Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Social Working Day - Part 1

The Social Working Day


  1. The working-day, is the hours actually worked by individual workers, in a day. The social working-day is the total amount of hours provided in a day by the working-class as a whole.
  2. The working-day, consists of the normal working-day, plus any overtime worked by the individual worker, whether paid or unpaid. The working day can only be increased, by increasing the amount of time the individual worker works (or what is the same thing, increasing the intensity of the working-day, though as Marx describes this is limited, and tends to move in the opposite direction to the extension of the working-day). The social working-day, however, can be increased simply by employing more workers. If the working-day is 10 hours, and 1 million workers are employed, the social working-day is 10 million hours, but if 2 million workers are employed, the social working-day rises to 20 million hours.
  3. The working-day is divided into necessary labour and surplus labour. The necessary labour, is the amount of labour that the worker must undertake to produce an amount of new value, sufficient to buy the commodities (wage goods) required to reproduce their labour-power. The surplus labour is the amount of labour undertaken in addition to that, which thereby creates surplus value. The social working-day similarly comprises an amount of necessary labour, and surplus labour. For the social working-day, the necessary labour also divides into a necessary product, equal to the products produced by the total amount of necessary labour, and a surplus product, equal to the products produced by the surplus labour. If, the rate of surplus value is 25%, and the working-day divides into 8 hours necessary labour, and 2 hours of surplus labour, then if 1 million workers are employed the social working day divides into 8 million hours of necessary labour, and 2 million hours of surplus labour. The 8 million hours of necessary labour, produces a necessary product (wage goods) required for the reproduction of the workers, whilst the 2 million hours of surplus labour produces a surplus product, which provides a revenue consumed by non-workers. That is it goes as profit of enterprise, rent, interest and taxes, which are spent to buy consumption goods comprising part of the surplus product, as well as to provide the revenue that is converted into new capital, as a result of accumulation. The necessary product comprises the use values that make up the variable-capital, which are bought with the money wages paid to workers, the surplus product comprises the use values that are bought from surplus value, i.e. the necessaries bought by non-workers, the luxuries bought by non-workers, and the means of production accumulated as additional capital.
  4. As social productivity rises, the amount of necessary labour declines, which means that the amount of surplus labour rises. For example, if 1 million people comprise the workforce, and they are employed in agriculture, working a 10 hour day, divided into 8 hours necessary labour, and 2 hours surplus labour, the social working-day divides into 8 million hours of necessary labour, and 2 million hours of surplus labour, with the total social product being divided into a necessary product and surplus product, in the same proportion. Another way of viewing this is that 0.8 million workers are employed producing nothing other than wage goods, whilst 0.2 million workers are employed producing the goods consumed by non-workers. If social productivity rises, so that only 6 hours of necessary labour is required, this is equivalent to 0.2 million workers employed in necessary production being released for other production. They may produce additional luxury goods consumed by non-workers, or they may be employed in some totally new type of production. When productivity in agriculture rose, it meant that not everyone needed be employed totally in providing food, required to feed the total population. It released labour, which could then be employed in other types of production, such as producing clothing, or tools etc.
  5. If social productivity rises, alongside a rise in population, it is similarly possible for the same number of workers to be employed in necessary labour (0.8 million), but for them to produce a larger surplus product. If the total working population rises from 1 million to 2 million, but it's now possible to provide the necessaries required by these 2 million, using only the labour of the same 0.8 million, then surplus labour rises from 0.2 million, to 1.2 million hours.
  6. If social productivity remains constant, so that the rate of surplus value remains constant, the mass of surplus value, and the size of the surplus product rises, in proportion with the rise in the social working-day. In other words, if 1 million workers work a 10 day, the social working-day is 10 million hours. If the rate of surplus value is 25%, the surplus product/value is equal to 2 million hours. If 2 million workers are employed, it rises to 4 million hours.
  7. In the industrial revolution, the male heads of households initially provided the majority of paid labour. Their wages had to provide for the needs of the whole family. As the industrial revolution proceeded, and the demand for labour-power rose sharply, capital responded by lengthening the working-day. It rose to extreme and unsustainable lengths. There are physical limits to the lengthening of the individual working-day. But, capital responded, by increasing the length of the social working-day. It brought the workers' family into the labour process. The necessary working-day (required to reproduce the worker and his family) did not change, but now the actual social working-day rose, because his wife and children also provided labour. If the necessary labour, remained, as above 8 million hours, but, as above, by bringing in the labour of women and children, the workforce goes from 1 million to 2 million workers, so that the social working-day rises from 10 million to 20 million hours, the surplus labour/product/value rises to 1.2 million hours.
  8. When capital accumulates at a more rapid pace, its first response is always to look for additional labour by this increase in the individual and social working-day. Firstly, individual workers are encouraged to work longer hours, either with the inducement of overtime pay, or where possible without. Alternatively, the same effect is achieved by increasing the intensity of labour, via piece-work schemes, speed-up and so on. This type of surplus value is called absolute surplus value, it results from an absolute increase in the length of the individual or social working-day. Other means of increasing absolute surplus value are, as above, to bring additional workers into the workforce. That can be women and children, or peasants and self-employed labourers, or it can come from immigrants, or simply population growth.  Marx describes this in Capital III, Chapter 15,

    "Given the necessary means of production, i.e. , a sufficient accumulation of capital, the creation of surplus-value is only limited by the labouring population if the rate of surplus-value, i.e. , the intensity of exploitation, is given; and no other limit but the intensity of exploitation if the labouring population is given. And the capitalist process of production consists essentially of the production of surplus-value, represented in the surplus-product or that aliquot portion of the produced commodities materialising unpaid labour."
  9. When the social-working day cannot be expanded further, the potential to create additional new value, and thereby additional new absolute surplus value is exhausted. Any additional capital accumulation, represents over-accumulation, because it cannot produce any additional surplus value. The additional capital does not act as capital. i.e. self-expanding value. The mass of capital employed increases, but the mass of surplus value, can no longer be increased, so the rate of surplus value, and the rate of profit fall, as profits are squeezed.
  10. When the social-working day can no longer be expanded, so that no new absolute surplus value can be produced, but capital continues to accumulate, this additional demand for labour-power causes wages to rise. This causes a further squeeze on the rate of surplus value, and rate of profit. This is what Marx defines as a crisis of overproduction. This squeeze on profits arising from the inability to increase the rate of surplus value, and the rise in wages, is the opposite of the conditions that Marx defines as characterising his Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall, where, by contrast, the rate and mass of surplus value rises, due to rising social productivity, and a relative decline in the proportion of employed labour. The conditions which lead to a crisis of overproduction, due to the inability to expand the social-working day, and social surplus product, and the squeeze on profits, this and the rise in wages cause, are described by Marx in Capital III, Chapter 15.
    There would be absolute over-production of capital as soon as additional capital for purposes of capitalist production = 0. The purpose of capitalist production, however, is self-expansion of capital, i.e., appropriation of surplus-labour, production of surplus-value, of profit. As soon as capital would, therefore, have grown in such a ratio to the labouring population that neither the absolute working-time supplied by this population, nor the relative surplus working-time, could be expanded any further (this last would not be feasible at any rate in the case when the demand for labour were so strong that there were a tendency for wages to rise); at a point, therefore, when the increased capital produced just as much, or even less, surplus-value than it did before its increase, there would be absolute over-production of capital; i.e., the increased capital C + ΔC would produce no more, or even less, profit than capital C before its expansion by ΔC. In both cases there would be a steep and sudden fall in the general rate of profit, but this time due to a change in the composition of capital not caused by the development of the productive forces, but rather by a rise in the money-value of the variable capital (because of increased wages) and the corresponding reduction in the proportion of surplus-labour to necessary labour.”
  11. As Marx says, in the above quote, the crisis of overproduction can only be avoided, where the potential to expand the social-working day, and absolute surplus value is exhausted, where the amount of relative surplus value can be increased, i.e. by raising social productivity, so as to reduce the size of the necessary working-day. Crises of overproduction, are a feature of periods of boom, and the period of exuberance that follows them, when capital has expanded mostly on the basis of extensive accumulation, and during which the benefits of previous labour-saving technologies have also been exhausted, as a means of raising productivity. It drives a new round of innovations to produce the new labour-saving technologies required to reduce the length of the necessary working-day, and thereby raise relative surplus value. It is that which leads to the conditions, whereby the rate of surplus value rises, the mass of surplus value rises, but the amount of labour employed relatively declines, which creates the conditions for Marx's law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, as the means by which crises of overproduction are resolved.

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