Monday, 27 January 2014

Capital II, Chapter 12 - Part 4

For the locomotive production then,

“The labour-power bought for a definite week is expended in the course of the same week and is materialised in the product. It must be paid for at the end of the week. And this investment of capital in labour-power is repeated every week during the three months; yet the expenditure of this part of the capital during the week does not enable the capitalist to settle for the purchase of the labour the following week. Every week additional capital must be expended to pay for labour-power, and, leaving aside the question of credit, the capitalist must be able to lay out wages for three months, even if he pays them only in weekly doses. It is the same with the other portion of circulating capital, the raw and auxiliary materials. One layer of labour after another is piled up on the product. It is not alone the value of the expended labour-power that is continually being transferred to the product during the labour-process, but also surplus-value. This product, however, is unfinished, it has not yet the form of a finished commodity, hence it cannot yet circulate. This applies likewise to the capital-value transferred in layers from the raw and auxiliary materials to the product.” (p 235)

The turnover time, however, is not just a function of the working period, or time of production, because products are not sold immediately after they are produced. The turnover time is the sum of the time of production and the time of circulation.

“At the less developed stages of capitalist production, undertakings requiring a long working period, and hence a large investment of capital for a long time, such as the building of roads, canals, etc., especially when they can be carried out only on a large scale, are either not carried out on a capitalist basis at all, but rather at communal or state expense (in earlier times generally by forced labour, so far as the labour-power was concerned). Or objects whose production requires a lengthy working period are fabricated only for the smallest part by recourse to the private means of the capitalist himself. For instance, in the building of a house, the private person for whom it is built makes a number of partial advance payments to the building contractor. He therefore actually pays for the house piecemeal, in proportion as the productive process progresses. But in the advanced capitalist era, when on the one hand huge capitals are concentrated in the hands of single individuals, while on the other the associated capitalist (joint-stock companies) appears side by side with the individual capitalist and a credit system has simultaneously been developed, a capitalist building contractor builds only in exceptional cases on the order of private individuals. His business nowadays is to build whole rows of houses and entire sections of cities for the market, just as it is the business of individual capitalists to build railways as contractors.” (p 237)

Marx describes the consequence of this for house building in London with reference to testimony from builders. Instead of building to order, they built on speculation for the market, using credit, so that they were leveraged up to fifty times their own resources.

“Then, if a crisis comes along and interrupts the payment of the advance instalments, the entire enterprise generally collapses. At best, the houses remain unfinished until better times arrive; at the worst they are sold at auction for half their cost.” (p 238)

Back To Part 3

Forward To Part 5

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