Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Capital III, Chapter 5 - Part 1

Economy in the Employment of Constant Capital 

Measures to increase absolute surplus value such as extending or intensifying the working-day, whilst employing the same number of workers, reduces the relative value of the constant capital, because the fixed capital is now being worked for longer.

“The volume of the fixed portion of constant capital, such as factory buildings, machinery, etc., remains the same, no matter whether these serve the labour-process 16 or 12 hours. A prolongation of the working-day does not entail any fresh expenditures in this, the most expensive portion of constant capital. Furthermore, the value of the fixed capital is thereby reproduced in a smaller number of turnover periods, so that the time for which it must be advanced to make a certain profit is abbreviated.” (p 77)

Even if workers are paid overtime the saving in respect of the fixed capital can outweigh it so that profit rises, as capital rapidly increased the amount of fixed capital employed. This gave an incentive for capitalists to lengthen the working day.

“"Since in all factories there is a very large amount of fixed capital in buildings and machinery, the greater the number of hours that machinery can be kept at work the greater will be the return." (Reports of Insp. of Fact., 31st October, 1858, p. 8.)” (Note 11,p 77) 

On the other hand, if the length or intensity of the working day is constant, more surplus value can only be produced by employing more workers. But, that would mean not only is more material required for processing, but more tools, or machines will be required, even bigger buildings may be required. On the one hand, the rate of profit may be increased, as the amount of surplus value produced increases, on the other, it is reduced because a larger quantity of constant and variable capital is required to produce it.


“Quite a number of current expenses remain almost or entirely the same whether the working-day is longer or shorter. The cost of supervision is less for 500 working-men during 18 working-hours than for 750 working-men during 12 working-hours. 

"The expense of working a factory 10 hours almost equals that of working it 12." (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1848, p. 37.) 

State and municipal taxes, fire insurance, wages of various permanent employees, depreciation of machinery, and various other expenses of a factory, remain unchanged whether the working-time is long or short. To the extent to which production decreases, these expenses rise as compared to the profit. (Reports of Insp. of Fact., October 1862, p. 19.)” (p 78)

Marx argues that, in practice, the lifetime of the fixed capital is determined by the time required to reproduce its value. In other words, a given amount for wear and tear is transferred to the end product and accumulated in funds for its replacement. The longer or more intense the working-day, the more output in a given time, the more this transferred value is, the sooner the value of the fixed capital is reproduced. This is not always the case, however, as Marx set out in relation to “Moral Depreciation”, there are periods when even new machines have to be scrapped because they have been superseded by far more efficient newer machines. 

The analysis proceeds on the basis that the mass and rate of surplus value are given.

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