Copyright: JAI/Elsevier Science,
Amsterdam and New York,
2000, pp. 3-39 (web publication
with publisher's permission)
Abstract: Marx's 1865 lectures offer an
easily accessible summary of his theory, addressed to an English-speaking
audience. However, one weakness
preventing common usage (including classroom use) is the dialogue in the first
twenty pages with one John Weston. This
abridged version stays with the exact words used by Marx, while eliminating
almost all reference to the dialogue with Weston. The currency of that time in its division into three units is
also decimalized into its modern form.
The result is more readable and modern, yet completely faithful to
Table of Contents:
In June 1865, Marx gave two lectures which included many of the theoretical propositions to be published two years later in Capital, Volume 1. These lectures were given in London in English but not published in Marx's lifetime. In April of 1897, the text was found among his papers by his daughter Eleanor Marx Aveling. She felt that it offered an easily accessible summary of Marx's theory which would "make a very popular pamphlet" (letter to Karl Kautsky), and edited it for publication. However, she died shortly before its appearance. Her husband Edward Aveling, an important socialist, provided a "Preface" and indicated his own minor role of numbering and titling of sections. He had it published in London in 1898.
Aveling's "Preface" noted that the lectures demonstrate Marx's "patient willingness to make the meaning of his ideas plain to the humblest student, and the extraordinary clearness of those ideas." He also noted that "in a partial sense the present volume is an epitome of the first volume of Capital. More than one of us have attempted to analyze and simplify that volume, with not too much success perhaps." The text has, furthermore, the advantage of being written in English so there are no issues concerning translation.
Nevertheless, two weaknesses have kept "Value, Price, and Profit" from widely serving as an introduction to Marx's thought (including classroom use). First, the opening twenty some pages are written as a polemic against the arguments of a specific individual, one John Weston. It takes some work to get past that dialogue. Second, the examples use the British currency of that time with its division into three units: Pounds, shillings, and pence. One partial solution is simply to begin reading after the sections debating with Weston, the solution chosen by Eugene Kamenka in his The Portable Marx. But earlier passages helping the context come alive and providing insight into Marx's use of data are thereby excised. And the difficulty experienced by the modern reader with use of the old currency is ignored.
I am offering an abridged version of Marx's text which stays with the exact words used by Marx, while eliminating almost all reference to the debate with Weston. For the examples in the text, the currency is modernized to its decimal equivalent, as mandated in February 1971 by the British government. The title has had added to it the words "An Introduction to the Theory of Capitalism" to reflect the purpose of this abridged edition.
Excised material is indicated by [...] and represents about 63% of the first five sections. From the Section VI beginning with "Citizens, I have now arrived at a point where I must enter upon the real development of the question" to the end of the text, no cuts have been made. The prior material is driven by the dialogue with Weston. Yet some passages here aid understanding and are kept. The subsequent material summarizes Marx's theory. The latter is the part to which Marx himself referred in writing Frederick Engels on June 24, 1865: it "contains many new things in its second part -- in particularly condensed, but relatively popular form -- which anticipates my book".
Where shillings and pence are used as subdivisions of the British Pound, they are decimalized in accordance with the 1971 currency change. Twenty shillings had been one Pound and twelve pence had been a shilling. Afterwards, the shilling was eliminated and one hundred new pence comprised a Pound (rather than 240 old pence for a Pound).1
Since "Value, Price, and Profit" has been widely republished in slightly differing versions (even use of "Wages, Price and Profit" as the title), we should note that the actual text drawn upon here is the original edition published in London in 1898 by Swan Sonnenschein & Co. Our transcription of the text begins from a transcription of a later edition done for the internet by Mike Ballard, May 5, 1995. That transcription is compared to the 1898 London edition, errors are corrected (some not so obvious) and original paragraphing and original capitalizations restored (e.g., "Value of Labor", rather than "value of labor"). The two footnotes at the very beginning and the one footnote at the beginning of Section VII are retained as in the original. Our few footnotes use 1, 2, 3, etc..
In the text, there are places where Marx uses "men" to refer to working people. Although today we would say "workers", or "working women and men", it would be a stretch to rephrase Marx's usage. "Addressed to working men" is omited from underneath Marx's name as it had appeared on the title page of the original, 1898 edition (an omission also made by other publishers). Consistent with modern usage, the two phrases, wages labor and wages system, are replaced by wage labor and wage system, respectively.
Marx indicates fifteen pence (new currency) for one day of labor of twelve hours. Two years later, in Capital, Volume 1, in the first chapter of his Part on "Wages", Marx repeats this same reference wage rate. This value amounts to ninety pence per the then workweek of six days, that is, £46.80 for a 52-week work year if fully employed. Some occupations, particularly female, could earn much less and Marx provides a couple of examples in his chapter on "Time Wages" (i.e., about sixty-five pence weekly on 13+-hour workdays in Scottish bleaching works; twenty-five pence weekly on 15-hour workdays for female hand nail-makers).
What does £46.80 per year in 1865 mean today when an "eight"-hour workday, five-day workweek might yield £10,000 yearly in Britain ($15,000 in the United States) for the lower end, but not lowest end, worker? A House of Commons Library report, "Inflation: the Value of the Pound 1750-1998" (prepared by Robert Twigger, Economic Policy and Statistics Section, Research Paper 99/20, February 23, 1999) calculates a price index of 592.3 for 1998 compared with 8.8 for 1865. This price increase represents a rise by a multiple of 67.3 over the period! Of course, there are many problems with such long-term price-index calculations, centering around the changing lists of items being consumed and the changing qualities of goods consumed (for better or worse). Nevertheless, if we use that factor of 67.3, £46.80 in 1865 corresponds to £3150 in 1998 prices. And the workday is now shorter (although the workday now often excludes mealtimes when in 1865 mealtimes were often included, and time of transportation getting home now is much longer). A real improvement in material standards of living in Britain seems therefore to have taken place. Comparing it to productivity, however, it may well represent a fall, not rise, relative to the productive capacity of those doing the work -- the workers. For example, a productivity increase of just 1.5% yearly represents, over 133 years, an increase by a factor of 7.2 -- far more than a tripling of real earnings suggested by comparing £10,000 to £3150. Or consider workers today in India, Brazil, Kenya, etc., who earn much less yearly than the equivalent of £3150.
I hope that the text below provides an introduction to Marx's theory that is accessible to as wide an English speaking audience as possible, using Marx's own words. It has, I believe, a contemporary sense that makes Marxist theory as relevant now, in a world even more capitalist, as it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Before entering into the subject-matter, allow me to make a few preliminary remarks.
There reigns now on the Continent a real epidemic of strikes, and a general clamor for a rise of wages. The question will turn up at our Congress.[§] You, as the head of the International Association,[**] ought to have settled convictions upon this paramount question. For my own part, I considered it therefore my duty to enter fully into the matter, even at the peril of putting your patience to a severe test.
The will of the capitalist is certainly to take as much as possible [from the workers]. What we have to do is not to talk about his will, but to enquire into his power, the limits of that power, and the character of those limits.
[...] If the working class forces the capitalist class to pay twenty-five pence instead of twenty pence in the shape of money wages, [...]
By what contrivance is the capitalist enabled to return twenty pence' worth for twenty-five pence? By raising the price of the commodity he sells. Now, does a rise and more generally a change in the prices of commodities, do the prices of commodities themselves, depend on the mere will of the capitalist? Or are, on the contrary, certain circumstances wanted to give effect to that will? If not, the ups and downs, the incessant fluctuations of market prices, become an insoluble riddle.
As we suppose that no change whatever has taken place either in the productive powers of labor, or in the amount of capital and labor employed, or in the value of the money wherein the values of products are estimated, but only a change in the rate of wages, how could that rise of wages affect the prices of commodities? Only by affecting the actual proportion between the demand for, and the supply of these commodities.
It is perfectly true that, considered as a whole, the working class spends, and must spend, its income upon necessaries. A general rise in the rate of wages would, therefore, produce a rise in the demand for, and consequently in the market prices of, necessaries. The capitalists who produce these necessaries would be compensated for the risen wages by the rising market prices of their commodities. But how with the other capitalists who do not produce necessaries? And you must not fancy them a small body. If you consider that two-thirds of the national produce are consumed by one-fifth of the population -- a member of the House of Commons stated it recently to be but one-seventh of the population -- you will understand what an immense proportion of the national produce must be produced in the shape of luxuries, or be exchanged for luxuries, and what an immense amount of the necessaries themselves must be wasted upon flunkeys, horses, cats, and so forth, a waste we know from experience to become always much limited with the rising prices of necessaries.
Well, what would be the position of those capitalists who do not produce necessaries? For the fall in the rate of profit, consequent upon the general rise of wages, they could not compensate themselves by a rise in the price of their commodities, because the demand for those commodities would not have increased. Their income would have decreased, and from this decreased income they would have to pay more for the same amount of higher-priced necessaries. But this would not be all. As their income had diminished they would have less to spend upon luxuries, and therefore their mutual demand for their respective commodities would diminish. Consequent upon this diminished demand the prices of their commodities would fall. In these branches of industry, therefore, the rate of profit would fall, not only in simple proportion to the general rise in the rate of wages, but in the compound ratio of the general rise of wages, the rise in the prices of necessaries, and the fall in the prices of luxuries.
What would be the consequence of this difference in the rates of profit for capitals employed in the different branches of industry? Why, the consequence that generally obtains whenever, from whatever reason, the average rate of profit comes to differ in different spheres of production. Capital and labor would be transferred from the less remunerative to the more remunerative branches; and this process of transfer would go on until the supply in the one department of industry would have risen proportionately to the increased demand, and would have sunk in the other departments according to the decreased demand. This change effected, the general rate of profit would again be equalized in the different branches. As the whole derangement originally arose from a mere change in the proportion of the demand for, and supply of, different commodities, the cause ceasing, the effect would cease, and prices would return to their former level and equilibrium. Instead of being limited to some branches of industry, the fall in the rate of profit consequent upon the rise of wages would have become general. According to our supposition, there would have taken place no change in the productive powers of labor, nor in the aggregate amount of production, but that given amount of production would have changed its form. A greater part of the produce would exist in the shape of necessaries, a lesser part in the shape of luxuries, or what comes to the same, a lesser part would be exchanged for foreign luxuries, and be consumed in its original form, or, what again comes to the same, a greater part of the native produce would be exchanged for foreign necessaries instead of for luxuries. The general rise in the rate of wages would, therefore, after a temporary disturbance of market prices, only result in a general fall of the rate of profit without any permanent change in the prices of commodities.
[...] I propose calling your attention to the real rise of wages that took place in Great Britain from 1849 to 1859.
You are all aware of the Ten Hours Bill, or rather Ten-and-a-half Hours Bill, introduced since 1848. This was one of the greatest economical changes we have witnessed. It was a sudden and compulsory rise of wages, not in some local trades, but in the leading industrial branches by which England sways the markets of the world. It was a rise of wages under circumstances singularly unpropitious. Dr. Ure, Professor Senior, and all the other official economical mouthpieces of the middle class, proved, and I must say upon much stronger grounds than those of our friend Weston, that it would sound the death-knell of English industry. They proved that it not only amounted to a simple rise of wages, but to a rise of wages initiated by, and based upon, a diminution of the quantity of labor employed. They asserted that the twelfth hour you wanted to take from the capitalist was exactly the only hour from which he derived his profit. They threatened a decrease of accumulation, rise of prices, loss of markets, stinting of production, consequent reaction upon wages, ultimate ruin. [...] Well, what was the result? A rise in the money wages of the factory operatives, despite the curtailing of the working day, a great increase in the number of factory hands employed, a continuous fall in the prices of their products, a marvelous development in the productive powers of their labor, an unheard-of progressive expansion of the markets for their commodities. In Manchester, at the meeting, in 1860, of the Society for the Advancement of Science, I myself heard Mr. Newman confess that he, Dr. Ure, Senior, and all other official propounders of economical science had been wrong, while the instinct of the people had been right. [... ]
In the very same period during which the introduction of the Ten Hours Bill, and the rise of wages consequent upon it, occurred, there took place in Great Britain, for reasons which it would be out of place to enumerate here, a general rise in agricultural wages.
Although it is not required for my immediate purpose, in order not to mislead you, I shall make some preliminary remarks.
If a man got ten pence weekly wages, and if his wages rose to twenty pence, the rate of wages would have risen by 100 percent. This would seem a very magnificent thing if expressed as a rise in the rate of wages, although the actual amount of wages, twenty pence weekly, would still remain a wretchedly small, a starvation pittance. You must not, therefore, allow yourselves to be carried away by the high sounding percents in rate of wages. You must always ask, What was the original amount?
Moreover, you will understand, that if there were ten men receiving each 10 pence per week, five men receiving each 25 pence, and five men receiving 55 pence weekly, the twenty men together would receive 500 pence, or £5, weekly. If then a rise, say by 20 percent, upon the aggregate sum of their weekly wages took place, there would be an advance from £5 to £6. Taking the average, we might say that the general rate of wages had risen by 25 percent, although, in fact, the wages of the ten men had remained stationary, the wages of the one lot of five men had risen from 25 pence to 30 pence only, and the wages of the other lot of five from £2.75 to £3.50. One half of the men would not have improved at all their position, one quarter would have improved it in an imperceptible degree, and only one quarter would have bettered it really. Still, reckoning by the average, the total amount of the wages of those twenty men would have increased by 25 percent, and as far as the aggregate capital that employs them, and the prices of the commodities they produce, are concerned, it would be exactly the same as if all of them had equally shared in the average rise of wages. In the case of agricultural labor, the standard wages being very different in the different counties of England and Scotland, the rise affected them very unequally.
Lastly, during the period when that rise of wages took place counteracting influences were at work, such as the new taxes consequent upon the Russian war, the extensive demolition of the dwelling-houses of the agricultural laborers, and so forth.
Having premised so much, I proceed to state that from 1849 to 1859 there took place a rise of about 40 percent in the average rate of the agricultural wages of Great Britain. I could give you ample details in proof of my assertion, but for the present purpose think it sufficient to refer you to the conscientious and critical paper read in 1860 by the late Mr. John C. Morton at the London Society of Arts on "The Forces used in Agriculture." Mr. Morton gives the returns, from bills and other authentic documents, which he had collected from about one hundred farmers, residing in twelve Scotch and thirty-five English counties.
According to our friend Weston's opinion, and taken together with the simultaneous rise in the wages of the factory operatives, there ought to have occurred a tremendous rise in the prices of agricultural produce during the period 1849 to 1859. But what is the fact? Despite the Russian war, and the consecutive unfavourable harvests from 1854 to 1856, the average price of wheat, which is the leading agricultural produce of England, fell from about £3 per quarter for the years 1838 to 1848 to about £2.50 per quarter for the years 1849 to 1859. This constitutes a fall in the price of wheat of more than 16 percent simultaneously with an average rise of agricultural wages of 40 percent. During the same period, if we compare its end with its beginning, 1859 with 1849, there was a decrease of official pauperism from 934,419 to 860,470, the difference being 73,949; a very small decrease, I grant, and which in the following years was again lost, but still a decrease.
[...] What are high wages and what are low wages? Why constitute, for example, twenty-five pence weekly low, and one Pound weekly high wages? If twenty-five pence is low as compared with one Pound, one Pound is still lower as compared with ten Pounds. If a man was to lecture on the thermometer, and commenced by declaiming on high and low degrees, he would impart no knowledge whatever. He must first tell me how the freezing-point is found out, and how the boiling-point, and how these standard points are settled by natural laws, not by the fancy of the sellers or makers of thermometers. Now, in regard to wages and profits, Citizen Weston has not only failed to deduce such standard points from economical laws, but he has not even felt the necessity to look after them. He satisfied himself with the acceptance of the popular slang terms of low and high as something having a fixed meaning, although it is self-evident that wages can only be said to be high or low as compared with a standard by which to measure their magnitudes.
He will be unable to tell me why a certain amount of money is given for a certain amount of labor. If he should answer me, "This was settled by the law of supply and demand," I should ask him, in the first instance, by what law supply and demand are themselves regulated. And such an answer would at once put him out of court. The relations between the supply and demand of labor undergo perpetual change, and with them the market prices of labor. If the demand overshoots the supply wages rise; if the supply overshoots the demand wages sink, although it might in such circumstances be necessary to test the real state of demand and supply by a strike, for example, or any other method. But if you accept supply and demand as the law regulating wages, it would be as childish as useless to declaim against a rise of wages, because, according to the supreme law you appeal to, a periodical rise of wages is quite as necessary and legitimate as a periodical fall of wages. If you do not accept supply and demand as the law regulating wages, I again repeat the question, why a certain amount of money is given for a certain amount of labor?
But to consider matters more broadly: You would be altogether mistaken in fancying that the value of labor or any other commodity whatever is ultimately fixed by supply and demand. Supply and demand regulate nothing but the temporary fluctuations of market prices. They will explain to you why the market price of a commodity rises above or sinks below its value, but they can never account for the value itself. Suppose supply and demand to equilibrate, or, as the economists call it, to cover each other. Why, the very moment these opposite forces become equal they paralyze each other, and cease to work in the one or other direction. At the moment when supply and demand equilibrate each other, and therefore cease to act, the market price of a commodity coincides with its real value, with the standard price round which its market prices oscillate. In inquiring into the nature of that value, we have therefore nothing at all to do with the temporary effects on market prices of supply and demand. The same holds true of wages and of the prices of all other commodities.
Reduced to their simplest theoretical expression, all our friend's arguments resolve themselves into this one dogma: "The prices of commodities are determined or regulated by wages."
What do we mean by saying that the prices of the commodities are determined by wages? Wages being but a name for the price of labor, we mean that the prices of commodities are regulated by the price of labor. As "price" is exchangeable value -- and in speaking of value I speak always of exchangeable value -- is exchangeable value expressed in money, the proposition comes to this, that "the value of commodities is determined by the value of labor," or that "the value of labor is the general measure of value."
The dogma that "wages determine the price of commodities," expressed in its most abstract terms, comes to this, that "value is determined by value," and this tautology means that, in fact, we know nothing at all about value. Accepting this premise, all reasoning about the general laws of political economy turns into mere twaddle. It was, therefore, the great merit of Ricardo that in his work on The Principles of Political Economy, published in 1817, he fundamentally destroyed the old, popular, and worn-out fallacy that "wages determine prices," a fallacy which Adam Smith and his French predecessors had spurned in the really scientific parts of their researches, but which they reproduced in their more exoterical and vulgarizing chapters.
Citizens, I have now arrived at a point where I must enter upon the real development of the question. I cannot promise to do this in a very satisfactory way, because to do so I should be obliged to go over the whole field of political economy. I can, as the French would say, but "effleurer la question," touch upon the main points.
The first question we have to put is: What is the value of a commodity? How is it determined?
At first sight it would seem that the value of a commodity is a thing quite relative, and not to be settled without considering one commodity in its relations to all other commodities. In fact, in speaking of the value, the value in exchange of a commodity, we mean the proportional quantities in which it exchanges with all other commodities. But then arises the question: How are the proportions in which commodities exchange with each other regulated?
We know from experience that these proportions vary infinitely. Taking one single commodity, wheat, for instance, we shall find that a quarter of wheat exchanges in almost countless variations of proportion with different commodities. Yet, its value remaining always the same, whether expressed in silk, gold, or any other commodity, it must be something distinct from, and independent of, these different rates of exchange with different articles. It must be possible to express, in a very different form, these various equations with various commodities.
Besides, if I say a quarter of wheat exchanges with iron in a certain proportion, or the value of a quarter of wheat is expressed in a certain amount of iron, I say that the value of wheat and its equivalent in iron are equal to some third thing, which is neither wheat nor iron, because I suppose them to express the same magnitude in two different shapes. Either of them, the wheat or the iron, must, therefore, independently of the other, be reducible to this third thing which is their common measure.
To elucidate this point I shall recur to a very simple geometrical illustration. In comparing the areas of triangles of all possible forms and magnitudes, or comparing triangles with rectangles, or any other rectilinear figure, how do we proceed? We reduce the area of any triangle whatever to an expression quite different from its visible form. Having found from the nature of the triangle that its area is equal to half the product of its base by its height, we can then compare the different values of all sorts of triangles, and of all rectilinear figures whatever, because all of them may be resolved into a certain number of triangles.
The same mode of procedure must obtain with the values of commodities. We must be able to reduce all of them to an expression common to all, and distinguishing them only by the proportions in which they contain that identical measure.
As the exchangeable values of commodities are only social functions of those things, and have nothing at all to do with the natural qualities, we must first ask, What is the common social substance of all commodities? It is Labor. To produce a commodity a certain amount of labor must be bestowed upon it, or worked up in it. And I say not only Labor, but Social Labor. A man who produces an article for his own immediate use, to consume it himself, creates a product, but not a commodity. As a self-sustaining producer he has nothing to do with society. But to produce a commodity, a man must not only produce an article satisfying some social want, but his labor itself must form part and parcel of the total sum of labor expended by society. It must be subordinate to the Division of Labor within Society. It is nothing without the other divisions of labor, and on its part is required to integrate them.
If we consider commodities as values, we consider them exclusively under the single aspect of realized, fixed, or , if you like, crystallized social labor. In this respect they can differ only by representing greater or smaller quantities of labor, as, for example, a greater amount of labor may be worked up in a silken handkerchief than in a brick. But how does one measure quantities of labor? By the time the labor lasts, in measuring the labor by the hour, the day, etc. Of course, to apply this measure, all sorts of labor are reduced to average or simple labor as their unit.
We arrive, therefore, at this conclusion. A commodity has a value, because it is a crystallization of social labor. The greatness of its value, or its relative value, depends upon the greater or less amount of that social substance contained in it; that is to say, on the relative mass of labor necessary for its production. The relative values of commodities are, therefore, determined by the respective quantities or amounts of labor, worked up, realized, fixed in them. The correlative quantities of commodities which can be produced in the same time of labor are equal. Or the value of one commodity is to the value of another commodity as the quantity of labor fixed in the one is to the quantity of labor fixed in the the other.
I suspect that many of you will ask, Does then, indeed, there exist such a vast, of any difference whatever, between determining the values of commodities by wages, and determining them by the relative quantities of labor necessary for their production? You must, however, be aware that the reward for labor, and quantity of labor, are quite disparate things. Suppose, for example, equal quantities of labor to be fixed in one quarter of wheat and one ounce of gold. I resort to the example because it was used by Benjamin Franklin in his first Essay published in 1721, and entitled A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency, where he, one of the first, hit upon the true nature of value. Well. We suppose, then, that one quarter of wheat and one ounce of gold are equal values or equivalents, because they are crystalizations of equal amounts of average labor, of so many days' or so many weeks' labor respectively fixed in them. In thus determining the relative values of gold and corn, do we refer in any way whatever to the wages of the agricultural laborer and the miner? Not a bit. We leave it quite indeterminate how their day's or their week's labor was paid, or even whether wage labor was employed at all. If it was, wages may have been very unequal. The laborer whose labor is realized in the quarter of wheat may receive two bushels only, and the laborer employed in mining may receive one-half of the ounce of gold. Or, supposing their wages to be equal, they may deviate in all possible proportions from the values of the commodities produced by them. They may amount to one-half, one third, one-fourth, one-fifth, or any other proportional part of the one quarter of corn or the one ounce of gold. Their wages can, of course, not exceed, not be more than the values of the commodities they produced, but they can be less in every possible degree. Their wages will be limited by the values of the products, but the values of their products will not be limited by the wages. And above all, the values, the relative values of corn and gold, for example, will have been settled without any regard whatever to the value of the labor employed, that is to say, to wages. To determine the values of commodities by the relative quantities of labor fixed in them, is, therefore, a thing quite different from the tautological method of determining the values of commodities by the value of labor, or by wages. This point, however, will be further elucidated in the progress of our inquiry.
In calculating the exchangeable value of a commodity we must add to the quantity of labor last employed the quantity of labor previously worked up in the raw material of the commodity, and the labor bestowed on the implements, tools, machinery, and buildings, with which such labor is assisted. For example, the value of a certain amount of cotton-yarn is the crystallization of the quantity of labor added to the cotton during the spinning process, the quantity of labor previously realized in the cotton itself, the quantity of labor realized in the coal, oil, and other auxiliary substances used, the quantity of labor fixed in the steam-engine, the spindles, the factory building, and so forth. Instruments of production properly so-called, such as tools, machinery, buildings, serve again and again for a longer or shorter period during repeated processes of production. If they were used up at once, like the raw material, their whole value would at once be transferred to the commodities they assist in producing. But as a spindle, for example, is but gradually used up, an average calculation is made, based upon the average time it lasts, and its average waste or wear and tear during a certain period, say a day. In this way we calculate how much of the value of the spindle is transferred to the yarn daily spun, and how much, therefore, of the total amount of labor realized in a pound of yarn, for example, is due to the quantity of labor previously realized in the spindle. For our present purpose it is not necessary to dwell any longer upon this point.
It might seem that if the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labor bestowed upon its production, the lazier a man, or the clumsier a man, the more valuable his commodity, because the greater the time of labor required for finishing the commodity. This, however, would be a sad mistake. You will recollect that I used the word "Social labor," and many points are involved in this qualification of "Social." In saying that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labor worked up or crystalized in it, we mean the quantity of labor necessary for its production in a given state of society, under certain social average conditions of production, with a given social average intensity, and average skill of the labor employed. When, in England, the power-loom came to compete with the hand-loom, only half the former time of labor was wanted to convert a given amount of yarn into a yard of cotton or cloth. The poor hand-loom weaver now worked seventeen or eighteen hours daily, instead of the nine or ten hours he had worked before. Still the product of twenty hours of his labor represented now only ten social hours of labor, or ten hours of labor socially necessary for the conversion of a certain amount of yarn into textile stuffs. His product of twenty hours had, therefore, no more value than his former product of ten hours.
If then the quantity of socially necessary labor realized in commodities regulates their exchangeable values, every increase in the quantity of labor wanted for the production of a commodity must augment its value, as every diminution must lower it.
If the respective quantities of labor necessary for the production of the respective commodities remained constant, their relative values also would be constant. But such is not the case. The quantity of labor necessary for the production of a commodity changes continuously with the changes in the productive powers of the labor employed. The greater the productive powers of labor, the more produce is finished in a given time of labor; and the smaller the productive powers of labor, the less produce is finished in the same time. If, for example, in the progress of population it should become necessary to cultivate less fertile soils, the same amount of produce would be only attainable by a greater amount of labor spent, and the value of agricultural produce would consequently rise. On the other hand, if, with the modern means of production, a single spinner converts into yarn, during one working day, many thousand times the amount of cotton which he could have spun during the same time with the spinning wheel, it is evident that every single pound of cotton will absorb many thousand times less of spinning labor than it did before, and, consequently, the value added by spinning to every single pound of cotton will be a thousand times less than before. The value of yarn will sink accordingly.
Apart from the different natural energies and acquired working abilities of different peoples, the productive powers of labor must principally depend: --
Firstly. Upon the natural conditions of labor, such as fertility of soil, mines, and so forth.
Secondly. Upon the progressive improvement of the Social Powers of Labor, such as are derived from production on a grand scale, concentration of capital and combination of labor, subdivision of labor, machinery, improved methods, appliance of chemical and other natural agencies, shortening of time and space by means of communication and transport, and every other contrivance by which science presses natural agencies into the service of labor, and by which the social or co-operative character of labor is developed. The greater the productive powers of labor, the less labor is bestowed upon a given amount of produce; hence the smaller the value of the produce. The smaller the productive powers of labor, the more labor is bestowed upon the same amount of produce; hence the greater its value. As a general law we may, therefore, set it down that: --
The values of commodities are directly as the times of labor employed in their production, and are inversely as the productive powers of the labor employed.
Having till now only spoken of Value, I shall add a few words about Price, which is a peculiar from assumed by value.
Price, taken by itself, is nothing but the monetary expression of value. The values of all commodities of this country, for example, are expressed in gold prices, while on the Continent they are mainly expressed in silver prices. The value of gold or silver, like that of all other commodities, is regulated by the quantity of labor necessary for getting them. You exchange a certain amount of your national products, in which a certain amount of your national labor is crystallized, for the produce of the gold and silver producing countries, in which a certain quantity of their labor is crystallized. It is in this way, in fact by barter, that you learn to express in gold and silver the values of all commodities, that is the respective quantities of labor bestowed upon them. Looking somewhat closer into the monetary expression of value, or what comes to the same, the conversion of value into price, you will find that it is a process by which you give to the values of all commodities an independent and homogeneous form, or by which you express them as quantities of equal social labor. So far as it is but the monetary expression of value, price has been called natural price by Adam Smith, "prix nécessaire" by the French physiocrats.
What then is the relation between value and market prices, or between natural prices and market prices? You all know that the market price is the same for all commodities of the same kind, however the conditions of production may differ for the individual producers. The market price expresses only the average amount of social labor necessary, under the average conditions of production, to supply the market with a certain mass of a certain article. It is calculated upon the whole lot of a commodity of a certain description.
So far the market price of a commodity coincides with its value. On the other hand, the oscillations of market prices, rising now over, sinking now under the value or natural price, depend upon the fluctuations of supply and demand. The deviations of market prices from values are continual, but as Adam Smith says: "The natural price is the central price to which the prices of commodities are continually gravitating. Different accidents may sometimes keep them suspended a good deal above it, and sometimes force them down even somewhat below it. But whatever may be the obstacles which hinder them from settling in this center of repose and continuance, they are constantly tending towards it."
I cannot now sift this matter. It suffices to say that if supply and demand equilibrate each other, the market prices of commodities will correspond with their natural prices, that is to say with their values, as determined by the respective quantities of labor required for their production. But supply and demand must constantly tend to equilibrate each other, although they do so only by compensating one fluctuation by another, a rise by a fall, and vice versa. If instead of considering only the daily fluctuations you analyze the movement of market prices for longer periods, as Mr. Tooke, for example, has done in his History of Prices, you will find that the fluctuations of market prices, their deviations from values, their ups and downs, paralyze and compensate each other; so that apart from the effect of monopolies and some other modifications I must now pass by, all descriptions of commodities are, on the average, sold at their respective values or natural prices. The average periods during which the fluctuations of market prices compensate each other are different for different kinds of commodities, because with one kind it is easier to adapt supply to demand than with the other.
If then, speaking broadly, and embracing somewhat longer periods, all descriptions of commodities sell at their respective values, it is nonsense to suppose that profit, not in individual cases, but that the constant and usual profits of different trades spring from the prices of commodities, or selling them at a price over and above their value. The absurdity of this notion becomes evident if it is generalized. What a man would constantly win as a seller he would as constantly lose as a purchaser. It would not do to say that there are men who are buyers without being sellers, or consumers without being without being producers. What these people pay to the producers, they must first get from them for nothing. If a man first takes your money and afterwards returns that money in buying your commodities, you will never enrich yourselves by selling your commodities too dear to that same man. This sort of transaction might diminish a loss, but would never help in realizing a profit.
To explain, therefore, the general nature of profits, you must start from the theorem that, on an average, commodities are sold at their real values, and that profits are derived from selling them at their values, that is, in proportion to the quantity of labor realized in them. If you cannot explain profit upon this supposition, you cannot explain it at all. This seems paradox and contrary to every-day observation. It is also paradox that the earth moves round the sun, and that water consists of two highly inflammable gases. Scientific truth is always paradox, if judged by every-day experience, which catches only the delusive appearance of things.
Having now, as far as it could be done in such a cursory manner, analyzed the nature of Value, of the Value of any commodity whatever, we must turn our attention to the specific Value of Labor. And here, again, I must startle you by a seeming paradox. All of you feel sure that what they daily sell is their Labor; that, therefore, Labor has a Price, and that, the price of a commodity being only the monetary expression of its value, there must certainly exist such a thing as the Value of Labor. However, there exists no such thing as the Value of Labor in the common acceptance of the word. We have seen that the amount of necessary labor crystallized in a commodity constitutes its value. Now, applying this notion of value, how could we define, say, the value of a ten hours working day? How much labor is contained in that day? Ten hours' labor. To say that the value of a ten hours working day is equal to ten hours' labor, or the quantity of labor contained in it, would be a tautological and, moreover, a nonsensical expression. Of course, having once found out the true but hidden sense of the expression "Value of labor," we shall be able to interpret this irrational, and seemingly impossible application of value, in the same way that, having once made sure of the real movement of the celestial bodies, we shall be able to explain their apparent or merely phenomenal movements.
What the working man sells is not directly his Labor, but his Laboring Power, the temporary disposal of which he makes over to the capitalist. This is so much the case that I do not know whether by the English Laws, but certainly by some Continental Laws, the maximum time is fixed for which a man is allowed to sell his laboring power. If allowed to do so for any indefinite period whatever, slavery would be immediately restored. Such a sale, if it comprised his lifetime, for example, would make him at once the lifelong slave of his employer.
One of the oldest economists and most original philosophers of England -- Thomas Hobbes -- has already, in his Leviathan, instinctively hit upon this point overlooked by all his successors. He says: "The value or worth of a man is, as in all other things, his price: that is so much as would be given for the Use of his Power."
Proceeding from this basis, we shall be able to determine the Value of Labor as that of all other commodities.
But before doing so, we might ask, how does this strange phenomenon arise, that we find on the market a set of buyers, possessed of land, machinery, raw material, and the means of subsistence, all of them, save land in its crude state, the products of labor, and on the other hand, a set of sellers who have nothing to sell except their laboring power, their working arms and brains? That the one set buys continually in order to make a profit and enrich themselves, while the other set continually sells in order to earn their livelihood? The inquiry into this question would be an inquiry into what the economists call "Previous or Original Accumulation," but which ought to be called Original Expropriation. We should find that this so-called Original Accumulation means nothing but a series of historical processes, resulting in a Decomposition of the Original Union existing between the Laboring Man and his Instruments of Labor. Such an inquiry, however, lies beyond the pale of my present subject. The Separation between the Man of Labor and the Instruments of Labor once established, such a state of things will maintain itself and reproduce itself upon a constantly increasing scale, until a new and fundamental revolution in the mode of production should again overturn it, and restore the original union in a new historical form.
What, then, is the Value of Laboring Power?
Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labor necessary to produce it. The laboring power of a man exists only in his living individuality. A certain mass of necessaries must be consumed by a man to grow up and maintain his life. But the man, like the machine, will wear out, and must be replaced by another man. Beside the mass of necessaries required for his own maintenance, he wants another amount of necessaries to bring up a certain quota of children that are to replace him on the labor market and to perpetuate the race of laborers. Moreover, to develop his laboring power, and acquire a given skill, another amount of values must be spent. For our purpose it suffices to consider only average labor, the costs of whose education and development are vanishing magnitudes. Still I must seize upon this occasion to state that, as the costs of producing laboring powers of different quality differ, so must differ the values of the laboring powers employed in different trades. The cry for an equality of wages rests, therefore, upon a mistake, is an insane wish never to be fulfilled. It is an offspring of that false and superficial radicalism that accepts premises and tries to evade conclusions. Upon the basis of the wage system the value of laboring power is settled like that of every other commodity; and as different kinds of laboring power have different values, or require different quantities of labor for their production, they must fetch different prices in the labor market. To clamour for equal or even equitable retribution on the basis of the wage system is the same as to clamour for freedom on the basis of the slavery system. What you think just or equitable is out of the question. The question is: What is necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production?
After what has been said, it will be seen that the value of laboring power is determined by the value of the necessaries required to produce, develop, maintain, and perpetuate the laboring power.
Now suppose that the average amount of the daily necessaries of a laboring man require six hours of average labor for their production. Suppose, moreover, six hours of average labor to be also realized in a quantity of gold equal to 15 pence. Then 15 pence would be the Price, or the monetary expression of the Daily Value of that man's Laboring Power. If he worked daily six hours he would daily produce a value sufficient to buy the average amount of his daily necessaries, or to maintain himself as a laboring man.
But our man is a wage laborer. He must, therefore, sell his laboring power to a capitalist. If he sells it at 15 pence daily, or 90 pence weekly, he sells it at its value. Suppose him to be a spinner. If he works six hours daily he will add to the cotton a value of 15 pence daily. This value, daily added by him, would be an exact equivalent for the wages, or the price of his laboring power, received daily. But in that case no surplus value or surplus produce whatever would go to the capitalist. Here, then, we come to the rub.
In buying the laboring power of the workman, and paying its value, the capitalist, like every other purchaser, has acquired the right to consume or use the commodity bought. You consume or use the laboring power of a man by making him work, as you consume or use a machine by making it run. By buying the daily or weekly value of the laboring power of the workman, the capitalist has, therefore, acquired the right to use or make that laboring power during the whole day or week. The working day or the working week has, of course, certain limits, but those we shall afterwards look more closely at.
For the present I want to turn your attention to one decisive point.
The value of the laboring power is determined by the quantity of labor necessary to maintain or reproduce it, but the use of that laboring power is only limited by the active energies and physical strength of the laborer. The daily or weekly value of the laboring power is quite distinct from the daily or weekly exercise of that power, the same as the food a horse wants and the time it can carry the horseman are quite distinct. The quantity of labor by which the value of the workman's laboring power is limited forms by no means a limit to the quantity of labor which his laboring power is apt to perform. Take the example of our spinner. We have seen that, to daily reproduce his laboring power, he must daily reproduce a value of fifteen pence, which he will do by working six hours daily. But this does not disable him from working ten or twelve or more hours a day. But by paying the daily or weekly value of the spinner's laboring power the capitalist has acquired the right of using that laboring power during the whole day or week. He will, therefore, make him work say, daily, twelve hours. Over and above the six hours required to replace his wages, or the value of his laboring power, he will, therefore, have to work six other hours, which I shall call hours of surplus labor, which surplus labor will realize itself in a surplus value and a surplus produce. If our spinner, for example, by his daily labor of six hours, added fifteen pence' value to the cotton, a value forming an exact equivalent to his wages, he will, in twelve hours, add thirty pence' worth to the cotton, and produce a proportional surplus of yarn. As he has sold his laboring power to the capitalist, the whole value of produce created by him belongs to the capitalist, the owner pro tem. of his laboring power. By advancing fifteen pence, the capitalist will, therefore, realize a value of thirty pence, because, advancing a value in which six hours of labor are crystallized, he will receive in return a value in which twelve hours of labor are crystalized. By repeating this same process daily, the capitalist will daily advance fifteen pence and daily pocket thirty pence, one half of which will go to pay wages anew, and the other half of which will form surplus value, for which the capitalist pays no equivalent. It is this sort of exchange between capital and labor upon which capitalistic production, or the wage system, is founded, and which must constantly result in reproducing the working man as a working man, and the capitalist as a capitalist.
The rate of surplus value, all other circumstances remaining the same, will depend on the proportion between that part of the working day necessary to reproduce the value of the laboring power and the surplus time or surplus labor performed for the capitalist. It will, therefore, depend on the ratio in which the working day is prolonged over and above that extent, by working which the working man would only reproduce the value of his laboring power, or replace his wages.
We must now return to the expression, "Value, or Price of Labor."
We have seen that, in fact, it is only the value of the laboring power, measured by the values of commodities necessary for its maintenance. But since the workman receives his wages after his labor is performed, and knows, moreover, that what he actually gives to the capitalist is his labor, the value or price of his laboring power necessarily appears to him as the price or value of his labor itself. If the price of his laboring power is fifteen pence, in which six hours of labor are realized, and if he works twelve hours, he necessarily considers these fifteen pence as the value or price of twelve hours of labor, although these twelve hours of labor realize themselves in a value of thirty pence. A double consequence flows from this.
Firstly. The value or price of the laboring power takes the semblance of the price or value of labor itself, although, strictly speaking, value and price of labor are senseless terms.
Secondly. Although one part only of the workman's daily labor is paid, while the other part is unpaid, and while that unpaid or surplus labor constitutes exactly the fund out of which surplus value or profit is formed, it seems as if the aggregate labor was paid labor.
This false appearance distinguishes wage labor from other historical forms of labor. On the basis of the wage system even the unpaid labor seems to be paid labor. With the slave, on the contrary, even that part of his labor which is paid appears to be unpaid. Of course, in order to work the slave must live, and one part of his working day goes to replace the value of his own maintenance. But since no bargain is struck between him and his master, and no acts of selling and buying are going on between the two parties, all his labor seems to be given away for nothing.
Take, on the other hand, the peasant serf, such as he, I might say, until yesterday existed in the whole of East of Europe. This peasant worked, for example, three days for himself on his own field or the field allotted to him, and the three subsequent days he performed compulsory and gratuitous labor on the estate of his lord. Here, then, the paid and unpaid parts of labor were sensibly separated, separated in time and space; and our Liberals overflowed with moral indignation at the preposterous notion of making a man work for nothing.
In point of fact, however, whether a man works three days of the week for himself on his own field and three days for nothing on the estate of his lord, or whether he works in the factory or the workshop six hours daily for himself and six for his employer, comes to the same, although in the latter case the paid and unpaid portions of labor are inseparably mixed up with each other, and the nature of the whole transaction is completely masked by the intervention of a contract and the pay received at the end of the week. The gratuitous labor appears to be voluntarily given in the one instance, and to be compulsory in the other. That makes all the difference.
In using the word "value of labor," I shall only use it as a popular slang term for "value of laboring power."
Suppose an average hour of labor to be realized in a value equal to 2-1/2 pence, or twelve average hours of labor to be realized in thirty pence. Suppose, further, the value of labor to be fifteen pence or the produce of six hours' labor. If, then, in the raw material, machinery, and so forth, used up in a commodity, twenty-four hours of average labor were realized, its value would amount to sixty pence. If, moreover, the workman employed by the capitalist added twelve hours of labor to those means of production, these twelve hours would be realized in an additional value of thirty pence. The total value of the product would, therefore, amount to thirty-six hours of realized labor, and be equal to ninety pence. But as the value of labor, or the wages paid to the workman, would be fifteen pence only, no equivalent would have been paid by the capitalist for the six hours of surplus labor worked by the workman, and realized in the value of the commodity. By selling this commodity at its value for ninety pence, the capitalist would, therefore, realize a value of fifteen pence, for which he had paid no equivalent. These fifteen pence would constitute the surplus value or profit pocketed by him. The capitalist would consequently realize the profit of fifteen pence, not by selling his commodity at a price over and above its value, but by selling it at its real value.
The value of a commodity is determined by the total quantity of labor contained in it. But part of that quantity of labor is realized in a value, for which an equivalent has been paid in the form of wages; part of it is realized in a value for which no equivalent has been paid. Part of the labor contained in the commodity is paid labor; part is unpaid labor. By selling, therefore, the commodity at its value, that is, as the crystallization of the total quantity of labor bestowed upon it, the capitalist must necessarily sell it at a profit. He sells not only what has cost him an equivalent, but he sells also what has cost him nothing, although it has cost his workman labor. The cost of the commodity to the capitalist and its real cost are different things. I repeat, therefore, that normal and average profits are made by selling commodities not above, but at their real values.
The surplus value, or that part of the total value of the commodity in which the surplus labor or unpaid labor of the working man is realized, I call Profit. The whole of that profit is not pocketed by the employing capitalist. The monopoly of land enables the landlord to take one part of that surplus value, under the name of rent, whether the land is used for agricultural buildings or railways, or for any other productive purpose. On the other hand, the very fact that the possession of the instruments of labor enables the employing capitalist to produce a surplus value, or, what comes to the same, to appropriate to himself a certain amount of unpaid labor, enables the owner of the means of labor, which he lends wholly or partly to the employing capitalist -- enables, in one word, the money-lending capitalist to claim for himself under the name of interest another part of that surplus value, so that there remains to the employing capitalist as such only what is called industrial or commercial profit.
By what laws this division of the total amount of surplus value amongst the three categories of people is regulated is a question quite foreign to our subject. This much, however, results from what has been stated.
Rent, Interest, and Industrial Profit are only different names for different parts of the surplus value of the commodity, or the unpaid labor enclosed in it, and they are equally derived from this source, and from this source alone. They are not derived from land as such or from capital as such, but land and capital enable their owners to get their respective shares out of the surplus value extracted by the employing capitalist from the laborer. For the laborer himself it is a matter of subordinate importance whether that surplus value, the result of his surplus labor, or unpaid labor, is altogether pocketed by the employing capitalist, or whether the latter is obliged to pay portions of it, under the name of rent and interest, away to third parties. Suppose the employing capitalist to use only his own capital and to be his own landlord, then the whole surplus value would go into his pocket.
It is the employing capitalist who immediately extracts from the laborer this surplus value, whatever part of it he may ultimately be able to keep for himself. Upon this relation, therefore, between the employing capitalist and the wage laborer the whole wage system and the whole present system of production hinge. Some of the citizens who took part in our debate were, therefore, wrong in trying to mince matters, and to treat this fundamental relation between the employing capitalist and the working man as a secondary question, although they were right in stating that, under given circumstances, a rise of prices might affect in very unequal degrees the employing capitalist, the landlord, the moneyed capitalist, and, if you please, the tax-gatherer.
Another consequence follows from what has been stated.
That part of the value of the commodity which represents only the value of the raw materials, the machinery, in one word, the value of the means of production used up, forms no revenue at all, but replaces only capital. But, apart from this, it is false that the other part of the value of the commodity which forms revenue, or may be spent in the form of wages, profits, rent, interest, is constituted by the value of wages, the value of rent, the value of profits, and so forth. We shall, in the first instance, discard wages, and only treat industrial profits, interest, and rent. We have just seen that the surplus value contained in the commodity, or that part of its value in which unpaid labor is realized, resolves itself into different fractions, bearing three different names. But it would be quite the reverse of the truth to say that its value is composed of, or formed by, the addition of the independent values of these three constituents.
If one hour of labor realizes itself in a value of 2-1/2 pence, if the working day of the laborer comprises twelve hours, if half of this time is unpaid labor, that surplus labor will add to the commodity a surplus value of fifteen pence, that is of value for which no equivalent has been paid. This surplus value of fifteen pence constitutes the whole fund which the employing capitalist may divide, in whatever proportions, with the landlord and the money-lender. The value of these fifteen pence constitutes the limit of the value they have to divide amongst them. But it is not the employing capitalist who adds to the value of the commodity an arbitrary value for his profit, to which another value is added for the landlord, and so forth, so that the addition of these arbitrarily fixed values would constitute the total value. You see, therefore, the fallacy of the popular notion, which confounds the decomposition of a given value into three parts, with the formation of that value by the addition of three independent values, thus converting the aggregate value, from which rent, profit, and interest are derived, into an arbitrary magnitude.
If the total profit realized by a capitalist is equal to £100, we call this sum, considered as absolute magnitude, the amount of profit. But if we calculate the ratio which those £100 bear to the capital advanced, we call this relative magnitude, the rate of profit. It is evident that this rate of profit may be expressed in a double way.
Suppose £100 to be the capital advanced in wages. If the surplus value created is also £100 -- and this would show us that half the working day of the laborer consists of unpaid labor -- and if we measured this profit by the value of the capital advanced in wages, we should say that the rate of profit amounted to one hundred percent, because the value advanced would be one hundred and the value realized would be two hundred.2
If, on the other hand, we should not only consider the capital advanced in wages, but the total capital advanced, say, for example, £500, of which £400 represented the value of raw materials, machinery, and so forth, we should say that the rate of profit amounted only to twenty percent, because the profit of one hundred would be but the fifth part of the total capital advanced.3
The first mode of expressing the rate of profit is the only one which shows you the real ratio between paid and unpaid labor, the real degree of the exploitation (you must allow me this French word) of labor.4 The other mode of expression is that in common use, and is, indeed, appropriate for certain purposes.5 At all events, it is very useful for concealing the degree in which the capitalist extracts gratuitous labor from the workman.
In the remarks I have still to make I shall use the word Profit for the whole amount of the surplus value extracted by the capitalist without any regard to the division of that surplus value between different parties, and in using the words Rate of Profit, I shall always measure profits by the value of the capital advanced in wages.6
Deduct from the value of a commodity the value replacing the value of the raw materials and other means of production used upon it, that is to say, deduct the value representing the past labor contained in it, and the remainder of its value will resolve into the quantity of labor added by the working man last employed. If that working man works twelve hours daily, if twelve hours of average labor crystallize themselves in an amount of gold equal to thirty pence, this additional value of thirty pence is the only value his labor will have created. This given value, determined by the time of his labor, is the only fund from which both he and the capitalist have to draw their respective shares or dividends, the only value to be divided into wages and profits. It is evident that this value itself will not be altered by the variable proportions in which it may be divided amongst the two parties. There will also be nothing changed if in the place of one working man you put the whole working population, twelve million working days, for example, instead of one.
Since the capitalist and workman have only to divide this limited value, that is, the value measured by the total labor of the working man, the more the one gets the less will the other get, and vice versa. Whenever a quantity is given, one part of it will increase inversely as the other decreases. If the wages change, profits will change in an opposite direction. If wages fall, profits will rise; and if wages rise, profits will fall. If the working man, on our former supposition, gets fifteen pence, equal to one half of the value he has created, or if his whole working day consists half of paid, half of unpaid labor, the rate of profit will be 100 percent, because the capitalist would also get fifteen pence. If the working man receives only ten pence, or works only one third of the whole day for himself, the capitalist will get twenty pence, and the rate of profit will be 200 percent. If the working man receives twenty pence, the capitalist will only receive ten, and the rate of profit would sink to 33-1/3 percent [sic -- should be 50 percent and later editions corrected this, P.Z.], but all these variations will not affect the value of the commodity. A general rise of wages would, therefore, result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but not affect values. But although the values of commodities, which must ultimately regulate their market prices, are exclusively determined by the total quantities of labor fixed in them, and not by the division of that quantity into paid and unpaid labor, it by no means follows that the values of the single commodities, or lots of commodities, produced during twelve hours, for example, will remain constant. The number or mass of commodities produced in a given time of labor, or by a given quantity of labor, depends upon the productive power of the labor employed, and not upon its extent or length. With one degree of the productive power of spinning labor, for example, a working day of twelve hours may produce twelve pounds of yarn, with a lesser degree of productive power only two pounds. If then twelve hours' average labor were realized in the value of thirty pence in the one case, the twelve pounds of yarn would cost thirty pence, in the other case the two pounds of yarn would also cost thirty pence. One pound of yarn would, therefore, cost 2-1/2 pence in the one case, and fifteen pence in the other. The difference of price would result from the difference in the productive powers of labor employed. One hour of labor would be realized in one pound of yarn with the greater productive power, while with the smaller productive power, six hours of labor would be realized in one pound of yarn. The price of a pound of yarn would, in the one instance, be only 2-1/2 pence, although wages were relatively high and the rate of profit low; it would be fifteen pence in the other instance, although wages were low and the rate of profit high. This would be so because the price of the pound of yarn is regulated by the total amount of labor worked up in it, and not by the proportional division of that total amount into paid and unpaid labor. The fact I have before mentioned that high-price labor may produce cheap, and low-priced labor may produce dear commodities, loses, therefore, its paradoxical appearance. It is only the expression of the general law that the value of a commodity is regulated by the quantity of labor worked up in it, and that the quantity of labor worked up in it depends altogether upon the productive powers of labor employed, and will, therefore, vary with every variation in the productivity of labor.
Let us now seriously consider the main cases in which a rise of wages is attempted or a reduction of wages resisted.
[1. -- missing from original, P.Z.] We have seen that the value of the laboring power, or in more popular parlance, the value of labor, is determined by the value of necessaries, or the quantity of labor required to produce them. If, then, in a given country the value of the daily average necessaries of the laborer represented six hours of labor expressed in fifteen pence, the laborer would have to work six hours daily to produce an equivalent for this daily maintenance. If the whole working day was twelve hours, the capitalist would pay him the value of his labor by paying him fifteen pence. Half the working day would be unpaid labor, and the rate of profit would amount to 100 percent. But now suppose that, consequent upon a decrease of productivity, more labor should be wanted to produce, say, the same amount of agricultural produce, so that the price of the average daily necessaries should rise from fifteen to twenty pence. In the case the value of labor would rise by one third, or 33-1/3 percent. Eight hours of the working day would be required to produce an equivalent for the daily maintenance of the laborer, according to his old standard of living. The surplus labor would therefore sink from six hours to four, and the rate of profit from 100 to 50 percent. But in insisting upon a rise of wages, the laborer would only insist upon getting the increased value of his labor, like every other seller of a commodity, who, the costs of his commodities having increased, tries to get its increased value paid. If wages did not rise, or not sufficiently rise, to compensate for the increased values of necessaries, the price of labor would sink below the value of labor, and the laborer's standard of life would deteriorate.
But a change might also take place in an opposite direction. By virtue of the increased productivity of labor, the same amount of the average daily necessaries might sink from fifteen to ten pence, or only four hours out of the working day, instead of six, be wanted to reproduce an equivalent for the value of the daily necessaries. The working man would now be able to buy with ten pence as many necessaries as he did before with fifteen pence. Indeed, the value of labor would have sunk, but that diminished value would command the same amount of commodities as before. Then profits would rise from fifteen to twenty pence, and the rate of profit from 100 to 200 percent. Although the laborer's absolute standard of life would have remained the same, his relative wages, and therewith his relative social position, as compared with that of the capitalist, would have been lowered. If the working man should resist that reduction of relative wages, he would only try to get some share in the increased productive powers of his own labor, and to maintain his former relative position in the social scale. Thus, after the abolition of the Corn Laws, and in flagrant violation of the most solemn pledges given during the anti-corn law agitation, the English factory lords generally reduced wages ten percent. The resistance of the workmen was at first baffled, but, consequent upon circumstances I cannot now enter upon, the ten percent lost were afterwards regained.
2. The values of necessaries, and consequently the value of labor, might remain the same, but a change might occur in their money prices, consequent upon a previous change in the value of money.
By the discovery of more fertile mines and so forth, two ounces of gold might, for example, cost no more labor to produce than one ounce did before. The value of gold would then be depreciated by one half, or fifty percent. As the values of all other commodities would then be expressed in twice their former money prices, so also the same with the value of labor. Twelve hours of labor, formerly expressed in thirty pence, would now be expressed in sixty pence. If the working man's wages should remain fifteen pence, instead of rising to thirty pence, the money price of his labor would only be equal to half the value of his labor, and his standard of life would fearfully deteriorate. This would also happen in a greater or lesser degree if his wages should rise, but not proportionately to the fall in the value of gold. In such a case nothing would have been changed, either in the productive powers of labor, or in supply and demand, or in values. Nothing could have changed except the money names of those values. To say that in such a case the workman ought not to insist upon a proportionate rise of wages, is to say that he must be content to be paid with names, instead of with things. All past history proves that whenever such a depreciation of money occurs, the capitalists are on the alert to seize this opportunity for defrauding the workman. A very large school of political economists assert that, consequent upon the new discoveries of gold lands, the better working of silver mines, and the cheaper supply of quicksilver, the value of precious metals has been again depreciated. This would explain the general and simultaneous attempts on the Continent at a rise of wages.
3. We have till now supposed that the working day has given limits. The working day, however, has, by itself, no constant limits. It is the constant tendency of capital to stretch it to its utmost physically possible length, because in the same degree surplus labor, and consequently the profit resulting therefrom, will be increased. The more capital succeeds in prolonging the working day, the greater the amount of other peoples' labor it will appropriate. During the seventeenth and even the first two thirds of the eighteenth century a ten hours working day was the normal working day all over England. During the anti-Jacobin war, which was in fact a war waged by the British barons against the British working masses, capital celebrated its bacchanalia, and prolonged the working day from ten to twelve, fourteen , eighteen hours. Malthus, by no means a man whom you would suspect of a maudlin sentimentalism, declared in a pamphlet, published about 1815, that if this sort of thing was to go on the life of the nation would be attacked at its very source. A few years before the general introduction of newly-invented machinery, about 1765, a pamphlet appeared in England under the title, An Essay On Trade. The anonymous author, an avowed enemy of the working classes, declaims on the necessity of expanding the limits of the working day. Amongst other means to this end, he proposes working houses, which, he says, ought to be "Houses of Terror." And what is the length of the working day he prescribes for these "Houses of Terror"? Twelve hours, the very same time which in 1832 was declared by capitalists, political economists, and ministers to be not only the existing but the necessary time of labor for a child under twelve years.
By selling his laboring power, and he must do so under the present system, the working man makes over to the capitalist the consumption of that power, but within certain rational limits. He sells his laboring power in order to maintain it, apart from its natural wear and tear, but not to destroy it. In selling his laboring power at its daily or weekly value, it is understood that in one day or one week that laboring power shall not be submitted to two days' or two weeks' waste or wear and tear. Take a machine worth £1000. If it is used up in ten years it will add to the value of the commodities in whose production it assists £100 yearly. If it is used up in five years it will add £200 yearly, or the value of its annual wear and tear is in inverse ratio to the quickness with which it is consumed. But this distinguishes the working man from the machine. Machinery does not wear out exactly in the same ratio in which it is used. Man, on the contrary, decays in a greater ratio than would be visible from the mere numerical addition of work.
In their attempts at reducing the working day to its former rational dimensions, or, where they cannot enforce a legal fixation of a normal working day, at checking overwork by a rise of wages, a rise not only in proportion to the surplus time exacted, but in a greater proportion, working men fulfill only a duty to themselves and their race. They only set limits to the tyrannical usurpations of capital. Time is the room of human development. A man who has no free time to dispose of, whose whole lifetime, apart from the mere physical interruptions by sleep, meals, and so forth, is absorbed by his labor for the capitalist, is less than a beast of burden. He is a mere machine for producing Foreign Wealth, broken in body and brutalized in mind. Yet the whole history of modern industry shows that capital, if not checked, will recklessly and ruthlessly work to cast down the whole working class to this utmost state of degradation.
In prolonging the working day the capitalist may pay higher wages and still lower the value of labor, if the rise of wages does not correspond to the greater amount of labor extracted, and the quicker decay of the laboring power thus caused. This may be done in another way. Your middle-class statisticians will tell you, for instance, that the average wages of factory families in Lancanshire has risen. They forget that instead of the labor of the man, the head of the family, his wife and perhaps three or four children are now thrown under the Juggernaut wheels of capital, and that the rise of the aggregate wages does not correspond to the aggregate surplus labor extracted from the family.
Even with given limits of the working day, such as they now exist in all branches of industry subjected to the factory laws, a rise of wages may become necessary, if only to keep up the old standard value of labor. By increasing the intensity of labor, a man may be made to expend as much vital force in one hour as he formerly did in two. This has, to a certain degree, been effected in the trades, placed under the Factory Acts, by the acceleration of machinery, and the greater number of working machines which a single individual has now to superintend. If the increase in the intensity of labor or the mass of labor spent in an hour keeps some fair proportion to the decrease in the extent of the working day, the working man will still be the winner. If this limit is overshot, he loses in one form what he has gained in another, and ten hours of labor may then become as ruinous as twelve hours were before. In checking this tendency of capital, by struggling for a rise of wages corresponding to the rising intensity of labor, the working man only resists the depreciation of his labor and the deterioration of his race.
4. All of you know that, from reasons I have not now to explain, capitalistic production moves through certain periodical cycles. It moves through a state of quiescence, growing animation, prosperity, overtrade, crisis, and stagnation. The market prices of commodities, and the market rates of profit, follow these phases, now sinking below their averages, now rising above them. Considering the whole cycle, you will find that one deviation of the market price is being compensated by the other, and that, taking the average of the cycle, the market prices of commodities are regulated by their values. Well! During the phases of sinking market prices and the phases of crisis and stagnation, the working man, if not thrown out of employment altogether, is sure to have his wages lowered. Not to be defrauded, he must, even with such a fall of market prices, debate with the capitalist in what proportional degree a fall of wages has become necessary. If, during the phases of prosperity, when extra profits are made, he did not battle for a rise of wages, he would, taking the average of one industrial cycle, not even receive his average wages, or the value of his labor. It is the utmost height of folly to demand, that while his wages are necessarily affected by the adverse phases of the cycle, he should exclude himself from compensation during the prosperous phases of the cycle. Generally, the values of all commodities are only realized by the compensation of the continuously changing market prices, springing from the continuous fluctuations of demand and supply. On the basis of the present system labor is only a commodity like others. It must, therefore, pass through the same fluctuations to fetch an average price corresponding to its value. It would be absurd to treat it on the one hand as a commodity, and to want on the other hand to exempt it from the laws which regulate the prices of commodities. The slave receives a permanent and fixed amount of maintenance; the wage laborer does not. He must try to get a rise of wages in the one instance, if only to compensate for a fall of wages in the other. If he resigned himself to accept the will, the dictates of the capitalist as a permanent economical law, he would share in all the miseries of the slave, without the security of the slave.
5. In all the cases I have considered, and they form ninety-nine out of a hundred, you have seen that a struggle for a rise of wages follows only in the track of previous changes, and is the necessary offspring of previous changes in the amount of production, the productive powers of labor, the value of labor, the value of money, the extent or the intensity of labor extracted, the fluctuations of market prices, dependent upon the fluctuations of demand and supply, and consistent with the different phases of the industrial cycle; in one word, as reactions of labor against the previous action of capital. By treating the struggle for a rise of wages independently of all these circumstances, by looking only upon the change of wages, and overlooking all other other changes from which they emanate, you proceed from a false premiss in order to arrive at false conclusions.
1. Having shown that the periodical resistance on the part of the working men against a reduction of wages, and their periodical attempts at getting a rise of wages, are inseparable from the wage system, and dictated by the very fact of labor being assimilated to commodities, and therefore subject to the laws regulating the general movement of prices; having, furthermore, shown that a general rise of wages would result in a fall in the general rate of profit, but not affect the average prices of commodities, or their values, the question now ultimately arises, how far, in this incessant struggle between capital and labor, the latter is likely to prove successful.
I might answer by a generalization, and say that, as with all other commodities, so with labor, its market price will, in the long run, adapt itself to its value; that, therefore, despite all the ups and downs, and do what he may, the working man will, on an average, only receive the value of his labor, which resolves into the value of his laboring power, which is determined by the value of the necessaries required for its maintenance and reproduction, which value of necessaries finally is regulated by the quantity of labor wanted to produce them.
But there are some peculiar features which distinguish the value of the laboring power, or the value of labor, from the values of all other commodities. The value of the laboring power is formed by two elements -- the one merely physical, the other historical or social. Its ultimate limit is determined by the physical element, that is to say, to maintain and reproduce itself, to perpetuate its physical existence, the working class must receive the necessaries absolutely indispensable for living and multiplying. The value of those indispensable necessaries forms, therefore, the ultimate limit of the value of labor. On the other hand, the length of the working day is also limited by ultimate, although very elastic boundaries. Its ultimate limit is given by the physical force of the laboring man. If the daily exhaustion of his vital forces exceeds a certain degree, it cannot be exerted anew, day by day. However, as I said, this limit is very elastic. A quick succession of unhealthy and short-lived generations will keep the labor market as well supplied as a series of vigorous and long-lived generations.
Besides this mere physical element, the value of labor is in every country determined by a traditional standard of life. It is not mere physical life, but it is the satisfaction of certain wants springing from the social conditions in which people are placed and reared up. The English standard of life may be reduced to the Irish standard; the standard of life of a German peasant to that of a Livonian peasant. The important part which historical tradition and social habitude play in this respect, you may learn from Mr. Thornton's work on Over-population, where he shows that the average wages in different agricultural districts of England still nowadays differ more or less according to the more or less favourable circumstances under which the districts have emerged from the state of serfdom.
This historical or social element, entering into the value of labor, may be expanded, or contracted, or altogether extinguished, so that nothing remains but the physical limit. During the time of the anti-Jacobin war, undertaken, as the incorrigible taxeater and sinecurist, old George Rose, used to say, to save the comforts of our holy religion from the inroads of the French infidels, the honest English farmers, so tenderly handled in a former chapter of ours, depressed the wages of the agricultural laborers even beneath that mere physical minimum, but made up by Poor Laws the remainder necessary for the physical perpetuation of the race. This was a glorious way to convert the wage laborer into a slave, and Shakespeare's proud yeoman into a pauper.
By comparing the standard wages or values of labor in different countries, and by comparing them in different historical epochs of the same country, you will find that the value of labor itself is not a fixed but a variable magnitude, even supposing the values of all other commodities to remain constant.
A similar comparison would prove that not only the market rates of profit change, but its average rates.
But as to profits, there exists no law which determines their minimum. We cannot say what is the ultimate limit of their decrease. And why cannot we fix that limit? Because, although we can fix the minimum of wages, we cannot fix their maximum. We can only say that, the limits of the working day being given, the maximum of profit corresponds to the physical minimum of wages; and that wages being given, the maximum of profit corresponds to such a prolongation of the working day as is compatible with the physical forces of the laborer. The maximum of profit is therefore limited by the physical minimum of wages and the physical maximum of the working day. It is evident that between the two limits of the maximum rate of profit and immense scale of variations is possible. The fixation of its actual degree is only settled by the continuous struggle between capital and labor, the capitalist constantly tending to reduce wages to their physical minimum, and to extend the working day to its physical maximum, while the working man constantly presses in the opposite direction.
The matter resolves itself into a question of the respective powers of the combatants.
2. As to the limitation of the working day in England, as in all other countries, it has never been settled except by legislative interference. Without the working men's continuous pressure from without that interference would never have taken place. But at all events, the result was not to be attained by private settlement between the working men and the capitalists. This very necessity of general political action affords the proof that in its merely economical action capital is the stronger side.
As to the limits of the value of labor, its actual settlement always depends upon supply and demand, I mean the demand for labor on the part of capital, and the supply of labor by the working men. In colonial countries the law of supply and demand favours the working man. Hence the relatively high standard of wages in the United States. Capital may there try its utmost. It cannot prevent the labor market from being continuously emptied by the continuous conversion of wage laborers into independent, self-sustaining peasants. The position of a wage laborer is for a very large part of the American people but a probational state, which they are sure to leave within a longer or shorter term. To mend this colonial state of things, the paternal British Government accepted for some time what is called the modern colonization theory, which consists in putting an artificial high price upon colonial land, in order to prevent the too quick conversion of the wage laborer into the independent peasant.
But let us now come to old civilized countries, in which capital domineers over the whole process of production. Take, for example, the rise in England of agricultural wages from 1849 to 1859. What was its consequence? The farmers could not, as our friend Weston would have advised them, raise the value of wheat, nor even its market prices. They had, on the contrary, to submit to their fall. But during these eleven years they introduced machinery of all sorts, adopted more scientific methods, converted part of arable land into pasture, increased the size of farms, and with this the scale of production, and by these and other processes diminishing the demand for labor by increasing its productive power, made the agricultural population again relatively redundant. This is the general method in which a reaction, quicker or slower, of capital against a rise of wages takes place in old, settled countries. Ricardo has justly remarked that machinery is in constant competition with labor, and can often be only introduced when the price of labor has reached a certain height, but the appliance of machinery is but one of the many methods for increasing the productive powers of labor. The very same development which makes common labor relatively redundant simplifies, on the other hand, skilled labor, and thus depreciates it.
The same law obtains in another form. With the development of the productive powers of labor the accumulation of capital will be accelerated, even despite a relatively high rate of wages. Hence, one might infer, as Adam Smith, in whose days modern industry was still in its infancy, did infer, that the accelerated accumulation of capital must turn the balance in favour of the working man, by securing a growing demand for his labor. From this same standpoint many contemporary writers have wondered that English capital having grown in that last twenty years so much quicker than English population, wages should not have been more enhanced. But simultaneously with the progress of accumulation there takes place a progressive change in the composition of capital. That part of the aggregate capital which consists of fixed capital, machinery, raw materials, means of production in all possible forms, progressively increases as compared with the other part of capital, which is laid out in wages or in the purchase of labor.7 This law has been stated in a more or less accurate manner by Mr. Barton, Ricardo, Sismondi, Professor Richard Jones, Professor Ramsey, Cherbulliez, and others.
If the proportion of these two elements of capital was originally one to one, it will, in the progress of industry, become five to one, and so forth. If of a total capital of 600, 300 is laid out in instruments, raw materials, and so forth, and 300 in wages, the total capital wants only to be doubled to create a demand for 600 working men instead of for 300. But if of a capital of 600, 500 is laid out in machinery, materials, and so forth, and 100 only in wages, the same capital must increase from 600 to 3600 in order to create a demand for 600 workmen instead of 300. In the progress of industry the demand for labor keeps, therefore, no pace with the accumulation of capital. It will still increase, but increase in a constantly diminishing ratio as compared with the increase of capital.
These few hints will suffice to show that the very development of modern industry must progressively turn the scale in favour of the capitalist against the working man, and that consequently the general tendency of capitalistic production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labor more or less to its minimum limit. Such being the tendency of things in this system, is this saying that the working class ought to renounce their resistance against the encroachments of capital, and abandon their attempts at making the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement? If they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation. I think I have shown that their struggles for the standard of wages are incidents inseparable from the whole wage system, that in 99 cases out of 100 their efforts at raising wages are only efforts at maintaining the given value of labor, and that the necessity of debating their price with the capitalist is inherent to their condition of having to sell themselves as commodities. By cowardly giving way in their every-day conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement.
At the same time, and quite apart form the general servitude involved in the wage system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these every-day struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the ever-ceasing [sic -- should be 'never ceasing', P.Z.] encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!" they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system!"
After this very long and, I fear, tedious exposition, which I was obliged to enter into to do some justice to the subject-matter, I shall conclude by proposing the following resolutions:--
Firstly. A general rise in the rate of wages would result in a fall of the general rate of profit, but, broadly speaking, not affect the prices of commodities.
Secondly. The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages.
Thirdly. Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class, that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wage system.
[‡] Paul Zarembka, Department of Economics, 415 Fronczak Hall, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York 14260, tel: (716)-645-8686, fax: (716)-645-2127, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would particularly like to thank David Laibman and Alfredo Saad-Filho for their advice in preparation.
1In order to better grasp the problem of currency, consider the original, early passage where Marx is discussing agricultural wages, "if there were ten men receiving each 2s. per week, five men receiving each 5s., and five men receiving 11s. weekly, the twenty men together would receive 100s., or £5, weekly". Compare this with the passage as decimalized, "if there were ten men receiving each 10 pence per week, five men receiving each 25 pence, and five men receiving 55 pence weekly, the twenty men together would receive 500 pence, or £5, weekly". The former requires working with twenty shilling in a Pound. The latter is the now familiar one hundred pence being a Pound.
Or, consider the original passage at the beginning of Section X, "suppose an average hour of labor to be realized in a value equal to sixpence, or twelve average hours of labor to be realized in six shillings". Here, for this passage, one must know and work with twelve old pence being a shilling, and twenty shillings being in turn a Pound (so that there were 240 old pence in one Pound). Compare this with the passage as decimalized with new pence, "suppose an average hour of labor to be realized in a value equal to 2-1/2 pence, or twelve average hours of labor to be realized in thirty pence". Even with the 2-1/2 pence, the currency reform is more readily understandable since no rendering of pence and shillings is required.
In sum, by decimalization, we avoid unfamiliar currency from becoming a nuisance for comprehending examples illustrating the theory. But we are are not changing cited amounts.
[§]This paper was communicated to the General International Congress held in September, 1965.
[**]The "General Council" was the Executive of the Association.
*"Labor Power" in the English translation of Das Kapital.
2In Capital, Marx labels the value advanced in wages as "v" for variable capital, and labels surplus value as "s", so we have here a rate of profit measured as s/v. [P.Z.]
3In Capital, Marx labels the value advanced in raw materials, machinery and so forth as "c" for constant capital, so we have here a rate of profit measured as s/(c+v). [P.Z.]
4In Capital, Marx calls s/v either the rate of surplus value or the rate of exploitation, and is no longer used as a possible measure of a rate of profit. [P.Z.]
5In Capital, the second mode of expression is used for the rate of profit. [P.Z.]
6For these lectures, Marx is chosing the first mode of expression of the rate of profit, a choice he abandons in Capital for the second mode, the one related to more common usage. However, common usage does not include wages as part of the capital advanced, but rather only the investment in machinery and structures. Furthermore, the whole issue of the durability of machinery and structures -- their "turnover" -- is ignored here but treated in Capital, Volume II. [P.Z.]
7In Capital, Marx's calls this relationship of constant capital to variable capital, the organic compostion of capital, i.e., c/v. [P.Z.]
Typos in Printed Version
Value, Capitalist Dynamics and Money, Research in Political Economy, Volume 18, JAI/Elsevier Press, 2000, Chapter 1, pp. 3-39: