Friday, 21 September 2012

Capital I, Chapter 11 - Part 1

The Rate and Mass Of Surplus Value

Marx begins by assuming the value of labour-power, i.e. the number of hours required to reproduce it, to be constant. On that basis, with any given rate of surplus value, the mass of surplus value can be calculated.

If the value of labour-power = V = 6 hours, and the rate of surplus value = 100%, the the amount of surplus value = 6 hours also. If the value of money is constant, then if 6 hours = 1 oz of gold = 3 shillings (15p), then the amount of surplus value = 15p.

Every day, each worker creates 15p of surplus value. But, the Variable Capital is the monetary value of all the labour power employed. So, if 100 workers are employed and the Variable Capital amounts to £15, this is equal to the average value of one labour power (15p) multiplied by the number of workers (100) employed.

Similarly, 100 workers will provide £15 of surplus value, 100 x 15p, and a workforce of n will produce n x 15p in surplus value.

Marx deduces the following law.

...the mass of the surplus value produced is equal to the amount of the variable capital advanced, multiplied by the rate of surplus value, in other words: it is determined by the compound ratio between the number of labour-powers exploited simultaneously by the same capitalist and the degree of exploitation of each individual labour-power.

Let the mass of the surplus value be S, the surplus value supplied by the individual labourer in the average day s the variable capital daily advanced in the purchase of one individual labour-power v, the sum total of the variable capital V, the value of an average labour-power P, its degree of exploitation (a'/a) (surplus-labour/necessary-labour) and the number of labourers employed n; we have: S = (s/v) x V, P x (a1/a) x n.” (p 288)

As a consequence, these two factors can counteract or reinforce each other. If the rate of exploitation falls, this can be offset if more workers are exploited and vice versa. If the rate of exploitation rises and the number of workers exploited also rises, the two will reinforce each other in increasing the mass of surplus value, and vice versa.

If, on our previous example, there were 100 workers, who worked for 12 hours, 6 hours to reproduce their Labour Power, and 6 hours producing surplus value, and in money terms this amounts to £15 Variable Capital, and £15 Surplus Value, then if the number of workers falls to 50, so that Variable Capital falls to 50 x 15p = £7.50, the mass of surplus value can remain at £15, provided these 50 workers now provide double the amount of surplus value each. That is if each provides 12 not 6 hours of surplus labour, so that 50 x 12 hours = 30p = £15. The working day would have to rise from 12 hours to 18 hours.

Diminution of the variable capital may therefore be compensated by a proportionate rise in the degree of exploitation of labour-power, or the decrease in the number of the labourers employed by a proportionate extension of the working day. Within certain limits therefore the supply of labour exploitable by capital is independent of the supply of labourers. On the contrary, a fall in the rate of surplus value leaves unaltered the mass of the surplus value produced, if the amount of the variable capital, or number of the labourers employed, increases in the same proportion.” (p 288-9)

So long as we are talking about simple, unskilled labour this has impassable limits. There are only 24 hours in a day that this simple labour can work, and out of that a portion must form necessary labour-time required for its reproduction, whilst another portion must be set aside to allow the labour time for recuperation. However, as I have set out in previous chapters, not all Labour is simple labour. Complex labour represents multiples of simple labour. Consequently, there is no real limit to the number of abstract labour hours in a working day. If an hour of David Beckham's Labour = 1000 hours of simple labour, then there are 24000 hours of abstract labour in a Beckham day!

Whatever the total length of working day for any particular type of labour, however, it has an upper limit (24,000 hours of abstract labour for Beckham, for example), and out of this must be taken the amount of necessary labour-time – maybe 12000 hours – and the amount of time needed for recuperation, (maybe 6,000 hours for Beckham), and this is reflected in the Value of the Labour Power, and paid out in wages.

For now we will follow Marx and assume we are dealing with only a type of simple labour.

If the total value produced in 24 hours of labour = 60p, then whatever the value of labour power, be it 10p or 50p, then the amount of surplus value produced must always be less than 60p. Moreover, the total amount of value produced by each worker must itself be less than 60p, because of the time required for recuperation i.e. they cannot physically work 24 hours a day on a repeated basis. So, if we have:

500 workers employed for 12 hours

6 hours for necessary labour-power

6 hours for surplus labour-power

1 hour = £1


500 x 6 x £1 = £3000 Variable Capital

500 x 6 x £1 = £3000 Surplus Value

Total new value produced = £6000.

If we have instead, 100 workers working 18 hours a day, and

6 hours for necessary labour

12 hours for surplus labour,

i.e. a 200% rather than 100% rate of surplus value, then,

100 x 6 x £1 = £600 Variable Capital

100 x 12 x £1 = £1200 Surplus Value

Total new value = £1800.

This palpable law is of importance for the clearing up of many phenomena, arising from a tendency (to be worked out later on) of capital to reduce as much as possible the number of labourers employed by it, or its variable constituent transformed into labour-power, in contradiction to its other tendency to produce the greatest possible mass of surplus value.” (p 289)

A third law results from the determination, of the mass of the surplus value produced, by the two factors: rate of surplus value and amount of variable capital advanced. The rate of surplus value, or the degree of exploitation of labour-power, and the value of labour-power, or the amount of necessary working time being given, it is self evident that the greater the variable capital, the greater would be the mass of the value produced and of the surplus value. If the limit of the working-day is given, and also the limit of its necessary constituent, the mass of value and surplus value that an individual capitalist produces, is clearly exclusively dependent on the mass of labour that he sets in motion. But this, under the conditions supposed above, depends on the mass of labour-power, or the number of labourers whom he exploits, and this number in its turn is determined by the amount of the variable capital advanced. With a given rate of surplus value, and a given value of labour-power, therefore, the masses of surplus value produced vary directly as the amounts of the variable capitals advanced.” (p 289)

This is true whether we are talking about simple or complex labour, because complex labour here represents multiples of simple labour.

Suppose we have a 10 hour working day, and a 100% rate of exploitation. It is just the same if a capitalist has a Variable Capital of £1,000 which is allocated,

1000 workers @ £1 = £1000

as if they allocate it,

1 David Beckham @ £1000 = £1,000.

In both cases, the amount of Variable Capital is £1,000, and in both cases the amount of new value created will be £2,000 divided £1,000 to the labour that created it, and £1,000 in Surplus Value.

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