Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. III. The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
By Karl Marx
One of Econlib’s aims is to put online the most significant works in the history of economic thought, and there can be no doubting the significance of Marx’s influence on both economic theory in the late 19th century and on the creation of Marxist states in the 20th century. From the time of the emergence of modern socialism in the 1840s (especially in France and Germany), free market economists have criticised socialist theory and it is thus useful to place that criticism in its intellectual context, namely beside the main work of one of its leading theorists,
Karl Marx.In 1848, when Europe was wracked by a series of revolutions in which both liberals and socialists participated and which both lost out to the forces of conservative monarchism or Bonapartism,
John Stuart Mill published his
Principles of Political Economy. The chapter on Property shows how important Mill thought it was to confront the socialist challenge to classical liberal economic theory. In hindsight it might appear that Mill was too accommodating to socialist criticism, but I would argue that in fact he offered a reasonable framework for comparing the two systems of thought, which the events of the late 20th century have finally brought to a conclusion which was not possible in his lifetime. Mill states in
Book II Chapter I “Of Property” that a fair comparison of the free market and socialism would compare both the ideal of liberalism with that of socialism, as well as the practice of liberalism versus the practice of socialism. In 1848 the ideals of both were becoming better known (and there were some aspects of the ideal of socialism which Mill found intriguing) but the practice of each was still not conclusive. Mill correctly observed that in 1848 no European society had yet created a society fully based upon private property and free exchange and any future socialist experiment on a state-wide basis was many decades in the future. After the experiments in Marxist central planning with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the Chinese Communists in 1949, and numerous other Marxist states in the post-1945 period, there can be no doubt that the reservations Mill had about the practicality of fully-functioning socialism were completely borne out by historical events. What Mill could never have imagined, the slaughter of tens of millions of people in an effort to make socialism work, has ended for good any argument concerning the Marxist form of socialism.Econlib now offers online two important defences of the socialist ideal, Karl Marx’s three volume work on
Capital and the
collection of essays on Fabian socialism edited by George Bernard Shaw. These can be read in the light of the criticism they provoked among defenders of individual liberty and the free market: Eugen Richter’s anti-Marxist
Pictures of the Socialistic Future, Thomas Mackay’s
2 volume collection of essays rebutting Fabian socialism,
Ludwig von Mises post-1917 critique of
Socialism. One should not forget that
Frederic Bastiat was active during the rise of socialism in France during the 1840s and that many of his essays are aimed at rebutting the socialists of his day. The same is true for Gustave de Molinari and the other authors of the
Dictionnaire d’economie politique (1852). Several key articles on communism and socialism from the
Dictionnaire are translated and reprinted in Lalor’s
Cyclopedia.For further reading on Marx’s
Capital see David L. Prychitko’s essay
“The Nature and Significance of Marx’s
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy“.For further readings on socialism see the following entries in the
Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:
Poor Law Commissioners’ Report of 1834,
edited by Nassau W. Senior, et al.
March 1, 2004
Frederick Engels, ed. Ernest Untermann, trans.
First Pub. Date
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co.
First published in German. Das Kapital, based on the 1st edition.
The text of this edition is in the public domain. Picture of Marx courtesy of The Warren J. Samuels Portrait Collection at Duke University.
- Preface, by Frederick Engels
- Part I, Chapter 1
- Part I, Chapter 2
- Part I, Chapter 3
- Part I, Chapter 4
- Part I, Chapter 5
- Part I, Chapter 6
- Part I, Chapter 7
- Part II, Chapter 8
- Part II, Chapter 9
- Part II, Chapter 10
- Part II, Chapter 11
- Part II, Chapter 12
- Part III, Chapter 13
- Part III, Chapter 14
- Part III, Chapter 15
- Part IV, Chapter 16
- Part IV, Chapter 17
- Part IV, Chapter 18
- Part IV, Chapter 19
- Part IV, Chapter 20
- Part V, Chapter 21
- Part V, Chapter 22
- Part V, Chapter 23
- Part V, Chapter 24
- Part V, Chapter 25
- Part V, Chapter 26
- Part V, Chapter 27
- Part V, Chapter 28
- Part V, Chapter 29
- Part V, Chapter 30
- Part V, Chapter 31
- Part V, Chapter 32
- Part V, Chapter 33
- Part V, Chapter 34
- Part V, Chapter 35
- Part V, Chapter 36
- Part VI, Chapter 37
- Part VI, Chapter 38
- Part VI, Chapter 39
- Part VI, Chapter 40
- Part VI, Chapter 41
- Part VI, Chapter 42
- Part VI, Chapter 43
- Part VI, Chapter 44
- Part VI, Chapter 45
- Part VI, Chapter 46
- Part VI, Chapter 47
- Part VII, Chapter 48
- Part VII, Chapter 49
- Part VII, Chapter 50
- Part VII, Chapter 51
- Part VII, Chapter 52
IN our first discussion of the general, or average, rate of profit in Part II of this volume, we did not have this rate before us in its complete form, since the equalisation of profit appeared there only as an equalisation between the various industrial capitals invested in different spheres. This was further supplemented in the preceding Part, in which the participation of merchants’ capital in this equalisation and the commercial profit were discussed. By this means the general rate of profit and the average profit presented themselves within more circumscribed limits than before. In the further process of our analysis it should be remembered, that any future reference to the general rate of profit or to the average profit means only this latter, completed, form of the average rate. Since this rate is now the same for the industrial and the mercantile capital, it is no longer necessary, so far as this average profit is concerned, to make any distinction between industrial and commercial profit. Whether capital is invested industrially in the sphere of production, or commercially in the sphere of circulation, it yields the same average profit annually in proportion to its magnitude.
Money—which signifies here any independent expression of a certain amount of value, whether it exists actually as
money or as commodities—may be converted into capital on the basis of capitalist production. By this conversion it is transformed from a given value to a self-expanding, increasing, value. It produces a profit, that is, it enables a capitalist to extract a certain amount of unpaid labor, surplus-products and surplus-value, from the laborers and to appropriate it to himself. In this way it acquires, aside from its use-value as money, an additionel use-value, namely that of serving as capital. Its use-value consists then precisely in the profit, which it produces when converted into capital. In this capacity of potential capital, of a means for the production of profit, it becomes a commodity, but a commodity of a peculiar kind. Or, what amounts to the same, capital as capital becomes a commodity.
Take it that the average rate of profit is 20%. In that case a machine, valued at 100 p.st., employed as capital under the prevailing average conditions and with an average exertion of intelligence and adequate activity, would yield a profit of 20 p.st. In other words, a man having 100 p.st. at his disposal, holds in his hand a power by which 100 p.st. may be turned into 120 p.st., or by which a profit of 20% may be produced. He holds in his hand a potential capital of 100 p.st. If this man relinquishes these 100 p.st. for one year to another man, who uses this sum actually as capital, he gives him the power to produce a profit of 20%, a surplus-value, which costs this other nothing, for which he pays no equivalent. If this man should pay, say 5 p.st. at the close of the year to the owner of the 100 p.st., out of the produced profit, he would be paying for the use-value of the 100 p.st., the use-value of its function as capital, the function of producing 20 p.st. of profit. That part of the profit, which he pays to the owner, is called interest. It is merely another name, a special term, for a certain part of the profit, which capital in process of its function has to give up to its owner, instead of keeping it in its own pockets.
It is evident, that the possession of 100 p.st. gives to their owner the power to absorb the interest, a certain portion of the profit produced by his capital. If he did not give the 100 p.st. to the other man, then this other could not produce any profit, and could not act in the capacity of capitalist at all with reference to these 100 p.st.
To speak in such a case of natural justice, as Gilbart is doing (see note), is nonsense. The justice of the transactions between the agents of production rests on the fact that these transactions arise as natural consequences from the conditions of production. The juristic forms, in which these economic transactions appear as activities of the will of the parties concerned, as expressions of their common will and as contracts which may be enforced by law against some individual party, cannot determine their content, since they are only forms. They merely express this content. This content is just, whenever it corresponds, and is adequate, to the mode of production. It is unjust, whenever it contradicts that mode. Slavery on the basis of capitalist production is unjust; likewise fraud in the quality of commodities.
The 100 p.st. produce the profit of 20 p.st. by functioning as capital, whether it be industrial or commercial. But the indispensable condition of this function as capital is that this money is used as capital, that this money is invested in the purchase of means of production (in the case of industrial capital), or of commodities (in the case of merchants’ capital). But in order to be expended, it must be there. If A, the owner of the 100 p.st., were to spend them for his private expenses, or to keep them as a hoard, they could not be invested by B, in his capacity as a capitalist, as capital. B does not invest his own capital, but that of A. But he cannot expend the capital of A without the consent of A. Therefore it is really A, who first expends these 100 p.st. as capital, although his whole function as a capitalist is limited to this expenditure of 100 p.st. as capital. So far
as these 100 p.st. are concerned, B acts in the capacity of a capitalist only because A lends him this money and thus expends it as capital.
Let us first consider the peculiar circulation of interest-bearing capital. Then we shall analyse in the second place the peculiar manner, in which it is sold as a commodity, being merely lent instead of relinquished for good.
The point of departure is the money, which A advances to B. This may be done with or without security. However, the first named form is the more ancient, with the exception of advances on commodities or on certificates of indebtedness, such as bills of exchange, bonds, etc. These special forms do not concern us here. We are dealing here with interest-bearing capital in its ordinary form.
In the hand of B, the money is actually converted into capital, passes through the process M—C—M’, and returns as M’ to A, as M + increment of M, where the increment of M represents the interest. For the sake of simplicity we leave out of consideration the case, in which capital stays in the hands of B for a long term and interest is paid at periodical intervals.
The movement, then, is M—M—C—M’—M’. What appears duplicated here is 1) the expenditure of the money as capital, 2) its reflux as realised capital, as M’, or as M + increment of M.
In the movement of merchants’ capital, M—C—M’, the same commodity changes hands twice, or even more than twice, if one merchant sells to another. But every change of hand of these commodities indicates a metamorphosis, a purchase or sale of commodities, no matter how often this process may be repeated until it ends in consumption.
On the other hand, the same money changes hands twice in C—M—C, but this indicates the complete metamorphosis of the commodity, which is first converted into money and then from money back into another commodity.
But in the case of interest-bearing capital, the first change of hands of M is not a phase of either the metamorphosis of a commodity or of the reproduction of capital. It does
not become so until the second change of hands, in the hands of the man acting in the capacity of a capitalist, who carries on a trade with it or transforms it into productive capital. The first change of hands of M does not express anything else in this case but its transfer, or handing over by contract, from A to B. This is a transfer, which usually takes place under certain juristic forms and stipulations.
This duplicated expenditure of money as capital, the first of which is merely a transfer from A to B, is supplemented by the duplication of its reflux. As M’, or M + increment of M, it flows back out of the process to the man acting in the capacity of a capitalist. This man in his turn transfers it back to A, together with a part of the profit, of realised capital, of M + increment of M, which, however, is not equal to the entire profit, but only a part of the profit, the interest. It flows back to B only as the thing which he had invested, as capital in process of function, but as the property of A. In order that its reflux may be complete, B must return it to A. But B has not only to return the amount of the capital, he must also turn over to A a part of the profit, which he made with this capital, and this part is called interest. For A gave him this money only as a capital, that is, as a value, which is not only maintained by its movements, but brings also a surplus-value to its owner. It remains in the hands of B only so long as it is performing its function of capital. And it ceases to be capital as soon as it is returned to its owner on the stipulated date. When no longer serving as capital, it must be returned to A, who never ceased being its legal owner.
The form of lending, which is peculiar to this commodity, this capital as a commodity, and which also occurs in other transactions instead of that of sale, follows from the simple definition that capital serves here as a commodity, or that money as capital becomes a commodity.
It is necessary to make a distinction here.
We have seen in Volume II, chapter I, and recall at this point, that capital serves in the process of circulation as commodity-capital and money-capital. But in neither of
these forms does capital become a commodity as capital.
As soon as the productive capital has transformed itself into commodity-capital, it must be thrown upon the market, it must be sold as a commodity. There it serves simply in the capacity of a commodity. The capitalist then appears only as a seller of commodities, just as the buyer is only a buyer of commodities. As a commodity, the product must realise its value in the process of circulation, by its sale, must assume the form of money. In this respect it is quite immaterial, whether this commodity is bought by a consumer for the purpose of subsistence, or by a capitalist as a means of production to become a part of his capital. In the act of circulation, the commodity-capital serves only as a commodity, not as capital. It is a commodity-
capital, as distinguished from a simple commodity, 1), because it is pregnant with surplus-value, so that the realisation of its value is simultaneously a realisation of surplus-value. But this does not alter in any way its simple existence as a commodity, as a product of a certain price. 2) It is a commodity-
capital, because its function as a commodity is a phase in its process of reproduction as capital, so that its movement as a commodity, being a part of its movement in process, is simultaneously its movement as capital. Yet it does not become capital by the act of selling as such, but only through the connection of this act with the whole movement of this definite amount of value in the capacity of capital.
In like manner it serves only as money pure and simple, when acting in the capacity of money-capital, that is, as a means of buying commodities (the elements of production). The fact that this money is at the same time money-capital, a form of capital, is not due to the act of buying, which is the service performed by it as money. It is due to the connection of this act with the total movement of capital, since this act, which it performs as money, inaugurates the capitalist process of production.
But so far as they perform any service and play any actual role in the process, commodity-capital on the market serves only as a commodity, money-capital only as money. At no
time during the metamorphosis, viewed by itself, does the capitalist sell his commodities as capital to the buyer, although they represent a capital for himself, nor does he give up money to the sellers in his capacity as a capitalist. In either case he exchanges his commodities simply as commodities, and the money simply as money, as a means of purchasing commodities.
It is only in the connection with the whole process, at the moment where the point of departure appears simultaneously as the point of return, in M—M’ or C—C’, that capital in the process of circulation appears as capital (while it appears as capital in the process of production through the subordination of the laborer under the capitalist and the production of surplus-value). In this moment of return, however, the connection disappears. What is present is M’, that is money plus increment of money (regardless of whether the amount of value increased by this increment has the form of money, commodities, or elements of production), a certain amount of money equal to the amount originally advanced plus an increment, which is the realised surplus-value. And it is precisely at this point of return, where capital exists as a realised capital, as an expanded value, that capital never passes into circulation—considering this point as a fixed point of rest, whether imaginary or real—, but rather appears to be withdrawn from circulation as a result of the whole process. Whenever it is again relinquished, it is never transferred to another as
capital, but sold to him as a simple commodity, or given to him as simple money in exchange for commodities. It never appears as capital in its process of circulation, but only as a commodity or as money, and this is the only form in which it exists so far as others are concerned. Commodities and money are here capital, not inasmuch as commodities change into money, or money into commodities, not with reference to their actual relations to sellers or buyers, but only with reference to their ideal relations, that is, subjectively speaking, their relations to the capitalist himself, or objectively speaking, as elements of the process of reproduction. So far as capital is capital,
it exists only in its actual function, not in the process of circulation, but only in the process of production, in the process by which labor-power is exploited.
But it is different with interest-bearing capital, and it is precisely this difference, which constitutes its specific character. The owner of money, who desires to invest his money as interest-bearing capital, transfers it to some one else, throws it into circulation, makes a commodity of it
as capital. It is not a capital for himself alone, but also for others. It is not capital merely for the man who offers it for investment, but it is handed to others at the outset as capital, as a value endowed with the use-value of creating surplus-value, profit; a value which preserves itself in process and returns to its original owner, in this case the owner of money, after performing its function. It moves away from him only for a certain time, it passes for a while from the possession of its owner into that of a capitalist performing his business, it is neither given up in payment nor sold, but merely loaned. It is relinquished only with the understanding that it shall in the first place return to its point of departure after a certain time, and that it shall return, in the second place, as realised capital, a capital having actually performed its function of creating surplus-value.
Commodities, which are loaned out as capital, are loaned either as fixed or as circulating capital, according to their constitution. Money may be loaned in either form. For instance, it may be loaned as fixed capital in the form of an annuity, whereby a portion of the capital returns with the interest. Some commodities, owing to the nature of their use-values, can be loaned only as fixed capital, such as houses, ships, machines, etc. But all loan capital, whatever be its forms, and no matter in what manner the nature of its use-value may modify its return, is only a specific form of money-capital. For the thing that is loaned here is always a definite sum of money, and it is this sum on which interest is calculated. If the thing that is loaned is neither money nor circulating capital, it is paid back in the same way in which fixed capital returns. The lender receives periodically
a certain interest and a portion of the consumed value of the fixed capital itself, an equivalent for the periodical wear and tear. And at the end of the stipulated term the unconsumed portion of the loaned fixed capital is returned
in natura. If the loaned capital is circulating capital, it is like-wise returned in the manner peculiar to circulating capital.
The manner of reflux, then, is always determined by the actual circulation of the capital in process of reproduction and its specific kind. But so far as loan capital is concerned, its reflux assumes the form of return payments, because its advance, by which it is relinquished, has the form of loaning.
In this chapter we treat only of money-capital proper, from which the other forms of loaned capital are derived.
The loaned capital returns in a twofold way. First it returns in the process of reproduction to the capitalist performing his function, and then its return is duplicated by its transfer to the lender, the money-capitalist, in the form of a return payment to its real owner, its legal point of departure.
In the actual process of circulation the capital appears always as a commodity or as money, and its movements are always dissolved into a series of purchases and sales. In short, the process of circulation resolves itself into the metamorphosis of commodities. It is different, when we consider the process of reproduction as a whole. If we take our departure from money (and it is the same, when we start off with commodities, since we then take our departure from their value and look upon them from the point of view of money), we see that a certain sum of money is expended and returns after a certain period with an increment. This sum has preserved itself and expanded itself in the course of a certain rotation. To the extent that money is loaned as capital, it is loaned as just such a sum of money, which preserves and expands itself, returns after a certain period with an increment, and is ready to pass through the same process once more. It is not expended either as money or as a commodity, it is neither exchanged for commodities when advanced in the form of money, nor sold in exchange for money, when
advanced in the form of commodities. It is expended as capital. This reflexive relation to itself, in which capital presents itself when the process of production is viewed in its entirety and as a unit, and in which money appears as self-increasing money, is here imposed upon it as its character and peculiarity without the intervention of any intermediary movement. And it is expended in this peculiar form, when it is loaned as money-capital.
A very queer conception of the role of money-capital is held by Proudhon ”
Gratuité du Crédit. Discussion enter M. F. Bastiate et M. Proudhon. Paris, 1850.”) Loaning appears as an evil to Proudhon because it is not selling. Loaning at interest is for him “the faculty of always selling the same article over and over, and of receiving its price again and again, without ever relinquishing the ownership of the things one is selling” (page 9). The object, such as money, a house, etc., does not change owners, as it does in selling and buying. But Proudhon does not see, that no equivalent is received for money handed over as interest-bearing capital. It is true that objects are passed from one to another in every act of buying and selling, so far as they are at all processes of exchange. The ownership of the sold object is always relinquished. But its value is not given up. In selling the commodity is relinquished, but not its value, which is given in return in the form of money, or in another form which here takes the place of money, namely of certificates of indebtedness, or of titles of payment. In buying money is given away, but its value, which is recovered in the shape of commodities. The industrial capitalist holds the same value in his hands during the entire process of reproduction (except the surplus-value), only it assumes different forms.
To the extent that exchange takes place, that is, an exchange of objects, no change of value takes place. The same capitalist always holds the same value in his hands. But so long as surplus-value is produced by the capitalist, no exchange takes place. As soon as exchange takes place, the surplus-value is already incorporated in the commodities. If we do not have in mind the individual acts of exchange, but
the total circulation of capital, M—C—M’, we see that a definite amount of values is continually advanced, and that this amount plus the surplus-value, or the profit, is recovered from the circulation. It is true, the individual acts of exchange do not reveal the fact that they are promoting this process. And it is precisely this process of M as capital, on which the interest of the money-lending capitalist rests and from which it arises.
“In fact,” says Proudhon, “the hat maker, who sells hats…receives their value, no more and no less. But the money-lending capitalist…does not recover merely his capital: he recovers more than his capital, more than he throws into circulation; he receives an interest over and above his capital.” (Page 169.) The hatter stands here in the place of the productive capitalist as distinguished from a loan capitalist. Evidently Proudhon did not learn the secret, which enables the capitalist to sell commodities at their value (the equalisation of values by the prices of production is here immaterial for his conception), whereby he receives a profit in addition to the capital, which he throws into circulation. Let us assume that the price of production of 100 hats is 115 pounds sterling, and that this price of production happens to be identical with the value of the hats, which means that the capital invested in the production of hats is of the same composition as the average social capital. If the profit is 15 p.st., or 15%, then the hatter gets this profit of 15 p.st. by selling his hats at their value of 115. They cost him 100 p.st. If he has produced them with his own capital, he pockets the whole surplus of 15 p.st. If he has borrowed the capital, he may have to give up 5 p.st. for interest. This does not alter anything in the value of the hats, but only in the distribution of the surplus-value already contained in this value between different persons. Since the value of the hats is not affected by the payment of interest, it is nonsense on the part of Proudhon to say: “As in commerce the interest of capital is added to the wages of laborers in making up the price of commodities, it is impossible that the laborer should be able to buy back the product of his own labor. To live by working
is a principle, which implies a contradiction under the rule of interest.”
How little Proudhon understood the nature of capital, is shown by the following statement, in which he describes the movement of capital in general as a movement peculiar to interest-bearing capital: “Since money-capital, from exchange to exchange, comes always back to its source by the accumulation of interest, it follows that re-investment is always made by the same hand and profit accrues always to the same person.”
What is it, now, that remains a riddle to him in the peculiar movement of interest-bearing capital? The categories buying, price, giving up objects, and the spontaneous form, in which surplus-value appears here; in short, the phenomenon that capital as such has become a commodity, so that selling has been turned into lending and price into a share in the profit.
The return of capital to its point of departure is the most general and characteristic movement of capital in its total circulation. This is by no means a peculiarity of interest-bearing capital. Its peculiarity is rather the externalised form of its return without the intervention of any circulation. The loaning capitalist lets go of his capital, transfers it to some industrial capitalist, without receiving any equivalent. His handing over of capital is not an act of the real circulation of capital at all, but serves merely as a prelude for the industrial capitalist who effects this circulation. This first change of place of money does not express any act of metamorphosis, neither buying nor selling. Its ownership is not relinquished, because no exchange takes place, no equivalent is offered. The return of the money from the hand of the industrial capitalist to that of the loaning capitalist supplements
merely the first act of handing over the capital. This capital, after having been advanced in the form of money, returns to the industrial capitalist from the process of circulation in the form of money. But as the capital did not belong to him when he expended it, neither can it belong to him on its return. The passage through the process of reproduction cannot by any means give him the ownership of this capital. Hence he must restore it to its lender. The first transfer of the capital from the hands of the lender to those of the borrower is a legal transaction, which has nothing to do with the actual process of reproduction, but merely inaugurates it. The restoration, which transfers the returned capital from the hands of the borrower back to those of the lender is another legal transaction, a supplement of the first. The first inaugurates the actual process, the second takes place after this process. The point of departure and of return, the dispensation and recovery of the loaned capital, thus appear as arbitrary movements promoted by legal transactions, which take place before and after the actual process of capital and have nothing to do with it. So far as this actual process is concerned, the industrial capitalist might as well own the capital at the outset, so that it would return to him as his property.
In the first introductory act the lender gives his capital to the borrower. In the second and closing act after the process, the borrower returns the capital to the lender. To the extent that we consider merely the transaction between these two—and leaving aside the question of interest for the present—, in other words to the extent that we have in mind only the movement of the loan capital itself between the lender and the borrower, the whole movement is comprised within these two acts (separated by a longer or shorter time, during which the process of actual reproduction of capital takes place). And this movement, this dispensing on condition of returning, constitutes
per se the movement of lending and borrowing, which is a specific form of a conditional dispensation of money or commodities.
The characteristic movement of capital in general, namely
the return of money to the capitalist, the return of capital to its point of departure, assumes in the case of interest-bearing capital a wholly externalised form, separated from the actual movement of which it is an expression. A lets go of his money, not in the sense of money, but of capital. This implies no transformation of the capital. It merely changes hands. Its real transformation into capital is not performed until it is in the hands of B. But it has become capital for A as soon as he has given it to B. The actual reflux of capital from the processes of production and circulation takes place only for B. But for A the reflux assumes the same form as the dispensation. The capital returns from the hands of B to those of A. Dispensing, loaning money for a certain time and recovering it with interest (surplus-value) make up the complete form of the movement, which is peculiar to interest-bearing capital as such. The actual movement of the loaned money as capital constitutes a process, which is outside of the transactions between the lender and the borrower. In these transactions the intermediate process is obliterated, invisible, not directly comprised.
Being a peculiar sort of commodity, capital has its own peculiar mode of alienation. Its return in the present case is not the expression, not the consequence or result, of a definite series of economic processes, but the outcome of a specific legal agreement between buyer and seller. The time of return depends on the duration of the process of reproduction. But in the case of interest-bearing capital, its return as capital
seems to depend on the mere agreement between lender and borrower. The return of capital as a part of this agreement no longer appears as a result due to the process of reproduction, but seems to take place without depriving the loaned capital of the form of money. It is true that these transactions are actually determined by the reproductive returns. But this is not evident in the transactions themselves. Nor is it always the case in practice. If the return in reproduction does not take place at the proper time, then the borrower has to face the problem. what other resources he can
call into play to fulfill his obligations towards the lender. The mere
form of this capital—that is, money expended as a certain sum, A, and returning as another sum A + IA/x, after a certain lapse of time, without any other intermediate connection but this lapse of time—is but an abstract image of the actual movement of capital.
In the actual movement of capital, its return is a phase of the process of circulation. The money is first converted into means of production; the process of production transforms it into commodities; by the sale of the commodities it is reconverted into money, and in this form it returns to the hands of the capitalist, who originally advanced the capital in the form of money. But in the case of interest-bearing capital, both the alienation and the return are the results of a legal transaction between the owner of capital and another person. We see only the alienation and the return. Whatever passes during the interval is obliterated.
But since money, when advanced as capital, has the faculty of returning to the person, who expended it as capital, since M—C—M’ is the immanent form of the movement of capital, for this very reason the owner of money can loan it as capital, a thing having the faculty of returning to its point of departure, of preserving its value while under way in process, and of increasing it. He loans it as capital, because it returns to its point of departure after having been transformed into capital, so that the borrower can restore it to the lender after a certain period, because he has recovered it himself.
The loaning of money as capital—its alienation on condition that it be returned after a certain time—is therefore conditioned on the requirement that this money be actually employed as capital, so that it may actually flow back to its starting point. The actual cycle of money as capital is therefore the basic condition of the legal transaction, by which the borrower has to return the money to the lender. If the borrower does not invest the money as capital, it is his own business. The lender loans it as capital, and as such it is
supposed to perform the capitalist functions, which include the circulation of money-capital until it reaches once more its starting point in the form of money.
The transactions M—C and C—M’ in the circulation, in which a certain amount of value serves as money or commodities, are but intermediary processes, individual phases of a whole movement. As capital, this sum passes through the whole movement M—M’. It is advanced as money, or as a sum of values in some form, and returns as a sum of values. The lender of money does not expend it in the purchase of commodities, or, if this sum of values exists in the form of commodities, he does not sell it for money, but he advances it as capital, as M—M’, as a value, which returns after a certain lapse of time to its point of departure. Instead of buying and selling, he loans. This loaning, then, is the form corresponding to its alienation as
capital, instead of its alienation as money or commodities. This does not mean, however, that loaning may not be used in transactions, which have nothing to do with the capitalist process of reproduction.
We have so far considered only the movements of loaned
capital between its owner and the industrial capitalist. Now we shall have to inquire into
The lender expends his money as capital; the amount of values, which he relinquishes into the hands of another, is capital and returns to him. But the mere return of the loan capital into his hands as the same amount would not be its reflux as capital, but merely the return of a loaned sum of values. In order to return as capital, the advanced sum of values must not only be preserved in process, but must also be expanded, must return with a surplus-value, must be recovered as M + increment of M. This increment of M is in the present case the interest. It is that portion of the average profit, which does not remain in the hands of the practicing capitalist, but falls to the share of the money capitalist.
The fact that the money capitalist expends it as capital implies that it must be restored to him as M + increment of M. Later we shall also have to consider the case, in which interest is paid in fixed intervals without the simultaneous return of the capital, whose definite return does not take place until at the end of a longer period.
What is it that the money capitalist gives to the borrower, the industrial capitalist? What does he really pass over to him? It is only this transaction of handing over money which makes of the loaning of money a lending of money as capital, that is, the lending of capital as a commodity.
It is only by this act of passing money over to another that the capital is loaned by the money lender as a commodity, or that the commodity at his disposal is given to another as capital.
What is it that is alienated in ordinary sale? It is not the value of the sold commodities, for this changes merely its form. The value exists ideally in a commodity as its price, before it passes actually into the hands of the seller as money. The same value and the same amount of value merely change their form in such a case. In one instance they exist in the form of a commodity, in another in the form of money. The thing which is actually alienated by the seller, and which for this reason passes into the individual or productive consumption of the buyer, is the use-value of the commodity, is the commodity as a use-value.
What, then, is the use-value, which the money capitalist passes over for the period of the loan and relinquishes into the hands of the borrower, the productive capitalist? It is the use-value, which the money assumes by being capable of being invested as capital and performing the functions of capital, so that it can create a definite surplus-value, the average profit (any excess or fall below this is here a matter of accident), during its process, in addition to preserving its original magnitude of value. In the case of other commodities the use-value is ultimately consumed. Their substance disappears in consequence and with it their value. But the commodity
capital has the peculiarity, that the consumption of its use-value not only preserves its exchange value and its use-value, but also increases them.
It is this use-value of money as capital, this faculty of producing an average profit, which the money capitalist relinquishes to the industrial capitalist for the period, during which he yields to the latter the use of the loan capital.
The money thus loaned shows in this respect a certain analogy with labor-power in its relation to the industrial capitalist. There is only this difference, that he pays for the value of labor-power, while he simply pays back the value of the loaned capital. The use-value of labor-power consists for the industrial capitalist in the faculty that labor-power creates more value (the profit) by its consumption for the industrial capitalist. And in like manner the use-value of the loan capital appears as its faculty of preserving and increasing value.
The money-capitalist alienates indeed a use-value, and for this reason the thing which he gives away is given as a commodity. And to this extent the analogy with a commodity is complete. In the first place, it is a value, which passes from one hand to another. In the case of a simple commodity, a commodity as such, the same value remains in the hands of the buyer and seller, only it has different forms; both have the same value which they had before the transaction, the one in the form of a commodity, the other in that of money. The difference in the case of loan capital is that the money capitalist is the only one who gives away a value when loaning money; but he preserves it by means of future restoration. In the transaction of loaning only one party receives value, since only one party relinquishes value.
In the second place, it is a real use-value, which is relinquished on one side and received and consumed on the other. But it differs from the use-value of ordinary commodities in that it is itself a value, namely the excess over the value of the original capital realised by the use of money as capital. The profit is this use-value.
The use-value of the loan capital consists in being able
to serve as capital and to produce in this capacity the average profit under average conditions.
What, then, does the industrial capitalist pay, and what is, therefore, the price of the loaned capital? That which men pay as interest for the use of what they borrow is, according to Massie, a part of the profit it is capable of producing.
What the buyer of an ordinary commodity buys is its use-value; what he pays for is its exchange value. What the borrower of money buys, is likewise its use-value as capital; but what does he pay for? Surely not for its price, or value, as in the case of ordinary commodities. No change of form takes place in the value passing between the borrower and the lender, such as takes place between the buyer and the seller, so that this value would exist in one instance in the form of money, in another instance in the form of a commodity. The sameness of the alienated and returned value shows itself here in an entirely different way. The sum of values, the money, is given away without an equivalent, and is returned after the lapse of a certain period. The lender always remains the owner of the same value, even after it has passed from his hands into those of the borrower. In the simple exchange of commodities, the money is always on the side of the buyer; but in the lending, the money is on the side of the lender. It is he, who gives away his money for a certain period, and it is the borrower, the buyer of capital, who receives it as a commodity. But this is possible only when the money serves as capital and is advanced for this purpose. The borrower borrows money as capital, as a value producing an increment. But at the moment of borrowing it is as yet only potential capital, and so is any other capital at the moment when it is advanced. Only by its use does it expand
its value and realise itself as capital. But after it has become realised capital, the borrower has to return it, as a value plus a surplus-value (interest). And this interest can be only a portion of the realised profit. Only a portion, not the whole of it. For its use-value for the borrower consists in producing a profit for him. Otherwise there would not have been any alienation of its use-value on the part of the lender. On the other hand, it cannot be the whole profit which falls to the share of the borrower. Otherwise he would not be paying anything for the alienation of the use-value, and he would return the advanced money to the lender as simple money, not as a capital having realised itself. For it is realised capital only when it is M + increment of M.
Both of them expend the same sum of money as capital, the lender and the borrower. But only in the hands of the latter does it serve as capital. The profit is doubled by the double existence of the same sum of money as a capital for two persons. It can serve as a capital for both of them only by dividing the profit. That portion, which falls to the share of the lender, is called interest.
It is our assumption, that this entire transaction takes place between two kinds of capitalists, the money-capitalist and the industrial or the merchant capitalist.
It should never be forgotten, that capital as such is here a commodity, or that the commodity, which is here in question, is capital. All the relations, which become manifest here, would be irrational from the point of view of a simple commodity, or even from the point of view of capital serving as a commodity-capital in its process of reproduction. Lending and borrowing, instead of selling and buying, is here a distinction arising from the specific nature of the commodity, of capital; also that it is interest, not the price of the commodity, which is paid here. If interest is to be called the price of money-capital, it will be an irrational form of price, which is quite at variance with the conception of the price of commodities.
*60 The price is then reduced to its purely
abstract and meaningless form, signifying a certain sum of money paid for some thing, which serves in some manner as a use-value. On the other hand, the concept of price really signifies the value of some use-value expressed in money.
To call interest the price of capital is to use at the outset an irrational expression. A commodity has here a double value, namely first a real value, and secondly a price differing from this value, while ordinarily price signifies the expression of the value in money. Money-capital is primarily but a sum of money, or the value of a certain quantity of commodities incorporated in a sum of money. If a commodity is loaned as capital, then it is only the disguised form of a sum of money. For that which is loaned as capital is not so and so many pounds of cotton, but so much money existing in the form of cotton as its value. The price of capital, therefore, refers to it as a sum of money, even if not a currency, as Mr. Torrens thinks (see above note 60). How, then, can a sum of values have a price beside its own price, that is, aside from the price expressed in their own money-form? Price is precisely the value of commodities (and this holds good also of the market-price, whose difference from value is not one of quality, but only one of quantity, since it refers only to the magnitude of the value) as distinguished from their use-value. A price which is different in quality from value is an absurd contradiction.
Capital manifests itself as capital by its employment. The degree of its self-expansion expresses the quantitative ratio, in which it realises itself as capital. The surplus-value or profit produced by it—its rate or magnitude—is measurable only by its comparison with the value of the advanced capital. The greater or lesser self-expansion of interest-
bearing capital is, therefore, only measurable by a comparison of the amount of interest, its share in the total profits, with the value of the advanced capital. While the price expresses the value of commodities, the interest expresses the self-expansion of money-capital and thus appears as the price, which the lender receives for it. This shows how absurd it is at the start to apply indiscriminately to this question the simple relations of exchange through buying and selling, as Proudhon does. For the basic premise is here that money serves as capital and may thus be transferred as capital itself, as potential capital, to another person.
Capital itself appears here as a commodity, inasmuch as it is offered on the market as the use-value of money actually handed over as capital. Its use-value consists in producing profits. The value of money or of commodities employed in the capacity of capital is not determined by their value as money or commodities, but by the quantity of surplus-value, which they produce for their owner. The product of capital is profit. On the basis of capitalist production it is merely a difference in the employment of money, whether it is expended as money or advanced as capital. Money, or commodities, are in themselves, potentially, capital, just as labor-power is potential capital. For in the first place, money may be converted into elements of production and is to that extent only an abstract expression of them, personifying their existence as values; in the second place, the material elements of wealth have the capacity of being even potentially capital, because the opposite supplement, which makes capital of them, namely wage-labor, is present on the basis of capitalist production.
The opposing social peculiarities of material wealth, its antagonism to labor in the form of wage-labor, considered apart from the process of production, are expressed even in capitalist property as such. This particular fact, when separated from the process of capitalist production itself, of which it is a constant result and, being its constant result, is its constant prerequisite, expresses itself in such a way that money and commodities alike become latent, potential, capital,
so that they may be sold as capital, and that they represent in this form a command over the labor of others, a claim to the appropriation of the labor of others, so that they become self-expanding values. In this way it also becomes clearly apparent that this relation supplies the title and means for the appropriation of the labor of others, and that this is not due to any labor offered as an equivalent on the part of the capitalist.
Capital appears furthermore as a commodity, inasmuch as the division of profit into interest and profit proper is regulated by demand and supply, that is, by competition, just as are the market-prices of commodities. But in the present case the difference becomes quite as apparent as the analogy. If demand and supply balance, the market-price of commodities corresponds to their price of production. In other words, their price is then seen to be regulated by the internal laws of capitalist production, independently of competition, since the fluctuations of supply and demand do not explain anything but the deviations of market-prices from the prices of production. These deviations balance mutually, so that in the course of long periods the average market-prices correspond to the prices of production. As soon as these prices coincide, these forces cease to operate, they compensate one another, and the general law determining prices then applies also to individual cases. The market-price then corresponds even in its immediate form, and without the help of averages drawn from the movements of market-prices, to the price of production, which is regulated by the immanent laws of the mode of production itself. The same is then true of wages. If supply and demand balance, they neutralise each other’s effects, and wages are then equal to the value of labor-power. But it is different with the interest on money-capital. Competition does not, in this case, determine the deviations from the rule, but there is rather no law of division except that enforced by competition, because no such thing as a “natural” rate of interest exists, as we shall see presently. By the natural rate of interest people merely mean the rate fixed by free competition. There are no “natural” limits for the rate
of interest. Whenever competition does not merely determine the deviations and fluctuations, in other words, whenever a neutralisation of the opposing forces of competition puts a stop to all determination, the thing to be determined becomes a matter of arbitrary and lawless estimation. We shall dwell on this further in the next chapter.
In the case of interest-bearing capital, everything is outward appearance: The advance of capital seems a mere transfer from the lender to the borrower; the reflux of realised capital a mere transfer back to its owner, a return payment with interest from the borrower to the lender. The same holds good of the fact, due to the capitalist mode of production, that the rate of profit is not merely determined by the relation of the profit made in one single turn-over to the advanced capital-value, but also by the length of the time of turn-over itself, so that it is a question of a profit realised on the industrial capital in definite periods of time. This likewise appears in the case of interest-bearing capital in the outward fact, that a definite interest is paid to the lender for a definite period of time.
With his customary insight into the internal connection of things, the romantic Adam Müller says (
“Elemente der Staatskunst,” Berlin, 1809, p. 37): “In determining the prices of things, time is not considered; while in the determination of interest, it is principally time which is taken into account.” He does not see that the time of production and the time of circulation enter into the determination of the price of commodities, and that this is precisely what determines the rate of profit for a given time of turn-over of capital, while the determination of profit for a certain time in its turn determines that of interest. His sagacity consists here, as it always does, in seeing the clouds of dust on the surface and having the presumption to declare this dust to be something mysterious and important.
commodity capital?” is a question presented to a director of this bank on the witness stand. (See
Report on Bank Acts, H. of C., 1857.)
The History and Principles of Banking, London, 1834, p. 163.)
An die Pfarherrn wider den Wucher zu predigen, Wittenberg, 1525.)
An Essay on the Governing Causes of the Natural Rate of Interest, wherein the sentiments of Sir W. Petty and Mr. Locke, on that head, are considered. London, 1750. P. 49.) The author of this anonymous work is J. Massie.
On the Operation of the Bank Charter Act of 1844, etc., 2nd. ed., 1847.)
Inquiry into the Currency Principle, p. 77.) The main confusion (implied by the question itself) that value as such (interest) should be considered as the use-value of capital, has escaped Tooke.
Part V, Chapter XXII.