Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
Part 3) Relative Surplus Value
Source: MECW, Volume 34, p. 121-146;
Translated: by Ben Fowkes;
Written: May 1863;
Transcription: Andy Blunden, 2002.
(To be cited in addition to the above on the subsumption of the different spheres of production under capital:
“In the good old times, when ‘Live and let live’ was the general motto, every man was contented with one avocation. In the cotton trade, there were weavers, cotton-spinners, bleachers, dyers, and several other independent branches, all living upon the profits of their respective trades, and all, as might be expected, contented and happy. By and by, however, when the downward course of trade had proceeded to some extent, first one branch was adopted by the capitalist, and then another, till in time, the whole of the people were ousted, and thrown upon the market of labour, to find out a livelihood in the best manner they could. Thus, although no charter secures to these men the right to be cotton-spinners, manufacturers, printers, finishers, etc., yet the course of events has invested them with a monopoly of all... They have become Jack-of-all-trades, and as far as the country is concerned in the business, it is to be feared, they are masters of none” (Public Economy Concentrated etc., Carlisle, 1833, p. 56).
“One of two things ought to have resulted from the use of machinery, either that men should have laboured less, or that they should have more comforts. Unfortunately, neither of those things have happened. Men’s comforts have been lessened since the introduction of machinery; they have had to work double time, and infant labour has been called in to aid them, and even to work for their own daily bread... The Jewish historian has remarked upon the overthrow of Jerusalem, by Titus, that it was no wonder [that] it should have been destroyed, with such a signal destruction, when one inhuman mother sacrificed her offspring to satisfy the cravings of absolute hunger” * (l.c., [p.] 66).)
[XXI-1317] We have seen not only how capital produces, but how it is itself produced, and how it emerges from the production process as a relation changed in essence, how it develops in the production process. On the one hand it transforms the mode of production, on the other hand this changed shape of the mode of production, as well as the attainment of a specific level of development of the material forces of production, is the foundation and the condition — the presupposition — of capital’s own formation.
Since living labour is incorporated into capital — through the exchange between capital and the worker — since it appears as an activity belonging to capital, as soon as the labour process starts, all the productive powers of social labour present themselves as productive powers of capital, just as the general social form of labour appears in money as the quality of a thing. Thus the productive power of social labour, and the specific forms of it, now present themselves as productive powers and forms of capital, of objectified labour, of the objective conditions of labour, which — as such an independent entity — are personified in the capitalist and confront living labour. Here once again we have the inversion of the relation, the expression of which we have already characterised as fetishism in considering the nature of money.
The capitalist himself only holds power as the personification of capital. (In double-entry book-keeping this role he has as capitalist, as capital personified, is constantly counterposed to his existence as a mere person; in the latter capacity he only appears as a private consumer and debtor to his own capital.)
The productivity of capital consists first of all, even when it is only the formal subsumption of labour under capital that is being considered, in the compulsion to perform surplus labour; to work beyond the individual’s immediate needs. The capitalist mode of production shares this compulsion with previous modes of production, but exerts it, carries it out, in a manner more favourable to production.
Even from the point of view of this merely formal relation — the general form of capitalist production, which has its less developed mode in common with the more developed — the means of production, the objective conditions of labour — material of labour, means of labour (and means of subsistence) — do not appear as subsumed under the worker; rather, he appears as subsumed under them. He does not employ them, they employ him. And they are thereby capital. capital employs labour. The means of production are not means by which he can produce products, whether in the form of direct means of subsistence, or as means of exchange, as commodities. He is rather a means for them, partly to preserve their value, partly to valorise it, i.e. to increase it, to absorb surplus labour.
Even this relation in its simplicity is an inversion, a personification of the thing and a reification of the person, for what distinguishes this form from all previous ones is that the capitalist does not rule the worker in any kind of personal capacity, but only in so far as he is “capital”; his rule is only that of objectified labour over living labour; the rule of the worker’s product over the worker himself.
But the relation becomes still more complex — and apparently more mysterious — in that, with the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, not only do these directly material things — all of them products of labour, viewed from the angle of use value the objective conditions of labour as well as the products of labour, viewed from the angle of exchange value objectified general labour time, or money — stand on their hind legs vis-a-vis the worker and confront him as “capital”, but also the forms of socially developed labour, cooperation, manufacture (as a form of the division of labour), the factory (as a form of social labour organised on the material basis of machinery) appear as forms of the development of capital, and therefore the productive powers of labour, developed out of these forms of social labour, hence also science and the forces of nature, appear as productive forces of capital. In fact, unity in cooperation, combination in the division of labour , the application of the forces of nature and science, as well as the products of labour in the shape of machinery, for the purpose of production, are all things which confront the individual workers themselves as alien and objective, as a mere form of existence of the means of labour which are independent of them and rule over them — just as the means of labour, in their simple visible shape as material, instrument, etc., confront the workers as functions of capital and therefore functions of the capitalist. The social forms of their own labour, or the form of their own [XXI-1318] social labour, are relations constituted quite independently of the individual workers; the workers as subsumed under capital become elements of these social constructions, but these social constructions do not belong to them. They therefore confront the workers as shapes of capital itself, as combinations which, unlike their isolated labour capacities, belong to capital, originate from it and are incorporated within it. And this assumes a form which is the more real the more, on the one hand, their labour capacity is itself modified by these forms, so that it becomes powerless when it stands alone, i.e. outside this context of capitalism, and its capacity for independent production is destroyed, while on the other hand the development of machinery causes the conditions of labour to appear as ruling labour technologically too, and at the same time to replace it, suppress it, and render it superfluous in its independent forms. In this process, in which the social characteristics of their labour confront them as capitalised to a certain extent — in the way that e.g. in machinery the visible products of labour appear as ruling over labour — the same thing of course takes place for the forces of nature and science, the product of general historical development in its abstract quintessence: they confront the workers as powers of capital. They become in fact separated from the skill and knowledge of the individual worker, and although — if we look at them from the point of view of their source — they are in turn the product of labour, they appear as incorporated into capital wherever they enter the labour process. The capitalist who employs a machine does not need to understand it (see Ure). But vis-à-vis the workers, realised science appears in the machine as capital. And in fact all these applications of science, of the forces of nature and of large masses of products of labour — applications based on social labour — appear only as means of exploitation of labour, means of appropriating surplus labour, hence, vis-à-vis labour, as forces belonging to capital. Capital naturally employs all these means only to exploit labour, but in order to exploit labour, it must employ them in production. And thus the development of the social productive powers of labour and the conditions for this development appear as the work of capital, and not only does the individual worker relate passively to this work, it also takes place in antagonism to him.
Capital itself is dual since it consists of commodities.
Exchange value (money), but self-valorising value, value which creates value, grows as value, obtains an increment, through the fact that it is value. This can be reduced to the exchange of a given quantity of objectified labour for a greater quantity of living labour.
Use value, and here capital appears according to its particular situation in the labour process. But precisely here it does not just remain material of labour, means of labour to which labour belongs, and which have incorporated labour, but involves also, along with labour, its social combinations and the development of the means of labour which corresponds to these social combinations. Capitalist production first develops the conditions of the labour process on a large scale — first develops them separately from the single independent worker — developing both its objective and its subjective conditions, but developing them as powers which dominate the individual worker and are alien to him.
Thus capital becomes a very mysterious being.
Our investigation of profit differs from our investigation of surplus value in this way, among others: If surplus labour remains the same, profit may rise owing to the economical utilisation of communal conditions of labour, of which there are many kinds, e.g. savings on building costs, heating, lighting, etc.; or because the value of the prime motor does not rise in the same measure as its power increases, so that the value of the prime motor is not so costly for big factories as it is for scattered small workshops; economics in the prices of raw materials by purchase on a large scale (a point we shall not examine any further, since it presupposes the development of relations which do not come into consideration here, where we presuppose the value of the commodity as given, rather than market prices); savings where the transmission machinery is on a large scale; or due to the fact that waste products occur in such amounts that these excrements of production themselves again become saleable commodities (or [XXI-1319] are able to enter afresh as means of production into the reproduction of the same sphere of production or of another one); or savings deriving from a reduction in administration costs or from the fact that the masses of commodities concentrated in the warehouses do not become dearer in the same proportion but rather become relatively cheaper, etc. The whole of the economy in the use of these conditions of labour, all this relative cheapening of constant capital, while its absolute value increases and its ratio to variable capital grows, rests on the fact that the conditions of labour, raw material as much as the means of labour, etc., are employed communally, and this communal utilisation //concentration in a smaller space is one of the essential points here// has as its absolute presupposition the communal cooperation of a conglomeration of workers. This conglomeration of human beings involves the concentration of the conditions of labour, and the latter involves the relative cheapening of these conditions. Hence the relative cheapening of constant capital — which raises the profit when the surplus value is given — //the replacement of the means of transport, etc., must be added to this, as also that of the means of storing the commodities required for production// — is itself only an objective expression of the productive power of social labour, and follows from the social combination of labour alone. //And apart from this economy in the direct production process there is only one more change possible, a second change, in the value of the constant capital. This change proceeds from the cheapening of the elements of constant capital which are supplied to it from outside; an economising which is therefore not a result of the organisation of the labour process into which these commodities enter as elements. But these commodities are the result of another labour process in another sphere of production.// They appear, however, as independent of surplus labour and surplus value, since these are presupposed to them as given. That the worker delivers more of the product in the same time, on the other hand, is a result of cooperation, of the division of labour, and lastly of the association of his labour with machinery (natural forces) and methods of work (science). Machinery itself (just like chemical processes, etc.) is initially only the visible product of a combination of labour by head and hand; but in its employment it is the employment of combined labour, and it only produces surplus value as a means of exploiting to a higher degree the worker’s powers of labour and the combination of workers.
Science, the general intellectual product of social development, equally appears here as directly incorporated into capital (and the application of science as science to the material processes of production, separated from the knowledge and skill of the individual worker, proceeds from the social form of labour alone) as the forces of nature as such and the natural forces of social labour itself. Because it is exploited by capital against labour, because it acts as a productive power of capital over against labour, the general development of society as such equally appears as the development of capital, and the more so because the emptying of labour capacity [of all content], at least of the vast majority of labour capacities, proceeds at the same pace.
The material result of capitalist production — apart from the development of the productive powers of social labour itself, which here appear to be merely means for the exploitation of labour — is an increase in the amount of products, and all these means for the exploitation of labour equally appear to be means for the multiplication and diversification of products, since the increased productivity of labour is expressed in this increased production. Yet seen from this angle, capitalist production appears to be the rule of things over people. For the creation of use values in increasing extent, quality, diversity — the creation of great material wealth — appears as the purpose for which the labour capacities are only means, and a purpose which can only be attained by their own restriction to a single activity and deprivation of humanity.
“Every fresh application of machinery and horse labour is attended with an increase of produce and, consequently, of capital; to whatever extent it may diminish the ratio which that part of the national capital forming the fund for the payment of wages bears to that which is otherwise employed, its tendency is, not to diminish, but to increase the absolute amount [XXI-1320] of that fund, and hence to increase the quantity of employment”. (The Westminster Review, January 1826, [p.] 123).
“The class of capitalists, considered as a whole, is in a normal position in that its well-being follows the course of social progress” (Cherbuliez, Riche[sse] et pauvre[té], [Paris, 1841, p.] 75). “The capitalist is the social man par excellence, he represents civilisation” (l.c., [p.] 75). “The productive power of capital can only mean the quantity of real productive power which the capitalist, by means of his capital, can command” (J. St. Mill, Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, London, 1844, p. 91). “Capital is ... collective force” (John Wade, History of the Middle and Working Classes etc., 3rd ED., London, 1835, [p.] 162). “Capital is only another name for civilisation” (l.c., [p.] 164).
//Economy in the use of the conditions of production depends entirely on their communal use by the concentrated and cooperating mass of workers — hence it depends on this social character of their labour. The conditions of labour, as the conditions of the labour of many people acting in cooperation, are cheaper than the scattered conditions, repeated on a small scale, of the labour of the isolated individual worker or small groups of workers; they are cheaper as conditions of combined labour than as those of fragmented labour. More precisely: 1) a saving in the “subjective” conditions of labour communally required by many people, such as buildings, heating, light; 2) a saving that arises from the concentration of the instruments of production, hence a saving in the machinery of transmission; 3) economy in the use of the power which sets in motion the prime motors. Other ways of making things cheaper depend on inventions, and belong to the second kind of cheapening of constant capital — namely a cheapening which arises not from the arrangements directly made for its use, but from the development of the productivity of labour in spheres of production of which it is the result.
Nevertheless, capitalist production does not limit itself to these economies which arise from the concentration of workers and of the means of labour. A second kind of economy proceeds from the contempt with which human material “which does not cost anything” is treated; thus it is packed together in confined and badly ventilated rooms, and rules of safety and comfort are ignored, as with the failure to fence in dangerous machinery, and the inadequate numbers of shafts, etc., in the mines. These points must be backed up with a few examples later on.//
Capital is therefore productive:
1) as the compulsion to do surplus labour,
2) as absorbing within itself and appropriating the productive powers of social labour and the social powers of production in general, such as science.
The question is, how or through what means does labour appear productive towards capital, or as productive labour, since the productive powers of labour are transposed into capital? And can the same productive power count twice, once as productive power of labour and once as productive power of capital? //Productive power of labour = productive power of capital. But labour capacity is productive owing to the difference between its value and its valorisation.//
Only bourgeois narrowness, which considers the capitalist forms of production to be the latter’s absolute forms — and therefore the eternal natural forms of production — is able to confuse the question of what productive labour is from the standpoint of capital with the question of what labour is productive in general, or what productive labour is in general, and therefore esteem itself very wise in giving the reply that all labour which produces anything at all, results in anything whatsoever, is eo ipso productive labour.
[Firstly:] Only labour which is converted directly into capital is productive; hence only labour which posits variable capital as variable, and therefore = C+ D. If the variable capital = x before its exchange with labour, so that we have the equation y = x, that labour is productive labour which converts x into x + h and therefore makes y = x into y’ = x + h. This is the sole point that needs to be discussed. Labour which posits surplus value, or serves capital as an agency for the positing of surplus value and therefore enables it to posit itself as capital, as self-valorising value.
Secondly: The social and general productive powers of labour are productive powers of capital; but these productive powers concern the labour process alone, or affect use value alone. They appear as qualities capital possesses as a thing, they appear as its use value. They do not directly affect exchange value. Whether 100 work together or each of the 100 works in isolation, the value of their product = 100 working days, whether this is represented by many products or a few. That is to say, the productivity of labour is irrelevant to exchange value.
[XXI-1321] There is only one way in which differences in the productivity of labour affect exchange value.
If the productivity of labour develops e.g. in a single branch of labour — if e.g. weaving with powerlooms instead of handlooms ceases to be an exception — and if the weaving of a yard with the powerloom requires only half as much labour time as with the handloom, the 12 hours of the handloom weaver are no longer represented in a value of 12 hours, but in a value of 6, since necessary labour time has now become 6 hours. The 12 hours of the handloom weaver now only = 6 hours of social labour time, although he continues to work for 12 hours, as before. But this is not the point under discussion. If we take a different branch of production, in contrast, such as typesetting, in which no machinery is yet employed, 12 hours in this branch will produce just as much value as 12 hours will in branches of production where machinery, etc., has been developed to the uttermost extent. As productive of value, therefore, labour always remains the labour of the individual, only expressed generally. Productive labour — as valueproducing labour — therefore always confronts capital as the labour of the individual labour capacity, of the isolated worker, whatever social combinations these workers may enter in the production process. Whereas capital thus confronts the worker as the social productive power of labour, the productive labour of the worker never represents towards capital anything more than the labour of the isolated worker.
Thirdly: If it appears as a natural quality of capital — and therefore as a quality which gushes forth from its use value — that it compels the performance of surplus labour and claims the social productive powers of labour as its own, it appears, conversely, as a natural quality of labour that it posits its own social productive powers as productive powers of capital and its own surplus as surplus value, as the self-valorisation of capital.
These 3 points must now be developed and the distinction between productive and unproductive labour derived from them.
Ad 1. The productivity of capital consists in positing labour as wage labour towards itself, and the productivity of labour consists in positing the means of labour as capital towards itself.
We have seen that money is converted into capital, i.e. a given exchange value is converted into self-valorising exchange value, into value + surplus value, by the conversion of a part of the money into such commodities as serve labour as means of labour (raw materials, instrument, in short the material conditions of labour), and the employment of another part of the money for the purchase of labour capacity. However, it is not this first exchange between money and labour capacity, or the mere purchase of the latter, which converts money into capital. This purchase incorporates into capital the use of labour capacity for a certain period of time, or, in other words, it makes a definite quantity of living labour into one of the modes of existence of capital itself, its entelechy so to speak. In the real production process, living labour is converted into capital by on the one hand reproducing the wage — hence the value of the variable capital — and on the other hand positing a surplus value, and through this process of conversion the whole sum of money is converted into capital, although the only part which varies directly is that which is laid out in the wage. If the value was = c + v, it now = c + (v + x), which is the same thing as = (c + v) + x, or, in other words, the original sum of money, magnitude of value, has valorised itself, has been posited at the same time as self-preserving and self-multiplying value.
(The following should be noted: The circumstance that only the variable part of the capital brings forth its increment changes absolutely nothing in the fact that by means of this process the whole of the original value is valorised, is increased by a surplus value; that therefore the whole of the original sum of money has been converted into capital. For the original value = c + v (constant and variable capital). It becomes in the process c + (v + x); the latter is the reproduced part, which arose through the conversion of living into objectified labour, a conversion which is conditioned and introduced by the exchange of v for labour capacity or its conversion into wages. But c + (v + x) = c + v (the original capital) + x Apart from this the conversion of v into v + x, hence of (c + v) into (c + v) + x, could only occur through the conversion of a part of the money into c. One part can only be converted into variable capital through the conversion of the other into constant capital.)
In the real production process labour is converted in reality into capital, but this conversion is conditioned by the original exchange between money and labour capacity. It is only through this direct conversion of labour into objectified labour which belongs not to the worker but to the capitalist that the money is converted into capital, including the part which has taken on the form of the means of production, the conditions of labour. Previously money was only capital in itself, whether it existed in its own form or in the form of commodities (products) which possessed a shape enabling them to serve as the means of production for new commodities.
[XXI-1322] It is only this particular relation to labour which converts money or commodity into capital, and that labour is productive labour which — by means of this relation it has to the conditions of production, to which there corresponds a particular position in the real production process — converts money or commodity into capital, i.e. preserves and increases the value of the objective labour which has attained an independent position vis-à-vis labour capacity. Productive labour is only an abbreviation for the whole relation in which, and the manner in which, labour capacity figures in the capitalist production process. It is however of the highest importance to distinguish between this and other kinds of labour, since this distinction brings out precisely the determinate form of labour on (hich there depends the whole capitalist mode of production, and capital itself.
Productive labour, therefore, is labour which — in the system of capitalist production — produces surplus value for its employer or which converts the objective conditions of labour into capital, and their owners into capitalists, hence, labour which produces its own product as capital.
Hence in speaking of productive labour we are speaking of socially determined labour, labour which implies a highly definite relation between the buyer and the seller of labour.
Although the money in the possession of the buyer of labour capacity — or, as a commodity, the buyer of means of production and subsistence for the worker — only becomes capital through the process, is only converted into capital in the process, and therefore these things are not capital before their entry into the process, but are only about to become capital, they are even so capital in themselves; they are capital through the independent shape in which they confront labour capacity and in which labour capacity confronts them, a relation which conditions and ensures the exchange with labour capacity and subsequent process of the real conversion of labour into capital They already possess at the outset the social determinacy vis-à-vis the workers which makes them into capital and gives them command over labour. They are therefore posited in advance as capital vis-à-vis labour.
Productive labour can therefore be characterised as labour which exchanges directly with money as capital, or, and this is merely an abbreviated expression of the same thing, labour which exchanges directly with capital, i.e. with money which is in itself capital, has the determination of functioning as capital, or confronts labour capacity as capital. The expression “labour which exchanges directly with capital means that labour exchanges with money as capital and converts it actu [by that action] into capital. What the determination of immediacy implies will soon become more clearly apparent.
Productive labour is therefore labour which reproduces for the worker only the previously determined value of his labour capacity, but at the same time, as value-creating activity, it valorises capital or places the values created by labour in confrontation with the worker himself as capital.
In examining the exchange between capital and labour, as we saw in considering the process of production, two moments need to be distinguished, which are fundamentally distinct, although they condition each other.
Firstly: The first exchange between labour and capital is a formal process, in which capital figures as money and labour capacity figures as commodity. The sale of labour capacity takes place notionally or legally in this first process, although the labour is paid for only after it has been done, at the end of the day, of the week, etc. This does not change anything in this single transaction in which labour capacity is sold. What is sold here directly is not a commodity in which labour has already been realised but the use of labour capacity itself, hence in practice labour itself, since the use of labour capacity is its action — labour. It is therefore not an exchange of labour mediated through the exchange of commodities. If A sells boots to B, they both exchange labour, the first labour realised in boots, the second in money. But here objectified labour in its general social form, i.e. as money, is exchanged for labour which exists as yet only as a capacity, and what is bought and sold is the use of that capacity, hence labour itself, although the value of the commodity that has been sold is not the value of labour (an irrational expression) but the value of labour capacity. A direct exchange therefore takes place between objectified labour and labour capacity which de facto amounts to living labour; hence an exchange between objectified labour and living labour. The wage — the value of labour capacity — therefore presents itself, as explained previously,’ as the direct purchase price, the price of labour.
The relation between worker and capitalist in this first moment is the relation between the seller of a commodity and its buyer. The capitalist pays the value of the labour capacity, hence the value of the commodity, which he is buying.
At the same time, however, the labour capacity is only bought because the labour it can perform, and enters into an obligation to perform, is greater than the labour required for the reproduction of this labour capacity, and is therefore represented by a value greater than — the value of the labour capacity.
[XXI-1323] Secondly: The second moment of the exchange between capital and labour has in fact nothing to do with the first, and strictly speaking is not an exchange at all.
In the first moment an exchange of money and commodity takes place — an exchange of equivalents — and the worker and the capitalist confront each other solely as the owners of commodities. Equivalents are exchanged (i.e. the relation is not affected at all by the time when they are exchanged, and whether the price of labour stands above or below the value of labour capacity or is equal to it changes nothing in the transaction. It can therefore take place according to the general law of the exchange of commodities.) In the second moment no exchange at all takes place. The owner of money has ceased to be the buyer of a commodity, and the worker has ceased to be the seller of a commodity. The owner of money now functions as a capitalist. He consumes the commodity he has bought, and the worker provides it, since the use of his labour capacity is his labour itself. Labour has itself become a part of objective wealth through the earlier transaction. The worker performs the labour, but it belongs to capital and is now nothing more than a function of the latter. It therefore occurs directly under capital’s control and direction, and the product in which it is objectified is the new shape in which capital appears, or rather the shape in which it realises itself actu as capital. Labour therefore directly objectifies itself in this process, converts itself directly into capital, after it has already been incorporated formally into capital through the first transaction. And indeed more labour is here converted into capital than was previously laid out as capital in the purchase of labour capacity. A portion of unpaid labour is appropriated in this process, and only in this way is money converted into capital.
Although no exchange in fact takes place here, the result, if one disregards the intervening stages, is that in the process — taking both moments together — a definite quantity of objectified labour has exchanged for a greater quantity of living labour, which is expressed in the result of the process in the following way, that the labour which has increased its size in its product>than the labour which is objectified in labour capacity, and therefore>than the objectified labour which is paid to the worker, or that in the real process the capitalist receives back, hence obtains, not only the part of the capital he laid out in wages, but also a surplus value, which costs him nothing. Here the direct exchange of labour for capital means 1) the direct conversion of labour into capital, the objective component of capital in the production process, 2) the exchange of a definite quantity of objectified labour for the same quantity of living labour + a surplus quantity of living labour, which is appropriated without exchange.
The statement that productive labour is labour which exchanges directly with capital comprises all these moments, and is only a derivative formula for the fact that it is labour which converts money into capital, exchanges with the conditions of production as capital, and therefore by no means relates to the former as simple conditions of production, does not relate to them as labour in the absolute sense, without any specific social determinateness.
This implies 1) the relation of money and labour capacity to each other as commodities, sale and purchase between the owner of money and the owner of labour capacity; 2) the direct subsumption of labour under capital; 3) the real conversion of labour into capital in the production process, or, and this is the same thing, the creating of surplus value for capital. A twofold exchange between labour and capital takes place. The first merely expresses the purchase of labour capacity and therefore, actu, of labour, hence of its product. The second expresses the direct conversion of living labour into capital, or its objectification as the realisation of capital.
The result of the capitalist production process is neither a mere product (use value) nor a commodity, i.e. a use value which has a particular exchange value. Its result, its product, is the creation of surplus value for capital, and therefore in fact the conversion of money or a commodity into capital; whereas before the production process these were capital merely in intention, in themselves, in terms of their determination. More labour is absorbed in the production process than was bought, and this absorption, [XXI-1324] this appropriation of alien unpaid labour, which is accomplished in the production process, is the immediate purpose of the capitalist production process, for what capital wants to produce as capital (hence the capitalist as capitalist) is neither direct use value for its own consumption, nor a commodity to be converted first into money and later into use values. Its purpose is enrichment the valorisation of value, its magnification, hence the preservation of the old value and the creation of surplus value. And it achieves this specific product of the capitalist production process only in the exchange with labour, which for that reason is called productive labour.
In order to produce commodities; labour must be useful labour, it must produce use values; it must be represented in use values. And therefore only labour which is represented in commodities; hence in use values, is able to make the exchange with capital. This is a presupposition which goes without saying. But it is not this concrete character of the labour, its use value as such, the fact that it is e.g. tailoring, cobbling, spinning, weaving, etc., which forms its specific use value for capital, stamps it therefore as productive labour in the system of capitalist production. Its specific use value for capital consists not in its particular useful character, any more than in the specific useful features of the product in which it is objectified. It is rather its character as the element which creates exchange value, abstract labour; not in the sense that it represents any particular quantity of this general labour, but that it represents a greater quantity than is contained in its price, i.e. in the value of the labour capacity. The use value of labour capacity is for it the excess amount of labour it provides over and above the labour which is objectified in it, and is therefore required for its reproduction. It naturally provides this quantity in the particular form appropriate to it as a specific kind of useful labour, as the labour of spinning, of weaving, etc. But this concrete character of labour, which generally enables it to be represented in a commodity, is not its specific use value for capital. This consists for capital in its quality of being labour in general, and in the difference between the quantity of labour it performs and the quantity of labour it costs, in the fact that the former is greater than the latter.
A particular sum of money, x, becomes capital through the fact that it is represented in its product as x + h; i.e. the fact that the quantity of labour contained in it as a product is greater than the quantity of labour originally contained in it. And this is the result of the exchange between money and productive labour, or, in other words, only that labour is productive which enables objectified labour to be represented in the exchange with it as an increased quantity of objectified labour.
The capitalist production process is therefore not merely the production of commodities. It is a process which absorbs unpaid labour, a process which makes the material and means of labour — the means of production — into means for the absorption of unpaid labour.
It emerges from what has been said so far that to be productive labour is a determination of labour which has at first absolutely nothing to do with the particular content of the labour, its specific utility or the peculiar use value in which it is represented.
The same kind of labour can be productive or unproductive.
E.g. Milton, who did the Paradise Lost for £5, was an unproductive worker. But a writer who does factory labour for his publisher is a productive worker. Milton produced Paradise Lost for the same reason as a silkworm produces silk. It was an expression of his own nature. Later on he sold the product for £5. But the Leipzig proletarian of literature who assembles books (such as compendia of political economy) under the direction of his publisher is a productive worker, for his production is from the outset subsumed under capital, and only takes place so that capital may valorise itself. A singer who sells her songs on her own account is an unproductive worker. But the same singer, engaged by an impresario, who has her sing in order to make money, is a productive worker. For she produces capital.'
[XXI-1325] There are various questions to be distinguished here.
Whether I buy a pair of trousers, or I buy some cloth and take a journeyman tailor into the house, paying him for his service (i.e. his tailoring labour) of converting this cloth into trousers, is a matter of complete indifference to me, in so far as only the trousers are at stake. I buy the trousers from the merchant tailor, instead of operating in the second way, because the latter way of doing things is dearer, and the trousers cost less labour, and are therefore cheaper if the capitalist tailor produces them than if I have them produced in the latter manner. But in both cases I do not convert the money with which I buy the trousers into capital but into trousers, and what is important to me in both cases is to use the money as a mere means of circulation, i.e. to convert it into this particular use value. Here, therefore, the money does not function as capital, although in one case it is exchanged for a commodity, and in the other case it buys labour itself as a commodity. It functions only as money, and more precisely as means of circulation. On the other hand, the journeyman tailor is not a productive worker, although his labour provides for me the product, the trousers, and for him the price of his labour, the money. It is possible that the quantity of labour provided by the journeyman is greater than the amount contained in the price he receives from me. And indeed this is likely, since the price of his labour is determined by the price received by the productive journeymen tailors. But this is a matter of complete indifference to me. Whether he works 8 or 10 hours, once the price has been fixed, is completely indifferent to me. The only thing at stake here is the use value, the trousers, in which connection I naturally have an interest in paying as little as possible for them, whether I buy them in one way or the other; but I am not concerned to pay more or less in one case than in the other — or only to pay the normal price for them. This is an outgoing for the purpose of my consumption, not an increase of my money but a lessening of it. It is definitely not a means of enrichment, just as little as any other kind of expenditure of money for my personal consumption is a means of enrichment. One of the savants of Paul de Kock may tell me that I cannot live without this purchase, just as I cannot live without the purchase of bread, hence I also cannot enrich myself, that it is therefore an indirect means — or at least a condition — for my enrichment. The circulation of my blood and my respiration would in the same way also be conditions for my enrichment. But neither the circulation of my blood nor my respiration in themselves enrich me on that account; both of these processes rather presuppose a costly metabolism without whose necessity there would be no poor devils at all. The mere direct exchange of money for labour therefore does not convert money into capital or labour into productive labour. What then is the characteristic feature of this exchange? What distinguishes it from the exchange of money with productive labour? On the one hand the fact that the money is expended as money, as the independent form of exchange value, which is to be converted into a use value, into means of subsistence, an object of personal consumption. Therefore the money does not become capital but rather the reverse, it loses its existence as exchange value so as to be consumed as use value. On the other hand, labour only interests me as a use value, as a service by means of which cloth is turned into trousers; the service which it performs for me thanks to its particular useful character. But when the journeyman tailor is employed by a merchant tailor, the service he performs for this capitalist by no means consists in his converting cloth into trousers, but rather in the fact that the necessary labour time which is objectified in a pair of trousers = 12 hours of labour, and the wage the journeyman receives = 6 hours. The service he performs for the capitalist therefore consists in the fact that he works 6 hours for nothing. That this occurs in the form of the making of trousers only conceals the real relation. Hence as soon as the merchant tailor is able to do this, he endeavours to convert the trousers back into money again, i.e. into a form in which the particular character of tailoring has completely disappeared, and in which the service performed is expressed in such a way that instead of a labour time of 6 hours, which [XXI-1326] is expressed in a particular amount of money, a labour time of 12 hours is available, which is expressed in twice the amount of money.
I buy the work of the tailor on account of the service it performs as tailoring, which is to satisfy my need for clothing, hence to serve one of my needs. The merchant tailor buys it as a means of making two thalers out of one. I buy it because it produces a certain use value, performs a certain service. He buys it because it provides more exchange value than it costs, he buys it merely as a means of exchanging less labour for more labour.
Where money is exchanged directly for labour, and the latter does not produce any capital, hence is not productive labour, it is bought as a service; this is nothing more than an expression for the particular use value provided by labour, just like every other commodity; but it is a specific expression for the particular use value of labour, in so far as labour does not provide services as an object but as an activity, which however by no means distinguishes it e.g. from a machine, e.g. a clock. Do ut facias, facio ut facias, facio ut des, do ut des ["I give that you may make”, “I make that you may make”, “I make that you may give”, “I give that you may give “ — contractual formulas in Roman law] are here completely indifferent forms of the same relation, whereas in capitalist production the do ut facias expresses a very specific relation of the objective value, which is given, and the living activity, which is appropriated. Thus, because the specific relation of labour and capital is not contained at all in this purchase of services; because it has either been completely extinguished or was never present, it is naturally the favourite form used by Say, Bastiat and their associates to express the relation of capital and labour.
How the value of these services is regulated, and how this value is itself determined by the laws of wages, is a question which has nothing to do with the investigation of the relation currently under discussion, and which belongs to the chapter on wages.
The result is that the mere exchange of money for labour does not convert the latter into productive labour, and that the content of this labour, on the other hand, is initially a matter of indifference.
The worker himself can buy labour, i.e. can buy commodities which are provided in the form of services, and when he expends his wage in such services this expenditure does not differ in any respect from the expenditure of his wage to buy any other commodity. The services he buys may be more or less necessary, e.g. he can buy the service of a doctor or a priest, just as he can buy bread or spirits. As a buyer — i.e. a representative of money towards the commodity — the worker is in exactly the same category as the capitalist, when the latter steps forward as buyer alone, i.e. when it is only a matter of transferring money into the form of a commodity. How the price of these services is determined, and what relation it has to the actual wage, how far it is regulated by the laws governing the latter, and how far not, are questions which should be treated in a discussion of wages and are a matter of complete indifference for the present investigation.
If the mere exchange of money and labour does not convert the latter into productive labour, or, and this is the same thing, does not convert the former into capital, the content the concrete character, the particular utility of the labour, also appears at first to be a matter of indifference; as we have just seen, the same labour of the same journeyman tailor appears as in one case productive, in another case not.
Some services or use values, the results of certain activities or kinds of labour, are incorporated in commodities; others, however, leave behind no tangible result as distinct from the persons themselves: or they do not result in a saleable commodity. E.g. the service a singer performs for me satisfies my aesthetic needs, but what I enjoy exists only in an action inseparable from the singer himself, and once his work, singing, has come to an end, my enjoyment is also at an end; I enjoy the activity itself — its reverberation in my ear. These services themselves, just like the commodities I buy, may be necessary or merely appear necessary, e.g. the service of a soldier, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or they may be services which provide me with pleasure. This does not change their economic determination in any way. If I am healthy and do not need a doctor, or I am fortunate enough not to have to engage in any lawsuits, I avoid like the plague the expenditure of money for medical or legal services.
[XXI-1328] One can also have services thrust upon one, the services of officials; etc.
If I buy the services of a teacher, not in order to develop my own capacities, but to acquire skills with which I can earn money — or if other people buy this teacher for me — and if I really learn something — which is in itself entirely independent of my paying for his services — these costs of learning form as much a part of the costs of production of my labour capacity as do my subsistence costs. But the particular utility of this service changes nothing in the economic relation; and this is not a relation in which I convert money into capital, or by which the performer of the service, the teacher, converts me into his capitalist, his master. Whether the doctor cures me, the teacher is successful in instructing me, or the lawyer wins my case, is therefore a matter of complete indifference for the economic determination of this relation. What is paid for is the performance of a service as such, and its result cannot by its nature be guaranteed by the person performing it. A large part of services belong to the costs of consumption of commodities, as with cooks, maids, etc.
It is characteristic of all unproductive labours that they are only at my disposal in the same proportion as I exploit productive workers — as is the case with the purchase of all other consumption commodities. It is the productive worker, therefore, who of all persons has the least command over the services of unproductive workers, although he has to pay the most for involuntary services (the state, taxes). Inversely, however, my ability to employ productive workers does not at all grow in the proportion to which I employ unproductive workers; it is rather the reverse, it declines in the same proportion.
Productive workers may themselves be unproductive workers as far as I am concerned. If e.g. I have my house decorated, and these decorators are the wage labourers of a master, who sells me this function, it is the same for me as if I had bought a readydecorated house, expended money for a commodity I intend to consume, but for the master who sets these workers to decorating, they are productive workers, for they produce surplus value for him.
But what is the situation with independent handicraftsmen or with peasants who do not employ any workers, hence do not produce as capitalists? Either they are producers of commodities; as always in the case of peasants //but not e.g. in the case of a gardener I take into my household//, and I buy the commodities. from them, in which connection it makes no difference e.g. that the handicraftsman supplies the commodities to order, whereas the peasant delivers his supply according to the measure of his means of producing it. In this relation they meet me as sellers of commodities, not as sellers of labour, and this relation therefore has nothing to do with the exchange between capital and labour, hence it also has nothing to do with the distinction between productive and unproductive labour, which depends merely on whether the labour is exchanged for money as money or for money as capital. They therefore belong neither to the category of productive workers nor to that of unproductive workers; although they are producers of commodities. Their production is not subsumed under the capitalist mode of production. These producers, who work with their own means of production, may not only reproduce their labour capacity, but also create surplus value, in that their position allows them to appropriate their own surplus labour, or a part of it (for a part is taken away from them in the form of taxes, etc.). And here we meet with a peculiarity characteristic of a society in which a determinate mode of production predominates, although all relations of production have not yet been subjected to it. In feudal society, for example, which can best be studied in England, because here the system of feudalism was introduced in finished form from Normandy, and its form was imprinted upon a social foundation which differed in many respects, relations which are far from belonging to the essence of feudalism also take on a feudal expression. Such is the case with e.g. purely monetary relations, where there is no element at all of reciprocal personal services between suzerain and vassal. E.g. the fiction that the small peasant possesses his farm as a fief. It is exactly the same with the capitalist mode of production. The independent peasant or handicraftsman is cut into two.
“In the small enterprises ... the entrepreneur is often his own worker — (Storch, Vol. II St. Petersburg edition, [p.] 242).
As owner of the means of production he is a capitalist, as worker he is his own wage labourer. He therefore pays himself his wages as a capitalist and draws his profit from his capital, i.e. he exploits himself as wage labourer and pays himself in surplus value the tribute labour owes to capital. Perhaps he pays himself yet a third part as landowner (rent), just as the industrial capitalist, as we shall see later,’ when he works with his own [XXI-1329] capital, pays himself interest and regards this as something he owes himself not as industrial capitalist but as capitalist in the absolute sense. The social determinacy of the means of production in capitalist production — so that they express a particular relation of production — is so intertwined with, and in the understanding of bourgeois society so inseparable from, the material existence of these means of production as means of production, that that determinacy (categorial determinacy) is applied even where the relation directly contradicts it. The means of production only become capital in so far as they achieve an autonomous position as an independent power vis-à-vis labour. In the given case, the producer — the worker — is the owner, the proprietor of his means of production. They are therefore no more capital than he is a wage labourer vis-à-vis them. Nevertheless, they are considered to be capital, and he himself is split in two, so that he as capitalist employs himself as wage labourer. In fact this way of presenting the matter, irrational as it may be on first view, is nevertheless correct so far: The producer admittedly creates his own surplus value in the given case //assuming that he sells his commodity at its value//, or the whole product objectifies his own labour alone. But he owes his ability to appropriate for himself the whole product of his own labour, whereby the excess of the value of his product over the average price for instance of his day’s labour is not appropriated by a third master, not to his labour — which does not distinguish him from other workers — but to his ownership of the means of production. It is therefore only through ownership of the latter that he obtains control of his own surplus labour, and thus he relates to himself as wage labourer as his own capitalist. The separation of the two appears as the normal relation in this society. Therefore where it does not take place in practice it is assumed, and, as we have just shown, so far correctly; for (unlike e.g. the conditions of ancient Rome or Norway) (or American conditions in the North West of the United States) the unification of the two appears here as accidental, their separation as normal, and therefore the separation is retained as the relation, even when one person unites the different functions. It emerges in very striking fashion here that the capitalist as such is only a function of capital, and the worker a function of labour capacity. Then there is also the law that economic development divides the functions among different persons, so that the handicraftsman or peasant who produces with his own means of production is either turned little by little into a small capitalist who also exploits alien labour, or loses possession of his means of production flat the outset this may occur even though he remains their nominal owner, as with the mortgage system// and is turned into a wage labourer. This is the tendency in the form of society in which the capitalist mode of production predominates. In considering the essential relations of capitalist production, therefore, it can be assumed //since this tends to occur more and more, is the principal purpose, and the productive powers of labour are developed to the highest point in this case alone// that the whole world of commodities, all the spheres of material production — the production of material wealth — have been subjected (either formally or really) to the capitalist mode of production. In this presupposition, which expresses the limit, and therefore approximates ever more closely to exact accuracy, all the workers engaged in the production of commodities are wage labourers and the means of production confront them as capital in all spheres of production. It can then be described as the characteristic feature of productive workers; i.e. of workers producing capital, that their labour is realised in commodities, material wealth. And thus productive labour would have obtained a second, subsidiary determination distinct from its decisive characteristic, for which the content of the labour is a matter of complete indifference and which is independent of that content.
With non-material production, even when it is conducted purely for exchange, hence produces commodities, two things are possible: 1) It results in commodities, use values, which possess an independent shape separate from the producers and consumers; hence may exist in the interval between production and consumption, may circulate in this interval as saleable commodities as in the case of books, paintings, in short all the products of artistic creation, which are distinct from the artistic performance of the executant artist. Here capitalist production is only applicable to a very limited degree. To the extent that e.g. the writer of a joint work — encyclopaedia — e.g. exploits a number of others as hacks.
[XXI-1330] Here things usually remain at the level of the forms transitional to capitalist production, where different scientific or artistic producers, artisanal or professional, work for a common merchant capital, the publisher; a relation which has nothing to do with the capitalist mode of production proper, and is itself not yet formally subsumed under it. The fact that the exploitation of labour is at its worst precisely in these transitional forms does not change anything in the situation. 2) The product is not separable from the act of producing, as with all executant artists, orators, actors, teachers, doctors, clerics, etc. Here too the capitalist mode of production only occurs to a slight extent, and can in the nature of things only take place in certain spheres. E.g. teachers in educational institutions may be mere wage labourers for the entrepreneur who owns the institution; there are many such education factories in England. Although they are not productive workers vis-à-vis the pupils, they are such vis-à-vis their employer. He exchanges his capital for their labour capacity, and enriches himself by this process. Similarly with enterprises such as theatres, places of entertainment, etc. Here the actor’s relation to the public is that of artist, but vis-à-vis his employer he is a productive worker. All the phenomena of capitalist production in this area are so insignificant in comparison with production as a whole that they can be disregarded entirely.
With the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, in which many workers cooperate in the production of the same commodity, the direct relations between their labour and the object under production must of course be very diverse. E.g. the assistants in the factory, mentioned earlier,’ have no direct involvement in the treatment of the raw material. The workers who constitute the overseers of those who are directly concerned with this treatment stand a step further away; the engineer in turn has a different relation and works mainly with his brain alone, etc. But the whole group of these workers; who possess labour capacities of different values, although the total number employed reaches roughly the same level, produce a result which is expressed, from the point of view of the result of the pure labour process, in commodities or in a material product, and all of them together, as a workshop, are the living production machine for these products., while, from the point of view of the production process as a whole, they exchange their labour for capital, and reproduce the money of the capitalist as capital, i.e. as self-valorising value, self-multiplying value. It is indeed the peculiarity of the capitalist mode of production that it separates the different kinds of labour, hence also brain and hand labour — or the kinds of labour in which one or the other aspect predominates — and distributes them among different people, although this does not prevent the material product from being the common product of these persons or their common product from being objectified in material wealth. Nor, on the other hand, does this prevent, or change in any way, the fact that the relation of each individual person is that of a wage labourer to capital, and in this eminent sense it is the relation of the productive worker. All these people are not only employed directly in the production of material wealth, they exchange their labour directly for capital’s money, and therefore, as well as directly reproducing their wage, they create a surplus value for the capitalist. Their labour consists of paid labour + unpaid surplus labour.
In addition to extractive industry, agriculture, and manufacturing, there exists yet a fourth sphere of material production, which also passes through the different stages of the handicraft system, the system of manufacture, and mechanised industry; it is the transport industry, transporting human beings, it may be, or commodities. Here the relation of the productive worker, i.e. the wage labourer, to capital is exactly the same as in the other spheres of material production. Here too the object of labour undergoes a material alteration — a spatial alteration, or change of place. In regard to the transport of human beings, this appears merely as a service, performed for them by an entrepreneur. But the relation between the buyer and the seller of this service has no more to do with the relation of the productive worker to capital than the relation between the buyer and the seller of twist. If, however, we look at the process in regard to commodities, [XXI-1331] we find that there does occur an alteration to the object of labour, the commodity, in the course of the labour process. Its spatial location is altered, and a change in its use value accompanies this, in that the spatial location of this use value is altered. Its exchange value increases in the measure to which this alteration in its use value requires labour, a total amount of labour which is in part determined by the depreciation of the constant capital, hence the amount of objectified labour which enters into it, in part by the amount of living labour, as in the valorisation process of all other commodities. Once the commodity has arrived at its destination, this alteration which has taken place to its use value disappears, and is now expressed only in its increased exchange value, in the greater dearness of the commodity. Although the real labour has here left behind no trace in the use value, it has nevertheless been realised in the exchange value of this material product, and thus it is true of this industry, as of the other spheres of material production, that it is embodied in the commodity, although it has left behind no visible trace in the use value of the commodity.
Here we are still only concerned with productive capital, i.e. capital employed in the direct production process. We shall come later to capital in the circulation process; and in view of the particular shape capital assumes as mercantile capital it will only be later that we can answer the question as to how far the workers employed by it are productive or not productive.
“The productive labourer” he that “directly” increases “his master’s wealth” (Th. R. Malthus, Principles of Political Economy, 2nd ed., London, 1836, [p.], 47 [note]).