Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Capital II, Chapter 5 - Part 1

The Time of Circulation

Marx introduces a concept that is important to define to avoid confusion. That is the “time of production”. This is NOT the same as the time required FOR production. The concept here refers to the time the means of production are employed in the production stage of the circuit of capital.

So, Marx introduces two concepts here; the “time of production” and the “time of circulation”. The latter is the time capital (money-capital and commodity-capital) is employed in the circulation process i.e. the time after production and until the commodity is sold, C' – M', and the time between the money-capital buying means of production and labour-power, and them taking part in the production process, M – C (MP + L) … P. The sum of the time of production and the time of circulation is the total time the capital requires to complete its circuit.

The time of production is not equal to the time of the labour process, however. For example, if the working day is 8 hours, and there is only a single shift, the labour process lasts for 8 hours. But, all of the machinery, buildings and stocks of materials are still there during the other 16 hours of the day. The same is true of holiday periods etc.

Once again, it can be seen why capital is keen to ensure a continuous process of production.

“On the other hand the capitalist must have a definite supply of raw material and auxiliary material in readiness, in order that the process of production may take place for a longer or shorter time on a previously determined scale, without being dependent on the accidents of daily supply from the market.” (p 124)

Again this is one motivation for modern capitalism introducing Just In Time systems.

“There is, therefore, a difference between its time of production and its time of functioning. The time of production of the means of production in general comprises, therefore, 1) the time during which they function as means of production, hence serve in the productive process; 2) the stops during which the process of production, and thus the functioning of the means of production embodied in it, are interrupted; 3) the time during which they are held in readiness as prerequisites of that process, hence already represent productive capital but have not yet entered into the process of production.” (p 124-5)

This difference can be summarised as the time the capital is employed in the process of production i.e. when it is actually being processed, and the time it is employed in the sphere of production i.e. when it is not in the sphere of circulation.

But, for some commodities, the process of production itself can involve the capital being interrupted, without being the subject of the labour process. For example, wine requires time to ferment, seeds having been sown have to be left to grow. The same is true of many industrial processes too. For example, ceramics, bricks etc. have to spend time in a kiln, bread in an oven.

“The time of production is here longer than the labour-time. The difference between the two consists in an excess of the production time over the labour-time. This excess always arises from the latent existence of productive capital in the sphere of production without functioning in the process of production itself or from its functioning in the productive process without taking part in the labour-process.” (p 125)

All of the latent capital, such as stock of material waiting to be processed, coal to be used for power etc. produces neither products nor value, during the period they lie fallow, even though they must be present for the production process to proceed smoothly. However, any labour used at this stage, for example, ensuring that material is properly stored, that coal is moved ready for use, and so on, is productive labour, because only part of it is paid for. It exchanges with capital not revenue. This labour adds to the cost of these materials, but also produces surplus value.

The machinery etc. transfers a part of its value to the end product, as a result of the production process i.e. wear and tear. But, it also loses value that is not transferred to the end product. It is a total loss. That is the loss resulting from depreciation i.e. a loss of value not due to wear and tear in the production process, but due solely to the time spent in the sphere of production.

Where means of production are tied up in the production process, but without being subject to the labour process, e.g. wine when it is fermenting, they do not absorb labour. Consequently, this time does not count as necessary labour-time in determining the value of the commodity. The value of the constant capital involved in this process is transferred to the end product, and the labour-time required for the actual labour process also forms part of the value of the end product.

“And if they do not absorb labour, they do not absorb surplus-labour, either. Hence there is no expansion of the value of productive capital so long as it stays in that part of its production time which exceeds the labour-time, no matter how inseparable from these pauses the carrying on of the process of self-expansion may be. It is plain that the more the production time and labour-time cover each other the greater is the productivity and self-expansion of a given productive capital in a given space of time. Hence the tendency of the capitalist production to reduce the excess of the production time over the labour-time as much as possible. But while the time of production of a certain capital may differ from its labour-time, it always comprises the latter, and this excess is itself a condition of the process of production. The time of production, then, is always that time in which a capital produces use-values and expands, hence functions as productive capital, although it includes time in which it is either latent or produces without expanding its value.” (p 127)

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