Saturday, 19 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 19

[(B) Productive Labour in the System of Capitalist Production]

“Only bourgeois narrow-mindedness, which regards the capitalist forms of production as absolute forms—hence as eternal, natural forms of production—can confuse the question of what is productive labour from the standpoint of capital with the question of what labour is productive in general, or what is productive labour in general; and consequently fancy itself very wise in giving the answer that all labour which produces anything at all, which has any kind of result, is by that very fact productive labour.” (p 393)

Taken in general, all labour that creates products, use values that someone wants, is absolutely productive, i.e. it produces value. But, as Marx says in Chapter 4, productive labour is based upon relative not absolute productivity. 

“Productivity in the capitalist sense is based on relative productivity—that the worker not only replaces an old value, but creates a new one; that he materialises more labour-time in his product than is materialised in the product that keeps him in existence as a worker. It is this kind of productive wage-labour that is the basis for the existence of capital.” (p 153) 

Capitalism is not based upon the creation of products, but commodities, products created only in order to be sold at a profit. In other words, capitalism is a system, based upon the creation of profit, and so only what creates profit is productive in capitalist terms. 

“Only labour which is directly transformed into capital is productive; that is, only labour which makes variable capital a variable magnitude and consequently [makes the total capital C] equal to C+Δ.” (p 393)

Capital appropriates the productive power of labour, including the productive power that results from co-operative labour, from mental labour, and so on. But, this applies only to the use value of capital. In other words, it affects the physical aspects of the labour process, thereby increasing the quantity of output resulting from that process. 

If 100 handicraft workers, working independently, produce 100 chairs, in a week, but 100 workers working cooperatively, as a result of a division of labour produce 200 chairs in a week, double the number of chairs has been produced, but only the same amount of value has been produced, i.e. 100 weeks of labour.

“Whether a hundred work together, or each one of the hundred works by himself, the value of their product is equal to a hundred days’ labour, whether represented in a large or small quantity of products; that is to say, the productivity of the labour does not affect the value.” (p 393)

The only way this affects value is where this type of production is the exception to the normal labour process. In other words, if production of chairs continues to be undertaken, in the main, by handicraft workers, working independently. Then the individual value of the chairs produced built by the co-operative labour will be half that of their market value. But, this only applies in respect of the production of a particular type of commodity, not between one industry and another.

“As against this, take another branch of production, for example type-setting, in which up to now no machinery is used. Twelve hours in this branch produce just as much value as twelve hours in branches of production in which machinery, etc., is developed to the utmost. Hence labour as producing value always remains the labour of the individual, but expressed in the form of general labour. Consequently productive labour—as labour producing value—always confronts capital as labour of the individual labour-power, as labour of the isolated labourer, whatever social combinations these labourers may enter into in the process of production. While therefore capital, in relation to the labourer, represents the social productive power of labour, the productive labour of the workmen, in relation to capital, always represents only the labour of the isolated labourer.” (p 394)

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