Precis Of Das Kapital Essay, Research Paper Introduction: Karl Marx: the political economist, revolutionary, and the philosopher, was one of themost influential thinkers of the nineteenth century. Few men have caused such heated debate,manifest through the continued arguments of pro and anticommunists, as he has done.
Precis Of Das Kapital Essay, Research Paper
labour-power he purchased with his good money on the open market. But how does the capitalist bring about the valorization of the value of the threecommodities he purchased for the labour (value-creating) process? The answer is he doesn t. Surplus-value (capital in valorized form) is produced the moment the labour process isprolonged beyond the point where it yields a simple equivalent for the purchased value of labour-power. As Marx notes: If we now compare the process of creating value with the process of valorization, we see that the latter is nothing but the continuation of the former beyond a certain point. If the process is not carried beyond the point where the value paid by the capitalist for the labour-power is replaced by an exact equivalent, it is simply a process of creating value; but if it is continued beyond that point, it becomes a process of valorization. Surplus value, then, is created as a result from . . . a quantitative excess of labour, from alengthening of one and the same labour process. The organic composition of capital is exposed at this point in the discourse. The part ofcapital that the capitalist purchases . . . the raw material, the auxiliary material and theinstruments of labour, [which] does not undergo any quantitative alteration of value in theprocess of production . . . is what Marx calls constant capital . The other part, which is usedto purchase the labour-power, and which does undergo a change in value in the process ofproduction, is called variable capital . This organic composition of capital can be representedas C (capital) = c (constant capital) + v (variable capital). Upon completion of the process ofproduction, i.e., after valorization and hence creation of surplus-value, the equation becomes C’ = (c+v) +s (surplus-value). The rate of surplus-value, or the rate at which capital valorizesitself, therefore, is calculated by the formula s / v. During the working day, the worker performs two different types of labour. The firsttype, which involves the necessity of replenishment of the worker s living costs, so that he isable to survive (read, work again tomorrow ), is called necessary labour-time . This is thepart of the working day that the worker is paid the value of his labour-power. The second part,which does not reflect any value in the eyes of the worker, (as he has already been paid), and bywhich capital is able to valorize in the form of surplus-value, is called surplus-labour time . The rate of surplus-value can be calculated either by using the aforementioned formula s /v, or using the formula surplus-labour / necessary labour. The rate surplus-value is therefore anexact expression for the degree of exploitation of labour-power by capital, or of the worker bythe capitalist. Despite the fact that the working day can vary in duration, it can only do so within certainlimits. There are physical and social limits imposed on the length of the working day. On theone hand, the worker must be able to ensure that his body is able to return to work, which meanseating, sleeping, drinking, etc. On the other hand, he must also have time to satisfy hisintellectual and social obligations. However, since the rate of surplus value is determined by theamount of surplus labour-time exploited from the worker by the capitalist during the workingday, and the capitalist wishes to see the highest rate of surplus-value possible, the drive by thecapitalist to lengthen the working day, thereby increasing the amount of surplus labour-time, isunceasing. The limit is stretched continuously, testing the boundaries of what is sociallyacceptable in terms of the length of the working day; while at the same time however, the workerresists this elasticity by demanding that his employer not deviate from what is the sociallyacceptable duration. After all, since his labour-power is sold by him as a commodity withexchange-value, which presupposes the embodiment of an amount of socially acceptable labour-time, he wants nothing more than to receive equal exchange for his commodity, which isdetermined according to socially average standards. Hence, in the history of capitalistproduction, the establishment of a norm for the working day presents itself as a struggle over thelimits of that day, a struggle between collective capital, i.e. the class of capitalists, and collectivelabour, i.e. the working class. This struggle results in a vision of the working class, by capital, as a massive unit of labour-power, hence labour, hence surplus labour-time, hence surplus-value,personified. Therefore, the working class is considered as an object (rather than as persons) asa means to an end. It would seem that the capitalist holds the upper hand, in light of our discourseheretofore. To be sure, the working class as a whole is worse off than the capitalist class. It isfor this concern that Marx comes to the conclusion that the working class must . . . put theirheads together and, as a class, compel the passing of a law, an all-powerful social barrier bywhich they can be prevented from selling themselves and their families into slavery and death byvoluntary contract with capital. If the rate of surplus-value is calculated by s / v, then we can expand the formula toincorporate a mass number of workers, in co-operation with each other, under the guidance andemploy of one capitalist. The resulting formula is, S (mass of surplus-value) = (s / v)V (thevalue of average labour power). Large scale industry will emerge from this logic as massnumbers of workers can be exploited simultaneously, thereby increasing the amount of surplus-value attained by the capitalist. The co-operation of many workers under one roof offers many advantages to thecapitalist. If lights, heat, water, building maintenance, in short, the cost of housing the means ofproduction is incorporated into the constant portion of capital, and the capitalist can decreasethis amount by bringing his whole operation under one roof, then he can lower the value of hiscommodity. This is favourable since he can sell his commodity for a lesser price than hiscompetitors for the moment, while still receiving the same surplus-value, relatively, as hiscounterparts. In short, the capitalist can alter the ratio of surplus-value to the total capitaladvanced. In addition, decreasing the cost of commodities (for the capitalist class as a whole) isbeneficial since the value of labour-power will also decrease as wage-goods cheapen. Capitaltherefore has an immanent drive, and a constant tendency, toward increasing the productivity oflabour, in order to cheapen commodities and, by cheapening commodities, to cheapen theworker himself. Co-operation is the fundamental form of the capitalist mode of productionand is evident in the methods of manufacture. Manufacture can arise either out of (1), combining workers of various trades together inthe production of a particular commodity (heterogeneous manufacture), or (2), combiningtradesmen of one type together in production of a particular commodity (organic manufacture). In any case, the . . . final form is always the same a productive mechanism whose organs arehuman beings. By virtue of employing mass numbers of workers simultaneously, the manufacture donein a co-operative effort operates under a social division of labour. Modern manufacture is theclassical shape that the division of labour assumes. For example, the production in an auto plantincorporates many different tasks to be performed simultaneously in order to produce a vehicleat optimum productivity. Thus, the commodity ceases to be the product of individual craftsmen. Rather, it becomes the . . . social product of a union of craftsmen, each of whom performs one,and only one of the constituent partial operations. The implication for the craftsmen, resulting from their limited participation in producinga commodity which previously had been done by their hands from start to finish, is that theybecome disinterested in their work because they become alienated from the finished product. That is to say, they no longer hold the pride in their work that they once did. However, thedivision of labour in manufacture benefits capital, in terms of its rate of self-valorization becauseit promotes specialization of specific tasks, which in turn increases productivity. Since there aredifferent levels of specialization, manufacture creates a . . . hierarchy of labour-powers, towhich there corresponds a scale of wages. Such a hierarchy will undoubtedly create a stronglevel of competition among labourers, which will naturally increase productivity and further thedomination of capital over the worker. Not only does the process of production, through manufacture, result in specializedlabour, it consequently produces tools that are also specialized. The famous Tim the tool man Taylorism, You need the right tool for the job helps explain the need for specialized tools,namely, that these tools promote increased productivity. The benefits enjoyed by the capitalist as a result of organizing his means of productionsuch as in the case of manufacture, are conversely and equally ghastly to the workers. As therate of necessary labour-time decreases, and capital valorizes increasingly, the worker, ofnecessity, is being exploited and dominated by the capitalist to an increasing degree. It is the continuous drive for capitalists to increase productivity that gives rise to newmethods of production (such as manufacture and large-scale industry), as well as newtechnological advances. Machines are created to do the job faster and therefore producecommodities more cheaply. The machine is a means for producing surplus-value. Machines consist of three parts. The first is the motor mechanism, or the driving force ofthe machine. The second is the transmitting mechanism, which regulates the motion of themachine. Finally, the machine has a tool or working machine, of which the worker uses tooperate it. In large-scale industry, the collective machine takes the place of the collective workerbecause the machine produces cheaper commodities. Also, machines do not have a cost ofliving as the worker does. This will decrease the amount of necessary labour-time in theworking day, indeed nearly eliminating variable capital! Again, machines benefit the capitalist,while at the same time they are detrimental to the worker, as the latter is threatened byincreasing unemployment. Increasing unemployment furthers increased domination of capitalover the worker since the workers compete against each other for limited job-slots. Machines do not create value, as workers do. Because they are to be considered asspecialized tools, they merely transfer their value to the commodity produced. The productivityof a machine is determined by the amount of human labour-power it replaces. The purpose foremploying machines is therefore not to create value, but to cheapen the value of the product andthus reduce the value of labour-power, in addition to creating more surplus-value. In the eventthat the machine employed costs more than the worker s labour-power which it replaces, themachine s purpose is not fulfilled it fails to create a greater amount of surplus-value and isuseless to the process. As stated earlier, the incorporation of the machine in manufacture generates greatadvantages to the capitalist. It produces greater surplus-value, if it s a good machine, than theworker can because it decreases the value of commodities through increased productivity. Therefore it also cheapens the cost of variable capital, since the cost of living for the worker ischeaper. Perhaps most importantly it solidifies the dominance of capital over the working class. On the other hand, the worker opposes the machine since it minimizes the need forphysical strength in production, allowing for the employment of physically weaker workers namely, women and children. Since more family members are working (of necessity), the costof living for a family is spread out over more earners so the value of labour-power will decreaseon a per person basis. The result for the family dynamic is startling relationships within thefamily are changed as less time is spent as a family. Earlier, the alienation of the worker to hisproduct, to the capitalist, to other workers and to the work itself, was illustrated. Now, we canadd the alienation of the worker to his family. Not even the sanctity of the family is spared bycapital s lust for self-valorization. The length of the working day is also affected by large-scale industry. This follows fromthe quality of the work in terms of its taxation on the worker in the physical sense. In short, thework is not as physically demanding as it was before the introduction of the machine, therefore,the working day can be lengthened. Another reason that the working day can be extended isbecause the machines used are continuously subject to being outperformed by newer, bettermachines. Hence, the capitalist tries to get his money out of his purchased machine as quickly aspossible. The longer the working day is, then, the shorter period of time it will take for themachine to produce its value to the capitalist. The use of machines destroys the previous technical aspect of labour evident in pettycommodity production. Marx says, In the handicrafts and manufacture, the worker makes useof a tool; in the factory, the machine makes use of him. Practically speaking, the factory produces additional problems for the workers. Theworking conditions are very poor in the factory. The economical use of the social means of production, matured and forced as in a hothouse by the factory system, is turned in the hands of the capital into a systemic robbery of what is necessary for the life of the worker while he is at work, i.e. space, light, air and protection against the dangerous or the unhealthy concomitants of the production process. As a comment regarding our discourse so far: If we have been following the argumentclosely, we may be (rightfully) scratching our heads. If capitalism requires the consumption oflabour-power, which produces surplus-value, as its fundamental precondition for existence, andthe worker is no longer able to sell his labour power, which produces surplus-value, because heis chronically unemployed, how then (ultimately) can the capitalist mode of production sustainitself? The logic can be laid out in simple, chain form: If machines oust the workers, then thereis no longer variable capital to be purchased. If there is no variable capital available, then nosurplus-value can be created. If no surplus-value can be created, then the system, by definition,is not a capitalist system (i.e., it cannot exist as such). But machines are ousting the workers. Therefore, the capitalist system is one which is unsustainable as the . . . reproduction, [the]perpetuation of the worker, is the absolutely necessary condition for capitalist production. The instrument of labour, when it takes the form of a machine, immediately becomes a competitor of the worker himself. The self-valorization of capital by means of the machine is related directly to the number of workers whose conditions of existence have been destroyed by it. The whole system of capitalist production is based on the worker s sale of his labour-power as a commodity. The division of labour develops this labour- power in a one-sided way, by reducing it to the highly particularized skill of handling a special tool. When it becomes the job of the machine to handle this tool, the use-value of the worker s labour-power vanishes, and with it its exchange-value. The worker becomes unsaleable, like paper money thrown out of currency by legal enactment. The section of the working class thus rendered superfluous by machinery, i.e. converted into a part of the population no longer directly necessary for the self-valorization of capital, either goes under in the unequal contest between the old handicraft and manufacturing production and the new machine production, or else floods all the more easily accessible branches of industry, swamps the labour-market, and makes the price of labour-power fall below its value . . . When machinery seizes on an industry by degrees, it produces chronic misery among the workers who compete with it. Machines present a direct threat to the livelihood, indeed existence of the working classas a whole. The individual worker revolts against this particular form of the means ofproduction because it is the only explicit object he sees, or knows, to be the cause of his misery. In time however, the worker will realize that it is not the machine that is to be blamed for thehardships; it is the system which created them that should be revolted against. Marx believedthat through education of the theory of capital, the working class as a whole could join togetherin revolt against the capitalist system of necessity since the system threatened their veryhides. As a d noument to his treatise, Marx returns to the beginnings of the capitalist system. He answers our curiosity in terms of the origins of the conditions of the capitalist system. Wheredid the worker-capitalist dichotomy emerge in the first place? The answer lies in the history leading up to the capitalist system. In order for there to bea free agent, who is willing to sell his labour-power on the market for a wage, this agent must befree from the means of production. That is to say, he must not be able to produce commoditieson his own. We learned that the organic composition of capital was both labour-power and thematerials and tools for the production of commodities. If the free agent brings the labour-powerto the table naturally, yet he is unable to produce commodities autonomously, then he must bewithout the means of production. Marx tells us, The process which creates the capital-relation is nothing other than the process whichdivorces the worker from the ownership of the conditions of his own labour. Theexpropriation of the agricultural producer from his own soil is the genesis of this process. Thebest illustration of this process of expropriation, for Marx, occurred in England in the latefifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Through a combination of the Crown s seizure of arablelands for the church, and of the great feudal lords reclaiming of their property, in response to thebooming wool industry, A mass of free and unattached proletarians was hurled onto the labour-market by the dissolution of the bands of feudal retainers, who, as Sir James Steuart correctly remarked, everywhere uselessly filled house and castle . Although the royal power, itself a product of bourgeois development, forcibly hastened the dissolution of these bands of retainers in its striving for absolute sovereignty, it was by no means the sole cause of it. It was rather that the great feudal lords, in their defiant opposition to the king and Parliament, created an incomparably larger proletariat by forcibly driving the peasantry from the land, to which the latter had the same feudal title as the lords themselves, and by usurpation of the common lands. The rapid expansion of wool manufacture in Flanders and the corresponding rise in the price of wool in England provided the direct impulse for these evictions. The old nobility had been devoured by the great feudal wars. The new nobility was the child of its time, for which money was the power of all powers. Transformation of arable land into sheep-walks was therefore its slogan. The point of looking back into the history of the evolution of the feudal system into thecapitalist system is to emphasize that the current system is a result of a natural progression. Indue time, the system will collapse due to its unity of contradiction. Either the worker can sit idly(read, working like a dog chasing his own tail ), while the system literally destroys him, or hemust revolt against the system itself, by joining forces with his fellow tail-chasers . The paradox remains however, how, today, as we ve become so dependent upon theproduction of use-value by others, and hence the increasing element of mystery for theindividual, can we begin to revolt? How do I churn butter, or make a chair, or plant potatoes? Perhaps I will do some research on where to start this process right after I finish my shift at thetaxi stand (if I can find time). Shit, this is the ultimate catch twenty-two . . .
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