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do: "Princ. of Pol. Econ.," p. 267.)



168 CAPITALIST PRODUCTION



must first be fulfilled. The exchange of commodities of itself
implies no other relations of dependence than those which result
from its own nature. On this assumption, labour-power can appear
upon the market as a commodity, only if, and so far as, its pos-
sessor, the individual whose labour-power it is, offers it for sale, or
sells it, as a commodity. In order that he may be able to do this,
he must have it at his disposal, must be the untrammelled owner
of his capacity for labour, i.e., of his person. l He and the owner
of money meet in the market, and deal with each other as on the
basis of equal rights, with this difference alone, that one is buyer,
the other seller; both, therefore, equal in the eyes of the law.
The continuance of this relation demands that the owner of the
labour-power should sell it only for a definite period, for if he
were to sell it rump and stump, once for all, he would be selling
himself, converting himself from a free man into a slave, from
an owner of a commodity into a commodity. He must constantly
look upon his labour-power as his own property, his own com-
modity, and this he can only do by placing it at the disposal of the
buyer temporarily, for a definite period of time. By this means
alone can he avoid renouncing his rights of ownership over it. 2
The second essential condition to the owner of money finding
labour-power in the market as a commodity is this that the
labourer instead of being in the position to sell commodities in



1 In encyclopaedias of classical antiquities we find such nonsense as
this that in the ancient world capital was fully developed, "except that
the free labourer and a system of credit was wanting." Mommsen also, in his
"History of Rome," commits, in this respect, one blunder after another.

a Hence legislation in various countries fixes a maximum for labour-
contracts. Wherever free labour is the rule, the laws regulate the mode of
terminating this contract. In some States, particularly in Mexico (before the
American Civil War, also in the territories taken from Mexico, and also, as
a matter of fact, in the Danubian provinces till the revolution effected by
Kusa), slavery is hidden under the form of peonage. By means of advances,
repayable in labour, which are handed down from generation to generation,
not onlv the individual labourer, but his family, become, de facto, the prop-
erty of other persons and their families. Juarez abolished peonage. The so-
called Emperor Maximilian re-established it by a decree, which, in the House
of Representatives at Washington, was aptly denounced as a decree for the
re-introduction of slavery into Mexico."! may make over to another the use,
for a limited time, of my particular bodily and mental aptitudes and capabil-
ities; because, in consequence of this restriction, they are impressed with a
character of alienation with regard to me as a whole. But by the alienation
of all my labour-time and the whole of my work, I should be converting the
substance itself, in other words, my general activity and reality, my person,
into the property of another." (Hegel, "Philosophie des Rechts." Berlin,
1840, p. 104, 67.)



THE BUYING AND SELLING OP LABOUR-POWER 169

which his labour is incorporated, must be obliged to offer for sale
as a commodity that very labour-power, which exists only in
his living self.

In order that a man may be able to sell commodities other
than labour-power, he must of course have the means of produc-
tion, as raw material, implements, &c. No boots can be made
without leather. He requires also the means of subsistence. No-
bodynot even "a musician of the future" can live upon
future products, or upon use-values in an unfinished state; and
ever since the first moment of his appearance on the world's stage,
man always has been, and must still be a consumer, both before
and while he is producing. In a society where all products assume
the form of commodities, these commodities must be sold after
they have been produced, it is only after their sale that they can
serve in satisfying the requirements of their producer. The time
necessary for their sale is superadded to that necessary for their
production.

For the conversion of his money into capital, therefore, the
owner of money must meet in the market with the free labourer,
free in the double sense, that as a free man he can dispose of his
labour-power as his own commodity, and that on the other hand
he has no other commodity for sale, is short of everything neces-
sary for the realisation of his labour-power.

The question why this free labourer confronts him in the
market, has no interest for the owner of money, who regards the
labour-market as a branch of the general market for commodities.
And for the present it interests us just as little. We cling to the
fact theoretically, as he does practically. One thing, however,
is clear Nature does not produce on the one side owners of
money or commodities, and on the other men possessing nothing
but their own labour-power. This relation has no natural basis,
neither is its social basis one that is common to all historical
periods. It is clearly the result of a past historical development,
the product of many economic revolutions, of the extinction of a
whole series of older forms of social production.

So, too, the economic categories, already discussed by us,
bear the stamp of history. Definite historical conditions are nee
essary that a product may become a commodity. It must not
be produced as the immediate means of subsistence of the pro-
ducer himself. Had we gone further, and inquired under what cir-
cumstances all, or even the majority of products take the form of
commodities, we should have found that this can only happen
with production of a very specific kind, capitalist production.



170 CAPITALIST PRODUCTION

Such an inquiry, however, would have been foreign to the analy-
sis of commodities. Production and circulation of commodities
can take place, although the great mass of the objects produced
are intended for the immediate requirements of their producers,
are not turned into commodities, and consequently social produc-
tion is not yet by a long way dominated in its length and breadth
by exchange-value. The appearance of products as commodities
pre-supposes such a development of the social division of labour,
that the separation of use-value from exchange-value, a separation
which first begins with barter, must already have been completed.
But such a degree of development is common to many forms of
society, which in other respects present the most varying histori-
cal features. On the other hand, if we consider money, its existence
implies a definite stage in the exchange of commodities. The
particular functions of money which it performs, either as the
mere equivalent of commodities, or as means of circulation, or
means of payment, as hoard or as universal money, point, accord-
ing to the extent and relative preponderance of the one function or
the other, to very different stages in the process of social produc-
tion. Yet we know by experience that a circulation of commodi-
ties relatively primitive, suffices for the production of all these
forms. Otherwise with capital. The historical conditions of its
existence are by no means given with the mere circulation of
money and commodities. It can spring into life, only when the
owner of the means of production and subsistence meets in the
market with the free labourer selling his labour-power. And this
one historical condition comprises a world's history. Capital,
therefore, announces from its first appearance a new epoch in
the process of social production. 1

We must now examine more closely this peculiar commodity,
labour-power. Like all others it has a value. 2 How is that value-
determined?

The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of
every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the
production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this



1 The capitalist epoch is therefore characterised by this, that labour
power takes in the eyes of the labourer himself the form of a commodity which
is his property; his labour consequently becomes wage-labour. On the other
hand, it is only from this moment that the produce of labour universally
becomes a commodity.

2 "The value or worth of a man, is as of all other things his price that
is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power." (Th. Hobbes:
"Leviathan" in Works, Ed Molesworth. Lond. 1839-44, v. iii, p. 76.)



THE BUYING AND SELLING OF LABOUR-POWER 171

special article. So far as it has value, it represents no more than
a definite quantity of the average labour of society incorporated
in it. Labour-power exists only as a capacity, or power of the
living individual. Its production consequently pre-supposes his
existence. Given the individual, the production of labour-power
consists in his reproduction of himself or his maintenance. For
his maintenance he requires a given quantity of the means of sub-
sistence. Therefore the labour-time requisite for the production
of labour-power reduces itself to that necessary for the production
of those means of subsistence; in other words, the value of labour-
power is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the
maintenance of the labourer. Labour-power, however, becomes a
reality only by its exercise; it sets itself in action only by working.
But thereby a definite quantity of human muscle, nerve, brain,
&c., is wasted, and these require to be restored. This increased
expenditure demands a larger income. 1 If the owner of labour-
power works to-day, to-morrow he must again be able to repeat
the same process in the same conditions as regards health and
strength. His means of subsistence must therefore be sufficient
to maintain him in his normal state as a labouring individual.
His natural wants, such as food, clothing, fuel, and housing, vary
according to the climatic and other physical conditions of his
country. On the other hand, the number and extent of his so-called
necessary wants, as also the modes of satisfying them, are them-
selves the product of historical development, and depend there-
fore to a great extent on the degree of civilisation of a country,
more particularly on the conditions under which, and consequent-
ly on the habits and degree of comfort in which, the class of free
labourers has been formed. 2 In contradistinction therefore to
the case of other commodities, there enters into the determination
of the value of labour-power a historical and moral element.
Nevertheless, in a given country, at a given period, the average
quantity of the means of subsistence necessary for the labourer
is practically known.

The owner of labour-power is mortal. If then his appearance
in the market is to be continuous, and the continuous conversion
of money into capital assumes this, the seller of labour-power
must perpetuate himself, "in the way that every living individual

1 Hence the Roman Villieus, as overlooker of the agricultural slaves,
received "more meagre fare than working slaves, because his work was
lighter." (Th. Mommsen, Rom. Geschichte, 1856, p. 810.)

2 Compare W. Th. Thornton; "Over-population and its Remedy,"
Lond., 1846.



172 CAPITALIST PRODUCTION



perpetuates himself, by procreation." 1 The labour-power with-
drawn from the market by wear and tear and death, must be
continually replaced by, at the very least, an equal amount of
fresh labour-power. Hence the sum of the means of subsistence
necessary for the production of labour-power must include the
means necessary for the labourer's substitutes, i.e., his children,
in order that this race of peculiar commodity-owners may perpet-
uate its appearance in the market. 2

In order to modify the human organism, so that it may ac-
quire skill and handiness in a given branch of industry, and
become labour-power of a special kind, a special education or
training is requisite, and this, on its part, costs an equivalent
in commodities of a greater or less amount. This amount varies
according to the more or less complicated character of the
labour-power. The expenses of this education (excessively small
in the case of ordinary labour-power), enter pro tanto into the
total value spent in its production.

The value of labour-power resolves itself into the value of a
definite quantity of the means of subsistence. It therefore varies
with the value of these means or with the quantity of labour
requisite for their production.

Some of the means of subsistence, such as food and fuel, are
consumed daily, and a fresh supply must be provided daily.
Others such as clothes and furniture last for longer periods and
require to be replaced only at longer intervals. One article must
be bought or paid for daily, another weekly, another quarterly,
and so on. But in whatever way the sum total of these outlays
may be spread over the year, they must be covered by the average
income, taking one day with another. If the total of the commodi-
ties required daily for the production of labour-power = A, and
those required weekly =B, and those required quarterly = G, and

. . , 365A-f 52B4- 4C-f&c.

so on, the daily average of these commodities = ! ^^ ! .

Gut)

Suppose that in this mass of commodities requisite for the average
day there are embodied 6 hours of social labour, then there is
incorporated daily in labour-power half a day's average social

1 Petty.

2 "Its (labour's) natural price ... consists in such- a quantity of
necessaries and comforts of life, as, from the nature of the climate, and
the habits of the country, are necessary to support the labourer, and to
enable him to rear such a family as may preserve, in the market, an un-
diminished supply of labour." (R. Torrens: "An Essay on the External
Corn Trade." Lond. 1815, p. 62.) The word labour is here wrongly used
for labour-power.



THE BUYING AND SELLING OP LABOUR-POWER 173

labour, in other words, half a day's labour is requisite for the
daily production of labour-power. This quantity of labour forms
the value of a day's labour-power or the value of the labour-power
daily reproduced. If half a day's average social labour is incor-
porated in three shillings, then three shillings is the price corre-
sponding to the value of a day's labour-power. If its owner therefore
offers it for sale at three shillings a day, its selling price is equal
to its value, and according to our supposition, our friend Money-
bags, who is intent upon converting his three shillings into capi-
tal, pays this value.

The minimum limit of the value of labour-power is deter-
mined by the value of the commodities, without the daily supply
of which the labourer cannot renew his vital energy, consequently
by the value of those means of subsistence that are physically
indispensable. If the price of labour-power fall to this minimum,
it falls below its value, since under such circumstances it can be
maintained and developed only in a crippled state. But the value
of every commodity is determined by the labour-time requisite
to turn it out so as to be of normal quality.

It is a very cheap sort of sentimentality which declares this
method of determining the value of labour-power, a method
prescribed by the very nature of the case, to be a brutal method,
and which wails with Rossi that, "To comprehend capacity for
labour (puissance de travail) at the same time that we make
abstraction from the means of subsistence of the labourers during
the process of production, is to comprehend a phantom (etre de
raison). When we speak of labour, or capacity for labour, we
speak at the same time of the labourer and his means of subsist'
ence, of labourer and wages." 1 When we speak of capacity for
labour, we do not speak of labour, any more than when we speak
of capacity for digestion, we speak of digestion. The latter process
requires something more than a good stomach. When we speak
of capacity for labour, we do not abstract from the necessary
means of subsistence. On the contrary, their value is expressed
in its value. If his capacity for labour remains unsold, the labourer
derives no benefit from it, but rather he will feel it to be a cruel
nature-imposed necessity that this capacity has cost for its pro-
duction a definite amount of the means of subsistence and that
it will continue to do so for its reproduction. He will then agree
with Sismondi: "that capacity for labour ... is nothing unless it
is sold/' 2

1 Rossi. "Cours d'Econ. Polit.," Bruxelles, 1842, p. 370.

2 Sismondi; "Nouv. Princ. etc.," t. I, p. 112.



174 CAPITALIST PRODUCTION



One consequence of the peculiar nature of labour-power as a
commodity is, that its use-value does not, on the conclusion of
the contract between the buyer and seller, immediately pass
into the hands of the former. Its value, like that of every other
commodity, is already fixed before it goes into circulation, since
a definite quantity of social labour has been spent upon it; but
its use-value consists in the subsequent exercise of its force. The
alienation of labour-power and its actual appropriation by the
buyer, its employment as a use-value, are separated by an inter-
val of time. But in those cases in which the formal alienation by
sale of the use-value of a commodity, is not simultaneous with
its actual delivery to the buyer, the money of the latter usually
functions as means of payment. 1 In every country in which the
capitalist mode of production reigns, it is the custom not to pay
for labour-power before it has been exercised for the period fixed
by the contract, as for example, the end of each week. In all
cases, therefore, the use-value of the labour-power is advanced
to the capitalist: the labourer allows the buyer to consume it
before he receives payment of the price; he everywhere gives
credit to the capitalist. That this credit is no mere fiction, is
shown not only by the occasional loss of wages on the bankruptcy
of the capitalist, 2 but also by a series of more enduring conse-
quences. 3 Nevertheless, whether money serves as a means of



1 "All labour is paid after it has ceased." ("An Inquiry into those Prin-
ciples Respecting the Nature of Demand," &c., p. 104.) "Le credit commer-
cial a du commencer au moment oil 1'ouvrier, premier artisan de la produc-
tion, a pu, au moyen de ses economies, attendre le salaire de son travail jusqu'
a la fin de la semaine, de la quinzaiue, du mois, du trimestre, &c." (Ch. Ga-
nilh: "Des Systemes d'Econ. Polit." 2eme edit. Paris, 1821, t. II, p 150.)

2 "L'ouvrier prete son Industrie," but adds Storch slyly: he "risks noth-
ing" except "de perdre son salaire ... 1'ouvrier ne transmet rien de materiel."
(Storch: "Gours d'Econ. Polit." Petersbourg, 1815, t. II., p. 37.)

8 One example. In London there are two sorts of bakers, the "full priced,"
who sell bread at its full value, and the "undersellers," who sell it under
its value. The latter class comprises more than three-fourths of the total
number of bakers, (p. xxxii in the Report of H. S. Tremenheere, commis-
sioner to examine into "the grievances complained of by the journeymen
bakers," &c., Lond. 1862.) The undersellers, almost without exception,
sell bread adulterated with alum, soap, pearl ashes, chalk, Derbyshire stone-
dust, and such like agreeable nourishing and wholesome ingredients. (See
the above cited Blue book, as also the report of "the committee of 1855 on
the adulteration of bread," and Dr. Hassall's "Adulterations Detected,"
2nd Ed. Lond. 1861.) Sir John Gordon stated before the committee of 1855,
that "in consequence of these adulterations, the poor man, who lives on two
pounds of bread a day, does not now get one fourth part of nourishing matter,
let alone the deleterious effects on his health." Tremenheere states (1. c.,
p. xlviii), as the reason, why a very large part of the working-class, although



THE BUYING AND SELLING OF LABOUR-POWER 175

purchase or as .a means of payment, this makes no alteration in
the nature of the exchange of commodities. The price of the la-
bour-power is fixed by the contract, although it is not realised
till later, like the rent of a house. The labour-power is sold, al-
though it is only paid for at a later period. It will, therefore, be
useful, for a clear comprehension of the relation of the parties,
to assume provisionally, that the possessor of labour-power,
on the occasion of each sale, immediately receives the price stip-
ulated to be paid for it.

We now know how the value paid by the purchaser to the
possessor of this peculiar commodity, labour-power, is determined.
The use-value which the former gets in exchange, manifests itself
only in the actual usufruct, in the consumption of the labour-
power. The money-owner buys everything necessary for this
purpose, such as raw material, in the market, and pays for it at
its full value. The consumption of labour-power is at one and
the same time the production of commodities and of surplus-value.
The consumption of labour-power is completed, as in the case of
every other commodity, outside the limits of the market or of



well aware of this adulteration, nevertheless accept the alum, stone-dust,
&c., as part of their purchase: that it is for them "a matter of necessity to
take from their baker or from the chandler's shop, such bread as they choose
to supply." As they are not paid their wages before the end of the week,
they in their turn are unable "to pay for the bread consumed by their tami-
lies during the week, before the end of the week," and Tremenheere adds on
the evidence of witnesses, "it is notorious that bread composed of those mix-
tures is made expressly for sale in this manner." In many English
still more Scotch agricultural districts, wages are paid fortnightly
even monthly; with such long intervals between the payments, the agn
cultural labourer is obliged to buy on credit.... He must pay higher prices,
and is in fact tied to the shop which gives him credit Thus at tformngnaa
in Wilts for example, where the wages are monthly, the same flour that he
could buy elsewhere at Is lOd per stone, costs him 2s 4d per stone ( bixtn
Report" on "Public Health" by "The Medical Officer ol the Privy Council,
&c 1864 " p 264.) "The block printers of Paisley and Kilmaruock enlc
bv a strike, fortnightly, instead of monthly payment of wages."
of the Inspectors of Factories for 31st Oct., 1853," p 34.) As a further pretty
result of the credit given by the workmen to the capitalist, we may rel
the method current In many English coal mines, where the labourer
paid till the end of the month, and in the meantime, receives sums on account
from the capitalist, often in goods for which the miner is obliged to pay
more than the market price (Truck-system). "It is a common practice with
the coal masters to pay once a month, and advance cash to their workmen
the end of each intermediate week. The cash is given in the shop" (i.e.,
Tommy shop which belongs to the master); "the men take it on one side and
lay it out on the other." ("Children's Employment Commission, I 1. Keporl,
Lond. 1864, p. 38, u. 192.)



176 CAPITALIST PRODUCTION



the sphere of circulation. Accompanied by Mr. Moneybags and
by the possessor of labour-power, we therefore take leave for a
time of this noisy sphere, where everything takes place on the
surface and in view of all men, and follow them both into the
hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us
in the face "No admittance except on business." Here we shall
see, not only how capital produces, but how capital is produced.
We shall at last force the secret of profit making.

This sphere that we are deserting, within whose boundaries
the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very
Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom,
Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and
seller of a commodity, say of labour-power, are constrained only
by their own free will. They contract as free agents, and the
agreement they come to, is but the form in which they give legal
expression to their common will. Equality, because each enters
into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodi-
ties, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property,
because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham,
because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings
them together and puts them in relation with each other, is the
selfishness, the gain and the private interests of each. Each looks



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