Sunday, 23 October 2016

Capital III, Chapter 49 - Part 6

The value of the constant capital consumed in the production of any commodity, and so of the social commodity-capital, reappears in the value of that commodity. It does not require additional labour to ensure that this value is transformed.

“For it has already been demonstrated in Book I (Kap. V) [English edition: Ch. VII.—Ed.] ("The Labour Process and the Process of Producing Surplus-Value") how the old value remains simultaneously preserved in the product through the mere addition of new labour, although this does not reproduce the old value and does no more than add to it, creates merely additional value; but that this results from labour, not in so far as it is value-creating, i.e., labour in general, but in its function as definite productive labour. Therefore, no additional labour was necessary to preserve the value of the constant portion in the product in which the revenue, i.e., the entire value created during the year, is expended.” (p 835-6)

In other words, in the labour process, whereby any new commodity is produced, the expenditure of labour in the abstract creates new value, but the very fact that this is an expenditure of labour is simultaneously an expenditure of concrete labour is sufficient to ensure that the existing value of the constant capital is transferred.

For example, suppose a tailor has £100 of constant capital in the shape of cloth, thread and needles. They work for 50 hours turning them into suits. This 50 hours of concrete tailoring labour may be the equivalent of 100 hours of abstract labour, if it is complex rather than simple labour. As such it may produce a new value of £100. But, the very act of performing concrete tailoring labour is itself sufficient to have preserved the value of the constant capital, so that it is transferred to the value of the suits. They then have a value of £100 from the constant capital, and £100 of new value created by the 100 hours of abstract labour.

However, the quantity of labour performed here is irrelevant to the fact of the preservation of the value of the constant capital. Suppose the tailor had worked faster, and produced the suits in 40 hours, the value of the constant capital of £100 would just as equally have been preserved and thereby transferred to the final product. It is only where no labour is undertaken that the value of the constant capital is not preserved. Material that is never processed into a final product ultimately deteriorates, its use value diminishes, as a result of this depreciation, and so, therefore, does its value. It then represents a capital loss that cannot be recovered. This, in fact, is the difference between depreciation and wear and tear. The former represents a capital loss that cannot be recovered, the latter is the transfer of a portion of the use value, and so value of fixed capital, as a consequence of the production process, into the produced commodity, and, therefore, a value that is recovered in its price.

So, no additional labour is required to ensure that the value of constant capital is preserved and transferred to the value of the final product, apart from that which is undertaken to create this new product and new value. But, the physical constant capital that is consumed in this process must itself be reproduced, or else production in the next year could not proceed on the same scale.

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