Economic Works of Karl Marx 1861-1864

The Process of Production of Capital, Draft Chapter 6 of Capital
Results of the Direct Production Process


“The Results of the Direct Production Process” is part of a third draft of Capital which Marx wrote between the summer of 1863 and the summer of 1864, based on a plan Marx made for the work in December 1862. This manuscript has been lost, apart from a few pages from what would become the first five chapters of Capital, some related footnotes, and what was to become the sixth chapter. The pagination and content of this sixth chapter indicate that it followed on from five previous chapters. By the time Capital was completed however, this chapter had not been not included.

The content of the chapter ranges over a variety of subjects, but most particularly deals in greater detail than elsewhere with (i) the "formal" and "real" subsumption of the labour process by capital, and (ii) productive and unproductive labour.

(i) The "formal" and "real" subsumption of the labour process by capital

This concept is central to how Marx conceives of how capitalism establishes itself. In the chapter in Capital on “Primitive Accumulation” Marx showed that genuinely capitalist accumulation could only take place on the basis of productive forces which themselves could only arise on the basis of capital. At first, capital draws into itself an existing labour process — techniques, markets, means of production and workers. This Marx calls “formal” subsumption, under which the whole labour process continues much as before, but by monopolising the means of production, and therefore the workers' means of subsistence, the capitalist compels the worker to submit to wage-labour, and by using the existing markets, is able to accumulate capital.

Capitalism as such, however, cannot develop on the limited basis it finds in the already existing forces of production. The pre-requisites for a real capitalist labour process can only be created by capital itself. Thus, capital gradually transforms the social relations and modes of labour until they become thoroughly imbued with the nature and requirements of capital, and the labour process is really subsumed under capital. This is Marx's solution to the paradox that only capital can create the conditions for capitalist production.

(ii) Productive and Unproductive Labour

Marx's views on productive and unproductive labour, i.e., labour which expands capital or does not, can be found in The Grundrisse and in Capital, but these references are somewhat scattered. [See the Glossary reference to Productive and Unproductive Labour]. In this chapter we have an extended examination of this topic, including related issues such as service commodities, the commodification of science, the productive role of supervision and management, and so on.

Marx summed up the confusion around the question of productive and unproductive labour as deriving from three sources:

“1) the fetishistic notion, peculiar to the capitalist mode of production and arising from its essence, that the formal economic determinations, such as that of being a commodity, or being productive labour, etc., are qualities belonging to the material repositories of these formal determinations or categories in and for themselves;

2) the idea that, considering the labour process as such, only such labour is productive as results in a product (a material product, since here it is only a question of material wealth);

3) the fact that in the real reproduction process — considered from the point of view of its real moments — there is a great difference, with regard to the formation, etc., of wealth, between labour which is expressed in reproductive articles and labour which is expressed in mere luxuries.”

Students of Capital should definitely include this chapter in their reading, with those that were eventually published, and this is in fact what Penguin have done, attaching this text as an Appendix to their edition of Capital Volume I, translated also by Ben Fowkes.


Andy Blunden, 2002