Capital I. Chapter 9: The Rate of Surplus Value

In Chapter 9 Marx formalises the valorisation process. He introduces the categories: a. rate of surplus-value (324), b. necessary labour (325), c. surplus-labour (325), d. surplus product (338), e. the working day (339). He also makes an early reference to the rate of profit (323, 327). His focus is on the “creation of value” and he puts use-values and nature to one side, emphasising that the latter contributes nothing to value (which is of course purely social). However use-values continue to play a role as the objects that soak-up labour. It seems that a significant aim in this chapter is to show that the use-values of commodities only stand in for values transferred from dead labour and created by living labour; or that the things are inseparable from the relations: that relations appear in things. This might be focus of our discussion, hiding behind the overt formalism of the chapter.

1. The Degree of Exploitation of Labour Power

  • The value of the product exceeds the value of its elements.
  • At the beginning C = c + v; at the end C’ = (c + v) + s. If $410 is laid out on constant capital and $90 is laid out on variable, the total capital advanced is $500. v doubles itself to generate an exceeding value of $90. At the end of the process C’ = (c + v) + s or $590 = $410 + $90 + $90. In other words, C becomes C’; $500 becomes $590.

“…the value of the product over the value of its constituent elements is equal to the valorisation of the value of the capital advanced, or the surplus value produced” (320).

  • Constant capital always refers to the means of production actually consumed, not the value of the means of production as such.
  • The ‘value product’ is the variable capital plus the surplus value, v + s. Nature contributes no value to the product:

“… if there were branchs of industry in which the capitalist could dispense with all means of production made by previous labour … employing only labour-power and materials supplied by nature, if that were the case, there would be no constant capital to transfer to the product” (321).

The value product is the same regardless of the constant capital, because it is only derived from the variable capital, i.e. labour-power.

  • The value product (v + s) can be written v + ∆v. To focus the analysis on the value product the constant capital, c, is indexed to 0, c = 0.
  • “$90 of variable capital” is a contradictory phrase, because the value of variable capital is not static, we cannot say how much its value is and yet we say $90 of variable capital. This because the $90 stands in for, or symbolises, living labour:

“… in the process of production the place of the 90 is taken by labour-power, which sets itself in motion, dead labour is replaced by living labour, something stagnant by something flowing, a constant by a variable” (322).

Marx notes here, that this contradiction expresses “a contradiction immanent in capital production”. What does he mean by this?

  • When businesses account for their profits, the value that reappears (i.e. that replaces what they have laid out) is treated as zero.
  • It is true that use-values are necessarily the objects of labour, the objects that absord the labour performed, but in themselves the do not affect the “creation of value” (323):

“What lucretius says is self-evident: […] out of nothing, nothing can be created. The ‘creation of value’ is the transposition of labour-power into labour. Labour-power itself is, above all else, the material of nature transposed into a human organism” (323fn2).

Here Marx makes first reference to the rate of profit, the ration of the surplus-value to the captial advanced, s/C. This level of concreteness, however, must wait until Volume III.

  • The rate of surplus value. If c = 0, the the value actually produced is v + s. $90 + $90 = $180. This sum “represents the whole of the labour expended during the process” (324). $90 represents the absolute quantity of surplus value. The rate of surplus value expresses this absolute quantity relatively to the variable capital. The rate of surpus value is therefore s/v, 90/90 = %100. The rate of surplus value say how much surplus value will be produced given a variable capital.
  • Necessary labour:

“I call the portion of the working day during which [the reproduction of the variable capital] takes place nessary labour-time, and the labour expended during that time necessary labour; necessary for the worker, because independent of the particular social form of his labour; necessary for the capital and the capitalist world, because the continued existence of the worker is the basis of that world” (325).

  • Surplus Labour:

“During the second part of the labour process, that in which his labour is no longer necessary labour, the worker does indeed expend labour-power, he does work, but his labour is no longer necessary labour, and he creates no value for himself. He creates surplus-value which, for the capitalist, has all the charms of something created out of nothing. This part of the working day I call surplus labour-time, and to the labour expended during that time I give the name of surplus labour” (325).

  • The rate of surplus value is the ratio of surplus to necessary labour. They express the same thing as, first, objectified, and second fluid.
  • It expresses the degree of exploitation of labour, but not its absolute magnitude.
  • This is not the rate of profit, which is the value of the surplus labour over the total capital advanced (s/C).
  • Method: Subtract the constant capital. The remaining value is the only value that has been created. Subtract the surplus-value or variable capital to get the variable capital or surplus value. Divide the surplus by the variable value.
  • Example for Engels’ factory. Rate of surplus value = 153.85. In a 10 hour working day, necessary labour = 3.9, surplus labour = 6.1.
  • Second example.
  • The disribution of the surplus value at this point is irrelevant to the investigation.

2. The Prepresentation of the Value of the Product by Corresponding Proportional Parts of the Product

  • The spinning example (Chapter 7). Rate of surplus value = 100%.
  • The value of the yarn can be broken up into: $30 value of yarn = $24 c + $3 v + $3 s.
  • These component parts can be represented in the body of the 20lb. yarn itself.
  • The 20lb. yarn has a value of $30. 24 of the value is contained in 16lb. of yarn, of which 13.33lb. = $20 worth of cotton and 2.66lb. the $4 worth of spindles destroyed.
  • The 13.33lb. of yarn represents the value of the cotton, $20.
  • The value of 2.66lb. of yarn represents the $4 worth of spindles destroyed.
  • 16lb. contins only the value of the constant capital and none of the value of the variable or the surplus-value.

“In fact when the capitalist has sold it for $24 and, with the money, replaced his means of production it becomes evident that the 16lb. of yarn is nothing more than cotton, spindle-waste and coal in disguise” (330).

  • Of the 20lb. of yarn, 4lb. represent the value-product, the new value created: $6. The 4lb. contains the value of the variable capital and surplus-value and none of the value of the constant capital.
  • 4lb. is equal to the value of the labour consumed plus the new value created: $3 + $3.
  • If 12 labour-hours are contained in $6, 60 labour-hours are contained in $30, or 20lb. of yarn. 48 hour are dead labour, 12 are living labour.
  • The constituent elements of the total value can be seen as values (24 + 3 + 3) or can be represented in use-value produced (16lb. + 2lb. + 2lb.).

“The decomposition of the product is as simple as it is important; this will be seen later when we apply it to complex and hitherto unsolved problems” (331).

  • This breaks the product up into spatial portions. It can also be broken up into temporal portions: the sucessive production of 13.33lb., 2.66lb., 2lb. and 2lb. of yarn can be broken up into 8 hours, 1:36 hours, 1:12 hour and 1:12 hours.

3. Senoir’s Last Hour

  • Senior is asked to defend the length of the working.
  • He concludes that reducing the working day will remove the ‘last hour’ in which profit is made.
  • This results from viewing the worker as producing the total value (both constant and variable) in one working day. Rather they only reproduce the value of their wages and in addition a surplus-value. This can then be represented as the division of the whole working day, not the division of the last two hours of the working day.

4. The Surplus Product

“Since the production of surplus value is the determing purpoe of capitalist production, the size of a given quantity of wealth must be measured, not by the absolute quantity produced, but by the relative magnitude of the surplus product”

  • The sum of necessary and surplus labour is the working day.

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Reading Capital in Sydney records reading notes on Marx's Capital I, II and III, and other bits and pieces.

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