Eldred/Roth: Guide to Marx's Capital (1978)

Appendix II

Science in Capital

'... but where would natural science be without industry and commerce?' - The German Ideology.[1]


A lot has been written about science and knowledge in recent Marxist literature. Althusser has given, at a very abstract level, elements of a general epistemological theory which emphasises the production of theory as a social practice. However, what he has stressed is the internality of criteria of validity for scientific practice and has not given an account of how theoretical practices articulate with other social practices. The reason for Althusser's emphasis is quite clear; what he was combating was empiricism and to do this he needed to contrast the internal nature of scientificity to the empiricist attempts to compare the theoretical object with the real object as a proof of the validity of theoretical products.

This paper attempts to extract from Marx's Capital the presentation that he gives of the ways in which capital requires science and stimulates its development. In the main, the account given here is Marx's and we do not alter his account in line with our criticisms in the main body of the book. There are four broad ways in which capital as a relation of production gives impetus to natural scientific practices, viz. relative surplus value production, capital accumulation, economising in constant capital and minimising the costs of circulation. The application of science in the last mentioned way is not explicitly treated by Marx but the application is clear.

We have given references to Capital in the body of the text as well as a bare list of all the places in Capital we have found where Marx refers to science or its application. It will become clear on reading this paper that Marx does not give a crude account of why certain specific scientific events in the history of scientific practice occurred but rather the limits and impetus which economic practice within capitalist relations of production give to the development of the natural sciences. An account of specific theoretical events can only be given through a more detailed study of the internal practice of a science.

Science in the Creation of Value

Commodities are the form that wealth takes in capitalist societies and the analysis of commodities is the starting point for Marx's systematic presentation in Capital. So too, it is natural for us to begin to investigate the role of science under capitalism with an analysis of the relation between science and commodities.

A commodity is a unity of two things: use-value and value. As a use-value, a commodity is a socially useful thing which fulfils a human end in its consumption.[2] A use-value 'may be looked at from the two points of view of quality and quantity. It is an assemblage of many properties, and may therefore be of use in various ways. To discover the various uses of things is the work of history. So also is the establishment of socially-recognised standards of measure...' (CI 43). This discovery of the useful properties of things ('the various uses of things') can be taken as the first rudimentary appearance of (natural) scientific activity in Capital. Our task is to discover the specific marks which natural science bears in capitalist society. To this end we must look at commodities not only from the point of view of use-value, but also from the point of view of value.

The form of manifestation of value is exchange-value, 'the mode of expression, the phenomenal form, of something contained in it (a given commodity)' (CI 45). When the use-values of commodities are put out of sight, what is left is only one common property, that all commodities are the product of human labour. The substance of value then, the something contained in commodities which brings them into equivalence is human labour, but not human labour considered in its concrete, particular form which produces a particular use-value with specific properties; it is abstract human labour where the concrete, particular form of the labour congealed in a commodity is put to one side in the act of equating them in exchange.

The magnitude of value is to be measured by the quantity of value-creating substance, abstract labour, contained in it and the quantity of abstract labour is measured by its duration. The value of a commodity is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour-time embodied in it. 'The labour-time socially necessary is that required to produce an article under normal conditions of production, and with the average degree of skill and intensity prevalent at the time.' (CI 47). The socially necessary labour-time therefore changes with every variation in the productivity of social labour. The more productive the labour, the more use-values produced in unit time and the less abstract labour represented by each article. Productivity 'is determined by various circumstances, amongst others, by the average amount of skill of the workmen, the state of science, and the degree of its technical (technologischen) application, the social organisation of production, the extent and capabilities of the means of production, and by physical conditions.' (CI 47; our emphasis).

This is the first occurrence of the term 'science' in Capital and it is important to note several things about it. Firstly, science is here implicitly taken to mean natural science and mathematics. For Marx, the term 'science' denoted physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, geology etc., and mathematics. The bourgeois social sciences had not yet been firmly established and, if they had been, their application would have been to 'the social organisation of production', which is qualitatively different from the 'degree of technical application' of natural science. Secondly, science is a sphere of activity which is distinguished from its application in the production of commodities. Science is not only the discovery of the useful[3] properties of things but a determinate practice which exists outside the sphere of direct production and whose aim is such discovery. We only mention this point here and will return to it further on.

Thirdly, it is not spelt out here how science is applied but we shall see further on that science has important application in extending the capabilities of the means of production. Although Marx uses the term in this narrow way in Capital, application and development of science depends on, and has effects on the skill of workers, social organisation of production and physical conditions. We shall see that Marx does not regard science as being applied to increasing the skill of workers or the social organisation of production.

Fourthly, the role of science is to increase the productivity of labour, or in other words, to develop the productive forces. This first occurrence of the term 'science' is important because it gives the fundamental link between science and capital at the level of everyday knowledge. Everyone knows that science helps in making new things and with a saving in labour.

Lastly, science is connected with the value form via its role in increasing productivity. We must bear in mind that science is important to capital because of its link with value (and later on we shall see more particularly) with surplus-value and relative surplus-value. The use-value of commodities produced by the capitalist is a thing which in itself is of no interest to him. It is only because a thing, to have value, must also have use-value, otherwise it is not a commodity and has no exchange-value on the market. In like manner, science in itself is of no interest to the capitalist but only through its application in the more efficient production of commodities and hence in the creation of value.

Science in the Capitalist Production Process

The capitalist buys labour-power in order to produce a particular commodity. The labour-process is an activity engaged in on the basis of a particular plan and with a particular end in mind. Such plans and ends are innumerable and are susceptible to modification and to revolutions.

A labour-process has three elementary factors: 1) human activity or active labour-power;[4] 2) the object of that activity; and 3) the instruments used in that activity (CI 174). This may be depicted diagrammatically as:

object of labour

instruments of labour

new use-value

Science reappears in connection with the instruments of labour which are utilised by the labourer, an apparatus 'which the labourer interposes between himself and the subject[5] of his labour and which serves as the conductor of his activity. He makes use of the mechanical, physical and chemical properties of some substances in order to make other substances subservient to his aims' (CI 174f). The properties and uses of the instruments of labour are taken advantage of in the transformation of the object of labour into a new use-value with different properties and uses from the initial object of labour. Changes in the instruments of labour lead to modified commodities and to more commodities being produced in unit time.

The instruments of labour used in an historical epoch serve as indicator of the degree of development of human labour (CI 176). The historical development of the dominant types of labour-process in particular modes of production and between modes of production reveals an increasing complexity in the instruments of labour and therefore an increasing level of scientific knowledge of the usefulness of things, which enables the transformation of nature. The level of scientific development corresponds to the level of development of the instruments of labour. At first Nature itself endows the labourer with their[6] first tools in the form of stones, sticks etc. This corresponds to the most rudimentary knowledge of the properties of things. The domestication of animals and the development of agriculture require development of the instruments of labour and of the knowledge of their design and use. Finally, in capitalist society we find the vast and complex array of instruments of labour which make use of the mechanical, physical and chemical properties of materials and which take the most pressing palpable form in complex, enormous machines, vats, pipes, motor vehicles etc. Corresponding to this we have the enormous sophistication and development of physics, chemistry and mathematics which enable the labour-processes of capitalism to take the complex form they do (CI 175).[7]

The capitalist does not set up a production process in order only to produce mere use-values, but commodities in which value is embodied. Marx shows (CI Chapter VII) that the origin of the capitalists' profit is surplus-value which is extracted from the worker in the production process. The labourer, in each minute of the working-day adds new value to the product by incorporating living labour into it. In one part of the working-day the labourer creates the value of their own means of life whose value is equal to their wage; the length of this part of the day is called the necessary labour-time. In the other part of the working-day the value created by the labourer does not correspond to any outlay of the capitalist and is surplus-value which is appropriated by the capitalist along with the product; the length of this part of the day is called surplus-labour time.

The surplus-value process is just the extension of the value-creating process of production past a certain point; past the point where the value of the labourers' wage is created. In the quest for extra surplus-value the capitalist strives to maximise the surplus-labour-time or the working day and this can be done in two ways. Firstly, the working day can be extended, the necessary labour-time remaining the same, giving rise to absolute surplus-value. Secondly, the length of the working-day remaining the same, the necessary labour-time can be shortened thus extending the surplus-labour-time. This second aim is achieved by the following route: an increase in the productivity of labour in those industries whose products enter as means of life into the labourers' family lowers the value of labour-power[8] and hence reduces the time necessary for the labourer to reproduce their wage. The extra surplus-value thus derived is called relative surplus-value. 'The object of all development of the productiveness of labour, within the limits of capitalist production, is to shorten that part of the working-day, during which the workman must labour for his own benefit, and by that very shortening, to lengthen the other part of the day, during which he is at liberty to work gratis for the capitalist.' (CI 304)

Co-operation is one way in which the capitalist derives relative surplus-value. By co-operation is meant simply the working together of numerous labourers in the one labour process. The combined working-day of a large number of co-operating labourers produces a greater quantity of use-values than the same labourers working separately and hence increases the productivity of labour. Whether co-operation achieves an increase in productivity 'because it heightens the mechanical force of labour, or extends its sphere of action over a greater space, or contracts the field of production relatively to the scale of production, or at the critical moment sets large masses of labour to work, or excites emulation between individuals and raises their animal spirits, or impresses on the similar operations carried on by a number of men the stamp of continuity and many-sidedness, or performs simultaneously different operations, or economises the means of production by use in common, or lends to individual labour the character of average social labour ...the special productive power of the combined working day is ... the productive power of social labour. This power is due to co-operation itself.' (CI 311f.).

It is capital itself which sets up a co-operative labour process and as co-operative labour processes become socially widespread the power of capital extends and capital becomes a power needed to organise a labour process. Combined labour on a large scale requires work of supervision and management, but in addition, under capitalism, the requirement of extracting surplus-value from the workers necessitates the hierarchical organisation of the capitalist production process. The labour-process being set up and controlled by the capitalist thus confronts the labourer as something foreign, as 'a preconceived plan of the capitalist' (CI 314). Furthermore, co-operation whose fruits cost the capitalist nothing appears as a power that is immanent in capital. Hence even in the earliest stages of capitalist development where the labour-process is not yet revolutionised by science, the power of capital confronts the labourer in the form of an already-set-up production process into which the labourer is merely inserted. We shall see further on that the application of science in the capitalist production process furthers a tendency which is immanent in the earliest forms of capital, viz. the confrontation between the labourer and the alien power of capital.


The period of manufacture is characterised by division of labour both socially between different branches of industry and in detail within the factory of the capitalist. For our purposes the division of labour in detail within the workshop, a particular form of co-operation, will suffice for our investigation. Division of labour within the labour process has a number of consequences.

Firstly, the labourer who is employed to do one simple task becomes expert at it and consequently takes less time to do it and perfects the simple act by repetition. The collective labourer, which is made up of these specialised detail labourers, hence becomes more productive (CI 321).

Secondly, division of labour requires a certain scale of production. The proportions in which labourers in different tasks must be employed is established by experience and the scale of production has a smallest 'unit' determined by the division of labour and the number of workers required in each task in order to have the whole collective labourer running smoothly. Only by discovering and complying to such proportions can bottlenecks in production be avoided. Furthermore, the scale of production can only be increased in multiples of this smallest unit. The labour of superintendence can be done just as well on a large as on a small scale which again leads to an increase in the scale of production (CI 327).

The simple co-operation of labourers working under the one roof is extended by the division of labour in the factory as the dependence of detail labourers on one another in order to achieve continuity of production develops. No one labourer now produces the whole commodity or even knows how this is done; the different fragments of the labour process can even be carried on in different places with only a final assembly required under the same roof. The labourer is no longer only confronted by 'a preconceived plan of the capitalist' as in the early development of capitalism but by a process in which they play but only a small and incomplete part. The formal subordination of labour to capital which comes about by capital taking over the handicraft industries is transformed into the real subordination of labour to capital (cf. CI 293 and 478) where living labour-power can only find employment by insertion as a specialised part in the collective labourer. 'If, at first, the workman sells his labour-power to capital, because the material means of producing a commodity fail him, now his very labour-power refuses its services unless it has been sold to capital. Its functions can be exercised only in an environment that exists in the workshop of the capitalist after the sale.' (CI 340).

Thirdly, the knowledge and judgement of the labourer is required less and less as the specialisation and detail of the system of division of labour is elaborated; the accumulated experience of the collective labourer manifests itself in the finer and finer fragmentation of the labour process, to which the individual labourer is subjected. Intelligence is 'now required only for the workshop as a whole. Intelligence in production expands in one direction because it vanishes in many others' (CI 341). Tasks which once required the skill of the individual labourer are broken up, simplified and routinised so that labourers in one job are subjected to mind-dulling work and are easily replaced. The need for long apprenticeships diminishes and for short apprenticeships vanishes altogether, the necessary training being provided in one or two months instead of a couple of years and one or two days instead of a couple of months. Intelligence and planning are manifested in fine adjustments to the labour process which squeeze out the last ounce of productivity from a given labour process. Intellectual labour is no longer required by the individual labourer but is concretised in the structure of the collective worker. This historical development of capitalism 'is completed in modern industry, which makes science a productive force distinct from labour and presses it into the service of capital' (CI 341). Thus the role of science in modern capitalism is prefigured in the division of labour in the manufacturing period and its consequent separation of manual and intellectual labour, the intellectual labour being in the form of a despotic preconceived plan of the capitalist. Here are the beginnings of science as a servant of capital and against the labouring masses.

Fourthly, division of labour creates a dependence of one group of workers on another in that each group only makes part of the product and the end product for one group forms the starting point for another group. The uniform flow of production can only be maintained if each labourer spends only the minimum time necessary for their part of the process and so is forced to work more uniformly, continuously and intensely than in a comparable handicraft industry. 'The habit of doing only one thing converts him into a never-failing instrument, while his connection with the whole mechanism compels him to work with the regularity of the parts of a machine' (CI 330). The order necessary for the smooth running of the labour process is provided by a hierarchical organisation. Whereas the smooth running of the labour process imposes an order, regularity and intensity of work on the labourers, that very hierarchy of labour-powers which carries out the function of capital in the production process is a concrete expression of the antagonistic interests of labourer and capitalist (CI 314).

Lastly, the tricks of the trade which are acquired by a generation of labourers become established and are handed down to the next. Although each detail labourer's knowledge is highly specialised and limited, the collective experience of the collective worker is necessary for the efficient running of the factory. Capital is still dependent, if not on highly skilled individual labourers, on the skill of the collective labourer. The productivity and quality of the product depend as much upon the degree of care and skill of individual labourers and on their voluntary co-operation with one another as on the control and discipline exercised over the labourers by the capitalist or his agents. 'Since handicraft skill is the foundation of manufacture, and since the mechanism of manufacture as a whole possesses no framework, apart from the labourers themselves, capital is constantly compelled to wrestle with the insubordination of the workmen... Hence, throughout the whole manufacturing period there runs the complaint of want of discipline among the workmen.' (CI 346f.) The problem of keeping order in a manufacturing process is finally ameliorated with the advent of machinery which converts the factory into an automaton which dictates the work process of the labourer and diminishes markedly the need for control to be exercised by the capitalist.

Division of labour in manufacturing is based on a decomposition of the handicraft into its component manual parts with the individual worker's handling of their tools determining the satlsfactoriness of the operation. With this narrow handicraft basis a really scientific analysis of the production process and a revolutionising of the labour process is not possible as the product is constrained to go through many hands, each of which performs a handicraft operation on it. Analysis and application of science is precluded by the unavoidable reliance on the efficient operation of the individual worker which presents to science a factor too complicated at first to handle. Science first takes hold of the production process with the advent of machinery, to the investigation of which we now turn.

Modern Industry

The interest which capital has in the application of machinery to industry is, in the last instance, the drive for relative surplus-value. The increase in productivity which machinery brings about cheapens commodities and hence reduces the necessary labour-time of the labourer and increases the surplus labour-time given to the capitalist.[9]

Marx considers a machine to consist of three elements (CI 352): the motor mechanism, the transmitting mechanism and the tool or working machine. A machine once set in motion performs with its tools the same operations as the labourer did previously with similar tools. The essential characteristic of the machine, and one of the greatest importance to capital is that the machine replaces the labourer who handles a single tool with a mechanism which, with a single motive power, sets in motion a number of tools.

Machinery made by manufacturing methods depends on the handicraft skill of the labourers who make it and hence the production of machinery was limited by the number of skilled machine makers. As well as this, the tendency towards increasing size and regularity of the details of machines was limited by their manufacture by manual labour. The discovery of mechanical principles allowed machines to be built which were no longer based on the 'traditional form of tool which gave rise to it' (CI 362) but which could be designed entirely in accordance with the principles of mechanics. The construction of large and more complicated new machinery required a greater understanding of the workings of machines which went beyond the accumulated experience of machine building acquired in making machines based on handicraft tools.

These two factors, the inadequate technical foundation for the construction of machines by manufacture and the need for machines to be designed and constructed according to scientific principles, led to the construction of machines, not by manual labour, but by machines. The construction of machines by machines at once allowed the construction of enormous machines with a precision not possible by manual methods, the use of iron instead of wood as the main material and the incorporation of precise mechanical principles in construction. The 'geometrically accurate straight lines, planes, circles, cylinders, cones and spheres, required in the detail parts of the machines' (CI 363) are a result of the use of mechanical principles in designing machines. The subject of mechanics deals largely with such solid objects as spheres and cylinders moving on inclined planes or hanging from straight wires[10], and the mathematical solution of problems in dynamics and statics requires that the objects and configurations involved take such simple mathematical shapes and forms. The construction of precise mathematical shapes, made possible only by machines, is a requirement imposed by the theory of mechanics which is only able to grasp theoretically nice Euclidean figures. Conversely, the construction of complicated and intricate machines gives rise to a number of problems in mechanics, which in turn gives impetus to the development of analytic geometry so as to handle theoretically ellipses, hyperboloids, catenaries, paraboloids etc. Here we have a much mediated link between the needs of capital and the development of science.

Science is not only applied to industry proper but also to agriculture. The domination of the capitalist mode of production in agriculture involves a long struggle in history in which the masses of the peasantry are dispossessed of their land and the political and economic domination of the landed aristocracy and other landowners broken. An immediate consequence of the spread of domination of capital to agriculture in pursuit of surplus-value is that the previously simple and unchanging empirical methods of agriculture are transformed by 'the conscious scientific application of agronomy'. (CIII 617) in the effort to raise productivity. The application of agronomy is limited by private ownership of land and the capitalist nature of agricultural enterprise. The dictates of a commodity economy result in the severe impoverishment of the soil when this is the easiest way for capital to derive surplus-value. The short term interests of capital, constantly in conflict with the long term interests of society, are most clearly shown to be so in agriculture, as the soil takes a long time to recover from the ravages of capital. In the long run, capital has to take account of the effect of its activities on the soil and the sciences of agronomy, horticulture, entomology and biometry are vigorously developed. The application of science to the soil in the form of fertilisers, rotation of crops, insecticides has consequences far beyond affecting the yield or liveweight of the current harvest or generation of livestock. The development of machinery is also important for agriculture just as it is in industry proper.

Science, whose application produces a revolution in the production process in one sphere of industry does not remain applied only in isolated spheres of industry. The enormous increase in productivity in one sphere necessitates a corresponding increase in those industries or spheres of industry which either supply the given sphere with raw materials or consume its product as a means of production.[11] This applies no matter whether the stages of production of the final commodity are carried on by one or several capitals. Marx gives the example of the textile industry, where 'spinning by machinery made weaving by machinery a necessity, and both together made the mechanical and chemical revolution that took place in bleaching, printing and dyeing imperative' (CI 362). Such industries, whilst having branches which are isolated from one another as a result of the social division of labour, . form a unity from the point of view of the labour process which at its end turns out a commodity with an independent use-value, that is, it does not merely enter another production process as a raw material.

As well as the social division of labour which calls forth the application of science in related branches of industry, the geographical separation of different branches of industry requires a radical development of the means of transport and of communication in order to move and co-ordinate the movements of immense quantities of materials. Mechanics, hydraulics, electro-magnetism, electricity as well as the branches of mathematics needed for their development now become of direct interest to capital in their application to the construction of railways, steamships, telegraphs and, in the twentieth century, of aeroplanes, radios, telephones and trucks (CI 363). The development of these 'pure' sciences is mediated by engineering, whose special branches undertake the task of applying the developments of particular sciences to industry and of discovering and formulating in theoretically amenable terms the concrete problems of the labour process.

In modern industry proper the construction, use and modification of machinery require the 'conscious application of science, instead of rule and of thumb' (CI 365). We have already seen that the construction of machinery requires the use of science. The installation and use of a machine also requires, if not the knowledge of its workings, at least the compliance with a procedure which has been worked out on the basis of such a knowledge. Failure to comply with such a procedure leads to either inefficiency in operation or the breakdown of the machine. The modification and improvement of a machine, although this can be done piecemeal 'on the factory floor' on the basis of experience of its operation, is of no general use to capital if it remains the mere application of 'rule of thumb'. The modification must be incorporated in the design of the machine and is often itself modified once formulated in scientific theoretical terms and perhaps generalised. More often, the ideas which arise from the experience of using the machine in the labour process must be formulated in such a way as to allow their application via scientific theory, engineering and draughting. This is because machines, being constructed according to mechanical principles require modifications to comply with those same mechanical principles.

The formulation and understanding of a modification in scientific terms gives the result a generality which finds application in widely diverse fields. Thus the slide rest, which was originally designed for the lathe was applied to other constructive machines in a modified form (CI 363). The results of science have an application which go beyond the specific interests of a capitalist interested in increasing productivity in his particular production process, and hence it is in the interests of social capital as a whole to support the development of science. Thus, for example, the same laws of mechanics suffice for the building of a hydraulic press as for a power loom, although their uses are very different.[12] Conversely, scientific production supported by a single capital can only be kept for its own exclusive use and profit by artificial means such as patents. Such artificial means are in contradiction with the generality of science's application which invariably resolves itself in favour of the latter. Thus patents only have a limited term.

The domination of the production process by machinery and the consequent freedom from consideration of the labouring of human hands enables the production process to be viewed in objective terms. The process can now be 'analysed into its constituent phases; and the problem, how to execute each detail process, and bind them all into a whole, is solved by the aid of machines, chemistry, &c.' (CI 359). Here we are reminded that Marx equates science with natural science, which only finds application to the instruments of labour and not living labour itself. Capital at first seizes science in the state in which it finds it and makes science its servant. Only in more modern times does the theoretical understanding extend to humans and that in a very incomplete and inadequate way. The application and development of science of living labour lies outside the bounds of this essay.[13]

However, the application of science to the instruments of labour has far-reaching consequences for the labourers. Earlier we noted that whilst the division of labour under manufacture required the co-operation of the workers. the capitalist had constant trouble in maintaining order. This was because the labour process still rested upon the skill and co-operation of the individual labourer performing their essentially handicraft task. Whilst the functioning of the collective worker provided a certain rhythm and increased intensity of work, the antagonism between labour and capital manifested itself in the non-co-operation of the labourers.

The use of machinery largely solves the capitalist's problem of keeping order in the production process. With the perfection of the automatic system the work of the labourer becomes that of superintendence of the machine, of regulating its function and correcting foul-ups caused by low-grade raw material &c. The machinery sets the pace of production and importunately demands the co-operation of labour if it is to function at all; 'the co-operative character of the labour-process is ... a technical necessity dictated by the instrument of labour itself (CI 365). The intensity of labour is set by the speed of the machinery and the feverish, demonic speed of the machinery creates unheard of records in the pace of work. It is sufficient now for the capitalist or his agents that in order to fulfil the task of control and surveillance, he ensures the machines are kept running smoothly; the machinery dictates the rest.

Another aspect of the effect which the introduction of machinery has on labour is that to some extent machinery frees capital from labour. The enormous increase in productivity afforded by machinery makes labour-power redundant in large masses. The proletariat wages a long and bitter struggle against the introduction of machinery. The automatic functioning of machinery diminishes the effect which strikes have on the production process and many improvements in machinery were made under the impetus of strikes (CI 411). The role of science in aiding capital is explicitly recognised by bourgeois apologists in such passages as, 'This invention [the self-acting mule] confirms the great doctrine already propounded, that when capital enlists science into her service, the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility' (Ure, quoted in Capital CI 411).

In the case of machinery, the development of the productive forces, which is indirectly in the interests of capital through producing relative surplus-value, is also in accordance with the maintenance of the relations of production in the sense of control of the means of production and the production process. In fact, here the development of the productive forces coincides with the cementing of the relations of production. It is not true, as Ure states, that science in the hands of capital will always teach 'the refractory hand of labour … docility.' However, it is a condition for the application of science-that it not threaten the maintenance of the relations of production.

Although once discovered, a scientific result costs capital nothing, the application of that result generally requires the construction of intricate, enormous or technologically sophisticated machines. For example, the application of the principles of electricity and electromagnetism to a telephone network involves the construction of an elaborate and extensive system of cables and complicated machines. The construction of such complicated machinery involves a great amount of labour and 'it is as clear as noon-day, that machines and systems, the characteristic instruments of labour of Modern Industry, are incomparably more loaded with value than the implements used in handicrafts and manufactures' (CI 365f.). This raises the question: since the construction of machines 'loads them with value', how is it that overall the commodities produced by the new machine methods are cheapened? The answer which Marx gives is two-fold (CI 366): firstly, the value of the machine is transferred to the product bit by bit, through the wear and tear of the machine. The enormous productivity of machines means that their value is spread over a very large number of articles during their 'life-time' in the production process. Secondly, the construction and use of machinery according to scientific principles of mechanics enables the wear and tear of the machine to be kept to a minimum, and so spread its value over a still larger quantity of commodities. Science allows the construction of machines from more durable materials than manufacturing tools, which further increases their life. As well as this, economies of scale are realised since a large prime mover and an extensive transmission mechanism can be used to drive many working machines.[14]

After allowance has been made for the daily wear and tear of the machinery, and consumption of auxiliary materials such as oil, grease &c., machines perform their work gratuitously, like the forces of nature (CI 366). Science serves to harness the diverse forces of nature to drive a mechanism which performs a useful function. Science is necessary to theoretically explain how such energy can be harnessed and how particular useful effects can be obtained. The former field of research falls primarily to 'pure' science and the latter to the engineering sciences. As the basic harnessing of energy is of universal applicability,[15] such research comes to be supported by the bourgeois State. The particular problems of constructing a machine to obtain a certain useful effect are theoretically solved in research which is supported by private capital and the State. Once science has enabled a theoretical explanation of how energy can be harnessed to obtain a useful effect, labour must be performed to 'materialise' the theory in machinery. The substitution of machinery for human labour results in a net saving of labour time through the combined effect of an increase in productivity and the gratuitous services of the machine.

In order for it to be profitable for capital to introduce machinery, the value of the machine must be less than the value of the labour-power it replaces (CI 371). Hence the value of labour-power sets the limits on the application of science. In industries or countries (under imperialism) where either wages are depressed and the commodity standard of living is low, the use of machinery is precluded. The value of the labour-power replaced by machinery is less than the value of the labour congealed into commodities by that labour-power in action in the ratio of v : v(s1 + 1), where v is variable capital replaced and s1 is the rate of surplus-value. In other words, under capitalism, it is not enough for the application of science to the production process that it result in a net saving of human labour but that it result in a saving of variable capital over and above the cost of the new machinery. In this way there is a link between science in capitalist society and the class struggle which determines the value of labour-power.

Science and Capital Accumulation

The development of the capitalist mode of production requires the expansion of the amount of capital needed for an undertaking. The individual firm experiences the laws of capitalist production as external pressures of competition which force it to keep on expanding its capital merely in order to preserve it and this expansion can be done in no other way than accumulation, the conversion of part of the surplus-value contained in commodity-capital into extra capital.[16] In Capital, Volume I, where only industrial capital is considered, the surplus-value fixed in the commodities of the capitalist is realised in their sale and either goes towards the consumption of the capitalist or re-enters the circuit of capital, thereby augmenting it. 'To accumulate, is to conquer the world of social wealth, to increase the mass of human beings exploited by him, and thus to extend both the direct and the indirect sway of the capitalist.' (CI 555). The accumulation of capital implies both the extension of capital's ownership and control over an increasing mass of means of production and also an extension of the power of capital to valorise, i.e. the power to create more surplus-value.

The degree of productivity of labour is an important factor in the accumulation of capital (CI 566). With an increase in productivity the mass of products in which surplus-value is congealed increases and, the rate of surplus-value remaining the same, the mass of surplus-product increases. Along with an increase in productivity, the value of labour-power falls and hence the same variable capital sets more labour-power in motion. Also, the same value in constant capital is contained in more means of production, so facilitating the production of more use-value and value with the extra labour-power. 'The value of the additional capital, therefore, remaining the same or even diminishing, accelerated accumulation still takes place. Not only does the scale of reproduction materially extend, but the production of surplus-value increases more rapidly than the value of the additional capital.' (CI 566).

With the advance of science and technology the instruments of labour are reproduced in more efficient, cheaper machines already in use. Science, whose application is the main means by which the productivity is increased, thus contributes substantially to the accumulation of capital. These advances are incorporated in the means of production gratis; again the fruit of theoretical production 'costs capital nothing' once it is produced.

Science, by discovering more useful properties of things actually creates new use-values and thereby new commodities, 'thus extending with the growth of capital its sphere of investment' (CI 567). Conversely, of course, the new use-values discovered by science cannot be produced in a capitalist society except by capital. Science and capital are thus hand-in-glove in extending the dominion of capital over every sphere of human productive activity.

In particular, advances in science allow the waste products of a production process to be fed back into the same or another process thereby utilising another source of raw materials without any extra capital outlay (CI 567). Thus 'science and technology give capital a power of expansion independent of the given magnitude of the capital actually functioning' (CI 567).

As we have seen earlier, machinery, once allowance has been made for consumption of auxiliary materials and daily wear and tear, performs its function gratuitously, like a natural force. With the accumulation of capital the natural forces harnessed by machines increase, so long as the machinery has living labour to set it in motion (CI 569). However, the benefits of the quasi-natural forces of machines are reaped not by the labourer but by capital which incessantly presses the fruits of human control over nature into relative surplus-value. Accumulation, which physically manifests itself in the growing mass of means of production is a condition and a consequence of the growing productivity of labour (CI 583). The latter results in a diminution of the labour employed in a production process relative to the mass of means of production moved by it.

We have pointed out above that the accelerating accumulation of capital, the increased productivity of social labour and the advance of science and technology form an indissoluble three-part unity under capitalism. No one of the elements of this unity could be achieved without the others. But more than this, the very historical prerequisite for the capitalist mode of production is the accumulation of capital in the hands of individual producers of commodities, and this occurs in the transition from handicraft to capitalist industry. In the historical context, the quest for surplus-value devolves on methods for raising the productivity of social labour which in turn depends on the state of science and results in the beginnings of accumulation (CI 585). Hence the capitalist mode of production develops only with accumulation and hence the increasing productivity of labour and the advance of science.

For the first time in history, the state of science becomes a dominating, all-pervading influence on the productive existence of humankind. Under capitalism, science cannot be regarded only as an activity which increases theoretical understanding of the world but as a practice necessary for the continuation of the capitalist mode of production and a practice whose product intrudes in every sphere of human productive activity.

Alongside the growing mass of social wealth in the hands of capital and the growth of productivity of labour, the relative control of labour by capital increases with the growth of an industrial reserve army. 'The same causes which develop the expansive power of capital, develop also the labour-power at its disposal. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army increases therefore with the potential energy of wealth.' (CI 603). This tendency, which Marx calls the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation, is modified by many factors, the main one being the resistance and organisation of the proletariat which struggles to preserve jobs and to increase the workers' share in the quantity of commodities produced. Science, by aiding the accumulation of capital, serves in this connexion only to increase the domination of capital over the proletariat.

On the other hand, the accumulation of capital means that larger and larger capitals are necessary for profitable production in a given industry. This results in the centralisation of capital, the concentration of ownership in a few hands. Along with this centralisation, 'the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market' increase and develop (CI 714).

Economy in the Employment of Constant Capital

In the preceding sections we have dealt with the role of science in increasing productivity (and hence in producing relative surplus-value) and in capital accumulation. Both of these interests which capital has in science are dealt with by Marx in Volume I of Capital where science plays a role in a positive sense by helping capital produce relative surplus-value and accumulate. Volume II, which deals with the circulation of capital and not with the capitalist production process proper, does not concern us here. Science as a servant of capital in the production process next occurs in the presentation in Volume III, chapter 5, Economy in the Employment of Constant Capital. In this connexion, science helps overcome a negative tendency of the capitalist mode of production, namely, the tendency for the ratio of constant to variable capital to increase, thereby lowering the rate of profit,

P1 =

c + v

In its quest for relative surplus-value, capital is forced to increase its outlay of constant capital. Firstly, an increase in productivity or intensity of labour requires more raw materials as more are processed in a given time. Secondly, an increase in productivity is generally brought about with the aid of new or modified machinery, so that the amount of machinery, both in value and use-value terms, set in motion by a given number of labourers increases. The greater investment of constant capital, that is, the higher organic composition of capital required, decreases the rate of profit (CIII 78).

An increase in the productivity of labour usually requires an increased outlay in fixed capital for two reasons: firstly, the new, more productive labour process dictates the requirements for machinery etc. as a technical necessity; secondly, increases in productivity resulting from the social, co-operative nature of the labour process generally requires an extension of the scale of production. On the second point, the extension of scale which may involve larger motors, more transmission equipment, larger frames for the machines, larger buildings, more expenditure on fuel, lighting, requires an increased outlay of constant capital, but not in the same proportion as the mass of these means of production increases. This economy, arising from the concentration of the means of production, necessitates the 'accumulation and co-operation of labourers' and hence arises from the social nature of labour (CIII 79). Science is required to enable buildings and machines to be constructed on a larger scale, as once a construction passes a certain size qualitatively new engineering methods are required which in turn call on theoretical work to theoretically produce them.

A major economy of constant capital is achieved through the utilisation of the excretions of production, ie. waste. Waste products can only be used when (i) the scale of production has reached a certain point where the waste products are produced in large enough quantities, (ii) new machinery, which is capable of handling these waste products or preparing them for a new production process, is developed and (iii) the progress of science (particularly chemistry) has discovered the useful properties of the waste (CIII 101). The re-employment of waste products effects an economy of constant capital in two ways: (a) it provides raw materials for another production process and (b) since the cost of raw material includes the normal waste, the use or sale of this waste effectively reduces the cost of raw materials.

From the point of view of the labour process, it is the use-value of machines and raw materials which matters, not their value (CIII 80). It is the use-value of the means of production which determines the amount of use-values which can be produced in a given time. It is here, in his own labour process, that the capitalist is vitally interested in the use-values of the commodities he has bought. The use-value of the commodities produced by his production process is of no concern to the capitalist, so long as they find a market; their particular use-value is of no importance, only that they have a socially recognised use-value. Because the capitalist buys commodities from another capitalist, he has no direct control over the production of these use-values. Insofar as the capitalist is interested in the use-value of commodities produced elsewhere in society and as science is vital in discovering the methods of producing use-values (and hence the use-values themselves), the social nature of science is revealed and the interest which the capitalist class as a whole has in scientific production.

Moreover, from the value (or surplus-value producing) point of view, the capitalist is not indifferent to the value of the means of production he purchases: '.. .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'. (CIII 81). Hence a rise in the rate of profit in one industry depends on the development of the productive forces in another. The development of the productive forces in department I, that is, that department which produces means of production, is of especial interest to capital because (i) the use-values produced there enter as means of production into other production processes (CIII 80) and (ii) economies in constant capital depend on production in department I (CIII 82). Because of this, the interest of capital in science is more crucial in department I than department II, it only being necessary in department II to produce a consumable commodity without regard to the technical requirements of a labour process. Such development of the productive forces depends on the social nature of the labour process, the division of labour in society and 'the development of intellectual labour, especially in the natural sciences'. (CIII 82). Thus scientific production is part of the entire system of the social division of labour and its development and application depends on, and furthers the socialisation of, the production of human existence. The progress of science transcends the interests of any individual capital both from the use-value and surplus-value point of view (although the latter necessarily dominates its interests) precisely because its progress and application inevitably impinges not only on its own individual interests but those of the bourgeoisie as a whole.

There are savings of constant capital to be made in the continuous improvement of machinery by (1) using different materials in the construction, (2) cheapening of machinery due to improvements in machine building, (3) special improvements which allow the machine to be used more efficiently, (4) the reduction of waste through better machinery and (5) the reduction of wear in the machinery. The last point has a value aspect in that with a reduction in wear a smaller part of the value of the machine is transferred to each article thereby cheapening it (CIII 81). The role of science in these improvements is clear.

Not only good machinery but good raw and auxiliary materials are required for the production process. Because good raw materials produce less 'waste, less are needed to absorb the same quantity of labour. Also the machinery runs more smoothly with good raw materials and less time is needed for the labourer to work up the same quantity of material (CIII 83). Science is applied to both improving the quality of raw materials, as in the quality of yarn for weaving, and also to discover substitute raw materials with superior qualities or low value, as in the substitution of plastics for glass.

The discoveries of science are usually not immediately applicable to fulfilling the needs of capital and must find their application within the social system of production. It is only the experience of the collective labourer which reveals the simplest methods of applying discoveries and the way of reorganising the process in accordance with the theory (CII 104). Nevertheless, scientific discovery and invention have an aspect of universal labour which transcends any particular application (CIII 104). A theoretical product, once produced, does not have to be produced again and can be applied again and again in widely different production processes and elsewhere. Furthermore, the product of universal labour, that is, theory, is used in the theoretical labours of other scientists. Hence there is a cumulative aspect to theoretical production, because a product of theory can never be consumed, ie. used up. This production of science on the basis of past theoretical labours makes science into a broadly social practice which depends on the universal labour of society as a whole. We have already pointed out that science applied in machinery, once allowance is made for its wear and tear, serves capital as a natural force.

On the other hand, the universal character of scientific production effectively prevents an individual capital from keeping a scientific discovery for itself. Such measures as patents are only effective for a limited time and only possible through extreme legal casuistry because patents essentially contradict the social nature of all scientific invention. Industrial secrets are also rare for the same reason, viz., any scientific discovery uses the product of past theoretical labour in its production and these existing theoretical products are a social possession. Often scientific discoveries are made more than once by independent researchers. A further consequence which Marx points out (CIII 104) is that the capitalist who first uses a new invention often goes bankrupt because of (i) the great difference in the cost of the first model of a machine and succeeding models and (ii) the greater cost of running a factory based on a new invention.

The Sphere of Circulation

Up until now we have dealt with the relation between science and the capitalist production process proper. Science is employed there to increase the productivity of labour, assist in the accumulation of capital and to economise in the employment of constant capital. In the sphere of circulation, science is not used in the creation of value, but to facilitate the two parts of the circulation process: M-C, the transformation of money-capital into productive capital, and C1-M1, the transformation of commodity-captial Into money, which is at the same time the realisation of the surplus-value contained in it. Marx deals with the concrete process of circulation in Chapters V and VI of Volume II under the heading of the time of circulation and the costs of circulation. As in the economising of constant capital, science plays a role in counteracting aspects of capitalist economy which impede the self-valorisation (Selbstverwertung) of capital. The role of science is not explicitly dealt with in this connexion, but from everyday knowledge it is clear that science is applied to minimise the negative effects of the circulation process which are pointed out by Marx, and examples readily come to mind.

Within the sphere of production, the distinction between production time, time of functioning and working time has important consequences. The time of production is the time from the purchase of the means of production to when they emerge from the production process as finished commodities, ie. the time which the circulating capital spends in the sphere of production (CII 125). This time exceeds the time of functioning of the means of production because of the times (e.g. night) when the means of production lay idle. The time of functioning in turn may well exceed the working time of living labour on the object of labour as in the case where the partially finished commodity is left for a time to undergo natural or chemical processes (eg. the fermentation of wine).

In the time outside of working-time but within the time of production no new value is created although value can be transferred to the product in the time of functioning. As these periods are unproductive of surplus-value, they stand in the way of the self-expansion of capital and hence capital seeks to reduce the gap between the time of production and the working-time to a minimum.

The time of functioning outside of the working time (fermentation time) is dictated by the technical requirements of the labour process and is a necessary part of the production process. Science, especially chemistry, reveals new methods of production (essentially new labour-processes) in which the fermentation time is reduced. Such is the case when chemicals are used to accelerate a natural process eg. the maturing of cheese or the tanning of leather. Besides science being applied to reduce the fermentation process itself, it can also discover entirely new substitute use-values in which the fermentation period is either completely done away with or greatly reduced, eg. processed cheddar cheeses have negligible maturation periods compared with matured cheeses and their production has been made possible with food technology.

In the sphere of circulation the time taken for the two phases C1-M1 and M-C constitute the time of circulation and this, together with the time of production, disjointly make up the turnover time. 'During its time of circulation capital does not perform the functions of productive capital and therefore produces neither commodites nor surplus-value' (CII 127). Hence capital, ceteris paribus, seeks to keep circulation time to a minimum although below we shall see that there are good reasons why the circulation period cannot be completely eliminated.[17]

The transformation C1-M1, besides being more important than M-C because it realises the surplus-value contained in the commodities (CII 120), is also more difficult because of the anarchy of the market and the occurrence of gluts and crises. Apart from the intrusion of the movements of the capitalist economy into the transaction C1-M1, the character of the commodity as a use-value makes itself felt in the circulation process. Use-values are perishable by nature and this imposes an absolute limit on the circulation time (CII 130f.). When a commodity loses its use-value, it loses also its value and is no commodity. 'The more perishable a commodity and the sooner after its production it must therefore be consumed and hence sold, the more restricted is its capacity for removal from its place of production, the narrower therefore is the spatial sphere of its circulation, the more localised are the markets where it can be sold.' (CII 131). The more perishable a commodity the less suitable it is from the point of view of the capitalist producer. Technology can help overcome the problems of perishable commodities In several ways: (i) by discovering processes which make the product less susceptible to perishing, (ii) in agriculture, by discovering the optimum time for the harvest of a crop eg. avocadoes present a difficult task for science because there is no easy indicator of optimum picking time,[18] (iii) by discovering ways of preserving the product, the most important of these being refrigeration which has revolutionised the variety and abundance of commodities available on the market;[19] pasteurisation and the use of artificial preservatives are also important, being used not because they benefit the consumer, but because they allow capital to extend its markets, and (iv) by developing faster transport with a bigger range, the market for perishable goods is effectively extended and places which previously could not provide a market for a perishable commodity because their population was not dense enough now become a viable size.

The time and labour-power employed in accomplishing the transactions M-C and C1-M1 do not create value, although they are necessary for the reproduction of capital (CII 133). If the capitalist does not perform these functions himself but employs wage-labourers to do these tasks, their labour creates no value and hence no surplus-value (CII 135). These costs of circulation do not add value to the product and reduce the amount of capital that is functioning productively. If wage-labourers perform the functions of buying and selling, then part of their labour is given gratis to the capitalist. The wage received by these workers may be equal to the product of six hours' labour, whereas they work for eight hours. The capitalist has the same interest in increasing the productivity[20] of these circulation wage-labourers as he has in the case of productive labourers, only here not relative surplus-value is extracted but the costs of circulation are reduced.[21] An increase in the productivity of the agents of circulation increases the efficiency of the circulation process and decreases the capitalists' costs of circulation. The role of science is hence that of increasing productivity and in this the development of communications is of major importance; ease of making transactions and knowledge of the market are both dependent on the state of communciations. The development of the telephone and telegraph allows transactions to be made without buyer and seller meeting face-to-face, and within a minimum of time. Similarly, the system of communciations allows the buyer to gain knowledge of supplies and prices and the seller to find buyers all around the world. Computers have become increasingly important in recording transactions in commodities and generally providing instantaneous knowledge of the market.

Another cost of circulation is that of book-keeping (CII 136ff.) and, like the task of buying and selling, the recording and accounting for movements of value and the calculation of prices and profits, whilst requiring labour-power and means of production do not create, but absorb value.

The tasks of book-keeping can assume enormous proportions, as witnessed by the growth of banks. As in the costs of buying and selling, the employment of wage-labour for book-keeping enables the capitalist to reduce the expenditure of surplus-value on circulation and hence have an interest in increasing productivity. The prodigious importance of computers in enabling large numbers of transactions to be recorded, lightening-fast calculations to be done and hence enormous savings in labour-power to be made is evident from everyday knowledge. What formerly required a whole roomful of clerks to accomplish now is done in a few seconds on a computer with a small staff of machine operators, punch-card operators, etc.

The costs of maintaining and expanding a money supply in the system of capitalist commodity production is a sacrifice of social wealth to the process of circulation. 'They are the faux frais of commodity production in general ...' (CII 139). Here again capital has an interest in maintaining the money supply with the least possible outlay of social wealth and labour-power, such costs being deductions from productive capital.

For continuity of production to be maintained the means of production must be available in the market so they can be bought. The labourer must be able to buy the means of life with their wage and hence must be able to find these on the market. But what is a transformation M-C for the capitalist or the purchase of means of life for the labourer is the transformation C1-M1 for some capitalist. From this capital's point of view the existence of a supply of its commodities in the market is an impediment to the valorisation of its capital (CII 141). With the development of transport and the means of communication the need for a large supply on the market diminishes, as the product of one process may be rapidly transported as means of production to another production process (CII 145).

A supply may take three forms: (i) as productive capital, as a stock in the hands of the capitalist ready for use in the labour process; (ii) as a stock for individual consumption; or (iii) as a commodity-stock or commodity-capital available on the market. The costs of formation of a supply include those of buildings and labour-power, which entails the expenditure of capital in the first and last cases. In addition to this, measures must be taken to prevent or diminish the deterioration of the commodities stored and this generally requires an extra outlay. The development of refrigeration is important here and allows the formation of a supply where none was possible. This has the greatest impact on the formation of a supply of means of life whether it be food stored in the capitalist's cold store or in the labourer's fridge.

With developed capitalist production, supply tends to take the form of commodity-stock rather than production or consumption stock (CII 150). A commodity-stock is necessary for the continuity of circulation and insofar as this holds, the costs incurred by the capitalist in maintaining the stock can be added to the cost of the commodity.[22] But insofar as the commodities lying in the 'reservoir of circulation' stagnate because of gluts or crises, the extra expenditure incurred is pure loss (CII 151). The costs of commodity-supply fall into three categories (CII 151): (i) a reduced mass of commodities is available for use; (ii) the quality of the commodity deteriorates; and (iii) materialised and living labour are required to maintain the supply. Science is used by capital to reduce the deterioration of commodities and to develop new use-values which either do not deteriorate as quickly or, by their nature do not have to take the form of a large commodity-stock. In connexion with the latter point, the replacement of agricultural products with annual supply by synthetic ones whose production and supply is under human control is of major importance. The most prominent example is that of wool and synthetic materials, the latter having several advantages for the capitalist over wool; synthetics are cheaper, their supply is not subject to the vagaries of the weather and, because their supply is not annual, a whole year's supply does not have to be maintained either as a commodity or as productive stock.

The costs of transportation (CII 152ff.) are different from the costs of of circulation which arise from the changes in form M-C and M1-C1, do not add value and are a deduction from surplus-value. By contrast, in the transport (and storage) industry, an additional process of production goes on which is, 'within the process of circulation and for the process of circulation' (CII 155). The means of production and labour-power invested in the transport industry is a productive investment, the means of transport transferring value to the goods transported and the labour performed in transport adding new value (CII 153; CII 53f; see also CII 253).

Just as in any other productive sphere of investment, capital seeks relative surplus-value through an increase in productivity. Larger and faster means of transport lower the costs of transportation for the individual commodity. On the other hand, the capitalist mode of production, by making almost all products into commodities and by developing a world-wide economy, markedly increases the productive activity expended in transportation.


[1] K Marx & F Engels. Selected Works in three Volumes, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume I, 1973 edition, p.29.

[2] This consumption can be of two kinds: either individual consumption or consumption in further production.

[3] 'Useful' here means not only useful from the point of view of individual consumption but useful in the production of other commodities.

[4] On CI 174, Marx calls the human activity which is a component of the labour-process 'work itself but elsewhere uses 'labour' or 'work' to refer to the whole labour-process not just a part of It.

[5] 'Subject' is used in the English translation, although the German is 'Gegenstand' and would be more strictly translated as 'object.'

[6] The plural pronoun is consciously used here with a singular noun as a way around the built-in sexism of the language. This is a linguistic change which is already quite advanced in spoken English. On the other hand, there is no objection to using 'his' etc. with 'the capitalist' because everyone knows that capitalists are men.

[7] The view that there is a linear progression from 'more simple' forms of society to 'more complex' forms was an idea prevalent in the anthropological literature of Marx's time. The coexistence of hunter/gatherer societies and pastoral societies however shows that a simple evolutionary view of social development on the basis of stages in the development of the productive forces is untenable.

[8] For a criticism of the concept 'value of labour-power' see Appendix 1: 'Family in Capital'.

[9] The great increase in productivity brought about by machinery in no way brings about the increased leisure of the working class. On the contrary, machinery increases the power of capital over labour, intensifies the pace of work and gives the impetus for capital to extend the functioning of its machinery to all hours of the day. Thus under capitalism, the development of the productive forces by way of machinery serves only to increase the exploitation of the proletariat and the surplus-value of social capital (CI 351).

[10] See eg. E A Milne: Vectorial Mechanics (Methuen); Bullen: Theory of Mechanics, Science Press; Easthope: Three Dimensional Dynamics, Butterworth.

[11] cf.p 23f.

[12] Cf. p 25.

[13] Cf. Harry Braverman: Labor and Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press, 1974.

[14] This point has to be modified for modern times where electricity is widely used to power machines. In this case the prime mover is the power station and the transmission mechanism consists of the power grid; the individual capital, therefore, no longer needs its own prime mover. Marx's treatment of machines covers only the special case of mechanical machines, and the general conception of a machine must be formulated in order to encompass other types of machine. A machine, at the most general level, is a thing or complex of things built by human activity which serves to harness natural sources of energy (solar, thermal, chemical, physiological) and change their form in a way which produces a useful effect. With a mechanical prime mover, the transmission mechanism serves to transmit movement (kinetic energy) as well as changing its speed, direction of motion etc. With other energy sources (eg. electrical) the transmission mechanism must also accomplish changes in the form of energy (eg. electrical to kinetic).

[15] Everyone, not only capital, benefits from electricity, which is a splendid material demonstration of the social interconnections and interdependencies in capitalist society.

[16] The mass and extent of the means of production can increase without a corresponding increase in their value, if the productivity of labour has increased. In this way there can be an accumulation of use-values without extra capital being advanced. Cf. below.

[17] Cf. p 30.

[18] The Maturity of Avocadoes: in general and with special reference to the north coast of NSW, Australia, C E Lewis to appear in Journal of Food Science; also C G Church, Annual Report of Californian Avocado Association No 40, 1921-22.

[19] The development of commercial refrigeration was necessary before the Australian meat export industry could develop. James Harrison was the first person to produce ice in commercial quantities by mechanical means in Geelong, Victoria, Australia in 1855. Thomas Mort pioneered the development of refrigeration for frozen meat shipments from Australia to England which culminated in the voyage of the Strathleven from Sydney and Melbourne to London in 1879-80. Cf. Fitzpatrick B, The British Empire In Australia, An Economic History 1834-1939, p 171. Melbourne Univ. Press, 1941.

[20] Here productivity is not measured in terms of use-values produced in unit time but by the time taken to produce a given useful effect, which may or may not have a palpable material form.

[21] No extra surplus-labour is extracted as this is determined by the wage of the circulation labourer (Zirkulationsarbeiter) which in turn is determined by the industrial commodities necessary for their reproduction in the family.

[22] Hence costs of storage are productive (as are transportation costs)-but only socially necessary storage costs, ie. the socially necessary expenditure of labour-power in the maintenance of a socially necessary commodity-stock. Just as unnecessary transportation costs do not add to the value of a commodity, neither do socially unnecessary storage costs. Marx does not make this point about supply clear (CII 151), as he does the productiveness of transportation. Transportation and storage add a space-time index to commodity production, ie. commodities must be consumed and this requires transportation and supply-formation.


References to Science in Capital


p. 43, 47, 175, 314, 320, 341, 356, 359, 362-6, 411, 477, 567, 570, 583-5, 604, 714-5


p. 360, 241, 243


p. 81f, 101, 104, 117, 266, 300, 617, 760, 819