Sunday, December 17, 2006


Key passages, pp. 458-533

Labour-power and labour

"Living labour itself appears as alien vis-à-vis living labour capacity, whose labour it is, whose own life's expression it is, for it has been surrendered to capital in exchange for objectified labour, for the product of labour itself. Labour capacity relates to its labour as to an alien". [p.462].

Defining wage-labour

"(1)... living labour capacity... separated from the means of living labour as well as from the means of existence...
(2) ... accumulation... sufficiently large... for the absorption of surplus labour...
(3) a free exchange relation - money-circulation - between both sides...
(4) ... money-making as the ultimate purpose..." [p.463-4].

Analysis of the present, and description of history

"In order to develop the laws of bourgeois economy... it is not necessary to write the real history of the relations of production. But the correct observation and deduction of those laws... always leads to primary equations - like the empirical numbers e.g. in natural science - which point towards a past lying behind this system. These indications, together with a correct grasp of the present, then also offer the key to the understanding of the past - a work in its own right... This correct view likewise leads at the same time to the points at which the suspension of the present form of production relations gives signs of its becoming..."
"The bourgeois economists... attempt... to legitimise [capital] by formulating the conditions of its becoming as the conditions of its contemporary realisation, i.e. presenting the moments in which the capitalist still appropriates as non-capitalist... as the very conditions in which he appropriates as capitalist". [p.460].

Wage-payment without capitalist wage-labour

"The entire class of so-called services from the bootblack up to the king falls into this category. Likewise the free day-labourer... In Asiatic societies... whole cities arise... from the exchange of [the monarch's] revenue with the 'free hands'... The pay of the common soldier is also reduced to a minimum... but he exchanges the performance of his services not for capital, but for the revenue of the state..." [p.467].
"In bourgeois society itself, all exchange of personal services for revenue - ... cooking, sewing etc., garden work etc., up to and including... civil servants, physicians, lawyers, scholars, etc. - belongs under this rubric, within this category..." [p.468].

"Capital is the existence of social labour"

"The combination of... labour appears... subservient to and led by an alien will and an alien intelligence - having its animating unity elsewhere... Just as the worker relates to the product of his labour as an alien thing, so does he relate to the combination of labour as an alien combination, as well as to his own labour as an expression of his life, which, although it belongs to him, is alien to him and coerced from him... Communal or combined labour... is... posited as an other towards the really existing individual labour - as an alien objectivity (alien property) as well as an alien subjectivity (of capital)... Capital... is the existence of social labour" [p.470-1].
"The collective power of labour, its character as social labour, is... the collective power of capital. Likewise science. Likewise the division of labour... All social powers of production are productive powers of capital, and it appears as itself their subject. The association of the workers, as it appears in the factory, is therefore not posited by them but by capital. Their combination is not their being, but the being of capital. Vis-à-vis the individual worker, the combination appears accidental. He relates to his own combination and cooperation with other workers as alien, as modes of capital's effectiveness". [p.585].

The sequence of pre-capitalist societies

"Above all... dissolution of small, free landed property as well as of communal landownership resting on the oriental commune". [p.471].
Three communal forms:
(1) The "Asiatic" form. The despot, "the comprehensive unity standing above all these little communities appears as the higher proprietor or as the sole proprietor; the real communities hence only as hereditary possessors... The surplus product... automatically belongs to this highest unity [the despot]... Clan or communal property exists in fact as the foundation, created mostly by a combination of manufactures and agriculture within the small commune, which thus becomes altogether self-sustaining... A part of their surplus labour belongs to the higher community... and this surplus labour takes the form of tribute etc., as well as of common labour for the... despot" and religious purposes. [p.473].
(2) The "Roman" form. This "presupposes as base not the countryside, but the town as an already created seat (centre) of the rural population (owners of land). The cultivated field here appears as a territorium belonging to the town; not the village as mere accessory to the land". [p.474]. The society is dominated by war between communes over land. "Hence the commune consisting of families initially organized in a warlike way - as a system of war and army... The concentration of residences in the town, basis of this bellicose organization... Communal property - as state property, ager publicus - here separated from private property... Membership in the commune remains the presupposition for the appropriation of land and soil, but, as a member of the commune, the individual is a private proprietor." [p.474-5].
(3) The "Germanic" form. "In the Germanic form, the agriculturist not citizen of a state, i.e. not inhabitant of a city; [the] basis [is] rather the isolated, independent family residence, guaranteed by the bond with other such family residences of the same tribe, and by their occasional coming-together to pledge each others' allegiance in war, religion, adjudication etc. Individual landed property here appears neither as a form antithetical to the commune's landed property, nor as mediated by it, but just the contrary. The commune exists only in the interrelations among these individual landed proprietors as such... [It] is really the common property of the individual proprietors, not of the union of these proprietors endowed with an existence separate from themselves, the city itself". [p.484-5]
The three forms produce different relations of town and country:
"The history of classical antiquity is the history of cities, but of cities founded on landed property and on agriculture; Asiatic history is a kind of indifferent unity of town and countryside (the really large cities must be regarded here merely as royal camps...); the Middle Ages (Germanic period) begins with the land as the seat of history, whose further development then moves forward in the contradiction between town and countryside". [p.479].

Emancipation from the commune

"The reproduction of presupposed relations... of the individual to his commune, together with a specific, objective existence, predetermined for the individual, of his relations both to the conditions of labour and to his co-workers, fellow tribesmen etc. - are the foundation of development, which is therefore from the outset restricted...
Great developments can take place here within a specific sphere. The individuals may appear great. But there can be no conception here of a free and full development either of the individual or of the society, since such development stands in contradiction to the original relation.
Do we never find in antiquity an inquiry into which form of landed property etc. is the most productive, creates the greatest wealth? Wealth does not appear as the aim of production, although Cato may well investigate which manner of cultivating a field brings the greatest rewards, and Brutus may even lend out his money at the best rates of interest. The question is always which mode of property creates the best citizens. Wealth appears as an end in itself only among the few commercial peoples -monopolists of the carrying trade - who live in the pores of the ancient world, like the Jews in medieval society...
Thus the old view, in which the human being appears as the aim of production, regardless of his limited national, religious, political character, seems to be very lofty when contrasted to the modern world, where production appears as the aim of mankind and wealth as the aim of production.
In fact, however, when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of individual needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces etc., created through universal exchange? The full development of human mastery over the forces of nature, those of so-called nature as well as of humanity's own nature? The absolute working-out of his creative potentialities, with no presupposition other than the previous historic development, which makes this totality of development, i.e. the development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a predetermined yardstick? Where he does not reproduce himself in one specificity, but produces his totality? Strives not to remain something he has become, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?
In bourgeois economics - and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds - this complete working-out of the human content appears as a complete emptying-out, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the tearing-down of all limited, one-sided aims as sacrifice of the human end-in-itself to an entirely external end. This is why the childish world of antiquity appears on one side as loftier..." [p.487-8].
"In this [old] community, the objective being of the individual as proprietor, say proprietor of land, is presupposed, and presupposed moreover under certain conditions which chain him to the community, or rather form a link in his chain. In bourgeois society, the worker e.g. stands there purely without objectivity, subjectively; but the thing which stands opposite him has now become the true community, which he tries to make a meal of, and which makes a meal of him". [p.496].

The transition to capitalism

The transition "presupposes a process of history which dissolves the various forms in which the worker is a proprietor, or in which the proprietor works. Thus above all:
(1) Dissolution of the [worker's] relation to the earth - land and soil... [of] all forms... [of] community, whose members, although there may be formal distinctions between them, are, as members of it, proprietors...
(2) Dissolution of the relations in which [the worker] appears as proprietor of the instrument [of production]... Property of the worker in the instrument [of production] presuppose[s] a particular form of the development of manufactures, namely craft, artisan work; bound up with it, the guild-corporation system etc...
(3) [Dissolution of situations where the worker] has the means of consumption in his possession before production, which are necessary for him to live as producer... As proprietor of land he appears as directly provided with the necessary consumption fund. As master in a craft he has inherited it, earned it, saved it up... as an apprentice.. he... shares the master's fare in a patriarchal way...
(4) Dissolution likewise at the same time of the relations in which the workers themselves, the living labour capacities themselves, still belong directly among the objective conditions of production, and are appropriated as such - i.e. are slaves or serfs..." [p.497-8].
"The same process which placed the mass face to face with the objective conditions of labour as free workers also placed these conditions, as capital, face to face with the free workers... The separation of the objective conditions [the means of production] from the classes which have become transformed into free workers necessarily also appears at the same time as the achievement of independence by these same conditions at the opposite pole". [p.503].
"Capital proper does nothing but bring together the mass of hands and instruments which it finds on hand... There can... be nothing be nothing more ridiculous than to conceive this original formation of capital as if capital had stockpiled and created the objective conditions of production - necessaries, raw materials, instrument - and then offered them to the worker, who was bare of these possessions. Rather, monetary wealth in part helped to strip the labour powers of able-bodied individuals from these conditions..." [p.508-9].


"All general conditions of production, such as roads, canals, etc... presuppose, in order to be undertaken by capital instead of by the government which represents the community as such, the highest development of production founded on capital. The separation of public works from the state, and their migration into the domain of the works undertaken by capital itself, indicates the degree to which the real community has constituted itself in the form of capital..." [p.531].
"The highest development of capital exists when the general conditions of the process of social production are not paid out of deductions from the social revenue, the state's taxes - where revenue and not capital appears as the labour fund, and where the worker, although he is a free wage worker like any other, nevertheless stands economically in a different relation - but rather out of capital as capital. This shows the degree to which capital has subjugated all conditions of social production to itself, on one side; and, on the other side, hence, the extent to which social reproductive wealth has been capitalized, and all needs are satisfied through the exchange form; as well as the extent to which the socially posited needs of the individual, i.e. those which he consumes and feels not as a single individual in society, but communally with others - whose mode of consumption is social by the nature of the thing - are likewise not only consumed but also produced through exchange, individual exchange". [p.532].

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