Vol III: Part 5 Chapter 23: Interest and Profit Enterprise

What’s the relationship of interest to productive labour? How do rates of interest become established?

Marx argues that interest lies outside the movement of industrial capital, referring us back to the original formulas outlined in volumes I and II concerning the motion of circuits. Borrowers (presuming they are active capitalists) accrue profits – “the fruit of merely functioning with capital”; and lenders accrue interest – “the fruit of property in capital” (p498). Interest-bearing capital is capital as property, as contrasted with capital as function. Historically, interest-bearing capital is seen as ready-made subordinate form of surplus value.  “If the gross profit is equal to the average profit, the size of profit of enterprise is determined exclusively by the rate of interest” (p496) Transformation into money capital depends upon the presence of people to buy and valorise the means of production (p501). The proportion of the capitalist class who seek to act as money capitalists effects the value of interest at any given time.

“Interest therefore simply expresses the fact that value in general – objectified labour in its general social form – value that assumes the form of means of production in the actual production process, confronts living labour-power and is the means of appropriating unpaid labour; and it is this power in so far as it confronts the worker as the property of another”. (p503)

Bosses come to see interest rates as their wages (p504) – see more discussion on this in chapter 24 notes.

Labour-Power is bought for its inherent ability to create value. Capital is much the same, it is the “thing of its borrower”, whether or not the capitalist uses it as capital, when set in motion it has the inherent property of producing surplus value. “What he pays for in both cases is the surplus value inherently contained in the commodity of capital as a potentiality.” (p505)

The last part of the chapter makes an interesting argument about the visibility of the boss – and the social character that work assumes. Once attained a certain level of development, capitalism attains a certain motion with its particular disciplinary functions. We raised different ways of reading on this final section (see p511) – is this a simple critique of the “large landlord” present in cooperatives or/also perhaps Marx is referring to latent social relations beyond capitalism (tending towards some readings of the Grundrisse).


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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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