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Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
Part 3) Relative Surplus Value

//Digression: (On Productive Labour)//

A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we take a closer look at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as “commodities”. This brings with it augmentation of national wealth, quite apart from the personal enjoyment which — as a competent witness, Professor Roscher, [tells] us (see ... ) [209] — the manuscript of the compendium brings to its originator himself. The criminal moreover produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc. ; and all these different lines of business, which form just as many categories of the social division of labour, develop different capacities of the human mind, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them. Torture alone has given rise to the most ingenious mechanical inventions, and employed many honourable craftsmen in the production of its instruments. The criminal produces an impression, partly moral and partly tragic, as the case may be, and in this way renders a “service” by arousing the moral and aesthetic feelings of the public. He produces not only compendia on Criminal Law, not only penal codes and along with them legislators in this field, but also art, belles-lettres, novels, and even tragedies, as not only Mullner’s Schuld and Schiller’s Räuber show, but Oedipus and Richard the Third. The criminal breaks the monotony and everyday security of bourgeois life. In this way he keeps it from stagnation, and gives rise to that uneasy tension and agility without which even the spur of competition would get blunted. Thus he gives a stimulus to the productive forces. While crime takes a part of the redundant population off the labour market and thus reduces competition among the labourers — up to a certain point preventing wages from falling below the minimum — the struggle against crime absorbs another part of this population. Thus the criminal comes in as one of those natural “counterweights” which bring about a correct balance and open up a whole perspective of “useful” occupations. The effects of the criminal on the development of productive power can be shown in detail. Would locks ever have reached their present degree of excellence had there been no thieves? Would the making of bank-notes have reached its present perfection had there been no [V-183] forgers? Would the microscope have found its way into the sphere of ordinary commerce (see Babbage) but for trading frauds? Does not practical chemistry owe just as much to the adulteration of commodities and the efforts to show it up as to the honest zeal for production? Crime, through its ever new methods of attack on property, constantly calls into being new methods of defence, and so is as productive as strikes for the invention of machines. And if one leaves the sphere of private crime: would the world market ever have come into being but for national crime? Indeed, would even the nations have arisen? And has not the Tree of Sin been at the same time the Tree of Knowledge ever since the time of Adam?

In his Fable of the Bees (1705) Mandeville had already shown that every possible kind of occupation is productive, and had given expression to the tendency of this whole line of argument:

* “That what we call Evil in this World, Moral as well as Natural, is the grand Principle that makes us Sociable Creatures, the solid Basis, the Life and Support of all Trades and Employments without exception; there we must look for the true origin of all Arts and Sciences; and the moment Evil ceases, the Society must be spoiled if not totally destroyed."*

Only Mandeville was of course infinitely bolder and more honest than the philistine apologists of bourgeois society.

What strikes us in looking at the division of labour, as with all forms of capitalist production, is the character of the antagonism.

[Firstly.] In the division of labour within the workshop, the workers are quantitatively distributed, in strict system, between the individual operations according to certain numerical proportions, as required by production as a whole, by the product of their combined labours. If instead we look at the whole of society — the social division of labour — there are now too many producers to be found in one branch of business and now in another. Competition, through which the price of a commodity is now raised above its value and now lowered beneath it, constantly adjusts these inequalities and disproportions, but just as constantly reproduces them. It is the movement of commodity prices, mediated by competition, that regulates the distribution of the mass of producers among the specific branches of production, bringing about a constant efflux from, or influx into, particular spheres of production — the so-called law of supply and demand, which on the one hand determines prices, and on the other hand is determined by them. Even without going into this point more closely, one’s eye is immediately struck by the difference between this anarchic distribution of labour within society and the regulated, fixed distribution within the workshop itself.

Secondly. There are different branches of business within society which themselves merely represent the different phases of production a product must pass through in order to attain its ultimate, its final form, the form in which its use value is a finished product, as for example flax cultivation, the spinning of flax, and weaving of linen cloth. These different branches are brought into contact with each other through the circulation of commodities, so that they ultimately cooperate in the manufacture of a product. The flax confronts the spinner [V-184] as a commodity, the yarn confronts the weaver as a commodity. Here the purchase and sale of commodities mediate the connection which exists internally — as an inner necessity — between these branches of production which operate independently of each other. In contrast to this, the division of labour within manufacture presupposes a direct combination of the various operations which provide a particular product. This product first becomes a commodity as a result of these combined operations. But the portion of the product created by each of these partial operations is not converted into a commodity. Here cooperation is not mediated through the product of one process entering into the other process as a commodity and thus causing the divided labours to supplement each other. Instead, the direct combination of labours is the prerequisite here for the entry of their joint product into the market as a commodity.


//After relative surplus value, absolute and relative surplus value are to be considered in combination.[210] Then their proportional rise and fall. After this, or rather before it, the alteration the mode of production itself undergoes in becoming capitalist. No longer a merely formal subsumption of the labour process under capital.[75] The different means whereby capital creates relative surplus value, raises the productive forces, and increases the mass of products, are all social forms of labour; but they appear, even within production, rather as social forms of capital — modes of capital’s existence. So that one not only sees how capital produces, but how capital is itself produced — its own genesis. It then also emerges that this particular form of the social relation of production, the form through which past labour becomes capital, corresponds to a particular stage of development of the material production process, to particular material conditions of production, which are themselves first created historically, conditions of production whose point of departure naturally belongs to a pre-capitalist stage of social production; their formation and development coincides with the genesis of capital itself, until the movement of production starts to take place on the capitalist basis now obtained, from which point there occurs simply an expansion and reproduction of those conditions of production. Moreover, this genesis of capital appears at the same time as a process of divestiture of labour, of alienation, whereby its own social forms are presented as alien powers. Also, in view of the mass of people required by capitalist production, capital appears as a social form, not as a form of the labour of the independent individual. After this we need to show how far capital is productive, which leads on to questions about productive and unproductive labour.[108] Then wages and surplus value as revenue, in general the form of revenue, which we need for the transition to the accumulation of capital. [127] //

Within the workshop, the different operations are separated out systematically, according to a plan, and different workers are assigned to them according to a rule which they are faced with as a compelling and alien law imposed on them from outside. The interconnection of the combined labours, their unity, similarly confronts the individual worker as the will, personal unity, command and overall supervision of the capitalist; just as their own cooperation itself appears to them not as their deed, their own social existence, but as the presence of the capital that keeps them together, as a form of existence of [V-185] capital in the direct production process, the labour process. Within society, in contrast, the division of labour appears free, i.e. in this case accidental, admittedly bound together by an inner connection, which however presents itself as just as much the product of circumstances as of the arbitrary actions of the mutually independent individual commodity producers. Although the division of labour as a specifically capitalist mode of production, the division of labour within the workshop, is essentially different from the division of labour in the whole of society, they condition each other. This means in fact only that large-scale industry and free competition are mutually conditioning forms, creations of capitalist production. Nevertheless, we need to avoid any introduction of competition here, for this is the impact of capitals upon each other, hence already presupposes the development of capital as such.

The commodity, as the most elementary form of wealth, was our point of departure. Commodity and money are both elementary modes of the presence, of the existence, of capital, but they first develop into capital under specific conditions. The formation of capital can only take place on the basis of the production and circulation of commodities, hence at a stage of commerce which is already given, and has already grown to a certain volume, whereas the production and circulation of commodities (which includes the circulation of money) on the contrary by no means require capitalist production for their existence, appearing rather as the necessary, given, historical prerequisite of capitalist production.[20] On the other hand, it is only on the basis of capitalist production that the commodity first becomes the general form of the product, that every product has to assume the form of a commodity, that sale and purchase seize hold of not only surplus production but also subsistence itself, and that the different conditions of production themselves enter extensively into the production process itself as commodities, mediated through sale and purchase. If, therefore, on the one hand the commodity appears as the prerequisite for the formation of capital, on the other hand the commodity, as the general form of the product, appears just as much as essentially the product and result of capital.[60] Products assume in part the form of the commodity under other modes of production. Capital, in contrast, necessarily produces commodities, produces its product as commodity, or it produces nothing. Therefore the general laws formulated in respect of the commodity, e.g. that the value of the commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time contained in it, first come to be realised with the development of capitalist production, i.e. of capital.[70] This demonstrates how even categories belonging to earlier epochs of production receive a specifically distinct character — an historical character — on the basis of a different mode of production.[211]

The conversion of money — which is itself only a converted form of the commodity — into capital only takes place once labour capacity (not the worker) has been converted into a commodity, hence the category of the commodity has already from the outset taken possession of a whole sphere which was otherwise excluded from it. Only when the working mass of the population have ceased to enter the market as commodity producers, and begun to sell, instead of the product of labour, labour itself, or rather their labour capacity, does production in its entire extent, in its entire breadth and depth become the production of commodities, with all products being converted into commodities, and the objective conditions of every individual sphere of production entering into it as themselves commodities. Only on the basis of capital, of capitalist production, does the commodity in fact become the general elementary form of wealth. But this already implies [V-186] that the development of the division of labour in society, where it appears in an accidental form, and the capitalist division of labour within the workshop, condition and produce each other. For the producer to produce commodities alone, i.e. for the use value of the product to exist for him exclusively as a means of exchange, it is necessary that his production should be based entirely on the social division of labour, that he therefore should satisfy only an entirely one-sided need through his production. On the other hand, however, this general production of products as commodities only takes place on the basis of capitalist production and in the measure of its spread. If, for example, capital has not yet taken control of agriculture, a great part of the product will still be produced directly as means of subsistence, not as commodity; a great part of the working population will not yet have been turned into wage labourers, and a great part of the conditions of labour will not yet have been converted into capital.[95]

Capitalist production, hence the division of labour within the workshop according to certain rules, directly increases the free division of labour within society (quite apart from the extension of the sphere of exchange, the world market, conditioned by mass production), by making the labour of a particular number of workers more effective, therefore by constantly setting free a part of the labour force for new kinds of employment and thereby simultaneously developing needs which were so far latent or not present at all, and modes of labour to satisfy those needs. This process is also promoted by the increase of the population, by the cheapening of the means of subsistence required for the reproduction and multiplication of labour capacities; also by the fact that the surplus value, which becomes a part of revenue, now seeks to realise itself in the most diverse use values.

Where the commodity appears as the dominant form of the product, and the individuals, in order to produce anything at all, must produce not merely products, use values, means of subsistence, where the use value of a commodity is for them, rather, simply a material repository of exchange value, a means of exchange, money potentia, where they therefore have to produce commodities, their relation to each other — in so far as the material interchange between their activities, their relation within production generally, comes into consideration — is that of owners of commodities.[20] But just as the commodity first develops in the exchange of commodities — i.e. the circulation of commodities — so also does the owner of commodities develop in the characters of seller and buyer. Sale and purchase, first the representation of the product as commodity, then the representation of the commodity as money and the metamorphosis of the commodity, in which it presents itself in successive stages as commodity, money, and commodity once again, these are the movements through which the production of the mutually independent individuals is socially mediated. The social form of their product and their production, i.e. the social relation into which the commodity producers as such enter, is constituted precisely by the representation of their product as commodity and money, and the acts of sale and purchase, the movements in which their product alternately assumes these different functions.

Therefore, whatever the necessary inner connection arising out of the nature of their needs and the manner of the activities themselves that produce them, which binds together the different use values, hence also the different modes of labour producing them, contained within them, so as to form a whole, a totality, a system of activities and riches — in whatever relation the use value of one commodity as a means of consumption or a means of production is a use value for the other owners of commodities — the social relation into which the owners of commodities enter is the representation of their product as commodity and money, and the movement in which they confront each other as vehicles for the metamorphosis [V-187] of the commodities. So that if the existence of the products for each other as commodities and therefore the existence of the individuals as owners of commodities, further developed as sellers and buyers, in and for itself presupposes the social division of labour — for without this the individuals would not produce commodities but rather directly use values, means of subsistence for themselves — this presupposes further a particular division of social labour, namely a division which is formally absolutely accidental, and is left to the free will and dealings of the commodity producers.

Where this freedom is restricted, the restriction does not come about through the influence of the state or any other external factor, but through the conditions of existence, the characteristics, that make a commodity a commodity. It must possess a use value for society, i.e. the buyers, hence it must satisfy certain real or imagined needs. Here is a basis on which the individual producer of commodities builds, but it is his affair whether he satisfies existing needs or calls forth new ones with his use value, or whether he has miscalculated and produced something useless. His task is to discover a buyer for whom his commodity has a use value. The second condition he has to fulfil is not to utilise more labour in making his commodity than the labour time socially necessary for its production, and this means that he does not need more labour time to produce it than the average producer who is producing the same commodity. The production of the product as a commodity — if the commodity is the necessary form of the product, the general form of production, and hence the satisfaction of the requirements of life is mediated through sale and purchase — therefore necessitates a social division of labour which admittedly rests on a basis of needs, an interconnection of activities, etc., in its content, but in formal terms this interconnection is only mediated through the representation of the product as commodity, the confrontation of the producers with each other as owners of commodities, as sellers and buyers. It therefore appears as on the one hand equally the product of a concealed natural necessity, which appears in the individuals only as a need, a requirement, a capacity, etc., and on the other hand the result of their independent wills, conditioned only by the essence of the product — namely that it must be both use value and exchange value.

On the other hand: the product only assumes the form of the commodity generally — the relation of the producers to each other as sellers and buyers only becomes the social connection that rules over them — where labour capacity has itself become a commodity for its owner, where the worker has therefore become a wage labourer and money has become capital. The social connection between the owner of money and the worker is also only a connection between owners of commodities. [20] The relation is modified, brings forth new social relations, through the specific nature of the commodity the worker has to sell and the peculiar manner in which the buyer consumes it, and equally the special purpose for which he buys it. Capitalist production brings with it, among other things, the division of labour within the workshop, and it is this, like the other means of production employed by capital, which further develops mass production, hence the irrelevance of the use value of the product for the producer, production merely for sale, production of the product [V-188] merely as a commodity.

This explains, therefore, how the free, apparently accidental, uncontrolled division of labour within society, which is left to the commodity producers to deal with at their discretion, corresponds with the systematic, planned, and regulated division of labour within the workshop, which proceeds under the command of capital, and how both develop in step with each other, and produce each other through mutual interaction.

In contrast to this, in forms of society where social division itself appears as a fixed law, an external norm, and is subject to rules, the division of labour, as forming the basis of manufacture, does not take place, or exists only sporadically and in its initial stages.

For example, the guild regulations establish a very low maximum for the number of journeymen a master can set on. This is precisely what prevents him from becoming a capitalist. The division of labour is thereby of itself excluded from the workshop. (This must be dealt with somewhat more extensively.)

Plato’s main argument for the division of labour, that if one person does several different kinds of work, i.e. if he does one or the other of them as a subsidiary occupation, the product must Wait until an occasion offers itself to the worker for dealing with it, whereas the work ought to be determined in the opposite way, by the requirements of the product, has recently been put forward by the bleachers and dyers against their inclusion in the Factory Acts // the Bleaching and Dyeing Works Act came into operation on 1st August 1861 //. For according to the Factory Act, whose provisions in this connection are reproduced for bleaching, etc.,

* “during any meal time which shall form any part of the hour and a half allowed for meals no child, young person, or female shall be employed or allowed to remain in any room in which any manufacturing process is then carried on; and all the young persons and females shall have the time for meals at the same period of the day* (Factory Report for the half year ending 31st Oct. 1861).

* “The bleachers complain of the required uniformity of meal times for them, on the plea that whilst machinery in factories may he stopped without detriment at any moment, and if stopped the production is all that is lost, yet in the various operations of singeing, washing, bleaching, mangling, calendering and dyeing, none of them can be stopped at a given moment without risk of damage ... to enforce the same dinner hour for all the workpeople might occasionally subject valuable goods to the risk of danger from incomplete operations” * (l.c., pp. 21, 22).

(The same dinner hour was fixed because otherwise it would have been impossible to check whether the workers had received their mealtimes at all.)

Different Kinds of Division of Labour

Among peoples which have reached a certain level of civilisation, we meet with three kinds of division of labour: the first, which we shall call general, brings about the division of the producers into agriculturalists, manufacturers, and traders, it corresponds to the three main branches of the nation’s labour; the second, which one [V-189] could call particular, is the division of each branch of labour into species. It is thus, for example, that in primitive industry one needs to distinguish the trade of the ploughman from that of the mineworker, etc. The third division of labour, which one should designate as a division of tasks, or of labour properly so called, is that which grows up in the individual crafts and trades, and which consists in the division made by numerous workers between themselves of the tasks which need to be performed to manufacture a single object of use and commerce, each of them having only one kind of work to perform, not resulting in itself in the production of the whole of the manufactured object; the latter result only occurs thanks to the combination of the labour of all the workers who are occupied in the manufacture of the product. Such is the division of labour which is established in the majority of the manufactories and workshops, where one sees a greater or lesser number of workers engaged in producing a single kind of commodity, all of them carrying out different tasks” (F. Skarbek, Théorie des richesses sociales, 2nd ed., Vol. I, Paris, 1839, pp. 84-86).

“The third kind of division of labour is that which occurs within the workshop itself... It arises from the moment when there emerge capitals destined to establish manufactures and heads of workshops who make all the advances necessary to put the workers to work, and who are able, thanks to their reserves, to wait for the return of the outgoings utilised in the manufacture of the products they provide for exchange” (l.c., pp. [94-]95).

Simple Cooperation

It should be noted further that this partial division of labour can occur even when the workers are engaged in the same task. Masons, for example, engaged in passing bricks from hand to hand to a higher stage of the building, are all performing the same task, and yet there does exist amongst them a sort of division of labour. This consists in the fact that each of them passes the brick through a given space, and, taken together, they make it arrive much more quickly at the required spot than they would do if each of them carried his brick separately to the upper storey” (Skarbek, l.c., pp. 97-98).