Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Production Time

Production time differs from The Working Period, in that the latter refers to the time during which labour is actually being expended, whereas the former refers to the total length of the production process, whether labour is actually being expended or not. In other words, there are some production processes, which require natural processes to be completed, before the final product can take its final form, and enter the circulation period.

Agricultural products are a clear example of that. Seed has to be planted, but then must be left to grow, before plants can be harvested, and food or raw material sent to market. The working period consists of the labour-time required both for planting and for harvesting, even though it is separated in time by several months. The total production time runs from the time of planting to the time that the crop is harvested and sent to market, and it is during all of that time that the circulating capital is tied up, and still in the process of being turned over.

For some crops, this production time can be very extended indeed. For example, in forestry, it may require a century for some trees to reach their mature stage. Its because of this extremely prolonged turnover period, which acts to reduce the annual rate of profit in that industry that has meant that it has usually been undertaken by the state rather than by individual capitalists.

Other labour processes such as those that involve chemical reactions may also have production times that extend beyond the working period. The production of wine, beer and spirits, for example, necessitate not only time for distilling, and fermentation, but also a time for settlement and maturing. Cheese production requires time for similar chemical reactions, as does bakery, and so on.

Many purely chemical processes necessitate time for such reactions to occur. The production of pottery, glass, bricks and so on, require time for materials to cure before being fired, as well as the actual time in the kiln and so on.

It is only the time when labour is being expended when new value is being created. The labour-time required for production only consists of the working period, not the production period. However, because the circulating capital is tied up during all of the period of production, this affects the turnover period, and so the amount of capital, that must be advanced – because the longer it takes for the capital to be turned over, the more must be actually advanced by capital, rather than the advanced capital being returned to be laid out once more – and this means that the annual rate of profit thereby falls.

This is one reason, Marx says, that agricultural labour was always combined with domestic industry, in the past, so that, when labour was not being expended, in agriculture, during the production time of various crops, it was being used productively in other ways, for example to do spinning and weaving, in the peasant's cottage. It is one reason why, under capitalism, agricultural labour is often employed on a precarious and temporary basis, as day labourers, who can be employed only during the necessary working period. It is why, even today, capitalist agriculture relies on cheap imported temporary labour.

Capital has an incentive to continually try to reduce the production time, that is in excess of the working period, because it is time that is not productive of value, and, therefore of surplus value. So, as part of the agricultural revolution, in the 18th century, new breeds of sheep and cattle were introduced that could be made ready for the market in much fewer years than previously; methods of crop rotation were introduced, so that not only was the soil replenished, but immediately after one type of crop was harvested, another could be planted, so that the same piece of land could produce several crops during the year.

No comments: