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Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. III. The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole; Marx, Karl
12 paragraphs found.
Part I, Chapter 1

The thoughtless conception that the cost-price of a commodity constitutes its actual value, and that surplus-value arises by selling the product above its value, so that commodities would be sold at their value, if their selling price were equal to their cost-price, that is to say, equal to the price of the means of production plus wages incorporated in them, has been heralded to the world as a newly discovered secret of socialism by Proudhon with his customary charlatanry in the guise of science. In fact, this reduction of the value of commodities to their cost-price constitutes the basis of his People's Bank. We have demonstrated in a preceding chapter that the various elements of the value of the product may be materialized in proportional parts of the product itself. (Volume I, chapter IX, 2.) For instance, if the value of 20 lbs. of yarn is 30 shillings, containing 24 shillings of means of production, 3 shillings of labor-power, and 3 shillings of surplus-value, then this surplus-value may be represented by 1/10 of the product, or 2 lbs. of yarn. Now, if these 20 lbs. of yarn are sold at their cost-price, at 27 shillings, then the purchaser receives 2 lbs. of yarn for nothing, or the article is sold 1/10 below its value. But the laborer has performed the same amount of surplus-labor, only in this case it accrues to the benefit of the purchaser of the yarn, not to its capitalist producer. It would be a mistake to assume that if all commodities were sold at their cost-price the result would be the same as if they had all been sold above their cost-price, at their real value. For even if the value of labor-power, the length of the working day, and the degree of exploitation of labor were the same everywhere, the quantities of surplus-value contained in the values of the various kinds of commodities would be unequal, according to the different organic composition of the capitals advanced for their production. *8

Part I, Chapter 4

Since very few capitalists take the trouble of making similar calculations with reference to their own business, the science of statistics is almost completely silent regarding the proportion of the constant portion of the total social capital to its variable portion. Only the American Census gives what is possible under modern conditions, namely the amount of wages paid in each line of business and the profits realized. These data are, of course, very doubtful, because they are based on uncontrollable statements of the capitalists, but they are nevertheless very valuable, and the only records available on this subject. In Europe we are far too delicate to expect such revelations from our great capitalists.—F. E.]

Part I, Chapter 5

On the other hand, the development of the productive power of labor in any one line of production, for instance in the production of iron, coal, machinery, buildings, etc., which may be in part connected with improvements on the field of intellectual production, especially in natural science and its practical application, appears to be the premise for a reduction of the value, and consequently of the cost, of means of production in other lines of industry, for instance in the textile business or in agriculture. This follows naturally from the fact that a commodity, which issues as a product from a certain line of production, enters into another as a means of production. Its dearness or cheapness depends on the productivity of labor in that line of production from which it issues as a product. Thus it is at the same time a basic condition, not only for the cheapening of commodities into whose production it enters as a means of production, but also for the reduction of the value of constant capital, whose element it becomes, and thereby for the increase of the rate of profit.


The general requirements for the re-employment of these excrements are: A great quantity of such excrements, such as is only the result of production on a large scale; improvements in machinery by which substances formerly useless in their prevailing form are given another useful in reproduction; progress of science, especially of chemistry, which discovers the useful qualities of such waste. It is true, that great economies of this sort are also observed in small agriculture carried on like gardening, for instance in Lombardy, southern China, and Japan. But on the whole the productivity of agriculture under this system is obtained by great prodigality in human labor-power, which is drawn from other spheres of production.

Part IV, Chapter 17

The commercial laborer does not produce any surplus-value directly. But the value of his labor is determined by the value of his labor-power, that is, of its costs of production, while the application of this labor-power, its exertion, expression, and consumption, the same as in the case of every other wage laborer, is by no means limited by the value of his labor-power. His wages are therefore not necessarily in proportion to the mass of profits, which he helps the capitalist to realise. What he costs the capitalist and what he makes for him are two different things. He adds to the income of the capitalist, not by creating any direct surplus-value, but by helping him to reduce the costs of the realisation of surplus-value. In so doing, he performs partly unpaid labor. The commercial laborer, in the strict meaning of the term, belongs to the better paid classes of wage workers, he belongs to the class of skilled laborers, which is above the average. However, wages have a tendency to fall, even in proportion to the average labor, with the advance of the capitalist mode of production. This is due to the fact that in the first place, division of labor in the office is introduced; this means that only a onesided development of the laboring capacity is required, and that the cost of this development does not fall entirely on the capitalist, since the ability of the laborer is developed through the exercise of his function and increases so much faster, the more onesidedly the division of labor develops. In the second place, the necessary preparation, such as the learning of commercial details, languages, etc., is more and more rapidly, easily, generally, cheaply reproduced with the progress of science and popular education, to the extent that the capitalist mode of production organises the methods of teaching, etc., in a practical manner. The generalisation of public education makes it possible to recruit this line of laborers from classes that had formerly no access to such education and that were accustomed to a lower scale of living. At the same time this generalisation of education increases the supply and thus competition. With a few exceptions, the labor-power of this line of laborers is therefore depreciated with the progress of capitalist development. Their wages fall, while their ability increases. The capitalist increases the number of these laborers, whenever he has more value and profits to realise. The increase of this labor is always a result, never a cause of the augmentation of surplus-value. *40

Part IV, Chapter 18

If it is realised—and the reader will have realised it to his great dismay—that the analysis of the actual internal interconnections of the capitalist process of production is a very complicated matter and a very protracted work; if it is a work of science to resolve the visible and external movement into the internal actual movement, then it is understood as a matter of course, that the conceptions formed about the laws of production in the heads of the agents of production and circulation will differ widely from these real laws and will be merely the conscious expression of the apparent movements. The conceptions of a merchant, a stock gambler, a banker, are necessarily quite perverted. Those of the manufacturer are vitiated by the acts of circulation, to which their capital is subject, and by the compensation of the general rate of profit. *42

Part IV, Chapter 20

The first theoretical treatment of modern modes of production—the mercantile system—started out necessarily from the superficial phenomena of the process of circulation, which are presented in an independent form by the movements of merchants' capital. Therefore it grasped only the semblance of things. This was partly due to the fact that merchants' capital is the first free mode of existence of capital in general. On the other hand, it was due to the overwhelming influence exerted by this capital during the first period of revolution of feudal production, the period of genesis of modern production. The real science of modern economy does not begin, until theoretical analysis passes from the process of circulation to the process of production. It is true, interest-bearing capital is likewise a very old form of capital. But we shall see later, why mercantilism did not take its departure from it, but assumed a controversial attitude towards it.

Part V, Chapter 22
For instance, J. G. Opdyke, in his "Treatise on Political Economy" (New York, 1851) makes a very unsuccessful attempt to explain the general extension of a rate of interest of 5% by eternal laws. Still more naively proceeds Mr. Karl Arnd in " Die naturgemässe Volkswirthschaft gegenüber dem Monopoliengeist und dem Kommunismus, etc., Hanau, 1845." There we may read: "In the natural course of the production of goods there is only one phenomenon, which, in the fully settled countries, seems to be destined to regulate in some measure the rate of interest; this is the proportion, in which the quantities of wood of the European forests increase through their annual new growth. This new growth takes place, quite independently of their exchange value, at the rate of 3 or 4 to 100." (How queer that the trees should arrange for their new growth independently of their exchange value!) "According to this a fall of the rate of interest below its present level in the richest countries cannot be expected." Page 124. (He means, because the new growth of the trees is independent of their exchange value, even though their exchange value may depend on their new growth.) This deserves to be called "the primordial rate of forest interest." Its discoverer has made further meritorious contributions in this work to "our science" as the "philosopher of the dog tax."
Part VI, Chapter 37

A much more general and important fact, however, is the depression of the wages of the actual farm laborers below their normal average, so that a portion of the wages is deducted in order to become a part of the lease money and thus flowing into the pockets of the landlord instead of the laborer under the disguise of ground-rent. This is the case quite generally in England and Scotland, with the exception of a few favorably situated counties. The inquiries of the Parliamentarian Committees into the scale of wages made before the passing of the corn laws in England—so far the most valuable and almost unexploited contributions to a history of wages in the 19th century, and at the same time a monument of disgrace erected for themselves by the English aristocracy and bourgeoisie—proved convincingly and beyond a doubt that the high rates of rent and the corresponding raise in the land prices during the anti-Jacobin wars, were due in part to no other cause but the deductions from wages and the depression of wages even below the physical minimum. In other words, a part of the wages had been paid over to the landlords. Various circumstances such as the depreciation of money, the handling of the poor laws in the agricultural districts, etc., had made these operations possible, at a time when the incomes of the tenants were rising enormously and the landlords amassed fabulous riches. Yes, one of the main arguments for the introduction of the corn laws, used by both tenants and landlords, was that it was physically impossible to depress the wages of the farm laborers still more. This condition of things has not been materially altered, and in England as well as in all European countries a portion of the normal wages is absorbed by the ground-rent the same as ever. When Count Shaftsbury, then Lord Ashley, one of the philanthropic aristocrats, was so extraordinarily moved by the condition of the English factory laborers and acted as their spokesman in Parliament during the agitation for a ten hour day, the spokesmen of the industrials got their revenge by publishing statistics on the wages of the agricultural laborers in the villages belonging to him (see Volume I, chapter XXV, 5e, The British Agricultural Proletariat), which showed clearly, that a portion of the ground-rent of this philanthropist consisted of the loot, which his agents filched for him out of the wages of the agricultural laborers. This publication is also interesting for the reason, that the facts exposed by it may rank in the same class with the worst exposures made by the Committees in 1814 and 1815. As soon as circumstances permit of a temporary raise in the wages of the agricultural laborers, a cry goes up from the capitalist tenants to the effect that a raising of the wages to their normal level, as customary in other lines of industry, would be impossible and would ruin them, unless ground-rent were reduced at the same time. This is a confession, that the tenants deduct a portion from the wages of the laborers under the name of ground-rent and pay it over to the landlords. For instance, from 1849 to 1859 the wages of the agricultural laborers rose in England through a combination of overwhelming circumstances, such as the exodus from Ireland, which cut off the supply of agricultural laborers coming from that country; an extraordinary absorption of the agricultural population by the factories; a demand for soldiers to go to war; an exceptional emigration to Australia and the United States (California), and other causes which need not be mentioned here. At the same time the average prices of grain fell by more than 16% during this period, with the exception of the poor agricultural years from 1854 to 1856. The tenant capitalists shouted for a reduction of their rents. They succeeded in single cases. But on the whole they failed to get what they wanted. They sought refuge in a reduction of the cost of production, among other things by introducing steam engines and new machinery in abundance, which partly replaced horses and crowded them out of the business, but partly also created an artificial overpopulation by throwing agricultural laborers out of work and thereby causing a fall in wages. And this took place in spite of the general relative decrease of the agricultural population during that decade, compared to the growth of the total population, and in spite of the absolute decrease of the agricultural population in some purely agricultural districts. *125 In the same way Fawcett, then professor of political economy at Cambridge, who died in 1884 as Postmaster General, said at the Social Science Congress, October 12, 1865: "The agricultural laborers began to emigrate and the tenants began to complain, that they would not be able to pay such high rents as they had been accustomed to pay, because labor became dearer in consequence of emigration." Here, then, the high ground-rent is directly identified with low wages. And so far as the level of the prices of land is determined by this circumstance increasing the rent, a rise in the value of the land is identical with a depreciation of labor, a high price of land with a low price of labor.

Part VI, Chapter 47

Small peasants' property excludes by its very nature the development of the social powers of production of labor, the social forms of labor, the social concentration of capitals, cattle raising on a large scale, and a progressive application of science.


Here, in agriculture on a small scale, the price of the land a form and result of private ownership of the land, appears as a barrier of production itself. In agriculture on a large scale, and in the case of large estates resting upon a capitalist mode of production, private ownership likewise acts as a barrier, because it limits the tenant in his investment of productive capital, which in the last analysis benefits, not him, but the landlord. In both forms the exploitation and devastation of the powers of the soil takes the place of a consciously rational treatment of the soil in its role of an eternal social property, of an indispensable condition of existence and reproduction for successive generations of human beings. And besides, this exploitation is made dependent, not upon the attained degree of social development, but upon the accidental and unequal situations of individual producers. In the case of small property this happens from lack of means and science, by which the social productivity of labor-power might be utilized. In the case of large property, it is done by the exploitation of such means for the purpose of the most rapid accumulation of wealth for the tenant and proprietor. The dependence of both of them upon the market price is instrumental in accomplishing this result.

Part VII, Chapter 48

Vulgar economy really does nothing else but to interpret, in doctrinaire fashion, the ideas of persons entrapped in capitalist conditions of production and performing the function of agents in such production, to systematize and to defend these ideas. We need not wonder, then, that vulgar economy feels particularly at home in the estranged form of manifestation, in which economic conditions are absurd and complete contradictions, and that these conditions appear so much more self-explanatory to it, the more their internal connection is concealed. So long as the ordinary brain accepts these conceptions, vulgar economy is satisfied. But all science would be superfluous, if the appearance, the form, and the nature of things were wholly identical. Vulgar economy has not the slightest inkling of the fact that the trinity from which it takes its departure, namely Land—Rent, Capital—Interest, Labor—Wages of Labor (or Price of Labor), are on their very face three incompatible propositions. First we have the use-value Land, which has no value, and the exchange-value Rent. Here a social relation is conceived as a thing and proportioned to nature. Two incommensurable magnitudes are supposed to be proportional to each other. Then we have Capital—Interest. If capital is conceived as a certain sum of values independently represented by money, then it is manifestly nonsense to say that a certain value shall be valued higher than its value. It is precisely in the formula Capital—Interest that all intermediate links are eliminated, and capital is reduced to its most general formula, which for this reason is inexplicable by itself and absurd. It is also for this reason that the vulgar economist prefers the formula Capital—Interest, with its occult faculty of making a value unequal to itself, to the formula of Capital—Profit, which approaches more nearly to the actual capitalist relations. Then again, driven by the restless thought that four is not five and that 100 dollars cannot be 110 dollars, he flees from Capital as an exchange-value to the material substance of capital, to its use-value as a material requirement of labor, as machinery, raw materials, etc. By this means he succeeds in putting into the place of the first incomprehensible relation, which makes four equal to five, a wholly incommensurable one between a use-value, a thing, upon the one hand, and a definite relation of social production, surplus-value, upon the other, as he does also in the case of private property in land. As soon as the vulgar economist has arrived at this incommensurable magnitude, everything becomes clear to him, and he no longer feels the need of thinking any further. For he has arrived at what is "rational" in bourgeois conception. Finally we have Labor—Wages of Labor, or Price of Labor. This last expression, as we have shown in Volume I, contradicts on its very face the conception of value as well as of price. Price, generally speaking, is but a definite expression of value. And "Price of Labor" is just as irrational as a yellow leogarithm. But here the vulgar economist is all the more satisfied, because it brings him to the deep understanding of the bourgeois, that he pays for labor with money, and because the fact that this formula contradicts the conception of value relieves him from all obligation to understand value.