Class 05 Reading Marx's Capital Vol I with David Harvey

Uploaded by readingcapital on 16.01.2011

(intro music)
Okay, so, I thought we would maybe just
start off this week with a résumé of the story so far and the
paper I've handed out.
But, I just want to go over it
because I think it demonstrates the sort of
interesting way in which Marx constructs his argument and tells us something about
his way of thinking.
As you'll recall (and you'll probably get tired of this in the initial stages)
Marx started with the commodity,
which is a unitary concept.
But he then says
there's a differentiation within that unity.
And that differentiation is around use-value and exchange-value.
And then he argued that
the commensurability of all of those different
kinds of use-values had to be located somewhere.
So he locates the commensurability in labour,
and in particular, labour value,
labour values, or socially necessary labour time.
And obviously the labour time expended on something
was irrelevant if it was not a use-value. So he links it back to use-values.
So he did this, then
the next step is to ask some questions about labour.
And so we get this discussion of the difference between concrete labour,
the actual making of use-values, and the abstract labour.
So the abstract and concrete is then discussed
as these work in relationship to each other.
And of course, these two elements come together
in the moment of exchange when a form of value
is arrived at. So we get a form of value, which arises.
And then he subjects that to
interrogation and comes up again with an internal differentiation
between equivalent and relative forms of value,
which of course, at the end of the day,
produce (or crystallize out) a money form.
And that money form is
a representation of value. It's not value itself.
It's a representation of this.
So here we have the real thing and here we have the representation.
And this then induces Marx to talk about
the fetishism that arises out of this,
so that we get material relations between persons,
which contrast with the social relation,
given by prices, between things.
This, of course, then brings us back
to the question of the market. How does the market work?
How does market fetishism - how does the market hide social relations?
So we come back into the question of the market and exchange,
and we look more concretely
again at a bifurcation between buyers and between sellers.
And again this relationship is looked at
and clearly in a complicated exchange economy,
that relation has to be mediated through money.
So we get the last link in this part.
But then what Marx does is to say, 'Well we also have to look at money, so if we go
back over here and say, 'Okay let's look at this continuation of this chain,
what do we say about money?' Well money has again
a dual aspect to it.
Money is a measure of value,
and it is also a means of circulation.
But then, at the end of this,
we get Marx saying, 'But at the end of it, there's only one kind of money
and that's world money.'
So we have to look at the universal
form of money, or world money.
And that universal form of money contains,
again, a very interesting relationship between debtors and creditors.
The only way this universal form of money can
bridge this distinction between money as a means of circulation
and as a measure of value is by
there being a hoard,
there being lending
and.. So this relationship emerges
and out of this relationship there crystallizes
a circulation process of capital.
But that circulation process of capital presupposes that
somebody's going to get more money at the end of the day than they started out with.
And this then poses a contradiction
between the equivalents of exchange
and the non equivalents
of profit or surplus value.
How is that going to be resolved? That's going to be resolved
by finding a commodity in the market
that can bridge that problem.
So we go to the buying and selling of labour power,
the commodity that can do this, labour power.
The buying and selling of labour power in the market
allows capitalists to purchase a commodity that has the capacity
to produce more value than it itself has.
And, of course, what this does
is to immediately introduce the whole
class relation between capital and labour.
Now this is Marx's method
of representation and one of the most important things
to remember about it is: this is not a causal chain;
this is an expansion of an argument,
starting with the unitary concept of the commodity, moving and expanding step by
step by step. And his aim is, of course,
to enlighten us as to the nature
of a capitalist mode of production.
So each one of these
steps takes you a bit deeper inside of
understanding how capitalism works.
But you can see it's going to go on, in other words, it doesn't stop here.
We've got class struggle,
we have a huge bifurcation coming up,
much of capital between absolute and relative surplus value.
And then we start to turn this into a dynamic.
Now this is, if you like, the way in which Marx is telling the story
or telling his story about how to understand capitalism.
And, like I say, it is an expansionary argument
through a series of internal differentiations
- new problem -
- more internal differentiations.
And so the argument grows organically.
It doesn't sort of building block on building block, or causal bit by causal bit.
It grows, and I think it's very interesting how well it grows.
The first time I figured out what was going on I found it
pretty convincing. After a while this is very helpful to expand in this way.
And it is a very distinctive method
which is partially reflective of his inquiry but not entirely.
It's partially reflective of
the subject matter,
but it's primarily a technique of representation.
It's a way of communicating
to an audience how to understand
a capitalist mode of production.
So you don't get into a language of causality that says:
'This is caused by this, and that is caused by that.
You get into understanding it
as a totality, as a unity.
And as he says about it in various other places:
We have to understand it
as an organic system.
And understanding it organically requires
that we inquire into it
and we represent it in this
particular kind of way.
Now these are the steps that he's gone through
in the first couple of parts of Capital
where he is mainly looking at the exchange process.
But as we now know we're going to leave
that noisy sphere where everything is sort of obvious.
We're going to leave that world
of equality, property, Bentham and all the rest of it.
And we're going to go inside the production process,
and look what happens inside of production.
Again what you'll find Marx doing
is something a bit unusual
in this chapter on the labour process.
Almost invariably in
the chapters before he's talked about the categories saying:
'These are distinctively bourgeois categories'.
labour value for example is a bourgeois category.
It's not an universal category.
Aristotle couldn't see it because in the world of slave labour
the labour theory of value couldn't possibly work.
So he couldn't see it.
So the labour theory of value is
a conceptual apparatus which arises out of the practices of the bourgeois era.
And again, and again he emphasizes
that the categories of political economy are the categories generated out of
bourgeois practices. They're not universal categories,
and should not be treated as universal categories
common to all modes of production.
But here he's going to make a very singular and important
exception to that argument.
And this was foretold earlier in Capital.
Back on page 133 he says:
"Labour…" two-thirds the way down "…as
the creator of use-values, as useful labour,
is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society;
it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature,
and therefore human life itself."
Then he goes on a bit further and says: "When man engages in production, he can only proceed as nature
does herself i.e. he can only change the form of the materials."
And the like.
What he's doing in this chapter on the labour process
on about the first ten pages
is to talk about this universal condition of existence.
We have to be very careful
in reading this, not to read it through bourgeois categories.
Bourgeois categories
effectively separate:
historically it was man and nature.
Nature and society, nature and culture, natural and artificial.
But that is a bourgeois conception.
And Marx is setting up his argument about the labour process…
he's doing the same thing as he did with the commodity. He's treating it as a unity.
And so the first question you have to ask yourself:
'Is the labour process natural or social?'
Marx's answer is: 'The labour process is the labour process.'
It's both, simultaneously.
So we have to start from the proposition of a unity.
That metabolic moment which is always there
is where the labour process operates.
And it is a naturally imposed necessity.
We can't get away from it.
We alter things around us in order to live.
In so doing we develop all kinds of social ways and social aspects.
But for Marx in the first instance
we have to think of this in this unitary way.
So he says:
"labour is first of all a process between man and nature, a process by which man through his own
actions mediates, regulates, and controls the metabolism
between himself and nature."
And as he said in the preceding paragraph:
"We shall therefore have to consider the labour process
independently of any specific social formation.
Independently of how it is evolved under capitalism."
So he then describes in very general terms
how he construes this labour process.
"He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature.
He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head,
and hands in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted
to his own needs.
Through this movement he acts upon external nature and changes it.
And in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature."
A very dialectical proposition which says:
You cannot change yourself without changing the world around you.
And you cannot change the world around you without simultaneously changing yourself.
In other words: The unitariness of it,
even though there is an opposition emerging
as with use-value and exchange-value,
the unitariness of it can never ever be displaced.
And that dialectic of changing oneself through changing the world
and vice versa, that dialectic is fundamental to how Marx sees
the evolution of human society through
transformations of nature.
It would lead me to make very strong
propositions of the sort that says:
Any ecological project is always a social project.
All social projects are ecological projects.
You cannot view them as somehow or the other separate from each other.
One of the big problems that's arisen in the bourgeois era
has been precisely the way in which
conceptually and also through practices in social institutions
we've increasingly seen
nature as something over there and society something over here.
Then we get into all kinds of crazy things and try to draw causal arrows from one to the other.
Does nature cause human beings to do this?
Do human beings cause nature to do that?
Again Marx would want to approach this in a unitary manner,
an organic manner, to try to say:
'Look, this world of the labour process
is wholly natural and wholly social at the same time.'
And it's transformative, and in so far as it's transformative
it's transformative of self and of society,
and transformative of that other world we call nature.
"Through this movement…" he goes on to say "…he acts upon external nature and changes it,
and in this way he simultaneously changes his own nature. He develops
the potentialities slumbering within nature."
This is Marx talking about the way in which we actually produce nature.
We make a new nature by what we do.
Things happen there by virtue of what we do in the same way
the things happen there by virtue of what beavers do, and ants do,
and all kinds of organisms do.
"He develops the potentialities slumbering within nature, and subjects the of play its
forces to his own sovereign power."
Sounds a bit Promethean.
We could dominate it.
But sovereign power, I think here means
that we can make decisions about this.
We decide to do this or not to do this,
and how we decide has crucial meaning.
We all decide to drive SUVs we know what happens
to the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere… we know those things.
But we still decide to drive SUVs.
If we decide not to drive SUVs then maybe we would have a different outcome.
So here we have what Marx is talking about by saying:
'There's a sovereign moment', and we'll come back to that in a second.
"We presuppose labour…", he says, "…in a form
in which it is an exclusively human characteristic."
Now, in his earlier writings Marx frequently appealed to
an idea called 'species being' (Gattungswesen), which was about
who we are as a species.
What can we say about that?
Almost certainly he took that idea from Kant
who also wrote at some length on the concept of species being in his anthropology.
And of course it was there in Feuerbach's anthropology as well.
So the question is:
Are we different as a species from other species, and if so how? We know that ants are different
from beavers and bees and all the rest of it.
So what he does is this, he says:
'Well, we have to recognize that all species
are engaging in this process of
production of nature' - if you want to call it that,
production, transformative activities in their environment.
But he says: "…what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that
the architect builds the cell in his mind before he constructs it in wax.
At the end of every labour process, a result emerges
which had already been conceived by the worker at the beginning,
hence already existed ideally." That is mentally.
"Man not only effects change of form in the materials of nature; he also realizes
his own purpose in those materials." Human labour has, prior to its engagement,
a certain level of mental calculation and purposive thinking.
Now again this seems to run against some of the other quotes you've doubtless heard from
Marx, which say things like:
'Consciousness arises out of material activity.'
But here he's saying:
The idea precedes the act, the purpose precedes the act.
Again it's not hard to reconcile those two positions
if you're prepared to think dialectically rather than causally.
An architect doesn't start from nothing,
an architect starts from a particular situation, from a particular history, from a particular
learning process, from a particular material world.
So the imagination of the architect is brought to bear
on a particular situation
given the wealth of experience that has arisen out of
a lifetime of activity,
and a lifetime of learning, and all the rest of it.
So it's not as if the architect starts from nothing,
the architects starts - but there is this mental moment
which is crucially important in the labour process.
The moment of conception, design;
and we're going to see that moment frequently referred to in what follows.
But that moment means nothing unless it is translated into
something on the ground.
There are plenty of architects around who dream about all kinds of fantastic things,
but Marx says: 'Well, that's irrelevant until you actually make it on the ground.'
And it is the making of it on the ground,
where you go from that materialist background through the mental moment into
this labour process on the ground that is crucial for how we work.
He then goes on one step further.
"…this is a purpose" he says "he is conscious of,
it determines the mode of his activity with the rigidity of a law,
and he must subordinate his will to it.
This subordination is no mere momentary act.
Apart from the exertion of the working organs, a purposeful will is required for the
entire duration of the work. This means close attention.
The less he is attracted by the nature of the work and the way in which it has to be accomplished,
and the less, therefore, he enjoys it as a free play of his own physical and mental powers,
the closer his attention is forced to be."
What he is attacking here is the Fourier view of work as play, pure play.
Marx is kind of saying: 'It is never pure play'.
When we get into a project
we find after a while the project starts to run us.
We have to complete the project.
We have to subordinate our will to it.
And sometimes that can be a very tedious process.
For those of you who envisage writing a thesis, you will know perfectly well
what I'm talking about.
The general law of that is, it's ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration.
And you know, you've only got to see anybody towards the end of their thesis groaning like crazy,
saying: 'This is absolutely weighing me down.'
It still happens to me when I write a book.
I get into it - 'Great Idea!!'
Six months on - 'Well, it's not a bad idea.'
Towards the end - 'Oh what a lousy idea this was! Why can't I get out of it. It won't finish.'
And all this kind of stuff.
Marx is, if you like, a bit too dour to enjoy
the Fourier conception, that all work should be mere play.
Not only does he not think it is, he doesn't even think it ought to be.
We have to accept that there's a certain discipline goes with it, self-discipline.
And we cannot escape that.
At the same time, I think this passage is very
important in terms of its tone.
There's something very positive about this.
There's something even romantic about it. Marx is not averse to being
romantic on occasion, that is there is something noble about this enterprise.
We can dream thoughts, we can make them real,
we can transform the world, we can transform ourselves,
we have this species capacity, we have these species powers.
And as far as Marx is concerned, you don't feel guilty about using them.
What you feel however is, that once you get into them, you better stick with it, because
you can't start a project and then leave it.
It's going to take discipline to do it.
So this is if you like a foundational kind of argument.
But again, notice it's a unitary argument.
There's nothing specifically unnatural about this.
Marx doesn't think we are being unnatural, because we do this
anymore than bees are being unnatural when they build
hives, and spiders webs, and ants anthills, and beavers dams, and all the rest of it.
There's nothing unnatural about this at all.
It is simultaneously both natural and social.
But it is something which is very much unitary within our species.
Now, Marx is not going to talk very much in Capital about the relation to nature.
And how it evolves in the bourgeois era.
But actually, if you care to
do the inferences yourself, you'll find he's actually saying quite a lot about it.
In exactly the same way that this world of use-value and exchange-value
internal to the commodity produces an antinomy
an antagonism, and then by the time you get to the money form produces
the possibility of real serious contradictions.
So you can see the relation to nature evolving in the same way.
There comes a point where there can indeed be environmental crises.
And Marx within Capital, at a couple of points will point to
the possibility of those crises.
But what we're going to see is,
an evolution of the labour process under capitalism,
which is going to take it in a very specific direction
in which indeed this conceptual separation of nature
from society is going to become very significant,
and is going to become antagonistic.
And that our practices are going to become so.
So, when we're reading about the evolution of the labour process,
we might want to bear this in mind.
What Marx then does is to give some general kinds of commentary on
how this labour process works.
And he gives a bit of an analysis of
this "purposeful activity, that is the work itself,
the object on which that work is performed,"
where this universal material for human labour come from.
And he gives some examples about that; raw materials,
materials drawn from nature, and all the rest of it.
Then he talks about the instruments of labour,
which initially also are appropriations of nature,
but which in turn, as he says on page two eighty-five:
"…nature becomes one of the organs of his activity, which he annexes to his bodily organs,
adding stature to himself in spite of the bible.
As the earth is his original larder, so too
it is his original tool house."
We take things and use them as tools. Which then leads into the idea that
we do have a history of tool making.
He quotes Franklin on p.286,
and he obviously attributes great importance to this, and we are going to come back to it
when he says: "It is not what is made but how, and by what instruments of labour, that
distinguishes different economic epochs.
Instruments of labour not only supply a standard of the degree of development which human labour
has attained, but they also indicate the social relations within which men work."
Again there is going to be a tight relation, possibly antagonistic
between technologies and social relations. What Marx is doing here is laying down
again this universality of human history, which is a complicated relationship between
technological shifts and social relations.
But we're not only dealing with tools, as he says…
…bottom of that page… we are also dealing with all the infrastructures,
many of which have been created through past labour.
…p.287: "Instruments of this kind, which have already been mediated through
past labour, include workshops, canals, roads, etc."
Then comes a key paragraph: "In the labour process therefore, man's activity, via the
instruments of labour, affects an alteration in the object of labour which was intended from the outset.
The process is extinguished in the product."
Now, we've often talked about the way in which Marx
is frequently coming back to relationships between processes and things,
processes, objects.
"The product of the process is a use-value, a piece of natural material adapted to human
needs by means of a change in its form.
Labour has become bound up in its object.
labour has been objectified,
the object is being worked on.
What on the side of the worker appeared in the form of a unrest…"
that is activity "…now appears, on the side of the product,
in the form of being, as a fixed, immobile characteristic. The worker has spun
and the product is a spinning."
This process-thing…
What is important, the process or the thing?
Again, you have to think about the two. But for Marx the labour process
is what he wants to concentrate on,
recognizing of course that value is objectified in the thing.
Objectification is an inevitable aspect of this process.
"If we look at the whole process…" he then says "…from the point of view of its result,
the product, it is plain that both the instruments
and the object of labour are means of production and that the labour itself is productive labour."
So we then get that simple distinction.
We then have the problem of, how do we understand past labour,
because any object we see, all of the labour incorporated in it
is past as I take it to market.
But how 'past' is that past?
We have to deal with the fact that past labour is often involved,
embodied in the means of production, which we then incorporate in the next stage
of the labour process, which is then involved in the next stage of the labour process…
So this leads him to some reflections on:
How do we think about past labour?
Since all labour is past,
as soon as the object is produced,
how do we think about that chain of past labours?
Particularly when some of those past labours
disappear in the process of production.
The past labour involved in mining the coal,
which I then use as the power source to make the steel.
The coal just disappears; it's not in the steel; it has disappeared.
But it is still past labour, which is there in terms of its history,
but not materially there.
This is going to pose some very interesting accounting problems as we go on.
And this of course leads him very much into the theme of:
There's a series of metamorphoses that occur
within the labour process- steps.
And at each step something new is added, something new happens.
So we have to think of it as a chain. We would now often talk about commodity chains,
and things of that kind, which is picking up on this idea.
Then on p.290 he introduces a very important distinction:
"Labour uses up its material elements,
its objects and its instruments. It consumes them and is therefore a process of consumption.
Such productive consumption…",
watch the terminology: "productive consumption",
"…is distinguished from individual consumption by this,
that the latter uses up products as means of subsistence for the living individual;
the former as a means of subsistence for labour, i.e. for the activity through which
the living individuals labour-power manifests itself.
Thus the product of individual consumption is the consumer himself;
the result of productive consumption is a product distinct from the consumer."
This distinction between individual consumption and productive consumption -
a use-value is going to disappear.
Where does it disappear to?, where does it go to? Productive consumption,
it continues to remain present somehow or other
in the production process, either materially or in terms of
the past labour embodied…
…being continuously present.
On the bottom of p.290 we get the summary statement:
"The labour process,
…is purposeful activity aimed at the production of use-values.
It is an appropriation of what exists in nature for the requirements of man.
It is the universal condition for the metabolic interaction between man and nature,
the everlasting nature imposed condition of human existence,…"
echoing what he said earlier
"…and it is therefore independent of every form of that existence, or rather it is common to
all forms of society which human beings live.
We did not, therefore, have to present the worker in his relationship with other workers;
it was enough to present man and his labour on one side, nature and its materials on the other.
The taste of porridge does not tell us who grew the oats, and the process we have presented
does not reveal the conditions under which it takes place,
whether it is happening under the slave-owner's brutal lash or the anxious eye of the capitalist,
whether Cincinnatus undertakes it in tilling his couple of acres, or a savage, when he lays low the
wild beast with a stone."
The labour process can be described in this metabolic way.
But now we have to look at specifically how the labour process
works under capitalism.
So suddenly on p.291
he turns arounds and says: "Let us now return to our would-be capitalist."
The capitalist buys labour power.
Initially the capitalist buys
the labour power that is found on the market, whatever that is.
So we're not talking of a trained labour force, we are just talking about
whatever happens to be there.
And buying labour power, the capitalist
sets that labour power to work. And there are two conditions:
First - the worker works under the control of the capitalist
to whom his labour belongs.
The contractual relation is this:
I sell my labour power to the capitalist.
The capitalist takes that labour power inside of the factory and says:
'Your capacity to work now belongs to me, you're going to follow my instructions
and do what I tell you in terms of labouring.'
That is the contractual condition.
The second condition is this:
"The product is the property of the capitalist and not that of the worker,
its immediate producer."
Now, this of course is an interesting violation of the Lockeian view,
that private property arises out of the way in which people labour,
and embody their labour in the land, and therefore that belongs to them.
So the Lockeian view is that private property, and the rights to possess
whatever it is one produces is crucial.
But the rule here is not of that sort. It's a completely different rule.
He says: "From the instant
he steps into the workshop, the use-value of his labour-power
and therefore also its use which is labour, belongs to the capitalist. By the purchase
of labour-power, the capitalist incorporates labour, as a living agent of fermentation,…"
Again, this idea of labour as a form giving fire.
"…into the lifeless constituents of the product, which also belong to him."
So he consumes the labour power. The capitalist consumes the labour power,
and the means of production, and the product belongs to the capitalist.
Which leads into the second section: "The Valorization Process".
What is it the capitalist is looking for
in that process of conjoining
labour power and means of production
in the labour process?
The capitalist, says Marx,
"…wants to produce a commodity greater in value than the sum of the values of the commodities
used to produce it,
namely the means of production of the labour- power he purchased with his good money on
the open market. His aim is to produce not only a use-value, but a commodity;
not only use-value but value and not just value but also surplus-value."
So the capitalist unites, as Marx put it,
the labour process and the process of creating value
in the process of production.
So there's a new unity which the capitalist creates internal to the factory.
What follows then is a discussion of how to understand the value
which gets produced in that production process.
We first have to go through a consideration of all of the past labour
incorporated in the means of production.
And as he says on p.294/p.295:
"All the labour contained in the yarn is past labour;
and it is a matter of no importance that the labour expended to produces its constituent
elements lies further back in the past than the labour expended on the final process,
the spinning.
Therefore…" he concludes "…the labour contained in the raw material and instruments of labour can
be treated just if they were labour expended in an earlier stage of the spinning process,
before the labour finally added in the form of actual spinning."
The same is true of machinery,
spindles, and all the rest of it.
But again, we have a condition placed on this.
That past labour has to be socially necessary past labour,
the spindle has to be a spindle which is made in a socially
necessary way. So he uses the example, well if you have a gold spindle
that's tough. You're just going to have to work as if the spindle-
the value you're going to work with is
going to depend on the socially necessary labour time incorporated in spindles.
So the labour process then is put to work in this way
where you are taking past labour,
the value of the past labour and putting it to work.
And the value is going to be the value which the labour adds
to the value of that past labour which is incorporated in the means of production.
But when we do a simple accounting on that,
on p.297, on the bottom there
he goes through this little thing and says: 'Well you know,
you can go through the acounting this way, and what you come up with is that
there's no surplus value…'
"Our capitalist stares in astonishment. The value of the product is equal to
the value of the capital advanced.
The value advanced has not being valorized, no surplus value has been created,
and consequently money has not been transformed into capital."
So then the capitalist goes through a bunch of arguments:
'This is wrong,
consider first my abstinence;
I abstained from having a good time,
from consuming my money. I invested it,
don't I deserve some return for that?
Isn't there some reason why
I should not get some more money just simply by virtue of my abstinence?"
And actually the whole
argument about the 'Protestant Ethic' and abstinence and that kind of stuff has an
important role to play in the whole history of how people thought about capitalism…
'Yeah, it was a return to abstinence!'
The second point - he says:
'Well, I actually provide employment.
Don't I deserve something for providing employment to people?'
I used to have this argument with my mother all the time. I'd say:
'Let's abolish capitalists' and she'd say:
'Well who would employ anybody if you didn't have any capitalists?'
I'd say: 'Well there are plenty of other ways of doing it.'
'No, no we need the capitalists to employ people.' …all the time. You know just…
'They are very important,
the more of them the better.', she'd say, it'd drive me crazy;
…impossible to get pass that logic.
And the third argument is: 'Well, I worked,
I worked hard. You know, I mean …it wasn't as if I just sat there and put my feet up.
I worked hard, actually setting up this production process. Did all those kinds of things'.
Now, what we forget here, is actually
that capitalists usually pay themselves twice.
To the degree that they work they pay themselves a managerial fee.
They pay themselves as managers.
They then actually in addition take a rate of return on the capital they advanced.
Now, small entrepreneurs don't do that. They obviously merge that together.
But certainly in big corporations, you get this dual thing,
you are getting a fee, and then you're getting something else on top of it.
The easiest way to look at that is the difference between
the management salary that a CEO gets, and what they get in the way of stock options;
which have a lot to do with, you know, how much surplus value you've managed to…
imagine you've created, even if you haven't done it,
in the short time you remained CEO.
So the capitalist tries to pull all of these sorts of arguments together.
Marx mocks all three of them and says:
'Well they're not really serious arguments.'
So he then goes on to talk very explicitly on what happens;
and the key passages are on p.300 and p.301.
He says: "Let us examine the matter more closely.
The value of a day's labour-power amounts to three shillings,…"
remember the value of the labour-power is set by
the value of the commodities needed to support the labourer at a given standard of living,
and that's three shillings in Marx's accounting.
And that three shillings can be created through half a day's labour.
And he says: "The fact that half a day's labour is necessary to keep the worker alive during
24 hours does not in any way prevent him from working a whole day.
Therefore the value of labour-power, and the value which that labour-power valorizes
in the labour-process are two entirely different magnitudes;
and this difference was what the capitalist had in mind when he was purchasing the labour-power.
The useful quality of labour-power, by virtue
of which it makes yarn or boots, was to the capitalist merely
the necessary condition for his activity;…
What was really decisive for him was the specific use-value which this commodity possesses" -
that's: labour-power possesses - "of being a source not only of value,
but of more value than it has itself.
This is the specific service the capitalist expects from labour-power, and in this transaction
he acts in accordance with the eternal laws of commodity-exchange.
In fact the seller of labour-power like the seller of any other commodity,
realizes its exchange-value, and alienates its use-value."
Remember last time we mentioned labour in this C-M-C circuit.
The labourer sells the labour power for the money in order to get the commodities to live.
And there's no violation of that law of exchange.
So on the bottom of p.301 Marx says: "Every condition
of the problem is satisfied, while the laws governing exchange of commodities have not
been violated in any way.
Equivalent has been exchanged for equivalent.
For the capitalist as buyer paid the full value for each commodity,
for the cotton, for the spindle, and for the labour-power.
He then did what is done by every purchaser of commodities; he consumed their use-value."
Then he goes through to actually refer back to a whole set of things that he has mentioned earlier.
"This whole course of events, the transformation of money into capital, both takes place
and does not take place in the sphere of circulation."
Remember the echo back onto p.269.
Next passage he talks about it's magical properties;
remember the goose that magically laid its own golden eggs.
Well, here you see the secret of that;
how it is that "…value which can perform it's own valorization process…" appears as
"…an animated monster which begins to 'work', 'as if its body were by love possessed'."
And this all happens because
when you get the labourers labour power
you get it for a time, and you set the labourer to work,
and after three hours, or six hours, or whatever it is they have reproduced the equivalent of their
value, you then work for another six hours.
That's your surplus value.
Which of course, then leads into the question of:
'Well, why don't people stop working after six hours ?'
Well, there's going to be class struggle over the working day;
for the obvious reason, the capitalist wants him to work
twelve hours, not six hours.
And the other problem is that the way this is set up,
it's become very difficult to see when that moment
of reproduction of labour power has been reached.
So we've answered the question:
'Where does the inequality come from?'
And that's maybe a good point at which we should break.
The final point is that Marx is going to come back to
the definition of 'socially necessary', and so he lays down these conditions on p.303.
The 'socially necessary' means:
"First, the labour-power must be functioning under normal conditions."
Whatever those 'normal conditions' happen to be. "A further condition" he says
"is that the labour-power itself must be of a normal effectiveness".
And obviously this depends a lot on the particular trade you're in.
And then he introduces something which I think is rather
important later on, but it slides in here.
"It must be expended with the average amount of exertion and the usual degree of intensity."
Marx hasn't used the term intensity much before.
It just occurred a couple of times. But you better watch out,
because it slides into the argument, and becomes rather significant further on.
And so the question of intensity is significant.
And then of course he then introduces an idea that
is going to be made much of later,
when he talks about the way in which the capitalist "…has bought the use of the labour-power for a
definite period, and he insists on his rights."
So the question rights comes in.
"He has no intention of being robbed.
Lastly - and for this purpose our friend has a penal code of his own -
all wasteful consumption of raw material or instruments of labour is strictly forbidden."
On p.304 I think what he does is simply to say this:
"The production process, considered as the unity of the labour-process and the process of creating
value, is the process of production of commodities;
considered as the unity of the labour process and the process of valorization,
it is the capitalist process of production, or the capitalist form of the production of commodities."
So again he's differentiating between the capitalist form of production of commodities,
and the particular kind of unity, that is being established within that form;
Which is of course the unity of the labour process and the production of surplus value.
That is what this is all about. So the evolution of the labour process
under capitalism is going to be very much about maintaining that unity;
not simply that of production.
Then he comes back to the whole
fraught issue of skills on p.305.
Where he says: 'You know, we also have to figure
that the labour process is employing people with different skills. What does skill mean?'
And he points out that actually a a lot of these definitions are pretty arbitrary.
And actually it's a long history of definition of skills in which
the definition has nothing to do with the actual nature of the labour process.
For instance in France, in the nineteenth century, if women can do it was unskilled by definition;
full stop.
So as soon as you introduce women and suddenly it became unskilled. Which is why
so many of the anarchists like Proudhon were anti-having-women-in-the-workshop.
Deeply antagonistic to women's employment; so the anarchist
Proudhon thought women belong at home, not in the workshop.
And in fact the First International split on that question of whether women
are welcome in the employment place or whether they were not.
And Proudhon's anarchist wing said: 'No, they were not welcome.'
But that had a lot to do with the fact that the base of the
Proudhon movement was essentially skilled artisan.
And they knew perfectly well that as soon as women got introduced in the workshop doing
their jobs, (the skilled artisans) will be called unskilled.
And they will be seriously…
So there was a social proces definition there, which was very important.
So Marx mentions that a little bit…
of this when he talks: "…it depends in part on the helpless condition" …this is the footnote
As he says: "The distinction between higher and simple labour…rests in part on pure illusion…
…on distinctions that long since
ceased to be real …in part on the helpless condition of some sections of the working class…"
But then, there is this problem however,
what do you do with the situation of highly productive, skilled labour,
and how do we… you know, account for the way
in which they work in the labour process?
And obviously they…
As he says: "This power being of higher value, expresses itself in labour of a higher sort,
and therefore becomes objectified, during an equal amount of time,
in proportionally higher values." That is,
skilled labour is incorporating more value into a product
than unskilled labour. This is the argument which is being made here.
It doesn't affect the theory of surplus value. But it does affect the whole calculus,
as to exactly how we understand the value of labour power,
as it is both employed, and as it is productive in the labour process.
But Marx pushes by that whole argument by the end of this chapter, simply saying:
"We therefore save ourselves a superfluous operation, and simplify our analysis
by the assumption that the labour of the worker employed by the capitalist is average simple labour."
So he's not going to concern himself with this problem anymore.
As I think I mentioned before, when this same issue cropped up in a slightly different
context, in a slightly different way,
this is a bit of a problem in Marx's analysis, and some people made
quite a bit of this as a weakness in Marx's analysis; so you may want to go
to that literature if you get very far into this argument.
The next two chapters are in a way simple enough in content.
And I don't think it's really necessary for me to spend too much time on them.
He defines constant capital.
And it's constant because it is past labour,
which is being incorporated in products prior to their incorporation
in a particular labour process.
The value of that labour, the value of the commodities,
the value of the means of production is fixed.
What happens to that value?
Marx argues: "It gets transferred through the production process to the final product."
So the total value of all of those means of production,
which are used in the production process, ends up coming out the other end
as the same total value.
It is constant, that's why he calls it constant capital.
The value transfer…
the same amount of value comes out at the end, as went in at the beginning.
Now, this poses some particular problems, which he goes through in this chapter in some detail.
Okay, this makes sense
when we're looking at the cotton that ends up in the shirt.
But what happens when we're dealing with the energy inputs?
What happens when we're dealing with materials that disappear?
What happens with machines, that last a long time, say for ten years,
or something like that. What happens?
Well, Marx is going to say: 'There is a value transfer that goes on, even though there is
no material transfer going on.'
The machine does not pass bits of itself on into the product
- at least you hope it doesn't.
The value part of the machine gets passed on to the product,
but at the end of the day the machine is still there -
so how much of the value of the machine gets passed on into the product?
Well, Marx does a simple straight line depreciation argument. He says:
'Well, if it is ten years
then one-tenth of the value of the machine passes on the product every year.
And you pro-rate that for the commodities. So that a little bit of the value of a machine ends up
in the shoes, or the shirts, or whatever it is; per every shoe or shirt.
So there is a value transfer going on here. Now again, this is interesting,
this can only happen of course precisely because value is immaterial but objective.
Remember that definition way back: 'Value is immaterial but objective.'
Socially necessary labour time is a social relation. It has a social meaning,
and the means of its transfer is socially mandated.
And it is mandated in this way,
that the value of those inputs is incorporated into the output
as the same value.
Now, Marx is going to make a big deal of the fact
that this transfer of value is given to the capitalist free by the labourer.
That if the labourer were not doing what the labourer is doing,
the value incorporated in those means of production will be lost.
If the machines were not used, the value incorporated in them would be lost.
So what the labourer is doing is transferring value through productive consumption.
Remember the term: 'through productive consumption'.
That's what the labourer is doing.
And the reason Marx is making a meal of this argument
is precisely because you can see how much it empowers labour.
To know, that if it goes on strike,
if it stops the whole system,
the transfer of value stops as well.
The value embodied in the machinery the capitalist has, and which is supposed
to last for ten years and work for ten years is going to be lost.
In other words, part of what Marx is doing here, is trying to
work through an accounting system
from the standpoint of the labourer, to say to the labourer: 'Look at what you're doing!
You are actually preserving their value.'
And of course you could start to make
a counter argument to the way the capitalist says 'Well, I'm giving you employment'
by turning to the capitalist and saying: 'Yeah, but I am preserving your value.
Shouldn't you be paying me a lot more to preserve your value?
Without me you wouldn't preserve your value. You would lose all your value!'.
So Marx is going to talk about that as
almost an accounting phenomenon; the way in which value gets transferred.
Then of course, the labourer is essentially going to add value
to the value of the means of production.
So in effect what Marx is proposing here is a value-added theory
of surplus value production.
And because it is adding value he defines that
capacity of adding value as 'Variable Capital',
and it is variable, because it is increasing the amount of value.
The labourer is working incorporating more socially necessary labour time
into those existing or pre-existing raw materials,
using the pre-existing machinery, and is adding value.
So it's a value-added idea that Marx is working with.
And as the labourer adds value,
they do reach this point,
where the amount of value they have added to the product
is equivalent to the value of their own labour power.
And as we have seen in the accounting that went before,
that occurs after, say, six hours,
three shillings worth, or whatever the accounting is.
So after six hours the labourer has added enough value
to cover their own costs of reproduction
at a given standard of living, in a given society and at a given time,
knowing what the value of labour power is
in a given society, at a given time.
But what the labourer then does, is to add even more value,
which Marx then says: 'we call surplus-value'.
So the value of the product at the end of the day is going to be
the addition of these three elements:
-constant capital, the value of that;
-variable capital, which is equivalent to the value of labour power;
-and the surplus value.
And you have to think of that as being embodied in every single commodity. Every single commodity
is made up of a C-element, a V-element, and a S-element.
And it is a continuous process of production.
So what Marx does in this chapter then on constant and variable capital
is to talk at some length, about how value is transferred,
and the significance of that transfer,
and then how value is added;
which brings him then to the definition, which he wants on p.317,
where he says: "That part of capital therefore, which is turned into means of production,
i.e. the raw material the auxiliary material and the instruments of labour,
does not undergo any quantitative alteration of value in the process of production.
For this reason, I call it the constant part of capital, or more briefly constant capital."
And then he goes on to say: "On the other hand, that part of capital which is turned into
labour-power does undergo an alteration of value
in the process of production(…) I therefore call it the variable part of capital or more
briefly, variable capital."
Now, these definitions are going to be important in what follows.
Constant value, constant capital is not about the creation of value;
is not,…cannot be in Marx's accounting system.
Immediately you'll see that machines cannot be a source of value.
all machines do is to transfer value; their own value, and the value of other things.
Now, this creates some rather counter-intuitive ideas.
People often think machines are a source of value.
If machines are not a source of value, why do capitalists invest in them?
None of this means of course, that variable capital
and constant capital are not changing in value.
He makes very clear, that the value of the raw materials can yo-yo up and down, depending upon
conditions of labour in all those industries which are producing the raw materials or the machines.
So, to call it 'Constant Capital' is not saying 'it's always constant', but simply saying:
'It is constant insofar as it enters into the production process, and comes out
quantitatively the same.
In chapter nine, what he's after,
is very simple.
What he's after,
as he says on p.326 [footnote]:
"is an exact expression for the degree of exploitation of labour-power by capital,
or of the worker by the capitalist."
And he here plays around with these C plus V plus S categories and says:
'Well, what do these ratios look like?
What, for example, does the ratio of C over V betoken?'
It's a ratio of the value of the raw materials
which a given labourer,
who is hired, can process.
The higher this, the greater the level of productivity.
Highly productive labour will be moving a lot of C
with very little input of V.
So there's some kind of
measure of productivity which is involved in this.
You then ask yourself the question: what is the relationship S over V?
It's the amount of surplus
in relationship, and he has
various ways of looking at this, the amount of surplus versus variable capital.
But it can also be put in other terms.
Necessary labour, i.e. the labour necessary to reproduce
the labourer is V, surplus labour.
And this is the rate of exploitation.
Then there's something else,
which is the rate of profit,
which is the surplus over the total amount of capital advanced,
which is C plus V.
Which is higher, the rate of exploitation or the rate of profit?
The rate of exploitation.
What's does the capitalist always talk about?
The rate of profit.
So again, what Marx is trying to do here
is to set up an accounting system
which goes beyond the ways in which
the bourgeois typically calculates
and typically argues.
You can be very highly exploited in a labour process,
but the capitalist can have a low rate of profit. So when you go
to the management and say: 'Hey I'm being highly exploited, I don't like this', you know,
and the management says: 'Well, just look at my rate of profit, it's very, very low.'
And if you're naive you say: 'Oh yeah, I see, you're not making much out of this, are you?,
so poor you, I'll work even harder', you know.
Well, what Marx is saying: You better watch out, because you should really be looking at
the rate of exploitation. Which is the amount
of labour-time, socially necessary labour time, which you are giving to the capitalist
without remuneration.
Now, there's some interesting elements here.
I suggested that capitalists may like
to cite the rate of profit.
But, in fact, when they go to the bank to try to borrow money,
what does the bank look at? It looks at the rate of profit.
So actually capitalists are likely to operate
on the basis, they make their calculations, on the basis of the rate of profit.
They on't necessarily even be aware of the rate of exploitation.
They certainly have no interest in calculating it.
And the problem with the labour-process, remember it's a process which is being objectified
in things, so the end of the day you got a bunch of things there which have
C plus V plus S embodied in them,
little elements.
And it's a continuous process.
So that it becomes actually impossible,
this again is the fetish argument, right, it becomes impossible
for the worker to know at what point
they have done enough adding of socially necessary labour time to be equivalent to their wage.
And if there was a little bell that went off, you know, after six hours it went 'bang!',
now you're done, from now on you're working free for the capitalist.
Imagine how the labour process would look like. Imagine how social relations would look.
And of course it doesn't work that way anyway, because
we're looking at a continuous labour process.
And while Marx is giving us this calculation in terms of days, you can also
apply in terms of hours or minutes.
It's a continuous process, making things.
So this rate of surplus value then
is what animates Marx in thinking about
how the labourer should think of their situations.
Which then leads him to,
you know, various ways in which
those representations can occur.
And then this wonderful section three
'Senior's last hour', when "One fine morning in the year 1836,
Nassau W. Senior, who may be called the bel-esprit of the English economists, a man famed both for
his economic science and his beautiful style, was summoned from Oxford to Manchester,
to learn in the latter place the political economy he taught in the former."
Now what Senior argued was this:
Senior argued that actually, what the worker had to do
for the first ten hours of the day, was to reproduce fully the value
of the means of production.
In other words: Senior had no concept
of the worker transferring value
in the production process.
Senior said: Well, if the means of production cost this, then the worker has to be put to work
and actually has to labour all over again to make those means of production all over again.
So the first ten hours are taken up with that.
The next hour is taken up with reproducing the labourer,
and the final hour is the surplus.
Therefore you had to have a twelve-hour day.
And if you went to an eleven hour day, this surplus would disappear,
there would be no surplus, poor capitalists.
No surplus, no profit.
So he made the argument, and the manufactures were making the argument in Manchester, that
their profit all came from hour eleven to twelve.
And that therefore, under no circumstances, would it be possible
to remain in business and reduce the length of the working day.
And Senior went through, as Marx
dissects, deconstructs avidly,
all the stupidities of his argument:
"And the professor calls this [an] 'analysis'?"
I feel like going into a bourgeois economics class and saying,
that on several occasions: 'You call this an analysis?'
So, Senior's last hour was just
Marx deconstructing a vulgar economic argument, along these lines.
But notice, again, what he's doing here
is also exposing the sorts of logic
which capitalists would frequently resort to.
I abstain from consumption,
don't I deserve some remuneration from that? I provide employment,
I do all of these…
I work for what I do.
And the way I work is,
I'm desperately concerned to get that profit and that profit comes out of this twelfth hour.
But at the same time you'll see: there's a certain confirmation,
that comes from Senior, of Marx's argument.
That indeed, it is the capitalist's command of time
and the workers time which is absolutely crucial.
You can't make a profit unless,
as a capitalist, you command the workers time.
And that therefore there's going to be class struggle over
the workers time and how that time is used.
And remember here also the way in which intensity
is being introduced, because part of that command over time is to
command the intensity of the labour process. And if you can up the intensity
of the labour process you're going to get a lot more value produced.
So in all these ways we can see Marx setting the stage for saying:
'Yeah, value is socially necessary labour time.
Profit comes from surplus value
which is surplus labour-time, the surplus labour-time of the worker,
over and above the necessary labour-time
they use in order to reproduce their own value.'
So suddenly this becomes all about time and temporality.
And capitalists are concerned with temporality and command over temporality.
So not only does the capitalist have to command
the labour process, determine what it is the labourer will do,
not only must the capitalist command the product,
they're also going to have to command the time of the labourer.
And that becomes crucial, because without the command of that time no surplus value, no profit.
And in a funny kind of way Senior recognizes that and makes this hokey argument,
but nevertheless recognizes, in that argument, the crucial aspect
of temporality to the way in which capitalism works.
And again, one of the elements which is involved here, in
this temporality, is going to be also carried over into that metabolic moment of the relation to nature.
We all of us, I think, would recognize: one of the big problems of capitalism is the way in which
decisions are made short-term.
Long-term decisions are much harder to make.
And the shorter the term of the decision, the better for the capitalist.
Which means that, if you're exploiting a natural resource of something of that kind, what do you do?
You exploit it to the hilt on a short-term basis.
So the short-termism
is also going to be built in. So you can build…, at the same time as you see what the
capitalist is going to do to the labourer, you can also start to think about what the capitalist is
going to do in relationship to natural resources and that metabolic relation to nature.
How is that metabolic relation to nature going to evolve?
What is its evolution going to look like?
And again, what you start to see here is Marx looking at
that unity, that we started off with in the chapter on the labour process,
that metabolic moment where the social and the natural…
And you start to look and think about how that
begins to evolve under the pressures
of this temporality which
Marx will quote later on: that moments are the elements of profit.
And if moments are the elements of profit,
then the capitalist is very concerned to capture every moment in the labour process.
Which is going to take us then into the next chapters on the working day.
OK, we've covered a lot, so let's have some time here for some general discussion.
»STUDENT: How does Marx account for the disability
to see these things that other economists have disclaimed to see?
»HARVEY: I don't know, how he accounts for that.
I think that… I think…two things,
probably come in to play most of all.
Firstly his conscious decision to situate himself
and look at this system from the perspective of the worker
and the working class. So there's a, what we would now call a 'situated knowledge decision'
…here…So I think, partly it's looking at it from that perspective.
The other, I think, comes from, what I initially talked about,
which is the way in which he uses for instance
notions of french socialist utopianism,
mainly French socialist utopianism,
German critical philosophy and English political economy, to try to figure out what the
what the holes are in English political economy. And sometimes it is very easy to pick the holes,
as he does with Senior.
Other times it's not so easy. It's not so easy to do it with Ricardo.
And he's very admiring of Ricardo and that, but sees clearly that Ricardo still has
these problems about the labour theory of value without
knowing what socially necessary really meant.
And again, what we see here is something which is important, that is:
When the capitalist establishes that unity
between the labour process and the production of surplus value as being the core of what
they're about,
and it has to be the core of what they're about, because that's the only way they can assure
themselves of that.
When they establish themselves that way,
they start to make decisions on that basis,
and the whole system gets moved towards a different kind of
operational structure as a result of that
conscious move on the part of the capitalist, we're after surplus value, that's what we want.
So, I think, it partly comes
from, like I said, his choice of situatedness,
the anti-capitalism, the situation of the worker and then, if you like, the general critical
analysis he was attempting to establish, and…and…,
I think, a scientific urge to try and understand
capitalism as a working totality.
He never shies away from that. You know,
these days we're not supposed to talk about totalities anymore, apparently it's reactionary,
but he takes the view that: you've got understand the capitalist mode of production as a totality.
And you have to understand it in an organic
system, and you have to understand the elements as these come together.
So he also has that scientific mission to understand it as an organic totality.
There's no class next week.
It's 'Columbus Day' right?
Is that right?
What did Columbus do? (Laughter)
He was one of the worst geographers who ever existed.
He landed at a place he didn't know where he was.
He went into an environment he had no idea what constituted it, in a population
that he had no idea how to deal with.
He was one of the worst geographical wreckers that has ever been, you know, and yet he's
somehow or other held up as the great
example of a great geographer, it's incredible.
Anyway, no class next week.
The week after we're going do the chapter on the working day which is a long empirical chapter.
…and then…the chapter following that,
so that's chapter ten and chapter eleven
which is 'the rate and mass of surplus-value'. So chapters ten and eleven.
And we'll meet in two weeks time, so you've got plenty of time
to ruminate on the working day, with the help of Columbus and others.