Friday, 18 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 18

The main reason for workers abandoning direct production, for employment in the manufactories was that the agricultural revolution had undermined direct production, in the countryside, which had always relied upon agricultural workers being able to combine both agricultural and industrial production.

For so long as production continued to be undertaken by skilled workers, and it was the skill that was the most significant factor, any of these workers retained the potential for being an independent producer, and even in terms of selling their labour-power, it is this specific concrete labour-power, they are selling.

The worker, at this stage, as Marx says, still confronts the capitalist as an individual supplier of their commodity. But, the more the worker becomes merely one part of the collective, co-operative labour, in the factory, the less this is the case. First, the worker becomes a detail worker, as a result of the division of labour, each one becoming a specialist in one single aspect of the productive process.

Where a worker might previously have been a wheelwright, making all sorts of wheels, in their entirety, they may now spend all their time making only the spokes of a certain type of wheel. But, when capitalism becomes industrial capitalism proper, with the introduction of machines, these machines themselves take over the skilled aspects of the work. A lathe, for example, takes over the skilled task of turning a wooden spoke. The worker then becomes a lathe operator, or operator of a variety of other machines.

Not only then is this kind of labour a specific kind of labour, so that, for example, a lathe operator cannot simply sell items turned on a lathe, but, in order to work at all, the worker must work as a factory labourer, because they are increasingly unable, as an individual worker, to acquire the means of production required. In other words, at this stage workers can only sell their labour-power as factory labour.

The organisation of production, therefore, appears as an act of capital, and not labour, from which springs the idea that production is not possible at all without capital, and by extension the personification of capital – the capitalist.

“Capital itself has a double character, since it consists of commodities:” (p 392)

It is the same dual character as the commodity. It is exchange-value, and yet it is a self-expanding value.

“This [growth] resolves itself into the exchange of a given quantity of materialised labour for a greater quantity of living labour.” (p 392)

Capital buys labour-power at its value. The value of labour-power is equal to a quantity of labour materialised in those commodities required for its reproduction. Capital either buys these commodities and pays them as wages in kind, or else it pays the money equivalent of these commodities, as money wages. But, having done so, this buys for it a greater quantity of labour than is contained in these commodities. This capital also possesses a use value that derives from the fact that it not only absorbs labour, but that it organises labour in such a way as to obtain all of the benefits of its social organisation, as well as all of the potential to develop scientific and technological labour, based upon it.

“Capitalist production first develops on a large scale—tearing them away from the individual independent labourer—both the objective and subjective conditions of the labour-process, but it develops them as powers dominating the individual labourer and extraneous to him.” (p 392)

Capital is productive in the sense that it compels the production of surplus value, via the undertaking of surplus labour, and because it absorbs, appropriates and thereby encourages the power of social labour, for example, by the development and utilisation of science.

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