Economic Works of Karl Marx 1861-1864
ad 2) Capitalist Production as the Production of Surplus Value

[469a] 6) The Direct Production Process

The capitalist production process is a unity of the labour process and the valorisation process. In order to convert money into capital, it is converted into commodities, which form the factors of the labour process. First, labour capacity must be bought with the money. Then objects must be bought, for without these the labour capacity cannot be consumed, i.e. it cannot work. These objects have no meaning within the labour process except to serve as means of subsistence for labour, use values for labour. In relation to living labour itself they are its material and means; in relation to the product of labour they are the means of its production, with regard to the fact that these means of production are themselves already products, products as means of production of a new product. But these objects do not play this role in the labour process because the capitalist buys them, because they are the converted form of his money, rather the reverse: he buys them because they play this role in the labour process. For the spinning process as such, for example, it is a matter of indifference that the cotton and the spindles represent the money of the capitalist, hence — capital, that the money expended is determined as capital. Cotton and spindles become the material and means of labour in the hands of the working spinner alone, and they become these things because he spins, not because he turns cotton belonging to another person into yarn for the same person by spinning with a spindle belonging to the same person. The utilisation or productive consumption of commodities in the labour process does not make them capital, it makes them rather elements in the labour process. In so far as these objective elements of the labour process are bought by the capitalist, they represent his capital. But this is also true of labour. It also represents his capital, for labour belongs to the buyer of labour capacity just as much as do the objective conditions of labour that he has bought. And it is not just the individual elements of the labour process that belong to him; the whole labour process does. Capital, which previously existed in the form of money, now exists in the form of the labour process. Because capital has taken control of the labour process, and the worker therefore works for the capitalist instead of working for himself, the labour process does not for all that change its general nature. Just because money, when converted into capital, is converted into the factors of the labour process, hence necessarily takes on the shape of the material of labour and the means of labour, the material of labour and the means of labour do not by nature become capital, any more than gold and silver by nature become money because money is represented among other things by gold and silver. But the same modern political economists who laugh over the naïveté of the Monetary System which, when asked “What is money?” replies “Gold and silver”, are not ashamed, when asked “What is capital?” to reply “Capital is cotton”. This is precisely what they are saying when they declare that the material and means of labour, the means of production or the products which are employed in further production, in short the objective conditions of labour, are by nature capital, in so far as, and because, they serve through their material characteristics as use values in the labour process. It is in order for other people to add: capital is meat and bread, for although the capitalist buys labour capacity with money, this money in fact only represents the bread, [469b] the meat, in short the means of subsistence of the worker.

["Capital is that part of the wealth of a country which is employed in production, and consists of food, clothing, tools, raw materials, machinery, etc., necessary to give effect to labour"* (Ricardo, 1.c. [On the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation, p.] 89). *"Capital is a portion of the national wealth, employed or meant to be employed, in favouring reproduction"* (G. Ramsay, 1.c. [An Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, p.] 21). * “Capital ... a particular species of wealth ... destined ... to the obtaining of other articles of utility” * (Torrens, 1.c. [An Essay on the Production of Wealth, p.] 5). “Capital ... produces ... as the means of a new production” (Senior, 1.c. [Principes fondamentaux de l'économie politique..., Paris, 1836], p. 318).a “When a fund is devoted to material production, it takes the name of capital” (Storch, Cours d'économie politique, Vol. 1, Paris edition of 1823, [p.] 207).a “Capital is that portion of the wealth produced which is destined for reproduction” (Rossi, Cours d'économie Politique. [Annie] 1836-1837, Brussels edition, 1843, p. 364).a Rossi torments himself over the “difficult question” of whether the “raw material” can be counted as part of the capital too. One can admittedly make a distinction between “capital as material” and “capital as instrument”, but “is it (the raw material) really an instrument of production there? Is it not rather an object which is acted upon by the instrument of production?” (p. 367).a He does not see that once he has confused capital with its material form of appearance and therefore called the objective conditions of labour simply capital it does not matter that they can be divided as regards labour itself into material and means of labour, for as regards the product they are equally means of production. And he does, in fact, call capital simply “means of production” a (p. 372). “There is no difference between capital and any other part of wealth: a thing only becomes capital by the use that is made of it, that is to say, when it is employed in a productive operation, as raw material, as instrument, or as means of subsistence” (Cherbuliez, Riche[sse] ou pauvre[té], Paris, 1841, p. 18).]

A chair with four legs and a velvet cover represents a throne in certain situations; but this chair, a thing that is there for people to sit upon, is not a throne by the nature of its use value. The most essential factor of the labour process is the worker himself, and in the ancient production process this worker was a slave. It does not follow from this that the worker is by nature a slave (although Aristotle is not very far removed from holding this opinion), any more than it follows that spindles and cotton are by their nature capital because they are at present consumed in the labour process by wage labourers. The stupidity of this procedure, whereby a definite social relation of production, which is expressed in things, is taken as the material and natural quality of these things, strikes us forcibly when we open the nearest textbook of political economy, and read on the very first page that the elements of the production process, reduced to their most general form, are land, capital and labour. [See e.g. John St. Mill, Principles of Political Economy, Vol. 1, Book 1] It might just as well be said that they are landed property, knives, scissors, spindles, cotton, corn, in short the material of labour and the means of labour, and — wage labour. On one side we name the elements of the labour process enmeshed with the specific social characteristics they possess at a particular historical stage of development; and on the other side we add an element which is attributable to the labour process, independently of all specific social formations, as an eternal process between man and nature in general.

[We shall see further on that this illusion of the political economists, by which the appropriation of the labour process by capital is confused with the labour process itself, and the objective elements of the labour process are therefore simply converted into capital, because capital is converted among other things into the objective elements of the labour process — that this illusion, which among the classical political economists lasts only as long as they view the capitalist production process exclusively from the point of view of the labour process, and is therefore corrected in their later analysis, arises from the nature of the capitalist production process itself. But it can be stated immediately that this is a very convenient method of demonstrating the eternal character of the capitalist mode of production, or of showing that capital is a permanent natural element of human production in general. Labour is the eternal natural condition for human existence. The labour process is nothing but labour itself, viewed at the instant of its creative functioning. The general moments of the labour process are therefore independent of all particular social developments. The means of labour and the material of labour, a part of which are already the products of previous labour, play their role in every labour process in all epochs and under all circumstances. If 1 therefore attach to them the name of capital in the conviction that “semper aliquid haeret”,[223] I have proved that the existence of capital is an eternal natural law of human production, and that the Kirghiz who cuts down rushes with a knife he has stolen from a Russian and weaves these rushes together to make a boat is just as much a capitalist as Herr von Rothschild. I might just as well prove that the Greeks and Romans took communion because they drank wine and ate bread, or that the Turks sprinkled themselves every day with Roman Catholic holy water because they washed every day. One finds impertinent and shallow phrase-making of this kind spewed forth with self-satisfied self-importance not only by such people as F. Bastiat, or in the wretched economic tracts of the Society for the Advancement of Useful Knowledge, [224] or in the nursery stories of Mother Martineau, but even [469c] by genuine authorities. Their intention is to prove in this manner the eternal natural necessity for capital; but instead of this, it is rather the opposite that is proved. Capital’s necessity even for a particular historical stage of development of the social production process is thereby negated, for the assertion that capital is nothing but the material and means of labour, or that the objective elements of the labour process are by their nature capital, rightly meets with the reply that this proves a need for capital but not for capitalists, or that capital is nothing but a name invented to defraud the masses.]

["We are told that labour cannot move one step without capital — that the shovel is just as necessary to a man who digs as is his labour — that capital is just as necessary to production as labour itself is. The working man knows all this, for its truth is daily brought home to him; but this mutual dependency between capital and labour has nothing to do with the relative position of the capitalist and the working man; nor does it show that the former should be maintained by the latter. Capital is but so much unconsumed produce; and that which is at this moment in being, exists now independent of, and is in no way identified with, any particular individual or class. And were every capitalist and every rich man in the United Kingdom to be annihilated in one moment, not a single particle of wealth or capital would disappear with them; nor would the nation itself be less wealthy, even to the amount of the farthing. It is the capital, and not the capitalist, that is essential to the operations of the producer; and there is as much difference between the two, as there is between the actual cargo and the bill of lading” (J. F. Bray, Labour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy etc., Leeds, 1839, p. 59).

[*"Capital is a sort of cabalistic word like church or state, or any other of those general terms which are invented by those who fleece the rest of mankind to conceal the hand that shears them” * (Labour Defended against the Claims of Capital etc., London, 1825, p. 17). The author of this anonymous pamphlet is Th. Hodgskin, one of the most significant modern English political economists. The pamphlet we have cited, the importance of which is still recognised (see e.g. John Lalor, Money and Morals etc., London, 1852), called forth an anonymous reply from Lord Brougham some years after it first appeared, a reply which is as superficial as all the other economic achievements of that notorious windbag. [225]]

This inability to grasp the labour process as independent and yet at the same time as one side of the capitalist production process is still more strikingly evident when Mr. F. Wayland for example informs us that raw material is capital, and that it becomes a product by being treated. Thus leather is the product of the currier and the capital of the shoemaker. To be raw material and to be product are both determinations which a thing possesses in relation to the labour process, and they both have nothing to do with its determination of being capital, although both of them, raw material and product, constitute capital once the labour process has been appropriated by the capitalist.

[*"The material which ... we obtain for the purpose of combining it with our own” (!) “industry, and forming it into a product, is called capital; and, after the labour has been exerted, and the value created, it is called a product. Thus, the same article may be product to one, and capital to another. Leather is the product of the currier, and the capital of the shoemaker” * (F. Wayland, 1.c. [The Elements of Political Economy, Boston, 1843], p. 25). (There now follows the above-quoted shit from Proudhon, the citations coming from Gratuité du crédit. Discussion entre M. Fr. Bastiat et M. Proudhon, Paris, 1850, pp. 179, 180 and 182.)]

[Mr. Proudhon has exploited this with his customary “depth”.

“What causes the sudden transformation of the notion of product into that of capital? It is the idea of value. This means that the product, in order to become capital, must have passed through an authentic valuation, must have been bought or sold, its price discussed and fixed by a kind of legal convention. Hides, for instance, coming from the butcher’s shop, are the product of the butcher. Have these hides been bought by a currier? At once he adds either them or their value to his working capital. By the work of the currier this capital becomes a product again” [Gratuité du crédit. Discussion entre M. Fr. Bastiat et M. Proudhon. pp. 178-80].

Mr. Proudhon stands out by the apparatus of incorrect metaphysics with which he first enters the most conventional and elementary notions into his “exploitation fund” as capital, subsequently selling them to the public as a high-flown “product”. The question of how the product is converted into capital is in and for itself nonsense, but the answer is on a level with the question. Mr. Proudhon in fact only informs us of two fairly well-known facts, firstly that products are sometimes worked up as raw material, and secondly that products are at the same time commodities; i.e. possess a value, which before being realised must pass the acid test of the debate between buyer and seller. The same “philosopher” remarks:

“For society, the difference between capital and product does not exist. This difference is an entirely subjective one, according to the individual” [ibid., p. 182].

He calls the abstract social form “subjective”, and his subjective abstraction “society”.]

If the political economist, as long as he is looking at the capitalist production process purely from the point of view of the labour process, declares capital to be a mere thing, raw material, instrument, etc., it then again occurs to him that the production process is after all also a valorisation process, and in relation to the valorisation process those things only come into consideration as value.

“The same capital exists now in the form of a sum of money, now in the form of raw material, an instrument, a finished commodity. These things are not actually capital; that resides in the value they have.” [J, B. Say, 1.c. [Traité d'économie politique.... 3rd ed., Paris, 1817], Vol. II, p. 429, note. When Carey says *"Capital ... all articles possessing exchangeable value” * (H. C. Carey, Principles of Political Economy, PART I, Philadelphia, 1837, p. 294), this is to fall back into the explanation of capital already mentioned in Chapter 1 a: *"Capital — is commodities”,* b an explanation which refers only to the way capital appears in the circulation process.]

In so far as this value

maintains itself, continues to exist, multiplies itself, tears itself away from the commodity [469d] that created it, always remains in the possession of the same producer (i.e. the capitalist) like a metaphysical and insubstantial quality”. [Sismondi, Nouveaux principes etc., Vol. 1, p. 89.]

what was immediately beforehand proclaimed a thing is now declared to be a “ commercial idea”. ["Capital is a commercial idea”, (Sismondi, Études etc., Vol. 2, p. 273).]

The product of the capitalist production process is neither a mere product (a use value) nor is it a mere commodity, i.e. a product that has an exchange value. The specific product of this process is rather surplus value. The product is commodities which possess more exchange value, i.e. represent more labour, than was advanced to produce them, in the form of money or commodities. The labour process appears in the capitalist production process merely as a means; while the valorisation process, or the production of surplus value, appears as the goal. As soon as the political economist becomes aware of this, capital starts to be defined as wealth which is employed in production in order to make a profit”. [*"Capital. That portion of the stock of a country which is kept or employed with a view to profit in the production and distribution of wealth” * (T. R. Malthus, Definitions in Political Economy. New Edition etc. BY John Cazenove, London, 1853, p. 10). “Capital is that part of wealth which is employed in production and generally for the purpose of obtaining profit” * (Th. Chalmers, On Political Economy etc., 2nd ed., Glasgow, 1832]

We have seen [226] that the conversion of money into capital can be divided into two independent processes, which belong to quite distinct spheres and exist in isolation from each other. The first process belongs to the sphere of the circulation of commodities and therefore takes place on the commodity market. It is the sale and purchase of labour capacity. The second process is the consumption of the labour capacity that has been purchased, or the production process itself. In the first process, the capitalist and the worker confront each other only as money and commodity owners, and their transaction, like all transactions between buyers and sellers, is an exchange of equivalents. In the second process, the worker appears pro tempore as a living component of capital itself, and the category of exchange is entirely excluded here, since the capitalist has appropriated for himself by purchase all the factors of the production process, material as well as personal, before the start of that process. But although the two processes exist alongside each other independently, they condition each other. The first introduces the second, and the second implements the first.

The first process, the sale and purchase of labour capacity, shows us the worker and the capitalist solely as seller and buyer of the commodity. What distinguishes the worker from other sellers of commodities is only the specific nature, the specific use value of the commodity he sells. But the particular use value of the commodities alters absolutely nothing in the determination of the economic form of the transaction, it does not alter the fact that the buyer represents money, and the seller a commodity. Hence in order to prove that the relation between the capitalist and the worker is nothing but a relation between commodity owners who exchange money and commodities with each other for their mutual advantage and by virtue of a free contract, it is sufficient to isolate the first process and keep holding onto its formal character. This simple conjuring trick is hardly witchcraft, but it forms the whole of vulgar political economy’s stock of wisdom.

We have seen [227] that the capitalist must convert his money not just into labour capacity but into the objective factors of the labour process, the means of production. But if we look at capital as a whole, on one side, i.e. the totality of buyers of labour capacity, on one side, and the totality of sellers of labour capacity, the totality of workers, on the other, we see that the worker is compelled to sell, instead of a commodity, his own labour capacity as a commodity, because he is confronted on the other side by the whole of the means of production, by the whole of the objective conditions of labour, as well as by the whole of the means of subsistence, money, means of production and [469e] means of subsistence as alien property, hence because the worker is confronted by all the objective wealth as the property of the owners of commodities. It is presupposed that he works as a non-owner and that the conditions of his labour confront him as alien property. The fact that capitalist No. I, is a money owner, and buys means of production from capitalist No. II, who owns means of production, while the worker buys means of subsistence from capitalist No. III with money received from capitalist No. I, makes absolutely no change in the circumstance that capitalists Nos. I, II and III are, taken together, in exclusive possession of money, means of production, and means of subsistence. Human beings can only live in so far as they produce their means of subsistence, and they can only produce means of subsistence, in so far as they find themselves in possession of means of production, in possession of the objective conditions of labour. It is therefore apparent from the outset that the worker, who is denuded of the means of production, is denuded of the means of subsistence, just as, conversely, a person who is denuded of means of subsistence will be unable to create any means of production. Hence what stamps money or commodities with the character of capital from the outset, even in the first process before they have actually been converted into capital, is neither their nature as money nor their nature as commodities, nor is it the material use value these commodities have of serving as means of subsistence and means of production, but the circumstance that this money and these commodities, these means of production and subsistence, confront labour capacity which has been denuded of all objective wealth as independent powers, personified in those who own them. The material conditions necessary for the realisation of labour are therefore themselves alienated from the worker, and appear rather as fetishes endowed with a will and a soul of their own, and commodities figure as the buyers of persons. The buyer of labour capacity is only the personification of objectified labour, which gives up part of itself to the worker, in the form of means of subsistence, in order to incorporate living labour capacity into its other part, and through this incorporation to preserve itself as a whole and grow beyond its original measure. It is not a case of the worker buying means of subsistence and means of production, but of the means of subsistence buying the worker, in order to incorporate him into the means of production.

The means of subsistence are a particular material form of existence in which capital confronts the worker before he appropriates them through the sale of his labour capacity. But when the production process begins, labour capacity has already been sold, and the means of subsistence have therefore been transferred, at least de jure, into the worker’s consumption fund. These means of subsistence do not form an element in the labour process, for apart from working labour capacity the labour process presupposes nothing more than the material and means of labour. The worker must in reality preserve his labour capacity through his means of subsistence, but this private consumption of his, which is at the same time the reproduction of his labour capacity, falls outside the commodity’s production process. It is possible in capitalist production for the whole of the worker’s disposable time to be in fact absorbed by capital, and hence for the consumption of the means of subsistence in fact to appear as a mere incident of the labour process itself, just as does the consumption of coal by a steam engine, of oil by a wheel or of hay by a horse; or the whole private consumption of a working slave. It is in this sense that e.g. Ricardo (see above, note 127 ) enumerates “food and clothing” alongside raw materials, tools, etc., as things which give “effect to labour” and therefore serve as “capital” in the labour process. But [469f] however things may turn out in fact, when the free worker consumes the means of subsistence they are commodities he has bought. As soon as they pass into his hands, and therefore all the more so as soon as they have been consumed by him, they cease to be capital. They therefore do not constitute any part of the material elements in which capital appears in the direct production process, although they do constitute the material form of existence of the variable capital which figures on the market, within the sphere of circulation, as the buyer of labour capacity. [ This is the correct point which lies at the basis of Rossi’s polemic against including the means of subsistence among the components of productive capital. But we shall see in a later chapter how incorrectly he conceives the matter, and the degree of confusion he argues himself into in consequence of this. P. Rossi, Cours d'économie politique. Annie 1836-1837. In: Cours d'économie politique, Brussels, 1843]

When a capitalist converts 400 thalers out of 500 into means of production and lays out 100 for the purchase of labour capacity, those 100 thalers form his variable capital. With them the workers buy means of subsistence, either from the same capitalist or from others. The 100 thalers are only the monetary form of these means of subsistence, which therefore in fact form the material content of the variable capital. The variable capital no longer exists within the direct production process in the monetary form or the commodity form; it exists in the form of the living labour which it has appropriated by buying labour capacity. And it is only through this conversion bf variable capital into labour that the quantity of value advanced in money or commodities is converted at all into capital. Hence although the sale and purchase of labour capacity, by which the conversion of a part of the capital into variable capital is conditioned, is a process which precedes the direct production process, and is separate from and independent of it, it forms the absolute foundation for the capitalist production process and it forms a moment of this production process itself, when we consider the latter as a whole and not only at the moment of the direct production of commodities. Objective wealth is converted into capital solely because the worker sells his labour capacity in order to live. The objects which are the objective conditions of labour, hence the means of production and the objects which are the objective conditions for the preservation of the worker himself, hence the means of subsistence, only become capital when faced with wage labour. Capital is no more a thing than money is. In capital, as in money, definite social relations of production between persons are expressed as the relations of things to persons, or definite social connections appear as social characteristics belonging naturally to things. As soon as the individuals confront each other as free persons, there is no production of surplus value without a wage system. Without the production of surplus value there is no capitalist production, hence no capital and no capitalist! Capital and wage labour (this is what we call the labour of the worker who sells his own labour capacity) merely express two factors in the same relation. Money cannot become capital without being exchanged for labour capacity as a commodity sold by the worker himself. Labour, on the other hand, can only appear as wage labour when its own objective conditions meet it as egoistical powers, as alien property, value existing for itself and holding fast to itself, in short as capital. So if capital can only consist from the material point of view — or from the point of view of the use values in which it exists — of the objective conditions of labour itself, these objective conditions must from the formal point of view confront labour as alien, independent powers, as value — objectified labour — to which living labour is the mere means of its own preservation and expansion. Wage labour, or the wage system, is therefore a necessary social form of labour for capitalist production, just as capital, potentiated value, is a necessary social form which the objective conditions of labour must assume for the labour to be wage labour. Wage labour is therefore a necessary condition for the formation of capital, and it remains the constantly necessary presupposition for capitalist production. So although the first process, the exchange of money for labour capacity, or the sale of labour capacity, does not enter as such into the direct production process, it does in contrast enter into the production of the relation as a whole.

[ One can therefore conclude from this what an F. Bastiat understands of the essence of capitalist production when he declares the wage system to be a formality, external to capitalist production and irrelevant to it, and makes the discovery “that it is not the form of the remuneration which creates this dependence for him” (for the worker) (Harmonies économiques, Paris, 1851, p. 378). This is a discovery — as well as being a misunderstood piece of plagiarism from genuine political economists — worthy of the eloquent ignoramus who also discovered, in the same work, hence in 1851, that “what is still more decisive and unmistakable is the disappearance of the great industrial crises in England” (p. 396).a Although F. Bastiat had decreed the removal of great crises from England in 1851, that country again enjoyed a great crisis in 1857, and only avoided another industrial crisis of previously unimagined extent in 1861 because of the outbreak of the American Civil War; one can read this even in the official reports of the English Chambers of Commerce.[228]]

The first process, the sale and purchase of labour capacity, presupposes that the means of production and the means of subsistence have achieved independence vis-à-vis the real worker, and therefore presupposes personified means of production and subsistence, which conclude contracts as buyers with the workers as sellers. If we now pass from this process, which occurs in the sphere of circulation, on the commodity market, to the direct production process itself, we find that the latter is above all a labour process. In the labour process the worker enters as worker into a normal, active relation to the means of production, determined by the nature and purpose of the labour itself. He appropriates the means of production and treats them merely as the means and material of his labour. The independent existence of these means of production, to which [469g] they held fast, and their self-willed character, their separation from labour, are now in fact superseded. The objective conditions of labour step forth in their normal unity with labour, as the mere material for, and the organs of, labour’s creative functioning. The worker treats the hide he is tanning as merely the object on which his creative activity is exerted, not as capital. He does not tan the capitalist’s hide.

[ “We see further from the explanations of the economist himself that, in the process of production, capital, the result of labour, is immediately transformed again into the substratum, into the material of labour; and that therefore the momentarily postulated separation of capital from labour is immediately superseded by the unity of both” (F. Engels, Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, 1844)]

To the extent that the production process is simply a labour process, the worker consumes the means of production in this process simply as means of subsistence of labour. But to the extent that the production process is at the same time a valorisation process, the capitalist consumes the worker’s labour capacity in it, or appropriates living labour as the life-blood of capital. The raw material, the object of labour in general, serves only to soak up alien labour, and the instrument of labour serves only as a duct, a conduit, for this process of absorption. Through the incorporation of living labour capacity into the objective components of capital, the latter becomes a monster endowed with life, and begins to function “as though it had love in its bosom”. [Goethe, Faust, Part I] Since labour creates value solely in a particular useful form, and since every specific useful kind of labour requires material and means of labour which possess a specific use value, [e.g.] spindles and cotton, etc., for the labour of spinning, anvil, hammer and iron for the labour of the smith, and so on, the labour can only be absorbed in so far as capital takes on the shape of the specific means of production required for particular labour processes, and only in this shape can capital absorb living labour. Here, therefore, one sees why the material elements of the labour process are seen as capital on account of their material characteristics by the capitalist, the worker and the political economist, the last-mentioned being capable of thinking of the labour process only as a labour process appropriated by capital. One also sees why the political economist is incapable of separating their material existence, as simply factors of the labour process, from the social quality attaching to them, which makes them into capital. He cannot do this because in reality the same identical labour process which the means of production serve through their material characteristics as mere means of subsistence of labour, converts those means of production into mere means for the absorption of labour. The worker makes use of the means of production in the labour process, considered in isolation. But in the labour process which is at the same time a capitalist production process the means of production make use of the worker, with the result that labour appears only as a means whereby a certain amount of value, hence a certain amount of objectified labour, absorbs living labour in order to preserve and increase itself. Thus the labour process appears as a process of the self-valorisation of objectified labour by means of living labour. [*"Labour is the agency by which capital is made productive of ... profit"* (John Wade, 1.c. [History of the Middle and Working Classes...], p. 161). “In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour”, Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, 1848]

Capital employs the worker, not the worker capital, and it is only things which employ the worker and therefore, in the shape of the capitalist, possess selfhood, and a consciousness and will of their own, which are capital.

[The particular economic character of the means of subsistence, that they buy workers, or the character of the means of production, such as leather and lasts, that they employ journeymen cobblers, this inverted relation between thing and person, hence their capitalist character, is so inseparably bound up with the material character of the elements of production in the system of capitalist production, and therefore in the imagination of the political economists, that Ricardo, for example, despite regarding it as necessary to give a more precise characterisation of the material elements of capital, employs without further reservations or further remarks, as self-evident, the economically correct expressions “Capital, or the means of employing labour” (hence not “means employed by labour” but “means of employing labour”) (I.C. [On the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation], p. 92), “Quantity of Labour employed by a capital” (ibid., p. 419), and “The fund which is to employ them” (The labourers) (p. 252), etc. How could one have explained to an ancient Greek or Roman such expressions as “Though the existing mass of commodities should command less labour than before, etc.” (An Inquiry into those Principles, respecting the Nature of Demand etc., p. 60), where the commodity’s command over labour is directly referred to? In the present-day German language, too, the capitalist, the personification of the things which take labour, is called “the giver of labour” [Arbeitsgeber] and the actual worker, who gives labour, is called “the taker of labour” [Arbeitsnehmer]. “In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality” (Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei, l.c).]

In so far as the labour process is merely the means and the real form of the valorisation process, hence in so far as it is a process which consists in the objectification in commodities of a surplus of unpaid labour, surplus value, over and above the labour which was objectified in wages, hence in the production of surplus value, the essential point of this whole process is the exchange of objectified labour with living labour, the exchange of less objectified labour for more living labour. In the process of exchange itself, a quantity of labour objectified in money as a commodity is exchanged for a quantity of labour of equal magnitude, objectified in living labour capacity. [469h] In line with the law of value governing the exchange of commodities, equivalents are exchanged, equal quantities of objectified labour, although one quantity is objectified in a thing, the other in a living person. However, this exchange only introduces the production process, by means of which more labour is in fact obtained in living form than was expended in objectified form.

The great merit of classical political economy is therefore that it presented the whole production process as a process of this kind between objectified labour and living labour, and hence it presented capital, as opposed to living labour, solely as objectified labour, i.e. as value which valorises itself by means of living labour. Classical political economy’s deficiencies here are firstly that it was incapable of demonstrating how this exchange of more living labour for less objectified labour fits in with the law of the exchange of commodities the determination of the values of commodities by labour time, and secondly, therefore, that it directly lumped together the exchange of a definite quantity of objectified labour for labour capacity in the circulation process with the absorption of living labour in the production process by the objectified labour which is present in the shape of means of production. It lumps together the process of exchange between variable capital and labour capacity with the process of the absorption of living labour by constant capital. This deficiency too arises from classical political economy’s “capitalist” prejudices, because the capitalist himself, who only pays for labour after it has been performed, regards the exchange of a small quantity of objectified labour for a large quantity of living labour as one single unmediated process. Hence if the modern political economist counterposes capital, as objectified labour, to living labour, he understands by objectified labour not the products of labour in the sense in which they possess a use value and are the embodiment of particular useful acts of labour, but in the sense in which they are the material expression of a particular quantity of general social labour, hence are value, money, which valorises itself by appropriating alien living labour. This appropriation is mediated by the exchange . between variable capital and labour capacity, which takes place on the commodity market, but is only completed in the real production process.

[Direct labour and objectified labour, present and past labour, living and hoarded labour, etc., are therefore forms in which the political economists express the relation between capital and labour.

*"Labour and Capital ... the one immediate labour, ... the other hoarded labour"* (James Mill, Elements of Political Economy, London, 1821, p. 75).

*"Antecedent labour (capital) ... present labour"* (E. G. Wakefield, in his edition of Adam Smith [An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations], Vol. 1, London, 1835, p. 231, note). *"Accumulated labour (capital) ... immediate labour” (Torrens, 1.c. [An Essay on the Production of Wealth..., London, 1821], Ch. I p. 31).

*"Labour and Capital, that is, accumulated labour"* (Ricardo, 1.c. [On the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation], p. 499).

* “The specific advances of the capitalists do not consist of cloth” * (or of any use values at all), * “but of labour” * (Malthus, The Measure of Value etc., London, 1823, p. 17).

“Just as everyone is forced to consume before he produces, the poor worker finds himself dependent upon the rich man, and can neither live nor work without obtaining from him existing produce and commodities, in exchange for those he promises to produce by his own labour... To make him” [i.e. the rich man] “consent to this, it was necessary to agree that whenever labour already performed was exchanged for labour yet to be done, the latter would have a higher value than the former” (Sismondi, De la richesse commercials, Vol. 1, Geneva, 1803, pp. 36, 37).a

Mr. W. Roscher, who evidently has no idea of what the English political economists are saying, and apart from this inopportunely recalls that Senior has baptised capital “abstinence”, makes the following grammatically “acute” professorial observation: “The school of Ricardo is also accustomed to subsume capital under the concept of labour, as ‘hoarded labour’. This is clumsy, because after all (!) the owner of capital has even so (!) done more (!) than merely (!) produce (!) and preserve it (!); namely he has abstained from enjoying it himself, in return for which he demands e.g. interest” (W. Roscher, 1.c. [Die Grundlagen der Nationalökonomie..., 1858, p. 82]).]

The subordination of the labour process to capital does not at first change the real mode of production in any way, and its only practical effect is as follows: the worker comes under the command, the direction, and the overall supervision of the capitalist, only in relation to his labour which belongs to capital, of course. The capitalist takes care that the worker wastes no time, and e.g. produces every hour the product of an hour’s labour, employing only the average amount of labour time necessary to produce the product. To the extent that the capital-relation dominates production, and the worker therefore constantly appears on the market as a seller and the capitalist as a buyer, the labour process is itself by and large continuous and not interrupted, as it would be if the worker, as an independent producer of commodities, depended on the sale [469i] of his commodities to individual customers, since the minimum amount of capital must be large enough to employ the worker continuously and wait for the sale of the commodities."')

[ * “If in the progress of time a change takes place in their economical position"* (i.e. the *workmen’s), “if they become the workmen of a capitalist who advances their wages beforehand, two things take place. First, they can now labour continuously; and, secondly, an agent is provided, whose office and whose interest it will be, to see that they do labour continuously... Here, then, is an increased continuity in the labour of all this class of persons. They labour daily from morning to night, and are not interrupted by waiting for or seeking the customer... But the continuity of labour, thus made possible, is secured and improved by the superintendence of the capitalist. He has advanced their wages; he is to receive the products of their labour. It is his interest and his privilege to see that they do not labour interruptedly or dilatorily"* (R. Jones, 1.c. [Text-book of Lectures on the Political Economy of Nations.... Hertford, 1852], p. 38 sqq. passim).]

Finally, the capitalist compels the worker to prolong the duration of the labour process as far as possible beyond the limits of the labour time necessary for the reproduction of the wage, for this surplus of labour is precisely what provides the capitalist with surplus value.

["An axiom generally admitted by economists is that all labour must leave a surplus. In my opinion this proposition is universally and absolutely true: it is the corollary of the law of proportion” (!), “which may be regarded as the summary of the whole of economic science. But, if the economists will permit me to say so, the principle that all labour must leave a surplus is meaningless according to their theory, and is not susceptible of any demonstration” (Proudhon, [Système des contradictions économiques, ou] Philosophie de la misère [Vol. I, Paris, 1846, p. 73]). I have shown in my work Misère de la philosophie. Réponse a la philosophie de la misère de M. Proudhon, Paris, 1847, pp. 76-9l, that Mr. Proudhon does not have the slightest idea of the nature of this “surplus of labour”, which is in fact the surplus product in which the surplus labour or unpaid labour of the worker is expressed. Since he finds that all labour in fact produces a “surplus” of this kind in capitalist production, he endeavours to explain this fact by calling upon some sort of mysterious natural quality in labour, and to escape from his embarrassment by using such sesquepedalia verba [Bombastic, meaningless and long-winded expression] as “corollary of the law of proportion”, etc. [229]]

Just as the owner of commodities is only interested in the use value of the commodity as the vehicle of its exchange value, so the capitalist is only interested in the labour process as the vehicle and instrument of the valorisation process. Within the production process too — in so far as it is a valorisation process — the means of production continue to be simply monetary values, for which the particular material shape, the particular use value, in which this exchange value is expressed is a matter of indifference, just as labour itself does not count within the production process as productive activity of a particular useful character, but as the substance that creates value, as social labour in general which is being objectified, and of which the only interesting aspect is its quantity. For capital, therefore, every particular sphere of production counts only as a particular sphere in which money is invested in order to make more money, in order to preserve and increase existing value or to appropriate surplus labour. The labour process is different, and therefore the factors of the labour process are different, in every individual sphere of production. One cannot make any boots with spindles, cotton, and spinners. But the investment of capital in one or the other sphere of production, the division of the total capital of society between the various spheres of production, and finally the degree to which capital migrates from one sphere of production to another, are all determined by the changing proportions in which society requires the products of these particular spheres of production, i.e. the use value of the commodities they produce; for although only the exchange value of a commodity is paid, it is never bought for any other reason than its use value.

But capital is in and for itself indifferent towards the specificity of every sphere of production, and where it is invested, how it is invested, and to what extent it passes from one sphere of production into another, or its distribution between the various spheres of production alters, is determined solely by the greater or lesser difficulty experienced in selling the commodities produced by one or the other sphere of production. In reality, this fluidity of capital is slowed down by frictions, which we do not need to consider here any further. But on the one hand, as we shall see later, it creates means of overcoming these frictions, in so far as they arise solely from the nature of the relation of production itself, and on the other hand the development of the mode of production peculiar to capital removes all legal and extra-economic obstacles to its free movement in the various spheres of production. Above all it overturns all the legal or traditional barriers preventing it from buying whatever kind of labour capacity it thinks fit, or appropriating any kind of labour at all at its good pleasure. Furthermore, although labour capacity possesses a particular shape in every particular sphere of production, as the capacity for spinning, shoemaking, blacksmithing, etc., although, in short, every particular sphere of production requires a labour capacity which has developed in a particular direction, a specialised labour capacity, that fluidity of capital, its indifference towards the particular character of the labour [469k] process it is appropriating, presupposes the same fluidity or versatility in labour, hence in the ability of the worker to employ his labour capacity. We shall see that the capitalist mode of production itself creates these economic obstacles to its own tendency, but it removes all legal and extra-economic obstacles to the versatility we are discussing.

[* “Every man, if not restrained by law, would pass from one employment to another, as the various turns in trade should require"* (Considerations Concerning Taking Off the Bounty on Corn Exported etc., London, 1753, p. 4).]

Just as capital, as self-valorising value, is indifferent to the particular material shape in which it appears in the labour process, whether as steam engine, manure heap or silk, so the worker is indifferent to the particular content of his labour. His labour belongs to capital, it is merely the use value of the commodity he has sold, and he has only sold it in order to appropriate to himself money, and, with that money, the means of subsistence. He is only interested. in changes in the kind of labour [needed] because every particular kind of labour demands a different development of labour capacity. While his indifference towards the particular content of his labour does not provide him with the ability to change his labour capacity to order, he shows this indifference by throwing his replacements, the succeeding generation, from one branch of labour to the other according to the requirements of the market. The higher the development of capitalist production in a country, the greater the demand for versatility in labour capacity, the more indifferent the worker is towards the particular content of his labour, and the greater the fluidity of capital’s movement from one sphere of production to another. Classical political economy presupposes as axioms the versatility of labour capacity and the fluidity of capital, and justifiably so to the extent that this is the tendency of the capitalist mode of production, which asserts itself ruthlessly despite all obstacles, which are for the most part created by capitalist production itself. In order to present the laws of political economy in their purity, abstraction is made from these frictions, just as in pure mechanics abstraction is made from particular frictions which have to be overcome in each particular case of its application. 144)

[Nowhere is the fluidity of capital, the versatility of labour and the indifference of the worker towards the content of his labour more clearly apparent than in the United States of North America. In Europe, and even in England, capitalist production continues to be haunted and falsified by feudal reminiscences. The fact that e.g. baking, shoemaking, etc., are only now starting to be carried on in the capitalist fashion in England, is entirely due to the circumstance that English capital had feudal prejudices about “respectability”. It was “respectable” to sell Negroes into slavery, but it wasn’t “respectable” to make sausages, boots or bread. All the machinery which subordinates the “disreputable” European branches of business to the capitalist mode of production therefore originates from the United States. On the other hand, people are nowhere as indifferent to the kind of labour they perform as in the United States; nowhere else are people so aware that their labour always delivers the same product, money, and nowhere else do people pass with the same nonchalance through the most disparate branches of labour. This ‘Versatility” of labour capacity therefore appears here as a completely distinct quality of the free worker in contrast to the working slave, whose labour capacity is fixed, and can only be employed in the locally traditional manner. * “Slave labour is eminently defective in point of versatility... if tobacco be cultivated, tobacco becomes the sole staple, and tobacco is produced whatever be the state of the market, and whatever be the condition of the soil” * (Cairnes, 1.c., The Slave Power: its Character, Career, and Probable Designs..., London, 1862, pp. 46, 47).]

Although the capitalist and the worker only confront each other on the market as buyer, money, and seller, commodity, this relation has from the outset a characteristic coloration owing to the peculiar content of the transaction; the more so, in that the capitalist mode of production presupposes that the presence of both sides on the market in the same antithetical determination is constantly repeated, or is a constant one. If we consider the relation of commodity owners as such on the market, we see the same commodity owner appear alternately as seller and buyer of commodities. The fact that two commodity owners are distinguished from each other as buyers and sellers is only a constantly disappearing difference, in that all alternately play the same roles towards each other in the sphere of circulation. Admittedly, the worker too becomes a buyer, after he has sold his labour capacity, converted it into money, and he is now confronted by the capitalists as mere sellers of commodities. But in his hands the money is only a means of circulation. On the actual commodity market the worker is in fact only distinguished as a buyer from the commodity owner as a seller, just like everyone else who possesses money. But on the labour market it is different: here money always confronts him as the money form of capital, and therefore the money owner confronts him as capital personified, a capitalist, just as for his part the worker confronts the money owner as [469l] merely the personification of labour capacity, and therefore of labour, as a worker.

“The relation of the manufacturer to his operatives is ... purely economic. The manufacturer is ‘Capital’, the operative ‘Labour’.” [Engels, Lage der arbeitenden Klasse etc.,]

It is not a mere buyer and a mere seller who face each other, it is a capitalist and a worker, who face each other in the sphere of circulation, on the market, as buyer and seller. Their relation as capitalist and worker is the presupposition for their relation as buyer and seller. This is not, as with other sellers of commodities, a relation that arises absolutely from the nature of the commodity itself, such as that no one directly produces products for his own needs, but rather that everyone produces a particular product as a commodity, and then through selling it appropriates the products of others. What we are dealing with here is not the social division of labour and independent position of the different branches of labour vis-à-vis each other which makes e.g. the shoemaker into a seller of boots and a buyer of leather or bread. It is rather the division of the associated elements of the production process themselves, and their achievement of an independent position vis-à-vis each other, which proceeds as far as their reciprocal personification. This is what makes money, as the general form of objectified labour, into a buyer of labour capacity, of the living source of exchange value and therefore of wealth. Real wealth, which is money, if seen from the point of view of exchange value, and the means of subsistence and the means of production, if seen from the point of view of use value, confronts the worker, the potentiality of wealth, i.e. labour capacity, as one person confronting another person.

[469m] Since surplus value is the specific product of the production process, its product is not only the commodity but capital. Labour is converted into capital within the production process. The functioning of labour capacity, i.e. labour, objectifies itself in the production process, and thus becomes value, but since the labour ceases to belong to the worker even before it starts, what is objectified for the worker is the objectification of alien labour, and therefore value independently confronting labour capacity, capital. The product belongs to the capitalist, and it represents capital vis-à-vis the worker just as much as the elements of production do. On the other hand, existing value — or money — only genuinely becomes capital, firstly, by presenting itself as self-valorising value, value in process (and it does present itself as such in that the functioning of labour capacity, labour, takes effect within the production process as energy incorporated into it, and belonging to it), and, secondly, by distinguishing itself as surplus value from itself as value originally pre-posited, which is in turn a result of the objectification of surplus labour.

In the production process, labour becomes objectified labour as opposed to living labour capacity, i.e. it becomes capital; a second result of this absorption and appropriation of labour in the production process is that the value pre-posited becomes value in process, and therefore value which creates a surplus value distinct from itself. Only through the conversion of labour into capital during the production process is the pre-posited quantity of value, which was only dunamei capital, realised as actual capital.

["They” (the workers) “exchange their labour” (this should read “their labour capacity”) “for corn” [i.e. the means of subsistence] “This becomes their income” [i.e. fails to their share as individual consumption] “..,whereas their labour has become capital for their master” (Sismondi, Nouveaux principes d'économie politique ..., Vol. I, p. 90). “The workers, giving their labour in exchange, convert it [the product] into capital” (1.c., p. 105).]

[469] There is one further remark to be made about value or money as objectification of general average social labour: the labour of spinning, for example, may in itself stand above or below the level of average social labour. I.e. a given quantity of spinning labour may be equal to, greater than, or less than, the same quantity of average social labour, e.g. labour time of the same magnitude (length), objectified in a given quantity of money. But if the labour of spinning is performed with the degree of intensity normal in its sphere, hence if the amount of labour employed in yarn manufactured in the course of an hour = the normal quantity of yarn an hour of spinning labour provides on an average under the given social conditions, the labour objectified in the yarn will be socially necessary labour. As such it has a quantitatively determined relation to the average social labour in general which serves as a yardstick, representing accordingly a quantity of the latter, which can be the same, greater or smaller. It therefore itself expresses a definite quantity of average social labour.

Formal Subsumption of Labour under Capital

The labour process becomes the instrument of the valorisation process, of the process of capital’s self-valorisation — the process of the creation of surplus value. The labour process is subsumed under capital (it is capital’s own process) and the capitalist enters the process as its conductor, its director; for him it is at the same time directly a process of the exploitation of alien labour. I call this the formal subsumption of labour under capital. It is the general form of any capitalist production process; but at the same time it is a particular form alongside the developed mode of production which is specifically capitalist because the second involves the first, but the first by no means necessarily involves the second.

[470] The production process has become the process of capital itself. It is a process which proceeds with the factors of the labour process into which the capitalist’s money has been converted, and which proceeds under his direction, and with the purpose of using money to make more money.

When the peasant who previously produced independently for himself becomes a day labourer working for a farmer; when the hierarchical structure valid for the mode of production of the guild type disappears, to be replaced by the simple antithesis between the capitalist and the handicraftsman who is set to work for him as a wage labourer; when the man who was previously a slaveholder employs his former slaves as wage labourers, etc., production processes with a different social determination are thereby converted into the production process of capital. With this, there occur the changes discussed earlier. The previously independent peasant becomes, as a factor in the production process, dependent on the capitalist, who directs that process; his very employment depends on a contract he has concluded in advance as a commodity owner (an owner of labour power) with the capitalist as a money owner. The slave ceases to be an instrument of production belonging to the employer of that instrument. The relation between master and journeyman vanishes. The master stood towards the journeyman in the relation of master of the craft. Now he relates to him merely as the owner of capital, just as the journeyman now only confronts the master as a seller of labour. Before the production process they all confront each other as owners of commodities, having only a monetary relation in common; within the production process, as personified agents of the factors of that process. The capitalist functions as “capital”, the direct producer as “labour”, and their relation is determined by labour, as a mere factor in self-valorising capital.

Furthermore, the capitalist takes care that the labour possesses the normal level of quality and intensity, and he prolongs the labour process as much as possible, since the amount of surplus value produced by it thereby increases. There is a growth in the continuity of labour when the producers, instead of being dependent as previously on individual customers, no longer have any commodities to sell, but possess a permanent paymaster in the shape of the capitalist.

The mystification inherent in the capital-relation also enters the picture. Labour’s power of preserving value appears as capital’s power of self-preservation, labour’s power of creating value appears as capital’s power of self-valorisation, and altogether, in line with the concept, objectified labour appears as the employer of living labour.

Despite all this, the change indicated does not mean that an essential change takes place from the outset in the real way in which the labour process is carried on, in the real production process. On the contrary, it is in the nature of the matter that where a subsumption of the labour process under capital takes place it occurs on the basis of an existing labour process, which was there before its subsumption under capital, and was formed on the basis of various earlier processes of production and other conditions of production. Capital thus subsumes under itself a given, existing labour process, such as handicraft labour, the mode of agriculture corresponding to small-scale independent peasant farming. If changes take place in these traditional labour processes which have been brought under the command of capital, these modifications can only be the gradual consequences of the subsumption of given, traditional labour processes under capital, which has already occurred. The fact that the labour becomes more intensive, or the duration of the labour process is prolonged, that the labour becomes more continuous and more systematic under the eyes of the interested capitalist, etc., none of these things changes the character of the real labour process itself, the real mode of labour. This therefore forms a great contrast to the specifically capitalist mode of production (labour on a large scale, etc.) which, as has been shown, takes shape as capitalist production progresses, and which revolutionises the kind of labour done and the real mode of the entire labour process, simultaneously with the relations between the various agents of production. It is in order to mark the contrast with the latter mode of the labour process that we call the subsumption of the labour process under capital examined so far[230] — which is the subsumption under capital of a mode of labour already developed before the emergence of the capital-relation — the formal subsumption of labour under capital. The capital-relation is a relation of compulsion, the aim of which is to extract surplus labour by prolonging labour time — it is a relation of compulsion which does not rest on any personal relations of domination and dependence, but simply arises out of the difference in economic functions. This capital-relation as a relation of compulsion is common to both modes of production, but the specifically capitalist mode of production also possesses other ways of extracting surplus value. If, in contrast to this, the basis is an existing mode of labour, hence a given level of development of the productive power of labour and a mode of labour which corresponds to this productive power, surplus value can only be created by prolonging labour time, hence in the manner of absolute surplus value. Therefore, where this is the sole form of production of surplus value, we have the formal subsumption of labour under capital.

[471] The general moments of the labour process, as presented in Chapter II[231] thus e.g. the diremption placing the objective conditions of labour — the material and means of labour — on one side, and the living activity of the worker himself, etc., on the other, are determinations independent of whatever is the historical and specifically the social character of the production process, and they remain equally true for all possible forms of development of the latter; they are in fact the unalterable natural conditions of human labour. This is strikingly demonstrated straight away by the fact that they are valid for human beings working independently, producing, not in an exchange with society, but only in an exchange with nature, such as Robinson. Crusoe, etc. They are therefore in fact absolute determinants of human labour altogether, once human beings have worked their way out of their purely animal character.

What from the outset distinguishes the labour process subsumed under capital, even when it is only formally subsumed, and what distinguishes it more and more, even on the basis of the old, traditional mode of labour, is the scale on which it is carried on, hence on the one hand the extent of the means of production advanced, and on the other hand the number of workers under the control of the same employer. What appears as a maximum on the basis of e.g. the handicraft mode of production (e.g. with regard to the number of journeymen) hardly even forms a minimum for the capital-relation. For in fact the latter can hardly enter the picture more than nominally unless the capitalist employs at least enough workers for the surplus value produced by them to be sufficient to serve as income for his own private consumption, and as a fund for accumulation, so that he himself is exempted from direct labour and only works now as a capitalist as the overseer and director of the process, performing as it were the function of capital engaged in its valorisation process and virtually endowed with will and consciousness. And this expansion of the scale of production forms the real basis on which the specifically capitalist mode of production emerges, under otherwise favourable historical circumstances, such as those of the 16th century, although it of course may appear sporadically at isolated points, not as dominating over society, within earlier forms of society.

The distinguishing character of the formal subsumption of labour under capital can be made most plain by comparison with situations in which capital already exists in particular subordinate functions, but not yet in its ruling function, the function in which it determines the general form of society, as directly buying labour and directly appropriating the production process. Usurers’ capital, for example, in so far as it advances raw material, instrument of labour or even both, in the form of money, to the direct producer, as e.g. in India. The immense interest it charges, the interest payments in general it thus extorts from the direct producer, irrespective of their size, are only another name for surplus value.

In fact it converts its money into capital by extorting unpaid labour, surplus labour, from the direct producer. But it does not become involved in the production process itself; this continues alongside it in its traditional manner. Usurers’ capital springs up in part because of the stunted development of this mode of production, and in part it is a means of keeping it stunted, and making it continue to vegetate in the most unfavourable conditions. Here the formal subsumption of labour under capital does not yet take place. Another example is merchants’ capital, in so far as it gives out orders to a number of direct producers, then collects and sells their products, in which connection it may also advance raw material, etc., or also make monetary advances, etc. This is the form out of which the modern capital-relation in part developed, and it still forms here and there the transition to the capital-relation proper. Here too no formal subsumption of labour under capital has yet taken place. The direct producer continues to be both a seller of commodities and an employer of his own labour. But the transition is already present here to a greater extent than in the relation of usurers’ capital. Both of these forms, to which we shall return at some later point, are reproduced as parallel and transitional forms within the capitalist mode of production.

[472] The Real Subsumption of Labour under Capital or the Specifically Capitalist Mode of Production

In Chapter III[232] we exhaustively analysed how the whole real shape of the mode of production changes with the production of relative surplus value [in the case of the individual capitalist, in so far as he seizes the initiative, it is spurred on by the fact that value = the socially necessary labour time objectified in the product, and therefore surplus value begins to be created for him once the individual value of his product stands below its social value, and can as a result be sold above its individual value] and how a specifically capitalist mode of production arises (technologically as well), on the basis of which, and with which, there also begins a simultaneous development of the relations of production corresponding to the capitalist production process — relations between the different agents of production, in particular between the capitalist and the wage labourer.

The social productive powers of labour, or the productive powers of directly social, socialised (common) labour, are developed through cooperation, through the division of labour within the workshop, the employment of machinery, and in general through the transformation of the production process into a conscious application of the natural sciences, mechanics, chemistry, etc., for particular purposes, technology, etc., as well as by working on a large scale, which corresponds to all these advances, etc. [This socialised labour alone is capable of applying the general products of human development, such as mathematics, etc., to the direct production process, just as, conversely, the development of the sciences presupposes that the material production process has attained a certain level.] This development of the productive power of socialised labour, as opposed to the more or less isolated labour of the individual, etc., and, alongside it, the application of science, that general product of social development, to the direct production process, has the appearance of a productive power of capital, not of labour, or it only appears as a productive power of labour in so far as the latter is identical with capital, and in any case it does not appear as the productive power either of the individual worker or of the workers combined together in the production process. The mystification which lies in the capital-relation in general is now much more developed than it was, or could be, in the case of the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital. On the other hand, the historical significance of capitalist production first emerges here in striking fashion (and specifically), precisely through the transformation of the direct production process itself, and the development of the social productive powers of labour.

It was demonstrated in Chapter III that the “social character”, etc., of the worker’s labour confronts him, both “notionally” and “in fact”, as not only alien, but hostile and antagonistic, and as objectified and personified in capital.

Just as the production of absolute surplus value can be regarded as the material expression of the formal subsumption of labour under capital, so the production of relative surplus value can be regarded as that of the real subsumption of labour under capital.

In any case, if each of the two forms of surplus value — absolute and relative — is considered for itself, in its separate existence and absolute surplus value always precedes relative — we can say that two separate forms of the subsumption of labour under capital, or two separate forms of capitalist production, correspond to the two forms of surplus value. The first form of production always constitutes the predecessor of the second, although the second, which is the further developed form, can in turn form the basis for the introduction of the first in new branches of production.

[473] [Supplementary Remarks on the Formal Subsumption of Labour under Capital]

Before we proceed any further in considering the real subsumption of labour under capital, the following supplementary remarks are taken from my notebooks.[65]

I call the form which rests on absolute surplus value the formal subsumption of labour under capital because it is distinguished only formally from the earlier modes of production on the basis of which it directly originates (is introduced), modes in which either the producers are self-employing, or the direct producers have to provide surplus labour for others. The compulsion exerted there, i.e. the method of extracting surplus labour, is of a different kind. The essential features of formal subsumption are these:

1) the purely money relation between the person who is appropriating the surplus labour and the person who provides it; to the extent that subordination arises, it arises from the particular content of the sale, not from a subordination pre-posited to the sale, which might have placed the producer in a relation other than the money relation (the relation of one commodity owner to another) towards the exploiter of his labour, as a consequence of political conditions, etc. It is only as owner of the conditions of labour that the buyer brings the seller into a condition of economic dependency; it is not any kind of political and socially fixed relation of domination and subordination.

2) Something implied by the first relation — for otherwise the worker would not have to sell his labour capacity — namely the fact that the objective conditions of his labour (the means of production) and the subjective conditions of his labour (the means of subsistence) confront him as capital, as monopolised by the buyer of his labour capacity. The more completely these conditions of labour confront him as alien. property, the more completely does the relation of capital and wage labour occur formally, hence the formal subsumption of labour under capital, which is the condition and presupposition of its real subsumption.

As yet there is no difference in the mode of production itself. The labour process, seen from the technological point of view, continues exactly as it did before, except that now it is a labour process subordinated to capital. Nevertheless, there develops within the production process itself, as previously demonstrated, 1) an economic relation of domination and subordination, in that the consumption of labour capacity is done by the capitalist, and is therefore supervised and directed by him; and 2) a great

continuity and intensity of labour and a greater economy in the employment of the conditions of labour, in that every effort is made to ensure that the product only represents socially necessary labour time (or rather, less than. that). This applies both with regard to the living labour employed to produce the product, and with regard to the objectified labour which, as the value of the means of production employed, enters as a constituent element into the value of the product.

With the formal subsumption of labour under capital, the compulsion to do surplus labour — and therewith on the one hand to create needs and the means to satisfy those needs, and on the other hand to produce in quantities which go beyond the measure of the worker’s traditional needs — and the creation of free time for development, independently of material production, merely take on a different form from that of earlier modes of production, but it is a form which heightens the continuity and intensity of labour, increases production, is more favourable to the development of variations in labour capacity and accordingly to the differentiation of modes of labour and gaining a living, and finally dissolves the very relation between the owner of the conditions of labour and the worker into a pure relation of purchase and sale, or a money relation, and eliminates from the relation of exploitation all patriarchal, political or even religious admixtures. To be sure, the relation of production itself creates a new relation of domination and subordination (and this also produces political, etc., expressions of itself). The less capitalist production goes beyond the formal relation, the less is the formal relation itself developed, since it presupposes small capitalists alone, who are only marginally distinct from the workers themselves in their training and mode of employment.

[474] The difference in the kind of relation of domination and subordination when the mode of production is not yet affected, is most apparent where rural and domestic subsidiary occupations, carried on just for the needs of the family, are transformed into independent capitalist branches of labour.

The difference between labour formally subsumed by capital and the previous way of employing labour emerges to the same extent as the growth in the magnitude of the capital employed by the individual capitalist, hence in the number of workers simultaneously employed by him. The capitalist requires a certain minimum amount of capital to be able to stop being a worker himself and to confine himself entirely to the direction of the labour , process and the conduct of trade with the commodities that have been produced.

The real subsumption of labour under capital, the capitalist mode of production proper, only takes place when capitalists of a certain importance have directly taken control of production, whether because the merchant becomes an industrial capitalist or because large-scale industrial capitalists have come into existence on the basis of the formal subsumption.

[474a] [This note is not related to the last passage but to the preceding one. [233]

“A free labourer has generally the liberty of changing his master: this liberty distinguishes a slave from a free labourer, as much as an English man-of-war sailor is distinguished from a merchant sailor... The condition of a labourer is superior to that of a slave, because a labourer thinks himself free; and this conviction, however erroneous, has no small influence on the character of a population” * (Th. R. Edmonds, Practical Moral and Political Economy, London, 1828, pp. 56-57). “The motive which impels a free man to labour is much more violent than the motive impelling a slave: *a free man has to choose between hard labour and starvation “ * [check this passage], *"a slave between ... and a good whipping” (1.c., p. 56). “The difference between the conditions of a slave and a labourer under the money system is very inconsiderable; ... the master of the slave understands too well his own interest to weaken his slaves by stinting them in their food; but the master of a free man gives him as little food as possible, because the injury done to the labourer does not fall on himself alone, but on the whole class of masters” * (1.c.).

“In the old world, * to make mankind laborious beyond their wants, to make one part of a state work, to maintain the other part gratuitously,* could only be brought about by slavery, and slavery was therefore introduced universally. *Slavery was then as necessary towards multiplication, as it would now be destructive of it. The reason is plain. If mankind be not forced to labour, they will only labour for themselves; and if they have few wants, there will be few [who] labour. But when states come to be formed and have occasion for idle hands to defend them against the violence of their enemies, food at any rate must be procured for those who don not labour; and as by the supposition, the wants of the labourers are small, a method must be found to increase their labour above the proportion of their wants. For this purpose slavery was calculated... The slaves were forced to labour the soil which fed both them and the idle freemen, as was the case in Sparta; or they filled all the servile places which freemen fill now, and they were likewise employed, as in Greece and in Rome, in supplying with manufactures those whose service was necessary for the state. Here then was a violent method of making mankind laborious in raising food... Men were then forced to labour, because they were slaves to others; men are now forced to labour because they are slaves of their own wants” * (J. Steuart, [An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconómy .... ] Vol. I, Dublin edition, 1770, pp. 38-40).

“In the 16th century,” says the same Steuart, “while on the one hand the lords were dismissing their retainers, the farmers”, who were turning themselves into industrial capitalists, “were dismissing the idle mouths. Agriculture was converted from a means of subsistence into a trade.” The consequence was this: * “The withdrawing ... [of] a number of hands from a trifling agriculture forces, in a manner, the husbandmen to work harder; and by hard labour upon a small spot, the same effect is produced as with slight labour upon a great extent” * (1.c., p. 105).]

If the relation of domination and subordination replaces those of slavery, serfdom, vassalage, patriarchal, etc., relations of subordination, there takes place only a change in their form. The form becomes freer, because the subordination is now only of an objective nature; it is formally speaking voluntary, purely economic. Verte.)

[475] Or the relation of domination and subordination in the production process replaces an earlier independence in the production process, as e.g. with all self-sustaining peasants, farmers who only had to pay a rent in kind, whether to the state or to the landlord, with rural-domestic subsidiary industry, or independent handicrafts. Here, therefore, the loss of a previous independence in the production process is the situation, and the relation of domination or subordination is itself the product of the introduction of the capitalist mode of production.

Finally, the relation of capitalist and wage labourer can replace the master of the guild type and his journeymen and apprentices, a transition accomplished in part by urban manufacture at its very beginnings. The medieval guild relation, which developed in analogous form in narrow circles in Athens and Rome as well, and was of such decisive importance in Europe for the formation of capitalists on the one hand, and of a free estate of workers on the other, is a limited, not yet adequate, form of the relation of capital and wage labour. There exists here on the one hand the relation of buyer and seller. Wages are paid, and master, journeyman, and apprentice confront each other as free persons. The technological basis of this relation is the handicraft workshop, in which the more or less skilled manipulation of the instrument of labour is the decisive factor of production. Here independent personal labour and therefore its professional development, which requires a longer or shorter period of apprenticeship, determines the result of the labour. The master is admittedly in possession of the conditions of production, the tools of the trade, the material of labour [although the tools may also belong to the journeyman], and the product belongs to him. To that extent he is a capitalist. But as a capitalist he is not a master. He is first and foremost a craftsman himself, and is supposed to be a master of his craft. Within the production process itself he figures as a craftsman as much as do his journeymen, and he is the first to initiate his apprentices into the mysteries of the craft. He has exactly the same relation to his apprentices as a teacher has to his pupils. His relation to apprentices and journeymen is therefore not that of the capitalist as such, but that of the master of a craft, who holds as such a hierarchical position in the corporation, and therefore towards them, which is supposed to rest on his own mastery in the craft. His capital is therefore restricted both in its material form and in the extent of its value; it has not by any means yet attained the free form of capital. It is not a definite quantity of objectified labour, value in general, which can take on this or that form of the conditions of labour, and takes on whatever form it chooses, according to whether it decides to be exchanged for this or that form of living labour, in order to appropriate surplus labour. Only after he has passed through the prescribed stages of apprentice and journeyman, etc., himself produced his masterpiece, can he put money to work in this particular branch of labour, in his own craft, partly by turning it into the objective conditions of the craft, partly by buying journeymen and keeping apprentices. Only in his own craft can he convert his money into capital, i.e. use it not only as the means of his own labour but also as a means of exploiting alien labour. His capital is tied to a particular form of use value, and therefore does not confront his workers as capital. The methods of work he employs are not only acquired by experience but prescribed by guild regulations — they count as the necessary methods, and thus from this angle too it is not exchange value but the use value of the labour which appears as the ultimate purpose. The delivery of work of this or that quality does not depend on his own discretion; the whole guild system is rather directed towards the delivery of work of a specific quality. The price of labour[69] is just as little subject to his arbitrary will as the method of work. The restricted form, which prevents his wealth from functioning as capital, is further shown by the fact that. a maximum is in fact prescribed for the extent of the value of his capital. He is not allowed to keep more than a certain number of journeymen, since the guild is supposed to ensure for all masters a proportional share in the receipts of their craft. Finally there is the relation of the master to other masters as a member of the same guild; as such he belongs to a corporation, which has certain communal conditions of production (guild order, [70] etc.), political rights, participation in the city administration, etc. He works to order — with the exception of his work for merchants — for immediate use value, and so the number of masters is regulated accordingly. He does not confront his workers as a mere merchant. Still less can the merchant convert his money into productive capital; he can only “transfer” the commodities, he cannot produce them himself. An existence of the estate type — the purpose and result of the exploitation of alien labour is here not exchange value as such, not enrichment as such. What is decisive here is the instrument. The raw material is in many branches of labour (e.g. tailoring) delivered to the master himself by his customers. The barrier to production within the whole range of the available consumption is here a law. It is therefore by no means regulated by the barriers of capital itself. In the capitalist relation the barriers disappear along with the politico-social bonds in which capital still moves here, hence not yet appearing as capital.

[476] The merely formal conversion of the handicraft trade into a capitalist enterprise, in which case the technological process therefore initially remains the same as before, consists in the removal of all these barriers — whereby the relation of domination and subordination also alters. The master is now no longer a capitalist because he is a master, but a master because he is a capitalist. The barrier of his production is no longer conditioned by the barrier of his capital. Capital (money) can be exchanged for any kind of labour at will, and therefore for any conditions of labour too. The capitalist can cease to be a handicraftsman himself. With the sudden expansion of trade, and the resultant demand for commodities from the merchant estate, the guild-type enterprise was driven to go beyond its own barriers, and to turn itself formally into a capitalist enterprise.

In comparison with the independent craftsman, who works for stray customers, the continuity [of labour] of the worker, who works for the capitalist, is naturally greater, for his work is not limited by the accidental needs of individual customers, but only by the exploitation requirements of the capital that employs him. In comparison with that of the slave, this work is more productive, because more intensive, for the slave only works under the impulse of external fear, but not for his own existence, which does not belong to him, and yet it is guaranteed. The free worker, in contrast, is driven by his wants. The consciousness (or rather the notion) of free self-determination, of freedom, makes the one a much better worker than the other, as well as the feeling (consciousness) of responsibility bound up with this; for, like every seller of a commodity, he is responsible for the commodity he provides, and he must provide it at a certain quality, if he is not to be swept from the field by other sellers of commodities of the same species. The continuity of the relation between slave and slave holder is preserved by the direct compulsion exerted upon the slave. The free worker, on the other hand, must preserve it himself, since his existence and that of his family depend upon his constantly renewing the sale of his labour capacity to the capitalist.

In the case of the slave the minimum wage appears as a constant magnitude, independent of his own labour. In the case of the free worker, the value of his labour capacity, and the average wage corresponding to it, does not present itself as confined within this predestined limit, independent of his own labour and determined by his purely physical needs. The average for the class is more or less constant here, as is the value of all commodities; but it does not exist in this immediate reality for the individual worker, whose wage may stand either above or below this minimum. The price of labour sometimes falls below the value of labour capacity, and sometimes rises above it. Furthermore, there is room for manoeuvre (within narrow limits) for the worker’s individuality, as a result of which there are differences in wages, partly between different branches of labour, and partly in the same branch of labour, according to the industriousness, skill, strength, etc., of the worker, and indeed these differences are in part determined by the measure of his own personal performance. Thus the level of the wage appears to vary according to the worker’s own labour and its individual quality. This is particularly strongly developed where a piece wage is paid. Although the latter, as we have shown[234], does not change in any way the general relation between capital and labour, surplus labour and necessary labour, it nevertheless expresses the relation for each individual worker differently, according to the measure of his own personal performance. Great strength or special skills may increase the purchase value of the slave as a person, but this is of no concern to the slave himself. It is different with the free worker, who is himself the proprietor of his labour capacity.

[477] The higher value of this labour capacity must be paid to the worker himself, and it is expressed in a higher wage. Great differences in wages are therefore found, according to whether the specific kind of labour requires a more highly developed labour capacity, necessitating greater production costs, or not, and this on the one hand opens up an area of free movement for individual differences, while on the other hand it provides a spur to the development of the individual’s own labour capacity. Certain as it is that the mass of labour must consist of more or less unskilled labour, and therefore that the mass of wages must be determined by the value of simple labour capacity, it remains possible for isolated individuals to make their way upwards into higher spheres of labour by particular energy, talent, etc., just as there remains the abstract possibility that this or that worker could himself become a capitalist and an exploiter of alien labour. The slave belongs to a particular master; it is true that the worker must sell himself to capital, but not to a particular capitalist, and thus he has a choice, within a particular sphere, as to who he sells himself to, and can change masters. All these differences in the relation make the activity of the free worker more intensive, more continuous, more agile, and more dexterous than that of the slave, quite apart from the fact that they fit the worker himself to undertake historical actions of an entirely different nature. The slave receives the means of subsistence necessary for his maintenance in a natural form, which is as fixed in kind as in extent — in use values. The free worker receives them in the form of money, of exchange value, of the abstract social form of wealth. However much the wage is now in fact nothing but the silver or gold or copper or paper form of the necessary means of subsistence, into which it must constantly be resolved — money functioning here as the merely transitory form of exchange value, as mere means of circulationabstract wealth, exchange value, and not a specific traditionally and locally limited use value, still remains for the worker the purpose and result of his labour. It is the worker himself who turns the money into whatever use values he wants, buys the commodities he wants with it, and as an owner of money, as a buyer of commodities, he stands in exactly the same relation to the sellers of commodities as any other buyer. The conditions of his existence — and also the limited extent of the value of the money he has acquired — naturally compel him to spend it on a rather restricted range of means of subsistence. Nevertheless, some degree of variation is possible here, such as e.g. newspapers, which form part of the necessary means of subsistence of the English urban worker. He can save something, form a hoard. He can also waste his wages on spirits, etc. But in acting this way he acts as a free agent, he must pay his own way; he is himself responsible for the way in which he spends his wages. He learns to master himself, in contrast to the slave, who needs a master. To be sure, this only applies when one considers the transformation of a serf or slave into a free wage labourer. The capitalist relation appears here as a step up the social scale. It is the opposite when an independent peasant or craftsman is transformed into a wage labourer. What a difference there is between the proud yeomanry of England, of whom Shakespeare speaks,[73] and the English agricultural day labourers! Since the purpose of labour is for the wage labourer wages alone, money, a definite quantity of exchange value, in which any specific characteristics of use value have been extinguished, he is completely indifferent to the content of his labour, and therefore to the specific character of his activity. In the guild or caste system, on the other hand, this activity was regarded as the exercise of a vocation, whereas with the slave, as with the beast of burden, it is only a particular kind of activity, of exertion of his labour capacity, imposed on him and handed down from the past. Hence in so far as the division of labour has not made his labour capacity entirely one-sided, the free worker is in principle receptive to, and ready for, any variation in his labour capacity and his working activity which promises better wages (as is indeed demonstrated in the case of the surplus population of the countryside, which constantly transfers to the towns). If the developed worker is more or less incapable of this variation, he still regards it as always open to the next generation, and the emerging generation of workers can always be distributed among, and is constantly at the disposal of, new branches of labour or particularly prosperous branches of labour. In North America, where the development of wage labour has least of all been affected by reminiscences of the old guild system, etc., this variability, this complete indifference to the specific content of labour, this ability to transfer from one branch to another, is shown particularly strongly. Hence the contrast between this variability and the uniform, traditional character of slave labour, which does not vary according to the requirements of production, but rather the reverse, requiring that production should itself be adapted to the mode of labour introduced originally and handed down by tradition, is emphasised by all United States writers as the grand characteristic of the free wage labour of the North as against the slave labour of the South. (See Cairnes.) The constant creation of new kinds of labour, this continuous variation — which results in a multiplicity of use values and therefore is also a real development of exchange value — this continuing division of labour in the whole of the society — first becomes possible with the capitalist mode of production. It begins with the free handicraft guild system, where it does not meet with a barrier in the ossification of each particular branch of the craft itself.]

[478] After these supplementary remarks on the formal subsumption of labour under capital we come now to:

The Real Subsumption of Labour under Capital

What is generally characteristic of formal subsumption remains valid in this case too, i.e. the direct subordination to capital of the labour process, in whatever way the latter may be conducted technologically. But on this basis there arises a mode of production — the capitalist mode of production — which is specific technologically and in other ways, and transforms the real nature of the labour process and its real conditions. Only when this enters the picture does the real subsumption of labour under capital take place.

* “Agriculture for subsistence... changed for agriculture for trade... the improvement of the national territory ... proportioned to this change"* (A. Young, Political Arithmetic, London, 1774, p. 49, note).

The real subsumption of labour under capital is developed in all the forms which develop relative, as distinct from absolute, surplus value.

With the real subsumption of labour under capital there takes place a complete [and a constant, continuous, and repeated a] revolution in the mode of production itself, in the productivity of labour and in the relation between capitalist and worker.

In the case of the real subsumption of labour under capital, all the changes in the labour process itself, analysed by us previously, actually take effect. Labour’s social powers of production are developed, and with labour on a large scale the application of science and machinery to direct production takes place. On the one hand, the capitalist mode of production, which now takes shape as a mode of production sui generis [in its own right]; changes the shape of material production. On the other hand, this alteration of production’s material shape forms the basis for the development of the capital-relation, which in its adequate shape therefore corresponds to a specific level of development of the productive powers of labour.

We have already seen that a definite and constantly growing minimum of capital in the hands of the individual capitalist is on the one hand a necessary presupposition, and on the other hand a constant result, of the specifically capitalist mode of production. The capitalist has to be the proprietor or possessor of means of production on a social scale, of an amount of value which has lost any relation to the possible production of the individual or his family. This minimum amount of capital is the greater in any branch of business the more capitalistically it is conducted, the higher the development of the social productivity of labour in it. To the same degree, the capital must increase in value and assume social dimensions; hence it must shed any individual character. The capitalist mode of production develops the productivity of labour, the amount of production, the size of the population, and the size of the surplus population. With tile capital and labour thus released, new branches of business are constantly called into existence, and in these capital can again work on a small scale and again pass through the different developments outlined until these new branches of business are also conducted on a social scale. This is a constant process. At the same time capitalist production tends to conquer all branches of industry it has not yet [479] taken control of, where there is as yet only formal subsumption. Once it has taken control of agriculture, the mining industry, the manufacture of the main materials for clothing, etc., it seizes on the other spheres, where the subsumption is as yet only formal or there are still even independent handicraftsmen. We already noted when considering machinery[235] how its introduction into one branch brings about its introduction into others, and at the same time into other varieties of the same branch. Mechanical spinning, for example, leads to mechanical weaving; mechanical spinning in the cotton industry leads to mechanical spinning in wool, linen., silk, etc. The wider employment of machinery in coal mines, cotton manufactures, etc., made necessary the introduction of the large-scale method of production into machine manufacture itself. Leaving aside the growth in the means of transport required by this mode of production on a large scale, it is on the other hand only the introduction of machinery into machine manufacture itself — particularly the cyclical prime motor — which has made possible the introduction of steamships and railways, and revolutionised the whole of shipbuilding. Large-scale industry throws as large a mass of human beings into the branches not yet subjected to it, or creates in these branches as large a relative surplus population, as is required for the conversion of handicrafts or of the small, formally capitalist business into a large-scale industry. See in this context the following Tory jeremiad:

* “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, blanchers, 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, 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).a

The material result of capitalist production, apart from the development of the social productive powers of labour, is to raise the quantity of production and to increase and multiply the spheres of production and their subdivisions. Only when this has occurred is the exchange value of the products developed correspondingly — the sphere in which they function, or are realised, as exchange value.

Admittedly, “production for production’s sake” — production as an end in itself — already enters the picture with the formal subsumption of labour under capital; it does this as soon as it generally becomes the direct purpose of production to produce as much surplus value, and as large a surplus value, as possible, as soon as, in general, the exchange value of the product becomes the decisive purpose. And yet this tendency, which is immanent in the capital-relation, is first realised in an adequate manner — and itself becomes a necessary condition, even technologically — when the specifically capitalist mode of production has developed, and with it the real subsumption of labour under capital.

[480] We have already analysed the essence of this latter mode of production so exhaustively [236] that we can be very brief here. It is production which is not limited by any predetermining or predetermined barriers set by needs. (Its antagonistic character implies barriers to production, which it constantly wants to go beyond. Hence crises, overproduction, etc.) This is one side, one distinction from the earlier mode of production; the positive side, if you like. The other side is the negative, or antagonistic one: production in opposition to, and without concerning itself about, the producer. The real producer as mere means of production, objective wealth as an end in itself. And therefore the development of this objective wealth in opposition to, and at the cost of, the human individual. The productivity of labour in general = the maximum of product with the minimum of labour, hence the greatest possible cheapening of the commodities. This becomes a law in the capitalist mode of production, independently of the will of the individual capitalist. And this law is only realised because it implies another one, namely that the scale of production is not determined according to given needs but rather the reverse: the number of products is determined by the constantly increasing scale of production, which is prescribed by the mode of production itself. Its purpose is that the individual product, etc., should contain as much unpaid labour as possible, and this is only attained by engaging in production for production’s sake. On the one hand this appears as a law, to the extent that the capitalist who produces on too small a scale would embody in his products more than the quantity of labour socially necessary. It therefore appears as the adequate implementation of the law of value, which first develops completely on the basis of the capitalist mode of production. On the other hand, however, it appears as the drive of the individual capitalist, who endeavours to reduce the individual value of his commodity below its socially determined value in order to break through this law, or to cheat it to gain an advantage for himself.

What all these forms of production (of relative surplus value) have in common, apart from the increase in the minimum amount of capital required for production, is that the common conditions for the labour of many directly cooperating workers as such permit economies in contrast to the fragmentation of these conditions which occurs with production on a small scale, in that the operation of these common conditions of production does not condition a proportionally equal increase in their mass and their value. Their common, simultaneous use allows their relative value to fall (in relation to the product), however much their absolute value grows.