Michael Eldred & Mike Roth
Guide to Marx's Capital
First published by CSE Books, London, 1978.
© Michael Eldred and Mike Roth. Published with kind permission of the authors.
The authors have corrected orthography and improved expression at some
points for this online-edition.
HTML Markup: J.L. Wilm in 2008.
Paper 1 Introduction to the Analysis of the Capitalist Mode of Production
Paper 2 The Analysis of Capitalist Production
Paper 3 The Circulation Process of Capital
Paper 4 The Forms of Appearance of Surplus-Value: Profit for Enterprise, Interest and Rent
Paper 5 The Surface-Forms of Everyday Economic Life in Capitalist Society
Freitag, März 14, 2008
Mittwoch, März 12, 2008
14-2 of M
Eldred/Roth: Guide to Marx's Capital (1978)
Family in Capital
Animated by the feminist movement, some people have recently begun to pay attention to the significance of sexist language. Others, including many Marxists, have regarded a principled avoidance of sexist language as an unnecessary complication of expression. With regard to a central Marxist concept 'the labourer' we would like to deal with the question whether the replacement of Marx's sexist formulation is mere feminist tokenism or leads to new systematic insights into Capital and the place of a theory of family in a systematic theory of the bourgeois epoch.
There is a tendency both in English and German to give collective nouns that refer to people a male gender. In German this tendency is stronger and more apparent because the definite article also has gender. Thus 'der Arbeiter', as used by Marx, if translated as 'the labourer' does not express the male gender, but nevertheless the gender comes out in the use of the pronoun 'he' with 'the worker'. In English there is a more convenient way of avoiding the male gender by replacing the standard pronoun, 'he' by 'her' or 'she' or 'their', whereas in German, to avoid the male gender would require a rather awkward expression 'Der Arbeiter beziehungsweise die Arbeiterin ... er/sie' must be used because the female noun has a different article and suffix ('die Arbeiterin'). Was it only for convenience that Marx used the ambiguous collective noun?
Women (and Children) and the Value(?) of Labour-Power
At first glance 'labourer is to 'labour' as 'capitalist' is to 'capital' and with regard to the latter it can be asked: would it make any difference if instead of 'the capitalist ... he', 'the capitalist … s/he' were used? (Graffiti in Redfern, Sydney: Smash the Landlords/Ladies!).
There is no such thing as female or male capital but there are female and male labourers and this in itself signals the end of a parallelism between capitalist and labourer with respect to simply personifying the categories 'capital' and 'wage labour' respectively.
Let us then inspect a few relevant passages in which Marx deals with labour-power, the male adult labourer, the children of the working class and the female labourer and try to find out whether Marx' comments have the status of asides or occasional historical illustrations, etc. or if a theory of family (or a sexist treatment of the family) is essential to the capital-analysis. In the latter case an objection against Marxism would arise out of feminist questioning.
"For the conversion of his money into capital, therefore, the owner of money must meet in the market with the free labourer, free in the double sense, that as a free man ("freie Person", MEW 23, p. 183) he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand he has no other commodity for sale, is short of everything necessary for the realisation of his labour-power.
The question why this free labourer confronts him in the market, has no interest for the owner of money, who regards the labour-market as a branch of the general market for commodities. And for the present it interests us just as little. We cling to the fact theoretically, as he does practically".(CI 166)
In this passage, Marx uses the method of the dialectic (cf. Introduction) to select a piece of everyday knowledge and, at the same time, postpones objections which arise with this selection i.e. the 'free labourer' in the market is taken as a given and the question of how the labourer comes to appear on the labour market is set aside. Thus the objection that the male labourer is only 'free' to sell his labour power because he has a wife at home doing unpaid domestic labour, etc, is postponed. In addition, it should be noted that 'free labourer' is not narrowed down to the male worker, which is suggested by the phrase 'as a free man he can dispose of his labour-power as his own commodity'. (The original has 'freie Person', which would be more accurately translated as 'free person'.) Thus this passage can be taken as referring to labour-power in the most abstract and general way without reference to sex, race, age or religion.
"The labour-power withdrawn from the market by wear and tear and death, must be continually replaced by, at the very least, an equal amount of fresh labour-power. Hence the sum of the means of subsistence necessary for the production of labour-power must include the means necessary for the labourer's substitutes, i.e., his children, in order that this race of peculiar commodity-owners may perpetuate its appearance in the market." (CI 168)
In this passage Marx forgets that he has already set aside the question of the way in which labour-power is reproduced (cf. 1 above) and discusses a very specific case: the working class, nuclear family. The expression 'his children' suggests that the father is the breadwinner for his children and the existence and role of his wife is ignored. (It should be noted that the German original has "the workers' children").
"The value of labour-power was determined, not only by the labour-time necessary to maintain the individual adult labourer, but also by that necessary to maintain his family. Machinery, by throwing every member of that family on to the labour-market, spreads the value of the man's labour-power over his whole family." (CI 373)
There cannot be any doubt here about Marx using 'the labourer' not in an abstract sense but as the 'male labourer'. Firstly, the sexism of this passage cannot be avoided by giving it an abstract formulation because of the phrase 'spreading of the man's labour-power over his whole family'. Secondly, as it is implied in the quotation that the women's and children's labour-power have no value in themselves but only as part of the man's value, a criticism of this sexist formulation gives rise to challenging the category 'value of labour-power' itself.
"The value of labour-power resolves itself into the value of a definite quantity of the means of subsistence". (CI 169; our emphasis)
In our view this passage expresses nothing less than the concept of the 'value of labour-power' dissolves into thin air when looked at carefully. What can be said is that the price of labour-power is the equivalent of the value of a certain quantity of industrial commodities (Lebensmittel) but a 'value of labour-power' in itself cannot be coherently formulated. Hence it is not that the man's labour-power has a value and the woman's and child's labour-power a value derived from the man's but that labour-power has only a price, which is systematically derived from the value of industrial commodities.
"We must now examine more closely this peculiar commodity, labour- power. Like all others it has a value. How is that value determined?"(CI 167)
It is theoretically inconsistent to claim that labour-power is a commodity like all other (industrial) commodities and at the same time raise the question of how its 'value' is determined. For, if it is like any other commodity its value has already been determined. We find it is only sensible to raise a question like: How is the price of labour-power determined? For the price of labour-power which here confronts us for the first time in the presentation, cannot be understood as a commodity with its own value. Up to this point in the presentation the price of a commodity has been conceived as the value of the commodity expressed in money, but this is only possible with things that have a value i.e. industrial commodities.
"The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this special article. So far as it has value, it represents no more than a definite quantity of the average labour of society incorporated in it. Labour-power exists only as a capacity, or power of the living individual. Its production consequently presupposes his existence. Given the individual, the production of labour-power consists in his reproduction of himself or his maintenance. For his maintenance he requires a given quantity of the means of subsistence (Means of Life). Therefore the labour-time requisite for the production of labour-power reduces itself to that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence (Means of Life)." (CI 167)
Here Marx forgets that the question of how labour-power is reproduced has been postponed by an assumption of presentation (cf. 1 above) and attempts to answer the question how the value of labour-power is determined by looking at how it is reproduced. The answer - that the value is determined by "a definite quantity of the average labour of society incorporated in it" and that this "definite quantity" resolves itself into the abstract labour embodied in the means of life - leaves aside the necessary but unpaid domestic labour performed by women. This poses a problem for the presentation: either the 'value' of labour-power is determined by all the socially necessary labour embodied in it - in which case an account of domestic labour and the family has its systematic place in the analysis of the economic - or its 'value' is not determined by the labour necessary to reproduce it but the money received as wages is the equivalent of the 'socially necessary labour-time' embodied in a certain quantity of means of life. The first alternative is rejected on the grounds that it uses the systematic category 'socially necessary labour' introduced in CI, Chapter 1 with sole reference to industrial commodities, in a quite different sense which surreptitiously depends on an everyday notion of labour. Thus 'socially necessary labour' does not here refer to the value-form but to a loose notion of what social activities (eg. birth, cooking, child-minding, nurturing, education, entertainment, discipline, etc.) are required for the reproduction of the labourer. The presentation cannot cope with all these activities at once and the way out is to bring some systematic order into dealing with them. We can only foreshadow that the analysis of the bourgeois State (including the family as a 'State apparatus', to use a phrase of Althusser's, which anticipates "results still to be proved") will have to deal with those social activities listed above that do not fall under the heading of industrial labour. In the second alternative socially necessary labour appears as a technical term, referring only to abstract labour embodied In industrial commodities. The labourers are not paid in means of life but in money and it is this amount of money which is the nub of the transaction between labourer and capitalist. The amount of money, of course, determines the amount of means of life that can be bought. If the quantity of means of life is taken as given then the price of labour-power is tied to the value of means of life and Marx's formulation of the 'value' of labour-power amounts to an assumption that real wages are uniform and constant. The effect of opting for the second alternative is to free the concept of 'price of labour-power' from a determination by the value of a given set of means of life and to point to the importance of class struggle in the determination of the price of labour-power.
In setting aside the question of the family and of the distinctions between men and women in the determination of the price of labour-power, we conclude that in all systematically important parts of Capital, 'the labourer... he' can be replaced by 'the labour-power... it'. Let it only be remembered that Marx, in using a uniform 'value of labour-power' in Vol I, is only making an assumption of presentation that all labourers get the same wage and that this assumption should be relaxed in the treatment of competition.
Having questioned the concept 'value of labour-power' the treatment by Marx of skilled labour-power and its value becomes shaky. If the price of labour-power is determined by a struggle between wage-labour and capital, then the higher price of skilled labour-power is a result of its better position in that struggle rather than an inherently higher value of their labour-power. In Vol I, Chapter 1, where an objection that skilled labour-power creates more value than unskilled (CI 51f) is dealt with, all that is necessary is to point out that only a qualitative analysis of value is necessary at this stage and that the question of differing 'values' of labour-power can be treated later.
In pressing home the point that skilled labour-power does better in the class struggle than unskilled labour-power because of its monopoly of a particular skill, we conclude that the higher price of skilled labour-power can be treated analogously to monopoly rent as in Capital Vol. III. The capitalist buying more expensive, skilled labour-power can sell the commodity produced above its price of production and recoup the cost of higher wages, precisely because of the relative scarcity of skilled labour-power, in the same way as a monopolisation of land can allow a commodity produced on that land to be sold above its price of production (cf. Paper 4). This does away with the so-called 'reduction problem'. The difference from ground-rent is that skilled labour-power can lose its monopoly position as capital strives to reorganise the production process so that it doesn't need skilled workers.
For the capital-analysis, the reproduction unit of labour-power need only be treated as a 'black box' into which industrial commodities (means of life) are fed and from which labour-power emerges. The details of how this 'black box' functions are not necessary for the systematic presentation at this level. Marx, in fact, in some places leaves out the reproduction of the labourer, treating them as a sexless, raceless individual and in other places treats of a special form of the reproduction unit: the nuclear family. We prefer to take a general view of the reproduction unit as a 'black box' and reserve an analysis of it to the theory of State.
 Marx, K. Preface to 'A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy' in Marx/ Engels: Selected Works, Volume 1, Moscow 1969, p. 502.
*During Re-Reading CAPITAL in Australia 1976 it hit me that a value-form analytic reconstruction of Marx leads to a re-writing of one of the key terms: „value of the commodity labour-power“.
We had to replace it by introducing labour-power as a „second order“ commodity.
See also Eldred/Roth, Paper 5, Guide . There is no innocent reading. M.R. / Year 125 after K.M.
Dienstag, März 11, 2008
Eldred/Roth: Guide to Marx's Capital (1978)
The Mystificatory Character of the Wage-Form
Although the analysis of the wage-form is done by Marx in Capital Volume I immediately after the analysis of surplus-value production, we think that, because the wage-form is the way that the exchange between labour and capital is lived, the correct systematic place for its treatment is with the analysis of the revenue-form (cf. below), which constitutes the "religion of everyday life" (CIII 830).
For productive labour the basic wage-form (SG 135), which signifies the exchange between labour and capital as an exchange of labour for wages, dissolves the division of the working day into necessary labour-time and surplus-labour-time (SG 39), and hence makes invisible the source of surplus-value. The wage-form therefore conceals the exploitation of the productive labourers. At the same time as the wage-form obliterates the source of surplus-value it obliterates the distinction between productive and unproductive labour (SG 91) and both the productive wage-labourer and unproductive wage-labourer live their relation to capital in the same everyday form of life. (Marx gives an account of the (unproductive) commercial wage-labourer as an aside in his analysis of the costs of circulation. Their wages are a deduction from surplus-value, cf. CIII 135).
In entering into a transaction with capital under the wage-form, the wage-labourer has agreed to submit to the command of capital for the duration of the working-day. But how long is the working-day to be? Under the basic wage-form, the antagonism between labour and capital can be lived as a struggle on the labourers' side for a short working-day and with capital pressing in the opposite direction.
The time-wage (SG 138) in which an hourly rate is paid, confuses this struggle by making it in the workers' interest to work a long working-day so as to get a high wage, thereby partially internalising within the wage-form the interest of capital for a long working-day. Speaking of an internalisation here is not restricting the mystification of the wage-form (or indeed any practical signification of the form of bourgeois life) to the workers. The various wage-forms which we speak of here are general forms of life and at the same time as they internalise capitalist class interests in a contradictory workers' consciousness they equally mystify the inner connexions for the bourgeois. The workers' consciousness is contradictory because they want to be better paid but they can only do this by prolonging their submission each day to capital. Limiting the pace of work, however, is quite in the workers' interest in terms of the time-wage form and is the practical resolution of the internalised contradiction.
A development in the wage-form which counteracts the interests of workers to limit the pace of work and which further internalises the interests of capital in the workers is the piece-wage wage-form (SG 138). In this form what appears to be paid for is the use-values produced. As well as having an interest in prolonging the working-day the worker has an interest in producing as much as possible in a given time both by raising the intensity of labour and by increasing its productivity e.g. by co-operation. On the other hand, the determination of the piece-rate (SG 139), because it is divorced from the determination of value by labour-time, becomes an object of fierce class struggle. With an increase in productivity, once that new level of productivity has become the social average, the increased wages paid under the piece-rate system eat into surplus-value and it becomes necessary for capital to press the rate down. This can be illustrated in the following schema:
Value of a day's labour in all cases: $80.00 (intensity and duration of labour assumed constant).
| || |
piece-rate equivalent: $5.00
8 pieces produced in normal working day before introduction of piece-rate.
| || |
piece-rate equivalent: $3.75
Piece-rate introduced and set so that with the same productivity
| || |
piece-rate equivalent: $3.75
With an increase in social productivity, to 12 pieces/day the wage is above the previous wage and eats into surplus-value.
The contradiction immanent in the piece-wage (SG 139) is that in the determination of the value of the product it is labour-time, but in the determination of the wage is it labour intensity and productivity, which is decisive. This separation of the measure of the value of the product from the measure of the wage, is, on the one hand fundamental for the wage-form itself and on the other hand continually forces capital to adjust the piece-rate to re-establish the correspondence to labour-time. This readjustment of the piece-rate delegitimates piece-wages as a form of seemingly fair payment and actually turns the internalised interests of capital, in an ossified form against capital i.e. workers in living the piece-wage form as a fair basis for the relation to capital resist any attempt to change it.
Nevertheless the increase in intensity, as opposed to increases in productivity, brought about by piece-wages remains an advantage for capital.
The fully developed wage-form (SG 139) obliterates from consciousness the antagonism between capital and labour. With this form labour becomes a source of revenue for its possessor no matter whether the 'labourer' be a wage-labourer or an entrepreneur. The wage-labourer receives for their contribution to the production-process a fair share of the result and the entrepreneur also receives a fair share for his labour of supervision. The fully developed wage-form is also the form in which all labouring activity is seen as being for the good of society as a whole (the community), with each labourer receiving a slice of the social cake. The contradiction in this form is twofold: firstly, the worker's wage is compared with the entrepreneur's wages of supervision and the question arises: Why should the entrepreneur receive a bigger return for his labour than the worker? Secondly, the entrepreneur is not forced to work but can delegate the labour of supervision to his managers without foregoing a return; here wages are paid to one who doesn't labour and to that extent the entrepreneur becomes superfluous.
The Revenue Forms of New Value
In a further elaboration involving the fully-developed wage form, new value appears to divide into three parts: wages (of productive, circulation and entrepreneurial labourers), interest and rent. The three forms of property (SG 140) appear to be three trees that bear as their fruits wages, interest and rent. In relation to the particular property (source of revenue) from which they spring wage, interest and rent appear as revenue: the fruit can be consumed without preventing the tree from bearing more fruit. The mediation of this fruit-tree metaphor is done by the interest form of surplus-value which is the "mother of all crazy-forms" (MEW 25, 483 and CIII 465). In interest it appears to be a quasi-natural characteristic of a sum of value that it draws interest to itself. In the particular inverted price-form of labour-power as wage all the labour of the wage-labourer appears to be paid. At the same time, labour appears to be the source of the magnitude of value, wage, under the dominance of the interest form. When labour appears as the source of no more and no less than a wage then this labour is excluded as a source of the other revenues. Those other revenues, in analogy with the relation of labour-power to wage, seem to spring from the other factors of production. From the produced means of production stems profit/interest and from the natural means of production stems rent. The revenue in each case is paid to the owner of the source of revenue but herein the grounds for the distribution of the new value falsely appear as sources of the creation of value. Every revenue source seems to create its particular revenue.
The contradictions in this trinity formula are that firstly, the factors of production can only bear their revenues when co-operating - which is revealed when labour "strikes" - and secondly, even if it is recognised that the factors must co-operate for each of them to bear their fruits, in times of crisis they cannot co-operate and many workers' trees are made infertile. So long as 'normal' times continue the trinity formula expresses the optimism that the co-operation of the three factors of production leads to prosperity and a fair share for all. As soon as rough times come along, the workers are told that they need to take a wage cut. But why is it that the labourers' labour no longer creates the value which drew its wage to it as revenue? And why is it no longer possible for some workers to combine with the other factors to create value and get a wage?
The Creation of a Relative Surplus-Population as a Background to the Struggle between Wage-Labour and Capital
In order to understand why it is that workers are thrown out of work by capital it is necessary to work out the conditions in which capital can accumulate and create more surplus-value. These conditions are at the same time the conditions under which the class struggle is fought. The contradiction immanent in the accumulation of capital (SG142) is that as capital attempts to convert surplus-value into an additional source of surplus-value it demands more labour. But it is just the increased demand for labour which puts the workers in the position of gaining higher wages. In Capital Vol I, the analysis has already dealt with the striving of capital to squeeze more labour out of its labourers. At the level of the revenue form, having already dealt with absolute surplus-value production, the only way in which capital can obtain more labour is to get more workers. In this way, the assumption of presentation that the workers are paid the value of the given quantity of means of life is relaxed and the analysis looks at the struggle over wages. In Vol. I, the concept of class struggle was limited to that of maintaining a wage equal to the value of the habitual means of life; when capital attempts to obtain more labourers it creates the conditions of a struggle over the carving up of the working day into necessary labour time and surplus labour time. At the limit, the increased demand of capital for labour-power can enable the workers to gain a wage which threatens the surplus-value production of the extra capital.
One way that capital has out of this contradiction is to replace labourers by machines, which is at the same time, a way in which capital produces relative surplus-value. In throwing labourers out of work by the introduction of machinery, capital is in a stronger position to fight the demands of the workers for higher wages. The relative surplus-value production is no longer a result of the lowering of the value of the means of life, as it was in Vol. I, but a lowering of wages through capital gaining the upper hand in the class struggle. Hence a condition for capital to accumulate is the creation of an industrial reserve army on which capital can call, as it requires, more labour-power. The creation of an industrial reserve army divides the working class into the employed and unemployed, who compete against each other for the jobs capital has to offer. Apart from the industrial reserve army, the relative surplus-population which functions as a background to accumulation is composed of those who are unable to work. In times of upward movement of the industrial cycle, individual workers and individual sections of the working class are in a position to gain higher wages without harming other sections of the working class. However, in times of depression, the competition between employed and unemployed leads to the former having to accept lower wages and worse conditions of work to keep their jobs, and the latter remains a labour reserve which acts as a lever for capital to maintain lower wages (cf. CI 599). Within the revenue-form it is only the employed who are revenue-source earners and who qualify for recognition as bourgeois subjects. It is otherwise with those who are thrown idle by capital. For the unemployed (in particular women, children, blacks, youth, etc and sick) their position as bourgeois subjects which does not have an economic base, comes to be questioned and leads to attempts to prescribe the way they can live on the basis of their economic dependence on the 'charity' of the rest of society.
Bourgeois Consciousness and Class Consciousness
From what we have shown in the development of the wage-forms it follows that on the surface of society, the social being of possessors of sources of revenue is lived as an equality of property owners. Owners of labour, capital and land are equal subjects. Within this present form of bourgeois consciousness (SG 143), in which the contradictions of bourgeois society are resolved, the general interest of society is the interest of the private owner of a revenue source. Every possessor of a source of revenue has the interest that their source of income flows continuously and strongly, and hence they all have qualitatively the same interest. As the "great cake" of the material social wealth grows, so grows the share of each revenue source owner, if the proportions remain the same. This pure form focuses on a readymade bourgeois subject who has no sex, race, or other social differentiation. In fact, the bourgeois subject at this level of the analysis is only a character mask for the revenue sources and may be a group of individuals.
The wage which the workers gain is not a natural constant but a result of social struggle. On the side of capital the working-day itself is class struggle in a thousand particularities. In 'peaceful' times it is only capital that actively leads an offensive against the working class in trying to transform their life time into labour time "(and the mere reproduction of labour-power) and trying to get as much surplus-labour time as it can out of the working class. Capital makes the working class dependent on capital by separating the immediate producers from their product and the social forces of production. The experience of the class struggle led by capital against the workers provides the possibility (though not necessity) of a consciousness which recognises that the relation to capital is a struggle. The consciousness of being in a struggle may at first be articulated as a demand for equality (within the revenue-wage-form ideology) but as soon as 'peaceful' times are interrupted by unrest the ideological consciousness of equality loses its material basis and a contradiction arises. The experience of ensuing struggles helps reveal that the workers are no longer the equal of the other 'income earners' and that labour-power is the target of exploitation by capital. (Though this does not mean that the workers acquire the scientific concept of 'surplus-value extraction' merely by experience.) Now the workers fight back; they are no longer merely passive in class struggle but take an active part in it. In peaceful times it is capital that makes them work together. Now they co-operate according to aims which are opposed to the aims of capital. To take full opportunity of the assault on capital, it is quite crucial that the workers do not fall into the trap of imitating the hierarchical structures of the factory, trade unions, parties etc., as this limits the possibilities of developing a consciousness of what lies beyond bourgeois life. The realisation of revolutionary possibilities can only come when experiments in new forms of social relations lead into a dialectic with the already developed but formerly dissociated theoretical critique of bourgeois society (Capital).
The experience of struggles in which normal life (SG 144) is replaced for a time by a life form which is not dominated, disciplined etc. by capital shakes up hitherto dominant ideologies.
There is no hope of revolutionary change (i.e. change which spells the destruction of bourgeois life and the creation of a new socialist life) merely by a scientific understanding of capitalist society. But when deep spontaneously developing struggles are combined with a theoretical understanding of the breakdown of normal bourgeois life, the practical possibility exists of radically reconstructing life in a way which does not lead unwittingly back into the bourgeois form of society. For the determination of how radical that reconstruction must be the analysis of the capitalist mode of production (Capital) is not enough. The Capital analysis only constructs the bourgeois subject as a personification of economic categories. In addition, and systematically grounded in it, the analysis of the bourgeois state (SG 145) (comprising both the political and ideological) is necessary to construct the bourgeois form of life as reproduced by family, school, police, church, army, welfare, trade unions, work-places, political parties, juridical apparatuses, etc. Because of the absence of a theory of state, which gives a theory of the form of life and so indicates what it means to destroy the bourgeois form of life, the way has been left open to dogmatism of various sorts. Perhaps the most important of these dogmas is that it is the proletariat which must be in the lead in any revolutionary movement. This idea flows from extracting a theory of revolution from Capital, so that productive labour, because it is the source of surplus-value is also identified as the centrepiece of a revolutionary movement. Although it is unlikely that a revolution can be made without the industrial proletariat, many different forms of struggle and various social groups act in a chaos which opens the possibility of constructing life anew. One central component in this chaos is the breakdown of the relation between labour and capital, which takes the life blood of capital away from it.
Paper 4 | Table of Contents | Appendix I Family in CAPITAL
Montag, März 10, 2008
Eldred/Roth: Guide to Marx's Capital (1978)
The Forms of Appearance of Surplus-Value:
Profit of Enterprise, Interest and Rent
The analysis of the ground-form of capital has revealed the source of the valorisation of capital: it is the surplus-labour time of productive wage-labourers. Which forms are taken on by surplus-value on the surface of capitalist society? Before we can answer this question we have to investigate the transformed form of surplus-value, average profit.
The analysis of the transformation of surplus-value into average profit starts from the concept of cost-price (k "Kostpreis") (SG 120). Herein the distinction between the production of new value (v + s) and the transfer of old value (c) is suspended in practice: k = c + v. Cost-price is just the sum of money necessary for starting a profit-making process. At the most abstract level profit (SG 120) is determined here as the difference in magnitude of value between selling-price (SG 120) of the produced commodity and cost-price of the elements of production. We can distinguish between two forms of competition of capitals (SG 121): one which occurs within the sphere where the producers of the same kind of commodity compete and one between the different spheres of production where the aggregate capitals of the different spheres compete for a share in the total social surplus-value produced. The share of the surplus-value which falls to a capital as the end result of this competition is called profit (p). Profit always refers to the return on the total capital advanced. As opposed to the rate of surplus-value s/v, the rate of profit is p/(c + v).
"Now, if the commodities are sold at their values, then as we have shown, very different rates of profit arise in the various spheres of production, depending on the different organic composition of the masses of capital invested in them. But capital withdraws from a sphere with a low rate of profit and invades others which yield a higher profit. Through this incessant outflow and influx, or briefly, through its distribution among the various spheres, which depends on how the rate of profit falls here and rises there, it creates such a ratio of supply to demand that the average profit in the various spheres of production becomes the same, and values are, therefore converted into prices of production." (CIII 195f).
The production price is that selling price which enables the sphere of capital to make average profit (SG 122). To the extent that production price becomes general the spheres of capital become mere shareholders of the joint-stock company 'social capital' (cf. CIII 158). The share of one sphere of production in the aggregate surplus-value is determined by the ratio of the advanced capital in that sphere to the aggregate capital, independently of organic composition (c/v) and the turnover of variable capital, both of which are crucial for surplus-value production. This equalised rate of profit of all spheres we call the rate of average-profit. The surplus-value which is produced in one sphere of production does not determine the profit of that sphere. Average profit as a transformed form of the socially expropriated surplus-value is an expression of a social relation: the exploitation of the working-class by the capitalist class.
If we move on from the spheres of capital to the individual capitalist within the spheres, the competition between producers of the same type of commodity and the competition for average profit together determine the selling-price. After the analysis of the average rate of profit of the different spheres has been done the effects of different individual conditions of production i.e. differences in the productivity of individual capitals within one sphere can be articulated as differences of individual cost-prices. But an identical price is paid for commodities of the same kind, a unified market-price (SG 123). We can make a distinction between three forms of profit that exceed average profit (SG 124):
1) Extra-profit stemming from selling the commodity at its production price with production of the commodity at an individual cost-price lower than the average cost-price in that sphere ("extra-profit1").
2) Extra-profit stemming from selling the commodity at a market-price which, as a result of a monopoly of that sphere and organic composition below the social average, is higher than the production price but still below the value of that commodity ("extra-profit2").
3) Extra-profit stemming from selling a commodity at a "monopoly price proper" (eigentlicher Monopolpreis), which is higher than the production price and higher than the value of the commodity ("extra-profit3").
The analysis of capitalist ground-rent will start from these three forms of extra-profit (differential ground-rent, absolute ground-rent and monopoly rent respectively whereas the analysis of the other two forms of appearance of surplus-value, profit of enterprise and interest, deals with the division of average profit itself. Before dealing with these forms of appearance we outline two other aspects of average profit, firstly the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and secondly that the "final form" (CIII 388) of average profit includes the participation of merchant's capital in social surplus-value.
A Remark on the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall
The capitalist mode of production includes substitution of living labour-power by labour objectified in machinery. Along with this application of machinery for the production of relative surplus-value, therefore, the contradiction that the rate of surplus-value can only be increased by diminishing the number of labourers relative to the magnitude of the total capital (c + v) (cf. CI 383). As average profit distributes the aggregate social surplus-value to the different spheres of capital, the magnitude of the rate of profit is influenced by the substitution of living labour-power by machinery if the increase of the rate of surplus-value does not compensate for the change in the organic composition of capital and therefore the relative decrease of the variable part of capital. For an individual capital this contradiction does not present itself in everyday practice:
"A saving of labour -not only labour necessary to produce a certain product, but also the number of employed labourers - and the employment of more congealed labour (constant capital), appear to be very sound operations from the economic standpoint and do not seem to exert the least influence on the general rate of profit and the average profit. How could living labour be the sole source of profit, in view of the fact that a reduction in the quantity of labour required for production appears not to exert any influence on profit? Moreover, it even seems in certain circumstances to be the nearest source of an increase of profits, at least for the individual capitalist." (CIII 170)
(For our views on the correct systematic place for the treatment of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall see the Remarks on Vol. I, chaps 7-33.)
The analysis of the ground-form of capital serves as a basis for the analysis of commercial capital as a derivative form of capital. The circuit of capital as analysed in Paper 3 (cf. Capital Vol. II) has three phases. In the phase of productive capital surplus-value is created whereas the phases of money-capital and commodity-capital are unproductive but necessary for the circulation of value as capital.
At this stage of the analysis, capital is now divided into industrial capital, which concentrates on the productive phase, and commercial capital, which deals exclusively with the circulation phases (SG 125). To the extent that commercial capital does the work of circulation at a lower cost by means of concentrating the buying and selling of a number of industrial capitals they create the economic basis for their existence. The costs of circulation work have to be paid out of surplus-value. The commercial capital makes the surplus-value absorbed by unproductive circulation work the source of its profit insofar as it diminishes the socially necessary unproductive work. Commercial capital grabs that part of social surplus-value that corresponds to its share in aggregate capital. After the acknowledgement of commercial capital as capital which makes average profit the spheres of circulation become just one of the spheres of investment of capital (SG 126). Outflow and influx of capital are determined for this sphere as well, by the competition for profit between the different spheres which is mediated by competition within the sphere.
Commercial capital must succeed in pressing down the costs of circulation work to such an extent that they remain, after the addition of average profit to the capital advanced, lower than the amount an industrial capital would have to spend if it did all the circulation work itself. The division of ground-form capital into industrial capital and commercial capital is dependent on the ratio of the production period to the circulation period and the extent to which circulation work is done by commercial capital (not all the circulation work can be taken out of the hands of industrial capital).
In the form of average profit for the ground-form of capital there is already a quantitative divergence of profit from surplus-value. Looking at commercial profit we find in addition a qualitative divergence in that capital which produces no surplus-value, participates in the distribution of social surplus-value, through making average profit. All capital which makes average profit does so on the basis of the exploitation of productive industrial labourers. All capital which makes average profit also benefits from an exploitation of the commercial labourers analogous to that of the industrial labourers: commercial wage-labourers work part of their time "for nothing" (CII 135).
Two Derived Forms of Surplus-Value: The Division of Average Profit into Interest and Profit of Enterprise
With commercial capital we have made acquaintance with the first derived form of capital. Here capital which does not engage in surplus-value production is nevertheless a profitable advance of money on the basis that the portion of aggregate capital engaged in circulation functions is diminished. But we were not confronted with a derived form of surplus-value. Commercial profit takes the form of average profit, the transformed form of surplus-value we already know. When dealing now with interest-bearing capital we do not find a new participation in average profit but rather a division of average profit, including commercial profit, into two parts which are derived forms of surplus-value: interest and profit of enterprise (SG 128). Here the same money functions as average profit producing and interest-bearing, only for two different capitalists. The circuit of the former (functioning capital) is embedded in the circuit of the latter and so we could call interest-bearing capital a capital of 'higher order'. As we deal here with average profit in its final form the embedded circuit of functioning capital can be either a circuit of industrial capital or a circuit of commercial capital.
Interest of interest-bearing capital = MII - MI. Profit of enterprise of functioning capital = MI - M. Average profit = MII - M.
In overcoming the latency of money-capital caused by necessary periods of fallow for functioning capital, interest-bearing capital has its first raison d'etre. Besides overcoming fallow, the form of interest-bearing capital allows for the gathering together of several capitals' newly accumulated surplus-value, each of which is too small to function independently. Because of the possibility of lending money in exchange for interest, interest itself becomes a fixed form, the price of the 'higher order' commodity, capital (SG 129). On the other hand, this leads to a permanent division of average profit into interest and the remainder, called profit of enterprise. Just as interest appears to be a property of money, profit of enterprise appears to stem from the activity of the entrepreneur, the functioning capitalist's labour-power, (cf CIII 382).
A Third Derived Form of Surplus-Value :
Transformation of Extra-Profit into Capitalist Rent.
At this level of the presentation nature (the unproduced conditions of labour) is given its systematic place.
Landed property is the power to make the use of nature dependent on paying money to the rentier (SG 130). Capital working on e.g. a certain plot of land for which it pays rent, can make better than average profit if that plot of land gives it an advantage over others so that in addition to average profit an extra-profit is made which partly or wholly can be transformed into ground-rent. These natural advantages in production or circulation can be listed in three groups:
1) Extraordinary productivity (e.g. as a consequence of exceptionally fertile ground)
2) Extraordinarily favourable location and hence a quicker turnover and lower costs of circulation.
3) Natural limitation of production in a sphere (e.g. as a consequence of scarcity of a mineral).
The first two advantages result in lowering the individual cost-price below the average cost-price. The third advantage enables the seller of the product to ask a market-price above the price of production. Advantages (1) and (2) are reasons for extra-profit1. Advantage (3) is a source of extra-profit2 or extra-profit3 (see the above section on average profit). By selling products at the price of production while the individual cost-price is below the average cost-price, an extra-profit is made as against competing capitals in the same sphere of production. By selling the product at a market price above the price of production, the particular sphere is making extra-profit2 if the price does not exceed the value of the product, and it makes extra-profit3 against other spheres of capital if the price exceeds the value. Extra-profit1 can partially or wholly be transformed into differential ground-rent (cf. CIII 40ff, 745f) (SG 131), extra-profit2 into absolute ground-rent (cf. CIII 760ff) (SG 132) and extra-profit3 into monopoly rent proper (cf. CIII 762, 832f) (SG 133).
At this level of analysis land itself becomes a commodity (SG 134) whose price is determined by the capitalisation of the ground-rent which it draws i.e. investment of capital in land draws ground-rent as interest. The price of the land is therefore determined as the price of buying the property that draws ground-rent and is given by the expression:
rent/(rate of interest).
In this way land becomes a higher order commodity.
Remarks on Capital, Vol. III
The 3rd volume of Capital as we have it now was set down by Marx essentially in one manuscript, most likely written in 1865 (before the final draft of Vol. I in 1866/7). Engels acknowledges: "As the reader will observe from the following, the work of editing the third volume was essentially different from that of editing the second" (Where there were several substantial manuscripts from after 1867 in Engel's hands and notes by Marx on how to do the selection. E/R). "In the case of the 3rd volume there was nothing to go by outside a first extremely incomplete draft. The beginnings of the various parts were, as a rule, pretty carefully done and even stylistically polished. But the farther one went, the more sketchy and incomplete was the manuscript, the more excursions it contained into arising side-issues, whose proper place in the argument was left for later decision." (CIII 2)
It seems that material additional to the 1865 manuscript was only incorporated by Engels into the first part. Chapter 1 was written by Engels on the basis of "two attempts at revising" (done by Marx at a time which Engels doesn't give, cf. CIII 3) Chapter 2 is "taken from the main manuscript". (CIII 3), but must have been there at a different place, for Engels states that the manuscript started with the topic of today's chapter 3. This version was written by Engels on the basis of Vol. II, "Beginning with Ch. 5, the main manuscript is the sole source for the remainder of the part" - and indeed the book - "although many transpositions and supplements were also essential". (CIII 4)
With parts 2, 3 and 4 Engels claims to have done no more than "stylistic editing." But he restructured parts 5 (on interest) and 6 (on rent), cf. CIII 4 and 6f. The theoretically very important last part "was available complete, but only as a first draft, whose endlessly involved periods had first to be dissected to be made printable. There exists only the beginning of the final chapter." (CIII 7). Engels printed the fragment and made no attempt to bring it to its systematic end. At the very beginning of part 7 Engels collected short (but very dense) passages on the trinitary formula from different places within the manuscript in its part on ground-rent.
In short: Engels has edited as Vol III of Capital a draft by Marx done before the final shape of Vol. I came into being. Engels does not refer to any later hints of Marx on how to do the editing.
On the contrary, it seems that Marx's view about the matter is expressed in his letter to Engels on February 13th, 1866. "Obgleich fertig, ist das Manuskript, riesig in seiner jetzigen Form, nicht herausgebbar für irgend jemand außer mir, selbst nicht für Dich." (although finished, the manuscript, gigantic in its present form, is not editable by anyone but myself, not even by you).
Does this matter? Only a successful attempt at unfolding the systematic argument in a dialogue can answer the question.
Chapter 1 begins with a passage that could well function as an introductory remark to Vol 3 of Capital as a whole; it ends:
"The various forms ("Gestaltungen" MEW 25, p. 33; see also Marx's letter to Kugelmann of October 13, 1866) of capital as evoked in this book … approach step by step the form ("Form") which they assume on the surface of society, in the action of different capitals upon one another, in competition, and in the ordinary consciousness of the agents of production themselves" (CIII 25).
As regards 'profit' as such a form of appearance we read in chapter 2:
"The transformation of surplus-value into profit must be deduced from the transformation of the rate of surplus-value into the rate of profit, not vice versa ... surplus-value and rate of surplus-value are, relatively, the invisible and unknown essence ("das zu erforschende Wesentliche" MEW 25, p. 53) that wants investigating, while rate of profit and therefore the appearance of surplus-value in the form of profit are revealed ("zeigen sich") on the surface of the phenomenon" (CIII 43).
In our view, as the reader may remember from the remarks on CI ch 16, the concept of profit does have a systematic meaning in Vol I already. The difference with respect to 'profit' on the level of Part 1 Vol. III comes to mind when focusing on the results of the analysis of the circulation of capital and taking account of the distinction between circulating and fixed capital (cf. CIII 33) and considering the annual rate of profit (ch 4, cf. CIII 74 especially).
Chapter 5 deals with a topic that was raised in Parts 3 and 4 of Vol. I already (cf. CI 251, 308, 365ff.): 'Economy in Employment of Constant Capital'. The material used for the illustration of the systematic points is to a great extent identical: reports of the inspectors of factories for the period 1845 to 1864 (in the case of Vol III chs 5 and 6) and the period 1841 to 1866 (in the case of Vol I).
The claim is expressed (CI 308) already:
"Economy in the use of the means of production has to be considered under two aspects. First, as cheapening commodities, and thereby bringing about a fall in the value of labour-power. Secondly, as altering the ratio of the surplus-value to the total capital advanced, i.e., to the sum of the values of the constant and variable capital. The latter aspect will not be considered until we come to the third book, to which, with the object of treating them in their proper connexion, we also relegate many other points that relate to the present question. The march of our analysis compels this splitting up of the subject-matter".
This refers to the analysis of relative surplus-value production. But a similar point can be made with respect to the analysis of absolute surplus-value production or surplus-value production in general: "Capital has one single life impulse, the tendency to create value and surplus-value, to make its constant part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount ("Masse" MEW 23, p. 247) of surplus-labour. Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks" (CI 224).
This relation of variable and constant capital can obviously be looked at from its two opposing sides. In Vol I: the existence of money in the form of constant capital treated as given, the analysis of surplus-value production focuses on capital's tendency to increase surplus-value production. In Vol III: given the valorisation of capital's variable part ("mass and rate of surplus-value" CIII 79) the analysis focuses on capital's tendency to reduce the portion of constant capital in total capital. The labourers suffer from both alike. Compare Vol I ch 10 Sec. 4, "Day and Night Work. The Relay System" with Vol III ch 5 Sec. 2, "Savings in Labour Conditions at the Expense of the Labourers" and the remark CIII 86:
"Since the labourer passes the greater portion of his life - a great part anyway - in the process of production, the conditions of his active living process, or his living conditions, and economy in these living conditions is a method of raising the rate of profit; just as we saw earlier (in Vol I) that overwork, the transformation of the labourer into a work horse, is a means of increasing capital, or speeding up the production of surplus-value".
Taking into consideration the distinction between circulating constant capital and fixed capital as developed in Vol II a number of different cases of economising the employment of constant capital or effects of a cheapening of elements of constant capital are discussed in the 5th and 6th chapters.
Chapter 7, "Supplementary Remarks" is information on the assumptions of presentation used in Part 1 as opposed to Part 2.
In Marx's manuscript of 1864-65 the text of Part 3 has no subtitles. The segmentation into chapters is Engels' work.
Systematically there are two different strands of argumentation.
1) Rise in the organic composition in the course of the development of machinery. This leads to a sinking rate of profit if not matched by even greater rise in the rate of surplus-value. Cf. ch 13.
2) "Absolute over-production of capital" (CIII 251)- "i.e., the increased capital C + ΔC would produce no more, or even less, profit than capital C before its expansion by C... there would be a steep and sudden fall in the general rate of profit, but this time due to a change in the composition of capital not caused by the development of the productive forces, but rather by a rise in the money-value of the variable capital (because of increased wages) and the corresponding reduction in the proportion of surplus-labour to necessary labour." (cf. ch 15 III)
We take the view that the difficulty for capital which arises from a rise in the organic composition has to be dealt with at the end and that the over-accumulation problematic has its systematic place within the analysis of the revenue-forms when competition and 'bourgeois class-struggle' are dealt with.
The sections (our chapters) and their titles - with the exception of the title of ch 20 - are in the manuscript of 1864-65.
Systematically the most interesting is ch 17. On the problematic of historical development vs. systematic order cf.:
"In the course of scientific analysis, the formation of a general rate of profit appears to result from industrial capitals and their competition, and is only later corrected, supplemented, and modified by the intervention of merchants' capital. In the course of its historical development, however, the process is really reversed. It is the commercial capital which first determines the prices of commodities more or less in accordance with their values, and it is the sphere of circulation, the sphere that promotes the process of reproduction, in which a general rate of profit initially takes shape". (CIII 287)
Of this part comprising two component parts, the first one (chs 21-28) is more structured and systematically more relevant. The second one's subtitles cannot be found in the 1864-65 manuscript. Engels acknowledges in his editorial note: "The real difficulty, however, began with Chapter 30. From here on it was ... a matter ... of putting the train of thought into proper order" (CIII 6). It is an open question, to what extent the material dealt with there belongs to the general analysis of the capitalist form of society, e.g. to a theory of money. For those without a special interest in this question we can offer the advice to skip chs 30-35.
It is helpful to read the beginning of the text, CIII 614ff. carefully, as Marx states explicitly the assumptions of the subsequent presentation. That rent is not a "characteristic peculiarity of agriculture" is expressed CIII 637ff.
Thanks to Engels - who used Marx's hints (cf. CIII 762f and 7) - this part is clearly structured. For good information about the topics (especially the sub-forms of differential rent) see the table of contents CIII p X.
With the possible exception of the three fragments which Engels placed at the very beginning of the text and his remarks (which might not be true) "here the manuscript breaks off" (CIII 817) and "here one folio sheet is missing" (CIII 822)-the text as printed in CIII does not offer editorial problems but a number of systematic ones.
The fragmentary character of this final part of Capital is a real pity. That this fragment remained unfinished without any attempts to complete it in the years 1866-1883 (cf. Marx's letter to Engels of February 13, 1866) must cause astonishment. Worth reading is the appendix "Revenue and its sources", printed at the end of the third volume of "Theories' of Surplus-Value", which was written two or three years before the corresponding text in Capital.
Sonntag, März 09, 2008
Eldred/Roth: Guide to Marx's Capital (1978)
Circuits of Capital
The movement which value as capital performs has up to now been grasped as:
M - C
... P... C1 - M1
(For in Capital, Vol. I it was the process of production - within the frame of commodity circulation - that was analysed). The movement of capital clearly comprises three stages (SG 84). There is:
(1) Capital in the form of money that buys the elements of production ("money-capital").
(2) Capital in the form of the industrial labour process, that combines productively the elements of production ("Productive capital").
(3) Capital in the form of industrial products, which are sold as commodities whose value contains surplus-value ("commodity-capital").
"The first and third stages were discussed in Capital, Vol. I only insofar as this was necessary for an understanding of the second stage, the process of production of capital. For this reason, the various forms in which capital dresses itself in its different stages, and which it now puts on and now strips off in the repetition of its circuit (SG 82), have not been taken into consideration. These forms are now the next matter of the analysis" (SG 81) (CII 25).
If we make a distinction between different forms of circuit according to the point of departure and return, we get (SG 83):
I. the circuit of money-capital: M - C...P...C1 - M1
II. the circuit of productive capital: P...C1 - M1 .M - C...P
III. the circuit of commodity-capital: C1 - M1 .M - C...P...C1
('-' indicating mere change of the form of value, '...' indicating interruption of the process of circulation by the production process P (SG 84), "and C1 and M1 designating C and M increased by surplus-value" (CII 25), the dot between M and M1 indicating that the comparison of magnitudes of value (SG 85) between M and M1 as well as between C and C1 comes to an end here and starts anew: a part of M1 might have been extracted from the individual circuit of capital under our present consideration).
The three forms of circuit of capital are due simply to taking different starting points in considering the ongoing circulation of capital:
which is here presented under the assumption that capital as a whole passes from one stage of its circuit into the next one (SG 86). It is only in proceeding through the stages of money-capital/productive capital/ commodity capital that value can circulate as ground-form capital (SG 87). This entails a necessary "fixation" of capital in its "functional forms" of existence (money, labour process, commodity) (SG 88).
Each fixation of value imposes limits on its circulation as capital. To unfold this contradiction between circulation and fixation is the central topic of the analysis of the circulation of ground-form capital in Capital, Vol. II (SG 89). Circulating through the three stages of its circuit capital has to take on twice the form of "unproductive" capital (SG 90). This creates further limitations for the valorisation of capital, which is tied to productively active labour-power. But this only has existence in the stage of productive capital. The necessary transformations of form of value M - C and C1 - M1 which comprise the circulation period require time and labour-power to perform (SG 91). Whether the capitalist carries out these functions himself or employs workers to do it for him, the labour involved creates no value and requires an extra outlay by the capitalist. Similarly the means of circulation (SG 92) which enable the work of circulation to be performed are costs of circulation (SG 93). "Apart from the actual buying and selling labour-time is expended in book-keeping (SG 92), which besides absorbs materialised labour such as pens, ink, paper, desks, office paraphernalia [Computers]" (CII 136) and these costs of book-keeping are another cost of circulation.
Division of Capital
Under our present assumption or presentation (SG 86) the process of surplus-value production is interrupted by the process of circulation. Capital can only continually valorize if it exists side by side and simultaneously outside and inside the sphere of production. So capital does not circulate in one circuit, in which it "passes on in bulk from one stage to the next" (CII 50), but rather in several circuits of parts of that individual capital (SG 94). This division of capital is dependent on the ratio:
time of production
time of circulation
(The "time of production" is the time of fixation of any particular part of capital in the production sphere, the "time of circulation" is its time of fixation in the sphere of circulation (SG 95) ).
Marx works explicitly with the assumption of presentation that the three stages of circulation take equal time, so that:
time of production
In this case "The actual circuit of industrial capital [ground-form] in its continuity is therefore not alone the unity of the processes of circulation and production but also the unity of all its three circuits. But it can be such a unity only if all the different parts of capital can go through the successive stages of the circuit, can pass from one phase, from one functional form to another, so that the industrial capital, being the whole of all these parts, exists simultaneously in its various phases and functions and thus describes all three circuits at the same time." (CII 106). This is depicted in the following schema.
Schema 1: Division of Capital into Three Parts
The sum total of the individual capital circulates in three parts and accordingly three circuits. In no one circuit can the productive stage of capital be permanent. Thus none of the three parts is permanently functioning as productive capital. But by the shift of phases one third of the total capital is permanently in the phase of productive capital.
When circulation time is not an integral multiple of production time then the division of capital cannot be done so that the different circuits are in phase. In this case there is a break in the circuit of each part during which money capital is released (SG 96). We illustrate this in the case where production time exceeds circulation time and where elements of production must be bought before the beginning of the production period.
Schema 2: Division and Release of Capital
If production time exceeds circulation time the capital need only be divided into two parts so that the circulation phase of the parts of capital facilitate continual valorisation:
Fixed Capital and Circulating Capital
Beside the division of capital into parts that coexist in different stages of the circuit of capital, we find a division of capital according to the manner of circulation. We call what is repeatedly done in circulation "turnover", its duration "turnover time" (SG 97). That part of capital which turns over as a whole at the end of each "period of production" is called "circulating capital". That part of capital which turns over only partly with each turnover of the circulating capital and remains partly in fixation in the sphere of production is called "fixed capital" (SG 98). This distinction does not match with the distinction between variable and constant capital. The raw and auxiliary materials are "circulating constant" capital (SG 100). Variable capital and circulating constant capital together form the circulating capital as opposed to the remainder of the constant capital, mainly machinery. But note: "The elements of circulating capital are as permanently fixed in the process of production - if it is to be uninterrupted - as the elements of fixed capital. But the elements of circulating capital thus fixed are continually renewed in kind (the means of production by new products of the same kind, labour-power by constantly renewed purchases) while in the case of the elements of fixed capital neither they themselves are renewed nor need their purchases be renewed so long as they continue to exist (SG 99). There are always raw and auxiliary materials in the process of production, but always new products of the same kind, after the old elements have been consumed in the creation of the finished product. Labour-power likewise always exists in the process of production, but only by means of ever new purchases, frequently involving changes of persons. But the same identical buildings, machines, etc. continue to function, during repeated turnovers of the circulating capital, in the same repeated processes of production" (CII 172). (See Schema 3 )
Schema 3: The Special Manner of Circulation of Fixed Capital
Assumptions of presentation:
turnover-time of fixed capital = 5 production periods
time of production
| || |
There exists one fixed capital, which is circulated one time with circulating Capital I, the subsequent time with circulating Capital II. There is only a peculiarity in the 5th period of production. Here the last part of the fixed capital functions in the productive sphere and its value only circulates back after the next circulation period (SG 101). That is why the circulating Capital II has here a fallow, there is a gap in the continual process of production, which could only be bridged by an additional fixed capital that has one fifth of the magnitude of the fixed capital applied. But this additional capital or the last fifth of the original capital would then have a fallow of five production periods. (In we place "latent money-capital", capital that is fallow).
Turnover of Capital and Production of Surplus-Value
Given the division of the working day of the productive labourer into necessary labour-time and surplus labour-time, the production of surplus-value is dependent on the number of labourers employed. But this number is (with a given price of labour-power) not only dependent on the magnitude of the variable part of capital but also on how often the variable capital turns over. Turning over several times per year this capital buys (labour-power) several times. And consequently the number of labourers employed is as big as in the case of a variable capital that is n-times as big but turns over only once a year instead of n-times. With regard to the production of surplus-value per year it is not the magnitude of the variable capital advanced but the magnitude of the variable capital turned over annually that is decisive (SG 102).
It marks a significant step towards the presentation of average profit in Capital, Vol. III, when Marx distinguishes in Capital, Vol. II, chap. 16 the "annual rate of surplus value"
quantity of surplus-value produced during a year
variable capital advanced
from what he now calls the "real rate of surplus value"
variable capital turned over
Circulation as a Necessary Condition and at the same Time a Limitation of Valorisation
Valorisation ("Selbstverwertung") is the characteristic feature of capital as value that mediates by its own movement, its expansion ("self-expanding value"). Capital is not a thing, it is in some sense neither money nor factory nor commodity but it is the process of valorisation by metamorphosis through the functional forms of money-capital, productive capital, commodity capital as analysed in Capital, Vol. II, Part I. Hence circulation of capital is the only way in which valorisation can take place (SG 104). We can distinguish between three levels of the presentation of capital circulation so far.
1) Capital circulates "in bulk" through its three stages. Its stay in the sphere of circulation mediates its subsequent passing through the productive phase of the capital-circuit, but circulation-time in itself is unproductive time. It is a temporal interruption of valorisation.
(One circuit for capital as a whole cf. CII 50, 63)
2) Division of capital in such a manner that an interruption of the productive stage of capital by circulation-time no longer occurs. But as circulation is a necessary condition for valorisation this division of capital is in fact a reduction of the magnitude of capital. Looked at in this abstract way nothing is gained yet. The temporal limitation has been changed into a limitation of the quantity ( permanently) functioning as productive capital (SG 105).
(Briefly, there is more than one circuit, but all parts of capital circulate in the same manner).
3) Further division of capital according to the difference in the manner of turnover. The division of capital dealt with under 2) appears now as a division of circulating capital, to which capital as a whole was reduced. But in fact there circulates the capital fixed in the factory's machinery not "in bulk" but in several turnovers of the circulating capital, i.e. with every part (of the division of circulating capital), that leaves the productive stage of capital to enter the sphere of circulation - until fixed capital is turned over as a whole, is replaced and turns over in this distinct manner anew. The application of capital fixed in machinery is crucial for the production of relative surplus-value and it helps to increase the rate of turnover of the part of capital that functions as circulating capital by reducing the period of production (SG 106). But at the same time fixed capital is a limitation of valorisation in that it slows down the aggregate turnover of capital and hinders a greater part of the money advanced circulating as variable capital (SG 107).
Use-Value as a Limitation of Valorisation. The Capitalist Form of Social Reproduction
Capital, Vol. II consists of three parts. In the first part three forms of circuit are distinguished according to the three forms of existence of capital that function as stage of departure and return.
The first part gives its presentation starting from the circuit of money-capital. Its three stages are distinguished from each other and that gives rise to distinguishing the three forms of circuit of capital. Circulation time (time for the purchase of the elements of production), production time and circulation time (time for selling the produced commodities) are dealt with and at the end of Part I. Marx analyses the costs of circulation which diminish the surplus of M1 over M in M-C...P...C1 - M1.
The second part's presentation of the circulation of capital is given in the framework of the circuit of productive capital. The specific manner in which the value of the MP is transferred to the product, hence the difference of the turnover of fixed capital to the turnover of circulating capital is the first central topic. The permanent existence of fixed capital is a permanent existence of productive capital which can only be made productive of surplus-value if circulating capital has also a permanent existence in the sphere of production. To take this into account the previous assumption of presentation, that capital proceeds in bulk from one stage to the other is modified. This has been illustrated in Schema 1, which has been subsequently modified to show the difference in turnover between circulating and fixed capital in Schema 3. The second central topic of this part is the influence of the turnover of the variable part of capital on the annual production of surplus-value. Again, this is something which can be best presented within the framework of the circuit of productive capital, that is with surplus-value production as its point of departure and return.
The third part of Capital, Vol. II gives a presentation of the circuit of capital within the framework of the circuit of commodity-capital, but commodity-capital taken as the expression of the social sum total of capital (SG 108). There are several reasons for the circuit of commodity-capital being the appropriate one for the study of the reproduction of the aggregate social capital:
1) The reproduction of the aggregate social capital requires an intertwining of the circuits of individual capitals and, since the circuit of commodity-capital has the circulation period of capital as its first part, the study of the intertwinings is facilitated;
2) the circuit of commodity-capital comprises not only the intertwining of circuits of individual capitals but the general circulation of commodities by which the individual consumption of the labourers and capitalists is achieved;
3) the circuit of commodity-capital includes the circulation of surplus-value embodied in C1 and hence is appropriate for considering extended reproduction.
On CII 399 Marx distinguishes "two Departments of Social Production" (SG 110) and thus considers a further Division of Capital: "The total product, and therefore the total production of society may be divided into two major departments:
I Means of Production, commodities having a form in which they must, or at least may, pass into productive consumption.
II Means of Consumption, commodities having a form in which they pass into the individual consumption of the capitalist and the working-class."
In considering the movement of the aggregate social capital within the framework of the circuit of commodity-capital "we cannot rest content any longer as we did in the analysis of the value of the product of the individual capital, with the assumption that the individual capitalist can first convert the component parts of his capital into money by the sale of his commodities, and then reconvert them into productive capitals by renewed purchase of the elements of production in the commodity-market (SG 109).
The question that confronts us directly is this: How is the capital consumed in production replaced in value out of the annual product and how does the movement of this replacement intertwine with the consumption of the surplus-value by the capitalists and of the wages by the labourers? It is then first a matter of reproduction on a simple scale." (CII 397). Presenting the circuit of capital as simple reproduction (SG 111) we assume (contrafactually but for the sake of simplification) that all surplus-value is individually consumed by the capitalist in the natural form of products of department II.
"It is furthermore assumed that products are exchanged at their values and also that there is no revolution in the values of the component parts of productive capital. The fact that prices diverge from values cannot, however, exert any influence on the movements of the social capital. On the whole, there is the same exchange of the same quantities of products, although the individual capitalists are involved in value-relations no longer proportional to their respective advances and to the quantities of surplus-value produced singly by every one of them. As for revolutions in value, they do not alter anything in the relations between the value-components of the total annual product, provided they are universally and evenly distributed. To the extent, however, that they are partially and unevenly distributed, they represent disturbances which, in the first place, can be understood as such only as far as they are regarded as divergences from unchanged value-relations, but in the second place, once there is proof of the law according to which one portion of the value of the annual product replaces constant, and another portion variable capital, a revolution either in the value of the constant or that of the variable capital would not alter anything in this law. It would change merely the relative magnitudes of the portions of value which function in the one or the other capacity, because other values would have taken the places of the original ones." (CII 397f).
It is a consequence of the natural form of the product in department I (means of production) and in department II (means of consumption) that the constant capital of department II (for short: CII) must be replaced by product of department I and that the wages (for short: VI) and the surplus-value (for short: SI) that are at the disposal of the labourers and the capitalists of department I for individual consumption can only be spent in buying products of department II. Hence the exchange between the departments (SG 112):
CII = VI + SI (Simple reproduction) cf. CII 399, 507
Marx did not in Capital, Vol. II, use any drawings, but dealt with figures "to facilitate the understanding" (CII 402) of his analysis of the exchange-relations between the two departments of social production. We try to illustrate the interconnections, using Marx's figures from CII 407f (and 514ff) in the following schema for simple reproduction.
Schema of Reproduction: Simple Reproduction cf. CII 401f
The reproduction schema has fifteen numbered items of which four are only of concern when considering extended reproduction.
No.1 Payment of wages for the families of labourers in department I/ selling of labour-power to be used by the capitalists for one year.
No.2 The families of labourers in department I buy means of life from department II with the money received in wages (No.1) (SG 114).
No.3 Department II buys elements of circulating constant capital from department I with the variable capital (No.1) of department I, spent on means of life (No.2).
No.4 Department II buys the rest of the circulating constant capital, that has been productively consumed during the year from department I.
No.5 The capitalists of department I buy an equal value (as expended in No.4) in means of private consumption from department I.
No.6* Department II buys additional circulating constant capital from department I.
No.7* The capitalists of department I buy an equal value (as expended in No.6) of means for their individual consumption from department II in return.
No.8 Department II buys those elements of fixed capital, that were used up during the year, from department I (SG 115).
No.9 The capitalists of department I buy at equal value (as expended in No.8) of means for their individual consumption from department II in return.
No.10* Accumulation funds of department I.
No.11 Replacement of the productively consumed constant capital of department I out of the product of department I.
No.12* Accumulation funds of department II.
No.13 Payment of wages for the families of labourers in department II/ selling of labour-power to be used by the capitalists for one year.
No.14 The families of labourers in department II buy means of life with the money received in wages (No.13) from department II.
No.15 Innerdepartmental circulation of means of individual consumption for the capitalists of department II equal in value to the surplus-value produced in department II.
(* Only in expanded reproduction)
In the schema of Simple Reproduction we already find the following characteristics of the capitalist form of material reproduction: the capitalist class must "throw into circulation the money required for the realisation of its surplus-value (correspondingly also for the circulation of its capital, constant and variable) . . . For there are here only two classes: the working class disposing only of its labour-power, and the capitalist class, which has a monopoly of the social means of production and money. . . . But the individual capital makes this advance only by acting as a buyer, expending money in the purchase of articles of consumption or advancing money in the purchase of elements of its productive capital, whether of labour-power or means of production. It never parts with money unless it gets an equivalent for it. It advances money to the circulation only in the same way as it advances commodities to it. It acts in both instances as the initial point of the circulation (SG 113).
The actual process is obscured by two circumstances:
1) The appearance in the process of circulation of industrial capital, of merchants's capital (the first form of which is always money, since the merchant as such does not create any "product" or "commodity" and of money-capital as an object of manipulation by a special kind of capitalist.
2) The division of surplus-value - which must always be first in the hands of the industrial capitalist - into various categories, as vehicles of which there appear, aside from the industrial capitalist, the landlord (for ground-rent), the usurer (for interest) etc., furthermore the government and its employees, rentiers, etc. These fellows appear as buyers vis-a-vis the industrial capitalist and to that extent as converters of his commodities into money: they too throw "money" pro parte into the circulation and the industrial capitalist gets it from them. But it is always forgotten from what source they derived it originally, and continue deriving it ever anew." (CII 425 modified).
The last bit was a deviation, quoted in order to make clear the systematic level of Marx's reproduction-schema, which show:
1) The Subject of the process of material production is capital. The metabolism of products of human labour functions as bearer of the valorisation of value.
2) In each mediation of the social interconnection by the "social things" commodities and money there exists the possibility of economic crisis.
3) Within the system of capitalist reproduction of the society the existence of the exploited wage labourers depends on successful circulation of capital that exploits them. The productive wage labourers produce everything that circulates as capital. But the circulation of capital is decisive for their reproduction.
Let us now consider the case of extended reproduction (SG 116). The exchange between the departments amounts here to (SG 117):
CII + acCII = VI +acVI + (I - r)SI
where 'ac' stands for: accumulated and 'r' for the rate of accumulation (which is necessarily smaller than I because it indicates the part of surplus-value that is not consumed individually by the capitalists).
Marx remarks casually: "we had assumed in the analysis of simple reproduction that the entire surplus-value of department I and department II is spent as revenue. As a matter of fact however one portion of the surplus-value is spent as revenue, and the other is converted into capital. Actual accumulation can take place only on this assumption." (CII 507).
And in the presentation of simple reproduction, in the section "The Formulation of the Question" we read: "However, as far as accumulation does take place, simple reproduction is always a part of it ... is an actual factor of accumulation." (CII 399).
As this feature can be analysed independently from the accumulation of surplus-value it is systematically prior and "can therefore be studied by itself" (CII 399) which on the other hand is the first part of the analysis of extended reproduction, or in Marx's words: analysis of one factor of accumulation. We can now concentrate (cf. CII 514ff) on the analysis of the second factor: accumulation of surplus-value as additional capital. But in doing so, we use the results of the analysis of the first factor as a starting point. Marx once again stresses the difference between dealing with an individual capital (cf. CII 99) and considering the aggregate capital of the capitalist class: "It has been shown in Capital, Vol. I how accumulation works in the case of the individual capitalist. By the conversion of the commodity-capital into money the surplus-product, in which the surplus-value is represented, is also turned into money. The capitalist reconverts the so metamorphosed surplus-value into additional natural elements of his productive capital. In the next cycle of production the increased capital furnishes an increased product. But what happens in the case of the individual capital must also show in the annual reproduction as a whole, just as we have seen it happen on analysing simple reproduction." (CII 493).
We use the same Schema to illustrate what Marx does using just the figures of CII 514ff. The first assumption of presentation regards the rate of accumulation in department I:
The second asssumption of presentation regards the organic composition of the accumulated capital in both departments:
We strongly recommend a reading of Capital, Vol. II, pp.514-517 whilst working through the following drawings of six years of extended reproduction. Marx chose an example in which there is a different organic composition in department I ((CI/VI)=(4/1)) and in department II ((CII/VII)=(2/1)). His "Initial Scheme for Reproduction on an Extended Scale" reads:
4000CI + l000VI + 1000SI
1500CII + 750VII + 750SII
Hence there is a third assumption of presentation regarding the rate of surplus-value :
Schema of Reproduction: Extended Reproduction, 1st year, cf. CII 514f
Schema of Reproduction: Extended Reproduction, 2nd year, cf. CII 515f
Schema of Reproduction: Extended Reproduction, 3rd year, cf. CII 516f
Schema of Reproduction: Extended Reproduction, 4th year
Schema of Reproduction: Extended Reproduction, 5th year, cf. CII 517
Schema of Reproduction: Extended Reproduction, 6th year, cf. CII 517
A few remarks on the specific manner of the circulation of fixed capital are necessary.
We only separated the circuit of fixed capital for department II. In principle the fixed capital of department I turns over likewise. Its abbreviation in the unarticulated innerdepartmental circulation act II has been chosen for the sake of simplicity. A further - and counterfactual - simplication is the assumption of simple reproduction of the fixed part of capital, whereas the other parts are reproduced on an extended scale.
The characteristic and distinct feature of the circulation of fixed capital is the existence of latent money-capital during several turnover periods of the rest of capital. Value is here fixed in "dead labour", partly in machinery, partly in money, without circulating.
The Reproduction of the Capital Relation
The reproduction schemata give the necessary circulations of commodities and money between various sections of capital and the working-class if social capital is to be reproduced.
Capitalist reproduction is social reproduction in an indirect form (SG 118) i.e. without a conscious social subject, but mediated by the relations of "social things" (cf. CI 79) to each other. This is expressed by Marx with reference to his reproduction schemata:
"The constant supply of labour-power on the part of labourers I, the reconversion of a portion of commodity-capital I into the money-form of variable capital, the replacement of a portion of commodity-capital II by elements of constant capital II in their natural form - all these necessary conditions demand one another, but they are brought about by a very complicated process" - without a conscious subject of action ("Subjekt der Handlung") - "including three processes of circulation which occur independently of one another but intermingle. So complicated as this process is, so many occasions for crisis it offers." (CII 499f.).
Capital continually reproduces itself by simultaneously forcing the worker not only to work under conditions of exploitation but to reproduce these conditions of servitude to capital:
"But that which at first was but a starting-point, becomes, by the mere continuity of the process, by simple reproduction, the peculiar result, constantly renewed and perpetuated, of capitalist production. On the one hand, the process of production incessantly converts material wealth into capital, into means of creating more wealth and means of enjoyment for the capitalist. On the other hand, the labourer, on quitting the process, is what he was on entering it, a source of wealth, but devoid of all means of making that wealth his own. Since, before entering on the process, his own labour has already been alienated from himself by the sale of his labour-power, has been appropriated by the capitalist and incorporated with capital, it must, during the process, be realised in a product that does not belong to him. Since the process of production is also the process by which the capitalist consumes labour-power, the product of the labourer is incessantly converted, not only into commodities, but into capital, into value that sucks up the value-creating power, into means of subsistence that buy the person of the labourer into means of production that command the producers. The labourer therefore constantly produces material, objective wealth, but in the form of capital, of an alien power that dominates and exploits him; and the capitalist constantly produces labour-power, but in the form of a subjective source of wealth, separated from the objects in and by which it can alone be realised; in short he produces the labourer, but as a wage-labourer." (CI 535f.).
Remarks on Capital, Vol. II
Starting from the "General Formula For Capital" which served as a presentational frame for the analysis of the immediate process of capitalist production in Vol. I, chapter I, Vol. II "The Circuit of Money-Capital" outlines both a structure for the systematic kernel of Part 1, Vol. II (chapters 1-3) and for the entire volume's division into three parts - according to the three stages of the circuit and three forms of the circuit. The three stages are dealt with in chapter 1, the three forms of circuit in chapters 1, 2 and 3. And the presentational frame for Parts 1, 2, 3 are the circuit of money-capital (Part 1), the circuit of productive capital (Part 2) and the circuit of commodity-capital (Part 3).
We think that a systematic reading of part 1 should concentrate on chapters 1-3. The central assumption of presentation is stated on CII 50 (and relaxed on CII 104f).
Chapter 4 is an anticipation of a transition to a different, more developed level of presentation in chapter 15, dealing with the "division of capital" (CII 106) in terms of "additional circulating capital" (CII 263, 269).
On CII 104-107 the assumption of presentation constitutive for the analysis in chapter 1-3 is relaxed. The argument for the division of capital based on the desire and necessity of giving surplus-value production a continuous existence is complemented by pointing to the fact that productive capital has a continual existence anyway - in the form of fixed capital. But this clearly is jumping into Part 2, precisely, chapter 15 (cf.CII 262ff).
Chapter 5 "The Time of Circulation" for its greatest part can be amalgamated with chapter 14 (which carries the same heading). We take it as an objection against the place of chapter 5, that the circuit of money-capital does not contain the "time of circulation" as a coherent period whereas the circuit of productive capital does and there is no reason for dealing with the same matter twice. The distinction between "time of production", "time of functioning" and "labour-time" (cf. CII 124-127) and its relevance for surplus-value production is focused upon in chapters 12 "The Working Period" and 13 "The Time of Production".
The material dealt with in chapter 6 "The Costs of Circulation" would then best fit in between chapter 14 and 15, maybe as a second part of chapter 14, which could be expressed by changing its heading into "The Time and Costs of Circulation". Both the costs of circulation and the fixation of capital during the turnover period (circulation time and production time) limit capital's valorisation. The application of fixed capital - treating transport here as a sphere of production, (cf. CII 155) - brings down that limitation (at the price of creating a new one). Another way in which the costs of circulation as a limitation of valorisation (of industrial capital (SG 125) ) are fought against will be dealt with in the analysis of commercial capital (SG 125) in Vol. III.
Chapter 7 is a short systematic introduction to Part 2, necessary for the subsequent analysis of fixed and circulating (SG 98) capital in chapter 8 which is one of the central chapters of Capital, Vol II.
Chapter 9 is a redetermination of the concept of turnover, modified by the distinction between fixed and circulating capital
Chapters 10 and 11 belong to the Theories of Surplus-Value, (cf. CII 2).
Chapters 12-14 give detailed distinctions of different sub-parts of the turnover period before the "Effect of Time of Turnover on Advanced Capital" is dealt with in chapter 15, another central chapter of Capital, Vol. II (Chapter 15 focuses on circulating capital, (cf. CII 298) ).
Chapter 16 finally draws attention to a simplification of the presentation of surplus-value production in Vol. I, where the distinction between capital advanced and capital functioning (SG 102) is not yet made. The consequence is that it is only now that the rate of surplus-value as a rate of exploitation ("real rate of surplus-value" CII 308) and as a rate of valorisation ("annual rate of surplus-value" CII 306ff) are distinguished from each other. The matter under consideration could very well be labelled "influence of the time of turnover on valorisation" (CII 261), as long as it is kept in mind that it is a false semblance that, with regard to surplus-value production, "added here to labour-time is a second determining element - time of circulation" (CIII 327).
"This (circulation time in the sense of: turnover time) functions, in fact, only as a negative limitation of value and surplus-value production but it carries the semblance of being an equally positive source (of surplus-value production) as labour itself and of bringing in a determination (of surplus-value production) independent of labour, springing from the nature of capital." (CIII 827f).
Chapter 17, "The Circulation of Surplus-Value" can best be understood as a transition to Part 3. Leaving aside the passages on credit and shares etc., which are systematically out of place, i.e. an anticipation of topics dealt with in Vol. III; and leaving aside the production of the money-commodity, the systematically interesting parts in chapter 17 take into consideration differences in turnover, which pose the problem of reproduction in a different manner for different individual capitals. In Part 3, which deals with the reproduction of the social aggregate capital, this difference in turnovers is ignored in the "reproduction schemata".
Chapter 18 "Introduction" is very short and worth reading.
Chapter 19 "Former Presentations of the Subject" clearly belongs to the Theories of Surplus-Value (cf. CIII 2). So do sections 9 and 13 of chapter 20. The remainder of chapters 20 "Simple Reproduction" and 21 "Accumulation and Reproduction on an Extended Scale" is bulky enough. As we believe it is here that the analysis of reproduction/accumulation has its systematic place, we remind the readers to take Part 7 of Volume I into consideration as well, when discussing this topic.
The systematic difficulty lies in Marx's treatment of gold production as the source of the money-commodity. We suggest that the reader skip these passages because the mediation of commodity-circulation by money is presented under restrictive assumptions. (The changing into the money-form is essential for the circulation of the product of capital. But mere "shortage of the money-commodity" is not an obstacle that can't be overcome.)
Although the systematic place of a Marxist theory of money is very much disputed, we take the view that money can't be properly analysed until credit, interest, banks, national banks are dealt with (cf. Capital, Vol. III, Part 5).