Thursday, 24 October 2013

Capital II, Chapter 8 - Part 9

Fixed capital requires maintenance, and some of this maintenance arises automatically as a result of the labour process itself. Fixed capital, left unused, suffers depreciation, which is a total loss to capital (note this is a capital loss not a trading loss. It has to be recovered out of capital not out of surplus value, i.e. surplus value that would have gone to capital accumulation instead has to go to replace the depreciated capital. If there were no surplus value to achieve this, then either the capital stock itself shrinks accordingly, or else new additional capital has to be created from elsewhere). Its use in the labour process reduces its use value, and therefore, its value as a consequence of wear and tear, but, at the same time, reduces the loss of use value and value arising from depreciation. This is a free gift from labour to capital.

“This maintenance resulting from use in the labour-process is a free gift inherent in the nature of living labour. Moreover the preservative power of labour is of a two-fold character. On the one hand it preserves the value of the materials of labour by transferring it to the product, on the other hand it preserves the value of the instruments of labour without transferring this value to the product, by preserving their use-value through their activity in the process of production.” (p 176)

But, it also requires positive maintenance – cleaning, oiling etc. - which requires an expenditure of labour-time. The calculation of the average life of a machine, required to determine how much of its value it gives up each year, presumes that this necessary maintenance is undertaken, just as in determining the average lifespan of a worker, for determining the Value of labour-power, its presumed that the worker is maintained by eating, being clothed and sheltered, and undertaking all other necessary functions.

“It is here not a question of replacing the labour contained in the machine, but of constant additional labour made necessary by its use. It is not a question of labour performed by the machine, but of labour spent on it, of labour which it is not an agent of production but raw material. The capital expended for this labour must be classed as circulating capital, although it does not enter into the labour-process proper to which the product owes its existence. This labour must be continually expended in production, hence its value must be continually replaced by that of the product. The capital invested in it belongs in that part of circulating capital which has to cover the unproductive costs and is to be distributed over the produced values according to an annual average calculation.” (p 177)

The labour so expended is unproductive labour. Just as the food the worker needs to eat, to reproduce their labour-power, counts towards the calculation of the value of labour-power, but the time the worker expends to eat that food does not, so these necessary costs, in maintaining the machine do not count in determining the value of the product it helps to produce. It can be seen why capital, therefore, tries to minimise these costs. It was one reason child labour was used to undertake the cleaning while the machines continued to run.

“However, in various branches of production, in which the machinery must be removed from the process of production for the purpose of cleaning and where therefore the cleaning cannot be performed in between, as for instance in the case of locomotives, this maintenance work counts as current expenses and is therefore an element of circulating capital.” (p 177)

In respect of repairs these can be of different types. A machine might suffer an accident, which requires repair. Obviously, such accidents are exactly that, and can occur at any time. It is for such purposes that insurance exists, so as to spread out the risk of such eventualities. Machines might also require additional labour to be spent on them when they are new to iron out teething troubles. In a similar manner, today, with large, complex computer systems, additional programmer time is required, after they have been implemented, to remedy bugs that only become apparent when the system is in use. When machines have gone past a certain duration, and wear and tear has accumulated, they may also require more repairs.

Back To Part 8

Forward To Part 10

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