Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
Part 3) Relative Surplus Value
Source: MECW, Volume 34, p. 93-121;
Translated: by Ben Fowkes;
Written: May 1863;
Transcription: Andy Blunden, 2002.
This section follows directly on from the Addenda following the last section of Relative Surplus Value at the start of Notebook XX. On the cover of Notebook XX, Marx wrote “May 1863”. Parts of XXI-1303, 1305, 1306 and 1318 were cut out and pasted into the text of “Chapter Six”, and much of the text of the remaining pages reappears in the text of “Chapter Six”.
We have considered the two forms of absolute and relative surplus value separately, but shown at the same time how they are interconnected, and that it is precisely with the development of relative surplus value that absolute surplus value is pushed to its uttermost limit. We have seen how the separation of the two forms brings forth differences in the ‘relations of wages and surplus value. Given the development of productive power, surplus value always appears as absolute surplus value, and in particular any change in it is only possible through a change in the total working day. If we presuppose the working day as given, the development of relative surplus value alone is possible, i.e. through the development of productive power.
But the mere existence of absolute surplus value implies nothing more than such a level of natural fertility, hence a productivity of labour of natural and spontaneous origin, that not all the (possible) (daily) labour time of a man is required for the maintenance of his own existence or the reproduction of his own labour capacity. The only further requirement is that he should be compelled — that an external compulsion should exist for him — to work more than the necessary labour time, a compulsion to do surplus labour. However, the physical possibility of a surplus produce, in which surplus labour is objectified, clearly depends on 2 circumstances: If needs are very limited, then even with a small natural productive power of labour a part of the labour time can suffice to satisfy them, and thus to leave another part over for surplus labour, and therewith for the creation of the surplus produce. On the other hand: If the natural productive power of labour is very high — i.e. if the natural fertility of the soil, the waters, etc., requires only — a slight expenditure of labour to be made to gain the means of subsistence necessary to existence, this natural productive power of labour, or, if you please, this productivity of labour of natural and spontaneous origin, naturally functions — if we consider the mere duration of the necessary labour time — in exactly the same way as the development of the social productive power of labour. A high level of productive power of labour, of natural origin, is connected with a rapid increase in the population — in labour capacities — and therefore in the material out of which the surplus value is cut. If, inversely, the natural productive power of labour is small, hence the labour time required for the satisfaction of even simple needs is great, the development of surplus produce (or surplus labour) can only come close to forming alien wealth if the number of people simultaneously exploited by one person is large. [XXI-1302] If we assume that the necessary labour time = 1 1 1/2 hours, and the working day = 12 hours, one worker provides a surplus value of 1/2 an hour. But since 23 /2 hours are required to maintain a single worker, the following calculation applies:
1 provides 1/2 an hour of surplus labour.
23 [provide] 23/2 hours.
Hence in this case 23 workers would be necessary in order to maintain one single person who lives without work, but only lives like a worker. For him to live 3 or 4 times better, and in addition to be able to turn a part of the surplus value back into capital, perhaps 23 x 8 workers, = 184 workers, would have to be employed for one single individual. Moreover, the real wealth at the disposal of the single individual would be very small here. The greater the productive power of labour, the greater can the number of non-workers be in proportion to the workers, and the greater the number of workers who are not employed in the production of the necessary means of subsistence, or are not employed in material production at all, or, finally, the greater the number of persons who either directly are proprietors of the surplus produce or who work neither physically nor intellectually but still perform “services” which the owners of the surplus produce pay for by setting aside a part of the latter for them.
In any case, to the two forms of surplus value — absolute and relative — if each is considered for itself in its separate existence, and absolute surplus value always precedes relative — there correspond two separate forms of the subsumption of labour under capital, or two separate forms of capitalist production, of which the first always forms the predecessor of the second, although the further developed form, the second one, can in turn form the basis for the introduction of the first in new branches of production.
I call the form which rests on absolute surplus value the formal subsumption of labour under capital. It is distinguished only formally from other modes of production, in which the actual producers provide a surplus produce, a surplus value. i.e. work more than the necessary, labour time, but for others rather than for themselves.
The compulsion which is exerted — i.e. the method by which the surplus value, surplus produce, or surplus labour, is called into existence — is of a different kind. We shall first examine the specific differences in the next section, under accumulation . But the essential points in this formal subsumption of labour under capital are:
1) that the worker confronts the capitalist, who possesses money, as the proprietor of his own person and therefore of his own labour capacity, and as the seller of the temporary use of the latter. Thus both meet as commodity owners, as seller and buyer, and thus as formally free persons, between whom in fact no other relation exists than that of buyer and seller, no other politically or socially fixed relation of domination and subordination;
2) (something which is implied by the first relation — for otherwise the worker would not have to sell his labour capacity) that the objective conditions of his labour (raw material, instruments of labour and therefore also means of subsistence during labour) belong, completely or at least in part, not to him but to the buyer and consumer of his labour, therefore themselves confront him as capital. The more completely these conditions of labour confront him as the property of another, the more completely is the relation of capital and wage labour present formally, hence the more complete the formal subsumption of labour under capital.
As yet there is no difference in the mode of production itself. The labour process continues exactly as it did before — from the technological point of view — only as a labour process now subordinated to capital. Nevertheless, there develops within the production process itself, as we have indicated earlier //and everything said about this earlier is only now in the proper place//, firstly a relation of domination and subordination, in that the consumption of labour capacity is done by the capitalist, and is therefore supervised and directed by him; and secondly a greater continuity of labour.
If the relation of domination and subordination replaces those of slavery, serfdom, vassalage, patriarchal relations of subordination, there takes place only a change in their form. The form becomes freer, in that the subordination is now only of an objective nature, it is formally speaking voluntary, affects only the position between worker and capitalist in the production process. And this is the change of form which takes place in agriculture in particular when former serfs or slaves are transformed into free wage labourers.
[XXI-1303] Or the relation of domination and subordination in the production process replaces an earlier independence in the production process, as e.g. with all self-sustaining peasants, farmers who only had to pay a rent in kind, whether to the state or to the landlord, with rural-domestic subsidiary industry, or independent handicrafts. Here, therefore, the loss of a previous independence in the production process is the situation, and the relation of domination of subordination is itself the product of the introduction of the capitalist mode of production.
Finally, the relation of capitalist and wage labourer can replace the master of the guild type and his journeymen and apprentices, a transition accomplished in part by urban manufacture at its very beginnings. The medieval guild relation, which developed in analogous form in narrow circles in Athens and Rome as well, and was of such decisive importance in Europe for the formation of capitalists on the one hand, and of a free estate of workers on the other, is a limited, not yet adequate, form of the relation of capital and wage labour. There exists here on the one hand the relation of buyer and seller. Wages are paid, and master, journeyman, and apprentice confront each other as free persons. The technological basis of this relation is the handicraft workshop, in which the more or less skilled manipulation of the instrument of labour is the decisive factor of production. Here independent personal labour and therefore its professional development, which requires a longer or shorter period of apprenticeship, determines the result of the labour. The master is admittedly in possession of the conditions of production, the tools of the trade, the material of labour //although the tools may also belong to the journeyman//, and the product belongs to him. To that extent he is a capitalist. But as a capitalist he is not a master. He is first and foremost a craftsman himself, and is supposed to be a master of his craft. Within the production process itself he figures as a craftsman as much as do his journeymen, and he is the first to initiate his apprentices into the mysteries of the craft. He has exactly the same relation to his apprentices as a teacher has to his pupils. His relation to apprentices and journeymen is therefore not that of the capitalist as such, but that of the master of a craft, who holds as such a hierarchical position in the corporation, and therefore towards them, which is supposed to rest on his own mastery in the craft. His capital is therefore restricted both in its material form and in the extent of its value; it has not by any means yet attained the free form of capital. It is not a definite quantity of objectified labour, value in general, which can take on this or that form of the conditions of labour, and takes on whatever form it chooses, according to whether it decides to be exchanged for this or that form of living labour, in order to appropriate surplus labour. Only after he has passed through the prescribed stages of apprentice and journeyman, etc., himself produced his masterpiece, can he put money to work in this particular branch of labour, in his own craft, partly by turning it into the objective conditions of the craft, partly by buying journeymen and keeping apprentices. Only in his own craft can he convert his money into capital, i.e. use it not only as the means of his own labour but also as a means of exploiting alien labour. His capital is tied to a particular form of use value, and therefore does not confront his workers as capital. The methods of work he employs are not only acquired by experience but prescribed by guild regulations — they count as the necessary methods, and thus from this angle too it is not exchange value but the use value of the labour which appears as the ultimate purpose. The delivery of work of this or that quality does not depend on his own discretion; the whole guild system is rather directed towards the delivery of work of a specific quality. The price of labour” is just as little subject to his arbitrary will as the method of work. The restricted form, which prevents his wealth from functioning as capital, is further shown by the fact that a maximum Is in fact prescribed for the extent of the value of his capital. He is riot allowed to keep more than a certain number of journeymen, since the guild is supposed to ensure for all masters a proportional share in the receipts of their craft. Finally there is the relation of the master to other masters as a member of the same guild; as such he belongs to a corporation, which has certain communal conditions of production (guild order, etc.), political rights, participation in the city administration, etc. He works to order — with the exception of his work for merchants — for immediate use value, and so the number of masters is regulated accordingly. He does not confront his workers as a mere merchant. Still less can the merchant convert his money into productive capital; he can only “transfer” the commodities, he cannot produce them himself. An existence of the estate type — the purpose and result of the exploitation of alien labour is here not exchange value as such, not enrichment as such. What is decisive here is the instrument. The raw material is in many branches of labour (e.g. tailoring) delivered to the master himself by his customers. The barrier to production within the whole range of the available consumption is here a law. It is therefore by no means regulated by the barriers of capital itself. In the capitalist relation the barriers disappear along with the politico-social bonds in which capital still moves here, hence not yet appearing as capital.
[XXI-1304] [...] in Carthage and Rome, it is restricted to peoples among whom the Carthaginians [...] had developed capital in the form of commercial capital, and therefore made exchange values as such into the direct [...] production, or where, as with the Romans, through the concentration of wealth, particularly of landed property, in a few hands, production was necessarily directed no longer towards use by the producer himself but towards exchange value, hence possessed this aspect of capitalist production. For although the purpose for the rich Roman was consumption, the greatest possible quantity of use values, this could only be attained through the magnitude of the exchange value of the product offered for sale, and thus production was directed towards exchange value, and what concerned him was to get as much money as possible, hence to squeeze out as much labour as possible from the slaves.
In comparison with the independent craftsman, who works for stray customers, the continuity of [labour of] the worker, who works for the capitalist, is naturally greater, for his work does not find any limit in accidental needs that set him to work or in the magnitude of those needs; he is rather employed day in, day out, by capital, continuously, and more or less regularly. In comparison with that of the slave, this work is more productive, because more intensive and more continuous, for the slave only works under the impulse of external fear, but not for his own existence, which does not belong to him; the free worker, in contrast, is driven on by his own wants. The consciousness of free self-determination — of freedom — makes the latter a much better worker than the former, and similarly the feeling of responsibility; for, like every seller of a commodity, he is responsible for the commodity he provides, and he must provide it at a certain quality, if he is not to be swept from the field by other sellers of commodities of the same species. The continuity of the relation between slave and slaveholder is preserved by the direct compulsion exerted upon the slave. The free worker, on the other hand, must preserve it himself, since his existence as a worker depends on his constantly renewing the sale of his labour capacity to the capitalist. Unlike both the slave and the serf, the worker receives an equivalent for his labour, since the wage, as we have seen, although it in fact only pays the necessary labour, appears as the value, the price of the working day; and although in fact his surplus labour is no more paid than the forced labour of the serf or the work the slave does over and above the time necessary for the reproduction of his keep. The difference here can only consist in the quantity of unpaid labour time, although a quantitative difference of this kind is not necessary, depending rather on the level of the customary value of labour capacity. But however much or however little surplus labour the free worker provides, however high or low the average wage stands, whatever the relation between his total working day and his necessary labour time, for him the form of the matter is always that he works for his wages, for money, and if he works for 12 hours to obtain an equivalent of 8 hours of labour, the 12 hours are only worked to buy with them the equivalent of 8. This is not the case with the slave. Even the part of the work he does for himself — i.e. in order to replace the value of his own keep — appears to him as labour he performs for the slave-owner, whereas with the free worker even the surplus labour he performs appears as labour performed in his own interest, i.e. as the means of purchasing his wages. The money relation, the sale and purchase between worker and capitalist, disguises the former’s labour for no return, whereas with slave labour the property relation of the slave to his master disguises the former’s labour for himself. If the working day = 12 hours, the labour time which is necessary and is therefore represented in the wage might = 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 hours, and therefore the surplus labour, i.e. labour for no return, might equal, respectively, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 hours or 1 hour, but the way the relation always appears to the worker is that he sells 12 hours of labour for a particular price, even if a variable one, and therefore always works only for himself, never for his master.
[XXI-1305] [...] The higher value of this labour capacity must be paid to the worker himself, and it is expressed in a higher wage. Great differences in wages are therefore found, according to whether the specific kind of labour requires a more highly developed labour capacity, necessitating greater production costs, or not, and this on the one hand opens up an area of free movement for individual differences, while on the other hand it provides a spur to the development of the individual’s own labour capacity. Certain as it is that the mass of labour must consist of more or less unskilled labour, and therefore that the mass of wages must be determined by the value of simple labour capacity, it remains possible for isolated individuals to make their way upwards into higher spheres of labour by particular energy, talent, etc., just as there remains the abstract possibility that this or that worker could himself become a capitalist and an exploiter of alien labour. The slave belongs to a particular master; it is true that the worker must sell himself to capital, but not to a particular capitalist, and thus he has a choice, within a particular sphere, as to who he sells himself to, and can change masters. All these differences in the relation make the activity of the free worker more intensive, more continuous, more agile, and more dexterous than that of the slave, quite apart from the fact that they fit the worker himself to undertake historical actions of an entirely different nature. The slave receives the means of subsistence necessary for his maintenance in a natural form, which is as fixed in kind as in extent — in use values. The free worker receives them in the form of money, of exchange value, of the abstract social form of wealth. However much the wage is now in fact nothing but the silver or gold or copper or paper form of the necessary means of subsistence, into which it must constantly be resolved — money functioning here as the merely transitory form of exchange value, as mere means of circulation — abstract wealth, exchange value, and not a specific traditionally and locally limited use value, still remains for the worker the purpose and result of his labour. It is the worker himself who turns the money into whatever use values he wants, buys the commodities he wants with it, and as an owner of money, as a buyer of commodities, he stands in exactly the same relation to the sellers of commodities as any other buyer. The conditions of his existence — and also the limited extent of the value of the money he has acquired — naturally compel him to spend it on a rather restricted range of means of subsistence. Nevertheless, some degree of variation is possible here, such as e.g. newspapers, which form part of the necessary means of subsistence of the English urban worker. He can save something, form a hoard. He can also waste his wages on spirits, etc. But in acting this way he acts as a free agent, he must pay his own way; he is himself responsible for the way in which he spends his wages. He learns to master himself, in contrast to the slave, who needs a master. To be sure, this only applies when one considers the transformation of a serf or slave into a free wage labourer. The capitalist relation appears here as a step up the social scale. It is the opposite when an independent peasant or craftsman is transformed into a wage labourer. What a difference there is between the proud yeomanry of England, of whom Shakespeare speaks,” and the English agricultural day labourers! Since the purpose of labour is for the wage labourer wages alone, money, a definite quantity of exchange value, in which any specific characteristics of use value have been extinguished, he is completely indifferent to the content of his labour, and therefore to the specific character of his activity. In the guild or caste system, on the other hand, this activity was regarded as the exercise of a vocation, whereas with the slave, as with the beast of burden, it is only a particular kind of activity, of exertion of his labour capacity, imposed on him and handed down from the past. Hence in so far as the division of labour has not made his labour capacity entirely one-sided, [XXI-1306] the free worker is in principle receptive to, and ready for, any variation in his labour capacity and his working activity which promises better wages (as is indeed demonstrated in the case of the surplus population of the countryside, which constantly transfers to the towns). If the developed worker is more or less incapable of this variation, he still regards it as always open to the next generation, and the emerging generation of workers can always be distributed among, and is constantly at the disposal of, new branches of labour or particularly prosperous branches of labour. In North America, where the development of wage labour has least of all been affected by reminiscences of the old guild system, etc., this variability, this complete indifference to the specific content of labour, this ability to transfer from one branch to another, is shown particularly strongly. Hence the contrast between this variability and the uniform, traditional character of slave labour, which does not vary according to the requirements of production, but rather the reverse, requiring that production should itself be adapted to the mode of labour introduced originally and handed down by tradition, is emphasised by all United States writers as the grand characteristic of the free wage labour of the North as against the slave labour of the South. (See Cairnes.) The constant creation of new kinds of labour, this continuous variation — which results in a multiplicity of use values and therefore is also a real development of exchange value — this continuing division of labour in the whole of the society — first becomes possible with the capitalist mode of production. It begins with the free handicraftguild system, where it does not meet with a barrier in the ossification of each particular branch of the craft itself. With the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital, the compulsion to do surplus labour and therewith on the one hand to create needs and the means to satisfy those needs, and on the other hand to produce in quantities which go beyond the measure of the worker’s traditional needs — and the creation of free time for development, independently of material production — merely takes on a different form from that of earlier modes of production, but it is a form which heightens the continuity and intensity of labour, increases production, is favourable to the development of variations in labour capacity and accordingly to the differentiation of kinds of labour and modes of gaining a living, and finally replaces the very relation between the owner of the conditions of labour and the worker by a new relation of purchase and sale, and eliminates all patriarchal and political admixtures from the relation of exploitation. To be sure, a relation of domination and subordination enters the relation of production itself; this derives from capital’s ownership of the labour it has incorporated and from the nature of the labour process itself. The less capitalist production goes beyond this formal relation, the less is this relation developed, since it presupposes small capitalists alone, who are only marginally distinct from the workers themselves in their training and mode of employment.
Technologically, therefore — where this transformation of earlier modes of production into the capitalist one takes place and initially appears only as a formal subsumption of labour under capital — hence the relation of purchase and sale between the owners of the conditions of labour and the owners of labour capacity also appears this way — the real labour process remains the same, and the way in which it is carried on depends on the relation from which it has developed. Agriculture remains the same, although the day labourer has replaced the serf; similarly with the handicraft system, when it makes the transition from the guild-like to the capitalist mode of production. The difference in the relation of domination and subordination, when the mode of production is not yet affected, is at its greatest where rural or in general domestic subsidiary trades, or side occupations carried on just for the needs of the family, are transformed into separate branches of labour carried on in a capitalist way.
The difference between labour formally subsumed under capital and the previous way of employing labour emerges here to the same extent as the growth in the magnitude of the capital employed by the individual capitalist, hence in the number of workers he employs simultaneously. Only when capital has grown to a certain minimum level does the capitalist cease to be a worker himself and begin to reserve his energies for management and commercial dealings with the commodities that have been produced. On the other hand, the proper form of capitalist production, which is now to be considered, can only enter the picture once capitals of a certain magnitude have directly taken control of production, whether through the merchant’s becoming a producer, or because larger capitals have gradually been formed within production itself.
“A free labourer has generally the liberty of changing his master; this liberty distinguishes a slave from a free labourer, as much as an English man-of-war sailor is distinguished from a merchant sailor... The condition of a labourer is superior to that of a slave, because a labourer thinks himself free; and this condition, — however erroneous, has no small influence on the character ... of a population — (Th. R. Edmonds, Practical Moral and Political Economy etc., London, 1828, [pp. 56-]57).---Themotive which impels a free man to labour is much more violent than the motive impelling a slave: a free man has to choose between hard labour [XXI-1307] and [starvation for himself and family; a slave has to choose between hard labour and] a good whipping — (l.c., [p.] 56). “The difference between the conditions of a slave and of a labourer under the money system is very inconsiderable ... the master of the slave understands too well his own interest to weaken his slaves by stinting them in their food; but the master of a free man gives him as little food as possible, because the injury done to the labourer does not fall on himself alone, but on the whole class of masters” (l.c.).
“In the old world, to make mankind labour beyond their wants, to make one part of a state work, to maintain the other part gratuitously, could only be brought about by slavery, and slavery was therefore introduced universally. Slavery was then as necessary towards multiplication, as it would now be destructive of it. The reason is plain. If mankind be not forced to labour, they will only labour for themselves; and if they have few wants, there will be few [who] labour. But when states come to be formed and have occasion for idle hands to defend them against the violence of their enemies, food at any rate must be procured for those who do not labour; and as by the suppositions, the wants of the labourers are small, a method must be found to increase their labour above the proportion of their wants. For this purpose slavery was calculated... The slaves were forced to labour the soil which fed both them and the idle freemen, as was the case in Sparta; or they filled all the servile places which freemen fill now, and they were likewise employed, as in Greece and in Rome, in supplying with manufactures those whose service was necessary for the state. Here then was a violent method of making mankind laborious in raising food... Men were then forced to labour, because they were slaves to others; men are now forced to labour because they are slaves to their own wants” * (Steuart, [An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy ....] Vol. 1, Dublin Edition, [1770,] pp. 38-40).
//In agriculture, capitalist production in particular — production directed towards exchange value on the one hand, buying labour on the other hand — brings about a greater intensity of labour because the number of workers is very much reduced. Wages by no means increase in proportion to this heightened intensity of labour.
In the 16th century, while on the one hand the lords were dismissing their retainers, the farmers, who were turning themselves into industrial capitalists, “were dismissing the idle mouths”
Agriculture was converted from a means of subsistence into a trade. The consequence, as Steuart says, was this:
“The withdrawing ... [of] a number of hands from a trifling agriculture forces, in a manner, the husbandmen to work harder; and by hard labour upon a small spot, the same effect is produced as with slight labour upon a great extent” (l.c., Vol. I, p. 105).
//Even in the handicrafts of the towns, production remained chiefly production of means of subsistence, although in the nature of things the product was produced directly as a commodity, since it had first to be converted into money before it could be converted into means of subsistence.// (Enrichment as such was not its direct purpose.)//
//(Since the purpose of productive labour is not the existence of the worker but the production of surplus value, all necessary labour which produces no surplus labour is superfluous and worthless to capitalist production. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. The same proposition can also be expressed in this way, that all gross product which only replaces the worker’s subsistence (approvisionnement), and produces no net product, is just as superfluous as the existence of those workers who themselves produce no net product or no surplus value — or those who, although they were necessary for the production of surplus value at a given stage of the development of industry, have become superfluous to the production of that surplus value at a more advanced stage of development. Or, in other words, only the number of people profitable to capital is necessary. The same is true for a nation of capitalists.
“Is not the real interest of a nation similar” to that of a private capitalist, for whom it would be a matter quite indifferent whether his capital would “employ 100 or 1,000 men” provided his [profits on a] capital of 20,000 “were not diminished in all cases below 2,000? Provided its net real income, its rent and profits be the same, it is of no importance whether the nation consists of 10 or of 12 millions [XXI-1308] of inhabitants... If 5 millions of men could produce as much food and clothing as was necessary for 10 millions, food and clothing for 5 millions would be the net revenue. Would it he of any advantage to the country, that to produce this same net revenue, 7 millions of men should be required, that is to say, that 7 millions should be employed to produce food and clothing sufficient for 12 millions? The food and clothing of 5 millions would be still the net revenue” [D. Ricardo, Des principes de l'économie politique et de l'impôt, Paris, 1819].
Even the philanthropists can have no objection to bring forward against this statement by Ricardo. For it is always better that out of 10 million people only 50% should vegetate as pure production machines for 5 million, than that out of 12 million 7 million, or 58 1/3%, should vegetate in this way.)
“Of what use in a modern kingdom would be a whole province thus divided — //between self-sustaining little farmers as in the first times of ancient Rome//, “however well cultivated, except for the mere purpose of breeding men, which, singly taken, is a most useless purpose” (Arthur Young, Political Arithmetic etc., London, 1774, [p.] 47).
“A man becomes exhausted more quickly when he watches over the uniform motion of a mechanism for fifteen hours a day, than when he applies his physical strength over the same period of time. This labour of surveillance, which might perhaps serve as a useful exercise for the mind, if it did not go on too long, destroys both the mind and the body in the long run through excessive application” (G. de Molinari, Etudes economiques, Paris, 1846, [p. 49]).//
The real subsumption of labour under capital is developed in all the forms which produce relative, as opposed to absolute, surplus Value, though, as we have seen, this definitely does not exclude the possibility that they might increase the latter while increasing the former.
“Agriculture for subsistence ... changed for agriculture for trade ... the improvement of the national territory ... proportioned to this change” — (Arthur Young, Political Arithmetic, London, 1774, [p.] 49, note).//
//Minimum of wages:
“The possession of property and some interest in property are essential to preserve the common unskilled labourer from failing into the condition of a piece of machinery, bought at the minimum market price at which it can be produced, that is at which labourers can be got to exist and propagate their species, to which he is invariab ‘ ly reduced sooner or later, when the interests of capital and labour are quite distinct, and are left to adjust themselves under the sole operation of the law of supply and demand” (Samuel Laing, National Distress etc., London, 1844, [p.] 46).//
With the real subsumption of labour under capital, all the changes we have discussed take place in the technological process, the labour process, and at the same time there are changes in the relation of the worker to his own production and to capital — and finally, the development of the productive power of labour takes place, in that the productive forces of social labour are developed, and only at that point does the application of natural forces on a large scale, of science and of machinery, to direct production become possible. Here, therefore, there is 5 change not only in the formal relation but in the labour process itself. On the one hand the capitalist mode of production — which now first appears as a mode of production sui generis [in its own right] — creates a change in the shape of material production. On the other hand this change in the material shape forms the basis for the development of the capital-relation, whose adequate shape therefore only corresponds to a particular level of development of the material forces of production. We have examined the way in which the worker’s relation of dependence in production itself is thereby given a new shape. This is the first point to be emphasised. This heightening of the productivity of labour and the scale of production is in part a result of, and in part a basis for, the development of the capital-relation.
The second point is this, that capitalist production now entirely strips off the form of production for subsistence, and becomes production for trade, in that neither the individual’s own consumption nor the immediate needs of a given circle of customers remain a barrier to production; now the only barrier is the magnitude of the capital itself. On the other hand, where the whole of the product becomes a commodity (even where, as in agriculture, it partially re-enters production in natural form), all its elements leave the circulation and enter into the act of production as commodities. [XXI-1309] It is, finally, common to all these forms of capitalist production that, for production to occur in a capitalist way, an ever-growing minimum of exchange value, of money — i.e. of constant capital and variable capital — is required to ensure that the labour necessary to obtain the product is the labour socially necessary, i.e. that the labour required for the production of a single commodity = the minimum amount of labour necessary under average conditions. For objectified labour — money — to function as capital, it must be present in the hands of the individual capitalist in a certain minimum quantity; this minimum stands far above the maximum required in the case of the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital. The capitalist must be the owner or proprietor of means of production on a social scale, and the extent of their value, in one man’s concentrated possession, stands increasingly outside all relation with the amount an individual person or an individual family could accumulate over generations by their own hoarding. The extent of the conditions of labour required thus stands in no relation at all to what the individual worker could appropriate for himself in the most favourable case, by saving, etc. This minimum amount of capital in a given branch of business is the greater, the more developed it is capitalistically, the higher the development of the productivity of labour, the social productivity of labour or the productivity of social labour within it. Capital must increase the magnitude of its value to the same extent, and it must assume the extent of the means of production required for social production, hence shed its individual character entirely. It is precisely the productivity, and therefore the quantity of production, the numbers of the population and of the surplus population, created by this mode of production, that constantly calls forth new branches of industry, operating with the capital and labour that have been set free. In these branches capital can once again work on a small scale and again pass through the various phases of development required until with the development of capitalist production labour is carried on on a social scale in these new branches of industry as well, and accordingly capital appears again as a concentration of a great mass of social means of production in a single person’s hands. This process is continuous.
With the real subsumption of labour under capital a complete revolution takes place in the mode of production itself, in the productivity of labour, and in the relation — within production — between the capitalist and the worker, as also in the social relation between them.
Only the simplest form, that of simple cooperation, is possible under earlier relations of production as well (see above, Egypt, etc.) //where this simple cooperation takes place for the building of pyramids, etc., instead of railways// and in the slave relation (on this see later”). The relation of dependence worsens here through the introduction of female and child labour, so that it again approximates to the slave relation. (See Steuart. [An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy])
What all these forms of production have in common, apart from the growing minimum amount of capital required for production, is that the common conditions for the labour of a large number of associated workers permit, as such, economies to be made in contrast with the fragmentation of these conditions when production is on a small scale; since the effectiveness of these common conditions of production, which does not appear to have any direct connection with the raising of the productivity of labour itself through cooperation, division of labour, machines, etc., does not require an equal increase in their amount and value. The common, simultaneous use of the conditions of production leads to a fall in their relative value, even though there is an increase in the absolute amount of value they represent.
//The positive result here is a fall in the labour time needed to produce an increased quantity of means of subsistence; this result is attained through the social form of the labour, and the individual’s ownership of the conditions of production appears as not only unnecessary but incompatible with this production on a large scale. This is represented in the capitalist mode of production by the fact that the capitalist — the non-worker — is the owner of these social masses of means of production. He never in fact represents towards the workers their unification, their social unity. Therefore, as soon as this contradictory form [XXI-1310] ceases to exist, it emerges that they own these means of production socially, not as private individuals. Capitalist property is only a contradictory expression of their social property — , i.e. their negated individual property — in the conditions of production. (Hence in the product. For the product is constantly changing into the conditions of production.) It appears at the same time that this transformation requires a certain stage of development of the material forces of production. E.g., in the case of the small peasant the piece of land he tills is his. The ownership of this, as his instrument of production, is the necessary spur to, and condition of, his labour. Similarly with handicrafts. In large-scale agriculture, as in large-scale industry, this labour does not first have to be separated from property in the conditions of production, the separation already in fact exists; this separation of property from labour, which is bemoaned by Sismondi, is a necessary transition to the conversion of property in the conditions of production into social property. The individual worker could only be restored as an individual to property in the conditions of production by divorcing productive power from the development of labour on a large scale. The alien property of the capitalist in this labour can only be abolished by converting his property into the property of the non-individual in its independent singularity, hence of the associated, social individual. This naturally brings to an end the fetishistic situation when the product is the proprietor of the producer, and all the social forms of labour developed within capitalist production are released from the contradiction which falsifies them all and presents them as mutually opposed, e.g. by failing to present a reduction in labour time in such a way that all work for 6 hours, saying instead that the 15-hour labour of 6 people is sufficient to maintain 15.//
Production for production’s sale — i.e. the productive power of human labour developed without being determined in advance by any barrier of needs established beforehand. Later we shall discuss in more detail the fact that, even within capitalist production, this contradicts its own barriers, although it is the tendency to aim at this. For while it is the most productive of all modes of production so far, it includes — owing to its contradictory character — barriers to production, which it constantly endeavours to transcend, hence crises, overproduction, etc. On the other hand, production for production’s sake therefore appears as its precise opposite. Production not as the development of human productivity; but as the display of material wealth, in antithesis to the productive development of the human individual.
All the methods by which relative surplus value, and therewith the specifically capitalist mode of production, is developed, can be reduced in the most abstract form to this, that this mode of production aims at bringing the value of the individual commodity down to its minimum, and therefore producing as many commodities as possible in a given labour time, or operating the transformation of the object of labour into a product with the smallest possible quantity of labour in the shortest possible labour time. Productivity of labour is in general nothing but the production of a maximum of product with a minimum of labour, or the realisation of a minimum of labour time in a maximum of product, hence the reduction of the value of the individual product to its minimum.
Two remarks should be made in this connection:
Firstly: It appears to be a contradiction that production directed towards exchange value, and dominated by it, endeavours to reduce the value of the individual product to a minimum. But the value of the product as such is a matter of indifference to capitalist production. Its goal is the production of the greatest possible amount of surplus value. And it is therefore determined, not by the value of the individual product, the individual commodity, but by the rate of surplus value, the ratio of the part of the commodity which represents variable capital to its variation, or the surplus labour contained in the product in excess of the value of the variable capital. Its purpose is not to make the individual product and therefore the total amount of product contain as much labour as possible, but to make it contain as much unpaid labour as possible. This contradiction was perceived by the Physiocrats. See Quesnay, in Supplementary Notebook Q p. 29 (and further 31).
The reduction of the commodity to its minimum value, i.e. its greatest possible cheapening, only produces relative surplus value directly in so far as those commodities enter into the consumption of the worker as necessary means of subsistence, and their cheapening is therefore identical with the cheapening of labour capacity, i.e. with the reduction of necessary, and hence of paid, labour time, which as we have seen is in turn expressed from the point of view of the whole working day as a fall in the value or price of labour.
But this law is not just valid for this particular sphere of capitalist production; it covers all the spheres of production which capital seeks gradually to control and subordinate to its mode of production. We have seen’ that the individual capitalist’s cheaper production of his particular commodity does not directly achieve a cheapening of labour capacity (at least, there is no cheapening of labour capacity arising out of this cheapening of his product) and that to the extent that this cheapening is achieved, this does not redound to the benefit of this individual capitalist but to that of capital in general — the capitalist class — in that it produces a general cheapening of labour capacity.
But because the value of a commodity is determined by the average labour time necessary to produce it at a given stage of production, the individual value of the commodity which is produced by way of exception with more productive methods of labour, above the average level characteristic of the given stage of production, stands below the general or social value of that commodity. If, therefore, it is sold below the social value of commodities of the same kind, but above its individual value — hence sold at a certain value which retains some of the difference between its individual and its general value — it is sold above its value, or, in other words, the labour contained in it is momentarily higher labour than the average labour with which it is produced in general. But the labour capacity of the labour employed to produce it is not paid as higher labour capacity. This difference is pocketed by the capitalist and forms surplus value for him. This kind of surplus value, which is based on the difference between the individual and the social value of a commodity, brought about by a change in the mode of production, is of diminishing magnitude, and falls to 0 once the new mode of production is in general use, thereby itself becoming the average mode of production. And it is this diminishing surplus value that results directly from changes in the mode of production. It therefore forms the direct motive of the capitalist, and this thus holds sway over all the spheres of production which come under the control of capital equally, independently of the use value they produce and therefore independently of whether the product does or does not enter into the worker’s necessary means of subsistence or into the reproduction of labour capacity. This form of surplus value, however, is transitory, it can only relate to the individual capitalist and not to capital as a whole, and although it produces a relative depreciation of labour capacity or the price of labour in the particular branch, this is not because the price falls but because it does not rise.
Therefore, this form does not affect surplus value in general, because it does not call forth a permanent (relative) diminution of the price of labour in its own branch, any more than it produces a general cheapening of labour capacity and therefore a curtailment of necessary labour time, since its product does not enter into the worker’s necessary means of subsistence.
But, secondly, the gradual introduction of the capitalist mode of production in these branches of production, for the motive we have indicated, leads here, as in the branches devoted to producing the necessary means of subsistence, to a reduction in the labour employed to simple average labour, combined at the same time with a tendency to prolong the absolute working day. Here, therefore, entirely the same depreciation of labour capacity as in the other branches takes effect, a depreciation which arises not from the cheapening of the means of subsistence but from the simplification of labour. its reduction to simple average labour.
If the worker works 12 hours, and, e.g., 10 hours of this is for himself and 2 hours for the capitalist, the ratio of the surplus value to the variable capital admittedly remains the same whether the 10 hours are labour of a higher or lower type. The value of the variable capital rises or falls with the level of the labour, and since the surplus labour has the same character as the necessary labour, the ratio between the surplus value and the variable capital remains the same.
The introduction of machine labour, etc., both provides new motives for the prolongation of absolute labour time, and at the s me time facilitates this, since it robs the labour of its singularity, so to say. And it exerts this effect entirely independently of the particular nature of the branch of production into which it is introduced, and independently [XXI-1312] of whether the product of this branch enters or does not enter into the consumption of the workers.
As soon as the capitalist mode of production (i.e. the real subsumption of labour under capital) has taken control of agriculture, the mining industry, the manufacture of the main fabrics for the clothing industry and the transport system, means of locomotion, it gradually conquers the other spheres too, which are either subject to formally capitalist enterprise alone, or are still carried on by independent handicraftsmen, and it does this in the same measure as capital itself develops. This is capital’s tendency. It has already been remarked, in our consideration of machinery that the introduction of machinery into one branch brings with it its introduction in other branches — as well as in other varieties of the same branch. For example machine spinning led to machine weaving; machine spinning in the cotton industry led to machine spinning in wool, linen, silk, etc. The increased employment of machinery in coal mines, cotton factories, etc., made necessary the introduction of the large-scale mode of production in machine-building itself. Apart from the increased means of transport required by this mode of production on a large scale, it is only the introduction of machinery in machine-building itself — in particular the Cyclopean prime motor, etc. — which made possible the introduction of steamships, steam vehicles and railways (in particular it revolutionised the whole of the shipbuilding industry). The introduction of large-scale industry throws such masses of human beings into the branches not yet subjected to it, or creates in those branches such an amount of relative surplus population as is required for the transformation of the handicrafts or of small, formally capitalist, enterprise into large-scale industry; the industry then passes in turn through the various stages — and at the same time constantly releases capital. Actually the whole of this discussion does not belong here. But it is necessary briefly to indicate, as we have just done, the way large-scale industry seizes hold of all around it, and point to its gradual conquest of all the spheres of production. (Railway construction itself — we mean the building of the railway lines — displays merely the form of the concentration of capital, on the one hand, and the cooperation of workers, on the other hand. The employment of machinery itself is very slight here.)
(Price of labour. Price of labour, not value of labour, is the correct expression when one is speaking of labour itself, rather than of labour capacity. What the worker really provides is a particular quantity of labour, since it is only therein that the use value of his labour capacity finds expression, or rather exists. And this quantity of labour, labour measured by time, is what the capitalist receives, and the only thing that interests him in the transaction. The wage therefore appears to the capitalist, as to the worker himself, as the price of the labour itself. And it is this in so far as the amount of money paid for any commodity is its price. But the price of a commodity — in so far as we are not dealing here with the accidental quantity of money for which a commodity is exchanged in accidental transactions — is above all (the more developed forms of market price, etc., can themselves only be explained in this way) nothing but its value, which is represented as value, separately from its use value, in the money form, its value itself being expressed in the material of money. Although this is the case, there is contained in the price, in and for itself, something we discussed earlier in dealing with money, the possibility that price and value may not correspond. The price of a commodity does not need to correspond to its value. The value of a commodity is the adequate expression of this value. But price — or the money form of the value — contains two moments, 1), that the value of the commodity receives a particular qualitative expression, that the labour time contained in it is expressed as general social labour time, i.e. in a form common to all commodities as values — in the measure of values, in the money form; and 2), that the amount of value — the quantitative expression — is expressed similarly, hence the commodity is expressed in a quantity of money of the same magnitude of value, in an equivalent — because this is the expression of the value of the commodity in the use value of another commodity — not its direct, unmediated expression. Therefore, because it is inherent in price that the commodity takes on a converted form, passes through a process of alienation, first ideally then in reality, it lies in the nature of this process that value and price may [XXI-1313] diverge. E.g., if a yard of linen has a value of 2s. and a price of Is., the magnitude of its value is not expressed in its price; and its price is not an equivalent, not the adequate monetary expression, of its value. Nevertheless, it remains the monetary expression of its value — the value expression of the yard of linen — in so far as the labour contained in it is represented as general social labour, as money. Owing to this incongruence between price and value it is possible to speak directly of the price of an object, although one cannot speak directly of its value. Initially, to be sure, this concerns only the possible incongruence between the magnitude of value of a commodity and the amount of value expressed in its price. But price can also become an irrational expression, namely a monetary expression for objects which have no value, although price is in and for itself the expression of an object as money and therefore qualitatively (if not necessarily quantitatively) as value. E.g. a false oath can have a price, although it has no value (viewed economically; we are not speaking of use value here). For if money is absolutely nothing but the converted form of the exchange value of a commodity, exchange value represented as exchange value, it is on the other hand a definite quantity of a commodity (gold, silver or the representatives of gold and silver), and anything can be exchanged for anything, the birthright can be exchanged for a mess of pottage.’ The price relation is the same as the irrational expression in algebra, as — L, etc. It can be found by further investigation whether or not a rational relation lies hidden behind this irrational expression, i.e. whether or not there is a real value relation. Since the monetary expression or the price of a commodity, of a thing, is an expression in which the use value of the object is completely extinguished, which also means the extinction of the connection existing between the use value of this commodity and its value, i.e. the labour contained in it, which obtains an abstract expression in exchange value, abstraction from the use value or the nature of the object can proceed further, to the point where abstraction is made from whether it is expressed according to its nature as value, i.e. whether it is a use value which contains and can contain objectified labour. Things which have no value may have a price. If one now asks further what value relation lies at the basis of this price of labour which appears in practice — or one asks, as Adam Smith does, what is the natural price of labour — it turns out that the regulating price of labour is determined by the value of labour capacity, and is nothing but a derivative expression of the latter. Let the quantity of money which is paid as the price of a working day of 12 hours be = 3s. or 36d. If necessary labour time = 6 hours, 3s. is thus the value of the daily labour capacity which is consumed for 12 hours every day. This sum of money, in which 6 hours are realised, is expressed here as the price of a working day of 12 hours because the worker must work for 12 hours in order to obtain the monetary expression of 6 hours of labour time, and he in fact receives in exchange for 12 hours this price, this sum of money, alone. This price is therefore not the expression of the value of his labour — this is something one cannot speak of at all — but rather the value of his labour capacity, which requires 6 hours of labour a day for its reproduction. How this price relates to the value of the labour capacity, and secondly to the daily value in which the use of this labour capacity, daily labour, is realised, depends on the one hand on the value of labour capacity, and on the other hand on the daily duration of its use or, in other words, the length of the normal working day. But this relation to the value of labour
a Genesis 25:29-34. Cf. also K. Marx, Capital Vol. I, Part III, Ch. X — Ed. See present edition, Vol. 30, pp. 401-03, Vol. 31, pp. 529-32, and Vol. 32, p. 36-- — Ed.
capacity and therefore the relation of necessary labour to surplus labour is completely extinguished in the price of labour. If the price of the working day of 12 hours = 3s., the price of 6 hours = 1 1/2s., and the price of one hour = 3d. Thus the whole of the labour time appears as paid. No distinction between paid and unpaid labour is expressed here. And it does in fact look as if the 3s. are the value created by 12 hours of labour, although they are only half of that value; this is how the expression value of labour arose. Here, value of labour as distinct from price of labour means nothing but what Adam Smith calls the natural price of labour, i.e. its regulating price, determined by the value of labour capacity, as distinct from its accidental prices. This wholly irrational expression, value of labour, leads on the one hand to a confusion [XXI-1314] between the determination of the value of commodities by the labour time contained in them, and the determination of their value by the price of labour, two expressions which have absolutely nothing in common, since the value of a commodity is determined by the total amount of labour time contained in it, whereas the price of labour expresses only the part of this total amount paid to the worker. On the other hand, those political economists, such as Ricardo, who found this out, used very clumsy methods to contradict this contradiction. Nevertheless, the relation of the price of labour to the value of labour capacity makes itself felt in practice even in individual cases. Thus for example in the polemic of the London builders, etc., in 1860 and subsequently against the introduction of wages by the hour instead of a daily wage.’ If, e.g.. the worker is only employed for 6 hours, and on the above assumption the following calculation is made: 3s. = the price of 12 hours of labour, hence 1 1/2s. is the price of 6, or 3d. is the price of 1 hour of labour, a worker would provide e.g. 1 1/2 s. of surplus labour, or 3 hours, while he would not be paid for his necessary labour of 6 hours. In order to squeeze out 3 hours of surplus [labour], the master must allow him to work 6 hours of necessary labour for himself. In the long run, of course, it is impossible to continue this attempt to squeeze out surplus labour without allowing the worker to work the necessary labour. But the builders perceived very clearly, as one can see from their polemical publications, that at least in the medium term these methods of payment made possible an attempt of this kind on the part of the masters, and that it was, on the other hand, a very clever method of reducing the average w age, of depreciating labour capacity. The value of labour capacity expressed in money is the price paid to the worker for the whole working day, and it appears as the direct price of the whole working day, since although the sale and purchase of this commodity occurs before the labour is performed, payment takes place only after it has been performed.)
The point we analysed in dealing with relative surplus value, namely that the value of labour capacity stands in an inverse relation to the productivity of labour, and falls to the same degree as the productivity of labour develops,’ is nothing other than an individual application of the general rule that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour, or the magnitude of the labour time, which is realised in it, that its value falls in the proportion to which it can be produced with less labour, and that the development of the productive power of labour means absolutely nothing but the development of conditions under which the same quantity of commodities (use values) can be produced with a declining quantity of labour; hence that the value of a commodity falls with the development of the productive power of the labour which produces it.
I am not speaking here of forms transitional between the formal subsumption of labour under capital and its real subsumption under capital, and thereby of forms leading to the specifically capitalist mode of production; but of forms in which the capital-relation does not yet exist formally, i.e. under which labour is already exploited by capital before the latter has developed into the form of productive capital and labour itself has taken on the form of wage labour. Such forms are to be found in social formations which precede the bourgeois mode of production; on the other hand they constantly reproduce themselves within the latter and are in part reproduced by the latter itself.
//Forms transitional to capitalist production. One can only speak of transitional forms of this kind where the relation of buyer or seller (or, in modified form, of borrower and lender) prevails formally between the real producer and the exploiter, in general where the content of the transaction between the two parties is not conditioned by relations of servitude and domination, but they confront each other as formally free. The two forms in which capital appears (this will be discussed in more detail later, in Section III) before it takes control of the direct relation of production — becoming in — this sense productive capital — and therefore appears as the relation which dominates production, are trading capital and usurers’ capital (interest-bearing capital). Both kinds of capital, which appear within capitalist production as a special and derivative form of capital, but in previous forms of production as the sole and the original forms of capital, may enter into such relations to the actual producer that they either appear as antediluvian forms of capital, or, in the capitalist mode of production itself, as transitional forms, and are in part called forth by the capitalist mode of production in modes of production that have not yet been subordinated to the former.
[XXI-1315] For example, in India the usurer (who de prime abord makes the Ryot mortgage his future crop to him before it is grown) advances to the Ryot the money he needs to plant the cotton. The Ryot has to pay 40-50% per annum. Here labour is not yet formally subsumed under capital. It [capital] does not employ the Ryot as labourer; he is not a wage labourer, any more than the usurer who employs him is an industrial capitalist. The product is not the property of the usurer, but it is mortgaged to him. The money the Ryot converts into means of production is admittedly alien property, but he disposes of it as his own, since it has been lent to him.
The Ryot is his own employer, and his mode of production is the traditional one of the independent, small, self-sustaining peasant. He does not work under alien direction, for another and under another, and thus he is not subsumed as a wage labourer to the owner of the conditions of production. These therefore do not confront him as capital. Thus even the formal capital-relation does not take place, still less the specifically capitalist mode of production. And yet the usurer appropriates not only the whole of the surplus value created by the Ryot, i.e. all the surplus produce over and above the means of subsistence necessary for his reproduction, but he also takes away from him part of the latter, so that he merely vegetates in the most miserable manner. The usurer functions as a capitalist in so far as the valorisation of his capital occurs directly through the appropriation of alien labour, but in a form which makes the actual producer into his debtor, instead of making him a seller of his labour to the capitalist. This form heightens the exploitation of the producer, drives it to its uttermost limits, without in any way, with the introduction of capitalist production — even if at first with the merely formal subsumption of labour under capital — introducing the resulting heightened productivity of labour and the transition to the specifically capitalist mode of production. It is rather a form which makes labour sterile, places it under the most unfavourable economic conditions, and combines together capitalist exploitation without a capitalist mode of production, and the mode of production of independent small-scale property in the instruments of labour without the advantages this mode of production offers for less developed conditions. Here in fact the means of production have ceased to belong to the producer, but they are nominally subsumed to him, and the mode of production remains in the same relations of small independent enterprise, only the relations are in ruins. We find the same relation between e.g. the patricians and plebeians of Rome, or the peasants owning small parcels of land and the usurers. And at the same time it is a form in which the capital of the Jews was created everywhere in the Middle Ages, where they appear as money-lenders in the pores of purely agricultural peoples. (Debt slavery in distinction to wage slavery.)
We find further in India, where the old communities have dissolved, that this money-lending is replaced by the loan of the instruments of labour, e.g. looms, at an interest of 50-100%. In England, on the other hand, this is reproduced in e.g. the shape taken on by domestic industry under the impact of large-scale industry; e.g. among the stocking weavers, etc. The mass of people thrown out through the introduction of machinery, robbed of their means of production, continue to be exploited by the owners of the means of production in this caricatured form of domestic industry, although those means of production do not develop into capital, and labour does not develop into wage labour. What appears here in the form of interest is not only the total surplus value, it is also a part of the normal wage of labour. A critique on the level of Mr. Carey’s would be needed to calculate the rate of interest in a country from such relations. (See the Court of Exchequer case cited in another Notebook.) This form can be transitional to the capitalist mode of production. It is itself the extraneous produce of the capitalist mode of production.
What we have said of usurers’ capital is true of merchants’ capital. It can equally be a form transitional to the subsumption of labour under capital (initially its formal subsumption). This is the case wherever the merchant as such plays the role of manufacturer. He advances the raw material. He appears originally as the buyer of the products of independent industries. But this point should be presented in more detail in the next section.
Yet it should only be presented in the next section in so far as it is a form transitional to capitalist production, and displays the alienation of the conditions of labour as a process of development of capitalist production with reference to an historical example.
On the basis of capitalist production, however, this form, in the changed shape in which it reproduces domestic industry, is reproduced as one of the most dreadful forms of production existing, a form which is only brought to an end by the introduction of machinery, and in comparison with which the formal subsumption of labour under capital appears as a redemption. [XXI-1316] The immense surplus population created by large-scale industry in agriculture and the factory system is exploited here in a way which saves the “capitalist” a part of the production costs of capital, and allows him to speculate directly upon the misery of the workers. It is so in jobbing work, the system under which some of the tailors, cobblers, needlewomen, etc., are employed in London. The surplus value created here depends not only on overwork and the appropriation of surplus labour, but also directly on deductions from wages, which are forced down far below their normal average level.
The system of middlemen and sweaters follows on from this one. The actual “capitalist” distributes among the middlemen a certain quantity of raw material which is to be worked on, and they in their turn distribute these materials among those unfortunates, living in cellars, who have sunk down below the average level of the normal workers who are combined together in trade unions, etc., etc. Thus the profit of these middlemen, among whom there are often in turn further middlemen, consists exclusively of the difference between the normal wage they let themselves be paid, and the wage they pay out, which is less than normal. Once a sufficient number of workers of the latter kind is organised through this system, they are often directly employed by capitalist No. I on the same conditions as those under which the middlemen employed them. This is a shining example of the travail de direction [supervision]. Colossal fortunes are made in this way. (See the example of the needlewomen cited in the other Notebook.)
“In wages, besides the rate of wages, which results from the demand for it in proportion to its supply, there is a lower rate which may be the result of the necessities of the workmen. For example, in those trades where there is what is called the ‘Sweating System’ practised, the fair result of the demand and supply rate of wages is represented by the amount received by the ‘sweater'” (Trades’ Unions and Strikes: Their Philosophy and Intention, by T. Dunning etc., London, 1860, [p.] 6). “A ‘sweater’ is one who takes out work to do, at the usual rate of wages, and who gets it done by others at a lower price; the difference, which is his profit, being ‘sweated’ out of those who execute the work” (l.c., [p.] 6, note).//