Raya Dunavevskaya 1979

Lecture 9
Part V

It is important to note that this Part, entitled “The Production of Absolute and of Relative Surplus Value,” is not a mere summation of “The Production of Absolute Surplus Value” and “The Production of Relative Surplus Value,” but is a further determination of the predominant factor of these two modes of extracting surplus value. That is, on the combined basis of the production of absolute and of relative surplus value, it is first possible fully to grasp what the Belt-expansion of capital means. Here too we are able further to delineate the difference between what Marx calls the formal and the real subjection of labor to capital:

“The production of absolute surplus value turns exclusively upon the length of the working day; the production of relative surplus value, revolutionises out and out the technical processes of labor and the composition of society. If there-fore presupposes a specific mode, the capitalist mode of production, a mode which along with its methods, means, and conditions, arises and develops itself spontaneously on the foundation afforded by the formal subjection of labour to capital. In the course of this development, the formal subjection is replaced by the real subjection of labour to capital.” (p. 559)

After considering the changes in magnitude in the price of labor-power and in surplus value, depending upon (1) the length of the working day, (2) normal intensity of labor, and (3) the productiveness of labor, Marx writes of the “Various Formulae for the Rate of Surplus Value” These formulae, which appear on pages 582-584 should be gone over carefully, for it is only then that we can understand Marx’s conclusion: “Capital, therefore, is not only, as Adam Smith says, the command over labour. It is essentially the command over unpaid labour. All surplus value, whatever particular form (profit, interest or rent), it may subsequently crystalise into, is in substance the materialisation of unpaid labour. The secret of the self-expansion of capital resolves itself into having the disposal of a definite quantity of other peopled unpaid labour.” (p. 585)


1. Now that you have covered the analysis of the entire process of production, what, in your opinion, is the central thesis of Marx’s analysis of the capitalist labor process?

Check this against a review of Parts III, IV and V.

2. What is the relationship between the laws of production and the historical sections on (a) the working day, (b) the factory acts. and (c)the development of capitalism from its cooperative to its manufacture stages?

3. How does the length of the working day influence the rate of surplus value? How does the intensity of labor influence it? State the different formulae for the rate of surplus value.

4. Write out a series of questions, covering all three parts on the production of surplus value, that you would have asked if you were teacher.