Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 49

“It is evident, however, that if the length of the working-day is given, the value of the annual product of the labour of one million men will differ greatly according to the different amount of constant capital that enters into the product; and that, despite the growing productivity of labour, the value of this product will be greater where the constant capital forms a large part of the total capital, than under social conditions where it forms a relatively small part of the total capital. With the advance in the productivity of social labour, accompanied as it is by the growth of constant capital, a relatively ever increasing part of the annual product of labour will, therefore, fall to the share of capital as such, and thus property in the form of capital (apart from revenue) will be constantly increasing and proportionately that part of value which the individual worker and even the working class creates, will be steadily decreasing, compared with the product of their past labour that confronts them as capital.” (p 416) 

This is the basis of Marx's Law of the Tendency For The Rate of Profit To Fall. But, it is also the basis of the growing alienation of labour, and increasing separation of workers, individually, from the possibility of owning their means of production

“The alienation and the antagonism between labour-power and the objective conditions of labour which have become independent in the form of capital, thereby grow continuously. (Not taking into account the variable capital, i.e., that part of the product of the annual labour which is required for the reproduction of the working class; even these means of subsistence, however, confront them as capital.)” (p 416) 

The basis of the real subordination of labour arose as a result of this fact that the growth of the division of labour meant that labour-power could only be sold as factory labour. The labourer could no longer exist as an independent commodity producer, because their labour was no longer capable of producing a complete commodity for sale. The labourers had first been led to submit to capital in the form of the putting out system, because individually some of these labourers found they were unable to buy the raw materials required for production, and so were supplied with them by merchants. As this capitalist production expanded, so the petty commodity producers themselves found that they could not compete. 

But, as, in a range of spheres, today, technological development means that the cost of fixed capital has fallen dramatically, whilst, in a whole range of activities, the processing of raw materials is not involved, so this opens the door for some labourers, once more, to operate as petty commodity producers. For example, a singer, writer, musician, artist, film maker, video games programmer is able to operate with very cheap computer technology, and requires next to nothing in the way of raw materials to produce a commodity that they can sell to a wide global audience, at next to no distribution cost, via the Internet. 

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