Understanding Capital Volume II, John Fox, 1985

Part II

The Turnover of Capital

Chapter 7: The Turnover Time and the Number of Turnovers

"[T]he entire time of turnover of a given capital is equal to the sum of its time of circulation and its time of production. It is the period of time from the moment of the advance of capital-value in a definite form to the return of the functioning capital-value in the same form." (p. 156 [233])

The second part of Volume II of Capital, dealing with the turnover of capital, is the least discussed portion of the volume, and perhaps the most tedious to read. Yet, this part of Capital is important for at least two reasons: first, Marx extends his account of the circuit of capital, introducing the central distinction between fixed and circulating capital, and tracing the consequences of this distinction; second, Marx attempts to clarify points that are confused in the work of other political economists. The treatment of the circuits of capital in Part I provides Marx with the tools for these tasks.

The circuit of industrial capital is called its turnover, because the process is one that is periodically renewed. The time of turnover is the duration of the circuit. In discussing the topic of turnover, Marx employs the circuits of money capital and productive capital, for these forms of the circuit begin with the advance of capital prior to the production of surplus-value. We shall see -that productive capital is particularly central to Marx's treatment of turnover.

Taking the year as a base period, Marx writes the equation n = T/t. In this formula, n is the annual number of turnovers of a capital, T is the number of elementary units of time (e.g., months) contained in a year, and t is the time of turnover expressed in elementary units of time. Marx presents the following example: if a capital turns over in a period of three months, then the annual number of turnovers, n, is 12/3 = 4.