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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time XV: “Chapter Six” from the draft manuscripts of Capital

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time XV: “Chapter Six” from the draft manuscripts of Capital The draft “Chapter Six” was preceded by an earlier version of the analysis of formal and real subsumption of labour under capital. That earlier version is 28 pages long in volume 34 of the Marx-Engels Collected Works. “Chapter Six,” proper, is 111 pages long. The earlier version contains one mention of the “labour socially necessary.” The later version contains 12 references to:  socially necessary labour time (3)labour time socially necessarysocially necessary labour (4)objectified labour… socially necessary socially necessary amount of labour timesocially necessary general labour, and quantity of labour socially necessary.Besides “labour socially

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Socially Ambivalent Labour Time XV: “Chapter Six” from the draft manuscripts of Capital

The draft “Chapter Six” was preceded by an earlier version of the analysis of formal and real subsumption of labour under capital. That earlier version is 28 pages long in volume 34 of the Marx-Engels Collected Works. “Chapter Six,” proper, is 111 pages long. The earlier version contains one mention of the “labour socially necessary.” The later version contains 12 references to: 

  • socially necessary labour time (3)
  • labour time socially necessary
  • socially necessary labour (4)
  • objectified labour… socially necessary 
  • socially necessary amount of labour time
  • socially necessary general labour, and 
  • quantity of labour socially necessary.

Besides “labour socially necessary,” the earlier version had one reference to “average labour time necessary” and one to “general social labour time,” which by context appear to refer to socially necessary labour time. 

It is, finally, common to all these forms of capitalist production that, for production to occur in a capitalist way, an ever-growing minimum of exchange value, of money—i.e. of constant capital and variable capital—is required to ensure that the labour necessary to obtain the product is the labour socially necessary, i.e. that the labour required for the production of a single commodity=the minimum amount of labour necessary under average conditions. (p. 107, volume 34)

Later in the same paragraph, Marx identified surplus population as integral to the incessant drive for productivity he called the “real subsumption of labour under capital”:

It is precisely the productivity, and therefore the quantity of production, the numbers of the population and of the surplus population, created by this mode of production, that constantly calls forth new branches of industry, operating with the capital and labour that have been set free. In these branches capital can once again work on a small scale and again pass through the various phases of development required until with the development of capitalist production labour is carried on on a social scale in these new branches of industry as well, and accordingly capital appears again as a concentration of a great mass of social means of production in a single person’s hands. This process is continuous.

With the real subsumption of labour under capital a complete revolution takes place in the mode of production itself, in the productivity of labour, and in the relation — within production — between the capitalist and the worker, as also in the social relation between them. (pp. 107-8)

This last paragraph was reprised almost verbatim in the later draft: 

With the real subsumption of labour under capital there takes place a complete //and a constant, continuous, and repeated // revolution in the mode of production itself, in the productivity of labour and in the relation between capitalist and worker. (p. 439)

After some additional material, the second version also repeats the paragraph that in the earlier version came immediately before the description of real subsumption as a revolution in the mode of production:

The capitalist mode of production develops the productivity of labour, the amount of production, the size of the population, and the size of the surplus population. With the capital and labour thus released, new branches of business are constantly called into existence, and in these capital can again work on a small scale and again pass through the different developments outlined until these new branches of business are also conducted on a social scale. This is a constant process. (p. 440)

The earlier draft is notable for its immediate launch into discussion of the superfluity of all necessary labour that does not produce surplus value. This recalls language from the Grundrisse in “Necessary Labour. Surplus Labour. Surplus Population. Surplus Capital.”

THE REAL SUBSUMPTION OF LABOUR UNDER CAPITAL

Since the purpose of productive labour is not the existence of the worker but the production of surplus value, all necessary labour which produces no surplus labour is superfluous and worthless to capitalist production. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. The same proposition can also be expressed in this way, that all gross product which only replaces the worker’s subsistence (approvisionnement), and produces no net product, is just as superfluous as the existence of those workers who themselves produce no net product or no SURPLUS VALUE—or those who, although they were necessary for the production of SURPLUS VALUE at a given stage of the development of industry, have become superfluous to the production of that SURPLUS VALUE at a more advanced stage of development. Or, in other words, only the number of people profitable to capital is necessary. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. (pp. 104-5)

Again, the passage is reprised in the later version almost verbatim:

Gross and Net Product

(This is perhaps better placed in chapter III of Book III) Since the purpose of capitalist production (and therefore of productive labour) is not the existence of the producer but the production of surplus value, all necessary labour which produces no surplus labour is superfluous and worthless to capitalist production. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. All gross product which only reproduces the worker, i.e. produces no net product (surplus PRODUCE) is just as superfluous as that worker, himself [who produces no surplus value]. Or, if certain workers were necessary for the production of net product at a given stage of the development of production, they become superfluous at a more advanced stage of production, which no longer requires them. Or, in other words, only the number of people profitable to capital is necessary. The same is true for a nation of capitalists. (p. 452-3)

For the most part, the passages referring to socially necessary labour time in “Chapter Six” simply reiterate (or anticipate) the definitions given in chapter one of volume one of Capital. Two passage stand out for their explicit connection of the pursuit of relative surplus value through productivity innovations. Notably, the first passage is the opening paragraph of the section on real subsumption:

The Real Subsumption of Labour under Capital or the Specifically Capitalist Mode of Production

In CHAPTER III we exhaustively analysed how the whole real shape of the mode of production changes with the production of relative surplus value //in the case of the individual capitalist, in so far as he seizes the initiative, it is spurred on by the fact that value = the socially necessary labour time objectified in the product, and therefore [extra] surplus value begins to be created for him once the individual value of his product stands below its social value, and can as a result be sold above its individual value// and how a specifically capitalist mode of production arises (technologically as well), on the basis of which, and with which, there also begins a simultaneous development of the relations of production corresponding to the capitalist production process—relations between the different agents of production, in particular between the capitalist and the wage labourer. (p. 428)

The second passage of interest to this review occurs 14 pages later, after a lengthy digression of supplementary remarks on formal subsumption:

On the one hand this [engaging in production for production’s sake] appears as a law, to the extent that the capitalist who produces on too small a scale would embody in his products more than the quantity of labour socially necessary. It therefore appears as the adequate implementation of the law of value, which first develops completely on the basis of the capitalist mode of production. On the other hand, however, it appears as the drive of the individual capitalist, who endeavours to reduce the individual value of his commodity below its socially determined value in order to break through this law, or to cheat it to gain an advantage for himself. (p. 442)

In the draft “Chapter Six” Marx did exactly what I criticized him for not doing in chapter 12 of volume one of Capital and even more so in chapters 15 and 25: making explicit the connection between his law of value, and consequently socially necessary labour time, and the capitalist drive for extra surplus value through the introduction of machinery. 

Marx did not dwell extensively on surplus population in the two drafts on the subsumption of labour under capital. But he did mention it and he mentioned it in connection with “the labour socially necessary, i.e. that the labour required for the production of a single commodity.”

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