This chapter considers the emergence of labour-power in the commodified form in capitalism. The expression of the relationship between labour-power and value that we see develop in this chapter is LP-M-C(MS), this presents a class perspective on exchange-value. The point of Chapter 6 is to explain how value is generated through the exploitation of labour by the money owner, this takes shape in the chapter through first defining the concept of labour power, further developing the notion of surplus-value and discussing the measures of LP’s value.
Marx’s “concern with the exchange-value of labor-power at this point is only to show that the origin of surplus-value lies not in cheating the workers during the sale of their labor-power, but rather that it [surplus-value] may occur even in the presence of equal exchange” Cleaver (http://libcom.org/chapter-6-the-sale-and-purchase-of-labour-power).
To begin with Marx re-affirms some points made earlier. These are that use-value and exchange-value forms are not unique to capitalism. Secondly, that money, in its multiple forms, is the definite stage in the development of commodity exchange.
“In order to extract value out of the consumption of a commodity, … the money-owner must … find with-in the sphere of circulation, on the market, a commodity whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption is therefore itself an objectification of labour, hence creation of value” (270).
Labour-power (or labour-capacity) is:
- a commodity sold on the market,
- “the total of mental and physical capabilities” which a person sets in motion to produce use-values,
“the qualitative essence of surplus value” (Cleaver).
We could consider the difference between labour and labour power in this week’s session.
Labour-power is conditional upon the following two points:
1) It must be sold in limited periods (or it would be self-enslavement, the shift from a person as owner of a commodity, ie labour-power, into a commodity him/herself)
2) The owner of labour-power must feel compelled to sell it (272). That is, that he/she has no other commodity for sale.
“In order to become a commodity, the product must cease to be produced as the immediate means of subsistence of the producer himself (sic)” (273).
The value of labour-power is determined by
“the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently also the reproduction of this specific article” (274)
- the capacity of the living individual
- the ability of the source of labour-power to reproduce.
- the means of subsistence. That is, in order to maintain and reproduce, the person selling their labour-power depends on the presence of a means of subsistence. (In extension on the point of self-maintenance, Marx mentions the ability to attain, access and participate in certain cultural practices, regionally and class specific – this is the “historical and moral element” present in the determination of LP’s value).
- Education expenses required for certain LP, “form part of the total value spent in producing it” (276).
Should we incorporate welfare, social security, public education etc. into the investment made by the capitalist in labour power?
“The value of labour-power can be resolved into the value of a definite quality of the means of subsistence. It therefore varies with the value of the means of subsistence, that is, the quantity of labour-time required to reproduce them” (276). It follows then, that when contemplating the value of labour, one incorporates the value of the means of subsistence (277).
“the worker allows credit to the capitalist” (278).
In what ways does the working class give credit to the capitalist today?