Capital II. Chapter 16: The turnover of variable capital

In this chapter Marx introduces the focus on the surplus value contained in commodity capital.

The observations made in this chapter relate particularly to chapters 4 (the General Formula for Capital) and 23 (Simple Reproduction) from Capital Volume I.

Part 1. The annual rate of surplus value

The values of variable and fixed capital reappear as portions of the value of the commodities produced. Marx notes that the difference between fixed and variable capital is that the former enters into the production process in its old form over various turnover periods (p.370).

The annual rate of surplus value is rate of surplus value produced per turnover multiplied by the number of turnovers of variable capital in a year.

The mass of surplus value obtained per turnover period is the value of variable capital advanced over that same period.

The ratio between advanced and applied variable capital relates to the turnover period.

“The circumstances that differentiate the ratio between the advanced and the applied variable capital affect the production of surplus-value – at a given rate of profit – only in so far as they differentiate the amount of variable capital which can actually be applied in a definite period of time, eg. One week, five weeks etc.”

Turned on its head, the annual rate for capital is the same as the annual rate of surplus value (p.376).

Part 2. Turnover of an individual variable capital

The size of money capital that must be advanced in order to set an amount of labour-power in motion is affected by the timing of the transference of value into money-form. While this doesn’t affect the creation of surplus value (which can only happen when workers are at work), it does affect the rate at which surplus value is created (p.387).

Part 3. The turnover of variable capital considered from the social point of view

Marx draws out his examples to indicate how wages are paid, after the first turnover occurs, “with the money form of their own value product”.

Of course the faster the turnover, the shorter the period where the capitalist has to invest their own funds and furthermore, the magnitude of capital that needs to be invested initially may vary greatly depending on the pace of turnover (and also before it begins to pay for itself).

Awesome figurative statement: ‘In a communist society…’ (p. 390)

Credit and speculation

p.390 demand and supply, prices rise

p.391 wages and unemployment

Apologies that these notes are unfinished, in the interest of consistency I’ve posted them anyway (feel free to add, revise and so on)


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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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