Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Key passages from pp.533-690

The universalising tendency of capital

While capital must on one side strive to tear down every spatial barrier to intercourse, i.e. to exchange, and conquer the whole earth for its market, it strives on the other side to annihilate this space with time, i.e. to reduce to a minimum the time spent in motion from one place to another. The more developed the capital, therefore, the more extensive the market over which it circulates, which forms the spatial orbit of its circulation, the more does it strive simultaneously for an even greater extension of the market and for greater annihilation of space by time...
There appears here the universalizing tendency of capital, which distinguishes it from all previous stages of production. Although limited by its very nature, it strives towards the universal development of the forces of production, and thus becomes the presupposition of a new mode of production, which is founded not on the development of the forces of production for the purpose of reproducing or at most expanding a given condition, but where the free, unobstructed, progressive and universal development of the forces of production is itself the presupposition of society and hence of its reproduction; where advance beyond the point of departure is the only presupposition.
This tendency -- which capital possesses, but which at the same time, since capital is a limited form of production, contradicts it and hence drives it towards dissolution -- distinguishes capital from all earlier modes of production, and at the same time contains this element, that capital is posited as a mere point of transition.
All previous forms of society... foundered on the development of wealth. Those thinkers of antiquity who were possessed of consciousness therefore directly denounced wealth as the dissolution of the community. The feudal system, for its part, foundered on urban industry, trade, modern agriculture (even as a result of individual inventions like gunpowder and the printing press).
With the development of wealth -- and hence also new powers and expanded intercourse on the part of individuals -- the economic conditions on which the community rested were dissolved, along with the political relations of the various constituents of the community which corresponded to those conditions...
Capital posits the production of wealth itself and hence the universal development of the productive forces, the constant overthrow of its prevailing presuppositions, as the presupposition of its reproduction. Value excludes no use value; i.e. includes no particular kind of consumption etc., of intercourse etc. as absolute condition; and likewise every degree of the development of the social forces of production, of intercourse, of knowledge etc. appears to it only as a barrier which it strives to overpower...
The barrier to capital is that this entire development proceeds in a contradictory way, and that the working-out of the productive forces, of general wealth etc., knowledge etc., appears in such a way that the working individual alienates himself; relates to the conditions brought out of him by his labour as those not of his own but of an alien wealth and of his own poverty. But this antithetical form... produces the real conditions of its own suspension.
The result is: the tendentially and potentially general development of the forces of production -- of wealth as such -- as a basis; likewise, the universality of intercourse, hence the world market as a basis. The basis as the possibility of the universal development of the individual... [p.539-541].


Competition may well even out, equalize the level of profit, but in no way creates the measure of this level. Likewise, competition among the workers could press down a higher wages level etc., but the general standard of wages, or as Ricardo puts it the natural price of wages, could not be explained by the competition between worker and worker, but only by the original relation between capital and labour.
Competition generally, this essential locomotive force of the bourgeois economy, does not establish its laws, but is rather their executor. Unlimited competition is therefore not the presupposition for the truth of the economic laws, but rather the consequence -- the form of appearance in which their necessity realizes itself. For the economists to presuppose, as does Ricardo, that unlimited competition exists is to presuppose the full reality and realization of the bourgeois relations of production in their specific and distinct character. Competition therefore does not explain these laws; rather, it lets them be seen, but does not produce them. [p.552].

The economic effects of competition

Competition may well even out, equalize the level of profit, but in no way creates the measure of this level. Likewise, competition among the workers could press down a higher wages level etc., but the general standard of wages... could not be explained by the competition between worker and worker, but only by the original relation between capital and labour.
Competition generally, this essential locomotive force of the bourgeois economy, does not establish its laws, but is rather their executor. Unlimited competition is therefore not the presupposition for the truth of the economic laws, but rather the consequence -- the form of appearance in which their necessity realizes itself. For the economists to presuppose, as does Ricardo, that unlimited competition exists is to presuppose the full reality and realization of the bourgeois relations of production in their specific and distinct character. Competition therefore does not explain these laws; rather, it lets them be seen, but does not produce them. [p.552].
The laws of capital are completely realized only within unlimited competition and industrial production. Capital develops adequately on the latter productive basis and in the former relation of production; i.e. its immanent laws enter completely into reality. Since this is so, it would have to be shown how this unlimited competition and industrial production are conditions of the realization of capital, conditions which it must itself little by little produce... [p.559-60].
Production founded on capital for the first time posits itself in the forms adequate to it only in so far as and to the extent that free competition develops, for it is the free development of the mode of production founded on capital; the free development of its conditions and of itself as the process which constantly reproduces these conditions...
But free competition is the adequate form of the productive process of capital. The further it is developed, the purer the forms in which its motion appear...
Competition merely expresses as real, posits as an external necessity, that which lies within the nature of capital; competition is nothing more than the way in which the many capitals force the inherent determinants of capital upon one another and upon themselves... [p.649-51].

Competition and freedom

By some bourgeois economists, so Marx comments, free economic competition is seen:
... as the absolute mode of existence of free individuality in the sphere of consumption and of exchange. Nothing can be more mistaken...
It is not individuals who are set free by free competition; it is, rather, capital which is set free... Free competition is the real development of capital...
Free competition... is nothing more than free development on a limited basis — the basis of the rule of capital. This kind of individual freedom is therefore at the same time the most complete suspension of all individual freedom, and the most complete subjugation of individuality under social conditions which assume the form of objective powers, even of overpowering objects — of things independent of the relations among individuals themselves.
The analysis of what free competition really is, is the only rational reply to the middle-class prophets who laud it to the skies or to the socialists who damn it to hell... The assertion that free competition = the ultimate form of the development of the forces of production and hence of human freedom means nothing other than that middle-class rule is the culmination of world history - certainly an agreeable thought for the parvenus of the day before yesterday. [p.649-52].

Labour and labour-power

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... Labour capacity's own labour is as alien to it -- and it really is, as regards its direction etc. -- as are material and instrument. Which is why the product then appears to it as a combination of alien material, alien instrument and alien labour - as alien property, and why, after production, it has become poorer by the life forces expended, but otherwise begins the drudgery anew...
What the capitalist acquires through exchange is labour capacity: this is the exchange value which he pays for. Living labour is the use value which this exchange value has for him, and out of this use value springs the surplus value and the suspension of exchange as such. Because Ricardo allows exchange with living labour -- and thus falls straight into the production process -- it remains an insoluble antinomy in his system that a certain quantity of living labour does not = the commodity which it creates, in which it objectifies itself, although the value of the commodity = to the amount of labour contained in it... [p.561-2].
Wages, however, express the value of living labour capacity, but in no way the value of living labour, which is expressed, rather, in wages + profit... The amount of labour which the worker works is very different from the amount of labour that is worked up into his labour capacity... He does not sell as commodity the use made of him, he sells himself not as cause but as effect. [p.571].
Labour capacity is not = to the living labour which it can do, = to the quantity of labour which it can get done -- this is its use value. It is equal to the quantity of labour by means of which it must itself be produced and can be reproduced. The product is thus in fact exchanged not for living labour, but for objectified labour, labour objectified in labour capacity. [p.576].
What is exchanged for wages is labour capacity, and this does not figure in production at all, but only in the use made of it -- labour. Labour appears as the instrument of the production of value because it is not paid for, hence not represented by wages. As the activity which creates use values, it likewise has nothing to do with itself as paid labour. In the hand of the worker, the wage is no longer a wage, but a consumption fund. It is wages only in the hand of the capitalist, i.e. the part of capital destined to be exchanged for labour capacity. It has reproduced a saleable labour capacity for the capitalist, so that in this regard even the worker's consumption takes place in the service of the capitalist. He does not pay for labour itself at all, only for labour capacity. [p.593-4].
The capitalist does not exchange capital directly for labour or labour time; but rather time contained, worked up in commodities, for time contained, worked up in living labour capacity. The living labour time he gets in exchange is not the exchange value, but the use value of labour capacity...
The exchange which proceeds between capitalist and worker thus corresponds completely to the laws of exchange; it not only corresponds to them, but also is their highest development. For, as long as labour capacity does not itself exchange itself, the foundation of production does not yet rest on exchange, but exchange is rather merely a narrow circle resting on a foundation of non-exchange, as in all stages preceding bourgeois production.
But the use value of the value the capitalist has acquired through exchange is... more labour time than is objectified in labour capacity, i.e. more labour time than the reproduction of the living worker costs. Hence, by virtue of having acquired labour capacity in exchange as an equivalent, capital has acquired labour time -- to the extent that it exceeds the labour time contained in labour capacity -- in exchange without equivalent; it has appropriated alien labour time without exchange by means of the form of exchange... and, as we saw, in the further development of capital even the semblance is suspended that capital exchanges for labour capacity anything other than the latter's own objectified labour; i.e. that it exchanges anything at all for it...
Thus the exchange turns into its opposite, and the laws of private property -- liberty, equality, property -- property in one's own labour, and free disposition over it -- turn into the worker's propertylessness, and the dispossession of his labour, [i.e.] the fact that he relates to it as alien property... [p.673-4].

The workers' combination as the capitalists' property

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 combination of this 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].
[In some industries, like mining, there is worker cooperation even before they are taken over by capital. There] capital does not create but rather takes over the accumulation and concentration of workers... [Or sometimes in its early stages] capital employs different hand weavers, spinners etc. who live independently and are dispersed over the land... Their unification by capital is thus merely formal, and concerns only the product of labour, not labour itself...
[Later capital] gathers them [the workers] in one spot under its command, into one manufactory, and no longer leaves them in the mode of production found already in existence, establishing its power on that basis, but rather creates a mode of production corresponding to itself, as its basis. It posits the concentration of the workers in production, a unification which will occur initially only in a common location, under overseers, regimentation, greater discipline, regularity... Now capital appears as the collective force of the workers, their social force, as well as that which ties them together, and hence as the unity which creates this force. [p.586-7]
'This continual progression of knowledge and of experience,' says Babbage, 'is our great power.' This progression, this social progress belongs [to] and is exploited by capital. All earlier forms of property condemn the greater part of humanity, the slaves, to be pure instruments of labour. Historical development, political development, art, science etc. take place in higher circles over their heads. But only capital has subjugated historical progress to the service of wealth. [p.589-90].


It is already contained in the concept of the free labourer, that he is a pauper: virtual pauper. According to his economic conditions he is merely a living labour capacity, hence equipped with the necessaries of life... [But] he can live as a worker only in so far as he exchanges his labour capacity for that part of capital which forms the labour fund. This exchange is tied to conditions which are accidental for him, and indifferent to his organic presence. He is thus a virtual pauper.
Since it is further the condition of production based on capital that he produces ever more surplus labour, it follows that ever more necessary labour is set free. Thus the chances of his pauperism increase. To the development of surplus labour corresponds that of the surplus population.
In different modes of social production there are different laws of the increase of population and of overpopulation... Only in the mode of production based on capital does pauperism appear as the result of labour itself, of the development of the productive force of labour. [p.604].

Labour as a curse in capitalist society; as substance of value; as self-realisation in future society

This is labour for Smith, a curse. 'Tranquillity' appears as the adequate state, as identical with 'freedom' and 'happiness'. It seems quite far from Smith's mind that the individual, 'in his normal state of health, strength, activity, skill, facility', also needs a normal portion of work, and of the suspension of tranquillity...
The overcoming of obstacles is in itself a liberating activity - and that, further, the external aims [of labour] become stripped of the semblance of merely external natural urgencies, and become posited as aims which the individual himself posits - hence as self-realization, objectification of the subject, hence real freedom, whose action is, precisely, labour.
He [Adam Smith] is right, of course, that, in its historic forms as slave-labour, serf-labour, and wage-labour, labour always appears as repulsive, always as external forced labour; and not-labour, by contrast, as 'freedom, and happiness'... [p.611].
For example, even the semi-artistic worker of the Middle Ages does not fit into his definition. [p.612].

[When] labour becomes attractive work, the individual's self-realization, [that] in no way means that it becomes mere fun, mere amusement, as Fourier... conceives it. Really free working, e.g. composing, is at the same time precisely the most damned seriousness, the most intense exertion.
The work of material production can achieve this character only (1) when its social character is posited, (2) when it is of a scientific and at the same time general character, not merely human exertion as a specifically harnessed natural force, but exertion as subject, which appears in the production process not in a merely natural, spontaneous form, but as an activity regulating all the forces of nature... [p.611-2]

Labour regarded merely as a sacrifice... is a purely negative characterization. This is why Mr Senior, for example, was able to make capital into a source of production in the same sense as labour, a source sui generis of the production of value, because the capitalist too brings a sacrifice, the sacrifice of abstinence, in that he grows wealthy instead of eating up his product directly. Something that is merely negative creates nothing. If the worker should, e.g. enjoy his work - as the miser certainly enjoys Senior's abstinence - then the product does not lose any of its value... [p.612].

Two things are only commensurable if they are of the same nature. Products can be measured with the measure of labour — labour time — only because they are, by their nature, labour. They are objectified labour.
As objects they assume forms in which their being as labour... has, apart from itself, no other features in common. They exist as equals as long as they exist as activity. The latter is measured by time, which therefore also becomes the measure of objectified labour...
In so far as the product has a measure for itself, it is its natural measure as natural object, mass, weight, length, volume etc. Measure of utility etc. But as effect, or as static presence of the force which created it, it is measured only by the measure of this force itself. The measure of labour is time.
Only because products are labour can they be measured by the measure of labour, by labour time, the amount of labour consumed in them.
The negation of tranquillity, as mere negation, ascetic sacrifice, creates nothing. Someone may castigate and flagellate himself all day long like the monks etc., and this quantity of sacrifice he contributes will remain totally worthless. The natural price of things is not the sacrifice made for them. This recalls, rather, the pre-industrial view which wants to achieve wealth by sacrificing to the gods. There has to be something besides sacrifice... [p.613].

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