Thursday, 9 January 2014

Capital II, Chapter 11 - Part 5

Fixed capital that is more durable will last longer than that which is less durable, and so will give up its use value and value more slowly. But, the quality of durability is not what makes capital fixed rather than circulating. Steel used as a raw material is equally durable as the machines that process it. Brass used as a raw material even more so. Diamonds are one of the most durable substances, and yet are usually raw material rather than fixed capital.

The fact that a machine or other instrument of labour is used in repeated processes of itself requires that it be durable. It is not that durability that determines whether something is fixed rather than circulating, but its function in the process.

“The real substance of the capital laid out in wages is labour itself, active, value-creating labour-power, living labour, which the capitalist exchanges for dead, materialised labour and embodies in his capital, by which means, and by which alone, the value in his hands turns into self-expanding value.” (p 225)

In other words, the capital is not the money the capitalist hands over as wages, but the living labour-power bought with them. The wages themselves represent not capital, but dead labour both considered as money, or the commodities bought with it by the worker.

“But this power of self-expansion is not sold by the capitalist. It is always only a constituent part of his productive capital, the same as his instruments of labour; it is never a part of his commodity-capital, as for instance the finished product which he sells.” (p 225)

In the production process, this labour-power that is the basis of the self-expansion, does not confront the fixed capital as circulating capital, alongside the materials, but confronts both the instruments of labour and the materials. It confronts them as variable capital.

“Or, if mention is to be made here of a material difference, so far as it affects the process of circulation, it is only this: It follows from the nature of value, which is nothing but materialised labour, and from the nature of active labour-power, which is nothing but labour in process of materialisation, that labour-power continually creates value and surplus-value during the time it functions; that what on the part of labour-power appears as motion, as a creation of value, appears on the part of its product in a state of rest, as created value.” (p 226)

The capital-value of the labour-power, plus the surplus value it created, no longer exists as productive capital. It has now become embodied, along with the value of the materials and wear and tear of fixed capital, in the end product, which now exists as commodity-capital.

“In order to repeat the process, the product must be sold and new labour-power constantly bought with the proceeds and incorporated in the productive capital. This then gives to the part of capital invested in labour-power, and to that invested in material of labour, etc., the character of circulating capital as opposed to the capital remaining fixed in the instruments of labour.” (p 226)

If, instead of recognising this fundamental opposition of constant and variable capital, the defining characteristic is fixed as opposed to circulating capital, then the capital laid out as wages is no longer active, living labour, but is the means of subsistence bought with those wages, because the labour is no longer the means by which capital expands, but like raw materials only transfers its value whole to the end product, and that value is equal to its cost of reproduction.

Back To Part 4

Forward To Part 6

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