Why do you think Marx goes through the analysis of Section 2 looking at c, v and s in terms of proportional parts of the product?

*5. Explain Senior's argument as to why the extension of the working day by one hour would wipe out capitalist profits and bring wreck and ruin to the economy. Then explain the fallacy in his reasoning. Would his analysis be relevant today? Why or why not?


Chapter 10: The Working Day

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

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.


Chapter 11: The Rate and Mass of Surplus Value

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion
The rate of surplus value = s/v = (for example): (6 hours)/(6 hours),
or 100% or (3 shillings)/(3 shillings), or 100%
First Law:

mass of surplus value = Sm = Vt(s/v),

where Vt = (v = value of average labor power)(# workers)
= total variable capital
= total hrs necessary to reproduce LP

Implication of First Law:

A decline in one factor can be compensated by an increase in another in order to maintain the mass of surplus value.
o e.g., if Vt declines, a rise in s/v can maintain Sm at the original level. Therefore, the level of exploitation is, to some degree, independent of the supply of workers.
o e.g., a decline in s/v can be compensated by an increase in the number of workers.
(At the level of society, the growth of population sets a limit to such an increase.)

Second Law:
But, the absolute limit of the average working day (< 24 hrs) sets an absolute limit to the degree to which the decline in the number of workers can be compensated by a rise in s/v through an extension of the working day.

e.g., if Vt = 1500 for 500 workers, s/v = 100% for a working day of 12 hours, then Sm = 1500.

if the number of workers drops to 100 and Vt = 300, and the length of the working day is raised to its physical limit, say of 18 hours, the 100 workers will only be able to produce a Sm of 600.

Third Law:
The mass of surplus value varies directly with the investment in variable capital, i.e.,
ΔSm/ΔVt > 0

this is not affected by differences or changes in c/v
"”either between different branches of industry
"”or in the same branch

But, this law contradicts immediate experience which is that different industries tend to generate the same rate of profit even though their organic composition of capital may be quite different .

Observations on the Definitions of Classes:

* Independent workers: own/control their means of production
e.g., small farmers concerned primarily with their own subsistence
* Capitalist who-also-works: hybrid, e.g., a "small master", such as those in the guilds
* Capitalist qua capitalist: "capital personified"
"”fully devoted to the "control of the labor of others"
"”requires an increase in the number of workers controlled
"”this was opposed by the guilds
"”in order for this to happen some minimum amount of capital had to be available to the would-be capitalist
"”if minimum too large then capitalists might acquire either 1) state subsidies or 2) a monopoly in the market for their goods.
"”thus Hegel's quantitative change (increasing number of employees) which becomes qualitative (conversion of the small master into a capitalist)

Main Points:

1. Capital develops within production until it acquired command over labor
2. This command is coercive:
"”forces people to work more than necessary for their needs
"”more coercive than all earlier systems of directly compulsory labor "” unbounded.
3. At first this coercion is exercised with no change in technology.
4. But the relation between workers and their means of production is soon inverted and the MP
"”become the means for the absorption of the LP of others
"”come to consume the workers instead of visa versa

This chapter provides a summary of some keys ideas in section III on absolute surplus value. So, the first thing to keep in mind is that within the context of the discussion of absolute surplus value, the intensity and productivity of labor are held constant.
The First Law
Thus, the First Law states that the only way the capitalists can increase the mass of surplus value is by increasing the number of workers (which raises Vt) and/or increasing the length of the working day (which raises s/v by raising s {and v + s}).

(It should be obvious that an increase in Vt that occurred because of an increase in the value of labor power would undercut the mass of surplus value, not increases it. Mathematically this would occur because an increase in Vt that occurred because of an increase in v would also result in a fall in s (and in s/v) as long as the length of the working day were held constant at v + s. In other words, the better paid workers would be producing less surplus value in the same work time. For this reason, Marx assumes v is constant in this chapter and changes in Vt are due solely to changes in the number of workers.)

Let's look at an example of the implications of the first law, a case in which a decline in the number of workers is offset by an increase in the length of the working day (which produces an increase in s/v)

Assume: v = 3 shillings [or 6 hours of work],
# workers = 100,
so, Vt = 300 shillings, [or (v{#}) = (3"¢100), or (6"¢100 = 600 hrs)]
if s/v = .5 (or 50%), [1.5/3 in shillings, 3/6 in terms of hours)]
then, Sm = 150 shillings in a 9 hr working day [9 = 6(v) + 3(s)]
= 300 hrs surplus labor [3"¢100].

If Vt declines from 300 to 150, because the number of workers falls from 100 to 50,
Sm would fall to 75.
But, if the length of the working day is lengthened from 9 to 12, then s/v will rise
from 3/6 (or .5) to 6/6 (or 1, or 100%) and Sm will remain at 150 shillings.
[before 100 workers were producing 300 surplus hours (100"¢3hrs), now 50 workers are producing 300 surplus hours (50"¢6)]

In other words, if for some reason capitalists must reduce employment, then they can try to compensate by getting their remaining workers to work longer so as to raise the rate of surplus value and to keep getting the same amount of surplus value. The law also says that if workers somehow manage to reduce the rate of exploitation, e.g., by forcing up v (or wages), then the only way for the capitalists to maintain their total mass of surplus value would be by putting workers to work.
The Second Law
The point of the second law is that this process of compensation has its limits and those limits are set by the absolute length of the average working day. Biologically speaking, that absolute limit must be something less than 24 hours because no one can work continuously without rest and sleep without dying. At the height of capitalist power the level of such an absolute limit was explored as capital pushed the daily number of hours people were forced to work out to 14, 15 even 18 hours. Marx recognized that such extreme limits, although sustainable for a number of years, had the long run effect of shortening the life time of the workers. This, of course, didn't matter to the capitalist as long as new recruits were available "”from new generations or from immigration or through foreign conquest. Fortunately, as we saw in chapter 10, the absolute limit came to be set not biologically but socially, by the power of the working class. Moreover, that limit was forced down over time by working class struggle. Therefore, this "absolute limit" he evokes here is a very real historical reality which constrains the capitalists' ability to cope with a contraction of their labor supply.

In the example given above, we have seen that a halving of the labor force (e.g., a drop from 100 to 50 workers) could be compensated by a doubling of the s/v from 50 to 100% so that Sm stayed at 150 shillings (or 300 hours). But what the second law says is that given some limit to the length of the working day (say 18 hours), at some point a drop in the number of workers cannot be compensated. We can calculate that limit in this case by working backward using Sm = Vt (s/v) = (v"¢#)(s/v). If 18 hrs = 6v (assuming v fixed) + 12 (s), then extending the working day to its maximum means that an Sm of 150 shillings or 300 hours would be produced by "#" workers when 300 hrs = (6"¢#)(12/6) or 150 shillings = (3"¢#)(6/3). In both cases # = 25. In other words, if the number of workers fell below 25, it would be impossible for those remaining to produce 150 shillings worth of surplus value even working the maximum of 18 hours. A similar calculation will show that there would be such a limit even if workers could be forced to work 24 hours a day. So the limit will exist even if the capitalists had the power to literally work people to death.

For Marx, as he suggests briefly, this limit is important primarily because while capital always seeks to produce the maximum mass of surplus value, there are also strong tendencies for it to also reduce the number of workers as much as possible in any production process in order to facilitate control over the remaining workers. This tendency he will discuss at length in the next section on relative surplus value. It will appear as a part of the technological changes capitalists introduce in order to raise the mass and rate of surplus value by raising productivity.
The Third Law
The third law, that with v and s/v constant, the mass of value and surplus value produced is exclusively dependent on the mass of labor set in motion, is clearly derived directly from the first law. We can also state the 3rd law as: Sm varies directly with the number of workers employed, or ΔSm/ΔVt >0 or even, more directly, ΔSm/Δ# >0.

Now, inasmuch as this is pretty evident from everything said to this point, the main issue Marx emphasizes is that this holds true regardless of the amount of investment in constant capital. He juxtaposes the cotton spinner who has a very high organic composition of capital (c/v) with a baker who has a very low organic composition. After showing how surplus value is uniquely dependent upon the living labor set in motion by the capitalist, Marx turns to the issue of constant capital. He does this because, as he says, immediate experience suggests that most capitalists earn more or less the same average rate of profit despite employing very different technologies and c/v's. Yet this seems to contradict the assertion that s and Sm depend uniquely on v.

Remembering that the rate of profit = Sm/(Ct+Vt) where Ct equals the total investment in constant capital, it would certainly seem that differing levels of Ct would produce differing rates of profit given the same Vt and Sm, even if Sm varies only with Vt and not with Ct. Given that Ct does vary enormously from industry to industry, and indeed from firm to firm, this would seem to contradict the notion of an average or general rate of profit. Marx deals no more with this issue in Volume I of Capital, but returns to this issue in part I of Volume III of Capital. In that discussion he argues that the notion of an average or general rate of profit remains valid because of the tendency for capital to reallocate itself across profit rate differentials and thus to create a tendency for profit rates to equalize. In that discussion the determining factor of the rate of profit is the organic composition of capital (the rate of exploitation is held constant) which tends to rise as a result of the substitution of controllable constant capital for less controllable workers "”the dynamic discussed in part IV of Volume I of Capital under the rubric of relative surplus value. His discussion of such a tendency to reallocation later finds an impoverished expression in the neoclassical theory of long term equilibrium in an industry via the mechanisms of firm entry and exit "”impoverished because emptied of its explicit class content.
Definitions of Classes and Individual Psychology
These comments emphasize the class distinction between worker and capitalist in two ways. The first is the question of control. While independent workers (not members of the working class "”and thus not really "workers" but just people, or peasants, or artisans, etc) control their tools only in order to live, capitalists control tools in order to control people. The "capitalist" who also works is but a "small master" as in the feudal guilds where, say, a goldsmith would both work at his craft and employ a small number of apprentices. The capitalist qua capitalist, or the capitalist properly speaking, only works in the sense of controlling the labor of others, but not even in the sense of coordinating and managing their labor, rather in the simplest sense of making sure that they do in fact work "”usually by hiring someone else to make sure that happens, e.g., a supervisor or manager. For small masters to become such capitalists they must have enough money to put to work enough people to generate a surplus value not only large enough for their own consumption but also large enough to allow investment and growth. (This aspect of capitalism will be emphasized and studied by Marx in part VII on "accumulation.")

This discussion of intermediate cases between the extreme class prototypes (the worker who only works and the capitalist who only imposes work on others) is useful not only because it shows Marx's awareness of such real life complexity, but also because it speaks to the issue of class in the age of the "middle class." The contemporary counterpart to Marx's "small master" would appear at first to be the middle class, lower level corporate managers who both work (have work imposed on them by those higher up) and impose work on others (those lower down). Further consideration shows that virtually everyone in contemporary capitalism lives this dichotomy somewhere in the highly segmented corporate wage hierarchy. Moreover, given the nature of contemporary social institutions for converting life into labor power, e.g., the public school system, virtually everyone lives this dichotomy internally, psychologically, as well as externally in their work situation. The inculcation of self-discipline, which is a prime prerequisite for getting middle and higher waged jobs, is a primary objective of schooling.

To the degree that such inculcation is successful, each person lives a continual tension between their capitalist side that keeps reminding them of their obligation to work and their working class side which repeatedly rebels against the subordination of their life to work. Among students such tension takes the form of internal conflict between the sense of obligation to go to class or to complete assigned homework and desires to play or to follow one's own intellectual curiosity down uncharted, and unassigned paths. Among workers such tension takes the form of conflict between the sensed need to always be on time and always be focused on their work and the desire to carve out free time through absenteeism or playing on the job.

Resolution of the tension through the suppression of desire leads to the pathologies of workaholism, unidimensionality and social isolation. Resolution of the tension through the complete rejection of imposed work while perhaps leading to a happier and psychologically healthier life in the short run, may also lead to problems of survival in the longer run. Most people experiencing the unending pressures of capital to work and the insurgence of their own needs and desires struggle to work out a compromise whereby they can live with the tension. They learn how to resist the internalized "ought" enough to preserve space for some personal fulfillment, while giving in to it enough to survive. The tradeoff capital offers is clear enough: the more you are willing to subordinate your life to work, the more (on the average) you will be rewarded with income. At least that is the promise. In reality, of course, there are all kinds of limitations (such as sexual or racial discrimination as well as the wage hierarchy itself) which prevent some from being rewarded no matter how much they internalize the capitalist work ethic, no matter how hard they work.

What all this shows is that the issue of class in capitalism, whether at the level of society or at the level of the individual, concerns the struggle over competing ways of life: the capitalist way in which life is subordinated to work and alternative ways in which life is self-constructed and work is subordinated to that self-construction.
Main Points
In these four points Marx sketches what he considers vital aspects of the emergence of capitalism. First: capital develops within production (or takes it over) until it acquired direct command over labor. Thus the merchant capitalist becomes an industrial capitalist only as putting out and then the factory provide mechanisms to control other peoples' labor. Capital is power over others, power to command their lives and make them convert their lives into labor. This is the basic point of part VIII on primitive accumulation.

Second, this command, which makes capital what it is, is coercive. Capital forces people to be workers, to be part of the working class; it forces them to work more than they otherwise would. Especially, it forces them to work longer than they would. This was the point of the discussion in Chapter 10 of the capitalist success at forcing out the length of the working day, at introducing night work and so on. Here he repeats what he emphasized in section 2 of chapter 10, that capitalism is more successful in the imposition of work than all earlier systems of directly compulsory labor. Unlike such earlier systems which imposed labor to achieve some finite purposes (building a pyramid or a Gothic cathedral or a chateau or a castle or the feeding of royalty, etc) the capitalist imposition of work knows no limits; it is unbounded, there is an endless "thirst" for surplus labor and its monetary equivalent. Where the imposition of work is the substance of the social order, the backbone of civilization, then the eternal maintenance of that order requires that such imposition be endless.

Third, command over labor, over life as labor, is prior to any question of technology. The capitalists at first take command, impose work, using the technologies available, whatever they are. The imposition of work is the main thing; how it is imposed is secondary. This priority is obvious in the putting out system and in early factories where traditional methods of production dominate. However....

Fourth, the method of production as embodied in the means of production themselves, soon become the vehicle for capitalist command. They are no longer tools in the hands of workers, but tools of the capitalist for the control of workers. Instead of being the means workers use to produce useful things, the means of production become, under the control of the capitalists, the means of absorbing the labor power of others, the means for putting people to work. Instead of the workers consuming their tools in the accomplishment of their own ends, the workers are consumed by the means of production in the accomplishment of the capitalists' own ends which may involve the fetishistic chase after money and, quite independently of the consciousness of the capitalist, always involves the imposition of work. Note: there are many times and places where capitalists understand quite explicitly their role in maintaining social order. One common example is in periods of high unemployment when policy makers worry about the lack of jobs leaving too many people too free - people who's free time threatens to be used in ways inimical to capitalist plans. Another example occurs during strikes by school teachers in which those same policy makers worry about the dangers of having vast numbers of young people loose in the streets instead of safely incarcerated in school houses.

This discussion which ends section III on absolute surplus value, sets up the reader for the next section on relative surplus value by focusing attention on the issue of technology and the means of production. Relative surplus value, Marx will show, is that surplus value obtained through the manipulation of technology for the purpose of imposing more work on the workers or of obtaining a greater proportion of the work they are already performing.
Concepts for Review

rate of surplus value
mass of surplus value
variable capital

First Law and implication
Second Law
Third Law

Questions for Review
1. Practice thinking about the meaning of the First Law in terms of hours of abstract labor time. In the following table it is assumed 1) that the cost of reproducing each worker is given at 6 hrs of labor per day, 2) that the length of the working day is 12 hours and 3) that the rate of exploitation is set at 100%. Calculate the missing values in the table using the "first law."

# workers

v (hrs)


work day

total hrs

ave. s/v

Sm in hrs




















2. Practice thinking about the meaning of the first law in terms of money. In the following table it is assumed 1) that the cost of variable capital per worker is 3 shillings a day, 2) that the length of the working day is 12 hours, and that 3) the rate of exploitation = 100%. Calculate the missing values in the table using the first law.




work day

total value

ave. s/v





















3. A central implication of the first law is that capitalists can compensate for a decline in Vt by raising s/v through an increase in the length of the working day. In the following table, use the first law to calculate by how much the length of the working day and s/v must be increased in order to maintain an Sm = 300.


@v= 3 shillings

Working day












4. The second law says there are absolute limits to the ability of the capitalists to compensate for a decline in the number of workers through an increase in s/v and the length of the working day. Extend the above table and calculate the # of workers below which Sm will fall even if they could be made to work 24 hours a day.


@v=3 shillings

Working Day






5. The Third Law states that the mass of surplus value will vary directly with the number of workers set to work given the length of the working day and s/v. Calculate the values in the following table to show this, starting from the employment of 100 workers.

# workers

@ 3 shillings




















6. As Marx showed in Chapter 10, eventually workers struggled successfully to reduce the length of the working day. Fill in the following table to see what the impact on s/v and Sm would be with no compensating increase in the number of workers.


@v= 3 shillings

Working day












Now, calculate how many more workers the capitalists would have to set to work to make up for the fall in working hours in order to maintain the same mass of surplus value. How much capital will they have to invest in mobilizing labor?


@v= 3 shillings

Working day











7. What do you think is the principle purpose of this chapter? Why didn't Marx just leave it out?

8. Discuss Marx's analysis of workers who embody both elements of the working class (they work) and elements of the capitalist class (they impose work on somebody). Does this make sense to you for the period Marx is describing? Does it make sense to you today, in your experience and what you know of the corporate wage hierarchy?

9. What do you think of the application of the class dichotomy to the analysis of individual psychology? Do you recognize the tensions being discussed in your own life? In others? What other explanations might be offered for just such tensions? What kind of resolutions are possible? Might these be the object of some kind of "therapy"?

10. How might Hegel's view of quantitative changes becoming qualitative changes apply to the emergence of capitalism as a whole as well as to the emergence of the particular capitalist or capitalist company? Think about the quantitative growth of the elements of capital, such as money, or people available for waged work, etc.


Chapter 12: The Concept of Relative Surplus Value

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

Even if the "boundaries of the working day" cannot be extended [say by workers' struggles to set legal limits on the length of the working day] and are given as A - C, (where A is the beginning of work and C is quitting time - and this day is broken into two parts: A --- B [necessary labor] and B ---- C [surplus labor]) it is still possible for the capitalists to increase their share of value (and thus their surplus value), by reducing necessary labor, i.e., reducing the workers' share of A-------B (V) to A---B' (V'). With the working day fixed, this would increase the capitalist share from B ---- C to B -------C'.

This could be achieved by:

a. Pushing down the wage to the equivalent of A-B' "”but, if we assume the wage must = value of labor power (V) and that the workers wages support them just at the level of subsistence, then a fall in wages below this level would mean a collapse in the ability of the workers to reproduce themselves, which would eventually undercut A - C. Marx notes that this often happens but must be assumed away in the analysis of self-sustaining accumulation.

b. Pushing down the value of the means of subsistence
--i.e., reducing V without reducing the real wage or the ability of the workers to reproduce themselves.
--to do this requires an increase in productivity in the production of the means of subsistence
Increases in Productivity - Relative Surplus Value
--"we mean an alteration in the labor process of such a kind as to shorten the labor-time socially necessary for the production of a commodity" (p. 431)
--the capitalists achieve this by "revolutionizing" the "technical and social conditions of the [labor] process and consequently the mode of production itself" (p. 432)
--"I call that surplus-value which arises from the curtailment of the necessary labor time, . . . relative surplus value." (p. 432)
--relative surplus value can be derived either from:
--an increase in the productivity of producing the means of subsistence
--an increase in the productivity of producing the instruments and raw materials used in the production of the means of subsistence, which in turn lowers the value of the means of subsistence
Competition acts to circulate productivity raising technological change:
--the capitalist who introduces productivity raising change lowers costs and thus increases profits if sales continue at a price indicated by average productivity, that capitalist thus gains a temporary advantage and gains a greater share of surplus value vis ;aacute& vis competitors

Marx's examples involve showing how increased production in the same period results in less value per unit of output, thus lower costs
--the increased productivity, assuming it is translated into increased production, will expand supply and push down prices, threatening other capitalists' profits and market share
--they are therefore under pressure to adopt the same or similar productivity raising innovations in order to lower their costs "the law of the determination of value by labor-time . . .acting as a coercive law of competition, forces his competitors to adopt the new method" (p. 436)
--if they do this their costs will fall, output will rise, prices will fall and the temporary advantage of the original innovator will be wiped out
--however, as a result of this process, overall V has fallen so S/V has risen for the capitalists as a class and more relative surplus value has been realized collectively
Productivity and the Working Day
Marx is careful to note that although rising productivity makes it possible for the amount of work by all workers to be reduced - because what they need can now be produced with less work - this "is by no means what is aimed at in capitalist production" (p.438).

Instead, the only reduction in work is experienced by those workers displaced by machinery and unable to find other work (and thus to earn their bread).

Cleaver Commentary
Marx lays out his theory of relative surplus value after his exposition of absolute surplus value. Although he does not spell it out in this chapter, as he will in Chapter 15 and in the appendix, the distinction between "absolute" and "relative" surpus value is historical as well as analytical. (See commenatary on Chapter 15) The capitalist take-over of production is at first merely formal, that is to say, the capitalists take control of production methods as they find them historically. This Marx will call this the "formal subordination of labor to capital". It is only later, in part under the pressure of workers' struggles, that the capitalists begin to invest heavily in the technological changes which are at the heart of relative surplus value. The resultant changes in the organization of work Marx will call the "real subordination of labor to capital." The pressures which will drive this investement will be two fold: 1) workers' success in limiting and then reducing the length of the working day (already discussed in Chapter 10) "”which, ceteris paribus, reduces S and S/V, and 2) workers' struggles at the point of production which force capitalists to reorganize in order to regain control. The dynamics of these conficts will be dealt with in more detail in Chapter 15.
Relative Surplus Value as a Strategy
In this chapter Marx speaks of relative surplus value as if it were an object, a certain amount of surplus labor time extracted by capitalists. However, it is called "relative" surplus value because of the way in which it is extracted: by raising productivity and lowering the value of the means of subsistence. Therefore, we should recognize that not only does relative surplus value refer to the process of raising productivity, but also that it constitutes a strategy of capital in dealing with the working class. As a strategy, relative surplus value is considerably more subtle than absolute surplus value.

In absolute surplus value, as we have seen, workers are forced to work longer hours, hours which rebound to the profit of the capitalist not to that of the worker whose wage (or value of labor power) we have assumed constant. In relative surplus value, some workers suffer from the introduction of machinery by losing their jobs "”increasing unemployment (driving workers from the active into the reserve army of labor, discussed in Chapter 25). But for those who remain the costs are not immediately obvious "”unless perhaps the reorganization of the factory is carried out in a way blatantly designed to undermine workers' self-organization. On the contrary, the increased productivity which lowers costs can not only raise profits but can even be used by the capitalist to meet workers' demands for higher wages. Marx doesn't discuss this possibility in the chapter but it is implicit in the analysis.

This is clear if we take a simple (though overdrawn) case of a generalized doubling of productivity. In Marx's exposition the capitalists always get the full benefit in the form of a halving of V and the consequent increase in S. However, it is also possible for the capitalist to increase in real wages somewhat and still earn larger profits. Suppose, for example, that in time period 1 total output given a fixed working day = 100 and this was evenly divided in real terms and in value terms between the classes such that V = 50 and S = 50. Now suppose that in the next period 2, productivity is doubled such that total output = 200. Under the circumstances the per unit value of output would be halved and the working class could retain the same real income if V fell to 25 while the capitalists arrogated 3/4ths of the value to themselves with S = 75. This is the kind of example Marx gives. But, suppose the workers fought for a real wage increase of, say 50%. With the rise in productivity, the capitalists could grant such an increase, in which V would rise from 25 to 37.5, but surplus value would still rise from 50 to 62.5! Not only would their absolute level of profit increase, but so too would the rate of exploitation (rising from 50/50 to62.5/37.5). Herein lies the subtlety: relative surplus value makes it possible for the capitalists to grant an improvement in living conditions to the workers while at the same time retaining and augmenting their own power (measured in terms of value "”and thus workers"” commanded). This possibility provides the capitalists with a new tool for dealing with the working class: not only can new technology be used against them, but those who retain their jobs can be persuaded to cooperate with such change by being paid higher wages.

The flip side, of course, is that workers come not only to recognize how technological changes which raise productivity lower costs and raise profits, but to demand an equal share in the results. Eventually, long after Marx wrote, workers would achieve the power to impose "productivity deals" on business wherein the fruits of productivity increases would be shared equally between business and labor, i.e., both real wages and real profits would rise while the rate of exploitation remained the same. Such deals would be written into industrial union contracts and be supported by state measures in the so-called Keynesian Era.
Rising Productivity and Less Work
During the Keynesian era, the subtlety of relative surpus value changed: capitalists would insist that workers take the benefits from rising productivity uniquely in the form of increased wages and money benefits but would not even discuss taking the benefits in the form of less work. Marx's comment that "the shortening of the working day, therefore, is by no means what is aimed at in capitalist production" would continue to be the case right down to the present.

Nevertheless, beginning in the late 1960s, after three decades of rising real wages, workers would begin to demand shorter working days once again. They would begin to discuss the possibilities of the 4- day or 36 hour week. It would take the Great Recession of 1974-75 and the Great Reagan Depression of 1981-83 to remove these demands from the workers' agenda. And, despite this, the issue would come bounding back in the late 1980s in France, in Germany and in other countries.

Given this history, it is important to recognize how Marx's analysis of relative surplus value makes clear the technical possibility of converting rising productivity into less work as well as more income. In the case given above, of a doubling of productivity, there are many possible outcomes. Marx's example used to illustrate the idea of relative surplus value resulted in a shift in value distribution from 50/50 to 25/75 "”he holds the working day fixed to concentrate on a new dynamic. But suppose we do not suppose the working day to be fixed. Clearly, a doubling of productivity, technically speaking, could be translated into 1. doubled output (which could be shared between the classes according to some deal or another) with the same working hours, 2. the same output with only half as much work, or 3. some positive increase (but less than doubling) of output produced together with less work, e.g., a 50% increase in output with 25% less work. Such are the technical possibilities. The political possibilities are determined by the dynamics of the class struggle. In Marx's time, the capitalists had the power to avoid workers taking the fruits of productivity growth in the form of less work (except in so far as they forced reductions through acts of Parliament as in Chapter 10). Today workers are fighting to do just that: raise their wages and reduce their work in exchange for cooperating with productivity raising technological change. The capitalists, of course, continue to resist because reduced work time raises their costs and undercuts the very basis of their kind of social order "”one built around the endless subordination of life to work.
The pressure of competition "”i.e., the threat of losing market share to another capitalist who can sell cheaper"” plays an explicit role in Marx's account of the circulation and diffusion of technological change. Once one capitalist introduces new productivity raising, cost cutting methods, others are under pressure to follow suit. This understanding was by no means unique to Marx but was shared by capitalists as well as many political economists and social observers of the period of the industrial revolution.

One literary articulation of this view from the 19th Century can be found in Charlotte Brontë's 1849 novel Shirley which deals with the period of the Luddites (circa 1810-1812) in which workers organized themselves to break machines whose introduction was depriving them of employment and income.1 In the scene from which the following excerpt comes, a group of angry workers are confronting the capitalist textile mill owner Mr. Moore and demanding that he stop, or at least slow, the introduction of new labor-displacing machinery. Their protest comes in the midst of a depression caused by the Napoleonic Wars which cut off English exports from the Continent and caused much unemployment among mill workers. Moore responds that he cannot slow down the introduction of new technology without being swept away by other capitalists who would refuse to do the same. The opening speaker is a worker William Farren who speaks with a strong Yorkshire accent.
'It's out o' no ill-will that I'm here, for my part; it's just to mak' a effort to get things straightened, for they're sorely crooked. Ye see we're ill off, "”varry ill off: wer families is poor and pined. We're thrown out o' work wi' these frames [new machines]: we can get nought to do: we can earn nought. What is to be done? Mun we say, wisht! and lig us down and dee? Nay: I've no grand words at my tongue's end, Mr Moore, but I feel that it would be a low principle for a reasonable man to starve to death like a dumb cratur': "” I will n't no 't. I'm not for shedding blood: I'd neither kill a man nor hurt a man; and I'm not for pulling down mills and breaking machines: for, as ye say, that way o' going on 'll niver stop invention; but I'll talk, "” I'll mak' as big a din as ever I can. Invention may be all right, but I know it isn't right for poor folks to starve. Them that governs mun find a way to help us: they mun mak' fresh orderations. Ye'll say that's hard to do: "” so mich the louder mun we shout out then, for so much slacker will t' Parliament-men be to set on to a tough job.'
'Worry the Parliament-men as much as you please,' said Moore; 'but to worry the mill-owners is absurd; and I, for one, won't stand it.'
'Ye're a raight hard 'un!' returned the workman. 'Will n't ye gie us a bit o' time? "” Will n't ye consent to mak' your changes rather more slowly?'
'Am I the whole body of clothiers in Yorkshire? Answer me that!'
'Ye're yourseln.'
'And only myself; and if I stopped by the way an instant, while others are rushing on, I should be trodden down. If I did as you wish me to do, I should bebankrupt in a month: and would my bankruptcy put bread into your hungry children's mouths? William Farren, neither to your dictation, nor to that of any other, will I submit. Talk to me no more about machinery; I will have my own way. I shall get new frames in tomorrow: "” If you broke these, I would still get more. I'll never give in.'

(Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, A Tale, New York: Penguin Classics, 1985.)

Moore's admonition to the workers to take up their problems with Parliament but to leave him alone, is consistent with his own complaints against the war with Napoleon, which through Napoleon's Continental system and the English Orders in Council, cut off British exports and his markets. He understands the government's role in contributing to current economic distress. On the other hand, even though Moore will eventually become somewhat more sympathetic to the plight of the workers, and do something for William Farren and has family, nowhere in the novel, as generally was true in the time period, does he become an advocate for either government regulation of technological change or for government intervention to help the poor cope with it. On the contrary, Moore will use the government, its troops and judiciary to pursue, prosecute and punish (through transportation to Australia) those workers who attacked destroyed his machines and attacked his mill "”exactly the punishment which was metted out by his real-life counterparts.

Within the argument of Moore we can discover the class basis of competition. Moore is confronted by his workers. So too, we can suppose, are all his "competitors" among the Yorkshire clothiers (as well as others ouside the region). Those best able to command their workers will win the competitive battle, those less able will lose. In the novel, as in real history, there are other capitalists who are beaten down by their workers; that is to say, their mills are burned and their machinery destroyed. Moore plays tough, introduces cost reducing machinery and suceeds in defending his mill against a Luddite attack. When the trade blockades are later lifted he is in a position to sell his accumulated stocks, expand production using the new technology and sell at a competitive price. Those capitalists who failed to introduce the new machinery due to the resistance of their workers, or whose mills were damaged or destroyed, would obviously be at a competitive disadvantage, if they could function as capitalists at all. In short, "competition" among capitalists can be seen not merely as a dog-eat-dog game played without reference to the working class, but rather as a sort of social darwinistic process through which the power of capital over the working class is maximized. Where workers are so strong as to impede accumulation, their bosses go under and the workers thrown out of work and into unemployment and subsequently at the mercy of other, stronger, capitalists.

This class analysis of "capitalist" competition allows us to avoid the widespread practice of interpreting it as a process which goes on independently of the self-activity of workers who are therefore seen as only suffering the consequences of a process beyond their ken. When Marx says on p. 433 that we can only understand how the "immanent laws of capitalist production manifest themselves in the external movement of individual capitals" and "assert themselves as the coercive laws of competition" by grasping "the inner nature of capital", we must recognize that "inner nature" as class struggle and interpret competition accordingly. Competition is the dynamics of a particular organization of the class conflict wherein the management of capitalist domination is allocated to diverse capitalists whose relative skill in managing (controling) their workers will determine their success. The competitive struggle, therefore, although it appears in the consciousness of many capitalists (and of many Marxists) to be something that goes on only among capitalists, it concerns the organization of the "competition" between between capital and labor. The competition between classes underlies and determines the competition among capitalists. Concepts For Review value of labor power stunted reproduction wage less than value of lp competition productivity of labor relative surplus value motives of individual capital sum of reductions transfer of value diffusion of technological change productivity and work time real subsumption of labor to capital revolutionizing production formal subsumption of labor to capital

1 The period of machine breaking was much longer that the period of the "Luddite Movement". Instances of machine breaking began in the 18th Century and would continue into the 1930s. See Marx's discussion in Chapter 15 and Charles Poulsen, The English Rebels, London: Journeyman, 1984, Chapter XIII, "The Reign of King Ludd", pp. 140-146.
Questions for Review
1. What is the effect on the reproduction of labor power if the wage is reduced to less than the value of labor power? What concrete effects might this involve today? Why does Marx exclude this case from consideration in this chapter?

2. How does Marx define the productivity of labor? How does its increase cause a decrease in the per unit value of products?

3. Increases in the productivity of labor producing which goods cause a fall in the value of labor power? Directly? Indirectly?

4. What are the motives for the individual capitalist to introduce technological change that increases productivity?

5. How can an increase in productivity for individual capitals result in a transfer of surplus value to them from other capitalists? When does this transfer stop?

6. Why don't increases in productivity, which decrease the work time necessary to produce goods, result in decreases in the working day for workers?

7. Suppose productivity increased 10% in the aggregate production of goods. What are the different choices that are technically possible for enjoying the fruits of this increase in terms of more goods and less work? How would you want to distribute the benefits? Why do you think we are never asked to vote on this issue?

8. Deconstruct the concept and dynamics of "competition" in class terms. That is to say discuss the relationships among capitalists in terms of the relationships between classes. In your answer consider the usual neoclassical cases of competition through price and through product differentiation.


Chapter 13: Co-operation

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

Capitalist Production
= large number of workers (Handicraft becomes manufacture as number of workers grows.)
= extensive scale
= large quantities of products
= revolution in the objective conditions of the labor process, e.g., economies of scale, increasing returns to scale, fall in value per unit of output

-- "many workers working together side by side in accordance with a plan"
-either in the same process, same kind of work
-or in different but connected processes
= a "social force", a "new power"
= a "new productive power, which is intrinsically a collective one"
= workers strip "off the fetters of [their] individuality, and develop the capabilities of [their] species"

Sources of productive power of cooperation (social labor):
1. heightens mechanical force of labour
2. extends sphere of action over a greater space, or , contracts field of production
3. sets large masses of labour to work at critical moments (e.g., harvests)
4. excites rivalry between individuals
5. creates continuity and manysideness
6. simultaneous operations
7. economizes the means of production by use in common
8. lends to individual worker the character of average social labor

Co-operation implies:
--"a directing authority" to "secure the harmonious co-operation", e.g., an orchestra
--"special function arising from the nature of the social labour process"
--"a function of the exploitation of a social labor process", i.e., valorization

Co-operation and class struggle:
=increased resistance to the domination of capital
= increased repression of this resistance

Co-operation under capitalist authority:

= "a plan drawn up by the capitalist"
= "the powerful will of a being outside them"
= "in form it is purely despotic"
= requires "officers (managers) and NCO's (foremen, overseers)"

Workers are brought together by capital
--they are "incorporated into capital"
--their productive power is a "free gift" to capital, costs it nothing
--their productive power appears as "inherent in capital"
--as their numbers increase so too does their resistance

Earlier forms/results of co-operation:
--Egyptian pyramids and such, under domination of ruling class
--early hunting peoples
--Indian communitie with common ownership of MP, indiv. rooted in tribe or community

Cooperation = "the fundamental form of the capitalist mode of production"

Marx's discussion of co-operation in this chapter served two purposes. First, he laid out the results of his studies of the concrete nature of the capitalist organization of work. Second, he laid the groundwork for continuing his analysis of the technological changes involved in capital's relative surplus value strategy. In chapter 7 he defined work in very abstract and theoretical terms, first the labor process and then valorization. In chapter 12 he launched the discussion of the capitalist strategy of reorganizing of the labor process to increase (relative) surplus value. So, in chapter 13 he began to provide an approach to understanding the qualitative changes involved in such reorganization. Reorganization is, first of all, reorganization of co-operation.

To begin with, he emphasized that work under capitalism is collective. "Co-operation" concerns large numbers of workers brought together by the capitalist and put to work. He recognized that workers have cooperated collectively throughout history. Co-operation is not new under capitalism. What is new is the particular way in which co-operation is organized by the capitalists. This emphasis on co-operation follows from Marx's analysis of labor (and the resistance to labor) as the core of the social relations of capitalism. Although capitalists appear to be responsible for co-operation, and thus to "deserve credit" for this social development, Marx insisted on the long standing existence of co-operation. From that perspective, however responsible the capitalists may be for the particular form it takes, it remains a force outside, an autonomous force of labor itself which capital must constantly strive to domesticate to its own ends. Part of this force appears to be purely technical: the way in which co-operation results in increases in productivity (output per worker) so that the output of a large number of assembled workers is greater than the sum of the output of the same number of isolated workers. But even this "technical" aspect of co-operation will turn out to be immanently political and related to the dynamics of intra- as well as inter-class relationships.

As we have seen in the discussion on primitive accumulation, the capitalists forged a new system of co-operation on the ruins of earlier ones. At the beginning this co-operation was often indirect as many workers came to be controlled (through a putting-out system) by a single merchant capital. But over time, the conflict between such workers and that capital led the latter to gather the workers together in one place and encarcerate them in a factory where they could be observed and controlled. In these new circumstances, various kinds of struggle became much more difficult. For example, artisans who had appropriated the scraps of their raw materials (wood, silk, leather, etc.) "”and cut the raw materials so as to maximize the amount of scraps"” found themselves increasingly under the eye of the capitalists, or their overseers, who were diligent to eliminate such practices and thus to reduce both their own costs in raw materials and the income of the artisans. Such a reorganization "”a first step in what Marx called the "real" subordination of labor to capital"” was clearly not just technical but a strategy in the class struggle. So too would be all of those which have followed, right down to the present.
Scale, Authority and "Rivalry"
The growth in the scale of production meant that more and more workers were being subsumed under the command of the capitalist "”a change which is initially only a quantitative one. Sometimes this just meant more workers doing the same thing. But many times, especially in manufacturing, it increasingly meant a qualitative change as more and more people worked on a set of related tasks. That "relatedness" meant the need for the co-ordination of tasks, the organization of co-operation.

All directly social or communal labor on a large scale requires, to a greater or lesser degree, a directing authority, in order to secure the harmonious co-operation of the activities of individuals, . . . A single violin player is his own conductor: an orchestra requires a separate one. (pp. 448-9)

Marx is talking here about a necessary co-ordination of co-operation inherent in "the nature of the social labor process" "”an issue which he only explores within capitalism. Within capitalism, he argues, this "authority" "”"the work of directing, superintending and adjusting"” becomes that of capital. At this point he passes into a second aspect of the issue: the specificity of the social relations of co-operation under capitalism: class antagonism. As the scale of capitalist undertakings grew, he argued, so did the conflicts and the complexity of the issue of the organization of co-operation. "As the number of the co-operating workers increases, so too does their resistance to the domination of capital . . . " (p.449) It is this resistance, of course, which dictates the need for capital to create a whole officer corps of supervisors and overseers to make sure that the large army of workers actually do as much work as their employers desire "”that the "collective power of masses" is maximized. Thus, his analysis of co-operation is two-sided and parallels his earlier analysis of work in chapter 7: first a discussion of the labor process independently of capital, second, a discussion of the specificity of the process under capitalism, i.e., within valorization.

The control exercised by the capitalist is not only a special function arising from the nature of the social labor process and peculiar to that process, but it is at the same time a function of the exploitation of a social labour process, and is consequently conditioned by the unavoidable antagonism between the exploiter and the raw material of his exploitation. (p. 449)

Marx's analysis, while providing an approach to grasping technological issues in terms of antagonistic class relationships, has been seized upon as a technologically deterministic justification of hierarchical authority, not only under capitalism but under all large scale, complex systems of social co-operation, including socialism. Some of the terms and metaphors which he used, especially "directing authority" and "orchestra director" clearly lend themselves to this interpretation. This line of deterministic interpretation was given a powerful boost by Frederick Engel's piece on "Authority" published in 1873. That piece, written against anarchist slogans of abolishing authority, argued that "authority" was inherent in technology. In the case of the cotton spinning mill, he wrote, "the authority of steam . . . cares nothing for individual autonomy" and the "forces of nature" subject humans "to a veritable despotism independent of all social organization. Wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel." "If," he argued, "the autonomists confined themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable, we could understand each other . . . " The one-sideness of this argument is striking. It totally ignores the issue of the genesis of the "conditions of production" "”how the capitalist organization of production technology has been structured within the context of class antagonism in order to maximize capitalist control over the working class. He is refusing to enter into the analysis demanded by the anarchist attack on authority, namely, an investigation into how the conditions of production can be changed to eliminate authority and to replace it with democratic decision making. He fails to question why it is that in industry as he knows it "the first condition of the job is a dominant will that settles all subordinate questions". Why is production organized so that this is "the first condition"? At this point in our reading of Capital the contrast between Engels' argument and Marx's is not so obvious. Later, when we get to chapter 15, it will be much clearer. Once we read Marx's analysis of how "it would be possible to write a whole history of the inventions made since 1830 for the sole purpose of providing capital with weapons against working class revolt" we see the one-sidedness and inadequacy of Engels' argument. (p. 563)

Nevertheless, this kind of argument was taken up and elaborated by the Bolsheviks, especially by Lenin who used it to justify the overthrow of the factory committees and the soviets (which had been created during the revolution by Russian workers) and the imposition of top-down, party-state-managerial despotism. Although he professed to believe that ultimately "every cook could govern", i.e., co-ordination could occur within co-operation by the workers themselves, he called for and imposed top-down hierarchical control that tended to destroyed all bottom-up initiatives.

A second aspect of Marx's analysis of co-operation which was used for the same purpose was his notion that one source of the heightened productivity of co-operation derived from the stimulus it gave to "animal spirits".

Apart from the new power that arises from the fusion of many forces into a single force, mere social contact begets in most industries a rivalry and a stimulation of the 'animal spirits', which heightens the efficiency of each individual worker.

There are two things to say about this. First, while "rivalry" may stimulate "animal spirits", it need not be the only or even the main source of such stimulation. People who come together to act in concert (e.g., in work) can provide each other with support and positive feedback which also makes each individual more productive. Second, capital has generally promulgated "rivalry" not only to stimulate "animal spirits" (e.g., get more work) but as ameans to divide and conquer the working class. Such rivalry or competition has been fostered at the level of the shop-floor and it also characterizes capitalist organization at the inter-firm level, and even the international level. In Lenin's view such "rivalry" or competition was to be encouraged in the socialist USSR in order to generate the most work possible. In December 1917, right after the revolution of October, Lenin argued: "Far from extinguishing competition, socialism, on the contrary, for the first time creates the opportunity for employing it on a really wide and on a really mass scale . . . our task is to organize competition." "All 'communes' "”factories, villages, consumers' societies, and committees of supplies"” must compete with each other as practical organisers of accounting and control of labour and distribution of products." Here Lenin is calling for new forms of competition among production units "”new, but not all that different from competition among capitalist firms. This competition, Lenin demanded, should be organized in such a way as to weed out those who would not work hard enough: "workers who shirk their work . . . will be put in prison . . . [elsewhere] they will be put to cleaning latrines . . . [elsewhere] they will be provided with "yellow tickets" . . . so that everyone shall keep an eye on them, as harmful persons . . . [elsewhere] one out of every ten idlers will be shot on the spot" and so on. These comments were aimed at justifying the imposition of a new work discipline by whatever means necessary. Those who must be forced to work, as he makes clear, are not only reactionary capitalists and intellectuals out to sabotage the revolution, but also those workers who had revolted, at least in part, to "lighten the burden of labor". But his method is to identify "slovenliness, carelessness, untidiness, unpunctuality, nervous haste, the inclination to substitute discussion for action, talk for work" etc with intellectuals and to call on workers, especially the party faithful, to root out such idlers and to identify and correct any such tendencies among members of their own class. In this manner, right at the beginning of Bolshevik rule, Lenin made as clear as could be that Bolshevik style socialism means more, not less, work for the working class.

Is this Marx? Or rather, are such views lineal descendents of Marx's ideas? Can the despotism of the Soviet state be traced to Marx's own views on technological necessity? I don't think so. There is nothing in his treatment of co-operation in the abstract that implies that such co-ordination could not take place within co-operation through the self-management of "associated producers". His observation that any large scale social labor process involving large numbers of people requires co-ordination seems uncontestable as far as it goes. But it doesn't go very far. The form of that co-ordination remains to be determined and in the various social situations he mentions "”slave plantation economies, ancient Egypt, primitive hunting, capitalism"” he makes quite clear that we can expect the form of co-ordination to vary enormously. The same is true for his very few words in this chapter on "rivalry" or competition among workers. Both his earlier work in the 1844 Manuscripts attacking the ways in which capital pits worker against worker and his later discussion in Capital, chapters 20 and 21 on how capitalists manipulate wages to encourage competition and hierarchy, suggest that in general he understood "rivalry" to be only one form of "animal spirits" and that various kinds of non-competitive but mutually stimulating interactions would characterize un-alienated, post capitalist work relations. He certainly recognized how within capitalism the mangement of co-operation has generally involved the use of competition (i.e., to divide and conquer the working class) and he hardly embraced it as an inevitable part of the production process.

Since Marx wrote we have more than 130 years of experience with a wide diversity of forms of co-operation, most of which have been elaborated within capitalism but some of which have been developed explicitly against it. Over the years, as workers have succeeded in gaining time away from waged work and capital has responded by colonizing that "free" time "”the process I discussed in my commentary on Chapter 10"” the institutions of that colonization have recreated many of the characteristics of the capitalist factory, including "co-operation" with its characteristic capitalist/socialist rivalry/competition. The most familiar examples are undoubtedly the school and the nation state. In school students are encouraged from a very early age to compete against each other for grades and honors "”it is one of the ways they are prepared for later competition in the waged workplace. Such competition in the class room is complemented and reinforced by competition in "physical education", especially intramural sports which are almost always organized through individual or team competition. In the case of team competition the stimulation of "animal spirits" is central to the realization of the powers of "co-operation" "”to the point of encouraging animosity and scorn among competitors. At the level of the school system, interscholastic competition is institutionally encouraged in sports, in music, in academic subjects and, individually among men and especially women for popularity and social status. From secondary school through the university, "school spirit" is fostered with marshal band music and pep rallies as students are pitted against students, often with violent langauage and ferocious antagonism. In the wider community, competition is fostered by everything from the fashion industry and beauty contests to soap operas and politicians. All of this, of course, lays the groundwork for the most fatal competition of all, that of patriotism which pits workers against workers on the basis of nationality, ethnicity and race. Such competition, repeatedly critiqued by those like Mark Twain and George Orwell, not only provides the pyschological basis for war but is used to spur workers on a day to day basis. This is something with which, in the 1980s and 1990s, we have become all too familiar. "International competitiveness" has become one of the major buzzwords and strategies of the day as Americans are pitted against Japanese, Europeans or Mexicans by businessmen and politicians heavily engaged in trying resolve the current crisis of class command by finding new ways to impose work.

Against such forms of capitalist co-operation through competition workers have formed their own systems of co-operation: in industry, shopfloor solidarity and unions; in schools, small group collaboration and cheating and large scale protest movements; in the community, grassroots organizations of women, gays or other self-organized movements; at the international level, peace movements against war or grass roots organizing against international competition, e.g., current continent-wide resistance to NAFTA. Sometimes such self-organization may involve the détournement or direct subversion of the institutions of capitalist co-operation, at other times it may involve the creation of counter-movements or institutions created especially for the purposes of struggle. In revolutionary moments, the working class often displays collective imagination through the creation of new approaches to the organization of co-operation, e.g., the Paris Commune in 1871, the Soviets in 1905 and 1917, the workers councils in Germany in 1918-19 and in Hungary in 1956.

The "Co-operative" Movement

Marx's insistence on the autonomy (vis à vis capital) of co-operation as a quality of human social labor was closely related to his understanding that the overthrow of capitalism by the workers would not lead to social dissolution (as capitalist fears and ideology have often warned) but to the liberation of co-operation from capitalist command. Thus, those few times when Marx spoke of labor in post-capitalist society he often refered to "associated labor" "”a labor which would certainly involve new kinds of social co-operation. Marx, of course, refused to speculate on, much less design, such future forms of co-operation and focused instead on the study of how co-operation was evolving within capitalism as one aspect of the developing struggle between labor and capital.

Another who was fascinated with the phenomenon of co-operation and who also saw that it predated capitalism and would certainly post-date it, was the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. A geologist-geographer who developed political concepts at least in part out of his scientific research, Kropotkin became convinced that the history of other animals as well as that of humans was shaped by natural instincts to social co-operation. Against the vulgar Darwinist notion "”so suitable to capitalist ideology"” that evolution was the outcome of an endless war of all against all, Kropotkin pitted his studies of natural and human history which showed the endless variety and continuity of co-operation "”what he called "mutual aid". From his scientific field experience in Siberia to his historico-political studies of Western society, Kropotkin drew myriad examples of both animal and human co-operation and argued that co-operation was the dominant reality of social life within species. Beings might hunt and kill other species, but, for the most part, their relationships among themselves were co-operative. Kropotkin spent considerable time ferreting out the underground history of bottom-up co-operation in villages and cities, among farmers and artisans, in manufacturing and industry. Like Marx, he refused to design a post-capitalist world and instead studied the trends in the present which pointed to the future.

But if Marx and Kropotkin refused to design the future, others were much less restrained. Those whom Marx called the "utopian" socialists, such as Robert Owen in England or François Marie Charles Fourier in France designed both plans and experiments on the basis of their own ideas of how co-operation could be reorganized for the benefit of workers.

Owen (1771-1858) was a businessman who developed ideas of improving productivity and the lives of workers by reorganizing both industry and private life through the creation of relatively small scale co-operative villages. He began his experiments in the yarn mills and village of New Lanark, Scotland. At the same time that he introduced modern machinery, Owen also improved the living conditions of workers by keeping wages up during depressions, by upgrading housing and sanitary arrangements, building schools, and organizing the supply of workers' commodity needs at cost. Owen believed that through education and the transformation of the whole community, inside and outside the factories, society could be improved and reorganized around democratic cooperation. Because education had to proceed democracy, however, Owen felt free to intervene directly in workers' lives, not only improving their material conditions but also monitoring their behavior "”to the point of installing colored behavior indicators near each workers' position in the factory to signal the quality of their character from day to day. Later, as he worked his ideas into a systematic approach to the reorganization of society around cooperative communities, Owen became involved in a variety of experiments, the best known of which were New Harmony Village in Indiana (1824-1827) and Orbiston (1825-1827) in Lanarkshire. These and several other such experiments were organized around communal ownership of property and co-operative labor. None lasted very long and Owen's efforts to persuade business and state leaders to finance the spread of his approach failed.

Owen's innovations at his Lanark Mills soon became widely known and provided inspiration for a variety of reformers, including some very wedded to preserving the class distinctions of Old England within the new conditions of industrialization. One such was Benjamin Disreali (1804-1881) who before becoming Prime Minister of England wrote a series of romantic Tory novels lamenting the decline of the old values. These were the three "Young England" novels: Coningsby (1844), Sybil (1845) and Tancred (1847). In Sybil, for example, Disreali denounced the capitalist "spirit of rapacious coveteousness". Since the Reform Act of 1832, which admitted the industrial middle class to the electorate, he argued, "the altar of Mammon has blazed with triple worship. To acquire, to accumulate, to plunder each other by virtue of philosophic phrases, to propose an Utopia to consist only of WEALTH and TOIL, this has been the breathless business of enfranchised England for the last twelve years, until we are startled from our voracious strife by the wail of intolerable serfage." (p. 56) He then followed up graphic descriptions of some of the worst working class slums with a glowing portrayal of the establishment of one Mr Trafford, a very Owenite business-man.

On the banks of his native Mowe he had built a factory which was now one of the marvels of the district; one might almost say, of the country: a single room, spreading over nearly two acres, and holding more than two thousand work-people . . . the whole building was kept at a steady temperature, and little susceptible to atmospheric influence. The physical advantages of thus carrying on the whole work in one chamber are great: in the improved health of the people, the security against dangerous accidents for women and youth, and the reduced fatigue . . . But the moral advantages resulting from superior inspection and general observation are not less important: the child works under the eye of the parent, the parent under that of the superior workman; the inspector or employer at a glance can behold all. When the workpeople of Mr Trafford left his factory they were not forgotten. Deeply had he pondered on the influence of the employer on the health and content of his workpeople. He knew well that the domstic virtues are dependent on the existence of a home, and one of this first efforts had been to build a village where every family might be well lodged. . . . In every street there was a well: behind the factory were the public baths; the schools were under the direction of the perpetual curate of the church . . . In the midst of this village, surrounded by beautiful gardens, which gave an impulse to the horticulture of the community, was the house of Trafford himself, who comprehended his position too well to withdraw himself with vulgar exclusiveness from his real dependents, but recognized the baronial principle reviving in a new form, and adapted to the softer manners and more ingenious circumstances of the times.
And what was the influce of such an employer and such a system of employment on the morals and manners of the employed? Great; infinitely beneficial. . . . Proximity to the employer brings cleanliness and order, because it brings observation and encouragement. In the settlement of Trafford crime was positively unknown: and offences were very slight. . . . The men were well clad; the women had a blooming cheek; drunkenness was unknown; while the moral condition of the softer sex was proportionately elevated.

. . . Some beautiful children rushed out of a cottage and flew to Sybil, crying out, 'the queen, the queen;' one clinging to her dress, another seizing her arm, and a third, too small to struggle, pouting out its lips to be embraced.

'My subjects,' said Sybil laughing, as she greeted them all; and then they ran away to announce to others that their qeen had arrived.

Others came; beautiful and young. As Sybil and Egremont walked along, the race too tender for labour, seemed to spring out of every cottage to greet 'their queen."

(Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or the Two Nations, New York: Penguin Classic, 1985. Originally published in 1845.)

Charles Fourier (1772-1837), about a year younger than Owen, also got his start in business and went on to design new social institutions around co-operation in labor and society. Like Owen, Fourier's ideal new social units were small-scale villages based on co-operative principles but linked in a regional (and ultimately even global) network. Also like Owen, Fourier's plans extended beyond the workshop to the larger society where he advocated co-operation in education and even love. His utopia included not only collective work but also collective emotional and sexual linkages designed to liberate people from the frustrations he felt were inherent in the traditional family. Basing himself on a theory of desire quite different from Owen and most other utopian thinkers, Fourier's plans for reorganization sought to reshape society in order to meet and balance a well-defined list of intellectual, psychological, emotional and physical needs. Whereas Owen thought people could be reeducated to fit into a more rational social order, Fourier sought to fit the social order to eternal human desires. Unable to achieve the implementation of his ideas during his life-time, Fourier's energies were focused on their theoretical design "”the imaginative working through of how social relationships might be reorganized in a non-competitive, co-operative fashion to achieve individual happiness within social harmony (which, in his view, necessarily included a considerable dose of rivalry and competitiveness). It was left to his followers to actually set up working models of his ideal communities (or "phalanxes"); at least 40 were launched, especially in America, during the 1840s, but like the Owenite experiments none lasted very long.

While Marx rejected such approaches to transcending capitalism as off-shoots of the immaturity of the proletariat in the early 19th Century, he nevertheless considered these inventive social reformers "revolutionary" in "many respects" and applauded the way they identified the class antagonisms of capitalism and provided "the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class".

Such experiments left in their wake not only a tradition of "intentional communities" but also a whole social movement which has spread an ideology and practice of "co-operation" across the face of the earth. From their origins in England and France to the U.S. and hence to the Third World, "co-operatives" have been held out as an alternative path to the dog-eat-dog competition of capitalism. Many co-operative organizations have been centered on production, e.g., peasant or farmer co-operatives where individual family farmers collaborate to share equipment and jointly market their output. Others have been centered on the sphere of reproduction, e.g., consumer co-operatives or housing co-operatives.

As in all social inventions such experiments have created new terrains of class struggle. Owenite co-operatives were often offered as reformist alternatives to getting beyond capitalism through revolution. Others have been created to generate collective strength for local as well as wider struggles against the constraints of the system. Governments have somtimes legalized bottom-up efforts, but generally they have sought to use co-operatives not to get beyond capitalism but rather to "co-opt" dissent and to diffuse gathering revolutionary energies. The history of the class struggle is, in part, a history of the struggle over the creation and utilization of new forms of co-operation.
Recommended Further Reading

Some of the "orthodox" Marxist embrace of authority can be found in the following works. Engels' essay "On Authority", in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 23, New York: International Publishers, 1988, pp. 422-425, was written in 1873 at the request of Italian editor Enrico Bignami for his Almanacco Repubblicano. Lenin's writings which deal with issues of authority and competition include: V. I. Lenin, "The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government," (April 1918) in V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 27, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965, which was written i n the Spring following the October Revolution, and V. I. Lenin, "A Great Beginning. Heroism of the Workers in the Rear. 'Communist Subbotniks' (June 1919), V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 29, pp. 409-434.

For the results of Kropotkin's studies on "Mutual Aid" among animals and throughout human history, see his book Mutual Aid. Subsequent historical research has added to and complemented his work. See, for example, Maxine Berg's The Age of Manufactures 1700-1820, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986 which presents the results of recent research into the diversity of pre-industrial forms of manufacturing that reveals a wide variety of forms of co-operation --many of which proved extremely resistant to capitalist takeover.

For chapter length introductions to the ideas and efforts of Robert Owen & Charles Fourier and their followers, see Keith Taylor, The Political Ideas of the Utopian Socialists, London: Frank Cass, 1982. For a sample of Owen's own work see: Robert Owen, A New View of Society and Other Writings, London and New York, 1927. For a taste of Fourier's writings see: Mark Poster (ed) Harmonian Man. Selected Writings of Charles Fourier, New York, 1971. Most of his original writings (in French) have been assembled in a multivolume collection.

See Todd Wells' thesis on the class politics of co-operatives in the Third World, esp. Nicaragua.

Concepts for Review

extensive scale
Owenite village
average social labor
economies of scale
increasing returns to scale
joint consumption
plan of work
social productive power
worker rivalry

socialist competition
humans as social animal
faux frais
scholastic competition
social labor
working class resistence
alien will
despotism of valorization
int'l competitiveness
productivity of capital
mutual aid
precapitalist cooperation
mode of production

Questions For Review
(An * means one possible answer can be found at the end of the Study Guide.)

1. In what sense is co-operation the "fundamental form" of the capitalist mode of production?

2. Juxtapose and contrast capitalist co-operation with pre-capitalist co-operation, both that based on traditional community solidarity and that based on coercion.

3. How is the difference between the earliest capitalist production and pre-capitalist manufacturing "purely quantitative"?

4. What does Marx mean by the "average social labor time"? How can it be measured?

5. How does the factory or collective workshop realize increasing returns to scale for the capitalist? How does this reduce his unit costs of production?

*6. Give all the sources of the new social productive power that Marx associates with co-operation. Does the capitalist pay for this?

7. "When the worker cooperates in a planned way with others, he strips off the fetters of his individuality, and develops the capabilities of his species." Comment.

8. As the capitalist assembles and puts to work increasing numbers of workers, what do those workers do? How does this involve a political recomposition of the class?

*9. Marx speaks of growing working class "resistence." How adequate a choice of words is this? Are workers always reactive?

10. What happens to the costs of supervision as workers organize and struggle? Should we see the expenses of company goons and state police as among the faux frais of production?

11. In what sense is the factory run under a "despotic plan"? If the plan is the product of a "powerful will" outside the workers which "subjects their labor to his purpose," in what sense does this involve "ALIENastion"?

*12. Apply the analysis of this chapter to schooling. In what sense is there cooperation? Supervision? Unavoidable antagonism? Working class struggle? Despotism?


Chapter 14: Manufacturing and the Division of Labor

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Outline of Marx's Discussion

= "a particular sort of co-operation" based on the division of labor among large numbers of specialized workers
= "division of labor in manufacturing is merely a particular method of creating relative surplus value"
= "dependent on the strength, skill, quickness and sureness with which the individual worker manipulates his tools"

Manufacturing Period = mid-16th -- last third 18th Century

1. The Dual Origin of Manufacture
--from the assembling of large numbers of different kinds of skilled workers
--from the assembling of large numbers of the same kind of skilled workers
--both cases -an increasing division of labor, increasingly narrow specialization
--"decompostion of a handicraft into its different partial operations"

2. The Specialized Worker and His Tools
--"collective worker" made up of highly specialized individual workers
--one-sided work means less time in execution, i.e., increased productivity
--repetition of same task eliminates gaps in work, increases productivity
--as the workers becomes more specialized so do their tools
--tools of specialized worker = differentiated, simplified and adapted to specialized tasks, e.g., 500 varieties of hammer
--both worker and tool become perfected for narrow task, impoverished for others

3. The Two Fundamental Forms of Manufacture
--heterogeneous: parts made separately workers then assembled, e.g., watch making
--organic: production through a series of sequential processes, e.g., needle making

The "collective worker"
= "formed from the combination of the many specialized workers"
= each worker a specialized organ of the whole

Mutual interdependence
= a given proportionality to achieve continuity of all workers
= appropriate number of workers for each operation
= extension of scale by multiplying groups
= different skills = different training = different values of labor power
= hierachy of labor-powers, hierarchy of wages

Simplification of tasks = devaluation of labor power, as V decreases, S increases

4. The Division of Labor in Manufacture and Society

Division of labor in manufacture
--unmediated by exchange
--planned, organized by the despotism of capitalists
--depends for its development on growth of social division of labor

Social division of labor in society
--mediated by exchange of commodities (anarchy) e.g., cattle-breeding, tanning, shoemaking
--division of labor in general (agriculture vs industry etc)
--division of labor in particular (particular industries)
--division of labor in detail (within the workshop)

"foundation of every division of labor . . . is the separation of town from country"

Division of labor at each level has an impact on the division of labor on other levels
--"anarchy in the social division of labor and despotism in the manufacturing division of labor mutually condition each other"
--ultimately, the division of labor "seizes upon, not only the economic, but every other sphere of society"

Earlier forms of society: "”ancient Indian communities
--fixed, authoritative plan of division of labor and village
--blending of agriculture and handicrafts
--mostly "self-sufficing" communities, production for use
--each individual craftsman . . . conducts in his workshop all

the operations of his handicraft in the traditional way
--medieval guilds
--separated, isolated and perfected handicrafts
--master, limited number of journeymen
--worker and tools closely united

5. The Capitalist Character of Manufacture
--"the collective working organism is a form of existence of capital"
--productive power of collective worker "appears as the productive power of capital"
--"knowledge, judgement and will" which "is lost to specialized workers is concentrated in the capital which confronts them"
--counterpart to this is the impoverishment and crippling of the specialized worker
--"converts the worker into a crippled monstrosity", "mutilates the worker"
--capitalism is the first system "to provide the materials and the impetus for industrial pathology"
--Greeks understood the division of labor only in terms of use-value
--Main Obstacle: resistance of handicraft workers who are still "the regulating principle of social production", skills of handicraft workers in manufacturing gives them power to be insubordinate
--Results: failure to seize all disposable labor time, manufactures must follow movement of workers
Solution: introduction of machinery which will "abolish the role of the handicraftsman as the regulating principle of social production."

In this chapter Marx deepens his discussion of co-operation begun in Chapter 13. He examines the organization of co-operation within the context of manufacture, the first re-organization of capitalist beyond the simple annexation of handicraft workers through the putting-out system. In the putting-out system the organization of production remains unaltered, handicraftpeople continue working as before using their own tools in their old ways. But in manufacturing the capitalists increasingly impose a new division of labor in which the workers become increasingly specialized, performing only one part of a larger production process involving many workers and many steps. Yet, throughout the manufacturing period it is still the handicraft worker, however specialized, who is the moving force of production, or what Marx calls "the regulating principle of social production". The word manufacturing derives from two latin roots: manus for hand and factura for making. Thus manufacturing is "making by hand" and it is the workers' control over the use of their hands which regulates the rhythm and quality of the work. Manufacturing work thus corresponds very closely to Marx's analysis of labor in Chapter 7 in which a worker uses tools to transform raw materials. This is a situation which Marx will juxtapose to "machino-facture" in which the rhythm of work will be determined largely by the machine and the worker will be both used by the tools and demoted from their central role, i.e., stripped of their power.

A major focus in this chapter is on how the capitalist bringing together of large numbers of workers leads from a simple assembling of those with handicraft skills to an ever deeper division of labor. Whether different kinds of craftspeople with complementary skills are assembled or a large number of those with the same skill, the end result, he argues, has been the same: namely an ever increasing specialization of work and tools. This division and specialization derives from the reorganization of worker activities in order to produce a larger number of products at a more rapid pace, i.e., to increase productivity or the efficiency of production (and thus relative surplus-value).

This increasing specialization results in that process of deskilling or "disvalorization" of workers which I discussed in my commentaries on primitive accumulation. Whether we are talking about peasants forced to become one-sided farm laborers, midwives reduced to nurses, or craftspeople reduced to narrowly specialized workers, in all cases there is a loss of skill and of meaning from the point of view of the individuals and an appropriation and transformation of skill by capital. There is also, of course, a parallel process of "devalorization" as many skills and meanings, both personal and collective, are lost for good. I will discuss Marx's analysis of some the negative effects of these losses below in the section on "the effects of specialization on the worker".
The Collective Worker
Marx's analysis of how the varied skills of the handicraft worker become distributed piece-meal across a much larger body of worker, leads him to see that larger body as itself constituting a collective worker and each worker merely an "organ" of the larger body. "The collective worker, formed out of the combination of a number of individual specialized workers, is the item of machinery specifically characteristic of the manufacturing period." (p. 468) Because each of the specialized workers is more effective at their parcellized and individualized tasks, this collective worker is more productive than an equal number of unspecialized workers who did everything. "The one-sideness and even the deficiencies of the specialized individual worker become perfections when he is part of the collective worker." (p. 469) This metaphorical way of speaking about a large scale social set of complex relationships has certain limitations but it is nevertheless a very powerful one. It evokes not only the reality of productive co-operation, i.e., that these workers learn to work together as one, but also that of class struggle wherein these same workers learn to struggle as one vis à vis the capitatlists for whom they work, e.g., in wildcat strikes or in unions.

But if the concept of the "collective worker" emphasizes unity by its use of a singular figure to represent a complex group, Marx also recognizes the internal divisions and separations which compose this unitary figure. Not only does he understand how the collective worker is composed of different kinds of workers populating a particular division of labor, but he recognizes that the division of labor is never a simple horizontal set of differences but rather a vertical hierarchy.

Since the various functions performed by the collective worker can be simple or complex, high or low, the individual labor-powers, his organs, require different degrees of training, and must therefore possess very different values. Manufacture therefore develops a hierarchy of labor-powers, to which there corresponds a scale of wages.

In other words the reproduction of workers who require complex training necessitates higher wages. This is an application of the discussion in Chapter 6 of the value of labor power. When we consider dramatically different skill levels, such as that of manual workers performing simple tasks and engineers who design machinery or chemists who work out new chemical processes for production, it seems reasonable that on the assumption that such workers tend to produce off-spring of the same character, the engineers and chemists would require higher wages to rear children capable of achieving the same level of education and training. Within a generation on the other hand, it is not quite so obvious why engineers and engineers should require higher income than manual workers to reproduce themselves as such. We can imagine that they need more resources for continuing eduation, communication with their peers, books, tools of their trade and so on, but this is speculative. Marx certainly doesn't present any such evidence. Therefore, as in Chapter 6 we can take his suggestion here as only a step toward a theory of the wage hierarchy in manufacturing.

One thing is certain, no matter how trivial the actual differences between production tasks, or however tenuous the connections to the costs of reproducing labor power, capitalists always impose a wage hierarchy as a means of dividing and conquering the "collective worker". As the recent movement by women for equal wages on the basis of "comparable worth" has repeatedly demonstrated, many wage differentials have no relationship either to the complexity of the job or to the "value of labor power". When he turns to the subject of wages in Chapters 19-22, Marx will further develop his analysis of the relationship between the wages and hierarchy.

What consideration of the hierarchy of labor powers and wages brings out is that the division of labor involves not merely differences in tasks, it also involves differentials in power. It is not just that some are highly skilled and some less skilled or unskilled. The highly skilled receive more wages than the less skilled just as the less skilled receive more than the unskilled. In as much as wages represent not only power to command the means of life but also power to struggle, the hierarchy of wages involves a hierarchy of power not only among workers but in their respective and joint relations with capital.

Recognition of these relations by a number of Marxists in the post-World War II period, led both to empirical studies of historical changes in the make-up of the collective worker and to the development of a new set of Marxist concepts to discuss them. Whereas Marx spoke of the division of labor, these Marxists came to speak of the complex set of power relationships woven into and constructed against the division of labor in terms of a particular "class composition". Historical studies of the changing division of labor in the 20th Century led to an interpretation of how the rise of Taylorism and then Fordism led to a particular figure of the collective worker they called "the mass worker". Taylorism, the term given to the work of Frederick Taylor and those who followed him, denotes the meticulous analysis of the labor process and subsequent use of that analysis to impose the most detailed and efficient specialization possible on the collective worker. Taylor quite consciously carried out the redesign of the production process and of the pattern of co-operation to achieve precisely that concentration of power of command in the hands of capital at the expense of the worker that Marx describes so well in this chapter. Taylor's work was dedicated to the final destruction of the power of the handicraft worker to exert any control at all over the work process. Fordism, the term given to Henry Ford's reorganization of the Taylorist division of labor around the assembly line, completed what Taylor had begun through the subbordination of all moments of work to a single interconnected machine "”what the French call "La Chaine", a nice term that evokes the chains of slavery. The "mass worker" who emerged within this restructured labor process was a new kind of collective worker, one totally allienated from work and capable of self-organization at the level of the industry as a whole. The industrial union would be the product of the self-activity of the mass worker.

Research on the mass worker while developing and applying Marx's analysis of the collective worker also brought out a gaping hole in his analysis. In as much as the mass worker emerged during the same period in which the working class was successful in dramatically reducing the working day "”as discussed in my commentary in Chapter 10"” its rise was accompanied by both an expansion of working class leisure and the capitalist colonization of that leisure through such institutions as the public school, the expulsion of women from certain waged jobs back into unwaged homework and home economics to shape that work and the family along with it. Although Marx, at one point, hints that the division of labor "seizes upon, not only the economic, but every other sphere of society", he does not develop this. (p. 474) While we might be willing to tolerate this failure to extend the analysis of the division of labor beyond the factory in a period in which virtually everyone, men, women and children were being forced into the factory, that failure becomes intolerable in a period when class relations are expanding outside waged work. On the other hand, unwaged housework has always been present and therefore an analysis of the place of that labor in the larger division of labor as well as an analysis of the division of labor within housework are required for any complete understanding of the collective worker in any period. We can ask, for example, how the work of child rearing was shared within the working class family and community. Who undertook which tasks? How much of the work was done by unwaged women, how much by unwaged children, how much by male waged workers and so on, and how these proportions changed over time and in response to what?

In her novel of working class life Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell would draw our attention to her observation that even in the inferno of Manchester's rapid industrialization, working class men were able and willing to assume roles of nurturing and caring. Under both normal circumstances (the opening walk in the countryside) and emergencies (the starvation of William Davenport and his family) they have the knowledge necessary and willingness to nurture, shop for food and medicine, cook, administer to the sick and comfort the bereaved. However, Gaskell shows the limits to these abilities "”the men leaving the preparation of tea and food to the women in the opening chapter, Job Leah's ignorance about how to care for an infant during his return trip from London, John Barton leaving the care of his dead wife's body to his daughter, and so on"” and on the whole portrays these roles as being mostly assumed by women, e.g., Mary who takes care of her father and herself, Alice Wilson who takes care of everyone. This said, it is interesting how she portrays much less of a strict gender division of labor than we might have expected.

One thing the novel suggests, certainly true though requiring much more investigation than it has been given, is that the political behavior of workers can only be understood by grasping the patterns of their lives in their homes and communities as well as in their factories. While this may have been particularly true in the "hungry '40s" when large numbers of workers had their wages reduced or lost their jobs "”so that the experience of distress was more than usually a home and community based one"” it is also true at other times and thus an understanding of these things is vital to any thorough analysis of the class composition.

Just as we can study with Marx the wage hierarchy within the factory, so too can we study the hierachy between the waged and unwaged and among the unwaged (say among women, retired male workers and children), i.e., at the level of the social factory (capitalist society as a whole). The dependence of the unwaged on the waged "”say at the level of the family"” conditions the relations between the two and explains both the privileges demanded by the waged and the forms of struggle of the unwaged. To the degree that Marx failed to recognize or treat such relationships there has been scope for extending his meticulous analysis of waged work to the unwaged. Not surprisingly since Marx's time it has been primarily women who have pushed Marxist research in this direction just as amongst bourgeois novelists of the 19th Century it was mainly women like Jane Austin or Elizabeth Gaskell who explored these issues. Also not surprisingly it has mainly been within the context of upsurges in women's struggles that such work has occurred most recently within the rise of the women's movements of the 1970s.

The analysis of the mass worker mentioned above did lead eventually to an analysis of the division of labor at the level of society as a whole and the recognition of how capital has manipulated those divisions to an analysis of society as a "social factory". On the one hand, it was recognized how Henry Ford wanted his factory overseers to check up on the family lives of his workers. On the other hand, the public school system "”which only became generalized in the Progressive Era"” came to be seen as an institution which organizes the division of labor in the inter-generational reproduction of labor power. It reproduced many of the conditions of work of the mass worker in its own organization and by tracking girls into home economics and boys into industrial arts, etc. helped reproduce the gender differentials which help found the larger wage/unwaged divisions in society. Recognition of these aspects of the unwaged dimensions of the mass worker has led to a much more complete study and understanding of the dynamics of class relationships throughout the social factory.

More contemporary research of this sort has sought to identify the emergence of yet another figure of the collective worker, namely the "socialized worker". This socialized worker is argued to have been emerging within a crisis of Fordism brought on by the struggles of the mass worker who succeeded in the late 1960s and early 1970s in rupturing the pattern of capitalist relative surplus value based on Fordism in industry and Keynesianism at the level of the state. The "socialized" worker is so named because, it is argued, the self activity of workers has begun to break down the very distinction between the spheres of production and reproduction, between the factory and the rest of society.
The Effects of Specialization on the Worker
The division of labor in manufacturing constructs a more highly productive collective worker out of the activities of its constituent specialized individuals in part by making each of them more effective in the narrow task assigned. But the price paid for that enhanced effectiveness at one narrow task is a crippling of their other real or potential abilities. "Constant labor of one uniform kind disturbs the intensity and flow of a man's vital forces, which find recreation and delight in the change of activity itself." (p. 460)

"Manufacture . . . seizes labor-power by its roots. It converts the worker into a crippled monstrosity by furthering his particular skill as in a forcing-house, through the suppression of a whole world of productive drives and inclinations, just as in the states of La Plata they butcher a whole beast for the sake of his hide or his tallow. . . . the individual himself is divided up, and transformed into the automatic motor of a detail operation . . ."

Although he recognizes that any division of labor, in any kind of society will involve some restriction on the potential development of the individual, Marx argues that in capitalism this is carried to a barbaric extreme. "Since manufacture . . . attacks the individual at the very roots of his life, it is the first system to provide the materials and the impetus for industrial pathology." (p. 484)

It should be remembered that Marx was far from the first to take up this theme. In Chapter 14 he points out that Adam Smith before him was well aware of this kind of negative impact on the individual worker and that Smith learned of it from his own teacher Adam Ferguson. (p. 483) Where Marx goes beyond Ferguson and Smith is in providing a class analysis of the dynamics of these relations, especially in analysing their role in the class struggle. (see next section below)

In the following graphic portrayal Jack London describes one of those one-sided, specialized and crippled workers of which Marx speaks. In his analysis of the collective activities of a glass factory (pp. 466-467) Marx ends with the production of the glass bottle. London picks up where Marx leaves off to describe the work of attaching the bottle stoppers to the bottles.

It was simple work, the tying of glass stoppers into small bottles. At his waist he carried a bundle of twine. He held the bottles between his knees so that he might work with both hands. Thus, in a sitting position and bending over his own knees, his narrow shoulders grew humped and his chest was contracted for ten hours each day. This was not good for the lungs, but he tied three hundred dozen bottles a day.

The superintendent was very proud of him and brought visitors to look at him. In ten hours three hundred dozen bottles passed through his hands. This means that he had attained machine-like perfection. All waste movements were eliminated. Every motion of his thin arms, every movement of a muscle in the thin fingers was swift and accurate. He worked at high tension, and the result was that he grew nervous. At night his muscles twitched in his sleep, and in the daytime he could not relax and rest. He remained keyed up and his muscles continued to twitch. Also he grew sallow and his lint-cough grew worse. The pneumonia laid hold of the feeble lungs within the contracted chest and he lost his job in the glass-works.

There was no joyousness in life for him. The procession of the days he never saw. The nights he slept away in twitching unconsciousness. The rest of the time he worked, and his consciousness was machine consciousness. Outside this his mind was a blank. He had no ideals, and but one illusion; namely, that he drank excellent coffee. He was a work-beast.

He had no mental life whatsoever; yet deep down in the crypts of his mind, unknown to him, were being weighed and sifted every hour of his toil, every movement of his hands, every twitch of his muscles, and preparations were making for a future course of action that would amaze him and all his little world.

(Jack London, "The Apostate" (1911), in Jack London, Revolution. Stories and Essays, London: Journeyman Press, 1979.)

Whether the worker portrayed in this short story was drawn from life is not known. He might well have been because London worked in many of the industries described in his stories. But even if he was not, the portrayal gives vivid concreteness to an all too common phenomenon in the 19th and even the 20th Century.

This problem of the crippling caused by highly specialized work has grown with capitalism and has continued to be the object of both working class struggle and academic study throughout the 20th Century. In the post-WWII period, for example, the self-organization of farm workers led directly to a battle over the "short handled hoe" a tool the farm workers argued was imposed on them by capitalists who wanted their overseers to be able to immediately identify a worker who stopped working (by standing up straight). No matter to the agribusiness growers in California and elsewhere that the result of 8 hours or more of stoop labor was physically crippling to the workers. Even in the domain of mental labor "”forseen by Ferguson in 1767"” over specialization has led to an inability of workers (including the graduates of business and engineering schools) to understand enough of the background and framework of a problem to generate creative solutions.

Since Marx's time, the development of capitalist industry has brought with it an ever greater mass of disease, poisonings, cripplings, and other injuries for industrial pathologists to study. When we broaden our attention to the social factory, we can begin to recognize how all kinds of pathologies from drug use and suicides to environmental degradation have been as integral to capitalist development as the factory based problems that preoccupied Marx. As we might expect one byproduct has been the ever renewed struggles by workers against such conditons of work and life, both through the fight for safety and health regulation within the official work place and through the battles for a wide variety of health, consumer and environmental programs in the society at large.

Already in the 1857 Grundrisse manuscripts Marx, following Fourier, had forseen the necessary condition for overcoming this problem: not the abandonment of the division of labor as some romantic pastoralists have suggested but such a drastic reduction in work time that people's work could be enriched by a diversity of life experiences. Where Marx went beyond Fourier was in identifying the forces at work in the class struggle that were pushing society in this direction. His early synthesis in the Grundrisse laid out the analysis most clearly: how working class struggle forced capital to substitute machinery for labor raising the productivity of labor and creating both the technical possibility of less work and, tendentially, undermining the capitalist ability to impose it. Some of that analysis reappeared in Chapter 10 of Capital in the discussion of working class struggle for less work. Some more can be found in Chapter 25 of Volume I where he analyses the genesis of the reserve army of the unemployed. Still more can be found in the Grundrisse and in Volume III of Capital where Marx analyses the implications of this constant substitution of constant for variable capital, (i.e, a rising organic composition of capital): an increasing difficulty in putting people to work . These analyses lead to his discussion in Volume III of the "realm of freedom" where work is reduced to a single component of a multifaceted social life.
The Class Struggle
Much of what I have just discussed can be read in terms of the capitalist use of the division of labor to divide and control the working class. Certainly much of Marx's analysis is focused on the benefits to capital of the division of labor in manufacture irrespective of the costs to workers. But there is another side to Marx's analysis, the side that recognizes the power that workers do have even within this division. Precisely because in manufacturing production is still based on handicraft skills, workers' command over those skills give them power over the labor process "”power to produce and power to refuse to produce.

Since handicraft skill is the foundation of manufacture, and since the mechanism of manufac-ture as a whole possesses no objective framework which would be independent of the workers themselves, capital is constantly compelled to wrestle with the insurbordination of the workers. (pp. 489-490)

He goes on to quote Andrew Ure that "the more skilful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become." (p. 490) Skilled workpeople can be self-willed and intractable because they control the rhythm and pace of certain phases of the production process. They still wield tools and just as they know the most efficient way to use them, they also know less efficient ways. In conflict with capitalists "”say over the conditions of labor or the length of the working day"” it is therefore possible for such workers to slow down or sabotage the production process without the capitalists or their overseers being able to understand when or how this is done. Early in the chapter (p. 460) Marx noted how the craftsman creates "gaps in his working day" as he shifts from one operation to another. The capitalist refinement of the division of labor tends to eliminate such shifts, and thus the gaps, but never completely achieves its ends. At the end of the chapter he concludes that the proof of the still remaining power of handicraft workers in the manufacturing division of labor lay in the failure of capital to "seize control of the whole disposable labor-time of the manufacturing workers". As his last remarks suggest, it was only with the introduction of machinery that a Frederick Taylor would be able to strip the last shreds of power from the hands of production line workers. Unfortunately for the capitalists the response of the workers to being blocked in one source of power would be to develop others!

When we expand our attention from the factory to the sphere of reproduction with its own evolving division of labor, we can also find endless examples of people using their command over work processes to resist the imposition of labor. Whether we examine the struggles of unwaged housewives or students, we discover a myriad of methods, subtle or blatant to refuse work. The housewife fed up with being condemned to life as a broodmare, uses her knowledge of her own body to resist conception and procreation. The student bored or annoyed with imposed school work uses feined dullness or wit to distract teachers and open gaps for play or contemplation in the school day.
Recommended Further Reading

Among the Italian Marxists who analyzed the rise and development of the mass worker were Romano Alquati, Raniero Panzieri, and Sergio Bologna. In the introduction to Reading Capital Politically, I gave a sketch of these theoretical developments (see Study Guide, Part 1). Sergio Bologna has recently written a fairly comprehensive overview of the development of these historical studies. That overview has been translated and published in two parts in the journal of the Edinburgh Conference of Socialist Economists: Sergio Bologna, "Theory and History of the Mass Worker in Italy", Common Sense, #11, Winter 1991, pp. 16-29, Common Sense #12, Summer 1992, pp. 52-78.

The Marxist researchers who have elaborated the concept of the socialized workers are those working with Toni Negri and Jean-Marie Vincent, the principal editors of the Parisian journal Futur Antérieur. Among the contributions to the study of this figure of the collective worker are:

Marx's writings on Indian society grew out of his efforts to understand the evolution of colonialism within the British empire and within global capitalism more generally. Characteristically, he looked for an understanding of the relationship between the nationstates (colonizing and colonized) in the class dynamics within each and the linkages between social antagonisms in England and those in India through trade, investment and war. For a collection of his writings see S. Aveneri (ed) Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization, New York: Doubleday, 1969. Virtually all of his writings on India are now available in the volumes of the Collected Works.

Concepts For Review

social product
specialization of tools
decomposition of a handicraft
collective worker
mass worker
socialized worker
social factory
manufacture and working class struggle
organic manufacture
heterogenous manufacture
hierarchy of labor powers
wage hierarchy
machinery and mathematics

division of labor in general
division of labor in particular
division of labor in detail
despotism in the factory
anarchy in the market
communal division of labor
crippling of workers
Smith on division of labor
colonial division of labor
iron law of proportionality
ancient Indian communities
crippling of workers
mental versus manual work
Plato on the division of labor

Questions For Review
(An * means one possible answer can be found at the end of the Study Guide.)

1. What are the two ways in which manufacture emerges from handicraft production? In each case what is the impact on the workers' skills?

2. What are the advantages of specialized labor wherein a worker performs one, narrowly defined task over and over? What are the disadvantages to the worker? How does manufacturing "provide the materials and the impetus for industrial pathology"? How are workers "crippled"?

3. What is the impact of specialization in manufacturing on the tools used by workers and how does this pave the way for the rise of machinery?

4. What are the differences and similarities between "heterogeneous" and "organic" manufacture? How does the organic organization of manufacture tend to produce continuity and uniformity in the average time of production for each worker? How might this be achieved in heterogeneous manufacturing?

5. Discuss Marx's passing reference to the link between machinery and the development of mathematics. What does this suggest about the social development of science more generally?

*6. What does Marx mean by "the collective worker"? What is the origin of this "item of machinery"? Why does Marx use this latter term?

7. What are the technical origins of the wage hierarchy? How does Marx explain this in terms of the value of labor power? What is the impact of specialization and deskilling on the value of labor power? Thus on surplus value?

8. How are the origins of the division of labor in manufacturing and the division of labor in society different? How does their separate development influence each other?

9. List the ways Marx sees the division of labor in manufacture to be despotic while that in capitalist society is anarchic.

10. How does Marx contrast the division of labor in capitalist manufacture with that of the guilds? With that of traditional Indian (Asian) communities?

11. How does the emphasis of classical political economy on productivity and quantity contrast with the views of Plato and other ancient Greek writers on the division of labor?

*12. What is the source of workers' power during the period of manufacture and why is capital "constantly compelled to wrestle with the insubordination of the workers"? What was Marx's evidence of the successful exercise of this power?

13. "We make a nation of Helots, and have no free citizens." Comment.

14. What is the relation between tendencies to market equilibrium and the anarchy of the market?


Chapter 15: Machinery and Modern Industry

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Section 1. The Development of Machinery
Outline of Marx's Discussion

Mill: machines have not lightened toil
Marx: machines are the means for producing relative surplus value

Rise of machinery = conversion of tool into machines

= complex tool
= tool driven by natural force
= motor mechanism + transmitting mechanism + tool or working machine
= tools of man have become implements of a mechanism, multiplied
= a mechanism that performs with its tools the same operations as the worker formerly did with similar tools, whether the motive power is derived from man or from another machine
= soon becomes one element in a complex system of machinery

Complex system of machinery
= simple co-operation of similar machines
= "a connected series of graduate processes carried out by a chain of mutually complementary machines of various kinds"
= "the co-operation by division of labor which is peculiar to manufacture, but now it appears as a combination of machines with specific functions"
= fixed proportions established by their capacities, numbers, speed
= "collective working machine" = "articulated system"
= "constitutes itself a vast automaton"
= automatic system of machinery when the machines "elaborate the raw material, without man's help, and needs only supplementary assistance from the worker"
= "a mechanical monster"
= development in one sector led to development in connected spheres
= implied need for large scale industry to produce machines, i.e., for machines to be built by machines
= replacement of the worker-subject by an "objective organization"
= organization of machinery technically requires co-operation of labor


One of the basic themes of this chapter is set out in the very first paragraph where Marx quotes John Stuart Mill to the effect that machines have not "lightened the day's toil of any human being." Marx's response, of course, is that in capitalism machinery is not introduced to lighten toil but to increase relative surplus value. In this way he introduces an argument which will frequently appear in the chapter: the paradox of capitalism that the very machinery which reduces the effort necessary to produce a given product results in more work rather than less. The various ways in which machinery causes an increase in labor will be explored at different points in the text.

What his exposition of the nature of machines primarily deals with is the way in which machines accomplish the same tasks as those carried out by workers. They substitute both mechanical contrivances for the various gesture and operations of the workers and motor power for human energy. He traces the development of machines from relatively simple substitutes for particular operations to complex systems of machinery driven by non-human energy sources. But the story is always the same: machines accomplish that transformation of non-human nature that he identified in Chapter 7 as the nature of human work. Thus particular machines replace particular workers and systems of machines replace large numbers of co-operating workers. In the place of the co-operation of humans, we have the co-operation of machines. In this process some humans are rendered redundant and expelled from production and others are reduced to being mere tenders of machines.

This displacement accomplishes what is for Marx a fundamental change in the work process, one which had already begun in manufacturing but which is completed in modern industry. That change is the replacement of the central role of the worker in commanding the work process by the machine. From being the central subject who works, the worker is demoted to being one more cog in the system of machines.

While Marx's analysis is clearly focused on the factory "”most of his examples are drawn from main sectors of 19th Century British industry"” bringing that analysis up to date requires its application to the world outside the factory which has also been transformed by the proliferation of machines. Increasingly throughout the 20th Century machines have been developed not merely as mechanisms of production but also as elements of consumption. To some degree Marx anticipates this as he notes "But as well as this, the revolution in the modes of production of industry and agriculture made necessary a revolution in the general conditions of the social process of production, i.e., in the means of communication and transport. . . . Hence quite apart from the immense transformation which took place in shipbuilding, the means of communication and transport gradually adapted themselves to the mode of production of large-scale industry by means of a system of river steamers, railways, ocean steamers and telegraphs." (pp. 505-506) To these we can add the 20th Century proliferation of automobiles, trucks, airplanes, telephone, radio and television, computer networks. But if these developments amounted, in part, to an "adaptation" of and to the rise of machine systems in production, they carried those systems into the extra-factory world of everyday life. Ocean steamers, railways, automobiles and airplanes are not only adjuncts to production but, to varying degrees, they also organize consumption and provide the means not merely of the reproduction of labor power but also become vehicles of struggle and self-valorization. Just as Marx studied the implications of this transformation for our understandings of the dynamics of exploitation and class struggle in the factory, so can we study the implications for this wider proliferation for our struggles and our desires.

What Marx's analysis provided is a methodological point of departure for querying the nature and meaning of machine technology whereever we find it. For example, take the clothes washing machine, a common fixture in most households. This machine, like those that Marx discusses, substitutes a mechanism for human work. Sometimes these machines are used in capitalist enterprise: cleaning factories where they are used alongside dry-cleaning machines, pressing machines, and so on. Commonly they are used in the home that is not organized as a business. Technically the role is the same, but socially and politically it is quite different. In the factory, the machine substitutes for waged labor and allows the capitalist to process more dirty fabric (clothes, linen, etc) while dispensing with workers. In the home, the washing machine allows the unwaged houseworker to accomplish the same tasks of cleaning but in much less time and with much less effort. But if there is displacement of work, there is normally no displacement of workers "”with the possible exception of a reduced marriage rate by those who feel less need of a spouse/domestic worker. Whereas, as we will see in Capital the threat to employment often led workers to resist and attack machines, in the household houseworkers, usually housewives more commonly fought for machines, i.e., for the expenditure of household wages on such machines, because of the dramatic reduction in their work loads. Such expenditure undoubtedly often amounted to a diversion of the wage in a direction that benefited housewives much more than waged husbands and thus reflected and contributed to a shift in burdens of work and power. As such the proliferation of such labor-savings devices in the 20th Century has certainly been a reflection of the growing power of women to escape servitude and improve their lives vis à vis men.

Yet, there has been another analogy between the capitalist use of the machine in the factory and the housewife's use of such machines in the home. Just as in the former case, the machine was manipulated, as we will see to increase work, so too have the dynamics of capitalist intervention in the home tended to increase the very work that such machines have reduced. How? First, through advertising the peddlers of both washing machines and their associated products, e.g., soaps, have raised expectations and standards of acceptable levels of "cleanness" to the point where washing is much more frequent than ever before. Advertisements condemning "ring around the collar" or "spots on the glasses" that might offend employer or mother-in-law spur houseworkers to more frequent and more thorough cleaning. While it may be that even with such repetition, clothes cleaning still requires less time than it used to, at the level of the household as a whole with all its "labor-saving" devices, there is some evidence that in many families the total amount of housework has not been reduced by the introduction of such machines "”and thus their potential for the liberation of human life-time from work has not been realized.

Section 2. The Value Transferred By the Machinery to the Product
Outline of Marx's Discussion

Natural forces cost capital nothing, but their exploitation through machinery requires costly investment

--enters useful labor wholly, the whole machine is engaged
--enters valorization bit by bit, adds what it loses by depreciation
--so, the more labor required to produce the machine and the quicker it is used up, the more it transfers to the product
--as the mass of machinery per worker grows so does C/V, the ratio of the value added by machinery (+ raw materials + intermediate goods) to the value of labor power

Condition for introduction of machinery: "less labor must be expended in producing the machinery than is displaced by the employment of that machinery" (p. 515)
"value of machine" must be less than "value of labor power displaced" (p. 515)
money cost of machine must be < money cost of labor


in general, the lower the wage, the less incentive for the introduction of machines; low wages = "squandering of human labor power for despicable purposes", e.g., in England


The basic message of this section is the same as that of Chapter 8 on constant and variable capital: machinery, as a sophisticated form of constant capital, only adds to the value of the product what it transfers to it. It does not create any new value. As I discussed in my commentary on Chapter 8 this is a misleading way of putting things. The "transference" under consideration here is merely the validation of the contribution of the labor that went into creating the machine to the final product created with the use of the machine. Therefore the amount of value "transferred" depends on how much labor went into the machine and how much product is processed by the machine. The greater the former, the more transferred. But, the greater the latter, the less transferred per unit of output. So, the longer a machine lasts, ceterus paribus, the smaller the amount of value attributable to it per unit of product, i.e., the less of a role the original labor of producing the machine plays in the creation of the final product.

There are two essential ingredients in the creation of machines and in their functioning which deserve comment here: "natural forces" and "science". Now for Marx "natural forces" includes both non-human forces like steam, water, etc. and human forces like "the productive forces resulting from co-operation". Although he doesn't define "science", it is certainly one of the elements of human co-operation. Science has developed as a collective way of thinking about and interacting with the world through the interconnected activities of vast numbers of people. Instead of saying, as he does in footnote 23 that "'Alien' science is incorporated by capital just as 'alien' labor is.", Marx should say "as one aspect of 'alien' labor". For what is science if not the development and elaboration of just that thinking "will" which Marx defined in Chapter 7 as making the worst of architects better than the best of bees?

As with science, so too with "technology" which is traditionally defined as the "application of science to industry". In footnote 4 of the previous section, Marx noted that "a critical history of technology would show how little any of the inventions of the eighteenth century are the work of a single individual." (p. 493) With this he was insisting on the collective character of technological change. As with science, its application is the work of vast numbers across space and time. The contributions of individuals are often critical, but they are always building on the work of others before them and along side them. They "invent" in response to perceived real problems, generally having considerable experience and related materials close at hand.

Unfortunately, although considerable history of scientific and technological development has been written since Marx's time, the vast majority of it remains unknown to most people. Instead, popular ideas derive from Hollywood images of isolated "mad scientists" and the failure to teach the history in schools. In the case of Hollywood, take the recent, hugely popular film Back to the Future. That film and its sequel presented, once again, invention as the work of a crazy (albeit lovable) inventor working out of his home in total isolation. In the case of schools, it is common at the elementary and secondary level to teach children about "great inventors" and their inventions in ways which totally abstract from the socio-historical contexts within which they worked. The purpose is undoubtedly ideological "”reinforcing bourgeois individualism"” and pedagogical "”you the individual child can hope to achieve great things"” but the method obfuscates any real understanding of invention and technological change and by mystifying it transforms the "inventors" into magicians and their creativity into a totally magical and unknowable art. Well meaning teachers who then pressure every student to be an "inventor" through obligatory and competitive "invention fairs" complete the alienation from creativity by asking children to "invent" in total abstraction from the normal social contexts and processes in which real invention takes place. Under these circumstances, most of the children have nothing substantial to suggest and wind up feeling silly and inadequate in comparison with the inventors and inventions they are given as role models. The end result is the opposite of that intended: an alienation from imagination of those who can not understand that their lack of ideas derives from a social rather than an individual failing.

*In the 1950s as the centrality of science and technology to industrial development (via productivity increases and relative surplus value) became preoccupations of policy makers, the negative public perception of scientists came to be perceived as a problem. In an era when Sputnik and aggregate production functions dictated increased investment in human capital and the expansion of science curriculum in public schools, efforts were made to change both popular images and the in-group orientation of scientists who wrote only for each other in technical and mathematical jargon indecipherable by the general public.

** Although the literature of science fiction has often reproduced this same misunderstanding of the processes of invention "”compare H. G. Wells' Time Machine with Back to the Future"” the fact that it has increasingly been written by scientists and those with serious scientific understanding has meant that it sometimes gives a much truer portrayal of the social processes of discovery.

Section 3. The Most Immediate Effects of Machine Production on the Worker
Outline of Marx's Discussion

(a) Machinery draws in women and children
--by reducing the need for muscle power, machinery makes it possible to employ less muscular women and children and to "break" the resistance of male workers
--so the whole family enters the factory
--this reduces time for housework, time for play
--less time to cook, to care for infants, to sew; thus need to buy substitute commodities
--less time for children to learn these domestic skills
--male labor devalorized, family wage spread across earnings of all family members
--M - LP less free, as parents forced by low wages to sell children's labor power ≈ slavery
--devastating impact on children's health
--"thrown into a situation physically and morally polluted"
--high infant death rates
--insufficient nourishment, dosing with opiates
--intentional starving and poisoning
--"intellectual degeneration", led to unenforced or subverted laws mandating schooling
--some "schools" were not really schools at all
--overcrowded, to few teachers, too few materials
--close, noisome atmosphere

(b) Machinery prolongs the working day
--machinery as "perpetual motion", limited only by worker endurance and resistance
--use of women and children lessens resistance of class as a whole
--increased working day means more rapid turnover of machinery, more surplus value
--increasing the length of working day reduces marginal costs fixed in machinery
--this is of increasing importance as C/V rises
--monopoly introduction of machinery by individual capital lowers costs and gives increased surplus value
--Contradiction: increase in C displaces V and potential for S
--displacement of V by C offsets rise in S/V and creates pressure for capitalists to compensate for loss in relative surplus value by increasing working day and absolute surplus value
--displacement of V produces "a surplus working population"
--by "revolutionizing" "the mode of labor as well as the social organism" machinery breaks the resistance of workers ["decomposition" of working class power]

Paradox: most powerful instrument for reducing work, increases it instead
--so much for the dreams of Aristotle, Antipater and Stolberg

(c) Machinery intensifies labor
--limitation of length of working day leads to increased use of machinery
--to increase productivity and relative surplus value
--to increase the intensity of labor and thus surplus value
--intensification via "heightened tension of labor-power"
--intensification via "a closer filling up of the pores of the working day"
--labor-time now "acquires a measure of its intensity, or degree of density"
--intensification achieved via piece wages
--shortening of labor time makes increased intensity possible "”"subjective condition"
--intensification achieved via speed-up of machines
--intensification achieved via having one worker tend more machines, e.g., cotton looms
--intensification undermines workers' health , e.g., exhaustion, lung disease
--intensification leads to further struggle for shortening of working day, e.g., 8-hours movement

The Great Paradox

The "most immediate effects of machinery on the worker" which Marx describes here are all negative: the introduction of machinery is used by capital to impose work on women and children, to prolong the working day and to intensify labor. The great paradox which Marx sees in the capitalist use of machinery appears fully elaborated here: the machine reduces the need for muscle power "”which should lighten labor"” but draws in and exhausts women and children; the machine makes it possible to produce more in a shorter period "”which should lighten labor"” but it is used instead to prolong it; the machine which allows one to accomplish the work of many faster than ever "”which should lighten labor"” is used to make the one work at an exhaustingly rapid pace. Thus at the end of section (b) he writes:

Hence too the economic paradox that the most powerful instrument for reducing labor-time suffers a dialectical inversion and becomes the most unfailing means for turning the whole lifetime of the worker and his family into labor-time at capital's disposal for its own valorization. (p. 532)

In quoting from Aristotle's Politics and the poetry of Antipater and Stolberg, Marx is showing how this capitalist use of the machine amounts to a betrayal of the dreams and hopes of humanity. From time immemorial humans have sought to use their intelligence and imagination not only to improve their world but to reduce their drudgery and free themselves for new and more diverse pursuits. In some ways, as Marx and Engels argued in the Communist Manifesto, capitalism liberates the possibilities for such developments by destroying many traditional barriers to innovation and change. But even in its historically unprecedented flexibility, capitalism imposes new barriers "”including the endlessness of its imposition of work.
The Historical Relation Between Absolute and Relative Surplus Value

Although, as this chapter makes clear, absolute and relative surplus value often co-exist as capitalist strategies, Marx nevertheless suggests a fundamental historical linkage between the two approaches. On the one hand, during the period of the "formal" subordination of labor to capital, before there is any capitalist modification of the labor process, absolute surplus value dominates, i.e., the main way capitalist seek to extract more surplus labor is through making workers work longer. On the other hand, the historical success of workers' resistance to absolute surplus value forces capital to shift its emphasis to relative surplus value.

As soon as the gradual upsurge of working-class revolt had compelled Parliament compulsorily to shorten the hours of labor, and to begin by imposing a normal working day on factories properly so called, i.e., from the moment that it was made impossible once and for all to increase the production of surplus-value by prolonging the working day, capital threw itself with all its might, and in full awareness of the situation, into the production of relative surplus value, by speeding up the development of the machine system. (pp. 533-4)

Capital's tendency, as soon as a prolongation of the hours of labor is once for all forbidden, is to compensate for this by systematically raising the intensity of labor, and converting every improvement in machinery into a more perfect means for soaking up labor-power. (p. 542)

It is not an exaggeration, therefore, to argue that throughout the last 150 years as the working class has been on the offensive attacking absolute surplus value by reducing the amount of official waged work time, capital has come increasingly to depend upon relative surplus value strategies for its survival and expansion. Indeed, with the development of the Keynesian state in the period following the Great Depression of the 1930s, capital sought the institutionalization of relative surplus value through a variety of productivity deals, formal and informal, that linked rising wages and profits to rising productivity. By creating an institutional framework within which workers' struggles for less work and more pay could be paid for by increased investment and rising productivity, relative surplus value became systematized as a key component of capitalist strategy and growth. This formalization can be seen partly in collective bargaining and industrial union contracts and partly in the tax and investment policies of the state that has quite consciously fostered technological change with the object of achieving steady growth in productivity. While such policies have fairly consistently favored investment in new and better capital equipment in private industry, they have also expanded investment in science and technology outside the factory both through research and development programs and through human capital investment in education. The contemporary preoccupation with "high tech" industrialization is only the latest phase in a long history of relative surplus value strategies.

Machinery and Life outside the Factory

Although, as we have seen, Marx spends little time in Capital analyzing life outside the factory, his discussion of the ways in which the development of machinery allow the capitalist to draw women and children into production leads him to a recognition of the interrelatedness of waged and unwaged work. Factory inspector reports and other sources indicate how time and energy spent by women and children on the waged job dramatically reduces the time and energy available for both the work of reproduction and life more generally. He cites evidence of high infant mortality rates resulting from the neglect or mistreatment of the young by women whose time is eaten up by the factory. * He notes observations that women working long hours can not keep up with their traditional domestic tasks and young girls forced to work for wages never even learn the skills necessary. As a result domestic work (e.g., sewing and mending ) does not get done and working class families either go without or are forced to purchase commodities to replace what they might have produced themselves at home (e.g., new clothes) "”thus reducing their real disposable income. The 19th Century evidence from periods of crisis and high female unemployment about how family health often improved with increased time at home, e.g., from increased breast feeding, resembles contemporary experience in the Third World where the fall in agricultural export prices sometimes leads to improved peasant health, e.g., via improved nutrition as family effort is redirected from export to subsistence crop production.

*At this point in the text, Marx's focus is on women and children but it should be obvious that the long hours and exhausting expenditure of energy required of men also played hob with the relations among fathers, wives and children. The brutality and violence of the factory has often been brought home by those who have been forced to w ork there. Listen, for example, to the song "Factory" by Bruce Springsteen and note the lines "Dad comes through the gates with death in his eyes, somebody's gonna get hurt tonight". Where blue collar workers often bring home physical brutality, middle class white collar workers bring home the psychological brutality of the office and carry out the same kind of transference of their anger to their children; only the character of mistreatment differs.

More generally, Marx's analysis draws our attention to the close connection between waged and unwaged work, between the work of production and the work of reproduction. In the early 20th Century as restrictions on women's and children's wage labor grew and both were increasingly expelled from waged work, the reconstitution of the family became a preoccupation of capitalist social policy makers who contributed both to the emergence of the modern nuclear family (of a male wage earner, an unwaged housewife and unwaged children) and such complementary institutions as the public school system. The early efforts to give waged working class children some education "”that Marx critiques in this chapter"” becomes a much more generalized effort to re-incarcerate all children. Over the last thirty years as women have re-entered the waged labor market in large and growing numbers both families and social policy makers have been concerned with the impact on family life and reproduction. The substitution of collective day-care for parental care, the phenomenon of latch-key children, rising divorce rates and child abuse have all become widely discussed and hotly debated issues. Positions have ranged from feminist and gay efforts to create (and demand the social acceptance of) a wider range of what are considered "healthy" family structures to conservative attempts to re-impose the rapidly disappearing nuclear family structure by making alternatives illegal or socially unacceptable. In short, the development of these debates has forced recognition of the very interrelatedness that Marx emphasized back in the 1860s.

As mentioned in the commentary on section one above, machines, and the subordination of life to them, has become omnipresent not only in the factory but in the larger social factory. Besides the domain of housework, already discussed, machines have also been used to organize the time of recreation such that it becomes that of re-creation of labor power. Probably one of the most widely commented examples of this is the television "”which has been generally portrayed as a device whose entertainment reduces the worker to a passive witness to an ever changing spectacle manipulated to inculcate passivity more generally. This interpretation has been a application of the analysis of the Frankfort School and critical theory whose theorists elaborated a critique of traditional "culture" as dividing the population into an active minority "”those who perform"” and a passive majority "”those who witness. A more recent example of this kind of subordination, of only slightly less passive responses, was the first generation of arcade computer games which activate only hand-eye motor responses and proved, for some, most addicting. The following song, "Machines" by the City Boys reproduces and comments on such addiction.


Win or lose, pick and choose
You put your money in the slot
Hold and wait, hesitate
The name of the game is to have and have not
You don't know you lost till you know what you've got
Give me a quarter, a kroner, a yen
We all wind up wasted so try it again

Have you spent what you made?
Or is your pocket heavyweight?
There's a price to be paid
Your heart in your mouth as the points start to grow
Your hands tell you stop when your head says to go
Give me a quarter, a kroner, a yen
We all wind up wasted so try it again

Machines, machines, Michael loves machines
Always waiting for the delay
Machines, machines, Michael loves machines
He's always looking for another game to play
Another game to play, another game to play.

Every nerve every bone
Is getting ready for the shot
It's a world of it's own
You don't see a thing as the crowd gathers round
They call out your name but you don't hear a sound
Give me a quarter, a kroner, a yen
We all wind up wasted so try it again

Machines, machines, Michael loves machines
Always waiting for the delay
Machines, machines, Michael loves machines
He's always looking for another game to play
another game to play, another game to play

At the end of the day
There's two more buttons left to press
It's the ultimate game
Your video playmate is ready and set
It's so hard to choose when it's Russian Roulette
Give me a quarter, a kroner, a yen
We all wind up wasted so try it again.

Machines, machines, Michael loves machines
Always waiting for the delay
Machines, machines, Michael loves machines
He's always looking for another game to play
Another game to play, another game to play.

City Boy,
The Day the Earth Caught Fire
Vertigo 6360173, 1979. Bear Tracks CD 979 419 AH.

Even today as more interactive software has widen the possibilities of self-activity vis à vis computer games, a visit to the arcade centers of any shopping mall will provide opportunities to witness the kind of manic, obsessive behavior being critiqued in the song. The current crop of arcade games has replaced space invaders with street fighting and friends can duke it out with each other or with gangs, but the nature of the "entertainment" has changed little. On the positive side, at the level of eye-hand coordination such games have an attraction similar to some sports, without the risk of humiliation in failure. They also provide the opportunity for a kind of cathartic release of tension, and perhaps aggression in a harmless manner. On the other hand, the players are jumping hoops set by an unknown programmer rather than crafting their own world so the games recreate life as experienced by those who believe themselves helpless to change it.

More interesting are the myriad role-playing games designed for personal computers that test not eye-hand coordination but ones cleverness, wit and imagination. That the kind of appeal of these games is fundamentally different from arcade games is widely recognized and proven by the spread of do-it-yourself programs with which those without programming skills can none the less craft their own worlds to play in. At this point the machines begin to be more like tools in the hands of workers "”the kind of thing Marx talks about when discussing handicrafts"” rather than machines into which the players merely fit like cogs in a predesigned system. In any event, we are forced to recognize the spread of such new forms of "recreation" and can bring to its analysis the theoretical tools of Capital for thinking about the roles it plays in the organization of our lives, or, in our own organization of our lives.

Machinery and Child Labor

Most striking in Marx's survey of the impact of machinery on the family are his descriptions of the virtual slave dealing in children whose confinement in factory work wipes out both current play and future prospects. Both capitalists who wanted the children's labor and parents who needed the children's wages participated in this trade. Once adult workers succeeded in imposing legal restrictions on the use of young children, both capitalists and some parents would seek to slip underage children past the factory inspectors, each for their own reasons: of exploitation and of survival. In Mary Barton, Elizabeth Gaskell gives space to the voice of one such parent, a mother whose husband has died of starvation and fever and who desperately needs the income of one of her children.


'I'm sure, John Barton, if yo are taking messages to the parliament folk, yo'll not object to telling 'em what a sore trial it is, this law of theirs, keeping children fra' factory work, whether they be weakly or strong. There's our Ben; why, porridge seems to go no way wi' him, he eats so much; and I han gotten no money to send him t' school, as I would like; and there he is, rampaging about th' streets a' day, getting hungrier and hungrier, and picking up a' manner o' bad ways; and th' inspector won't let him in to work in the factory, because he's not right age; though he's twice as strong as Sankey's little ritling of a lad, as works till he cries for his legs aching so, though he is right age, and better.'

(Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton (1848), New York: Penguin Classics, 1988.)

Unfortunately, as I have pointed out elsewhere, neither such needs nor such practices have disappeared since Marx wrote. From the agribusiness fields of America through the carpet factories of South Asia to the brothels of Southeast Asia, children are still being sold into virtual or out and out slavery by poor parents and still put to work, often under the vilest of conditions by capitalists greedy to suck every drop of profit from their veins.
Intensity of Labor

By addressing changes in the intensity of labor, Marx adds a whole new dimension to his analysis not only of surplus value but of value itself. Throughout the book, right up to this chapter, he has always held the intensity of work constant. In the discussion of absolute surplus value, both intensity and productivity were held constant. Then in chapters 12-14 the discussion of relative surplus value analyzed the impact of changes in productivity while holding the length of the working day and intensity constant. But in subsection (c) of section 3 he discusses the implications of changes in intensity. These changes are introduced at this point because they are so intimately related to the widespread use of machinery in modern industry. As he shows through many examples, the capitalists introduce machinery not only to raise productivity (output per input of labor) but also to increase work, i.e., make workers work harder (and sometimes longer). Machines allow the use of women and children who are easier to force to work harder. Machines set the rhythm of work, so by speeding them up the capitalists can force the workers who work with them to work harder. Machines work continuously so it is harder for workers to create "pores" of free time in the working day and so on.

Under these circumstances, Marx notes "a change took place in the nature of relative surplus value". (p.534) The change is that not only are the capitalists getting more surplus value from increased productivity, but they are getting more work, i.e., more value and surplus value, in a given work time. This raises an interesting theoretical question. Why does Marx treat increasing intensity as a form of relative surplus value rather than absolute surplus value? After all working harder would seem to be analogous to working longer because in both cases capital is extracting more work (rather than just getting a larger share as is the case with relative surplus value as we have studied it). How does working harder produce more surplus value? Suppose in the aggregate speed-up results in workers working twice as hard and producing twice as much output in a given time. Assuming as Marx does that the value of labor power hovers around that amount of abstract labor required to produce subsistence, then it will be possible to reproduce labor power with only half the work time as before. The value of labor power will remain the same, the real consumption of the workers will remain the same but the capitalists will now arrogate to themselves more of the output and labor time, both in physical and value terms. To illustrate:

t1 assume total output = 100 units, and S/V = 1, so V = 50u, S = 50u, V = 4hrs, S = 4hrs (8hr day)

t2 let output double so = 200 units, so V = 50, S = 150, V = 4hrs, S = 12hrs* so S/V goes to 3.

*4+12 = 16hrs equivalent of working twice as hard in 8hrs

So, doubling the intensity of labor has reduced the relative value of labor power while increasing the relative amount of surplus value, a result analogous to what happens when productivity is raised and intensity is constant. This would seem to be why Marx treats the strategy of increasing intensity as a component of the strategy of relative surplus value instead of absolute surplus value in which workers also work harder (i.e., longer).

In Marx's discourse, rising intensity is described as a "heightened tension of labor-power" because workers work more intently, more focused, both physically and consciously on their tasks. In the case of Jack London's Johnny, quoted above, such tension was mainly corporeal as his total focus on his stopper tying reduced his thinking toward zero. In other jobs that necessarily involve calculation, judgment and even the engagement of individuals' personalities, the strain can be more intellectual and emotional than muscular. Today we are more likely to speak of this in terms of "stress" "”the increased nervous tension and emotional drain that comes with high-pressure, intense labor in both factory and office. As in the case of Johnny or say agricultural workers forced to use short-handled hoes, it is obvious how physical speedup can lead to physical breakdown. It has also become increasingly clear how psychological stress can lead to psychological breakdown. Moreover, recent research has made the connections between both kinds of stress more apparent. Physical stress can lead to psychological collapse, e.g., nervous breakdown;* psychological stress can lead to physical breakdown, e.g., heart disease and heart attacks.

*There is a very humorous but still serious treatment of this problem in Charlie Chaplin's classic film Modern Times where speeded-up assembly-line work leads Charlie to a nervous breakdown, spontaneous disruption, sabotage and hospitalization.

As capital has penetrated and manipulated the world outside the official workplace, subjecting all of life to the ever faster rhythm of machine paced existence "”from increased pressure for grades in school, through the commuter freeway to the rapid fire sensory barrage of television and other forms of "entertainment""” the physical and psychological stresses of the factory have become commonplace throughout the social factory. This phenomena, whether recognized as an element of the capitalist organization of society or not, has been increasingly recognized as constituting pathological conditions by both medical and social critics. From epidemiologists who have come to recognize the connections between stress and disease to psychologists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysists and new age healers of various sorts whose professions have expanded rapidly in response to the demands of overworked, overstressed workers, housewives and students, this recognition has spread in the last thirty years.
Working Class Response

In Marx's writings there are two major kinds of working class response to the pressures and injuries caused by the ever increasing subordination of life to machinery: one is objective, the exhaustion and using up of people's lives, the other is subjective: revolt. "There cannot be the slightest doubt," he writes at the end of the section, "that this process [increasingly intensity] must soon lead once again to a critical point at which a further reduction in the hours of labor will be inevitable." And in a footnote he adds: "Agitation for a working day of 8 hours has now (1867) begun in Lanchashire among the factory workers." (p. 542) In other words, faced with a speed-up they cannot stop, the workers fight for fewer hours.

But this is not the only kind of resistance workers have posed to such speed-up. Far more common has been the day to day sabotage of speed-up and periodical revolts that have taken the form of official and wildcat strikes to stop or reverse the process. Remember the excerpt from "Counter-planning on the Shop-floor" by Tom Watson that described how workers organized rod-blowing contests and water fights in auto plants to fight the endless pressure of the assembly line. In Chaplin's Modern Times, when Charlie flips out in response to repeated speed-up he does not just walk away, he disrupts the line, squirting oil in the faces of other workers and sabotaging the machinery. Today it is not uncommon to read about such workers returning to their places of "employment" and shooting bosses and even fellow workers "”whether the job place be a post-office, a factory, an office or a school.

Resistance can be individual or collective and the later is usually more effective. The isolated individual worker who tries to sabotage speed-up has a real problem in a collective work situation and may be caught and fired, or frustrated with lesser efforts flip out and take ultimately self-destructive action, such as shooting the boss, or drugs, or self. Collective action on the other hand is often highly effective. In the case of sabotage, it is harder for bosses to identify those responsible as workers shield and protect each other. In the case of more formal protest, strikes and wildcat strikes workers can and have been successful at rolling back speed-ups and at imposing work rules which make such intensification harder to implement. As in the case Marx cites "”the struggle for the 8-hour day"” such struggles can be successful not only in a particular plant or industry but at the level of national legislation, reducing the need for isolated less powerful resistance.

If each introduction of new machinery offers the capitalists new opportunities for class decomposition and speed-up, it also sets off another round of struggle against work intensity. An interesting question is what the long term up-shot of this conflict has been. In the period Marx is describing in this chapter the capitalists are clearly on the offensive, accelerating the introduction of machinery and the pace of work. From Marx's description of the excesses to which this led in the mid-19th Century it seems likely that the intensity of labor reached the maximum intensity possible. Subsequently, worker struggles have periodically reduced the intensity of work, which is probably why capitalists have so frequently sought to increase it. In the long run, therefore we can imagine, thought there is little statistical evidence to substantiate the speculation, that since the height of capitalist power "”perhaps around or after the time that the length of the working was maximized"” the general tendency has been for a reduction in intensity, with periodical success by capitalists in raising it.
Section 4. The Factory
Outline of Marx's Discussion

The capitalist factory as a whole combined co-operating workers using machines, collective worker = dominant subject
= "a vast automaton", a "self-regulated moving force" of machines that uses workers,
automaton = subject, workers = conscious organs
= deskilling means skill distinctions and hierarchy disappear

--replaced by differences "of age and sex"
--replaced by distribution of workers among specialized machines
--there are those who "are actually employed on the machines"
--there are those who "merely attend them (almost exclusively children)"
--very small group of "engineers, mechanics, joiners, etc"
--in part scientifically educated, in part handicraft
--workers adapt to the machines, are easily replaceable
--specialty of handling a tool becomes specialty of serving the same machine
--reduces costs of producing labor power
--makes worker helplessly dependent

Machines = power of capital

= embody science, natural forces and mass of social labor

--all of which have been stripped from the working class

--"separation of the intellectual faculties" from manual labor

= factory requires "barrack-like discipline"

--which requires military like organization of command

--of overseers (N.C.O's) over manual laborers (grunts)

--discipline imposed through "autocratic code", "book of penalties"

= damage to workers

--"does away with the many-sided play of the muscles"
--"confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and in intellectual activity"
--physical damage from high temperatures, dust, noise, speeded-up machines
--robbery of necessities: space, light, air and protection from dangerous machinery


This short section summarizes what has been said before, emphasizing how within the factory the workers are, simultaneously, subordinated to the automatic machine system, deskilled and reduced to organs of the machine themselves, and stripped of their freedom. "Factory work . . . does away with the many-sided play of the muscles, and confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and in intellectual activity." (p.548)

Marx makes clear, however, that this deskilling and impoverishment of the work process does not result in a homogeneity of the working class. Capital does not abandon its methods of dividing the workers to conquer them, it merely substitutes new divisions for the old, divisions of young and old, of men and women, of one kind of machine tender versus another. As he has mentioned elsewhere, these divisions have been complemented by those of ethnicity, race, nationality, tribal affiliation and virtually every other potentially divisive difference capital can identify. Marx's general distinctions between those employed on machines, those who merely attend them (e.g., feed materials to them) and the more technically trained class of engineers, mechanics and joiners etc., constitutes a rough beginning to an analysis of the class composition of the factory. In any actual factory such an analysis could be considerably refined to bring out relevant distinctions of power, of class allegiance, of income, of the degree to which various kinds of workers are assigned responsibility over others, and so on.

At the end of the section, Marx asks "Was Fourier wrong when he called factories 'mitigated jails'?" This likening of factories to jails is apt from several points of view. Both are sites of incarceration. Both are usually surrounded by walls, fences and guard-posts that keep workers in and others out. To a considerable degree jails in capitalism have been work-houses. The Texas penal system, for example, is one great labor camp, a southern Gulag in which all inmates are condemned to work. In the most profound sense, factories are the jails of the working class given the way in which capital condemns one and all to life sentences at hard labor. Indeed, as Michel Foucault has pointed out incarceration is the paradigm of social control in capitalism. Everywhere you look capitalism has incarcerated social life within closed walls (jails, factories, asylums, hospitals, schools, stadiums, concert halls, shopping malls, swimming pools, the single family dwelling) at the expense of free life (in the commons, the streets, village square, the open forest, the free flowing river, communal housing, and so on).

Section 5. The Struggle between Worker and Machine
Outline of Marx's Discussion

Worker struggles against machines

--18th Century: struggles against ribbon-looms, wool-shearing machines, sawmill
--19th Century: struggles against power-looms by handloom weavers
--Luddite movement, early 1800s
--Sheffield file grinders in 1865
--machines become "competitor of the worker himself"
--"section of the working class thus rendered superfluous", e.g., unemployed
--In England, gradual extinction of hand-loom weavers
--as prices dropped, "many weavers died of starvation"
--In India, "bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains"
--machines are "a power inimical" to the worker
--weapon to suppress strikes


Workers struggle against machines because machines are used by capitalists against the workers. "Hence the character of independence from and estrangement towards the worker, which the capitalist mode of production gives to the conditions of labor and the product of labor, develops into a complete and total antagonism with the advent of machinery." (p. 558) Machinery "is the most powerful weapon for suppressing strikes, those periodic revolts of the working class against the autocracy of capital. . . . It would be possible to write a whole history of the inventions made since 1830 for the sole purpose of providing capital with weapons against working-class revolt." (p. 563)

There are several important implications of these passages. First, to a considerable degree if capitalists introduce machinery against workers, then we can understand the history of the development of technology as a capitalist response to the struggles of workers. This is different from the usual Marxist view that sees technological development solely as the outcome of the competition between capitalists. Better from the perspective of this chapter, to see capitalist competition as a particular organization of the class struggle in which the success of some capitalists in dealing with their workers, e.g., introducing new machinery that raises productivity and cuts costs, forces others to make similar attacks on workers' power.

Second, although in commenting on the Luddite movement Marx notes "it took both time and experience before the workers learnt to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital, and therefore to transfer their attacks from the material instruments of production to the form of society which utilizes those instruments", the fact is that he shows precisely how machinery was indeed an "antagonistic" "power inimical" to the workers. His own examples show that it is really not possible to separate machinery from its use by capital. Machinery is always developed within a particular concrete context, e.g., to break strikes based on a certain configuration of working class power, and therefore always embodies a certain class content in its material form. There is no such thing as politically neutral technology. While it may not always be in the workers' best interests to "break" machines, as the Luddites did, the revolutionary transformation of society must certainly involve the transformation of machinery and the relationships between workers and their machinery so that both embody new and changed social relationships. Failure to recognize this can lead to most reactionary policies, e.g., those of Lenin who favored the introduction of Taylorism in the Soviet Union.

Third, technological innovation, although used by capital against workers, derives not from capital but from the working class. It is only labor that is creative and innovative. Here capital seeks to turn some aspect of the working class' own power against it. This is the secret behind Ure's observation (quoted by Marx on p. 564) that "capital enlists science into her service". "Science", like technology, is but an aspect of the collective knowledge and know-how of labor. "Enlisting" science, means tapping that knowledge and ability in ways which benefit capital at the expense of labor. This is accomplished, in part, through the imposition of a strict division between manual workers and "mental" labor in which the latter are privileged over the former and come to identify and cooperate with the capitalist enterprise instead of their fellow workers. As the numbers of the "mental" workers grow, the same method is then used against them: the imposition of a division of labor that divides to conquer.
Concepts for Review

instruments of labor
motor mechanism
working machine
motive mechanism
complex system of machinery
mode of production
social relations of production
semi-artistic employment
alien science
value added by machines
redundancy of labor
full timerswretch
women and barges
contracts and slavery
intellectual degeneration
dangers of education
moral depreciation
immanent contradiction
Aristotle's dreams
pores of working day
degree of density of labor
relay system
factory and contentless work
industrial army

despotic bell
dangerous work conditions
war and machinery
compensation theory
machinery and foreign markets
international division of labor
prosperityover - production
composition of collective worker
factory acts
health and education conditions
machinery and family
machinery and urbanization
motive power
transmitting mechanism
prime mover
cooperation of machines
machine system
automatic system
means of production
automatic fabrication
associated labor
machinery and wages
domestic work and wages

moral degradation
children and opiates
education and employment
docility of married women
machinery and work time
economic paradox of machinery
intensity of labor
condensation of labor
intensive and extensive magnitudes
increased supervision
automaton as subject
torture of Sisyphus
domination by dead labor
desultory habits of work
the industrial battle
Luddite Movement
machinery as weaponry
displaced labor
composition of capital
machinery and emigration
business cycle
machinery and domestic industry
machinery and small masters
social anarchy
totally developed individual
machinery and peasants
urbanization and ecology

Questions For Review

(An * means one possible answer can be found at the end of the Study Guide)

1. How is the machine a means of producing surplus value?

2. What are the three parts of fully developed machinery?

3. Describe the transition from tools to working machine. How does the latter generally include the former?

4. How did the steam engine satisfy the requirements of large-scale machines with working tools?

5. How does Marx distinguish between the cooperation of similar machines and a complex system of machinery? Why does he consider the latter to be a "real machine system"?

6. What converts a system of machinery into an "automaton"? Why does Marx call it "a mechanical monster" with "demonic power"?

7. In what sense did the system of machine production first grow spontaneously out of a material basis which would prove inadequate to it? What material basis would suffice?

8. What was the impact of machinery on those workers with "semi-artistic" skills?

9. In what ways might the development of machine technology in one industry spur the development of that technology in a related industry?

10. Similarly, how does such a technology in industry call forth a change in communication and transportation?

*11. Marx says in footnote 23, page 508, that "science, generally speaking, costs the capitalists nothing." Is this still true? Why ? Why not?

12. How does the value of machinery enter into the valorization process? What is the influence of the length of life of the machine?

13. Explain why it is that with machines "the value arising out of the instrument of labor increases relatively but decreases absolutely"?

14. What is the relationship between wages and the tendency to substitute machinery for labor? How are Marx's comments on this substitution similar to those of neoclassical economics? How are the different?

15. Why were women often used instead of horses for hauling barges in England in the mid-19th Century?

16. How did machinery facilitate the annexation of labor previously used in the home? What is the relationship between domestic labor and necessary labor time?

17. How did Marx see machinery transforming the nature of the contract for labor power?

18. How did the employment of women on machines adversely affect the health of their children? Is this true today as increasing numbers of women enter the labor force?

19. Characterize Marx's critique of education in the period of the rise of machinofacture. How could education be dangerous? (See pp. 523-526, 613-614, 618-619, 628-629).

20. How was machinery a powerful means of increasing absolute surplus value? What were the inducements for the capitalists?

21. What is the "moral depreciation" of the value of a machine? How is this an application of Marx's analysis of socially necessary labor time in Chapter One?

*22. Although the productivity raising use of machinery tends to increase relative surplus value, it also tends to displace labor. How does this constitute an "immanent contradiction"? How can the capitalists compensate for the difficulties of this contradiction?

*23. What is the "economic paradox" associated with labor saving technological change?

24. What is the "condensation of labor" or a rise in the intensity of labor? What is its impact on productivity? On value produced?

25. Discuss the implications of Marx's assertion that intensive and extensive magnitudes are two antithetical and mutually exclusive expressions for one and the same quantity of labor.

*26. How does machinery facilitate the increase in the intensity of labor? How did this constitute a capitalist response to the successful working class attack on the hours of labor such as the Twelve Hours Act of 1844 and the Ten Hours Act of 1847? Why does this, in turn, lead to new attacks on the length of the working period?

27. How does the factory constitute a paradigm for the incarcerated society of capital?

28. In what sense does the machine system become the autocratic "subject" of the production process? What happens to the role of the worker?

29. How does machinery lead to deskilling and new hierarchies, new class compositions?

30. What is the relation between deskilling and the relay system?

31. How does machinery deprive work of all interest and content? How is this a form of alienation?

32. What is there in the way capitalists want to use machines that makes them particularly dangerous (physically) for workers?

33. What was the Luddite movement? What was its logic? Its illogic? Are there still elements of this movement alive today?

34. How did the American civil war give an impetus to the development of machinery in England?

35. How do workers use strikes to differentiate themselves from the machines to which they are tied?

*36. How does machinery constitute "the most powerful weapon for suppressing strikes"?

*37. What was the "compensation theory" and how did Marx critique it? To what degree do you think Marx's argument is applicable to the current cycle of increased automation?

38. How does the widespread use of machinery give the capitalist mode of production a new elasticity to respond to changes in demand?

39. How does machinery prompt new surges of imperialism? And how does this result in a "new and international division of labor"?

40. What are the phases of the industrial business cycle?

41. What determines success in the competition among capitalists for market shares?

42. How was the cotton famine of 1860-61 advantageous to English textile manufacturers?

43. How does the introduction of the sewing


Answers to Questions for Review, Chap's 7-10

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 7: Answers

1. Labor is what a human does when working, the labor process includes: the human working, the tools used and the raw material worked up. The labor process is thus a broader category and one which is repeatedly transformed within capitalist development and in turn alters the character of labor itself. In capitalism, the capitalist owns/controls the tools and raw materials, and hence the product, and is therefore in a position to also control what the worker does. As Marx points out in the second section of Chapter 7 the most basic thing done with that control is to make the worker work longer so that capital is valorized.

2. Connection between Chap 7 and Chap.1, sec. 2.? Sec 2 is concerned with the distinction between useful labor and abstract labor, chapter 7 is divided in two sections the first, on the labor process, is basically about useful labor while the second, on valorization, is basically about labor under capitalism or abstract labor "”which turns out to not only be labor-as-command but surplus labor to boot.

8. Labor as fulfilling "spontaneous, free activity"? As a rule this is most likely to happen where labor is not used as a means of social control and exploitation. If it is imposed it is not free; if workers are told what to do and how to do it, it is hardly spontaneous. It can only have these qualities when it is the completion of autonomous acts by self-determining subjects. However, it does happen that workers are able to wrench control over their own activity away from their employers, at least for short periods and in limited spaces, and pursue their own ends. They thus may create temporal and spatial islands of self-valorizing work.

13. Alienation? 1. alienation of the workers from their work "”when the capitalist imposes controls the kind, methods, tempos and content of work processes; 2. alienation of the workers from their products "”when the capitalists rather than the workers own/control the products and are able to use them against their producers (to force them to work, to manipulate their desires, etc); 3. alienation of workers from each other "”occurs as the capitalist division of labor is manipulated to divide and conquer the working class by pitting workers against each other; 4. alienation from species being "”occurs as workers are prevented from collectively exercising their will and self-determination which makes them human (in Marx and Hegel's view) and find themselves mere cogs in a larger machine, objects rather than subjects. There is also the feeling of alienation, the distaste of workers for work because of the various kinds of alienation that characterizes it under capitalism.

14. Capital as Vampire? Capital is a particular form of social relations, a particular way of organizing social life; that form and that way changes only marginally through time, metamorphosing (from human to bat) rather than mutating and becoming something truly different. At the center of that way of organizing social life is the imposition of work, the more work imposed (labor sucked) the more that way of life "thrives", expands, grows (by englobing more people), thus surplus labor, or surplus value, is both the means (via investment) and the index of the "live" of the Vampire.
Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 8: Answers

1. By "creating" value Marx seems to mean working productively within the context of capitalism, i.e., producing a new commodity which can be sold for a profit (the new value created being V+S). Living labor "creates" value if it produces something with a use-value and with exchange-value but to be viable in capitalism that exchange value must be such as to generate an average S. As for "preserving" value, this seems to mean the preservation of the value productivity of previously completed work, e.g. the work that created the value of machines or of raw materials. The new labor "preserves" the old value if it results in a new product (C') to which the old labor can be seen to have contributed at one step removed. Various disagreements are possible, the point is to present a reasoned argument.

4. Repairing constant capital and repairing variable capital? Machines have to be repaired, i.e., more labor done to keep them running and productive; so too does labor power have to be repaired daily at least through cooking/serving/eating/dishes and washing sheets/bed making/sleeping/coffee making/caffine intake but often also through psychological repair as well as physical repair. That the similarity is more than an analogy can be seen in the neoclassical theory of "human capital" where labor power is treated as a kind of capital and in the comments of capitalists who see their workers as productive parts of their factories. Marx's undertreatment of this work may reflect (as Cleaver has suggested) the fact that virtually everyone was being drafted into the factory in the mid-19th C but it may also be a reflection of his own gender habits and the fact that Jenny (his wife) did his housework!

6. Counterparts? Constant capital: home, school, TV, computer, dishwasher, books, cars, brothels, beds, etc. Variable capital: the labor of houseworkers, school workers, of children discipling themselves, of spouces (still mostly mothers) raising a new generation of workers or repairing their spouses, of teachers imposing homework and tests, and so on.
Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 9: Answers

1. Rate of exploitation measures proportion of work (life) given up to capital to work done for self (understood broadly); rate of profit measures life acquired in relation to investment (C + V). The former is a reasonable measure for workers because it is their live that is being given up (S + V, every day) and it would seem logical that they would be interested in how much of it is not done for themselves but for the boss. Whereas the capitalist measures the amount of work extracted for business expansion (S) against the total amount of capital laid out. V is of interest to the capitalist but only as one cost among others.

2. Necessary labor is that labor which is necessary for the reproduction of labor power that goes into the production of those means of subsistence which are purchased as commodities with the wage (or other forms of payment for labor power). This capitalist accounting clearly excludes housework, schoolwork, therapy, recreation etc for which a wage is not paid but is "necessary" for "consumption" of those means of subsistence. Thus we know there is much more "necessary" labor required than appears in the wage. Marx juxtaposes necessary to surplus labor (V to S) seeing surplus labor primarily in terms of the labor which produces the means of production purchased by the capitalists with their profits. But if we take into account that increases in consumption require the creation of new means of production ahead of time, then at least some of the "surplus" labor would appear to be "necessary" for future reproduction. In this case the relation between necessary and surplus must be reconceptualized in terms of the subordination of the one to the other, i.e., if surplus today is only aimed at increased consumption tomorrow then it can be viewed as necessary, but if consumption is subordinated to surplus (to finance the endless imposition of work) then that surplus is by no means "necessary" from the point of view of the workers.

5. Senior argues loping off last hour will wipe out profits by dividing working day into hours that pay for costs and hours that provide profit in such a way that only one hour does the latter. The fallacy lies in the way he relates hours worked to costs: he ignores that constant capital is employed (and used up, i.e., value transfered to product) during each hour and that a reduction in hours will reduce C as well as S. To avoid the confusion, ignore C and focus on V + S. Relevant today? No more today than before, the logical error is timeless.
Questions for Review, Capital, Chap. 10: Answers

3. The argument that the "working day" includes activities of reproduction is based on the analysis that much of what workers do off the job is functional to what they do on the job, i.e., it is the work of preparing for work, recuperating from work, rebuilding ones labor power. The idea here is that much of life is subordinated to work, that people literally live to work rather than work to live. Therefore, much of what is commonly called "free" is not really free; workers have neither energy nor opportunity to be self-determining because there is so much they must do in order to continue to be workers. Judging whether such free-time or leisure-time activities are simply reproducing life as labor power or are constitutive of something more requires not only an analysis of what one does during such times but the relation to other times, especially formal work times. If "self-activity" merely gives you energy to work it would seem to be functional to it. If it takes energy away from work and becomes an end in itself then it may constitute another way of being. Mostly, since people do go on working, the best we can hope for is that "free-time" activity is at least to some degree self-valorizing rather than capital valorizing and with time the power to constitute real alternatives to the capitalist subordination of life to work grows but undercutting capital and creating new ways of being.

4. "Between equal rights force decides"; collective capital versus collective labor. The argument is that we can observe, historically, antagonistic conflict over the direction social development in which the antagonists assert their rights against each other. In the context of chapter 10, the right to the use of labor power versus the right to live beyond work. Moreover, the argument asserts that the conflicts, however, diverse are in some sense bipolar: between two classes even if neither class is monolithic. This analysis derives principally from the argument that we can recognize and analyse capitalism as a particular kind of social order for which some fight and against which others struggle, some more at some times, others more at other times, but the commonality of their anatagonism derives from their resistance to the imposition of one particular, capitalist, order.

5. What did capitalism invent? It invented the endlessness of surplus labor. The relation to the form of value is the endlessness of the expanded, general and money forms which express this quality of the social relations of capitalist imposed work. The relation to primitive accumulation is the transformation of the imposition of work from one geared primarily to the creation of use-values for the ruling classes (luxuries, castles, cathedrals, pyrimids, etc) to one geared to the creation of exchange value and the accuulation of money both of which are but mechanisms in an endless putting of people to work as a form of social control and domination irrespectively of the quantity or quality of use-values produced. Valorization is just the path of this endless process. The relation to our understanding of labor in the dynamic sense is the endlessness can be expressed in terms of the subordination of life (necessary labor) to endless work(surplus labor used to impose more work). What needs to be transformed is this relation: the transcendance of capitalism must involve demoting work to a means of life instead of subordinting life to endless work.

7. Nibbling and Cribbling? In Marx's discussion these are the processes through which the capitalist constantly, or at least repeatedly, seek to extend the length of the working day by adding on a few minutes here, a few minutes there, cutting lunch times, starting early, ending the working day late and so on. The kinds of practices which led to workers demands for public clocks whose tolling could be heard by all and thus such capitalist cheating could be undercut. To Marx's discussion we need to add two things: first, the extension of such nibbling and cribbling to the informal working day, i.e., work outside the official waged time, and second, the inverse struggle of workers to reduce their work load on the margin. In the first case, we can see such practices as Motorola asking its employees to listen to tapes while driving to and from work, teachers assigning more homework to students, the business school upping its required GPA "”all such practices increase the work people have to do for capital. In the second case, although Marx ignores it, workers also struggle to reduce the amount of work they do in a myriad of ways: stopping work before the official end of the day, starting late (thus the punch-in time clock), skipping classes, long coffee breaks, chatting about non-work issues on the job, etc.

9. Day and night work? The logic as Marx presents it mainly concerns the reduced costs associated with continuing operation of many kinds of machinery and industrial processes. The start-up or shutdown costs may be substantial and avoidable if production is kept going 24 hours a day, e.g. blast furnaces are extremely expensive and time consuming to start up or shut down. There is also the costs of set-up by workers (who nibble and cribble) in the morning and shut-down at the end of the day which can be avoided if workers just step into the shoes of another at an on-going process. In the case of reproduction where there may be little fixed capital involved the push for long hours, night work may just be geared to absorbing everyone's time and energy independently of their other obligations, a kind of capitalist flex-time exploitation, e.g. 24 hour library hours leave students no excuse for not completing research projects etc regardless of their time schedules. With reference to the age hierarchy? I don't remember what I had in mind. What do you think?

10. Pattern of struggle: at first the capitalists were successful in extending the length of the working day (by dictating longer hours, by paying wages so low that workers sought longer hours, etc) , later worker struggles succeeded in block further extension and then in reducing the working day (by organizing themselves and striking against employers, by making political demands at the level of parliament so that laws were passed, and implemented).Thus in the long haul there has been a fundamental shift of class power in favor of workers "”this despite the short or medium term successes capital may have had in forcing longer hours. In the 20th Century the general movement, thanks to workers continued struggles, has been toward fewer hours, arriving at about 40hr/week in the U.S. in the 1940s, although in recent years the Reagan-Bush counterattack on the working class has succeed in lower wages such that many workers now seek as much "overtime" as possible to sustain their income, plus the shift of factories to the Third World has also resulted in longer hours on a world scale. Moreover there has been a push for longer hours/days/weeks in some work of reproduction, e.g. schools (longer school year). On the other hand, the success of workers in reducing the official working day also led to capitalist colonization of the unofficial working day, e.g. through schools, so that much of what appeared as "free time" has not really been free but subordinated to the reproduction of labor power. The trends here are more favorable to capital although in the 1960s the student revolt certainly undercut the amount of such work and created freer times and spaces for students to do what they wanted that did not contributed to capitalist reproduction, e.g. study Marxist economics or their own racial, ethnic or gender backgrounds and history. The long run historical trends are less clear in this area because their are far fewer statistics.

13. LTV and struggle over working day: the struggle over the length of the working day is clearly a struggle over the degree to which people's lives will be subordinated to capital through work, thus the degree to which a labor theory of value will be useful in clarifying the social antagonisms at play in society. To the degree that the struggle succeeds and people are able to escape the subordination of their lives to capitalist work, the relevance of the LTV is undermined and we need some other theoretical tools to understand the spaces of self-valorization.

14. Motives: on the one hand the same motives that have always spurred workers: the desire for freedom to self-construct their own lives, on the other hand, the post-war growth of working class income may have led to growing demands for more time in which to enjoy the material fruits of labor, i.e., the things growing wages could buy. There is not much point in having many consumer goods if they cannot be consumed, consumption takes time, consumption can become self-valorization and the struggle for less official work time the struggle for more time of self-valorization. The pressures on the EC derived, probably, primarily from trade unions who had increasingly been putting shorter hours on the agenda of its negotiations with employers. Business opposes such changes because at the level of the firm it raises costs (shorter hours with the same wages, plus increased costs of more shifts as people come and go in the work process, etc.) while at the level of society as a whole it undercuts the fundamental mechanism of capitalist social control: work on the job and off.

15. If workers succeed in reducing hours in one country, but not in others, and it conditions are such that capitalists (via multinational corporations) can invest readily in those countries where workers have failed, then plants and production processes may be shifted from those areas where workers are stronger (Detroit) to areas where workers are weaker (Mexico). Thus undercuts the power of the higher waged, better organized workers while increasing demand for workers in the countries with longer hours "”which ceteris paribus should increase their power, thus the frequency in which we find harsh, even brutal state power being exercised to prevent them from taking advantage of their increased bargaining power. Thus the defeat of American workers requires the brutality of the Mexican (or South Korean, or Indonesian, etc) state. The implication of course, for workers, is that they must organize themselves internationally to meet the international strategy of capital.


Answers to Review Questions for Chapters 13-15

Submitted by libcom on August 10, 2005

Answers to Review Questions for Chapters 13-15
Chapter 13

6. The sources of the new social productive power that Marx associates with co-operation primarily concern the outcome of people working together as opposed to working separately. The complementarity of co-operation makes the productivity of the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Not only are there economies of scale in the use of physical capital, but there is a "social force that is developed when many hands cooperate in the same undivided operation" which results in the "creation of a new productive power, which is intrinsically a collective one." (p.443) Mere social contact, Marx argues, begets "a rivalry and a stimulation of the 'animal spirits' which heightens the efficiency of each individual worker." Moreover, the "combined working day" as he puts it, "heightens the mechanical force of labor", "impresses on the similar operations . . . the stamp of continuity and manysideness." (p. 447) All of these things, along with those previously mentioned has the result that "When the individual worker co-operates in a planned way with others, he strips off the fetters of his individuality and develops the capabilities of his species." (p.447). In all cases, Marx argues, this social power is one that flows to and is appropriated by the capitalist gratis.

9. Working class resistance? As in "As the number of the co-operating workers increases, so too does their resistance to the domination of capital." p. 449. When we imagine workers herded into sweatshops and forced to work long hours for low wages, the image of the resistance to a dominating force seems realistic. On the other hand, with the development of large scale production and expanded cooperation has gone a development, a political recomposition of the working class which has moved it from a merely reactive or reistant power to an active and aggressive one. As we saw in the discussion of absolute surplus value the struggle over work time has shifted over the long run in favor of labor. It is labor which has aggressively fought for less work and capital which has resisted the reduction of working time. Thus the emergence of the working class as an autonomous force able to initiate struggle beyond mere reaction.

12. Co-operation in schooling? Very little. Mostly students are managed so as to compete with each other on an individualistic basis and they work separately, take tests separately and so on. Even in classes where students are brought together in large numbers, the habit of individual work is so strong that there is often resistance to hearing other students speak and "waste" class time that could be spent on individual contemplation of what the professor said or wants! Sometimes there are group projects, group papers, group test taking in which students are organized to work cooperatively such that their individual efforts are linked and they may achieve a higher level of productivity than they might alone. But this is rare in the formal organization of the school. Of course, it is also true that students also, often, intentionally breakdown this isolatin and cooperate with each other in studying or even in test taking (cheating) in order to raise their productivity despite the formal organization of the classroom. Supervision? Certainly, this is the job of the professor and/or TA. Unavoidable antagonism? Certainly so between the students and the professor for the one makes the others work and hands out grades. Also, frequently between students as they compete for position in the hierarchy. Working class struggle? From time to time students are able to break through their isolation and cooperate in either covert (cheating?) or overt (rebellion) cooperative struggle against the norms and practices of schooling. Despotism? Certainly in many classrooms where there is no flexibility, no room for individual variation or initiative and only the despotic plan of the syllabus.
Chapter 14

6. The "collective worker" is the personification of all the workers working together cooperatively. The collective worker, Marx argues, is "formed out of the combination of a number of individual speciallized workers". It is "the item of machinery specifically characteristic of the manufacturing period." (p. 468) Marx calls the collective worker an "item of machinery" because he is arguing that not only does the capitalist use and treat workers as such but with the development of the organization of collective labor the group of workers as a whole increasingly function like parts of a machine, each working with the others, the whole functioning like a machine. In the next chapter on machinery and modern industry he will elaborate on this theme and argue that the collective worker in fact becomes more an more a mere mechanistic part in a larger automated machine system.

12. The source of workers power was their ability to control the labor process --their "handicraft skill". They not only wielded tools but sometimes even constructed their own tools and designed the labor process. Their control over the labor process gave them power vis a vis management which could not do with them literally anything it wanted. Capital was "constantly compelled to wrestle with the insubordination of the workers" mostly because they constantly reasserted their subjectivity, their humanity and refused, as often and as much as possible, to behave like the machines they were supposed to emulate. Thus Marx quotes Ure "the more skillful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become. . . " (p.490)
Chapter 15

11. Free science? It depends on who pays for it. To the degree that business invests surplus value in research and development (R&D) then certainly they do not get it "free" "”except in the usual sense of the exploitation of workers who get paid far less than the value of their product. On the other hand, a great deal of R&D is financed out of the public purse which is primarily paid for by income taxes on the middle class, i.e. the working class. The results of such R&D could well be seen as a free good stolen from the working class. Moreover, today, as pharmaceutical companies tap the traditional knowledge of Third World peoples and then patent it, they are certainly getting "free science" and those who generated the knowledge are being ripped off. (See a recent issue of Cultural Surival Quarterly devoted to this process.)

22. The displacement of labor by machinery, which results from the productivity raising strategies of relative surplus value, might be called an "immanent contradiction" in the sense that the capitalists need to raise c/v in order to maintain control but by displacing labor they are, at least potentially, undercutting their ability to impose work. The offsetting tendency of business is to constantly invest in the development of new industries which can absorb the displaced labor "”or the labor force entrants who can not be absorbed by the old, high c/v industries. Thus the dramatic increase in c/v and automation in the manufacturing sector of the U.S. in the late 1950s which led to much "structural unemployment" and worries about the future ability of capitalism to put people to work was "compensated for" by the rise of the service sector which provided a much more rapid growth in employment possibilities.

23. The economic paradox is that while rising c/v and the associated rising productivity creates the potential for reducing work for everyone, the potential to realize Aristotle's dreams of doing away with the need for slaves and servants, under capitalism these developments lead to more work rather than less. More work in the sense that capitalists make more profits and thus have more resources to put more people to work; more work in the direct sense that they fiercely resist any reduction in the working day and use increased automation to intensify labor, i.e., making people burn up more of their available life's energy in the time on the job.

26. Machinery facilitates an increase in the intensity of labor because the machine is used by the capitalist to regulate the rhythm of work, to eliminate the "pores" in the working day, and eventually the control over the speed of the machine provides indirect control over the speed of the workers. Marx argues that the success of the workers efforts to reduce working hours squeezed capitalist surplus value by reducing s/v provoking increased investment to raise c/v by utilizing more constant, fixed capital (machinery) and less labor. The speedup imposed by the capitalists utilizing the potential in machinery sapped more energy from workers "”much as longer hours do"” so it is not surprising that such speedup would lead to a renewal of the struggle for fewer hours, i.e. less work.

36. Machinery constitues a weapon for surpressing strikes simply by providing a substitute for pesky, uncooperative workers some of whom are thrown into the streets and the rest are terrorized by the possibility of following them into unemployment and destitution. As our analysis of class "decomposition" has shown, moreover, the introduction of new machinery also is used to break up workers' shopfloor organization through the reorganization of work thus undercutting their ability to generate strikes and other forms of struggle.

37. Same answer as question 22. Different answers possible to question of current cycle of increased automation. I have argued that the problem of compensating for the ejection of labor in one industry through the development of other industries has become more acute lately because there has been accelerating mechanization even in the services which, since the 1960s, provided most of the new jobs. (see special issue of Scientific American on mechanization) See also the problems the Japanese are having finding in house replacement jobs for workers displaced by automation but guaranteed life-time employment. Those life-time contracts are now being broken.

44. Upper limit on the intensity of labor? Presumably set by the biological limits of the human body even when workers social power is so weak as to be unable to set lower limits. As a general rule we might expect that where capital has, or has had historically, the most power over workers it pushed that intensity to the biological limit, and even beyond given the cases of people being worked to death "”either quickly, and these are the most notorious cases, or slowly in the sense of shortening workers' lives. On the other hand, everywhere workers have been able to develop enough organizational force to resist effectively, the upper limit has been socially set and, like the working day, has probably been reduced over the long haul with occasional increases, often during periods of rising c/v and class decomposition. The lower limit? In the short term zero, no work at all. But in the medium term some social average below which capitalist profits sink below normal and they shut down operations.