Capital Vol. III Part I
The Conversion of Surplus-Value into Profit and of the Rate of Surplus-Value into the Rate of Profit
The increase of absolute surplus-value, or the prolongation of surplus-labour, and thus of the working-day, while the variable capital remains the same and thus employs the same number of labourers at the same nominal wages, regardless of whether overtime is paid or not, reduces the relative value of the constant capital as compared to the total and the variable capital, and thereby increases the rate of profit, again irrespective of the growth of the quantity of surplus-value and a possibly rising rate of surplus-value. The volume of the fixed portion of constant capital, such as factory buildings, machinery, etc., remains the same, no matter whether these serve the labour-process 16 or 12 hours. A prolongation of the working-day does not entail any fresh expenditures in this, the most expensive portion of constant capital. Furthermore, the value of the fixed capital is thereby reproduced in a smaller number of turnover periods, so that the time for which it must be advanced to make a certain profit is abbreviated. A prolongation of the working-day therefore increases the profit, even if overtime is paid, or even if, up to a certain point, it is better paid than the normal hours of labour. The ever-mounting need to increase fixed capital in modern industry was therefore one of the main reasons prompting profit-mad capitalists to lengthen the working-day.  The same conditions do not obtain if the working-day is constant. Then it is necessary either to increase the number of labourers, and with them to a certain extent the amount of fixed capital, the buildings, machinery, etc., in order to exploit a greater quantity of labour (for we leave aside deductions from wages or the depression of wages below their normal level), or, if the intensity and, consequently, the productivity of labour, increase and, generally, more relative surplus-value is produced, the magnitude of the circulating portion of constant capital increases in such industrial branches which use raw materials, since more raw material, etc., is processed in a given time; and, secondly, the amount of machinery set in motion by the same number of labourers, therefore also this part of constant capital, increases as well. Hence, an increase in surplus-value is accompanied by an increase in constant capital, and the growing exploitation of labour by greater outlays of the means of production through which labour is exploited, i.e., by a greater investment of capital. Therefore, the rate of profit is thereby reduced on the one hand while it increases on the other.
Quite a number of current expenses remain almost or entirely the same whether the working-day is longer or shorter. The cost of supervision is less for 500 working-men during 18 working-hours than for 750 working-men during 12 working-hours.
"The expense of working a factory 10 hours almost equals that of working it 12." (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1848, p. 37.)
State and municipal taxes, fire insurance, wages of various permanent employees, depreciation of machinery, and various other expenses of a factory, remain unchanged whether the working-time is long or short. To the extent to which production decreases, these expenses rise as compared to the profit. (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1862, p. 19.)
The period in which the value of the machinery and of the other components of fixed capital is reproduced is determined in practice not by their mere lifetime, but by the duration of the entire labour-process during which they serve and wear out. If the labourers must work 18 instead of 12 hours, this makes a difference of three days more per week, so that one week is stretched into one and a half, and two years into three. If this overtime is unpaid the labourers give away gratis a week out of every three and a year out of every three on top of the normal surplus-labour time. In this way, the reproduction of the value of the machinery is speeded up 50% and accomplished in ⅔ of the usually required time.
To avoid useless complications, we proceed in this analysis, and in that of price fluctuations for raw materials (Chap. VI), from the assumption that the mass and rate of surplus-value are given.
As already shown in the presentation of co-operation, division of labour and machinery, the economy of production conditions [English edition: Vol. I, pp. 324-25 — Ed.] found in large-scale production is essentially due to the fact that these conditions prevail as conditions of social, or socially combined, labour, and therefore as social conditions of labour. They are commonly consumed in the process of production by the aggregate labourer, instead of being consumed in small fractions by a mass of labourers operating disconnectedly or, at best, directly co-operating on a small scale. In a large factory with one or two central motors the cost of these motors does not increase in the same ratio as their horse-power and, hence, their possible sphere of activity. The cost of the transmission equipment does not grow in the same ratio as the total number of working machines which it sets in motion. The frame of a machine does not become dearer in the same ratio as the mounting number of tools which it employs as its organs, etc. Furthermore, the concentration of means of production yields a saving on buildings of various kinds not only for the actual workshops, but also for storage, etc. The same applies to expenditures for fuel, lighting, etc. Other conditions of production remain the same, whether used by many or by few.
This total economy, arising as it does from the concentration of means of production and their use en masse, imperatively requires, however, the accumulation and co-operation of labourers, i.e., a social combination of labour. Hence, it originates quite as much from the social nature of labour, just as surplus-value originates from the surplus-labour of the individual labourer considered singly. Even the continual improvements, which are here possible and necessary, are due solely to the social experience and observation ensured and made possible by production of aggregate labour combined on a large scale.
The same is true of the second big source of economy in the conditions of production. We refer to the reconversion of the excretions of production, the so-called waste, into new elements of production, either of the same, or of some other line of industry; to the processes by which this so-called excretion is thrown back into the cycle of production and, consequently, consumption, whether productive or individual. This line of savings, which we shall later examine more closely, is likewise the result of large-scale social labour. It is the attendant abundance of this waste which renders it available again for commerce and thereby turns it into new elements of production. It is only as waste of combined production, therefore, of large-scale production, that it becomes important to the production process and remains a bearer of exchange-value. This waste, aside from the services which it performs as new element of production, reduces the cost of the raw material to the extent to which it is again saleable, for this cost always includes the normal waste, namely the quantity ordinarily lost in processing. The reduction of the cost of this portion of constant capital increases pro tanto the rate of profit, assuming the magnitude of the variable capital and the rate of surplus-value to be given.
If the surplus-value is given, the rate of profit can be increased only by reducing the value of the constant capital required for commodity-production. So far as constant capital enters into the production of commodities, it is not its exchange-value, but its use-value alone, which matters. The quantity of labour which flax can absorb in a spinnery does not depend on its value, but on its quantity, assuming the productivity of labour, i.e., the level of technical development, to be given. In like manner the assistance rendered by a machine to, say, three labourers does not depend on its value, but on its use-value as a machine. On one level of technical development a bad machine may be expensive and on another a good machine may be cheap.
The increased profit received by a capitalist through the cheapening of, say, cotton and spinning machinery, is the result of higher labour productivity; not in the spinnery, to be sure, but in cotton cultivation and construction of machinery. It requires smaller outlays of the conditions of labour to incorporate a given quantity of labour, and hence to extract a given quantity of surplus-labour. The costs required to appropriate a certain quantity of surplus-labour diminish.
We have already mentioned savings yielded in the production process through co-operative use of means of production by the aggregate, or socially combined, labour. Other savings of constant capital arising from the shortening of the time of circulation in which the development of means of communication is a dominant material factor will be discussed later. At this point we shall deal with the savings yielded by continuous improvements of machinery, namely 1) of its material, e.g., the substitution of iron for wood; 2) the cheapening of machinery due to the general improvement of machine-building; so that, although the value of the fixed portion of constant capital increases continually with the development of labour on a large scale, it does not increase at the same rate ; 3) special improvements enabling existing machinery to work more cheaply and effectively; for instance, improvements of steam-boilers, etc., which will be discussed later on in greater detail; 4) reduction of waste through better machinery.
Whatever reduces the wear of machinery, and of fixed capital in general, for any given period of production, cheapens not only the individual commodity, in view of the fact that in its price every individual commodity reproduces its aliquot share of this depreciation, but reduces also the aliquot portion of the invested capital for this period. Repair work, etc., to the extent that it becomes necessary, is added to the original cost of the machinery. A reduction in repair costs, due to greater durability of the machinery, lowers pro tanto the price of this machinery.
It may again be said of all these savings that they are largely possible only for combined labour, and are often not realised until production is carried forward on a still larger scale, so that they require an even greater combination of labour in the immediate process of production.
However, on the other hand the development of the productive power of labour in any one line of production, e.g., the production of iron, coal, machinery, in architecture, etc., which may again be partly connected with progress in the field of intellectual production, notably natural science and its practical application, appears to be the premise for a reduction of the value, and consequently of the cost, of means of production in other lines of industry, e.g., the textile industry, or agriculture. This is self-evident, since a commodity which is the product of a certain branch of industry enters another as a means of production. Its greater or lesser price depends on the productivity of labour in the line of production from which it issues as a product, and is at the same time a factor that not only cheapens the commodities into whose production it goes as a means of production, but also reduces the value of the constant capital whose element it here becomes, and thereby one that increases the rate of profit.
The characteristic feature of this kind of saving of constant capital arising from the progressive development of industry is that the rise in the rate of profit in one line of industry depends on the development of the productive power of labour in another. Whatever falls to the capitalist's advantage in this case is once more a gain produced by social labour, if not a product of the labourers he himself exploits. Such a development of productive power is again traceable in the final analysis to the social nature of the labour engaged in production; to the division of labour in society; and to the development of intellectual labour, especially in the natural sciences. What the capitalist thus utilises are the advantages of the entire system of the social division of labour. It is the development of the productive power of labour in its exterior department, in that department which supplies it with means of production, whereby the value of the constant capital employed by the capitalist is relatively lowered and consequently the rate of profit is raised.
Another rise in the rate of profit is produced, not by savings in the labour creating the constant capital, but by savings in the application of this capital itself. On the one hand, the concentration of labourers, and their large-scale co-operation, saves constant capital. The same buildings, and heating and lighting appliances, etc., cost relatively less for the large-scale than for small-scale production. The same is true of power and working machinery. Although their absolute value increases, it falls in comparison to the increasing extension of production and the magnitude of the variable capital, or the quantity of labour-power set in motion. The economy realised by a certain capital within its own line of production is first and foremost an economy in labour, i. e., a reduction of the paid labour of its own labourers. The previously mentioned economy, on the other hand, is distinguished from this one by the fact that it accomplishes the greatest possible appropriation of other people's unpaid labour in the most economical way, i. e., with as little expense as the given scale of production will permit. Inasmuch as this economy does not rest with the previously mentioned exploitation of the productivity of the social labour employed in the production of constant capital, but with the economy in the constant capital itself, it springs either directly from the co-operation and social form of labour within a certain branch of production, or from the production of machinery, etc., on a scale in which its value does not grow at the same rate as its use-value.
Two points must be borne in mind here: It the value of c = zero, then p' = s', and the rate of profit would be at its maximum. Second, however, the most important thing for the direct exploitation of labour itself is not the value of the employed means of exploitation, be they fixed capital, raw materials or auxiliary substances. In so far as they serve as means of absorbing labour, as media in or by which labour and, hence, surplus-labour are materialised, the exchange-value of machinery, buildings, raw materials, etc., is quite immaterial. What is ultimately essential is, on the one hand, the quantity of them technically required for combination with a certain quantity of living labour, and, on the other, their suitability, i.e., not only good machinery, but also good raw and auxiliary materials. The rate of profit depends partly on the good quality of the raw material. Good material produces less waste. Less raw materials are then needed to absorb the same quantity of labour. Furthermore, the resistance to be overcome by the working machine is also less. This partly affects even the surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value. The labourer needs more time when using bad raw materials to process the same quantity. Assuming wages remain the same, this causes a reduction in surplus-labour. This also substantially affects the reproduction and accumulation of capital, which depend more on the productivity than on the amount of labour employed, as shown in Book I (S. 627/619ff.) [English edition: p. 603. — Ed.].
The capitalist's fanatical insistence on economy in means of production is therefore quite understandable. That nothing is lost or wasted and the means of production are consumed only in the manner required by production itself, depends partly on the skill and intelligence of the labourers and partly on the discipline enforced by the capitalist for the combined labour. This discipline will become superfluous under a social system in which the labourers work for their own account, as it has already become practically superfluous in piece-work. This fanatical insistence comes to the surface also conversely in the adulteration of the elements of production, which is one of the principal means of lowering the relation of the value of the constant capital to the variable capital, and thus of raising the rate of profit. Whereby the sale of these elements of production above their value, so far as this reappears in the product, acquires a marked element of cheating. This practice plays an essential part particularly in German industry, whose maxim is: People will surely appreciate if we send them good samples at first, and then inferior goods afterward. However, as these matters belong to the sphere of competition they do not concern us here.
It should be noted that this raising of the rate of profit by means of lowering the value of the constant capital, i. e., by reducing its expensiveness, does not in any way depend on whether the branch of industry in which it takes place produces luxuries, or necessities for the consumption of labourers, or means of production generally. This last circumstance would only be of material importance if it were a question of the rate of surplus-value, which depends essentially on the value of labour-power, i. e., on the value of the customary necessities of the labourer. But in the present case the surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value have been assumed as given. The relation of surplus-value to total capital — and this determines the rate of profit — depends under these circumstances exclusively on the value of the constant capital, and in no way on the use-value of the elements of which it is composed.
A relative cheapening of the means of production does not, of course, exclude the possible increase of their absolute aggregate value, for the absolute volume in which they are employed grows tremendously with the development of the productive power of labour and the attendant growth of the level of production. Economy in the use of constant capital, from whatever angle it may be viewed, is, in part, the exclusive result of the fact that the means of production function and are consumed as joint means of production of the combined labourer, so that the resulting saving appears as a product of the social nature of directly productive labour; in part, however, it is the result of developing productivity of labour in spheres which supply capital with its means of production, so that if we view the total labour in relation to total capital, and not simply the labourers employed by capitalist X in relation to capitalist Y, this economy presents itself once more as a product of the development of the productive forces of social labour, with the only difference that capitalist X enjoys the advantage not only of the productivity of labour in his own establishment, but also of that in other establishments. Yet the capitalist views economy of his constant capital as a condition wholly independent of, and entirely alien to, his labourers. He is always well aware, however, that the labourer has something to do with the employer buying much or little labour with the same amount of money (for this is how the transaction between the capitalist and labourer appears in his mind). This economy in the application of the means of production, this method of obtaining a certain result with a minimum outlay appears more than any other inner power of labour as an inherent power of capital and a method peculiar and characteristic of the capitalist mode of production.
This conception is so much the less surprising since it appears to accord with fact, and since the relationship of capital actually conceals the inner connection behind the utter indifference, isolation, and alienation in which they place the labourer vis-à-vis the means incorporating his labour.
First, the means of production that make up the constant capital represent only the money belonging to the capitalist (just as the body of the Roman debtor represented the money of his creditor, according to Linguet [Théorie des loix civiles, ou principes fondamentaux de la société, tome II, Londres, 1767, livre V, chapitre XX. — Ed.]) and are related to him alone, while the labourer, who comes in contact with them only in the direct process of production, deals with them as use-values of production only as means of labour and materials of production. Increase or decrease of their value, therefore, has as little bearing on his relations to the capitalist as the circumstance whether he may be working with copper or iron. For that matter, the capitalist likes to view this point differently, as we shall later indicate, whenever the means of production gain in value and thereby reduce his rate of profit.
Second, in so far as these means of production in the capitalist production process are at the same time means of exploiting labour, the labourer is no more concerned with their relative dearness or cheapness than a horse is concerned with the dearness or cheapness of its bit and bridle.
Finally, we have earlier [English edition: Vol. 1, p. 325. — Ed.] seen that, in fact, the labourer looks at the social nature of his labour, at its combination with the labour of others for a common purpose, as he would at an alien power; the condition of realising this combination is alien property, whose dissipation would be totally indifferent to him if he were not compelled to economise with it. The situation is quite different in factories owned by the labourers themselves, as in Rochdale, for instance.
It scarcely needs to be mentioned, then, that as far as concerns the productivity of labour in one branch of industry as a lever for cheapening and improving the means of production in another, and thereby raising the rate of profit, the general interconnection of social labour affects the labourers as a matter alien to them, a matter that actually concerns the capitalist alone, since it is he who buys and appropriates these means of production. The fact that he buys the product of labourers in another branch of industry with the product of labourers in his own, and that he therefore disposes of the product of the labourers of another capitalist only by gratuitously appropriating that of his own, is a development that is fortunately concealed by the process of circulation, etc.
Moreover, since production on a large scale develops for the first time in its capitalist form, the thirst for profits on the one hand, and competition on the other, which compels the cheapest possible production of commodities, make this economy in the employment of constant capital appear as something peculiar to the capitalist mode of production and therefore as a function of the capitalist.
Just as the capitalist mode of production promotes the development of the productive powers of social labour, on the one hand, so does it whip on to economy in the employment of constant capital on the other.
However, it is not only the alienation and indifference that arise between the labourer, the bearer of living labour, and the economical, i.e., rational and thrifty, use of the material conditions of his labour. In line with its contradictory and antagonistic nature, the capitalist mode of production proceeds to count the prodigious dissipation of the labourer's life and health, and the lowering of his living conditions, as an economy in the use of constant capital and thereby as a means of raising the rate of profit.
Since the labourer passes the greater portion of his life in the process of production, the conditions of the production process are largely the conditions of his active living process, or his living conditions, and economy in these living conditions is a method of raising the rate of profit; just as we saw earlier [English edition: Vol. I, pp. 231-302. — Ed.] that overwork, the transformation of the labourer into a work horse, is a means of increasing capital, or speeding up the production of surplus-value. Such economy extends to overcrowding close and unsanitary premises with labourers, or, as capitalists put it, to space saving; to crowding dangerous machinery into close quarters without using safety devices; to neglecting safety rules in production processes pernicious to health, or, as in mining, bound up with danger, etc. Not to mention the absence of all provisions to render the production process human, agreeable, or at least bearable. From the capitalist point of view this would be quite a useless and senseless waste. The capitalist mode of production is generally, despite all its niggardliness, altogether too prodigal with its human material, just as, conversely, thanks to its method of distribution of products through commerce and manner of competition, it is very prodigal with its material means, and loses for society what it gains for the individual capitalist.
Just as capital has the tendency to reduce the direct employment of living labour to no more than the necessary labour, and always to cut down the labour required to produce a commodity by exploiting the social productiveness of labour and thus to save a maximum of directly applied living labour, so it has also the tendency to employ this labour, reduced to a minimum, under the most economical conditions, i.e., to reduce to its minimum the value of the employed constant capital. If it is the necessary labour-time which determines the value of commodities, instead of all the labour-time contained in them, so it is the capital which realises this determination and, at the same time, continually reduces the labour-time socially necessary to produce a given commodity. The price of the commodity is thereby lowered to its minimum since every portion of the labour required for its production is reduced to its minimum.
We must make a distinction in economy as regards use of constant capital. If the quantity, and consequently the sum of the value of employed capital, increases, this is primarily only a concentration of more capital in a single hand. Yet it is precisely this greater quantity applied by a single source — attended, as a rule, by an absolutely greater but relatively smaller amount of employed labour — which permits economy of constant capital. To take an individual capitalist, the volume of the necessary investment of capital, especially of its fixed portion, increases. But its value decreases relative to the mass of worked-up materials and exploited labour.
This is now to be briefly illustrated by a few examples. We shall begin at the end — the economy in the conditions of production, in so far as these also constitute the living conditions of the labourer.
Coal mines. Neglect of indisputable outlays.
"Under the competition which exists among the coal-owners and coal-proprietors ... no more outlay is incurred than is sufficient to overcome the most obvious physical difficulties; and under that which prevails among the labouring colliers, who are ordinarily more numerous than the work to be done requires, a large amount of danger and exposure to the most noxious influences will gladly be encountered for wages a little in advance of the agricultural population round them, in an occupation, in which they can moreover make a profitable use of their children. This double competition is quite sufficient ... to cause a large proportion of the pits to be worked with the most imperfect drainage and ventilation; often with ill-constructed shafts, bad gearing, incompetent engineers, and ill-constructed and ill-prepared bays and roadways; causing a destruction of life, and limb, and health, the statistics of which would present an appalling picture." (First Report on Children's Employment in Mines and Collieries, etc., April 21, 1829, p. 102.)
About 1860, a weekly average of 15 men lost their lives in the English collieries. According to the report on Coal Mines Accidents (February 6, 1862), a total of 8,466 were killed in the ten years 1852-61. But the report admits that this number is far too low, because in the first few years, when the inspectors had just been installed and their districts were far too large, a great many accidents and deaths were not reported. The very fact that the number of accidents, though still very high, has decreased markedly since the inspection system was established, and this in spite of the limited powers and insufficient numbers of the inspectors, demonstrates the natural tendency of capitalist exploitation.— These human sacrifices are mostly due to the inordinate avarice of the mine owners. Very often they had only one shaft sunk, so that apart from the lack of effective ventilation there was no escape were this shaft to become obstructed.
Capitalist production, when considered in isolation from the process of circulation and the excesses of competition, is very economical with the materialised labour incorporated in commodities. Yet, more than any other mode of production, it squanders human lives, or living-labour, and not only blood and flesh, but also nerve and brain. Indeed, it is only by dint of the most extravagant waste of individual development that the development of the human race is at all safeguarded and maintained in the epoch of history immediately preceding the conscious reorganisation of society. Since all of the economising here discussed arises from the social nature of labour, it is indeed just this directly social nature of labour which causes the waste of life and health. The following question suggested by factory inspector R. Baker is characteristic in this respect:
"The whole question is one for serious consideration, and in what way this sacrifice of infant life occasioned by congregational labour can be best averted?" (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1863, p. 157.)
Factories. Under this heading there is covered the disregard for safety measures to ensure the security, comfort, and health of labourers also in the actual factories. It is to blame for a large portion of the casualty lists containing the wounded and killed industrial workers (cf. the annual factory reports). Similarly, lack of space, ventilation, etc.
As far back as October 1855, Leonard Horner complained about the resistance of very many manufacturers to the legal requirements concerning safety devices on horizontal shafts, although the danger was continually emphasised by accidents, many of them fatal, and although these safety devices did not cost much and did not interfere with production. (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1855, p. 6.) In their resistance against these and other legal requirements the manufacturers were openly seconded by the unpaid justices of the peace, who were themselves mostly manufacturers or friends of manufacturers, and handed down their decisions accordingly. What sort of verdicts these gentlemen handed down was revealed by Superior Judge Campbell, who said with reference to one of them, against which an appeal had been made to him:
"It is not an interpretation of the Act of Parliament, it is a repeal of the Act of Parliament" (loc. cit., p. 11).
Horner states in the same report that in many factories labourers are not warned when machinery is about to be started up. Since there is always something to be done about machinery even when it is not operating, fingers and hands are always occupied with it, and accidents happen continually due to the mere omission of a warning signal (loc. cit., p. 44). The manufacturers had a trades-union at the time to oppose factory legislation, the so-called National Association for the Amendment of the Factory Laws in Manchester, which in March 1855 collected more than £50,000 by assessing 2 shillings per horse-power, to pay for the court proceedings against its members started by factory inspectors, and to conduct the cases in the name of the union. It was a matter of proving that killing was no murder [Allusion to the pamphlet 'Killing no Murder' which appeared in England in 1657. Its author was the leveller Edward Sexby. — Ed.] when it occurred for the sake of profit. A factory inspector for Scotland, Sir John Kincaid, tells about a certain firm in Glasgow which used the iron scrap at its factory to make protective shields for all its machinery, the cost amounting to £9 1s. Joining the manufacturers' union would have cost it an assessment of £11 for its 110 horse-power, which was more than the cost of all its protective appliances. But the National Association had been organised in 1854 for the express purpose of opposing the law which prescribed such protection. The manufacturers had not paid the least heed to it during the whole period from 1844 to 1854. When the factory inspectors, at instructions from Palmerston, then informed the manufacturers that the law would be enforced in earnest, the manufacturers instantly founded their association, many of whose most prominent members were themselves justices of the peace and in this capacity were supposed to enforce the law. When in April 1855 the new Minister of the Interior, Sir George Grey, offered a compromise under which the government would be content with practically nominal safety appliances the Association indignantly rejected even this. In various lawsuits the famous engineer William Fairbairn threw the weight of his reputation behind the principle of economy and in defence of the freedom of capital which had been violated. The head of factory inspection, Leonard Horner, was persecuted and maligned by the manufacturers in every conceivable manner.
But the manufacturers did not rest until they obtained a writ of the Court of Queen's Bench, according to which the Law of 1844 did not prescribe protective devices for horizontal shafts installed more than seven feet above the ground and, finally, in 1856 they succeeded in securing an Act of Parliament entirely satisfactory to them in the circumstances, through the services of the bigot Wilson Patten, one of those pious souls whose display of religion is always ready to do the dirty work for the knights of the money-bag. This Act practically deprived the labourers of all special protection and referred them to the common courts for compensation in the event of industrial accidents (sheer mockery in view of the excessive cost of English lawsuits), while it made it almost impossible for the manufacturer to lose the lawsuit by providing in a finely-worded clause for expert testimony. The result was a rapid increase of accidents. In the six months from May to October 1858, Inspector Baker reported that accidents increased by 21% compared with the preceding half-year. In his opinion 36.7% of these accidents might have been avoided. It is true that the number of accidents in 1858 and 1859 was considerably below that of 1845 and 1846. It was actually 29% less although the number of labourers in the industries subject to inspection had increased 20%. But what was the reason for this? In so far as this issue has been settled now (1865), it was mainly accomplished through the introduction of new machinery already provided with safety devices to which the manufacturer did not object because they cost him no extra expense. Furthermore, a few labourers succeeded in securing heavy damages for their lost arms, and had this judgement upheld even by the highest courts. (Reports of Insp. of Fact., April 30, 1861, p. 31, ditto April 1862, p. 17.)
So much for economy in devices protecting the life and limbs of labourers (among whom many children) against the dangers of handling and operating machinery.
Work in enclosed places generally. It is well known to what extent economy of space, and thus of buildings, crowds labourers into close quarters. In addition, there is also economy in means of ventilation. Coupled with the long working-hours, the two cause a large increase in diseases of the respiratory organs, and an attendant increase in the death-rate. The following illustrations have been taken from Reports on Public Health, 6th report, 1863. This report was compiled by Dr. John Simon, well known from our Book I.
Just as combination and co-operation of labour permits large-scale employment of machinery, concentration of means of production, and economy in their use, it is this very working together en masse in enclosed places and under conditions rather determined by ease of manufacture than by health requirements — it is this mass concentration in one and the same workshop that acts, on the one hand, as a source of greater profits for the capitalist and, on the other, unless counteracted by a reduced number of hours and special precautions, as the cause of the squandering of the lives and health of the labourers.
Dr. Simon formulates the following rule and backs it up with abundant statistics:
"In proportion as the people of a district are attracted to any collective indoor occupation, in such proportion, other things being equal, the district death-rate by lung diseases will be increased" (p. 23). The cause is bad ventilation. "And probably in all England there is no exception to the rule, that, in every district which has a large indoor industry, the increased mortality of the workpeople is such as to colour the death-return of the whole district with a marked excess of lung disease" (p. 23).
Mortality figures for industries carried on in enclosed places, collected by the Board of Health in 1860 and 1861, indicate that for the same number of men between the ages of 15 and 55, for which the death-rate from consumption and other pulmonary diseases in English agricultural districts is 100, the death-rate in Coventry is 163, in Blackburn and Skipton 167, Congleton and Bradford 168, Leicester 171, Leek 182, Macclesfield 184, Bolton 190, Nottingham 192, Rochdale 193, Derby 198, Salford and Ashton-under-Lyne 203, Leeds 218, Preston 220, and Manchester 263 (p. 24). The following table presents a still more striking illustration.
|District||Chief industry||Deaths from pulmonary diseases between the
ages of 15 and 25,
per 100,000 population
|Berkhampstead||Straw plaiting (women)||219||578|
|Leighton Buzzard||Straw plaiting (women)||309||554|
|Newport Pagnell||Lace manufacture (women)||301||617|
|Towcester||Lace manufacture (women)||239||577|
|Yeovil||Manufacture of gloves (mainly women)||280||409|
|Leek||Silk industry (predominantly women)||437||856|
|Congleton||Silk industry (predominantly women)||566||790|
|Macclesfield||Silk industry (predominantly women)||593||890|
|Healthy country district||Agriculture||331||333|
It shows the death-rate for pulmonary diseases separately for both sexes between the ages of 15 and 25 computed for every 100,000 population. In the districts selected only women are employed in industries carried on in enclosed places, while men work in all other possible lines.
In the silk districts, where more men are employed in the factory, their mortality is also higher. The death-rate from consumption, etc., for both sexes, reveals, as the report says,
"the atrocious sanitary circumstances under which much of our silk industry is conducted".
And it is in this same silk industry that the manufacturers, pleading exceptionally favourable and sanitary conditions in their establishments, demanded by way of an exception, and partially obtained, long working-hours for children under 13 years of age (Buch I, Kap. VIII, 6, S. 296/286) [English edition: Ch. X, 6, p. 293. — Ed.]
"Probably no industry which has yet been investigated has afforded a worse picture than that which Dr. Smith gives of tailoring: — 'Shops vary much in their sanitary conditions, but almost universally are overcrowded and ill-ventilated, and in a high degree unfavourable to health.... Such rooms are necessarily warm; but when the gas is lit, as during the day-time on foggy days, and at night during the winter, the heat increases to 80° and even to upwards of 90°, causing profuse perspiration, and condensation of vapour upon the panes of glass, so that it runs down in streams or drops from the roof, and the operatives are compelled to keep some windows open, at whatever risk to themselves of taking cold.' And he gives the following account of what he found in 16 of the most important West End shops.— 'The largest cubic space in these ill-ventilated rooms allowed to each operative is 270 feet, and the least 105 feet, and in the whole averages only 156 feet per man. In one room, with a gallery running round it, and lighted only from the roof, from 92 to upwards of 100 men are employed, where a large number of gaslights burn, and where the urinals are in the closest proximity, the cubic space does not exceed 150 feet per man. In another room, which can only be called a kennel in a yard, lighted from the roof, and ventilated by a small skylight opening, five to six men work in a space of 112 cubic feet per man.' ... Tailors, in those atrocious workshops which Dr. Smith describes, work generally for about 12 or 13 hours a day, and at some times the work will be continued for 15 or 16 hours" (pp. 25, 26, 28)
|Numbers of persons employed||Branches of industry and locality||Death-rate per 100,000 between the ages of|
|958,265||Agriculture, England and Wales||743||805||1,145|
|22,301 men and||Tailoring, London||958||1,262||2,093|
|13,803||Type-setters and printers, London||894||1,747||2,367|
(p. 30). It must be noted, and has in fact been remarked by John Simon, chief of the Medical Department and author of the report, that the mortality-rate for tailors, type-setters, and printers of London between the ages of 25 and 35 was cited lower than the real figure, because London employers in both lines of business have a large number of young people (probably up to 30 years of age) from the country engaged as apprentices and "improvers", i.e., men getting additional training. These swell the number of hands for which the London industrial death-rates are computed. But they do not proportionally contribute to the number of deaths in London because their stay there is only temporary. If they fall ill during this period, they return to their homes in the country, where their death is registered if they die. This circumstance affects the earlier ages still more and renders the London death-rates for these age groups completely valueless as indexes of the ill-effects of industry on health (p. 30).
The case of the type-setters is similar to that of the tailors. In addition to lack of ventilation, to poisoned air, etc., there is still night-work to be mentioned. Their regular working-time is 12 to 13 hours, sometimes 15 to 16.
"Great heat and foulness which begin when the gas-jets are lit. ... It not infrequently happens that fumes from a foundry, or foul odours from machinery or sinks, rise from the lower room, and aggravate the evils of the upper one. The heated air of the lower rooms always tends to heat the upper by warming the floor, and when the rooms are low, and the consumption of gas great, this is a serious evil, and one only surpassed in the case where the steam-boilers are placed in the lower room, and supply unwished-for heat to the whole house.... As a general expression, it may be stated that universally the ventilation is defective, and quite insufficient to remove the heat and the products of the combustion of gas in the evening and during the night, and that in many offices, and particularly in those made from dwelling-houses, the condition is most deplorable. ... And in some offices (especially those of weekly newspapers) there will be work — work too, in which boys between 12 and 16 years of age take equal part of or almost uninterrupted periods of two days and a night at a time; — while, in other printing-offices which lay themselves out for the doing of 'urgent' business, Sunday gives no relaxation to the workman, and his working-days become seven instead of six in every week" (pp. 26, 28).
The milliners and dress-makers have already attracted our attention in Book I (Kap. VIII, 3, S. 249/241) [English edition: Ch. X, 3, pp. 254-55. — Ed.] in respect to overwork. Their workshops are described in our report by Dr. Ord. Even if better during the day, they become overheated, foul, and unhealthy during the hours in which gas is burned. Dr. Ord found in 34 shops of the better sort that the average number of cubic feet per worker was as follows:
"... In four cases more than 500, in four other cases from 400 to 500, ... in seven others from 200 to 250, in four others from 150 to 200, and in nine others only from 100 to 150. The largest of these allowances would but be scanty for continuous work, unless the space were thoroughly well ventilated; and, except with extraordinary ventilation, its atmosphere could not be tolerably wholesome during gas-light."
And here is Dr. Ord's remark about one of the minor workshops which he visited, operated for the account of a middleman:
"One room area in cubical feet, 1,280; persons present, 14; area to each, in cubical feet, 91.5. The women here were weary-looking and squalid; their earnings were stated to be 7s. to 15s. a week, and their tea. ... Hours 8 a. m. to 8 p. m. The small room into which these 14 persons were crowded was ill-ventilated. There were two movable windows and a fire-place, but the latter was blocked up and there was no special ventilation of any kind" (p. 27).
The same report states with reference to the overwork of milliners and dress-makers:
"... The overwork of the young women in fashionable dress-making establishments does not, for more than about four months of the year, prevail in that monstrous degree which has on many occasions excited momentary public surprise and indignation; but for the indoor hands during these months it will, as a rule, be of full 14 hours a day, and will, when there is pressure, be, for days together, of 17 or even 18 hours. At other times of the year the work of the indoor hands ranges probably from 10 to 14 hours; and uniformly the hours for outdoor hands are 12 or 13. For mantle-makers, collar-makers, shirt-makers, and various other classes of needleworkers (including persons who work at the sewing-machine) the hours spent in the common workroom are fewer — generally not more than 10 to 12 hours; but, says Dr. Ord, the regular hours of work are subject to considerable extension in certain houses at certain times, by the practice of working extra hours for extra pay, and in other houses by the practice of taking work away from houses of business, to be done after hours at home, both practices being, it may be added, often compulsory" (p. 28).
John Simon remarks in a footnote to this page:
"Mr. Radcliffe, ... the Honorary Secretary of the Epidemiological Society, ... happening to have unusual opportunities for questioning the young women employed in first-class houses of business ... has found that in only one out of twenty girls examined who called themselves 'quite well' could the state of health be pronounced good; the rest exhibiting in various degrees evidences of depressed physical power, nervous exhaustion, and numerous functional disorders thereupon dependent. He attributes these conditions in the first place to the length of the hours of work — the minimum of which he estimates at 12 hours a day out of the season; and secondarily to ... crowding and bad ventilation of workrooms, gas-vapours, insufficiency or bad quality of food, and inattention to domestic comfort."
The conclusion arrived at by the chief of the English Board of Health is that
"it is practically impossible for workpeople to insist upon that which in theory is their first sanitary right — the right that whatever work their employer assembles them to do, shall, so far as depends upon him, be, at his cost, divested of all needlessly unwholesome circumstances; ... while workpeople are practically unable to exact that sanitary justice for themselves, they also (notwithstanding the presumed intentions of the law) cannot expect any effectual assistance from the appointed administrators of the Nuisances Removal Acts" (p. 29).— "Doubtless there may be some small technical difficulty in defining the exact line at which employers shall become subject to regulation. But ... in principle, the sanitary claim is universal. And in the interest of myriads of labouring men and women, whose lives are now needlessly afflicted and shortened by the infinite physical suffering which their mere employment engenders, I would venture to express my hope, that universally the sanitary circumstances of labour may, at least so far, be brought within appropriate provisions of law, that the effective ventilation of all indoor workplaces may be ensured, and that in every naturally insalubrious occupation the specific health-endangering influence may as far as practicable be reduced" (p. 31).
In his October 1852 report L. Horner quotes a letter of the famous engineer James Nasmyth of Patricroft, the inventor of the steam-hammer, which, among other things, contains the following:
"...The public are little aware of the vast increase in driving power which has been obtained by such changes of system and improvements (of steam-engines) as I allude to. The engine power of this district (Lancashire) lay under the incubus of timid and prejudiced traditions for nearly forty years, but now we are happily emancipated. During the last fifteen years, but more especially in the course of the last four years (since 1848), some very important changes have taken place in the system of working condensing steam-engines. ... The result ... has been to realise a much greater amount of duty or work performed by the identical engines, and that again at a very considerable reduction of the expenditure of fuel. ... For a great many years after the introduction of steam-power into the mills and manufactories of the above-named districts, the velocity of which, it was considered proper to work condensing steam-engines was about 220 feet per minute of the piston; that is to say, an engine with a 5-feet stroke was restricted by 'rule' to make 22 revolutions of the crankshaft per minute. Beyond this speed it was not considered prudent or desirable to work the engine; and as all the mill gearing ... were made suitable to this 220 feet per minute speed of piston, this slow and absurdly restricted velocity ruled the working of such engines for many years. However, at length, either through fortunate ignorance of the 'rule', or by better reasons on the part of some bold innovator, a greater speed was tried, and as the result was highly favourable, others followed the example, by, as it is termed, 'letting the engine away', namely, by so modifying the proportions of the first motion wheels of the mill gearing as to permit the engine to run at 300 feet and upwards per minute, while the mill gearing generally was kept at its former speed.... This 'letting the engine away'... has led to the almost universal 'speeding' of engines, because it was proved that not only was there available power gained from the identical engines, but also as the higher velocity of the engine yielded a greater momentum in the fly-wheel the motion was found to be much more regular.... We ... obtain more power from a steam-engine by simply permitting its piston to move at a higher velocity (pressure of steam and vacuum in the condenser remaining the same).... Thus, for example, suppose any given engine yields 40 horse-power when its piston is travelling at 200 feet per minute, if by suitable arrangement or modification we can permit this same engine to run at such a speed as that its piston will travel through space at 400 feet per minute (pressure of steam and vacuum, as before said, remaining the same), we shall then have just double the power ... and as the pressure by steam and vacuum is the same in both cases, the strain upon the parts of this engine will be no greater at 400 than at 200 feet speed of piston, so that the risk of 'break-down' does not materially increase with the increase of speed. All the difference is, that we shall in such case consume steam at a rate proportional to the speed of piston, or nearly so; and there will he some small increase in the wear and tear of 'the brasses' or rubbing-parts, but so slight as to be scarcely worth notice.... But in order to obtain increase of power from the same engine by permitting its piston to travel at a higher velocity it is requisite ... to bum more coal per hour under the same boiler, or employ boilers of greater evaporating capabilities, i.e., greater steam-generating powers. This accordingly was done, and boilers of greater steam-generating or water-evaporating powers were supplied to the old 'speeded' engines, and in many cases near 100 per cent more work was got out of the identical engines by means of such changes as above named. About ten years ago the extraordinary economical production of power as realised by the engines employed in the mining operations of Cornwall began to attract attention; and as competition in the spinning trade forced manufacturers to look to 'savings' as the chief source of profits, the remarkable difference in the consumption of coal per horsepower per hour, as indicated by the performance of the Cornish engines, as also the extraordinary economical performance of Woolf's double-cylinder engines, began to attract increased attention to the subject of economy of fuel in this district, and as the Cornish and double-cylinder engines gave a horse-power for every 3½ to 4 lbs of coal per hour, while the generality of cotton-mill engines were consuming 8 or 12 pounds per horse per hour, so remarkable a difference induced mill-owners and engine-makers in this district to endeavour to realise, by the adoption of similar means, such extraordinary economical results as were proved to be common in Cornwall and France, where the high price of coal had compelled manufacturers to look more sharply to such costly departments of their establishments. The result of this increased attention to economy of fuel has been most important in many respects. In the first place, many boilers, the half of whose surface had been in the good old times of high profits left exposed quite naked to the cold air, began to get covered with thick blankets of felt, and brick and plaster, and other modes and means whereby to prevent the escape of that heat from their exposed surface which had cost so much fuel to maintain. Steam-pipes began to be 'protected' in the same manner, and the outside of the cylinder of the engine felted and cased in with wood in like manner. Next came the use of 'high steam', namely, instead of having the safety-valve loaded so as to blow off at 4, 6, or 8 lbs to the square inch, it was found that by raising the pressure to 14 or 20 lbs ... a very decided economy of fuel resulted; in other words, the work of the mill was performed by a very notable reduced consumption of coals, ... and those who had the means and the boldness carried the increased pressure and 'expansion system' of working to the full extent, by employing properly constructed boilers to supply steam of 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70 lbs to the square inch; pressures which would have frightened an engineer of the old school out of his wits. But as the economic results of so increasing the pressure of steam... soon appeared in most unmistakable £ s. d. forms, the use of high-pressure steam-boilers for working condensing engines became almost general. And those who desired to go to the full extent ... soon adopted the employment of the Woolf engine in its full integrity, and most of our mills lately built are worked by the Woolf engines, namely, those on which there are two cylinders to each engine, in one of which the high-pressure steam from the boiler exerts or yields power by its excess of pressure over that of the atmosphere, which, instead of the said high-pressure steam being let pass off at the end of each stroke free into the atmosphere, is caused to pass into a low-pressure cylinder of about four times the area of the former, and after due expansion passes to the condenser, the economic result obtained from engines of this class is such that the consumption of fuel is at the rate of from 3½ to 4 lbs. of coal per horse per hour; while in the engines of the old system the consumption used to be on the average from 12 to 14 lbs. per horse per hour. By an ingenious arrangement, the Woolf system of double cylinder or combined low- and high-pressure engine has been introduced extensively to already existing engines, whereby their performance has been increased both as to power and economy of fuel. The same result ... has been in use these eight or ten years, by having a high-pressure engine so connected with a condensing engine as to enable the waste steam of the former to pass on to and work the latter. This system is in many cases very convenient.
"It would not be very easy to get an exact return as to the increase of performance or work done by the identical engines to which some or all of these improvements have been applied; I am confident, however, ... that from the same weight of steam-engine machinery we are now obtaining at least 50 per cent more duty or work performed on the average, and that in many cases, the identical steam-engines which in the days of the restricted speed of 220 feet per minute yielded 50 horse-power, are now yielding upwards of 100. The very economical results derived from the employment of high-pressure steam in working condensing steam-engines, together with the much higher power required by mill extensions from the same engines, has within the last three years led to the adoption of tubular boilers, yielding a much more economical result than those formerly employed in generating steam for mill engines." (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1852, pp. 23-27.)
What applies to power generation also applies to power transmission and working machinery.
"The rapid strides with which improvement in machinery has advanced within these few years have enabled manufacturers to increase production without additional moving power. The more economical application of labour has been rendered necessary by the diminished length of the working-day, and in most well-regulated mills an intelligent mind is always considering in what manner production can be increased with decreased expenditure. I have before me a statement, kindly prepared by a very intelligent gentleman in my district, showing the number of hands employed, their ages, the machines at work, and the wages paid from 1840 to the present time. In October 1840, his firm employed 600 hands, of whom 200 were under 13 years of age. In October last, 350 hands were employed, of whom 60 only were under 13; the same number of machines, within very few, were at work, and the same sum in wages was paid at both periods. " (Redgrave's Report in Reports of Insp. of Fact., Oct. 1852, pp. 58-59.)
These improvements of the machinery do not show their full effect until they are used in new, appropriately arranged factories.
"As regards the improvement made in machinery, I may say in the first place that a great advance has been made in the construction of mills adapted to receive improved machinery.... In the bottom room I double all my yarn, and upon that single floor I shall put 29,000 doubling spindles. I effect a saving of labour in the room and shed of at least 10 per cent, not so much from any improvement in the principle of doubling yarn, but from a concentration of machinery under a single management; and I am enabled to drive the said number of spindles by one single shaft, a saving in shafting, compared with what other firms have to use to work the same number of spindles, of 60 per cent, in some cases 80 per cent. There is a large saving in oil, and shafting, and in grease.... With superior mill arrangements and improved machinery, at the lowest estimate I have effected a saving in labour of 10 per cent, a great saving in power, coal, oil, tallow, shafting and strapping." (Evidence of a cotton spinner, Reports of Insp. of Fact., Oct. 1863, pp. 109, 110.)
The capitalist mode of production extends the utilisation of the excretions of production and consumption. By the former we mean the waste of industry and agriculture, slid by the latter partly the excretions produced by the natural exchange of matter in the human body and partly the form of objects that remains after their consumption. In the chemical industry, for instance, excretions of production are such by-products as are wasted in production on a smaller scale; iron filings accumulating in the manufacture of machinery and returning into the production of iron as raw material, etc. Excretions of consumption are the natural waste matter discharged by the human body, remains of clothing in the form of rags, etc. Excretions of consumption are of the greatest importance for agriculture. So far as their utilisation is concerned, there is an enormous waste of them in the capitalist economy. In London, for instance, they find no better use for the excretion of four and a half million human beings than to contaminate the Thames with it at heavy expense.
Rising prices of raw materials naturally stimulate the utilisation of waste products.
The general requirements for the re-employment of these excretions are: large quantities of such waste, such as are available only in large-scale production; improved machinery whereby materials, formerly useless in their prevailing form, are put into a state fit for new production; scientific progress, particularly of chemistry, which reveals the useful properties of such waste. It is true that great savings of this sort are also observed in small-scale agriculture, as prevails in, say, Lombardy, southern China, and Japan. But on the whole, the productivity of agriculture under this system obtains from the prodigal use of human labour-power, which is withheld from other spheres of production.
The so-called waste plays an important role in almost every industry. Thus, the Factory Report for December 1863 mentions as one of the principal reasons why the English and many of the Irish farmers do not like to grow flax, or do so but rarely,
"the great waste ... which has taken place at the little water scutch mills ... the waste in cotton is comparatively small, but in flax very large. The efficiency of water steeping and of good machine scutching will reduce this disadvantage very considerably.... Flax, scutched in Ireland in a most shameful way, and a large percentage actually lost by it, equal to 28 or 30 per cent" (Reports of Insp. of Fact., Dec. 1863, pp. 139, 142)
whereas all this might be avoided through the use of better machinery. So much tow fell by the wayside that the factory inspector reports:
"I have been informed with regard to some of the scutch mills in Ireland, that the waste made at them has often been used by the scutchers to burn on their fires at home, and yet it is very valuable" (p. 140 of the above report).
We shall speak of cotton waste later, when we deal with the price fluctuations of raw materials.
The wool industry was shrewder than the flax manufacturers.
"It was once the common practice to decry the preparation of waste and woollen rags for re-manufacture, but the prejudice has entirely subsided as regards the shoddy trade, which has become an important branch of the woollen trade of Yorkshire, and doubtless the cotton waste trade will be recognised in the same manner as supplying an admitted want. Thirty years since, woollen rags, i.e., pieces of cloth, old clothes, etc., of nothing but wool, would average about £4 4s. per ton in price: within the last few years they have become worth £44 per ton, and the demand for them has so increased that means have been found for utilising the rags of fabrics of cotton and wool mixed by destroying the cotton and leaving the wool intact, and now thousands of operatives are engaged in the manufacture of shoddy, from which the consumer has greatly benefited in being able to purchase cloth of a fair and average quality at a very moderate price." (Reports of Insp. of Fact., Oct. 1863, p. 107.)
By the end of 1862 the rejuvenated shoddy made up as much as one-third of the entire consumption of wool in English industry. (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1862, p. 81.) The "big benefit" for the "consumer" is that his shoddy clothes wear out in just one-third of the previous time and turn threadbare in one-sixth of this time.
The English silk industry moved along the same downward path. The consumption of genuine raw silk decreased somewhat between 1839 and 1862, while that of silk waste doubled. Improved machinery helped to manufacture a silk useful for many purposes from this otherwise rather worthless stuff.
The most striking example of utilising waste is furnished by the chemical industry. It utilises not only its own waste, for which it finds new uses, but also that of many other industries. For instance, it converts the formerly almost useless gas-tar into aniline dyes, alizarin, and, more recently, even into drugs.
This economy of the excretions of production through their re-employment is to be distinguished from economy through the prevention of waste, that is to say, the reduction of excretions of production to a minimum, and the immediate utilisation to a maximum of all raw and auxiliary materials required in production.
Reduction of waste depends in part on the quality of the machinery in use. Economy in oil, soap, etc., depends on how well the mechanical parts are machined and polished. This refers to the auxiliary materials. In part, however, and this is most important, it depends on the quality of the employed machines and tools whether a larger or smaller portion of the raw material is turned into waste in the production process. Finally, this depends on the quality of the raw material itself. This, in turn, depends partly on the development of the extractive industry and agriculture which produce the raw material (strictly speaking on the progress of civilisation), and partly on the improvement of processes through which raw materials pass before they enter into manufacture.
"Parmentier has demonstrated that the art of grinding grain has improved very materially in France since a none too distant epoch, for instance the time of Louis XIV, so that the new mills, compared to the old, can make up to half as much more bread from the same amount of grain. The annual consumption of a Parisian, indeed, has first been estimated at 4 setiers of grain, then at 3, finally at 2, while nowadays it is only 1⅓ setiers, or about 342 lbs per capita.... In the Perche, where I have lived for a long time, the crude mills of granite and trap rock millstones have been mostly rebuilt according to the rules of mechanics which has made such rapid progress in the last 30 years. They have been provided with good millstones from La Ferté, have ground the grain twice, the milling sack has been given a circular motion, and the output of flour from the same amount of grain has increased 1/6. The enormous discrepancy between the daily grain consumption of the Romans and ourselves is therefore easily explained. It is due simply to imperfect methods of milling and bread-making. This is the way I feel I must explain a remarkable observation made by Pliny, XVIII, Ch. 20, 2: .., 'The flour was sold in Rome, depending on its quality, at 40, 48 or 96 as per modius. These prices, so high in proportion to the contemporaneous grain prices, are due to the imperfect state of the mills of that period, which were still in their infancy, and the resultant heavy cost of milling."' (Dureau de la Malle, Économie Politique des Romains, Paris, 1840, I, pp. 280-81.)
These savings in the application of fixed capital are, we repeat, due to the employment of the conditions of labour on a large scale; in short, are due to the fact that these serve as conditions of directly social, or socialised labour or direct co-operation within the process of production. On the one hand, this is the indispensable requirement for the utilisation of mechanical and chemical inventions without increasing the price of the commodity, and this is always the conditio sine qua non. On the other hand, only production on a large scale permits the savings derived from co-operative productive consumption. Finally, it is only the experience of the combined labourer which discovers and reveals the where and how of saving, the simplest methods of applying the discoveries, and the ways to overcome the practical frictions arising from carrying out the theory — in its application to the production process — etc.
Incidentally, a distinction should be made between universal labour and co-operative labour. Both kinds play their role in the process of production, both flow one into the other, but both are also differentiated. Universal labour is all scientific labour, all discovery and all invention. This labour depends partly on the co-operation of the living, and partly on the utilisation of the labours of those who have gone before. Co-operative labour, on the other hand, is the direct co-operation of individuals.
The foregoing is corroborated by frequent observation, to wit:
1) The great difference in the cost of the first model of a new machine and that of its reproduction (regarding which, see Ure [The Philosophy of Manufactures, Second edition, London, 1855. — Ed.] and Babbage [On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, London, 1832, pp. 280-81. — Ed.]).
2) The far greater cost of operating an establishment based on a new invention as compared to later establishments arising ex suis ossibus. This is so very true that the trail-blazers generally go bankrupt, and only those who later buy the buildings, machinery, etc., at a cheaper price, make money out of it. It is, therefore, generally the most worthless and miserable sort of money-capitalists who draw the greatest profit out of all new developments of the universal labour of the human spirit and their social application through combined labour.
11. "Since in all factories there is a very large amount of fixed capital in buildings and machinery, the greater the number of hours that machinery can be kept at work the greater will be the return." (Reports of Insp. of Fact., 31st October, 1858, p. 8.)
12. Cf. Ure on the progress in factory construction.
Transcribed for the Internet by Hinrich Kuhls