Understanding Capital Volume II, John Fox, 1985

Chapter 13: The Time of Production

"In all these cases therefore the production time of the advanced capital consists of two periods: one period during which the capital is engaged in the labor-process and a second period during which its form of existence -- that of an unfinished product -- is abandoned to the sway of natural processes, without being at that time in the labor-process." (p. 243 [316-317])

The working period, discussed in the previous chapter, is but one component of the time of production, that is, of the time during which industrial capital remains in the sphere of production. In many cases, the productive process continues while the labor process is interrupted, as when the subject of labor is given over to the activity of natural forces. Some of the most obvious examples of such an interruption of the labor process occur in agriculture, and Marx draws many of his illustrations for the present chapter from this sector of production.

Towards the end of the chapter, Marx briefly considers the necessity of maintaining a supply of potential productive capital, a necessity which also increases the time during which circulating capital remains in the sphere of production. He notes that failure to distinguish clearly between production time and working time (during which labor creates value) can lead to "misapplication of the labor theory of value."