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

Productive and Unproductive Labour[237]

Here we should like briefly to anticipate our results, before we consider any further the changed shape of capital which emerges as a result of the capitalist mode of production.

Since the direct purpose and the actual product of capitalist production is surplus value, only such labour is productive, and only such an exerter of labour capacity is a productive worker, as directly produces surplus value. Hence only such labour is productive as is consumed directly in the production process for the purpose of valorising capital.

From the simple standpoint of the labour process in general, such labour appeared to us to be productive as was realised in a product, or more precisely in a commodity. But from the standpoint of the capitalist production process, this element has to be added to the definition: such labour is productive as directly valorises capital, or produces surplus value, hence is realised, without any equivalent for the worker, for the performer of the labour, in a surplus value, expressed in a surplus produce, hence in an excess increment of commodities for the monopoliser of the means of labour, for the capitalist; only such labour is productive as posits the variable capital, and therefore the total capital, as C + DC = C + Dv. It is therefore labour which directly serves capital as the agency of its self-valorisation, as a means to the production of surplus value.

The capitalist labour process does not abolish the general determinations of the labour process. It produces products and commodities. To that extent, such labour remains productive as is objectified in commodities as a unity of use value and exchange value. But the labour process is only a means to capital’s valorisation process. Hence such labour is productive as is represented in commodities. But if we consider the individual commodity, such labour is productive as represents unpaid labour in an aliquot part of the commodity, or, if we consider the total product, such labour is productive as represents nothing but unpaid labour in an aliquot part of the total quantity of commodities hence represents a product which costs the capitalist nothing.

That worker is productive who performs productive labour, and that labour is productive which directly creates surplus value, i.e. valorises capital.

[481] Only the narrow-minded bourgeois, who regards the capitalist form of production as its absolute form, hence as the sole natural form of production, can confuse the question of what are productive labour and productive workers from the standpoint of capital with the question of what productive labour is in general, and can therefore be satisfied with the tautological answer that all that labour is productive which produces, which results in a product, or any kind of use value, which has any result at all.

That worker alone is productive whose labour process = the process of the productive consumption of labour capacity — the vehicle of the labour — by capital or the capitalist.

Two things immediately follow from this:

Firstly: Since with the development of the real subsumption of labour under capital or the specifically capitalist mode of production it is not the individual worker but rather a socially combined labour capacity that is more and more the real executor of the labour process as a whole, and since the different labour capacities which cooperate together to form the productive machine as a whole contribute in very different ways to the direct process by which the commodity, or, more appropriate here, the product, is formed, one working more with his hands, another more with his brain, one as a manager, engineer. or technician, etc., another as an overlooker, the third directly as a manual worker, or even a mere assistant, more and more of the functions of labour capacity are included under the direct concept of productive labour, and their repositories under the concept of productive workers, workers directly exploited by capital and altogether subordinated to its valorisation and production process. If one considers the total worker constituting the workshop, his combined activity is directly realised materialiter in a total product which is at the same time a total quantity of commodities and in this connection it is a matter of complete indifference whether the function of the individual worker, who is only a constituent element of this total worker, stands close to direct manual labour or is far away from it. But then: The activity of this total labour capacity is its direct productive consumption by capital, i.e. it is capital’s process of self-valorisation, the direct production of surplus value, and therefore — a point we shall develop further later on — the direct conversion of surplus value into capital.

Secondly: The more detailed determinations of productive labour follow automatically from the given characteristic features of the capitalist production process. Firstly, in confronting capital or the capitalist, the owner of labour capacity figures as its seller — irrationally expressed, as we have seen[238], as the direct seller of living labour, not of a commodity. He is a wage labourer. This is the first presupposition. Secondly, however, this preliminary process, which belongs to circulation, introduces a stage by which the worker’s labour capacity and his labour are directly incorporated into capital’s production process as a living factor. Labour capacity itself becomes one of capital’s components, its . variable component in fact, which not only preserves in part and reproduces in part the capital values that have been advanced, but at the same time increases them, and therefore converts them into self-valorising value, into capital, for the first time, through the creation of surplus value. This labour directly objectifies itself during the production process as a quantity of value in flux.

The first condition may occur without the second. A worker may be a wage labourer, a day labourer, etc. This always takes place, [even] if the second moment is absent. Every productive worker is a wage labourer; but this does not mean that every wage labourer is a productive worker. In all cases where labour is bought in order to be consumed as use value, as a service, and not in order to replace the value of the variable capital as a living factor and to be incorporated into the capitalist production process, this labour is not productive labour, and the wage labourer is not a productive worker. His labour is then consumed on account of its use value, not as positing exchange value, it is consumed unproductively, not productively. The capitalist therefore does not confront labour as a capitalist, as the representative of capital. He exchanges his money for labour as income, not as capital. The consumption of the labour does not constitute M-C-M’, but C-M-C (the last symbol represents the labour, or the service itself). Money functions here only as means of circulation, not as capital.

[482] The commodities the capitalist buys for his private consumption are not consumed productively, they do not become factors of capital; just as little do the services he buys for his consumption, voluntarily or through compulsion (from the state, etc.), for the sake of their use value. They do not become a factor of capital. They are therefore not productive kinds of labour, and those who perform them are not productive workers.

The more production in general develops into the production of commodities, the more does everyone have to become, and want to become, a dealer in commodities a maker of money, whether out of his product, or his services, if the product only exists in the form of services, owing to the way it is naturally constituted. This money making appears as the ultimate purpose of every kind of activity. (See Aristotle [De republica. Libri VIII]) In capitalist production, the production of products as commodities, on the one hand, and the form of labour as wage labour, on the other, become absolute. A large number of functions and activities which were surrounded with a halo, regarded as ends in themselves, and done for nothing or paid for in an indirect way (so that professionals, such as physicians and barristers in England, could not or cannot sue for payment), are on the one hand converted directly into wage labour, however their content or their mode of payment may differ. On the other hand, they become subject — that is, the estimation of their value, the price of these various activities, from the prostitute’s to the king’s, becomes subject — to the laws that regulate the price of wage labour. The analysis of this latter point belongs to a special discussion of wage labour and wages, rather than to this section.

This phenomenon, that with the development of capitalist production all services are converted into wage labour, and all those who perform these services are converted into wage labourers hence that they have this characteristic in common with productive workers, gives even more grounds for confusing the two in that it is a phenomenon which characterises, and is created by, capitalist production itself. On the other hand, it gives the apologists [of capitalism] an opportunity to convert the productive worker, because he is a wage labourer, into a worker who merely exchanges his services (i.e. his labour as a use value) for money. This makes it easy to pass over in silence the differentia specifica of this “productive worker”, and of capitalist production — as the production of surplus value, as the process of the self-valorisation of capital, which incorporates living labour as merely its AGENCY. A soldier is a wage labourer, a mercenary, but he is not for that reason a productive worker.

A further error has two sources.

Firstly: Some of the labour which produces commodities in capitalist production is performed in a manner which belongs to earlier modes of production, where the relation of capital and wage labour does not yet exist in practice, and therefore the category of productive and unproductive labour, which corresponds to the capitalist standpoint, is entirely inapplicable., But in accordance with the ruling mode of production even those relations which have not yet been subsumed under it in fact are subsumed under it notionally. The self-employed labourer, for example, is his own wage labourer, and his own means of production confront him in his own mind as capital. As his own capitalist, he employs himself as a wage labourer. Anomalies of this type then offer a favourable field for outpourings of drivel about productive and unproductive labour.

[483] Secondly: Certain unproductive kinds of labour may incidentaliter be connected with the production process, and their price may even enter into the price of the commodity, hence the money laid out for them may so far form a part of the capital advanced, and their labour may therefore appear as labour which is exchanged not for income but directly for capital.

Let us straight away take the last case, taxes; the price of government services, etc. But this belongs to the faux frais de production, [overhead costs of production] and is a form accidental to the capitalist production process in and for itself, and in no way conditioned by it, or necessary to or immanent in it. If for example all indirect taxes were converted into direct ones, taxes would continue to be paid, but would no longer form a capital advance, rather an expenditure of income. The possibility of this change in the form shows its external character, its indifference to, and contingency for, the capitalist production process. With a change in the form of productive labour, in contrast, the income of capital would dry up and capital itself would cease to exist.

Further examples are legal proceedings, contracts, etc. All these relate only to conditions made between the owners of commodities as buyers and sellers of commodities; they have nothing to do with the relation of capital and labour. Those who perform these functions may thereby become the wage labourers of capital; this does not make them productive workers.

Productive labour is only an abbreviated expression for the whole relation, and the manner in which labour capacity and labour figure in the capitalist production process. Hence if we speak of productive labour, we speak of socially determined labour, labour which implies a very definite relation between its buyer and its seller. Productive labour is exchanged directly for money as capital, i.e. for money which is in itself capital, has the quality of functioning as capital, and confronts labour capacity as capital. Productive labour is therefore labour which for the worker only reproduces the previously posited value of his labour capacity; but as value-creating activity it valorises capital, and counterposes the values created by labour to the worker himself as capital. The specific relation between objectified and living labour, which makes the former capital, makes the latter productive labour.

The specific product of the capitalist production process, surplus value, is only created through exchange with productive labour. What forms its specific use value for capital is not its particular useful character, any more than it is the particular useful qualities of the product in which it is objectified, but its character as the element that creates exchange value (surplus value).

The capitalist production process is not merely a process of the production of commodities. It is a process which absorbs unpaid labour, making the means of production into means for the absorption of unpaid labour.

It emerges from what has been said so far that to be productive labour is a quality of labour which in and for itself has absolutely nothing to do with the particular content of the labour, its particular usefulness or the specific use value in which it is expressed.

[484] Labour with the same content can therefore be both productive and unproductive.

Milton, for example, who did Paradise Lost, was an unproductive worker. In contrast to this, the writer who delivers hackwork for his publisher is a productive worker. Milton produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature. Later on he sold the product for £5 and to that extent became a dealer in a commodity. But the Leipzig literary proletarian who produces books, e.g. compendia on political economy, at the instructions of his publisher is roughly speaking a productive worker, in so far as his production is subsumed under capital and only takes place for the purpose of the latter’s valorisation. A singer who sings like a bird is an unproductive worker. If she sells her singing for money, she is to that extent a wage labourer or a commodity dealer. But the same singer, when engaged by an entrepreneur who has her sing in order to make money, is a productive worker, for she directly produces capital. A schoolmaster who educates others is not a productive worker. But a schoolmaster who is engaged as a wage labourer in an institution along with others, in order through his labour to valorise the money of the entrepreneur of the knowledge-mongering institution, is a productive worker. Yet most of these kinds of work, from the formal point of view, are hardly subsumed formally under capital. They belong rather among the transitional forms.

On the whole, the kinds of work which are only enjoyed as services, and yet are capable of being exploited directly in the capitalist way, even though they cannot be converted into products separable from the workers themselves and therefore existing outside them as independent commodities, only constitute infinitesimal magnitudes in comparison with the mass of products under capitalist production. They should therefore be left out of account entirely, and treated only under wage labour, under the category of wage labour which is not at the same time productive labour.[90]

The same kind of labour (e.g. gardening, tailoring, etc.) can be performed by the same working man in the service of an industrial capitalist, or of the immediate consumer. In both cases the worker is a wage labourer or a day labourer, but in the first case he is a productive worker, in the second an unproductive one, because in the first case he produces capital, in the second case he does not; because in the first case his labour forms a moment in capital’s process of self-valorisation, in the second case it does not.

A large part of the annual product, the part consumed as income and no longer re-entering production afresh as a means of production, consists of extremely paltry products (use values), serving to satisfy the most miserable appetites, fancies, etc. But content is entirely irrelevant to whether the labour is determined to be productive or not [although the development of wealth would of course be checked if a disproportionate part were reproduced in this way, instead of being reconverted into means of production and means of subsistence, which enter anew into reproduction, whether that of the commodities or that of the labour capacities themselves — which are, in short, consumed productively]. This kind of productive labour produces use values, is objectified in products, which are only destined for unproductive consumption. These products have in reality, as articles, no use value for the reproduction process. [They can only obtain this through an interchange of matter, through an exchange with reproductive use values; but that is only a change of place. Somewhere they must be consumed as unreproductive. Other articles of the same kind which fall into the unproductive consumption process might also in case of necessity again function as capital. A more detailed discussion of this belongs to CHAPTER III of Book II, on the reproduction process. [104] Only one anticipatory remark needs to be made here: It is impossible for conventional political economy to say anything sensible about the barriers to luxury production, from the standpoint of capitalist production itself. But the matter is quite simple if the moments of the reproduction process are properly analysed. If the reproduction process is hindered, or if its progress, in so far as it is already conditioned by the natural increase of the population, is prevented by the disproportionate employment of the kind of productive labour which is expressed in unreproductive articles, with the result that too few necessary means of subsistence, or too few means of production, etc., are reproduced, luxury must be condemned from the standpoint of capitalist production. Apart from that, luxury is an absolute necessity for a mode of production which produces wealth for the non-producers, hence must give wealth the necessary forms in which it can be appropriated by the wealthy simply for their enjoyment.] For the worker himself, this productive labour, like all other labour, is merely a means to the reproduction of his necessary means of subsistence; for the capitalist, to whom the nature of the use value and the character of the concrete labour employed are in themselves matters of complete indifference, it is merely a moyen de battre monnaie, de produire la survalue. [means of coining money, of producing surplus value]

[485] The obsession with defining productive and unproductive labour in terms of its material content derives from 3 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.

(An example: Whether I buy trousers, or I buy cloth and invite a journeyman tailor into my house, paying him for his service (i.e. his tailoring labour), is to me a matter of complete indifference. I buy the trousers from the merchant tailor because they are cheaper that way. In both cases I convert the money I expend into a use value which is to fall to the share of my individual consumption, to satisfy my individual requirements; I do not convert it into capital. The journeyman tailor performs the same service for me, whether he works for me in my house, or under the merchant tailor. But the service rendered by the same journeyman tailor, when employed by a merchant tailor, to that capitalist, consists in the fact that he works for 12 hours and only receives payment for 6, etc. The service he performs for the capitalist therefore consists in his working 6 hours for nothing. The fact that this occurs in the form of the making of trousers only hides the real transaction. As soon as the merchant tailor is able to do so, he endeavours to reconvert the trousers into money, i.e. into a form in which the particular character of the labour of tailoring has disappeared completely, and the service performed is expressed in the fact that one thaler has become two.

Service is in general only an expression for the particular use value of labour, in so far as this is useful not as a material object but as an activity. Do ut facias, facio ut facias, facio ut des, do ut desaahere ["I give that you may make”, “I make that you may make”, “I make that you may give”, “I give that you may give” — contractual formulas in Roman law (Corpus iuris civilis, Digesta XIX, 5.5] — these are all entirely indifferent forms of the same relation, whereas in capitalist production the do ut facias expresses a very specific relation between objective wealth and living labour. Hence because the specific relation of labour and capital is not contained at all in this buying of services, being either completely extinguished or not present at all, it is naturally the favourite way for Say, Bastiat and their associates to express the relation of capital and labour.)

The worker too buys services with his money, which is a kind of expenditure, but no way to convert money into capital.

No one buys medical or legal “services” as a means of converting the money expended in this way into capital.

Many of the services belong to the consumption costs of commodities, as in the case of cooks, etc.

The difference between productive and unproductive labour consists merely in whether labour is exchanged for money as money or for money as capital. Where I buy the commodity, as e.g. in the case of the self-employed labourer, artisan, etc., the category does not come into consideration at all, because there is no direct exchange between money and labour of any kind at all, but rather between money and a commodity.

[486] (With non-material production, even if it is conducted purely for the purpose of exchange, purely produces commodities, two things are possible:

1) it results in commodities which exist separately from the producer, hence can circulate in the interval between production and consumption as commodities; this applies to books, paintings, and all the products of artistic creation which are distinct from the actual performance of the executant artist. Here capitalist production is applicable on a very restricted scale. In so far as these people do not employ assistants, etc., in the manner of sculptors, they mostly work (if they are not independent) for merchant etc., capital, e.g. for booksellers; this is a relation which itself constitutes merely a form transitional to a mode of production capitalist only in form. The fact that it is precisely in these transitional forms that the exploitation of labour reaches its highest level does not alter the situation at all;

2) the product is inseparable from the act of producing it. Here too there is only a restricted field for the capitalist mode of production, and it can in the nature of things only take place in a few spheres. (I need the doctor, not his errand boy.) In educational institutions, for example, teachers may well be merely wage labourers for the entrepreneur who owns the teaching factory. But similar cases do not need to be considered when dealing with capitalist production as a whole.)

“The productive labourer he that directly increases his master’s wealth
(Malthus, Principles of Political Economy, 2nd ed., London, 1836).[93]

The difference between productive and unproductive labour is important as regards accumulation, since one of the conditions for the reconversion of surplus value into capital is that the exchange should be with productive labour alone.

The capitalist, as representative of capital engaged in its valorisation process — productive capital — performs a productive function, which consists precisely in directing and exploiting productive labour. The capitalist class, in contrast to the other consumers of surplus value, who do not stand in a direct and active relation to its production, is the productive class par excellence. [See Ricardo] (As director of the labour process the capitalist can perform productive labour in the sense that his labour is included in the overall labour process which is embodied in the product.) As yet, we are only acquainted with capital within the direct production process. The situation with the other functions of capital — and with the agents used by capital to perform these functions — can only be examined later.

The productive (and therefore also its opposite, the unproductive) character of labour therefore depends on this, that the production of capital is the production of surplus value, and the labour employed by capital is labour that produces surplus value.

[487] Gross and Net Product

(This is perhaps better placed in Chapter III of Book III.[239])

Since the purpose of capitalist production (and therefore of productive labour) is not the existence of the producer but the production of surplus value, all necessary labour which produces no surplus labour is superfluous and worthless to capitalist production. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. All gross product which only reproduces the worker, i.e. produces no net product (surplus produce), is just as superfluous as that worker himself [who produces no surplus value]. Or, if certain workers were necessary for the production of net product at a given stage of the development of production, they become superfluous at a more advanced stage of production, which no longer requires them. Or, in other words, only the number of people profitable to capital is necessary. The same is true for a nation of capitalists.

“Is not the real interest of a nation similar” to that of a private capitalist, for whom it would be a matter quite indifferent whether his capital would “employ 100 or 1,000 men” provided his profits on a capital of 20,000 “were not diminished in all cases below 2,000? Provided its net real income, its rents and profits be the same, it is of no importance whether the nation consists of 10 or of 12 millions of inhabitants... If 5 millions of men could produce as much food and clothing as was necessary for 10 millions, food and clothing for 5 millions would be the net revenue. Would it be of any advantage to the country, that to produce this same net revenue, 7 millions of men should be required, that is to say, that 7 millions should be employed to produce food and clothing sufficient for 12 millions? The food and clothing of 5 millions would be still the net revenue” [D. Ricardo, De principes de l'économie politique et de l'impôt, Paris, 1819]

Even the philanthropists can have no objection to bring forward against this statement by Ricardo. For it is always better that out of 10 million people only 50% should vegetate as pure production machines for 5 million, than that out of 12 million 7 million, or 58 1/3%, should do so.

* “Of what use in a modern kingdom would be a whole province thus divided” [between *self-sustaining little farmers* as in the *first times of ancient Rome], “however well cultivated, except for the mere purpose of breeding men, which, singly taken, is a most useless purpose” * (Arthur Young, Political Arithmetic etc., London, 1774, p. 47).

The circumstance that the purpose of capitalist production is net produce, which in fact merely takes the form of the surplus produce, in which surplus value is expressed, implies that capitalist production is essentially the production of surplus value.

This runs counter to e.g. the antiquated point of view, corresponding to earlier modes of production in accordance with which the urban authorities, etc., for example, prohibited the use of inventions in order not to deprive workers of their subsistence, since the worker as such counted as an end in himself, and the livelihood he earned in his station counted as his privilege, which the whole of the old order was concerned to maintain. It also runs counter to the point of view, still tinged with nationalism, of the protectionist system (as opposed to free trade, that industries, etc., should be protected nationally against foreign competition, etc., as being the sources for the existence of a large number of human beings. But it also runs counter to Adam Smith’s view that e.g. the investment of capital in agriculture is “more productive” because the same amount of capital sets more hands to work. For the developed capitalist mode of production, these are all outdated, and untrue, false, notions. A large gross product (as far as the variable part of capital is concerned) in proportion to a small net product is = a small productive power of labour, and therefore of capital.

[488] There is nevertheless a whole range of confused conceptions traditionally associated with this distinction between gross and net product. These derive in part from the Physiocrats (see Book IV[240]) and in part from Adam Smith, who continues on occasion to confuse capitalist production with production for the direct producers.

If an individual capitalist sends money abroad, where he gets interest at 10%, whereas at home he might be able to employ a large number of surplus people, from the capitalist standpoint he deserves an award for good citizenship, for this virtuous burgher is putting into effect the law that distributes capital within the world market, as also within the confines of a given society, according to the rate of profit provided by each particular sphere of production, and precisely in this way brings the various spheres of production into equilibrium and proportion. (Whether the money is delivered e.g. to the Emperor of Russia for wars against Turkey, etc., is irrelevant.) In acting in this way, the individual capitalist is only following the immanent law and therefore the morality of capital to produce as much surplus value as possible. But these issues have nothing to do with the examination of the direct production process.

Furthermore, capitalist production often has non-capitalist production counterposed to it, e.g. agriculture for subsistence, in which hands are employed, is counterposed to agriculture for trade, which provides a much bigger product for the market, and therefore permits a net produce to be extracted in manufacturing from people previously employed in agriculture. This contrast, however, is not a subdivision within the capitalist mode of production itself.

On the whole, as we have seen, the law of capitalist production is to increase constant capital as against variable capital and surplus value, the net produce; and secondly to increase the net produce in proportion to the part of the product which replaces variable capital, i.e. wages. At present these 2 things are confused. If the total product is called tide gross product, it increases in capitalist production as against the net product; if the part of the product which can be reduced to wages + net produce is called the gross product, the net product increases as against the gross product. Only in agriculture (through the conversion of tilled fields into pastureland, etc.) does the net product often grow at the expense of the gross product (the total amount of product) as a result of certain characteristics peculiar to rent, which do not belong here.

Otherwise, the doctrine that the net product is the final and highest goal of production is only a brutal, but correct expression of the fact that the valorisation of capital, and therefore the creation of surplus value, without any concern for the worker, is the driving force and the essence of capitalist production.

The highest ideal of capitalist production — corresponding to the relative growth of the net product — is the greatest possible reduction in the number of people living on wages, and the greatest possible in crease in the number of people living off the net product.

[489] Mystification of Capital, etc.

Since living labour is already — within the production process — incorporated into capital, the social productive powers of labour all present themselves as productive forces; as properties inherent in capital, just as in money the general character of labour, in so far as it functioned to create value, appeared as the property of a thing. This is even more true for the following reasons.

1) Although labour is objectified in the product as something that belongs to the capitalist, it belongs to the individual worker as the expression of labour capacity, as exertion (it is what the worker really pays the capitalist, what he gives him). However the social combination of the individual labour capacities, in which the latter only function as particular organs of the total labour capacity constituting the workshop as a whole, does not belong to the workers, but rather confronts them as a capitalist arrangement; it is inflicted upon them.

2) These social productive powers of labour, or productive powers of social labour, first develop historically with the specifically capitalist mode of production, hence appear as something immanent in the capital-relation and inseparable from it.

3) The objective conditions of labour assume a changed shape with the development of the capitalist mode of production, through the dimensions in which, and the economy with which, they are employed (even leaving aside the form of machinery, etc.). They undergo further development as concentrated means of production, representing social wealth, and their extent and their effect is that of the conditions of production of socially combined labour, this last expression in fact summarising the whole development. Even if we leave aside the combination of labour, the social character of the conditions of labour — which includes among other things their form as machinery, and fixed capital in all its forms — appears as something entirely autonomous, which exists independently of the worker as a mode of capital’s existence, and therefore also as something arranged by the capitalists independently of the workers. Like the social character of their own labour, only even more so, the social character the conditions of production acquire as communal conditions of production of combined labour appears as capitalist as a character possessed by those conditions of production as such, independently of the workers.

Ad 3) we should like to add here the following remarks, which in part anticipate what comes later:

(Profit, as distinct from surplus value, may rise owing to the economical utilisation of communal conditions of labour. Savings may be made e.g. on building costs, heating, lighting, etc., the value of the prime motor may not grow in the same proportion as its power increases, there may be economies in the prices of raw materials, re-use of waste products, reductions in administration costs, reductions in the cost of storage with production on a larger scale, etc. All this relative cheapening of constant capital combined with an absolute increase in its value rests on the fact that these means of production, means of labour as also material of labour, are employed communally, and this communal utilisation has as its absolute presupposition the communal cooperation of the conglomerated workers; it is itself therefore only the objective expression of the social character of labour, and of the resultant social productive power, just as the particular shape those conditions take, e.g. as machinery, usually rules out their employment except by combined labour. But towards the worker who moves within them they appear as given conditions independent of him, as the shape of capital. The economical use of those conditions (and the resultant increase in profit and cheapening of commodities) therefore also appears as something quite different from the surplus labour of the worker; it appears as the direct deed and accomplishment of the capitalist who functions here altogether as the personification of the social character of labour, of the total workshop as such. Science, the general intellectual product of social development, equally appears here as directly incorporated into capital (the application of science as science, separated from the knowledge and skill of the individual worker, to the material process of production), and the general development of society, because it is exploited by capital against labour, because it acts as a productive power of capital over against labour, appears as the development of capital, and the more so because for the great majority [of workers] the emptying of labour capacity [of all content] proceeds at the same pace.)

[490] The capitalist himself only holds power as the personification of capital. (This is why in double-entry book-keeping he constantly figures twice, e.g. as debtor to his own capital.)

The productivity of capital consists first of all, when formal subsumption is considered, merely in the compulsion to perform surplus labour; a compulsion that the capitalist mode of production shares with previous modes of production, but exerts in a form more favourable to production.

Even from the point of view of the merely formal relation — the general form of capitalist production, which has its less developed mode in common with the more developed — the means of production, the objective conditions of labour, do not appear as subsumed under the worker; rather, he appears as subsumed under them. Capital employs labour.[85] Even this relation in its simplicity is a personification of things and a reification of persons.

But the relation becomes still more complex — and apparently more mysterious — in that, with the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, not only do these things — these products of labour, both as use values and as exchange values — stand on their hind legs vis-à-vis the worker and confront him as “capital” — but also the social forms of labour appear as forms of the development of capital, and therefore the productive powers of social labour, thus developed, appear as productive powers of capital. As such social forces they are “capitalised” vis-à-vis labour. In fact, communal unity in cooperation, combination in the division of labour, the application of the forces of nature and science, as well as the products of labour in the shape of machinery, are all things which confront the individual workers as alien, objective, and present in advance, without their assistance, and often against them, independent of them, as mere forms of existence of the means of labour which are independent of them and rule over them, in so far as they are objective; while the intelligence and volition of the total workshop, incarnated in the capitalist or his understrappers (representatives), in so far as the workshop is formed by the combination of the means of labour, confront the workers as functions of capital, which lives in the person of the capitalist. The social forms of their own labour — the subjective as well as the objective forms — or the form of their own social labour, are relations constituted quite independently of the individual workers; the workers as subsumed under capital become elements of these social constructions, but these social constructions do not belong to them. They therefore confront the workers as shapes of capital itself, as combinations which, unlike their isolated labour capacities, belong to capital, originate from it and are incorporated within it. And this assumes a form which is the more real the more, on the one hand, their labour capacity is itself modified by these forms, so that it becomes powerless when it stands alone, i.e. outside this context of capitalism, and its capacity for independent production is destroyed, while on the other hand the development of machinery causes the conditions of labour to appear as ruling labour technologically too, and at the same time to replace it, suppress it, and render it superfluous in its independent forms. In this process, in which the social characteristics of their labour confront them as capitalised, to a certain extent — in the way that e.g. in machinery the visible products of labour appear as ruling over labour — the same thing of course takes place for the forces of nature and science, the product of general historical development in its abstract quintessence: they confront the workers as powers of capital. They become in fact separated from the skill and knowledge of the individual worker, and although — if we look at them from the point of view of their source — they are in turn the product of labour, they appear as incorporated into capital wherever they enter the labour process. The capitalist who employs a machine does not need to understand it (see Ure). But vis-à-vis the workers, realised science appears in the machine as capital. And in fact all these applications of science, of the forces of nature and of large masses of products of labour — applications based on social labour — appear only as means of exploitation of labour, means of appropriating surplus labour, hence, vis-à-vis labour, as forces belonging to capital. Capital naturally employs all these means only to exploit labour, but in order to exploit labour, it must employ them in production. And thus the development of the social productive powers of labour and the conditions for this development appear as the work of capital, and not only does the individual worker relate passively to this work, it also takes place in antagonism to him.

Capital itself is dual, since it consists of commodities.

Exchange value (money), but self-valorising value, value which creates value, grows as value, obtains an increment, through the fact that it is value. This can be reduced to the exchange of a given quantity of objectified labour for a greater quantity of living labour.

Use value, and here capital appears according to its particular situation in the labour process. But precisely here it does not just remain material of labour, means of labour to which labour belongs, and which have incorporated labour, but involves also, along with labour, its social combinations and the development of the means of labour which corresponds to these social combinations. Capitalist production first develops the conditions of the labour process on a large scale — first develops them separately from the single independent worker — developing both its objective and its subjective conditions, but developing them as powers which dominate the individual worker and are alien to him.

Thus capital becomes a very mysterious being.

[491] The conditions of labour are heaped up vis-à-vis the worker as social powers; and in this form they become capitalised.

Capital is therefore productive:

1) as the compulsion to do surplus labour. Labour is productive precisely as the performer of this surplus labour, through the difference between the value of labour capacity and its valorisation;

2) as the personification and representative, the reified shape of the “social productive powers of labour” or the productive powers of social labour. The way in which the law of capitalist production — the creation of surplus value, etc. — enforces this has already been discussed[241]. It appears as inflicted by the capitalists upon each other and upon the workers — hence it in fact appears as a law of capital operating against both capital and labour. The natural social powers of labour do not develop in the valorisation process as such but in the real labour process. They therefore appear as properties which belong to capital as a thing, they appear as its use value. Productive labour — as value producing — always confronts capital as the labour of isolated workers, whatever social combinations those workers may enter into in the production process. Thus whereas capital represents the social productive power of labour towards the workers, productive labour always represents towards capital only the labour of the isolated workers.

We saw in dealing with the accumulation process [242] how past labour, in the form of the forces and conditions of production that have already been produced, raises reproduction, in terms of both use value and exchange value — both the amount of value a particular quantity of living labour preserves and the quantity of use values it produces anew — and how the moment through which it does this appears as a force immanent in capital, because objectified labour always functions vis-à-vis the-worker in capitalised form.

“Capital is the democratic, philanthropic and egalitarian power par excellence(Fr. Bastiat, Gratuité du crédit etc.., Paris, 1850, p. 29).

* “Stock cultivates land; stock employs labour” (A. Smith, 1.c. [An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book V, Ch. 11, Buchanan Edition. Vol. III, Edinburgh, London, 1814, p. 309).

“Capital is ... collective force” * (John Wade, History of the Middle and Working Classes etc., 3rd ED., London, 1835, p. 162). “Capital is only another name for civilisation” (1.c., p. 164).

“The class of capitalists, considered as a whole, finds itself in a normal situation when its well-being keeps pace with the march of social progress” (Cherbuliez, Richesse ou pauvreté, p. 75). “The capitalist is social man par excellence: he represents civilisation” (1.c., p. 76).


“The productive power of capital can only mean the quantity of real productive power which the capitalist, by means of his capital, can command"
(J. St. Mill, Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, London, 1844, p. 91).

*"The accumulation of capital, or the means of employing labour ... must in all cases depend on the productive powers of labour “ * (Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy, and Taxation, 3rd Ed., London, 1821, p. 92).

A commentator on Ricardo remarks as follows on this:

* “If the productive powers of labour mean the smallness of that aliquot part of any produce that goes to those whose manual labour produced it, the sentence is nearly identical"* (Observations on Certain Verbal Disputes in Political Economy, London, 1821, p. 71).

The constant transposition of labour into capital is well expressed in the following naive statements by Destutt de Tracy:

“They who live on profits” (the industrial capitalists) “maintain all the others and alone augment the public fortune and create all our means of enjoyment. That must be so, because labour is the source of all wealth and because they alone give a useful direction to current labour, by making a useful application of accumulated labour” (Destutt de Tracy, 1.c. Elémens l'idéologie, Paris, 1826, p. 242).

Because labour is the source of all wealth, capital serves to increase all wealth.

“Our faculties are our only original wealth; our labour produces all other wealth, and all labour properly directed is productive” (lc., p. 243).

Our faculties are our only original wealth. Therefore labour capacity is not wealth. Labour produces all other wealth, that means: it produces wealth for all others except for itself, and it itself is not wealth, but only its product is wealth. All labour properly directed is productive; that means: all productive labour, all labour which yields profit to the capitalist, is properly directed.

The transposition of the social productive powers of labour into material attributes of capital is so strongly rooted in people’s minds that the advantages of machinery, of the application of science, inventions, etc., in this alienated form are conceived of as the necessary form, and therefore all these things are regarded as attributes of capital. What serves here as the basis is 1) the form in which the matter appears on the basis of capitalist production, and therefore also in the consciousness of those whose ideas are confined within that mode of production; 2) the historical fact that this development first took place in the capitalist mode of production, as distinct from earlier modes of production, and that the antagonistic character of this development therefore appears to be immanent in it.