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Capital Vol. 1

tags : [[capitalism]] [[Marx]] [[political economy]]

source : marx_capital

My notes on Capital Vol. 1, indexed. These were originally not written as Roam files so forgive the messiness.

1. The Commodity

[[commodity]] : is a thing through which its qualities satisfy some human need

[[Use value]] : is the usefulness of a thing - The amount of [[labor]] that goes into making a commodity is unrelated to its usefulness - The usefulness of a commodity is conditioned by the physical properties of a commodity

[[Exchange value]] : is the use value relation of one commodity to another - Exchange value is intrinsic to a commodity - x amount of wheat could be exchanged for y amounts of silk - Exchange value expresses an equality relation

When looking at use values, commodities only differ in terms of quality, whereas with exchange value, commodities differ in terms of quantity

Commodities are different from other items because they contain within them human labor, i.e. they are made by humans

The labor contained in commodities is [[abstract labor]], which can be measured in time - “it took x hours to produce y products” I assume?

Marx says that a thing isn’t more valuable if some lazy worker takes more time to produce it, the exchange value is wrapped up in the total labor power of society. The total labor power of society is homogeneous and greater than one individual, and is manifested in the values of commodities. - The introduction of electric looms, Marx says, probably reduced the amount of [[socially necessary labor time]] to convert yarn into fabric by half. The product of the old hand loom worker’s value, then, dropped by half

The greater the amount of productivity, the less required socially necessary labor time

What distinguishes a commodity from any other item is that it contains usefulness to others, i.e. social value

So what is a [[commodity]]?

  1. A thing, that
  2. contains within it human labor,
  3. that is socially useful, and
  4. is transferred via a medium of exchange.

The Dual Character of Labor Embedded in Commodities

  • Commodities and labor contain within them a dual character

  • Division of commodities implies the existence of a [[division of labor]]

    • The division of labor is required for commodity production, but not the other way around

    Labor, then, as the creator of use-values, as useful labor, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself. (p. 133)

    “Labor is the father of material wealth, the earth is its mother.” (p. 133)

  • Modes of labor are simply forms of expenditure of human labor power

  • Labor power must have attained a certain level of development before it can be expanded into certain forms

    • The precondition for weaving is looms? Something like that?

In civil society as a whole, at the standpoint of needs, what we have before is the composite idea which we call man. Thus this is the first time, and indeed the only time, to speak of man in this sense.

  • Commentary

    This quote is interesting because it’s like an old-time equivalent of saying humanity is a social construct

  • Abstract labor (this quality of labor) forms the value of commodities. The fact that labor can be equated as such indicates this quality of labor

The Value-Form, or Exchange-Value

  • [[Commodities]] are commodities because they are “objects of utility and bearers of value”

  • Commodities take on a particular form (value form) that allows for their exchange, called money

  • Human labor alone doesn’t create value

    • Two commodities with the same amount of labor put into them are, obviously, not the same, nor would they be the same value
  • Marx goes through a lot of different forms of exchanges to ultimately show that the fact that commodities can be exchanged shows that they have something common between them

    • what is common between all commodities is the fact that human labor has gone into them
  • [[Abstract labor]], as we’ve said, is a quantity of time put into the production of a commodity

  • [[Concrete labor]], in contrast, is a specific type of labor, such as tailoring or weaving. It is an expression of abstract labor

  • The fact that commodities are universally exchangeable explains why there is a single, special, socially accepted commodity that can be used to express this universal exchange: [[money]]

Commodity Fetishism

  • [[commodity fetishism]]
  • A way of saying that commodities appear to have the natural characteristic of bringing themselves to market and pricing themselves

4. The General Formula for Capital

  • Capital begins with the circulation of commodities

  • Capital’s first appearance is that of money

    The first distinction between money as money and money as capital is nothing more than a difference in their form of circulation.

    p. 247

  • In contrast to the [[C-M-C exchange]] relation we saw in the last chapter, capital begins with [[M-C-M]]

    • Ultimately, M-C-M can be boiled down to M-M, or the exchange of money for money
    • If I purchase x commodity for y money, and sell it for z money, I’ve transformed the original amount of money that I originally had
  • C-M-C and M-C-M are both just two sides of the same coin

    • Both can be broken into their component parts, C-M and M-C
    • Both are circular paths that lead is back to a similar start
    • Both involve three parties: someone who buys, someone who sells, and someone who does both
  • In C-M-C, the money is spent and leaves circulation

  • In M-C-M, the money is not spent so much as it is advanced

  • The point of M-C-M is exchange value

  • C-M-C results in commodities of equal value being circulated

    • I sell linen for $12 and buy a Bible with the same amount of money
    • It also results in different use values. Linen and Bibles have different use values
  • M-C-M results in the opposite, the only difference is in magnitude

  • This change in magnitude results in [[surplus value]]

    • The difference in each extreme of the M-C-M relation. The value that is advanced in this relation remains the same, except that an increment is added. This movement converts money into capital
  • C-M-C exchange is done in order to satisfy needs, to consume. M-C-M is done in order to accumulate, and is endless, unlike C-M-C

  • Footnote 6 is very good

  • If at any point in the M-C-M relation, that money is then simply exchanged to purchase something, it no longer becomes capital

    • Can we then say that capital must be money in motion?

The simple circulation of commodities — selling in order to buy — is a means to a final goal which lies outside of circulation, namely the appropriation of use values, the satisfaction of needs. As against this, the circulation of money as capital is an ends of itself, for the valorization of value takes place only within this constantly renewed movement. The movement of capital is therefore limitless. (p. 301)

5. Contradictions in the General Formula

is that there are three parties involved but only one of them is ever aware of it

  • The standpoint of every party is completely relative. If I’m a capitalist and I buy commodities from A and sell to B, neither A nor B necessarily sees it as such

  • Both myself and A and B see these things as part of a series

  • From the perspective of trading [[use-values]], it could be said that

“exchange is a transaction by which both sides gain.” This isn’t he case for [[exchange value]]

The value of a commodity is expressed in its price before it enters circulation, and it is therefore a pre-condition of circulation, not a result. (p. 309)

commodities is necessarily and exchange of equivalents, and anything deviating from that is due to external factors.

  • Therefore, you cannot increase value by simply exchanging

commodities (?)

  • Marx harshly criticizes those economists who confuse [[use value]] with

[[exchange value]]

  • Bourgeois economists assume that value is added by virtue of a

commodities’ exchange in itself

  • Condillac believes that producers produce only what is necessary and

sell anything that is superfluous

  • If one seller increases the price of a commodity, then all sellers must. In turn this would be the same if all sellers sold their commodities at their true value. In turn if a buyer was able to purchase something at 10% less than its value, this would imply that he as a seller has already lost his 10% in selling.

If one is compelled to sell a quantity of a certain product for 18 livres when it has a value of 24 livres, then, when one employs the same amount in buying, one will receive for 18 livres the same quantity of the product as 24 livres would have bought otherwise. (footnote 12, p. 312)

The formation of surplus-value, and therefore the transformation of money into capital, can consequently be explained neither by assuming that commodities are sold above their value, nor by assuming they are bought at less than their value. (p. 312)

  • [[Surplus value]] must emerge from somewhere outside of circulation
  • Similarly, [[capital]] cannot arise simply out of circulation

6. The Sale and Purchase of Labor Power

  • A [[capitalist]] (“possessor of money”) finds a special commodity on the

market: [[labor power]]

  • [[Laborers]] have one commodity unique to them: their ability to sell

their labor

  • [[Free labor]]” refers to the ability for laborers to sell their labor


  • The unusual thing about labor power is that it’s bought and sold, but

only temporarily

  • Free labor isn’t slavery, after all
  • The fact that a laborer must sell his labor power to one who has

[[capital]] is a new development, and, as Marx puts it, is not natural

  • In order for labor power to become a commodity, it, like any other

commodity, must not be useful to the initial owner of the commodity

The capitalist epoch is therefore characterized by the fact that labor power, in the eyes of the worker himself, takes on the form of a commodity which is his property; his labor consequently takes on the form of wage labor. On the other hand, it is only from this moment that the commodity form of the products of labor become universal. (footnote 4)

  • The value of [[labor power]], like any other commodity, is determined by

the amount of socially necessary labor for production (and consequently, reproduction, in this case)

  • Being that [[labor power]], as a commodity, comes from people, these

people have physical needs so as to reproduce their labor

  • The value of [[labor power]] cannot fall below that which is required to

sustain human life

  • One strange aspect of labor power is the fact that it’s paid for on

“credit”, i.e. “all labor is paid for after it is ceased” (footnote 12). The worker advances the use of their labor power to the capitalist

7. The Labor Process and the Valorization Process

The Labor Process

  • The use of labor power is labor itself

  • p. 284 for three parts of labor

  • [[Labor]] (as far as Marx is concerned) is an exclusively human activity

We presuppose labor is a form in which it is an exclusively human characteristic. A spider conducts operations which resemble those of the weaver, and a bee would put many a human architect to shame by the construction of its honeycomb cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax. At the end of every labor process, a result emerges which had already been conceived by the worker at the beginning, hence already existed ideally. Man not only effects a change of form in the materials of nature; he also realizes his own purpose in those materials. And this is a purpose he is conscious of, it determines the mode of his activity with the rigidity of a law, and he must subordinate his will to it. (p. 332)

  • The materials of human labor come first and foremost from nature
  • the object of labor filtered through some labor, such as ore

that has been extracted and ready for washing

Instruments of labor : things which a worker interposes between himself and

the object of his labor, serving as a conductor for labor

  • Tools, machines, etc.

  • It’s how things are made that can define different epochs

The least important commodities of all for the technological comparison of different epochs of production are articles of real luxury. (footnote 5)

  • A major characteristic of human labor is the ability to make and use


  • Franklin calls man “a tool-making animal”

The writers of history have so far paid very little attention to the development of material production, which is the basis for all social life, and therefore of all real history. But prehistoric times at any rate have been classified on the basis of the investigations of natural science, rather than so-called historical research. Prehistory has been divided, according to the material used to make tools and weapons, into the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age.

object of labor : the material from nature upon which labor

is done

It appears paradoxical to assert, that uncaught fish, for instance, are a means of production in the fishing industry. But hitherto no one has discovered the art of catching fish in waters that contain none.

[[means of production]] : are both tine instruments of labor and the

object of labor

product : something that results from the labor process

May be used as raw material for another product, or may be consumed in the labor process

Grapes are raw material for wine

When a product becomes a means of production, it ceases to lose its

character of a product and functions as contributing to living labor

  • A spindle is only a means of spinning when used as such

  • A machine not active in the labor process is useless

  • The above labor process is abstract and doesn’t tell us under what

conditions the aforementioned products are made

  • The labor process under capitalism has two characteristics:

  • The worker works under the control of the capitalist

  • The product is the property of the capitalist and not that of the worker, who works to create that product

The [[Valorization]] Process

  • The [[capitalist]] owns the products of labor, but he is uninterested in

their [[use values]]

  • The capitalist is interested in them because they do have use value, but not to him directly

  • They are bearers of [[exchange value]], hence worth exchanging

  • The capitalist wants to produce a commodity greater in value than

the sum of the values of the commodities it took to produce it (namely labor-power)

  • He’s looking to produce surplus value
  • The value of the [[commodity]] is the sum of all value incorporated into

that commodity, and the value of a commodity comes from the labor-time put into that commodity

  • The value of yarn includes the sum of the labor-time put into all the component parts of the yarn

  • If at the end of the day the capitalist, a yarn maker, buys $10 of

cotton, $2 of wage labor, and $3 for a spindle, he has not made a profit yet, as he cannot sell the yarn for $15

  • Starting around p. 348 Marx goes off the rails for a few pages

A service is nothing other than the useful effect of a use-value, be it that of a commodity, or that of the labor. (p. 353)

  • The seller of labor power [[alienates]] his own labor power,

i.e. externalizes its use-value

Summary on the Valorization Process Thus Far

At the micro level it would seem that the LTV doesn’t hold up. If a capitalist buys x amount of labor power from a worker and only produces enough to make back the capital he advanced, the capitalist makes no money. Marx goes on for quite a while about a capitalist who buys all the requisite parts of producing yarn, labor-power included, and if it only takes 6 hours to make back the initial investment, the capitalist has made no money. The “trick” of surplus value, as Marx puts it, comes from the greater process. The capitalist doesn’t buy just enough amount of labor power to produce a commodity, he buys a working day’s worth, or a working week’s worth, or a working month’s work. By purchasing more labor-power than is needed to simply produce value, the capitalist has thus created valorization for himself.

If we now compare the process of creating value with the process of valorization, we see that the latter is nothing but the continuation of the former beyond a definite point. If the process is not carried beyond the point where the value paid by the capitalist for the labor-power is replaced by an exact equivalent, it is simply a process of creating value; but if it is continued beyond that point, it becomes a process of valorization. (p. 357)

  • Time spent in production counts only in so far as it is socially

necessary for the production of a use-value

  • The parts of production must be sufficient for production to

happen. Cotton must be of suitable quality, otherwise the spinner would spend more time than socially necessary to produce yarn, creating neither value nor money (i.e. at a loss)

  • The same goes of labor-power. A capitalist must purchase the

labor-power of someone adequately skilled to produce value of “normal quality”

  • He must also ensure the conditions of work are sufficient

  • Waste must be reduced, as waste is lost labor

  • [[Slavery]] can be more expensive than free labor for this reason. Under slavery the only distinction between a worker and animal is the fact that a former can speak. Ultimately, since slaves aren’t as valued as free laborers, waste is allowed in the process

  • See footnote 18

  • See footnote 19 for a distinction between “skilled” and “unskilled”



The reason why value is added when the process continues is because what the capitalist pays the worker is in terms of days. In Marx’s time, laborers were paid a daily rate. So Marx’s examples work out because he’s assuming the laborer gets paid a daily wage instead of an hourly one.

8. Constant Capital and Variable Capital

  • The value of the means of production is transferred to the product made by them

  • The specific act of labor (e.g. spinning) transfers the values of the raw material and the means of production into the new [[use-value]] (e.g. values of cotton + spindle = yarn)

  • We see then that a characteristic of labor is that it’s able to preserve value and create value

    • If something allows for a spinner to produce the same amount of cotton in 6 hours as he would 36 hours, a laborer is able to add 6x the amount of value to it
  • The value of the instruments of labor play into the value of the product

  • The instruments of production, much like human beings, have “lives” and lose [[use-value]] a little bit each time they are used

    • Marx’s description of this sounds like the law of conservation of matter or energy. Value is taken from the instruments of production and added to the new product. That instrument then becomes 1/nth less useful, and will eventually become useless
  • [[Means of production]] never transfer more value to the product than they themselves lose during the labor process

If an instrument of production has no value to lose, i.e. if it is not the product of human labor, it transfers no value to the product. (p. 368)

  • The part of [[capital]] which is turned into means of production that doesn’t undergo any quantitative alternation of value for the process of production is [[constant capital]]

    • An example might be a machine, you use a machine to create value but you don’t change the machine itself
  • The part of capital that is turned into [[labor-power]], since it undergoes an alteration of value in the process of production, reproduces the equivalent of its own value and produces an excess, a [[surplus-value]], which may vary, is called [[variable capital]]

9. The Rate of Surplus-Value

1. The Degree of Exploitation of Labor-Power

  • [[Capital]] (C) has two components, as we’ve reviewed:

  • C = c + v initially

  • After the process of production is finished, we get C’ = (c + v) + s, where s is surplus-value.

  • v + s = u + Δu, where u is the part of capital which was converted into labor power

  • the time necessary for the production of a particular commodity.

    • This is divorced from [[socially necessary labor-time]] which is the same, except under given social conditions
    • it’s called “necessary” because it’s necessary for the worker to reproduce himself, and for capital to reproduce the worker (see p. 385)
  • The thing that distinguishes [[modes of production]] is how surplus labor is extorted from the worker

  • The rate of surplus value can be calculated as:

    \[\frac{surplus\ labor}{necessary\ labor}\]



  • Both express the same thing in different ways: the first is objectified labor, the second is living labor

  • This expression illustrates the degree of exploitation of labor-power by capital

    • This is not the same as the rate of profit
  • In the example where C = 500, c = 410, v = 90, and s = 90:


  • In all the examples that Marx gives leading up to p. 390 Marx assumes that price = value

2. The Representation of the Value of the Product By Corresponding

Proportional Parts of the Product

:CUSTOMID: the-representation-of-the-value-of-the-product-by-corresponding-proportional-parts-of-the-product

  • Marx does a lot of accountancy stuff that I’m not sure is worth repeating

Random note:

Marx’s analysis seems like it only makes sense in retrospect. Can we apply these methods to understand things as they are now, or do we have to wait until afterwards?

3. Senior’s ’Last Hour’

  • I should reread this because it’s confusing

4. The Surplus Product

  • [[Surplus product]] is the portion of the product that represents surplus value
  • Necessary labor + Surplus labor constitutes the extent of labor time, the [[working day]]


10. The Working Day

The Limits of the Working Day

  • The value of labor power is assumed to be the same as any other commodity: the amount of [[socially necessary labor time]] it takes to produce it

    • If it takes 6 hours to produce the means of subsistence for a laborer, then he must work 6 hours a day
  • The ratio of [[surplus labor]] can be calculated given the amount of necessary labor needed

    • For example, if the [[rate of surplus value]] is 100%, we can do the math like so:
      • Given a working day of 8 hours, and a necessary labor time of 6 hours:

        \[\frac{surplus\ labor\ time}{necessary\ labor\ time} = \frac{2}{6} = \frac{1}{3}=\approx33%\]

  • The working day, therefore, is not constant, but does have a maximum limit

    • We’re still working with people, and people need rest, i.e. there are physical limitations

The capitalist has bought the labor-power at its daily value. The use-value of the labor-power belongs to him throughout one working day. He has thus acquired the right to make the worker work for him during one day. But what is a working day? at all events, it is less than a natural day. How much less? The capitalist has his own views of this point of no return, the necessary limit of the working day. As a capitalist. he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one sole driving force, the drive to [[valorize]] itself, to create [[surplus-value]], to make its constant part, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus labor. Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks. The time during which the worker works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labor-power he has bought from him. If the worker consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.

  • Marx goes on about how the [[laborer]] is the sole owner of his labor power

Between equal rights, force decides.

  • There is a tension between the laborer and the capitalist in that the capitalist tries to exert their right to extract as much value of the labor power that they buy, and the seller (the laborer) wishes to reduce the working day to a particular length
    • This antagonism plays out collectively, since laborers on the whole own their collective labor

The Voracious Appetite for Surplus Labor. Manufacturer and Boyar

Whenever a part of society possesses the monopoly of the means of production, the worker, free or unfree, must add the labor-time necessary for his own maintenance an extra quantity of labor-time in order to produce the means of subsistence for the owner of the means of production.

  • When commodities must be produced for [[exchange value]] other modes of production are subsumed to them

    • Marx talks about American [[slavery]] and how overwork was calculated into production
  • Under [[capitalism]] [[surplus labor]] and [[necessary labor]] are mixed together, under feudalism this was not so: the peasant was able to work x hours for himself and y hours for his lord

  • Marx relays a long historical materialist account of corvee labor

    • Corvee labor is labor that is limited in scope; it’s labor owed to feudal lords
    • A laborer may work so many days for his feudal lord, and the rest of his time can be devoted to labor to maintain himself
    • This illustrates a separation of necessary labor vs surplus labor
    • This type of labor also extracts much less surplus value, since the feudal lord cannot obligate the peasant to work more than he needs to survive himself
    • In the example Marx gives, there are 140 working days for the Wallachian peasant. The lord ultimately requires 56 days, leaving 84 for the peasant, giving us about 66% rate of surplus
  • According to a study quoted by Marx, it’s not unheard of for workers to take back some of their own time. This is at a loss to the capitalist

  • Note: this is what we’d now call time theft

  • Look for something about tragedy of the commons!

Branches of English Industry Without Legal Limits to Exploitation

  • Much of this section seems to be real world examples
  • Marx describes child labor conditions where children work 12 hours a day or more
  • Marx has a lot of evidence to show how overworked workers are, all at the expense of generating profit
  • The gist of what Marx is talking about is that some industries have no legal restrictions on working hours and so they grind their workers into dust
  • Baking is particularly bad
  • There’s a lot of good stuff in this section. The story of Mary Anne Walkley and footnote 58 in particular

Day-Work and Night-Work. The Shift-System

  • In order to overcome the obstacle of exploiting a single individual more than they’re capable for, and in order to maintain a high rate of surplus value, the capitalist divides the 24 hour period into shifts

The Struggle for a Normal Working Day. Laws for the Compulsory

Extension of the Working Day, From the Middle of the Fourteenth to the end of the Seventeenth Century

:CUSTOMID: the-struggle-for-a-normal-working-day.-laws-for-the-compulsory-extension-of-the-working-day-from-the-middle-of-the-fourteenth-to-the-end-of-the-seventeenth-century

  • Capital may work its labor power to death, but it also depends on the slave labor of the western hemisphere
  • [[Slavery]] is a form of [[constant capital]]
  • Capital, lest it work its own workers to extinction, needs a constant and fresh supply of laborers
  • Capital inherently is uninterested in the health of the worker unless forced to by external forces
  • Labor laws date back to before the 1500s in England
  • The 12 hour working day is the “natural maximum”, the history of labor thus far shows that it’s difficult for the capitalist to make the working day any longer than 12 hours, six days a week

The Struggle for a Normal Working Day. Laws for the Compulsory Limitation of Working Hours. The English Factory Legislation of 1833-64

12. The Concept of Relative Surplus-Value

  • Given a working day of 12 hours, say 9 of them are [[necessary labor]] and 3 are [[surplus labor]]:

    • We could change these numbers such that 7 of them are necessary and 5 are surplus
    • In order to make this change we’d have to increase the productiveness of the necessary labor
  • The fact that [[necessary labor]] is variable leads to:

  • By making necessary labor more efficient the value of labor-power decreases

  • In reducing the amount of necessary labor and increasing surplus labor, the capitalist in the long term plays himself because as his method becomes socialized then he has no advantage over any other capitalist, and cannot sell his commodities at a lower price

  • The capitalist only cares about surplus value, and the realization of surplus value

  • There is an apparent contradiction in that the capitalist, who creates commodities with the intention of realizing their exchange value, only seeks to lower that exchange value

The objective of the development of the productivity of labor within the context of capitalist production is the shortening of that part of the working day in which the worker must work for himself, and the lengthening, thereby, of the other part of the day, in which he is free to work for nothing for the capitalist.

13. Co-operation

  • Capitalist production only shows up at scale

  • the average amount of necessary labor that is generated on the whole

    • An average laborer is the average productivity of a single laborer
  • [[Capitalism]] requires the simultaneous employment of a large number of workers

  • Co-operation is when numerous workers work together side by side in accordance with a plan

  • 12 workers can accomplish on average 12 times the amount of labor that one worker can

  • Many men may be organized in different parts of the labor process, organized together

  • Co-operation allows for a shortening of necessary labor. 100 men working for 12 hours could “extend” the working day to 1200 hours

    • Does this mean the working day is only on a person-by-person basis?
  • Workers working together reveals the special productive power of labor

  • Workers cannot cooperate without them being brought together

    • Therefore they all need to be employed by the same capital
  • More workers means more money the capitalist must pay out

A single violin player is his own conductor: an orchestra requires a separate one.

  • The capitalist brings together and organizes workers, they do not do it themselves
  • Capitalist organization is by nature despotic, since it is a social labor process for the creation of a product, and the playing out of capital’s process of [[valorization]]
  • Since the capitalist may require many workers to work under him, he employs a special kind of laborer: the manager
  • Leadership in industry is an attribute of the capitalist mode of production
  • Cooperation is not unique to capitalism, but capitalism utilizes the simple intuitive fact that if you get a lot of people together you can accomplish more
  • [[Capitalism]] was born out of large-scale employment of [[wage-laborers]]
  • Large scale cooperation is a requirement for the capitalist mode of production

14. The Division of Labor and Manufacture

  • [[Manufacturing]] arises out of the bringing together of independent craftsmanship

  • [[Manufacturing]] differs from regular handicrafting in that multiple kinds of craftsmen are brought together with the purpose of assembling one type of commodity

    • Tailors, for example, may be brought into the manufacturing of carriages but all they’ll do is to manufacture carriages and not do any kind of general tailoring
    • On the other hand their craft is more narrow and effective than it was before
  • [[Manufacturing]] can also arise from the taking of a workshop where one commodity is produced

    • in such a workshop, all the workers each make the same commodity
  • The dividing up of work is more efficient

  • Ultimately [[manufacturing]] comes out of a mode of production with independent trades and the cooperation of those tradesmen

  • Manufacturing benefits from cooperation uniquely because it allows complex tasks to be broken down and handled by one worker

The Specialized Worker and His Tools

  • The productive labor of individual workers is increased by having individual workers perform segments of an overall manufacturing process
  • Since the process is made easier, it’s easier to reproduce the work required for manufacturing
  • Trades either turn into castes or guilds, i.e. something hierarchical
  • Guilds work per order, ad-hoc, as opposed to factories

Manufacture is characterized by the differentiation of the instructions of labor — a differentiation whereby tools of a given sort acquire fixed shapes, adapted to each particular application — and by the specialization of those instruments, which allows full play to each special tool only in the hands of a specific kind of worker.

The manufacturing period simplifies, improves and multiplies the implements of labor by adapting them to the exclusive and special functions of each kind of worker. It thus creates at the same time one of the material conditions for the existence of machinery, which consists of a combination of simple instruments.

The Two Fundamental Forms of Manufacture — Heterogeneous and Organic

  • The subdivided operations of [[manufacturing]] can be carried on as though they were a simple trade itself, or where specialized workers cooperate together under the direction of a single capitalist

  • Watchmaking is an example of heterogeneous manufacture, since it involves highly skilled workers all making one commodity, i.e. watches

    • Springs, dials, etc. may either be produced in the watch factory or elsewhere, though usually it’s the latter
    • This isn’t commonly profitable since competition is at its greatest — a worker can work independently at home just as easily as the capitalist can have his factory
  • Organic manufacture produces articles that go through connected phases of development, and are gradually put together at independent processes

    • e.g. wire and needles
    • note: I don’t know how needles are produced
  • In this kind of manufacturing the time between each process is shortened as much as possible so as to increase productive power

  • This organic manufacture also implies a [[division of labor]] in society. Many commodities that feed into one another can be broken up socially

  • Direct mutual interdependence compels each worker to sped no more than the necessary amount of time on each specialized part, creating regularity, uniformity, and intensity greater than in handicraft or simple cooperation

  • By combining workers in such a way the deficiencies of specialized work become perfections of general work

  • Manufacture creates so-called unskilled laborers, a class of workers who work in a process of production which can be done by anyone

    • This causes a decrease in value of labor power

The Division of Labor in Manufacture, and the Division of Labor in Society

The foundation of every [[division of labor]] which has attained a certain degree of development, and has been brought about by the exchange of commodities, is the separation of town from country. One might well say that the whole economic history of society is summed up in the movement of this antithesis.

  • Like the fact that there are divisions of labor within a workshop,

there are also divisions of labor with in society, for similar reasons

  • See: cattle breeders → tanners (produce leather) → shoemakers

  • What connects independent laborers and specialized workers in

manufacture is that they are creating commodities, however the latter isn’t creating an entire commodity by himself, unlike the shoemaker

pre-capitalist social formation that benefits capitalism uniquely

  • The division of labor within the workshop is specific to capitalism

The Capitalist Character of Manufacture

15. Machinery and Large-Scale Industry

1. The Development of Machinery

It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of a single human being.

  • Marx comments on the above passage in footnote 1:

[[Mill]] should have said, “of any human being not fed by other people’s labor”, for there is no doubt that machinery has greatly increased the number of distinguished idlers.

  • Machinery in capitalism is above all an attempt to cheapen commodities by shortening the part of the working day in which the worker works for himself, and lengthen the part for which he gives to the capitalist

  • The difference between a simple machine and a complex machine (such as a steel furnace or factory machinery) is the historical element

  • Screws, wedges, wheels, etc. have been around for forever, but factory machinery hasn’t

  • Machinery replaces human work

  • Some machines are powered by humans and the energy they put into them powers the machine, or they are powered by electricity

  • Machines, such as windmills, were used prior to capitalism but didn’t spur on a change in the mode of production

  • Horsepower is the most useless form of power because it’s costly

  • Machinery presupposes a [[division of labor]]. Machinery does not create a division of labor, a division of labor creates machinery

It’s not labor, but the instrument of labor that serves as the starting point of the machine.

  • Cooperation is also a necessary precondition for large scale machinery

2. The Value Transferred by the Machinery to the Product

  • [[Machines]] only expand the use of the tool

  • Machinery causes a rise in productivity of labor, but doesn’t necessarily cause a rise in value

  • Machinery, like other forms of constant capital, create no value, but yield its own value to what it produces

  • The amount of value transferred to the product by a machine is proportional to its own value

  • The less value it gives up, the more productive it is

As long as the labor spent on a machine is such that the portion of its value added to the product remains smaller than the value added by the worker to the product with his tool, there is always a difference of labor saved in favor of the machine. The productivity of the machine is therefore measured by the human labor-power it replaces.

  • I think this means that as long as the machine adds less value to the product than the worker does with his tools, the machine is saving labor

  • If the capitalist replaces 150 men with a machine, and that machine costs as much as it does for a year’s worth of [[wages]] for those workers, the capitalist is still only paying for the labor that went into that machine

  • The labor objectified in machines is smaller than the living labor it replaces

  • Less labor must be expended in producing the machinery than is displaced by the employment of that machinery in order for it to be profitable

  • The actual wage of the worker can sink below or rise above the value of his labor power, but the difference between the quantity of labor needed to produce a machine and the total quantity of labor replaced by it remains constant

The field of application for machinery would therefore be entirely different in a communist society from what it is in bourgeois society.

  • Takeaway: given a value of labor at x, machinery is only worthwhile if it replaces labor at a value less than x

  • In some parts of England, where machines or constant capital could be employed, living labor is still employed because the capitalist can pay them for such a small portion of their labor that the use of machinery would increase that cost production

  • Therefore we see the use of machinery as a way of getting around paying higher wages

3. The Most Immediate Effects of Machine Production on the Worker

  • Machinery in factories caused the employment of women and children in


  • Machinery, at first, causes the capitalist a huge gain in profits,

because it allows them to make labor power more productive. In the long run though, their machinery will become more commonplace and the competition between commodities will equalize

  • The use of machinery introduces a contradiction: that the capitalist

wants to increase profits by replacing men with machinery. The use of machines allows the capitalist to extract more surplus value, but the fact that workers produce surplus labor stands in opposition to that

  • As a result, the capitalist expands the number of working hours

  • Ultimately the use of machines, which should reduce the working day,

only increase it

  • Eventually, the intensity of the working day will become mutually

exclusive with the extension of the working day

  • The (legal) imposition of a limited working day drives the capitalist

to find ways to be more and more productive

  • Machinery is added to the labor process to make it much more


  • Marx goes on for quite a bit about how over the course of the 19th

century factories became significantly more productive while involving less workers

  • Intensification of work has lead to more injuries and is overall bad

for the worker

4. The Factory

  • The dual characteristics of factories:

  • “combined co-operation of many orders of workpeople, adult and

young, in tending with assiduous skill a system of productive machines continuously impelled by a central power“ (the subject of the factory is mechanical automation)

  • “a vast automation, composed of various mechanical and intellectual

organs, acting in uninterrupted concert for the production f a common object, all of them being subordinate to a self-regulated moving force“ (its use as capital)

  • Engineers, mechanics, and so on, people who fixed machinery, were

counted as a class separate from workers in factories (see footnote

  1. another dig at Proudhon (see footnote 4)

  2. Marx delineates between increased productivity due to development of

social process of production, and the exploitation by the capitalist of that development

Factory work exhausts the nervous system to the uttermost; at the same time, it does away with the many-sided play of the muscles, and confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and intellectual activity. Even the lightening of the labor becomes an instrument of torture, since the machine does not free the worker from the work, but rather deprives the work itself of all content. Every kind of capitalist production, in so far as it is not only a labor process but also capital’s process of valorization, has this in common, but it is not the worker who employs the conditions of his work, but rather the reverse, the conditions of work employ the worker.

  • Marx makes the point that the factory, above all else, robs workers of

their humanity by causing them to work in abhorrent conditions and drudgery

5. The Struggle Between Worker and Machine

  • there is an antagonism between the adoption of machinery and the

workers, since machines are employed to replace workers

  • machines are also a means of suppressing strikes

6. The Compensation Theory, With Regard to the Workers Displaced By


:CUSTOMID: the-compensation-theory-with-regard-to-the-workers-displaced-by-machinery

  • The bourgeois economists describe the replacement of laborers with machines as “the freeing” of their labor / capital

  • The only freeing that goes on however is the conversion between variable capital and constant capital

  • The displacement of workers by machines removes a certain amount of money from the economy, so to speak. Marx says that if $1500 in wages is removed by the replacement of workers, that $1500 is lost because workers cannot spend that $1500 on other commodities

  • This seems like a contradiction of sorts

  • When machinery replaces laborers, that labor expended is diminished on the whole

  • The general growth of industry corresponds to a general growth in demand for labor

Since every article produced by a machine is cheaper than a similar article produced by hand, we deduce the following absolute law: if the total quantity of the article produced by machinery is equal to the total quantity of the article previously produced by a handicraft or by manufacture, and now made by machinery, then total labour expended is diminished. The increase in the labour required to produce the instruments of labour themselves, the machinery, coal, etc. must be less than the reduction in labour achieved by the employment of machinery; otherwise the product of the machine would be as dear as, or dearer than, the product of the manual labour. But as a matter of fact, the total quantity of the article produced by machinery with a diminished number of workers, instead of remaining equal to the total quantity of the hand-made article that has been displaced, exceeds this by far.

  • Since the introduction of machinery cheapens commodities, we see new

commodities and industries pop up as a result; namely luxury commodities

  • The immediate result of the introduction of machinery, besides the

augmentation of surplus-value, is that it simply increases the number of substances which society (capitalist and “their dependents) can consume

  • an increase in the production of iron could lead to the development

of cars. Similarly, the demand for cars increases the demand for iron, and so on.

  • *The growth of industry and machinery allows a larger part of the

working class to be employed unproductively*

7. Repulsion and Attraction of Workers Through the Development of

Machine Production. Crises in the Cotton Industry

:CUSTOMID: repulsion-and-attraction-of-workers-through-the-development-of-machine-production.-crises-in-the-cotton-industry

  • The proliferation of factories tends to decrease the amount of workers

employed in said factories

  • The employment of machinery is a change in the C = c + v relation

  • If I, a capitalist, want to keep C the same but reduce v, they

can increase c with machinery

  • With the introduction of factories in a country, there becomes a need

to dominate foreign markets using this newfound factory revolution

  • Britain’s conquest of India produced a source of cotton, for example

  • Colonization produces a source for new raw materials in the core

  • Industrialization brings with it cycles of depression, prosperity,


From 1770 to 1815 this trade was depressed or stagnant for 5 years only. During this period of 45 years the English manufacturers had a monopoly of machinery and of the markets of the world. From 1815 to 1821 depression; 1822 and 1823 prosperity; 1824 abolition of the laws against Trades’ Unions, great extension of factories everywhere; 1825 crisis; 1826 great misery and riots among the factory operatives; 1827 slight improvement; 1828 great increase in power-looms, and in exports; 1829 exports, especially to India, surpass all former years; 1830 glutted markets, great distress; 1831 to 1833 continued depression, the monopoly of the trade with India and China withdrawn from the East India Company; 1834 great increase of factories and machinery, shortness of hands. The new poor law furthers the migration of agricultural labourers into the factory districts. The country districts swept of children. White slave trade; 1835 great prosperity, contemporaneous starvation of the hand-loom weavers; 1836 great prosperity; 1837 and 1838 depression and crisis; 1839 revival; 1840 great depression, riots, calling out of the military; 1841 and 1842 frightful suffering among the factory operatives; 1842 the manufacturers lock the hands out of the factories in order to enforce the repeal of the Corn Laws. The operatives stream in thousands into the towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, are driven back by the military, and their leaders brought to trial at Lancaster; 1843 great misery; 1844 revival; 1845 great prosperity; 1846 continued improvement at first, then reaction. Repeal of the Corn Laws; 1847 crisis, general reduction of wages by 10 and more per cent. in honour of the “big loaf”; 1848 continued depression; Manchester under military protection; 1849 revival; 1850 prosperity; 1851 falling prices, low wages, frequent strikes; 1852 improvement begins, strikes continue, the manufacturers threaten to import foreign hands; 1853 increasing exports. Strike for 8 months, and great misery at Preston; 1854 prosperity, glutted markets; 1855 news of failures stream in from the United States, Canada, and the Eastern markets; 1856 great prosperity; 1857 crisis; 1858 improvement; 1859 great prosperity, increase in factories; 1860 Zenith of the English cotton trade, the Indian, Australian, and other markets so glutted with goods that even in 1863 they had not absorbed the whole lot; the French Treaty of Commerce, enormous growth of factories and machinery; 1861 prosperity continues for a time, reaction, the American Civil War, cotton famine: 1862 to 1863 complete collapse.

(self) Notes on the Cotton Famine

  • In the early 1860s a cotton famine seems to have struck, and it was

advantageous to manufacturers

  • Cotton manufacturing made up 1/3rd of the manufacturing industry but

didn’t absorb nearly that much of the capital in the cotton trade

  • By 1862 58% of these factories were at a standstill
  • Good cotton was replaced with bad cotton, and wages shrunk
  • Discussion note: what is the point of him mentioning the cotton

shortage here?

  • Seems like the point is that the poor economy blew away the

competition and this gave the cotton capitalists a reason to shrink their wages, employ machinery, and employ “innovative” ways to cheat workers out of wages

8. The Revolutionary Impact of Large-Scale Industry on Manufacture,

Handicrafts, and Domestic Industry

:CUSTOMID: the-revolutionary-impact-of-large-scale-industry-on-manufacture-handicrafts-and-domestic-industry

(a) Overthrow of Co-operation Based on Handicrafts and on the

Division of Labor

:CUSTOMID: a-overthrow-of-co-operation-based-on-handicrafts-and-on-the-division-of-labor

  • Machinery replaces co-operation between workers (reaping machine

replaces individual reapers)

  • Generally all industries go from a handicraft stage → manufacturing

stage → factory stage

(b) The Impact of the Factory System on Manufacture and Domestic


:CUSTOMID: b-the-impact-of-the-factory-system-on-manufacture-and-domestic-industries

  • With the development of the factory system, mechanization becomes


  • The introduction of factories also comes with the employment of people

who support the factory in things like warehouses

  • the example Marx gives is that a shirt factory employs 1000 factory

workers and 9000 workers outside of the factory (“outworkers”)

(c) Modern Manufacture

  • England is an emporium of rags!
  • Rag workers are the first victims of smallpox outbreaks and other

infectious diseases, and often transmit those downstream

  • Being a “brickie” is particularly rough, as it requires children (!)

to perform excessive amounts of physical labor, and drunkenness is common

  • These are brickmakers, and for some reason children as young as 4

are commonly employed, and work as long hours (if not longer) than adults

(d) Modern Domestic Industry

  • Lace manufacture “is like slavery” and again employs child labor
  • This is domestic industry because it does not employ the use of

machines, just women and children

  • The families who are employed by such an industry have their morality

ground to dust, and “immorailty” abounds

(e) Transition from Modern Manufacture and Domestic Industry to

Large-Scale Industry. The Hastening of this Revolution by the Application of the Factory Acts to those Industries

:CUSTOMID: e-transition-from-modern-manufacture-and-domestic-industry-to-large-scale-industry.-the-hastening-of-this-revolution-by-the-application-of-the-factory-acts-to-those-industries

  • It’s weird how clothesmaking was so gendered, even in factories

  • It’s because they could pay workers less!

The decisively revolutionary machine, the machine which attacks in an equal degree all the innumerable branches of this sphere of production, such as dressmaking, tailoring, shoe-making, sewing, hat-making, and so on, is the sewing-machine.

  • High praise for the sewing machine!
  • The introduction of the sewing machine revolutionizes the industry as


  • Children who are too young are removed from the workforce

  • The wages of those who work with the machines rises

  • The new machine minders are exclusively girls and women

  • Competition is crushed, mass unemployment follows

  • Starvation increases!

  • The introduction of the Factory Acts spurs on the mechanization

revolution by increasing the demand for machines

  • However, once the restriction on child labor is put into place, those

industries suffer greatly, as they depend on unlimited exploitation of cheap labor

  • When earthenware manufacturers were brought under the Factory Acts,

costs did not rise and output increased, unlike what the capitalists of that industry had been saying

  • Earthenware manufacturers said they could not afford to stop to pay

their workers meals, yet they still managed to figure it out!

  • *The legal impediments to capital (working hours, etc.) only force the

capitalist to innovate and concentrate, and those who cannot keep up are blown away*

  • First mention of “anarchy of production”?
  • The extension of the railway system and telegraphs has increased

demand everywhere, because it allows for sudden large ordering, and removes “seasonal” work (or otherwise makes it more demanding)

  • There’s no need for seasonal labor when you’re industry is global

(see: cotton production)

9. The Health and Education Clauses of the Factory Acts. The General

Extension of Factory Legislation in England

:CUSTOMID: the-health-and-education-clauses-of-the-factory-acts.-the-general-extension-of-factory-legislation-in-england

  • The Factory Acts are very vague on how to regulate health of the


  • The flax industry is very accident prone in Marx’s time (probably now


  • The horrible deaths and accidents in the flaxing industry are

avoidable (shock!)

  • The Factory Acts introduce education requirements, and we see that

they’re actually useful to the children in producing worthwhile workers

  • Large-scale industry blows away by technical means the division of

labor characteristic of manufacture, but reproduces it more intensely

  • Large-scale industry also does away with apprenticeship and the

endowment of skills on to workers

  • Letter-making requires children and once the children have grown too

old to do the work they are thrown out with no transferable skills

  • The factory breaks up the old division of labor much like it does in

society itself. Where peasants usually made their own shoes before, a shoe industry perfects shoemaking, and takes that away from the general population

Modern industry never views or treats the existing form of a production process as the definitive one. its technical basis is therefore revolutionary, whereas all earlier modes of production were essentially conservative.

  • Marx displays open contempt for the English in this section

10. Large-Scale Industry and Agriculture

  • Obviously, machines replace peasant farm workers
  • Divides the urban and rural distinction even more

16. Absolute and Relative Surplus-Value

  • The division of mental and manual labor becomes a hostile antagonism

  • A reminder about productive labor

    • An individual appropriates natural objects for his own livelihood, superivising his own activity
    • Later, he is supervised by others
    • Even later, his mental and physical labor are divided against one another
    • “The product is transformed from the direct product of the individual producer into a social product, the joint product of a collective laborer, i.e. a combination of workers, each of whom stands at a different distance from the actual manipulation of the object of labor.”
    • “In order to work productively, it is no longer necessary for the individual himself to put his hand to the object; it is sufficient for him to be an organ of the collective labor, and to perform any one of its subordinate functions.” - the basic definition of productive labor
  • The old definition of productive labor doesn’t hold up individually, so let’s zoom in!

  • “Capitalist production is not merely the production of commodities, it is, by its very essence, the production of surplus-value.”

  • Productive labor, generally, is when work (or more specifically, a worker) works towards the self-valorization of capital

  • Absolute Surplus-Value is the surplus-value generated by the worker working past the certain point by which he’d need to sustain himself

  • Relative Surplus-Value is the surplus-value created by the shortening of necessary labor. If the day is already divided into necessary labor and surplus labor, relative surplus-value is the value generated by shortening the amount of necessary labor needed

  • To summarize:

    • Absolute surplus value is generated from the actual length of the working day. More hours yields more surplus value
    • Relative surplus value is working within the confines of a fixed amount of time
  • This distinction can only be made within the capitalist mode of production

  • In order to change relative surplus value, there must be a change in intensity or productivity of labor (assuming wages don’t fall below the value of labor power)

  • Without superfluous time there cannot be surplus value

    • And without surplus value there ca be no capitalists, slave-owners, or feudal barons
  • There are no natural barriers to someone imposing the labor necessary to maintain there own existence onto another

  • Historically (and in general I guess) the productivity of labor remains limited by natural conditions

  • Also historically, at first the bountifulness of nature fuels development, but later, it’s the productivity of labor

    • In ancient Egypt, it cost very little to raise children just because they were able to rely on more natural resources
  • The quantity of surplus labor generated will vary according to natural conditions

    • The inverse is not true: the most fertile places are not the most productive
    • Capitalism, being born in England, was hardly the most fertile region of the world
    • What differentiates England is the variety of natural products and the social division of labor

    It is the necessity of bringing a natural force under the control of society, of economizing on its energy, of appropriating or subduing it on a large scale by the work of the human hand, that plays the most decisive role in the history of industry.

    • For example, irrigation, damming, etc.
    • Indian state power came from regulating the water supply

The result of differences in the natural conditions of labor is this: the same quantity of labor satisfies a different mass of requirements in different countries, and consequently under otherwise analogous circumstances, the quantity of necessary labor-time is different.

  • Surplus labor is not an innate quality of human labor (as Proudhon asserts)

    • Marx uses an important counterexample with sago trees. Sago trees provide plentiful food for the inhabitants, but if capitalism cut the amount of time to provide the same amount of sago in half, it would not be sufficient to say that this is a fact of nature
    • “Before he can apply this leisure time productively for himself, a whole series of historical circumstances is required; before he spends it in surplus labor for others, compulsion is necessary.”
  • Marx criticizes John Stuart Mill for thinking that surplus value is exclusive to the capitalist mode of production

After this proving clearly that capitalist production would still continue to exist even if it did not exist, Mill now proceeds, quite consistently, to show that it would not exist even if it did exist.

17. Changes of Magnitude in the Price of Labor-Power and in Surplus-Value

  • If the value of labor power is determined by the value of the means of subsistence habitually required by the average worker, then the quantity of the means of subsistence required can be treated at a constant magnitude

    • This magnitude may vary
  • The cost of labor power is:

    • The cost of reproduction of the average worker
    • The cost of developing that power
    • Natural diversity of labor power
  • Marx makes the following assumptions in this chapter:

    • Commodities are sold at their value
    • Price of labor power occasionally rises above its value, but never sinks below it
  • To reiterate, relative magnitudes of surplus value and the price of labor power are determined by:

    • The length of the working day
    • The normal intensity of labor (how much labor is expended in a given time)
    • The productivity of labor

1. The Length of the Working Day and the Intensity of Labor Constant;

The Productivity of Labor Variable

:CUSTOMID: the-length-of-the-working-day-and-the-intensity-of-labor-constant-the-productivity-of-labor-variable

  • Working day of a given length always creates the same amount of value
  • Value of labor power and surplus value vary in opposite directions
  • Increase or diminution in surplus value is always the consequence, and never the cause, of the corresponding diminution or increase in the value of labor power

2. The Length of the Working Day and the Productivity of Labor are

Constant; The Intensity of Labor Variable

:CUSTOMID: the-length-of-the-working-day-and-the-productivity-of-labor-are-constant-the-intensity-of-labor-variable

  • Increase in productivity means more things produced, but their value is less

3. The Productivity and Intensity of the Labor Constant; The Length

of the Working Day Variable

:CUSTOMID: the-productivity-and-intensity-of-the-labor-constant-the-length-of-the-working-day-variable

  • Marx deduces the following laws:

    1. The working day creates a greater or lesser amount of value in proportion to its length -— thus, a variable and not a constant quantity of value
    2. Every change in the relation between the magnitude of surplus-value and the value of labor-power arises from a change in the absolute magnitude of the surplus labor, and consequently of surplus value
    3. The absolute value of labor power can change only in consequence of the reaction exercised by the prolongation of surplus labor upon the wear and tear of labor power.
  • The shortening of the working day follows or precedes a change in the productivity and intensity of labor

  • The lengthening of the working day risks increasing the value of labor power

4. Simultaneous Variations in the Duration, Productivity, and

Intensity of Labor

:CUSTOMID: simultaneous-variations-in-the-duration-productivity-and-intensity-of-labor

(1) Diminishing productivity of labor with simultaneous lengthening

of the working day

:CUSTOMID: diminishing-productivity-of-labor-with-simultaneous-lengthening-of-the-working-day

  • Surplus-value may rise
  • Between 1799 and 1815 this was the case in England
    • Nominal wages rose, real wages fell, productivity increased
    • Pauperism and capital grew together!

(2) Increasing intensity and the productivity of labor with

simultaneous shortening of the working day

:CUSTOMID: increasing-intensity-and-the-productivity-of-labor-with-simultaneous-shortening-of-the-working-day

  • Decreases amount of necessary labor

  • If the whole length of the working day were to shrink to just its necessary component, surplus labor would vanish

    • This would still lead to an expansion of necessary labor, however
  • The more the working day can be shortened, the more the intensity of labor can increase

18. Different Formulae for the Rate of Surplus-Value

  • The formula for surplus value we know:

\[\frac{Surplus\ value}{Variable\ capital}(\frac{s}{v})=\frac{Surplus\ value}{Value\ of\ labor\ power}=\frac{Surplus\ labor}{necessary\ labor}\]

  • Political economy provides the following derivative equation:

\[\frac{Surplus\ labor}{Working\ day}=\frac{Surplus\ value}{Value\ of\ the\ product}=\frac{Surplus\ product}{Total\ product}\]

  • The derivative equations show how the products of labor are divided between worker and capitalist
  • If you attempt to extract 100% surplus labor, you’ll only end up reducing necessary labor to 0, thus making this impossible
  • Political economy loves to present the value of labor power as fractions of the value-product, which only mystifies what’s really going on
  • A new formula emerges:

\[\frac{Surplus\ value}{Value\ of\ labor\ power}=\frac{Surplus\ labor}{Necessary\ labor}=\frac{Unpaid\ labor}{Paid\ labor}\]

Capital, therefore, is not only the command over labor, as Adam Smith thought. It is essentially the command over unpaid labor.

19. The Transformation of the Value (and Respectively the Price) of Labor-Power into Wages

  • Labor is a special commodity in that it has no existence before it is actuated

  • The value of labor is not determined by what it produces

  • Either the worker receives x pay for y hours of labor, and equivalents have been exchanged, or he receives less than x pay for y hours of labor

  • We must remember that the value of the commodity is determined by the amount of [[socially necessary labor]] it contains

    • If a commodity requires 6 hours to make and later on requires 3, its value has halved
  • The worker is selling labor power, not labor itself

    • As soon as the worker begins working, it ceases to belong to him
    • It can no longer be sold at this point
    • Labor has no value itself, it is just a measure of value
  • The money-relation conceals the uncompensated labor of the wage-laborer

We see, further: the value of 3 shillings [the value of labor which creates a value of 6 shillings], which represents the paid portion of the working day, i.e. 6 hours of labor, appears as the value or price of the whole working day of 12 hours, which thus includes 6 hours which have not been paid for. The age-form thus extinguishes every trace of the division of the working day into necessary labor and surplus labor, into paid labor and unpaid labor. All labor appears as paid labor. Under the corvee system it is different. There the labor of the serf for himself, and his compulsory labor for the lord of the land, are demarcated very clearly both in time and space. In slave labor, even the part of the working day in which the slave is only replacing the value of his own means of subsistence, in which he therefore actually works for himself alone, appears as labor for his master. All his labor appears as unpaid labor. In wage-labor, on the contrary, even surplus labor, or unpaid labor, appears as paid. In the one case, the property-relation conceals the slave’s labor for himself; in the other case the money relation conceals the uncompensated labor of the wage laborer.

  • Marx remarks that much ink has been spilled at answering this very question. The reason for it being so is obvious, though!

  • From the worker’s standpoint:

    • Receives 2 shillings for 12 hours of labor, created 6 hours worth of value-product
    • His 12 hours of labor is a means of buying the 3 shillings
    • Any change in the amount of equivalent he receives appears to him as a change in value or price of his 12 hours of labor
  • From the capitalist’s standpoint:

    • Only cares about the difference between the price of labor power and the value which its function creates
    • If value of labor really existed, and he really paid this value, no capital would exist
  • Under wage labor, all labor seems to be for the worker, when indeed some of it is for the capitalist

  • It is important to note that at the end of the day the worker is paid for their necessary labor (?). Wages are paid out just enough to keep workers alive and reproducing

20. Time-Wages

  • The sale of labor power takes place for definite times

  • The laws laid out in chapter 17 can also be used to describe the change in wages

  • In Marx’s time workers were paid daily, so the hourly wage would be calculated as a day’s wage / hours worked, such was the price of 1 working hour

  • Daily and weekly wages may remain the same while the price falls constantly, or vice versa

  • In 1860 there were riots against the imposition of hourly labor

  • If hourly labor isn’t fixed, then the capitalist can really get away with sneakily stealing surplus-value

    • Why?
    • “He can annihilate all regularity of employment.”
  • If the ratio is daily value over working hours in a day, then as the denominator of that fraction increases so must the numerator to keep up with equivalents

  • In general, the longer the hours, the lower the wage

  • The lower the price of labor, the greater the quantity of labor is required

  • The low level of the price of labor acts as a stimulus to the extension of labor time

21. Piece-Wages

  • “The piece-wage is nothing but a converted form of the time-wage, just as the time-wage is a converted form of the value or price of labor power.”
  • It would seem that in this case the laborer is selling their use value directly, not his labor power, and that his price of labor is determined by his capacity to work
  • Both wage schemes benefit the capitalist because ultimately they can derive more value out of laborers working more
  • Piece-wages measure the amount of labor has become embodied in commodities in a given period of time

22. National Differences in Wages

  • In finding the differences in wages between nations we must be reminded of the fact that wages are determined by the value of labor power

    • Price of necessities of life

    • Cost of training workers

    • Part played by women and children

      • Also, presumably, the part women play in the reproduction of labor
    • Productivity of labor

    • Extensive and intensive magnitude of labor

  • Every country has a certain average intensity of labor

  • Relative value of money will be less in a country with less developed capitalist production

  • Note: nominal wages are labor power expressed in money. Real wages are the means of subsistence placed at the disposal of the worker

  • Wages in England at the time were much lower than on the continent, but labor was more intense

  • Relative price of labor varies to the inverse of the average intensity of labor

23. [[Simple Reproduction]]

  • Marx comes right out of the gate mentioning that the production process is continuous

  • NOTE: recall that Harvey mentions that Capital is something constantly in motion

  • No society can go on producing (i.e. reproduce itself) unless it constantly reconverts a part of its products into means of production

  • If production has a capitalist form, reproduction does also

  • Capital doesn’t become capital until money constantly functions as capital

    • If $100 was invested and $20 surplus value was received, it must continue, year after year, to produce the same operation
  • Variable capital is a particular historical form of appearance of a labor fund

    • “Labor fund” - fund for providing the means of subsistence
  • If the capitalist doesn’t reproduce his capital he’ll be left without anything!

  • After a while the capital that the capitalist possesses is ONLY the surplus value extracted

  • The perpetuation of the worker is absolutely necessary for the worker

  • The worker leaves the process with a source of wealth but with nothing else to show for it

  • What was the starting point for capitalist production is a characteristic result of it: production converts material wealth into capital, and the worker leaves with a source of wealth, but unable to reproduce that wealth for himself

  • The worker engages in two kinds of consumption

    • Productive consumption: consumption of the means of production with his labor and converts them into products with a higher value than that of the capital advanced
    • Individual consumption: use of the money paid out to him by his wage
  • In the former he belongs to capital, and the latter he belongs to himself, i.e. in the former case it allows the capitalist to continue to live, and in the latter case it allows himself to live

  • Individual consumption is what a worker needs to reproduce himself, and is seen as incidental to the labor process. Therefore individual consumption is just a facet of productive consumption

  • If a worker consumes more than he “needs”, this is called unproductive consumption

  • It is productive to the capitalist because it is the production of a force which produces wealth for other people (i.e. capitalists)

  • The capitalist class sees itself as the owners of skilled workers, as they see it as a form of variable capital

  • It is no accident that workers and capitalists confront each other in the market; capitalist society forces workers to do so!

24. The Transformation of Surplus-Value into Capital

1. The Capitalist Production on a Progressively Increasing Scale. The

Inversion which Converts the Property Laws of Commodity Production into Laws of Capitalist Appropriation

:CUSTOMID: the-capitalist-production-on-a-progressively-increasing-scale.-the-inversion-which-converts-the-property-laws-of-commodity-production-into-laws-of-capitalist-appropriation

  • Accumulation of capital: The employment of surplus-value as capital, i.e. its re-conversion into capital

  • If all that was left at the end of the labor process were surplus value, capital could never accumulate. A part of the surplus product is required for the transformation of capital

  • Surplus value can only be transformed into capital because the surplus product already comprises the material components of a new quantity of capital

  • Simple reproduction continues and continues, “changing into a spiral”

  • If a capitalist spends $10,000 of capital on an investment, and that returns $2,000, then that $2,000 is reinvested, which may beget $400, which may beget $80. This is the accumulation of capital

  • We can ask where the $10,000 comes from, but it is of no matter. The $2,000 comes from unpaid labor

  • “The working class creates by the surplus labor of one year the capital destined to employ additional labor in the following year.”

  • First mention of dialectics?

  • The property rights of capitalism are the rights to unpaid labor

  • The result of commodity production is:

    1. that the product belongs to the capitalist and not the worker
    2. that the value of this product includes, apart form the value of the capital advanced, a surplus-value which costs the worker labor but the capitalist nothing, and which none the less becomes the legitimate property of the capitalist
    3. that the worker has retained his labor power and can sell it anew if he finds another buyer
  • Property laws are therefore based on commodity production

2. The Political Economists’ Erroneous Conception of Reproduction on

an Increasing Scale

:CUSTOMID: the-political-economists-erroneous-conception-of-reproduction-on-an-increasing-scale

  • Bourgeois economists would have you believe its everyone’s right to be a capitalist!

  • Hoarding is not the same as capital accumulation

    • Hoarding would require the removal of that capital from circulation
  • The accumulation of commodities in great masses is the result of either a bottleneck in circulation or over-production

  • Bourgeois economists would have you believe also that all surplus-value is transformed into variable capital. This is not so, obviously

  • Discussion point: Capital at the end of the day doesn’t just become wages, as that would imply that all the capital laid out is equitably consumed by workers

3. Division of Surplus-Value into Capital and Revenue. The Abstinence


:CUSTOMID: division-of-surplus-value-into-capital-and-revenue.-the-abstinence-theory

  • Surplus-value is divided into revenue and capital
  • The ratio between these two things determines the magnitude of accumulation
  • Surplus-value is both a fund for accumulation and for the capitalist’s individual consumption requirements
  • The capitalist isn’t personally responsible in some ways, he is merely a cog in the capitalist machine
  • The capitalist is the personification of capital, but ceases to be merely the incarnation of capital
    • It is said that all we have to do is get rid of the capitalists, but this doesn’t seem to be the case

Accumulation is the conquest of the world of social wealth. It is the extension of the area of exploited human material and, at the same time, the extension of the direct and indirect sway of the capitalist.

  • The capitalist must abstain from taking some wealth for himself so that he can reinvest it into his business
  • The capitalist may “abstain” from taking from accumulation whatever they want, but capitalism still goes on!

4. The Circumstances Which, Independently of the Proportional

Division of Surplus Value into Capital and Revenue, Determine the Extent of Accumulation, etc.

:CUSTOMID: the-circumstances-which-independently-of-the-proportional-division-of-surplus-value-into-capital-and-revenue-determine-the-extent-of-accumulation-etc.

  • Reminder: the rate of surplus-value depends on the degree of exploitation of labor power

  • The tendency of capital is to force the cost of labor to zero

    • to paraphrase Mill: “if labor could be bought without purchase, there would be no need of wages”
  • See footnote 41 on a wrong prediction by Engels

    • (if China became a manufacturing power, it would decimate the living standards of England)
  • The less the worker consumes, the less their wages ought to be

    • Workers who don’t smoke, consume alcohol, etc. have a lower cost of reproduction
    • But what life is that?
  • Note: the two primary creators of wealth are labor and land

  • At some point the accumulation of capital is able to augment beyond its own seemingly fixed limits

5. The So-Called Labor Fund

  • The aforementioned labor fund is just the collection of surplus value

25. The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation

Supplemental: MR Online | Notes on Marx’s “General Law of Capitalist Accumulation”

  • “Composition of capital” can be understood in two senses:

    • As value, as the composition of constant and variable capital (value-composition)
    • As a material, as it functions in the process of production, divided between means of production and living labor power (technical composition of capital)
  • The [[organic composition of capital]] is the value-composition of capital as determined by its technical composition

  • Growth of capital implies growth of variable capital

  • Capitalist accumulation can outpace the growth of adding workers to capital. It’s possible that the demand for labor power surpasses the rate of growth of capital

The more or less favorable circumstances in which wage-laborers support and multiply themselves in no way alter the fundamental character of capitalist production.

Accumulation of capital is therefore multiplication of the proletariat.

  • First mention of “proletariat”

    • By “proletariat” Marx means “wage laborer” in footnote 1
  • If the price of labor power rises resulting from the accumulation of capital, the following are implied:

    • Either the price of labor keeps rising, because its rise doesn’t interfere with the progress of accumulation
    • Or accumulation slackens as a result of the rise in the price of labor
  • The rate of accumulation is the independent variable in all of this. Other factors, such as wages, are dependent on this

    • That is to say, if the rate of accumulation falls, it isn’t because of high wages

The relation between capital, accumulation, and the rate of wages is nothing other than the relation between the unpaid labor which has been transformed into capital and the additional paid labor necessary to set in motion this additional capital. It is therefore in no way a relation between two magnitudes which are mutually independent, i.e. between the magnitude of the capital and the numbers of the working population; it is rather, at bottom, only the relation between the unpaid and the paid labor of the same working population.


  • Up until now we’ve seen that as c increases, v decreases

3. The Progressive Production of a Relative Surplus Population or

Industrial Reserve Army

:CUSTOMID: the-progressive-production-of-a-relative-surplus-population-or-industrial-reserve-army

  • Much like any other commodity, capitalism is able to produce a surplus of laborers

  • This surplus labor-power is called the reserve army of labor

  • This reserve army of labor allows capital to command large amounts of labor without disrupting the production process

  • The economic periods are cyclical: production at high pressure, crisis, stagnation, average activity

  • As the productivity of labor increases, capital increases its supply of labor more quickly than its demand for workers

  • The general movements of wages are generally regulated by the expansion and contraction of the reserve army of labor

  • Wages do not depend on the size of the reserve army (i.e. population size) but depend on capital’s valorization requirements, i.e. the demand for labor

    • Discussion note?
  • Employed workers are in competition with unemployed workers


  • The general law of capitalist accumulation is that, by virtue of the fact that the existence of the bourgeoisie create the proletariat, it is that this relation will always create and need a reserve army of labor

26. The Secret of Primitive Accumulation

We have seen how money is transformed into capital; how surplus-value is made through capital, and how more capital is made from surplus-value. But the accumulation of capital presupposes surplus-value; surplus-value presupposes capitalist production; capitalist production presupposes the availability of considerable masses of capital and labor-power in the hands of commodity producers. The whole movement, therefore, seems to turn around in a never-ending circle, which we can only get out of by assuming a primitive accumulation… an accumulation which is not the result of the capitalist mode of production but its point of departure.

  • “primitive accumulation” is the “original sin” of capitalism
  • capitalism isn’t some eternal constant (we know this now!)

In actual history, it is a notorious fact that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, in short, force, play the greatest part.

  • side note: laborers are neither means of production in and of themselves (in that case they would be slaves), nor do they own the means of production

  • capitalism was born out of the ruin of feudalism

  • the worker was able to become a worker only after:

    1. he was freed from the land
    2. he was freed from the regime of guilds
    3. he is robbed from his own means of production and all “guarantees of existence provided by feudal arrangements”
  • capitalism arises out of the abolition of feudalism and the waning of city-states

  • capitalism first started appearing in Italy, but Marx calls what happened in England the “classical” form of capitalism

27. The Expropriation of the Agricultural Population from the Land

  • by the fourteenth century feudalism had pretty much been disappeared in practice
    • they were free peasant proprietors
  • Marx makes a note that it’s worth remembering that a serf was not only the owner of his piece of land (“owner”), but the co-proprietor of common land
  • a class of independent peasant farmers arose
  • the nobility usurped the land that was nominally theirs and expelled the peasantry from their land, thereby creating the proletariat of England
    • the nobility usurped this land contra the monarchy
  • peasants could not build houses on land unless they had four acres!
    • Marx remarks how in his time people are lucky to have a garden
  • the yeomanry disappeared from England by 1750
  • “Bills for Inclosure of Commons” was the legislative act that dealt the final blow to the commons. Landowners granted themselves the people’s land as private property
  • even at the time it was obvious that enclosures were pretty bad!
  • Marx cites a defender of enclosures, who says that laborers on this land were in fact idle and wasted their labor
    • this reminds me of what colonists said of the Native Americans!
  • peasants were literally kicked off their lands!
  • in this chapter we see Marx talking in an almost ecological sense

28. Bloody Legislation against the Expropriated since the End of the Fifteenth Century. The Forcing Down of Wages by Act of Parliament

  • the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw massive proletarianization
  • legislation turned them into “voluntary” criminals
  • some monarchs and the things they did to help this process along:
    • Henry VIII:
      • beggars who are old and incapable of working can get beggar’s licenses
      • “vagabonds” endured corporeal punishment and had to go back to their place of origin
    • Edward VI:
      • anyone who refuses to work will be condemned as a slave to the person who has denounced him as an idler
      • Marx describes various punishments for trying to escape on p. 897
      • The church could also enslave people
    • Elizabeth I:
      • Unlicensed beggars are flogged and branded
        • If they’re over the age of 18, they are executed
    • James I:
      • Anyone begging is declared a vagabond
      • Vagabonds are arrested, beaten, and killed after enough offenses
    • France had similar laws (see Louis XVI)
  • starting in the 1300s, France and England enacted laws to prolong the working day
  • labor had to be explicitly disciplined to take the new system

29. The Genesis of the Capitalist Farmer

  • In chapter 29 Marx begins to explain where the capitalists themselves come from, in line with the rest of this section.
  • Marx complicates the picture he’s painted thus far: farmers in proto-capitalism are not exactly workers, but they’re also not exactly capitalists. The first form of farmer in England was a bailiff, who was a serf. He then transforms into a share-cropper, and eventually a small proprietor.
  • The capitalist farmer benefits from the seizing of the commons because it allows him to advance more of his livestock, creating more livestock, grazing lands, manure, etc.
  • The fall in the cost of precious metals allowed for a fall of wages, from which the capitalist farmer greatly benefited. At the end of the 16th century, the farmer in England was quite uniquely rich.

30. Impact of the Agricultural Revolution on Industry. The Creation of a Home Market for Industrial Capital

  • The peasant was transformed into the proletarian, in short, by being cast off his land and having his means of subsistence taken from him, and sold back to him via wages by his new lord, the industrial capitalist
  • Over time, the following process occurs: some amount of peasantry is expelled from the land and forced to work in factories. This removes all the small producers and concentrates them into once producer, working under a capitalist. On the one hand, this produces constant capital, as there are peasants left behind to produce said raw materials, and variable capital, i.e. the freed peasantry.
  • This process that Marx is describing creates the “domestic industry” that Marx has previously talked about.

31. The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist

  • This era of early capitalism created two kinds of capital: usurer’s capital and merchant’s capital.
  • Industrial capital was prevented from emerging due to the feudal organization of the countryside and the guild organization of the towns. What changed this was the enclosure of the commons and the disbanding of retainers.
  • The discovery of gold in America, the subjugation of India, and the expansion of colonialism into Africa were the primitive accumulation of the industrial capitalist.
  • Along with the expansion of colonialism, maritime trade, etc. also came national debt. This financial scheme comes from Genoa and Venice and first took hold in Holland.
  • It’s also in this period that credit money is created. Coinage is an IOU to the state. The Bank of England is run by financiers who loan money to the government.
  • It sounds like Marx is anticipating David Graeber’s argument in Debt. The money system Marx talks about in chapter 3 would be incompatible with Graeber’s but this sounds a lot like debt-money.
  • Slavery was a huge boon to capitalist primitive accumulation in England. The English fought wars over the privilege to control certain slave trades wrested from the hands of the Spanish, for example.

32. The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation

  • People say that Marx didn’t consider personal property or whatever, but in this chapter he seems to have an utmost respect for it!
  • This chapter presents a good summary of the arguments in this book so far!

33. The Modern Theory of Colonization

  • Marx says the project of capitalism is incomplete in the colonies, despite what the political economists of his time say
  • Marx says that the purpose of the colonies according to Wakefield is to create wage-laborers
  • (p. 933) Wakefield makes an interesting point: the zeal for land ownership in the Americas prevents a working class from cropping up
  • (p. 934) According to Marx laborers in the colonies “self-expropriated” with the promise of receiving capital themselves
    • I may not be understanding this point correctly
  • (p. 934) Marx identifies slavery as the basis of wealth in the colonies!
  • (p. 936) Labor in the American colonies is pretty scarce
  • (p. 936) The state of labor in the colonies is such that many wage laborers who come from Europe can actually gain wealth and become landholders themselves, which perpetuates this labor shortage.
  • (p. 938) The solution to this, according to Wakefield, is to set an artificial price on the land, thereby forcing the laborer to work before they can become a landed proprietor


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