03 August 2010

Surplus Value

Course on Marx's Capital: Week 9

Surplus Value

In Chapter 6 we discovered the mechanism of Surplus-Value in the buying and selling of Labour Power, by which the overall increase in wealth that takes place under capitalism is achieved.
Chapter 7 (click to download it, below) begins with a short summary of the book thus far, as follows:

“The capitalist buys labour-power in order to use it; and labour-power in use is labour itself. The purchaser of labour-power consumes it by setting the seller of it to work. By working, the latter becomes actually, what before he only was potentially, labour-power in action, a labourer.”

The production of surplus value in the dynamic relationship between the capitalist and the working proletarian provides the answer to the question that the book is intended to answer, before any other:

Where does the wealth generated by capital come from?


How, precisely, and exactly where, is the surplus taken?

For, early on in his deliberations, Marx had determined that the observed general increase could not be coming from overcharging, because in a market of pure trading, one person’s loss is another’s gain, and all such losses and gains cancel out.

The answer is that the surplus arises in the workplace, and not in the market place, and the only source of surplus is this: that a worker can give more in the fruits of his labour than it costs to develop and maintain his labour-power. This applies equally to women as to men.

One of the conclusions of this is that capitalists make their money from employing people. It is the people that they employ, and not the machinery that the workers use, that makes the money. Therefore the bosses’ threats to sack all the people and to substitute them with machinery are always hollow threats.

Marx explains all this patiently and with good humour in this chapter. Please download this 12-page chapter and read as much of it as you possibly can.


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