Saturday, 25 July 2020

The Civilising Mission of Capital - Summary


  • The Civilising Mission of Capital is a concept set out by Marx in The Grundrisse. It says, essentially, that, because capitalism is forced, by competition, to continually revolutionise production, and so to raise the level of social productivity, it must also continually divert the released capital and labour, resulting from this rising productivity, into new spheres of production. It must continually produce new types of commodities, and continually stimulate new desires amongst consumers for those new commodities. It must also, thereby, develop new types of concrete labour that produces these new products.
  • The labourers must, thereby, be trained and educated so as to have these new skills, and as the workers increasingly become the largest class, and so the largest body of consumers, so an increasing range of these products must be included in the normal consumption of workers, the basis of the value of labour-power. That includes not just the material commodities bought by workers, but increasingly the immaterial commodities, the services such as education, art and culture. Capital necessarily provides the working-class, therefore, with all of these “civilising” influences, as well as greater leisure-time, so that the workers themselves acquire the necessary skills to become the ruling class.
  • The further development of capitalist production means that the initial means of reducing costs, of cheapening prices, and grabbing market share are superseded, as the extraction of relative surplus value, by the raising of social productivity dominates. The development of large-scale socialised capital, means that a change in social relations occurs, the state must become a social-democratic state, planning and regulating the economy, to create the conditions for long-term capital accumulation. The working-class must be drawn into this corporatist state, itself on the basis of it being “civilised” and socialised by absorbing bourgeois ideas and culture.

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