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Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading — part 2.5

Summary:
Pauperism and “minus-labour” “It is already contained in the concept of the free labourer, that he is a pauper…“ Pauperism and surplus population play brief but strategic roles in the Grundrisse, appearing in the three fragments on pages 397-423, 604-610, and 704-711, respectively, that all deal with the inverted relationship between necessary labour and the superfluous – the first and third fragments also revolving around disposable time. These two themes – or two moments of the same theme – return with a vengeance in the climactic chapter 25 of Capital, volume 1, “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation.” Closely related to pauperism, at least analytically, is unproductive labour, which Marx gives fleeting attention to in the Grundrisse and relegates to the unpublished “Chapter

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 Pauperism and “minus-labour”

“It is already contained in the concept of the free labourer, that he is a pauper…“

Pauperism and surplus population play brief but strategic roles in the Grundrisse, appearing in the three fragments on pages 397-423, 604-610, and 704-711, respectively, that all deal with the inverted relationship between necessary labour and the superfluous – the first and third fragments also revolving around disposable time. These two themes – or two moments of the same theme – return with a vengeance in the climactic chapter 25 of Capital, volume 1, “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation.”

Closely related to pauperism, at least analytically, is unproductive labour, which Marx gives fleeting attention to in the Grundrisse and relegates to the unpublished “Chapter Six” of Capital. Marx’s “does not belong here” footnote, however, hints at a more prominent role for servant work as a companion to the reserve army, in that, “the creation of surplus labour on the one side corresponds to the creation of minus-labour, relative idleness (or not-productive labour at best), on the other.” In The Source and Remedy, Dilke identified the expansion of the “unproductive classes” as one of the two primary methods by which capital avoided a terminal reduction of the rate of return on investment. Thomas Chalmers celebrated the role of this “disposable population” as a measure of national prosperity. Marx, however, never fully articulated the relationship between the disposable population of servants and the disposable reserve army of the unemployed. Chapter 52 of volume 3 of Capital begins a discussion of classes that ends in the middle of the second page with the note from Engels, “At this point the manuscript breaks off.”

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