Thursday, 30 August 2012

Capital I, Chapter 8 - Part 1

Constant Capital And Variable Capital

The Labour Process involves both Means of Production and Labour Power. The latter creates new value as a consequence of the expenditure of additional labour, the value of the former is transferred to the new product.

..the values of the means of production used up in the process are preserved, and present themselves afresh as constituent parts of the value of the product; the values of the cotton and the spindle, for instance, re-appear again in the value of the yarn.” (p 193)

Labour itself preserves the value of the means of production by converting them into the new product, and by adding his own new value. The two-fold result of his labour – preserving the value of means of production and adding new value – is explained by the two-fold nature of his labour. It is the particular nature of the Labour as Use Value, which transfers the Value of the means of production, to the new product. It is only the labour of the spinner which can transfer the value of the cotton, and of the spindle to the yarn. The labour of a joiner, for example, cannot do that!

Hence, the labourer preserves the values of the consumed means of production, or transfers them as portions of its value to the product, not by virtue of his additional labour, abstractedly considered, but by virtue of the particular useful character of that labour, by virtue of its special productive form. In so far then as labour is such specific productive activity, in so far as it is spinning, weaving, or forging, it raises, by mere contact, the means of production from the dead, makes them living factors of the labour-process, and combines with them to form the new products.” (p 194)

It is only the second aspect of Labour as Abstract Labour, Value creating substance, which enables it to add new value as opposed to preserving old value. It is the time it spends, engaged in this labour, which then determines how much new value is added – with all the provisos previously made about complex labour, socially necessary and so on.

These two aspects are clearly different and opposite.

On the one hand, then, it is by virtue of its general character, as being expenditure of human labour-power in the abstract, that spinning adds new value to the values of the cotton and the spindle; and on the other hand, it is by virtue of its special character, as being a concrete, useful process, that the same labour of spinning both transfers the values of the means of production to the product, and preserves them in the product. Hence at one and the same time there is produced a two-fold result.

By the simple addition of a certain quantity of labour, new value is added, and by the quality of this added labour, the original values of the means of production are preserved in the product. This two-fold effect, resulting from the two-fold character of labour, may be traced in various phenomena.

Let us assume, that some invention enables the spinner to spin as much cotton in 6 hours as he was able to spin before in 36 hours. His labour is now six times as effective as it was, for the purposes of useful production. The product of 6 hours’ work has increased six-fold, from 6 lbs. to 36 lbs. But now the 36 lbs. of cotton absorb only the same amount of labour as formerly did the 6 lbs. One-sixth as much new labour is absorbed by each pound of cotton, and consequently, the value added by the labour to each pound is only one-sixth of what it formerly was. On the other hand, in the product, in the 36 lbs. of yarn, the value transferred from the cotton is six times as great as before. By the 6 hours’ spinning, the value of the raw material preserved and transferred to the product is six times as great as before, although the new value added by the labour of the spinner to each pound of the very same raw material is one-sixth what it was formerly. This shows that the two properties of labour, by virtue of which it is enabled in one case to preserve value, and in the other to create value, are essentially different. On the one hand, the longer the time necessary to spin a given weight of cotton into yarn, the greater is the new value added to the material; on the other hand, the greater the weight of the cotton spun in a given time, the greater is the value preserved, by being transferred from it to the product.” (p 195)

In other words, the more productivity rises, the less labour-time is taken to process a given amount of material, so, in a given period, more material is processed, more wear and tear on machines occurs, more ancillary materials are consumed, and so more of the value is transferred into the new product. But, by the same token, the higher productivity means that, in this given period of time, only the same amount of new value is created, because it is its duration that counts. Because this new value is now spread over a much larger quantity of the new product, the amount of new value contained in the new product has fallen proportionately.

If 6 lbs of cotton are spun in 6 hours, and a pound of cotton equals £1, and 1 hour of labour equals 25p: then, in the yarn, we have £6 + £1.50 = £7.50. The new value comprises 20%. If, however, 6 lbs is spun in 3 hours, then in 6 hours: 12lbs cotton is consumed = £12, plus £1.50 of new value = £13.50. Now, the new value equals just 11%.

Suppose that the productivity of this labour remains the same as it was, but the Exchange Value of the cotton changes. So:-

6 lbs Cotton @ £1 = £6 + 6 hours labour = £1.50. Yarn = £7.50, new value = 20%.

6 lbs Cotton @ £2 = £12 + 6 hours labour = £1.50. Yarn = £13.50, new value = 11%.

6 lbs Cotton @ £0.50 = £3 + 6 hours labour = £1.50. Yarn = £4.50, new value = 33.3%

The same is true if there are changes in the Exchange Value of the other means of production such as the machines, buildings or ancillary materials.

By the same token, if everything remains constant, the worker transfers twice as much value in two weeks as he does in one week, just as he creates twice as much new value in two weeks as in one week.

Although it is labour-time that gives products their value, value only resides in Use Values, articles of utility. If an article loses its utility it also loses its Value. But, when a use value is consumed in production, they only lose the form of their Use Value, assuming a new form in the product. Marx makes this point, in Theories of Surplus Value, against Colonel Torrens. Marx shows that 100 quarters of corn when planted does not magically become transformed into 120 quarters of corn. A Use Value of 1 does not magically become a Use Value of 1.2! The additional Use Value already exists in the soil, in the water absorbed by the growing plants, in the sunlight which provides energy for the plants, in the fertiliser absorbed by the original seed corn in the production (growing) process. All of these additional Use Values merely change their form in order to become a part of the end product (Use Value) of 120 quarters of corn.

120 quarters of corn are most certainly more than 100 quarters. But—if one merely considers the use-value and the process it goes through, that is, in reality, the vegetative or physiological ||787| process, as is the case here—it would be wrong to say, not indeed, with regard to the 20 quarters, but with regard to the elements which go to make them up, that they do not enter into the production process. If this were so, they could never emerge from it. In addition to the 100 quarters of corn—the seeds—various chemical ingredients supplied by the manure, salts contained in the soil, water, air, light, are all involved in the process which transforms 100 quarters of corn into 120. The transformation and absorption of the elements, the ingredients, the conditions—the expenditure of nature, which transforms 100 quarters into 120—takes place in the production process itself and the elements of these 20 quarters enter into this process itself as physiological “expenditure”, the result of which is the transformation of 100 quarters into 120.

Regarded merely from the standpoint of use-value, these 20 quarters are not mere profit. The inorganic components have been merely assimilated by the organic components and transformed into organic material. Without the addition of matter—and this is the physiological expenditure—the 100 qrs. would never become 120. Thus it can in fact be said even from the point of view of mere use-value, that is, regarding corn as corn—what enters into corn in inorganic form, as expenditure, appears in organic form, as the actual result, the 20 quarters, i.e., as the surplus of the corn harvested over the corn sown.”

In the process of transferring their Use Value to the product, the means of production also transfer their Exchange Value. That is not changed by the fact that this takes various forms.

The coal burnt under the boiler vanishes without leaving a trace; so, too, the tallow with which the axles of wheels are greased. Dye stuffs and other auxiliary substances also vanish but re-appear as properties of the product. Raw material forms the substance of the product, but only after it has changed its form. Hence raw material and auxiliary substances lose the characteristic form with which they are clothed on entering the labour-process.” (p 196-7)

But, tools and machines although subject to wear and tear, have to basically keep their original shape, in order to continue fulfilling their function.

The corpses of machines, tools, workshops, &c., are always separate and distinct from the product they helped to turn out.” (p 197)

Its clear that the lifetime of a tool or machine is a function of its use. The more it is used, the quicker it is worn out, the quicker it transfers its value to the end product, though by the same token, the amount transferred to each unit of production remains the same.

If we know the average usage of a machine, then we can calculate how long, on average it will last. If, on this basis, we calculate that it will last 100 days, then each day it will lose 1% of its value to the product. If it is used at twice the average rate – producing 2000 widgets a day instead of 1000 – it will give up 2% per day, the amount per widget remaining constant. If it is used to produce only 500 widgets a day, it will lose only 0.5% of its value per day, and so on. This transfer of Use Value and Exchange Value arising from usage and wear and tear is not the same as depreciation, which is a function of time itself, or Moral Depreciation arising from changes in the way it is produced or the development of some new replacement. I set that out in “Chapter 7 Part 2”.

It is thus strikingly clear, that means of production never transfer more value to the product than they themselves lose during the labour-process by the destruction of their own use-value. If such an instrument has no value to lose, if, in other words, it is not the product of human labour, it transfers no value to the product. It helps to create use-value without contributing to the formation of exchange-value. In this class are included all means of production supplied by Nature without human assistance, such as land, wind, water, metals in situ, and timber in virgin forests.” (p 197)

Moreover, as Marx made clear earlier, if a Use Value loses its utility (which it does bit by bit through depreciation) it also loses its Value, but this process occurs not as part of the labour-process, but outside it. The more a piece of Constant Capital – be it a machine, a building, a piece of material etc. – suffers depreciation, the less value it has to transfer to the product. A machine that is worth £1,000 transfers 10% of its value each year to the widgets it produces i.e. £100. If as a result of moral depreciation its value falls to £500, it does not transfer this £500 reduction to the product. That occurs outside the labour process. In fact, now it only transfers 10% of its new value to the widgets i.e. £50 per year.

By contrast, the whole of the Exchange Value of some products may be transferred to the product whilst a portion of their Use Value is destroyed. Such is the case of all those products where a certain amount of waste is unavoidable, and where that waste cannot itself be utilised. The Exchange Value of all these means of production which can be transferred to the new product is then limited by their own Exchange Value.

In the labour-process it only serves as a mere use-value, a thing with useful properties, and could not, therefore, transfer any value to the product, unless it possessed such value previously.” (p 199)

The property therefore which labour-power in action, living labour, possesses of preserving value, at the same time that it adds it, is a gift of Nature which costs the labourer nothing, but which is very advantageous to the capitalist inasmuch as it preserves the existing value of his capital. So long as trade is good, the capitalist is too much absorbed in money-grubbing to take notice of this gratuitous gift of labour. A violent interruption of the labour-process by a crisis, makes him sensitively aware of it.” (p 200)

Marx quotes an article in the Times, which shows the consequences of not having workers employed.

In The Times of 26th November, 1862, a manufacturer, whose mill employed 800 hands, and consumed, on the average, 150 bales of East Indian, or 130 bales of American cotton, complains, in doleful manner, of the standing expenses of his factory when not working. He estimates them at £6,000 a year. Among them are a number of items that do not concern us here, such as rent, rates, and taxes, insurance, salaries of the manager, book-keeper, engineer, and others. Then he reckons £150 for coal used to heat the mill occasionally, and run the engine now and then. Besides this, he includes the wages of the people employed at odd times to keep the machinery in working order. Lastly, he puts down £1,200 for depreciation of machinery, because “the weather and the natural principle of decay do not suspend their operations because the steam-engine ceases to revolve.” He says, emphatically, he does not estimate his depreciation at more than the small sum of £1,200, because his machinery is already nearly worn out.” (Note 2, p 200)

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