Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Capital I, Chapter 9 - Part 2

2) The Representation Of The Components Of The Value Of The Product By Corresponding Proportional Parts Of The Product Itself

Marx sets out the way each of the components of the final product can be represented as a proportion of the total physical output. This might seem a bit of a waste of time or a diversion. Because Marx uses Imperial measures for his example, it can be a bit cumbersome nowadays to follow. His reason for using this breakdown is to illustrate the falsity of some capitalist arguments relating to profits, which he deals with later. In order to hopefully make it easier to follow I will try to use different numbers and metric measurements.

Suppose we have 20 kilos of yarn produced. It requires:

20 kilos of cotton

10% of a spindle

10 hours of abstract labour-time

The 20 kilos of cotton require 10 hours of abstract labour-time to produce.

A spindle requires 10 hours of abstract labour-time to produce.

1 oz gold requires 10 hours of labour-time to produce.

1 oz gold = £10.

So, the 20 kilos of yarn =

20 kilos of cotton = 10 hours = £10

10% of a spindle = 1 hour = £1

Spinning = 10 hours = £10.

The total value of the yarn = 21 hours = £21.

If we assume that the spinner requires 5 hours labour-time as necessary Labour to cover the cost of reproducing their labour-power, then we also have:

Labour-power = 5 hours = £5

Surplus Value = 5 hours = £5.

All of these amounts can be expressed as a certain physical quantity of yarn. If we express each as a decimal of the total, the calculation becomes clear. So:

Cotton = £10/£21 = 0.476

Spindle = £1/£21 = 0.048

Labour-power = £5/£21 = 0.238

Surplus Value = £5/£21 = 0.238

As a proportion of the yarn:

Cotton = 9.52 kilos

Spindle = 0.96 kilos

Labour-power = 4.76 kilos

Surplus Value = 4.76 kilos

Marx says looked at this way, its as though 9.52 kilos of yarn was made up of the whole 20 kilos of cotton, but no labour and no spindle. The same for all the other components i.e. its as though 9.52 kilos of yarn had been spun by the spinner in his 10 hours out of thin air, half of it covering his wages, the other half going to the capitalist as Surplus Value.

Similarly, this physical breakdown can be represented as portions of the time taken to spin the yarn i.e. of the working day. We have taken that to be 10 hours. In that case:


      9.52 kilos of yarn representing cotton = 4.76 hours
      0.96 kilos of yarn representing spindle = 0.48 hours
      4.76 kilos of yarn representing Labour-power = 2.38 hours
      4.76 kilos of yarn representing Surplus Value = 2.38 hours
Total = 10 hours

This way of presenting matters as Marx says is correct. The first method operated at a spatial level. It was as though different amounts of the yarn were laid down side by side, and labelled, “this much to cover the cotton, this much to cover wear and tear of spindle, this much to cover wages, this much left over for profit.” Builders often look at things like this. They calculate that on an estate or block of flats they have to sell a given number to break even, and then every house/flat sold over that they count as profit.

The second form is the same as the first except instead of being spatial its temporal, apportioning each part of the working day as covering the respective costs. However, this latter way of presenting matters was also beneficial to capitalists because it was open to being misrepresented and abused. In the struggle over the working day, the capitalists used this presentation to argue that the working day could not be cut because it was only in the last hour or so of the working day that profits were made.

This argument known as “Senior's Last Hour”, after the economist Nassau Senior, is dealt with next by Marx.

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