Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Relative Surplus Value - Summary

  • Relative surplus value is surplus value that is created by reducing the length of the necessary working day.
  • The basis of all surplus value is relative surplus value, because unless labour productivity rises to a level whereby the labourer can produce more in a working-day than is required for the reproduction of their labour-power, no surplus product, or surplus value is possible.
  • Relative surplus value is produced by raising productivity, so that the value of the products required to reproduce labour-power is reduced.
  • This may take the form of a rise in productivity in the production of those actual products, or it may arise, because, for example, the same products can be obtained more cheaply from elsewhere, i.e. via trade. The repeal of the Corn Laws, meant that cheaper corn was imported to Britain, which meant that the value of labour-power fell, as a result of cheaper bread etc.
  • The rise in productivity may come from simply production on a larger scale, or from a greater division of labour, but the major source of relative surplus value is the introduction of machinery, and technology.
  • The introduction of such techniques, by raising productivity, reduces necessary labour, and thereby increases surplus labour, by cheapening wage goods. Even where this rise in productivity is in other spheres, such as the production of raw materials, or machines, this still reduces the price of wage goods, where these machines and raw materials are themselves consumed in the production of those wage goods.
  • There is one other way in which a rise in productivity results in the production of relative surplus value. If one firm in an industry introduces a new machine or technique, so that the labour it employs is more productive than that of other labour employed in the industry, this also results in the production of relative surplus value for this firm. It continues to sell its output at the market value, and so the greater volume of its output means that it is as though the labour it employs is complex labour, i.e. it produces more value per hour than that of other labour employed in the industry. Because, the firm's workers continue to be paid the same wage as other workers in the industry, the firm makes bigger profits, resulting from the appropriation of this relative surplus value, it is as though its workers had to work a smaller necessary working-day to reproduce their wages. This type of relative surplus value disappears when the other firms in the industry adopt the new machine or technique.
  • Relative surplus arising from the use of machinery, often goes along with absolute surplus value.
    • The use of machines leads firms to seek to extend the working-day
    • The use of machines leads to an intensification of labour, because down-time is reduced, compared to hand production, and machines can be speeded up.
    • The introduction of machines that raise productivity creates a relative surplus population so that higher wages, and shorter working-days enjoyed by workers when demand for labour-power was higher, are reversed.
  • Relative surplus value is the basis of Marx's Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall, because it is the rise in productivity that leads to increased relative surplus value, and a higher rate of surplus value, that is also reflected in an increase in the share of the value of raw materials in output compared to labour, that leads to the rise in the technical composition, and thereby organic composition of capital.
  • Relative surplus value is capital's answer to crises of overproduction of capital, caused by changes in the value composition of capital, that arise when capital expands faster than the growth of the social working-day, so that absolute surplus value cannot be expanded further, and may even contract as demand for labour causes wages to rise. A new Innovation Cycle, brings new technologies that raise productivity, and so reduce the value of labour-power, they create a relative surplus population, which means that wages are reduced etc.

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