Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Capital II, Chapter 15 - Part 14

4) Conclusion

A) An aggregate capital can be divided into separate individual capitals that do not overlap in two cases, i) where the working period and circulation period are of the same duration, ii) where the circulation period is longer than the working period, but by a whole number multiple of it, so that an aggregate capital is divided into a number of equal sized capitals, i.e. if the working period is 2 weeks and the circulation period is n x 2 weeks, then there will be n +1 capitals of equal size. There is then no overlap of capitals, and no portion of any capital set free.

B) Where the working period is longer than the circulation period, or where the circulation period is longer than the working period, but not by a simple multiple of it, the aggregate capital cannot be divided into independent, equal sized capitals. Each capital's working period and turnover period overlaps with the others interlinking them. As a result, with each return, a portion of capital is set free, after the first turnover. The amount of capital set free is always equal to the size of the additional capital required to complete the turnover of the aggregate capital.

C) Looked at from the perspective of the aggregate social capital, the release of capital must be the rule, because equal working periods and circulation periods that are a simple multiple of the working period must be rare exceptions.

“A very considerable portion of the social circulating capital, which is turned over several times a year, will therefore periodically exist in the form of released capital during the annual turnover cycle.” (p 284)

What does this mean given that we know that, in reality, these different components of the aggregate capital are not divided into separate distinct capitals that only operate during their working period, and lie dormant during their circulation period? Because, the released capital is equal to the amount required to make up the difference in time between the working period/s and the turnover time, it means that a proportion of the aggregate capital must always be set free from being engaged in the production process itself.

“It is furthermore evident that, all other circumstances being equal, the magnitude of the released capital grows with the volume of the labour-process or with the scale of production, hence with the development of capitalist production in general. (p 284)

That is so, Marx says, for two reasons. One because the scale of production increases, and two because the circulation time increases. The first is invariably true.

“In the first case for instance we had to invest £100 per week. This required £600 for a working period of 6 weeks, £300 for a circulation period of 3 weeks, totalling £900. In that case £300 are released continually. On the other hand if £300 are invested weekly, we have £1,800 for the working period and £900 for the circulation period. Hence £900 for the circulation period. Hence £900 instead of £300 are periodically set free.” (p 284)

The second is not. The same processes that raise productivity in production, also raise it in circulation. Moreover, the introduction of other means, such as credit, to be discussed later, also reduce the period of circulation.

D) Viewed abstractly, it doesn't matter whether a capital of £900 works for 6 weeks, and then lies fallow for 3 weeks of the circulation period, or whether £600 of that capital works for 6 weeks, whilst the other £300 works for the other 3 weeks.

But, in practice it does. Capitalism is premised on continuous production. Stopping production after 6 weeks would mean fixed capital depreciated for instance. Indeed, this is why capital dislikes any kind of stoppage, be it during a part of the day (e.g. over night), week (weekend breaks), or year (holidays). It tries to avoid such stoppages via shift working, continental shifts and weekend working, and by staggered holidays.

“This continuity is itself a productive power of labour. “ (p 285)

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