Monday, November 27, 2006
Key passages from section 7-10, pp.266-458
A. Capital and labour
Capital's characteristic "circulation... spiral, expanding curve, not a simple circle" [p.266] must come from interaction with an "object in exchange with which capital does not lose its value-quality, as for example does money when it is exchanged for a particular commodity. The only utility whatsoever which an object can have for capital can be to preserve or increase it..." [p.270]
"The goal-determining activity of capital can only be that of growing wealthier, i.e. of magnification, of increasing itself. A specific sum of money... can entirely suffice for a specific consumption... But as a representative of general wealth, it cannot do so... It preserves itself... only by constantly multiplying itself" [p.270].
The question is not that capital must grow, or otherwise the capitalists would not bother. "Drivel to the effect that nobody would employ his capital without drawing a gain from it amounts either to the absurdity that the good capitalists will remain capitalists even without employing their capital; or to a very banal form of saying that gainful investment is inherent in the concept of capital. Very well. In that case it would just have to be demonstrated..." [p.271].
"The opposite of capital cannot itself be a particular commodity... The only thing distinct from objectified labour is non-objectified labour, labour which is still objectifying itself, labour as subjectivity... The only use value, therefore, which can form the opposite pole to capital is labour (to be exact, value-creating, productive labour. [p.271-2].
"The real non-capital is labour" [p.274].
"If we consider the exchange between capital and labour, then we find that it splits into two processes which are not only formally but also qualitatively different, and even contradictory:
(1) The worker sells his commodity, labour, which has a use value, and, as commodity, also a price, like all other commodities , for a specific sum of exchange values, specific sum of money, which capital concedes to him.
(2) The capitalist obtains labour itself, labour as value- positing activity, as productive labour; i.e. he obtains the productive force which maintains and multiplies capital, and which thereby becomes the productive force, the reproductive force of capital, a force belonging to capital itself". [p.274].
B. Landed property and the evolution to full-scale capitalist production
"The question is now, how does the transition from landed property to wage labour come about? ... Agriculture, driven by capital, transforms itself into industrial agronomy... the cottiers, serfs, bondsmen, tenants for life, cottagers etc. become day labourers, wage labourers, i.e. ... wage labour in its totality is initially created by the action of capital on landed property... Wage labour in its classic form, as something permeating the entire expanse of society, which has replaced the very earth as the ground on which society stands, is initially created only by modern landed property.." [p.276-7].
"Production resting on capital and wage labour differs from other modes of production not merely formally, but equally presupposes a total revolution and development of material production... The new forces of production and relations of production do not develop out of nothing, nor drop from the sky, nor from the womb of the self-positing Idea; but from within and in antithesis to the existing development of production and the inherited, traditional relations of property." [p.277-8].
"One of the presuppositions of [wage labour] is not only landed property in general, but modern landed property; landed property which, as capitalized rent, is expensive, and which, as such, excludes the direct use of the soil by individuals.." [p.278].
C. The exchange-value of labour (of what Marx will later call labour-power)
"The exchange value of [the worker's] commodity cannot be determined by the manner in which its buyer uses it, but only by the amount of objectified labour contained in it; hence, here, by the amount of labour required to reproduce the worker himself. For the use value which he offers exists only as an ability, a capacity [Vermögen] of his bodily existence; has no existence apart from that. The labour objectified in that use value is the objectified labour necessary bodily to maintain not only the general substance in which his labour power exists, i.e. the worker himself, but also that required to modify this general substance so as to develop its particular capacity". [p.282-3].
"Instead of aiming their amazement in this direction—and considering the worker to owe a debt to capital for the fact that he is alive at all, and can repeat certain life processes every day as soon as he has eaten and slept enough—these whitewashing sycophants of bourgeois economics should rather have fixed their attention on the fact that, after constantly repeated labour, he always has only his living, direct labour itself to exchange. The repetition itself is in fact only apparent. What he exchanges for capital is his entire labouring capacity, which he spends, say, in 20 years. Instead of paying him for it in a lump sum, capital pays him in small doses, as he places it at capital's disposal, say weekly. This alters absolutely nothing in the nature of the thing and gives no grounds whatsoever for concluding that—because the worker has to sleep 10-12 hours before he becomes capable of repeating his labour and his exchange with capital—labour forms his capital". [p.293-4].
"Labour as absolute poverty: poverty not as shortage, but as total exclusion of objective wealth... Thus, it is not at all contradictory, or, rather, the in-every-way mutually contradictory statements that labour is absolute poverty as object, on one side, and is, on the other side, the general possibility of wealth as subject and as activity, are reciprocally determined and follow from the essence of labour, such as it is presupposed by capital as its contradiction and as its contradictory being, and such as it, in turn, presupposes capital". [p.296].
"The worker cannot become rich in this exchange, since, in exchange for his labour capacity as a fixed, available magnitude, he surrenders its creative power, like Esau his birthright for a mess of pottage. Rather, he necessarily impoverishes himself, as we shall see further on, because the creative power of his labour establishes itself as the power of capital, as an alien power confronting him. He divests himself [entaüssert sich] of labour as the force productive of wealth; capital appropriates it, as such...
"The productivity of his labour, his labour in general, in so far as it is not a capacity but a motion, real labour, comes to confront the worker as an alien power; capital, inversely, realizes itself through the appropriation of alien labour". [p.307].
"The worker emerges not only not richer, but emerges rather poorer from the process than he entered. For not only has he produced the conditions of necessary labour as conditions belonging to capital; but also the value-creating possibility, the realization [Verwertung] which lies as a possibility within him, now likewise exists as surplus value, surplus product, in a word as capital, as master over living labour capacity, as value endowed with its own might and will, confronting him in his abstract, objectless, purely subjective poverty. He has produced not only the alien wealth and his own poverty, but also the relation of this wealth as independent, self-sufficient wealth, relative to himself as the poverty which this wealth consumes, and from which wealth thereby draws new vital spirits into itself, and realizes itself anew". [p.453].
See also F, below.
D. The nature of the "labour" which exchanges with capital
"As the use value which confronts money posited as capital, labour is not this or another labour, but labour pure and simple, abstract labour; absolutely indifferent to its particular specificity [Bestimmtheit], but capable of all specificities... [By contrast] in guild and craft labour, where capital itself still has a limited form, and is still entirely immersed in a particular substance, hence is not yet capital as such, labour, too, appears as still immersed in its particular specificity: not in the totality and abstraction of labour as such, in which it confronts capital...
"Here it can be seen once again that... the relation of production... becomes real only with the development of a particular material mode of production and of a particular stage in the development of the industrial productive forces". [p.296-7]
E. How the worker's sort of poverty is different
The wage is not a fixed bare physical-subsistence minimum.
"[The worker] becomes co-participant in general wealth up to the limit of his equivalent -- a quantitative limit which, of course, turns into a qualitative one, as in every exchange. But he is neither bound to particular objects, nor to a particular manner of satisfaction. The sphere of his consumption is not qualitatively restricted, only quantitatively. This distinguishes him from the slave, serf etc... [This] gives [workers] as consumers... an entirely different importance as agents of production from that which they possessed e.g. in antiquity or in the Middle Ages, or now possess in Asia". [p.283].
Moreover, the "semblance [of equality in the exchange] exists, nevertheless, as an illusion on his [the worker's] part and to a certain degree on the other side, and thus essentially modifies his relation by comparison to that of workers in other social modes of production". [p.284].
Capitalists demand that their workers scrimp and save. But this can be done effectively only by exceptional individual workers. If the working class as a whole were to follow the advice of the bourgeois preachers of thrift, it would lead to "brutalisation", "the level of wage labour where the most animal minimum of needs and subsistence appears to [the worker] as the sole object and purpose of his exchange with capital" [p.285].
"The worker's participation in the higher, even cultural satisfactions, the agitation for his own interests, newspaper subscriptions, attending lectures, educating his children, developing his taste etc., his only share of civilization which distinguishes him from the slave, is economically only possible by widening the sphere of his pleasures at the times when business is good, where saving is to a certain degree possible..." Moreover, the capitalist simultaneously encourages other workers (not his own employees) to consume, to spend. "In spite of all 'pious' speeches he therefore searches for means to spur them on to consumption, to give his wares new charms, to inspire them with new needs by constant chatter etc. It is precisely this side of the relation of capital and labour which is an essential civilizing moment, and on which the historic justification, but also the contemporary power of capital rests". [p.287].
See also G and J, below.
F. The "productivity of capital"
"All the progress of civilization, or in other words every increase in the powers of social production[gesellschaftliche Produktivkräfte], if you like, in the productive powers of labour itself— such as results from science, inventions, division and combination of labour, improved means of communication, creation of the world market, machinery etc. - enriches not the worker but rather capital; hence it only magnifies again the power dominating over labour; increases only the productive power of capital. Since capital is the antithesis of the worker, this merely increases the objective power standing over labour...
"Those who demonstrate that the productive force ascribed to capital is a displacement, a transposition of the productive force of labour, forget precisely that capital itself is essentially this displacement, this transposition, and that wage labour as such presupposes capital, so that, from its standpoint as well, capital is this transubstantiation; the necessary process of positing its own powers as alien to the worker. Therefore, the demand that wage labour be continued but capital suspended is self-contradictory, self-dissolving..."
It is nonsense when "Say speaks of the 'productive service of capital', on which remuneration is supposed to be based, as if the instrument of labour as such were entitled to thanks from the worker, and as if it were not precisely because of him that it is posited as instrument of labour, as productive. This presupposes the autonomy of the instrument of labour, i.e. of its social character, i.e. its character as capital, in order to derive the privileges of capital from it". [p.308-9].
"Labour itself progressively extends and gives an ever wider and fuller existence to the objective world of wealth as a power alien to labour". [p.455].
G. The self-strengthening of capital through its accumulation of surplus labour also has another side...
See also E, above, and J, below.
"The great historic quality of capital is to create this surplus labour, superfluous labour from the standpoint of mere use value, mere subsistence; and its historic destiny [Bestimmung] is fulfilled as soon as...
on one side, there has been such a development of needs that surplus labour above and beyond necessity has itself become a general need arising out of individual needs themselves...
and, on the other side, when the severe discipline of capital, acting on succeeding generations [Geschlechter], has developed general industriousness as the general property of the new species [Geschlecht]...
and, finally, when the development of the productive powers of labour, which capital incessantly whips onward with its unlimited mania for wealth, and of the sole conditions in which this mania can be realized, have flourished to the stage where the possession and preservation of general wealth require a lesser labour time of society as a whole, and where the labouring society relates scientifically to the process of its progressive reproduction, its reproduction in a constantly greater abundance; hence...
where labour in which a human being does what a thing could do has ceased...
Capital's ceaseless striving towards the general form of wealth drives labour beyond the limits of its natural paltriness [Naturbedürftigkeit], and thus creates the material elements for the development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its consumption, and whose labour also therefore appears no longer as labour, but as the full development of activity itself, in which natural necessity in its direct form has disappeared; because a historically created need has taken the place of the natural one". [p.325].
See also J, below.
H. Absolute and relative surplus value
"The increase of values is therefore the result of the self-realization of capital; [regardless of] whether this self-realization is the result of absolute surplus time or of relative, i.e. of a real increase in absolute labour time or of an increase in relative surplus labour, i.e. of a decrease in the fractional part of the working day which is required as labour time necessary to preserve the labouring capacity, as necessary labour in general". [p.359].
(But in the Grundrisse Marx focuses almost exclusively on relative surplus time, mentioning absolute surplus time "only in passing" [p.399] rather than giving it a lengthy consideration, as in Capital).
"It is sometimes said about machinery, therefore, that it saves labour; however... the mere saving of labour is not the characteristic thing; for, with the help of machinery, human labour performs actions and creates things which without it would be absolutely impossible of accomplishment. The latter concerns the use value of machinery. What is characteristic is the saving of necessary labour and the creating of surplus labour". [p.389]
I. Classes and surplus labour
"The creation of surplus labour on the one side corresponds to the creation of minus-labour, relative idleness (or not-productive labour at best), on the other. This goes without saying as regards capital itself; but holds then also for the classes with which it shares; hence of the paupers, flunkeys, lickspittles etc. living from the surplus product, in short, the whole train of retainers; the part of the servant [dienenden] class which lives not from capital but from revenue. Essential difference between this servant class and the working class". [p.401].
J. Capital's creation of new needs
(See also E and G, above)
"A precondition of production based on capital is therefore the production of a constantly widening sphere of circulation, whether the sphere itself is directly expanded or whether more points within it are created as points of production. While circulation appeared at first as a constant magnitude, it here appears as a moving magnitude, being expanded by production itself...
The tendency to create the world market is directly given in the concept of capital itself....
The production of relative surplus value, i.e. production of surplus value based on the increase and development of the productive forces, requires the production of new consumption... creation of new needs by propagating existing ones in a wide circle... production of new needs and discovery and creation of new use values...
[Thus] the cultivation of all the qualities of the social human being, production of the same in a form as rich as possible in needs, because rich in qualities and relations -- production of this being as the most total and universal possible social product, for, in order to take gratification in a many-sided way, he must be capable of many pleasures [genussfähig], hence cultured to a high degree -- is likewise a condition of production founded on capital....
Just as production founded on capital creates universal industriousness on one side... so does it create on the other side a system of general exploitation of the natural and human qualities... while there appears nothing higher in itself, nothing legitimate for itself, outside this circle of social production and exchange...
Hence the great civilizing influence of capital; its production of a stage of society in comparison to which all earlier ones appear as mere local developments of humanity and as nature-idolatry...
Capital drives beyond national barriers and prejudices as much as beyond nature worship, as well as all traditional, confined, complacent, encrusted satisfactions of present needs, and reproductions of old ways of life. It is destructive towards all of this, and constantly revolutionizes it..." [p.409-410].
K. Capital in general
"Capital in general, as distinct from the particular real capitals, is itself a real existence... For example, capital in this general form, although belonging to individual capitalists, in its elemental form as capital, forms the capital which accumulates in the banks or is distributed through them..." [p.449].
(But Marx does not expand here on this question of capital in general).
L. The inversion of the right of property: the reproduction of the capital-labour relation
"The right of property is inverted, to become, on the one side, the right to appropriate alien labour, and, on the other, the duty of respecting the product of one's own labour, and one's own labour itself, as values belonging to others. The exchange of equivalents... which appeared as the original operation... has become turned round... the part of capital which is exchanged for living labour capacity, firstly, is itself alien labour... and, secondly, has to be replaced with a surplus by living labour capacity, is thus in fact not consigned away, but merely changed from one form into another. The relation of exchange has thus dropped away entirely, or is a mere semblance...
The result of the process of production and realization is, above all, the reproduction and new production of the relation of capital and labour itself, of capitalist and worker. This social relation, production relation, appears in fact as an even more important result of the process than its material results... The capitalist produces the worker, and the worker the capitalist etc". [p.458]