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
INTEREST, as we have seen in the two preceding chapters, seems to be originally, is originally, and remains in fact merely a portion of profit, of surplus-value, which the investing capitalist, whether industrial or commercial, has to pay over to the owner and lender of money-capital whenever he uses loan capital instead of his own. If he employs only his own capital, no such division of profit takes place; it is all his. In fact, to the extent that the owners of capital employ it themselves in the process of reproduction, they do not compete in the determination of the rate of interest. This alone shows that the category of interest, an impossibility without a determination of the rate of interest, is alien to the movements of industrial capital itself.
“The rate of interest may be defined to be that proportional sum which the lender is content to receive, and the borrower to pay, for a year or for any longer or shorter period for the use of a certain amount of moneyed capital…when the owner of capital employs it actively in reproduction, he does not come under the head of those capitalists, the proportion of whom, to the number of borrowers, determines the rate of interest.” (Th. Tooke,
History of Prices, Newmarch ed. London, 1857, II, p. 355.) It is indeed only the separation of capitalists into money-capitalists and industrial capitalists, which transforms a portion of the profit into interest, which creates the category of interest at all; and it is only the competition between these two kinds of capitalists which creates the rate of interest.
So long as capital serves in the process of reproduction—even assuming that it belongs to the industrial capitalist himself, so that he has no need of paying it back to some lender—just so long the capitalist has at his disposal as a private individual, not this capital itself, but only the profit, which he may spend as revenue. So long as his capital performs the functions of capital, it belongs to the process of reproduction, it is tied up in that process. He is indeed its owner, but this ownership does not enable him to dispose of it in some other way, so long as he uses it as capital for the exploitation of labor. It is the same with the money-capitalist. So long as his capital is loaned out and serves as money-capital, it brings him as interest a portion of the profit, but he cannot dispose of the principal. This becomes evident, whenever he loans his capital, say, for one year, or longer, and receives interest at certain stipulated times without recovering his principal. But even the return of the principal does not make any difference here. If he gets it back, then he must always loan it out again, so long as he expects it to produce the effects of capital, in this case of money-capital, for him. While he is keeping it in his own hands, it collects no interest, it does not act in the capacity of capital; and so long as it gathers interest and serves as capital, it is not in his hands. This accounts for the possibility to loan capital for all eternity.
The following remarks of Tooke against Bosanquet are, therefore, entirely wrong. He quotes Bosanquet (
Metallic, Paper, and Credit Currency, p. 73): “If the rate of interest were depressed to 1%, then borrowed capital would be almost on a par with owner’s capital.” Tooke makes the following comment on this: “That a capital borrowed at this, or even at a lower rate, should be considered as being almost on a par with one’s own capital is such a strange contention, that it would hardly deserve any serious consideration, did it not come from so intelligent a writer, who is so well informed on particular points of his subject. Has he overlooked the fact, or does he hold it to be so unimportant, that his assumption implies the condition of return payment?” (Th. Tooke,
An Inquiry into the Currency Principle, 2nd. edition, London, 1844, p. 80.) If interest were equal to zero, then the industrial capitalist working with a borrowed capital would be on a par with a capitalist working with his own capital. Both of them would pocket the same average profit, and capital, whether borrowed or the owner’s, serves as capital only to the extent that it produces profit. The condition of return payment would not alter this in the least. The more the rate of interest approaches zero, falling, for instance, to 1%, the more borrowed capital is placed on a par with owner’s capital. So long as money-capital is expected to act in the capacity of money-capital, it must always be loaned out again and again, and this must take place at the prevailing rate of interest, say 1%, and always to the same class of industrial and commercial capitalists. So long as these perform the functions of capitalists, the only difference between one working with a borrowed and one working with his own capital is that the one has to pay interest and the other has not; that the one pockets the whole profit p, and the other only p—i, profit minus interest. To the extent that the interest approaches zero, p—z becomes equal to p, and to the same extent do both capitals stand on a par. The one must pay back the capital and borrow it again; but the other, so long as his capital is expected to perform its function, must likewise advance it again and again to the process of production
and cannot dispose of it freely without any dependence upon this process. The only remaining difference between the two is the obvious one that the one is the owner of his capital and the other is not.
The question which arises here is this: How is it that this purely quantitative division of profit into net profit and interest turns into a qualitative one? In other words, how is it that even the capitalist who employs only his own capital, and not a borrowed one, ranges a portion of his gross profit under the specific category of interest and calculates it separately as such? And furthermore, why is all capital, whether borrowed or not, differentiated in itself as interest-bearing capital from net profit producing capital?
It is understood that not every accidental quantitative division of profit turns in this manner into a qualitative one. For instance, some industrial capitalists associate for some business and divide the profits among themselves according to some legal agreement. Others carry on their business, each by himself, without any associate. These last do not calculate their profit under two heads, one part as individual profit, the other as profits of the company for associates who do not exist. In this case the quantitative division does not turn into a qualitative one. It takes place, when the ownership is vested accidentally in several juridical personalities. It does not take place, when this is not the case.
In order to answer this question, we must dwell a little longer on the actual point of departure of the formation of interest; that is, we must take our departure from the assumption, that the money-capitalist and the industrial capitalist really face one another, not merely as legally different persons, but as persons playing entirely different roles in the process of reproduction, or as persons in whose hands the same capital really passes through a twofold and wholly different movement. The one merely loans it, the other employs it productively.
For the productive capitalist, who works with a borrowed capital, the gross profit falls into two parts, namely into the interest to be paid by the lender and the surplus over the interest
forming his own share of the profit. If the general rate of profit is given, then this last portion is determined by the rate of interest; if the rate of interest is given, then this last portion is determined by the general rate of profit. And furthermore: Whatever may be the divergence in any individual case of the gross profit, the actual magnitude of value of the total profit, from the average profit, it does not alter the fact that the portion belonging to the investing capitalist is determined by the interest, since this is fixed by the general rate of interest (aside from special legal stipulations) and assumed to be paid beforehand, before the process of production begins, and before its result, the gross profit, has been made. We have seen that the peculiar and specific product of capital is surplus-value, or more closely defined, profit. But for the capitalist working with a borrowed capital it is not the profit, but the profit minus the interest, that portion of the profit which remains for him after the interest has been deducted. This portion of the profit necessarily appears to him as the product of a capital performing its function; and so far as he is concerned it is really so, because he is the representative of capital in action. He is its personification to the extent that it is in function, and it performs its function to the extent that it is profitably invested in industry or commerce and engaged, through its employer, in such operations as are prescribed by the line of its industry. In distinction from interest, which he has to pay out of the gross profits to the lender, the remaining portion of the profit, which he pockets, necessarily assumes the form of industrial or commercial profit, or, to designate it by a term comprising both of them, the form of profit of enterprise. If the gross profit is equal to the net profit, then the magnitude of this profit of enterprise is exclusively determined by the rate of interest. If the gross profit varies from the average profit, then its difference from the average profit (after deducting the interest from both of them) is determined by all constellations causing a temporary deviation, either of the rate of profit in any particular sphere from the general rate of profit, or of the profit made by some individual capitalist
in a certain sphere from the average profit of this sphere. Now, we have seen, that the rate of profit within the process of production itself does not depend merely on the surplus-value, but also on many other circumstances, for instance, on the purchase prices of the means of production, on methods more productive than the average, on economies in constant capital, etc. And aside from the price of production, it depends on special constellations of the market, and in every business transaction on the greater or lesser smartness and thrift of the individual capitalists, whether, and to what extent, a man will buy or sell above or below the price of production and thus appropriate in the process of circulation a greater or smaller portion of the total surplus-value. At any rate the quantitative division of the gross profit turns here into a qualitative one, and it does so all the more as the quantitative division itself depends on the nature of thing that is to be divided, on the manner in which the capitalist manages his capital, and on the amount of gross profit it yields for him in his capacity as active capitalist. The investing capitalist is here assumed not to be the owner of the capital. The ownership of capital is vested in the money-capitalist, who stands opposed to him. The interest, which he pays to the lender, thus appears as that portion of the gross profit, which is absorbed by the ownership of capital as such. In distinction therefrom, that portion of the profit, which falls to the share of the investing capitalist, appears then as profit of enterprise, arising solely from the operations, or functions, which he performs with the capital in the process of reproduction, particularly of those functions, which he performs as the impersonator of enterprise in industry or commerce. From his point of view, the interest appears merely as the fruit of the ownership of capital, of capital “itself” abstracted from the process of capital in reproduction, of a capital not “working,” not performing its function; while profit of enterprise appears to him as the exclusive fruit of the functions, which he performs with the capital, a fruit of the movements and performances of capital, of performances, which appear to him as his own activity as
differentiated from the inactivity, the non-participation, of the money-capitalist in the process of production. This qualitative separation of the two portions of gross profit, which makes interest appear as the fruit of abstract capital, of the ownership of capital outside of the process of production, and profit of enterprise as the fruit of capital performing its function in the process of production, of the active role played by the employer of capital in the process of reproduction, this qualitative separation is by no means merely a subjective point of view of the money-capitalist on one side and of the industrial capitalist on the other. It rests upon an objective fact, for the interest flows into the hands of the money-capitalist, the lender, the mere owner of capital, who represents only capital property before the process of production and outside of it; while the profit of enterprise flows only into the hands of the investing capitalist, who is not the owner of the capital.
In this way, both the industrial capitalist working with borrowed capital and the money-capitalist not working himself with his capital play a role, in which a merely quantitative division of the gross profit between two persons having two different legal titles to the same capital and to the profit produced by it turns into a qualitative division. One portion of the profit appears now as interest, as a fruit coming to capital in
one of its forms; the other portion appears as a specific fruit of capital in an opposite form, and thus as profit of enterprise. One appears as the fruit of mere ownership of capital, the other as a fruit of the performance of the function of capital, as a fruit of capital in process, of the functions performed by the active capitalist. And this ossification and individualisation of the two parts of the gross profits among themselves, as though they were derived from two essentially different sources, now becomes a fixture for the entire capitalist class and the total capital. And this takes place regardless of whether the capital employed by the active capitalist is borrowed or not, and whether the capital belonging to the money-capitalist is employed by himself or not. The profit of every capital, and consequently the average
profit established by a mutual compensation of capitals, is separated into two qualitatively different, separately individualised, and mutually independent parts, to wit, interest and profit of enterprise, both of which are determined by particular laws. The capitalist working with his own capital divides the gross profit into interest due to himself as its owner lending it to himself, and into profit of enterprise due to himself as an active capitalist performing his function, just as does the capitalist working with a borrowed capital. For this division, in its qualitative aspects, it becomes immaterial whether the capitalist really has to divide his profit with another or not. The employer of capital, even when working with his own capital, falls apart into two personalities, into the mere owner of capital and the employer of capital; his capital itself, with reference to the categories of profit which it yields, falls apart into capital property outside of the process of production and yielding interest of itself, and capital in the process of production yielding profit of enterprise through its function in the process.
Interest, then, becomes so firmly established, that it no longer appears as a division of gross profits, to which production is indifferent and which takes place only occasionally when the industrial capitalist works with the capital of some other man. Even when he works with his own capital, his profit is separated into interest and profit of enterprise. Thus a merely quantitative division turns into a qualitative one. It takes place without regard to the fact, whether the industrial capitalist is, or is not, the owner of the capital employed by him. It is no longer a question of different quota of profit assigned to different persons, but of two different categories of profit holding different relations to the capital, being related to different forms of capital.
It is a simple matter, in view of the foregoing remarks, to explain, why this character of qualitative separation becomes established for the total social capital and the entire capitalist class, as soon as the separation of gross profits into interest and profits of enterprise has assumed its qualitative aspect.
1) This follows from the simple empirical circumstance, that the majority of the industrial capitalists, even if in different
proportional numbers, work with their own and with borrowed capital, and that the proportion between self-owned and borrowed capital changes in different periods.
2) The transformation of a portion of the gross profits into the shape of interest converts the other portion into profit of enterprise. The latter is indeed but the antagonistic form assumed by the excess of the gross profit over the interest, as soon as interest exists as an independent category. The entire analysis of the problem, how gross profit is differentiated into interest and profit of enterprise, resolves itself into the inquiry, how a portion of the gross profits becomes universally ossified and individualised in the shape of interest. Now, historically, interest-bearing capital exists as a complete, traditional form, and with it interest as a ready subdivision of the surplus-value produced by capital, long before the capitalist mode of production and the conceptions of capital and profit belonging to it existed. Thus it is that popular conception still regards money-capital, interest-bearing capital, as typical capital, as capital
par excellence. Thus, also, we find up to the time of Massie the prevailing idea, that it is money as such, which is paid in interest. The fact that loaned capital yields interest, whether it is actually employed as interest or not—even when borrowed only for consumption—lends strength to the idea of the independence of this form of capital. The best proof of the independence, which interest seemed to have with reference to profit and interest-bearing capital with reference to industrial capital, during the first periods of the capitalist mode of production, is that it was not until the middle of the 18th century that Massie, and after him Hume, discovered the fact that interest is but a portion of the gross profit, and that such a discovery was necessary at all.
3) Whether the industrial capitalist works with his own or with borrowed capital, it does not alter the fact that the class of money-capitalists face him as a special class of capitalists, money-capital as an independent form of capital, and interest as the independent form of surplus-value peculiar to this specific capital.
Qualitatively speaking, interest is surplus-value supplied by the mere ownership of capital, yielded by capital as such, even though its owner remains outside of the process of reproduction. It is surplus-value realised by capital outside of its process.
Quantitatively speaking, that portion of profit, which forms interest, does not seem to be related to industrial or commercial capital as such, but to money-capital, and the rate of this portion of surplus-value, the rate of interest, fortifies this relation. For, in the first place, the rate of interest, despite its dependence upon the general rate of profit, is independently determined, and, in the second place, it appears with all its variations as a fixed, uniform, tangible and always given relation, just like the market-prices of commodities, compared to the intangible rate of profit. If all capital were in the hands of the industrial capitalists, there would be no interest and no rate of interest. The independent form assumed by the quantitative division of gross profit creates the qualitative one. If the industrial capitalist compares himself to the money-capitalist, only his profit of enterprise distinguishes him from the other man, the excess of his gross profit over the average interest, the latter being empirically given by means of the rate of interest. On the other hand, if he compares himself to the industrial capitalist working with his own, instead of borrowed capital, the other differs from him only as a money-capitalist by pocketing the interest instead of paying it over to some one else. On either side the portion of the gross profit differing from the interest appears to him as profit of enterprise, and interest itself as a surplus-value yielded by capital as such, which it would yield even without any productive employment.
This is practically correct for the individual capitalist. He has the choice, whether he wants to invest his capital as an interest-bearing one or as a productive one, regardless of whether it exists in the form of money-capital from the out-set, or whether it has to be converted into money-capital. But to make this conception a general one and apply it to the total capital of society, as some vulgar economists do, who even
go so far as to regard this capital as the source of profit, is, of course, preposterous. The idea of a conversion of the total capital of society into money-capital without the existence of people, who shall buy and utilise the means of production, which form the total capital with the exception of relatively small portion existing in the shape of money, is sheer nonsense. It implies the additional nonsense, that capital could yield interest on the basis of capitalist production without performing any productive function, in other words, without producing any surplus-value, of which interest would be but a part; that the capitalist mode of production could run its course without any capitalist production. If an excessively large number of capitalists were to convert their capital into money-capital, it would result in an extraordinary depreciation of money-capital and an extraordinary fall of the rate of interest; many would at once be face to face with the impossibility of living on their interest, and would be compelled to retransform themselves into industrial capitalists. But we repeat that it is a fact for the individual capitalist. For this reason, he necessarily considers that part of his average profit, which is equal to the average interest, as a fruit of his capital as such, apart from the process of production, even when he works with his own capital; and he differentiates from this portion, from this interest, that surplus of the gross profit, which constitutes his profit of enterprise.
4) (A blank in the manuscript.)
We have seen that that portion of the profit, which the investing capitalist has to pay to the mere owner of borrowed capital, converts itself into the independent form of a portion of profit, which all capital as such, whether borrowed or not, yields under the name of interest. How large that portion shall be is determined by the quotation of the average rate of interest. Its origin does not show itself any more in anything but the fact that the investing capitalist, when owner of his capital, no longer competes in the determination of the rate of interest, at least not actively. The purely quantitative division of profit between two persons having different legal titles to it has turned into a qualitative
division, which seems to arise from the nature of capital and profit itself. For, as we have seen, as soon as a portion of the profit generally assumes the form of interest, the difference between the average profit and the interest, or the portion of profit exceeding the interest, assumes a form antagonistic to interest, that of profit of enterprise. These two forms, interest and profit of enterprise, exist only as opposites. They are not reduced to the surplus-value, of which they represent proportional parts cast in different moulds, but are merely referred to one another. Because one portion converts itself into interest, the other portion appears as profit of enterprise.
By profit we always mean average profit here, since the variations of individual profit and of profit in different spheres, due to the fluctuations of the competitive struggle and other circumstances affecting the distribution of the average profit, or surplus-value, do not concern us in this analysis. This applies quite generally to the foregoing inquiry.
Interest is then net profit, as Ramsay calls it, which capital as such yields, either for the mere lender remaining outside of the process of reproduction, or for the owner employing his capital productively. For this latter capitalist also, capital yields this net profit, not in his capacity as a productive capitalist, but of money-capitalist and lender of his own capital as an interest-bearing one to himself as an investing capitalist. Just as the conversion of money, and of value in general, into capital is the constant result of capitalist production, so its existence in the form of capital is its constant prerequisite. By its ability to transform itself into means of production, it commands continually unpaid labor and thereby transforms the process of production and circulation of commodities into a production of surplus-value for its owner. Interest is, therefore, merely the expression of the fact, that value in general, in other words, value representing materialised labor in its general social form, or value assuming the form of means of production in the actual process of production, faces living labor-power as an independent power, and is a means of appropriating unpaid labor; and that
it is such a power, because it represents the property of another in opposition to the laborer. But on the other hand, this opposition to wage-labor is obliterated in the form of interest; for interest-bearing capital as such has not wage-labor, but productive capital for its object. The lending capitalist faces as such the capitalist performing his actual function in the process of reproduction, not the wage-worker, who is expropriated from the means of production under capitalist production. Interest-bearing capital represents capital as
ownership compared to capital as a
function. But to the extent that capital does not perform its function, it does not exploit the laborers and does not come into opposition to labor.
On the other hand, profit of enterprise is not in opposition to wage-labor, but only to interest.
1) Assuming the average profit to be given, the rate of profit on enterprise is not determined by wages, but by the rate of interest. It is high or low inversely as the rate of interest is.
2) The investing capitalist derives his claim to profits of enterprise, and consequently the profit of enterprise itself, not from his ownership of capital, but from its production function as distinguished from the form, in which it is only inert property. This appears as an obviously existing contrast, whenever he is working with a borrowed capital, so that interest and profits of enterprise each go to different persons. The profit of enterprise arises from the function of capital in the process of reproduction, it is a result of the operations by which the investing capitalist promotes this function of industrial and commercial capital. But to be a representative of invested capital is not a sinecure like the representation of interest-bearing capital. On the basis of capitalist production, the capitalist directs the processes of production and circulation. The exploitation of productive labor requires exertion, whether he performs it himself or has it performed by some one else in his name. In distinction from interest, his profit of enterprise appears to him as independent
of the ownership of capital, it seems to be the result of his function as a non-proprietor—
Under these circumstances his brain necessarily conceives the idea, that his profit of enterprise, far from being in opposition to wage-labor and representing only the unpaid labor of others, is rather itself
wages of labor, wages of superintendence of labor. These wages are superior to those of the common laborer, 1) because they pay for more complicated labor, 2) because the capitalist pays them to himself. The fact that his function as a capitalist consists in creating surplus-value, which is unpaid labor, and to create it under the most economical conditions, is entirely forgotten over the contrast, that the interest falls to the share of the capitalist, even if he does not perform any capitalist function and is merely the owner of capital; and that, on the other hand, the profit of enterprise falls to the share of the investing capitalist, even if he is not the owner of the capital, which he employs. The antagonistic form of the two parts, into which profit, or surplus-value is divided, leads him to forget, that both parts are surplus-value, and that this division does not alter the nature, origin, and living conditions of surplus-value.
In the process of reproduction, the investing capitalist represents capital as the property of another in opposition to the wage-laborers, and the money-capitalist, represented by the investing capitalist, shares in the exploitation of labor. The fact, that the investing capitalist can perform his function or employ means of production as capital only as the personification of the means of production in opposition to the laborers, is forgotten over the antagonism between the function of capital in the process of reproduction and the mere ownership of capital outside of the process of reproduction.
In fact, the forms assumed by the two parts of profit, of surplus-value, when divided into interest and profit of enterprise, do not express their relation to labor, because their relation refers only to themselves and to the profit, or rather to the surplus-value as a whole compared to them as parts of
this unit. The proportion in which the profit is divided, and the different legal titles, by which this division is sanctioned, are based on the assumption that profit is already in existence. If, therefore, the capitalist is the owner of the capital, which he employs, he pockets the whole profit, or surplus-value. It is immaterial to the laborer, whether the capitalist pockets the whole profit, or whether he has to pay over a part of it to some other person, who has a legal claim to it. The reasons for dividing the profit among two kinds of capitalists thus turn surreptitiously into reasons for the existence of the surplus-value to be divided, which the capital as such draws out of the process of reproduction quite apart from any subsequent division. Seeing that the interest is opposed to the profit of enterprise, and the profit of enterprise to the interest, that they are both opposed to one another, but not to labor, it follows that both profit of enterprise plus interest, in other words, the total profit, and further the surplus-value, are derived—from what? From the antagonistic form of its two parts! But the profit is produced, before this division takes place, and before there can be any mention of it.
Interest-bearing capital stands the test of such only to the extent that borrowed money is actually converted into capital, and that a surplus is produced with it, of which the interest is a part. But this does not militate against the fact, that the faculty of drawing interest is innate in it outside of the process of production. So does labor-power evince its faculty of producing value only so long as it is employed and materialised in the labor-process; yet this does not argue against the fact, that labor-power is potentially a faculty of creating values, which does not arise out of the mere process of production, but is rather antecedent to it. As a faculty creating value, it is bought. One might also buy it without setting it to work productively. It may be used for purely personal ends, for instance, for personal service, etc. So it is with capital. It is the borrower’s affair, whether he employs it as capital, actually setting in motion its inherent faculty of producing surplus-value. What he pays, is in
either case the surplus-value inherently latent in the commodity capital.
Let us now consider profit of enterprise more in detail.
Since the specific social faculty of capital under capitalist production, that of being property in the hands of one and yet commanding the labor-power of another, becomes fixed, so that interest appears as a part of the surplus-value produced by capital in this interrelation, the other part of the surplus-value, the profit of enterprise, must necessarily appear as derived, not from capital as such, but from the process of production, separated from its social faculty, which is already expressed as a distinct mode of existence by the term interest in capital. Now, separated from capital, the process of production is simply a labor-process. Hence the industrial capitalist as differentiated from the owner of capital does not appear, in this case, as a functionary of capital, but as a functionary separated from capital, as a simple agent of the labor-process, as a laborer, and specifically as a wage-laborer.
Interest itself expresses precisely the existence of the conditions of labor in the form of capital, in their social antagonism to labor, and in their transformation into personal powers in opposition to labor and dominating it. Interest represents the mere ownership of capital as a means of appropriating the products of the labor of others. But it represents this character of capital as something, which belongs to it outside of the process of production, and which is not by any means a result of the specifically capitalist nature of this process of production itself. Interest places this process in such a light, that it does not seem opposed to labor, but rather without any relation to labor and simply the relation of one capitalist toward another. It thus assumes a form which places it outside of the relation of capital toward labor, and renders it indifferent toward this relation. In interest, then, which is that specific form of profit, in which the antagonistic character of capital assumes an independent form, this is done in such a way, that the antagonism here appears completely
obliterated and left out of consideration. Interest is a relation between two capitalists, not between a capitalist and a laborer.
On the other hand, this form of interest bestows upon the other portion of profit the qualitative form of profit of enterprise, and, further on, of wages of superintendence. The specific functions, which the capitalist as such has to perform, and which precisely differentiate him from the laborer and bring him into opposition to the laborer, are presented as mere functions of labor. He creates surplus-value, not because he performs
the work of a capitalist, but because he
also works aside from his capacity as a capitalist. This portion of surplus-value is thus no longer surplus-value, but its opposite, an equivalent for labor performed. Owing to the fact that the estranged character of capital, its antagonism to labor, has been relegated to a place outside of the actual process of exploitation, namely to the interest-bearing capital, this process of exploitation itself appears as a simple labor process, in which the exploiting capitalist performs merely a different kind of labor than the laborer. In this way the labor of exploitation and the exploited labor both appear as labor, as identical. The labor of exploitation is labor just as well as the labor which is exploited. It is the interest which represents the social form of capital, but it does so in a neutral and indifferent way. It is the profit of enterprise which represents the economic function of capital, but it does so in a way, which takes no cognizance of the definite capitalist character of this function.
In the present case, what passes in the consciousness of the capitalist is quite similar to what passes in the case of the fluctuations for which the capitalist makes allowance in the equalisation of the average profits, as indicated in part II of this volume. These compensating causes, which exert a determining influence on the distribution of the surplus-value, are distorted by the capitalist conception into originating causes and subjective justifications of profit itself.
The conception of profit of enterprise in the shape of wages of superintendence of labor, arising from the antagonism of
profit of enterprise to interest, is further strengthened by the fact, that a portion of the profit may indeed be separated, and is separated in reality, as wages, or rather the reverse, that a portion of the wages appear under capitalist production as a separate portion of the profit. Already Adam Smith indicated, that this portion assumes its pure form, independently of profit and wholly separated from it (as the sum of interest and profit of enterprise), and likewise separated from that portion of the profit, which remains in the shape of profit of enterprise after the deduction of the interest, in the salary of the superintendent in those lines of business, whose size, etc., permits a sufficient division of labor to justify a special salary for the labor of a superintendent.
The labor of superintendence and management will naturally be required whenever the direct process of production assumes the form of a combined social process, and does not rest on the isolated labor of independent producers.
*74 It has, however, a double nature.
On one side, all labors, in which many individuals cooperate, necessarily require for the connection and unity of the process one commanding will, and this performs a function, which does not refer to fragmentary operations, but to the combined labor of the workshop, in the same way as does that of a director of an orchestra. This is a kind of productive labor, which must be performed in every mode of production requiring a combination of labors.
On the other side, quite apart from any commercial department, this labor of superintendence necessarily arises in all modes of production, which are based on the antagonism between the laborer as a direct producer and the owner of the means of production. To the extent that this antagonism becomes pronounced, the role played by superintendence increases in importance. Hence it reaches its maximum in the slave system.
*75 But it is indispensable also under the
capitalist mode of production since then the process of production is at the same time the process by which the capitalist consumes the labor-power of the laborer. In like manner, the labor of superintendence and universal interference by the government in despotic states comprises both the performance of the common operations arising from the nature of all communities and the specific functions arising from the antagonism between the government and the mass of the people.
In the works of ancient writers, who have the slave system under their eyes, both sides of the labor of superintendence are as inseparably combined in theory as they were in practice. So it is also in the works of the modern economists, who regard the capitalist mode of production as the absolute mode of production. On the other hand, as I shall show immediately by an example, the apologists of the modern slave system utilise the labor of superintendence quite as much to justify slavery, as the other economists do to justify the wage system.
villicus in Cato’s time: “At the head of the rural slave community (
familia rustica) stood the manager (
villicus, derived from
villa), who took receipts and made expenditures, bought and sold, received instructions from the master, gave orders and meted out punishment in his absence….The manager occupied naturally a freer position than the other slaves; the Magonian books advise to permit him to marry, raise children, and have his own funds, and Cato recommends that he be married with the female manager; he alone probably had any prospects of being liberated by the master for good behavior. For the rest, all of them formed one common economy….Every slave, including the manager himself, was supplied with his necessities at the expense of his master, in definite periods according to fixed rates, and he had to get along on that. The quantity varied according to labor, and for this reason the manager, whose work was lighter than that of the other slaves, received a smaller ration than the others.” (Mommsen,
Römische Geschichte, second edition, 1856, I, p. 808-810.)
Aristotle: “For the master proves himself such not in the buying, but in the employing of slaves.” (The capitalist proves himself such, not by the ownership of capital, which gives him the power to buy labor-power, but in the employment of laborers, nowadays of wage laborers in the process of production.) “But there is nothing great about this knowledge. For whatever the slave must be able to perform, the master must be able to order. Whenever the masters are not compelled to drudge at superintendence, the manager assumes
this honor, while the masters attend to affairs of state or study philosophy.” (Aristotle,
Republic, Bekker edition, Book I, 7.)
Aristotle says in plain words, that rulership on the political and economic field imposes upon the powers that be the functions of government, and that they must understand the art of consuming labor-power. And he adds, that this labor of superintendence is not a matter of great moment, and that for this reason the master, who is wealthy enough, leaves the “honor” of this drudgery to an overseer.
The labor of management and superintendence arising out of the servitude of the direct producers has often been quoted in justification of this relation, not because it is a function due to the nature of all combined social labor, but because it is due to the antagonism between the owner of means of production and the owner of mere labor-power, regardless of whether this labor-power is bought by buying the laborer himself, as it is under the slave system, or whether the laborer himself sells his labor-power, so that the process of production is the process by which capital consumes his labor-power. And exploitation, the appropriation of the unpaid labor of others, has quite as often been represented as the reward justly due to the owner of capital for his labor. But it was never better defended than it was by a champion of slavery in the United States, a certain lawyer O’Connor, at a meeting held in New York, on December 19th, 1859, under the slogan of “Justice for the South.” “Now, Gentlemen,” he said amid great applause, “nature itself has assigned this condition of servitude to the negro. He has the strength and is fit to work;
but nature, which gave him this strength, denied him both the intelligence to rule and the will to work. (Applause.) Both are denied to him! And the same nature, which denied him the will to work, gave him a master, who should enforce this will, and make a useful servant of him in a climate, to which he is well adapted, for his own benefit and that of the master who rules him. I assert that it is no injustice to leave the negro in the position, into which nature placed him; to put a master over him; and he is not robbed of any right, if he is compelled to labor in return for this, and to supply a just compensation for his master in return for the labor and the talents devoted to ruling him and to making him useful to himself and to society.”
Now, the wage-laborer, like the slave, must have a master, who shall put him to work and rule him. And assuming this relation of master and servant to exist, it is quite proper to compel the wage-laborer to produce his own wages and also the wages of superintendence, a compensation for the labor of ruling and superintending him, “a just compensation for his master in return for the labor and talents devoted to ruling him and to making him useful to himself and to society.”
The labor of superintendence and management arising out of the antagonistic character and rule of capital over labor, which all modes of production based on class antagonisms have in common with the capitalist mode, is directly and inseparably connected, also under the capitalist system, with those productive functions, which all combined social labor assigns to individuals as their special tasks. The wages of an
régisseur, as he used to be called in feudal France, are entirely differentiated from the profit and assumes the form of wages for skilled labor, whenever the business is operated on a sufficiently large scale to warrant paying such a manager, although our industrial capitalists do not “attend to affairs of state or study philosophy” for all that.
That not the industrial capitalists, but the industrial managers are “the soul of our industrial system,” has already
been remarked by Mr. Ure.
*76 So far as the commercial part of the business is concerned, we have said as much as was necessary in the preceding part of this volume.
The capitalist mode of production itself has brought matters to such a point, that the labor of superintendence, entirely separated from the ownership of capital, walks the streets. It is, therefore, no longer necessary for the capitalist performs the labor of superintendence himself. A director of an orchestra need not be the owner of the instruments of its members, nor is it a part of his function as a director, that he should have anything to do with the
wages of the other musicians. The co-operative factories furnish the proof, that the capitalist has become just as superfluous as a functionary in production as he himself, in his highest developed form, finds the great real estate owner superfluous. To the extent that the labor of the capitalist is not the purely capitalistic one arising from the process of production and ceasing with capital itself, to the extent that it is not limited to the function of exploiting the labor of others, to the extent that it rather arises from the social form of the labor-process as a combination and co-operation of many for the purpose of bringing about a common result, to that extent it is just as independent of capital as that form itself, as soon as it has burst its capitalistic shell. To say that this labor as a capitalistic one, as a function of the capitalist is necessary, amounts merely to saying that the vulgar economist cannot conceive of the forms developed in the womb of capitalist production separated and freed from their antagonistic capitalist character. Compared to the money-capitalist the industrial capitalist is a laborer, but a laboring capitalist, an exploiter of the labor of others. The wages which he claims and pockets for this labor amount exactly to the appropriated quantity of another’s labor and depend directly upon the rate of exploitation of this labor, so far as he takes the trouble to assume the necessary burdens of exploitation. They do not depend
upon the degree of his exertions in carrying on this exploitation. He can easily shift this burden to the shoulders of a superintendent for moderate pay. After every crisis one may see plenty of ex-manufacturers in the English factory districts, who for low wages superintend their own former factories as managers of the new owners, who are frequently their creditors.
The wages of superintendence, both for the commercial and the industrial manager, appear completely separated from the profits of enterprise in the co-operative factories of the laborers as well as in capitalistic stock companies. The separation of the wages of superintendence from the profits of enterprise, which is at other times accidental, is here constant. In the co-operative factory the antagonistic character of the labor of superintendence disappears, since the manager is paid by the laborers instead of representing capital against them. Stock companies in general, developed with the credit system, have a tendency to separate this labor of management as a function more and more from the ownership of capital, whether it be self-owned or borrowed. In the same way the development of bourgeois society separates the functions of judges and administrators from feudal property, whose prerogatives they were in feudal times. Since the mere owner of capital, the money-capitalist, has to face the investing capitalist, while money-capital itself assumes a social character with the advance of credit, being concentrated in banks and loaned by them instead of by its original owners, and since, on the other hand, the mere manager, who has no title whatever to the capital, whether by borrowing or otherwise, performs all real functions pertaining to the investing capitalist as such, only the functionary remains and the capitalist disappears from the process of production as a superfluous person.
From the public accounts of the co-operative factories in
*78 it is manifest, that the profit, after the deduction of the wages of the superintendent, which form a part of the invested capital the same as the wages of the other laborers, was higher than the average profit, although they paid occasionally a much higher interest than the private factories. The cause of the greater profit was in all these cases a greater economy in the use of constant capital. What interests us particularly here is the fact that here the average profit (= interest + profit of enterprise) presents itself actually and palpably as a magnitude, which is wholly separated from the wages of superintendence. Since the profit was here higher than the average profit, the profit of enterprise was also higher than the current one.
The same fact is revealed by some capitalist stock companies, such as joint stock banks. The London and Westminster Bank paid in 1863 annual dividends of 30%, the Union Bank of London and others 15%. Aside from the salary of the director, the interest paid for deposits is here deducted from the gross profit. The high profit is explained in this case by the small proportion of the paid-up capital to the deposits. For instance, in the case of the London and Westminster Bank, it was in 1863: Paid-up Capital 1,000,000 pounds sterling; deposits 14,540,275 pounds sterling. In that of the Union Bank of London, 1863: Paid-up capital 600,000 pounds sterling; deposits 12,384,173 pounds sterling.
The confounding of the profit of enterprise with the wages of superintendence or management was due originally to the antagonistic form assumed toward interest by the surplus over the interest. It was further promoted by the apologetic intention to represent profit, not as a surplus-value derived from unpaid labor, but as wages of the capitalist himself for labor performed by him. This was met on the part of the socialists by the demand, that profit should actually be reduced to what it pretended to be theoretically, namely mere wages of superintendence. And this demand was all the more disagreeable to the apologists of the capitalists, as these wages
of superintendence, like all other wages, found on one hand their level and fixed market-price to the extent that a numerous class of industrial and commercial superintendents was formed,
*79 while on the other hand these wages fell, like all wages for skilled labor, with the general development, which reduces the cost of production of specifically trained labor-power.
*80 With the development of co-operation on the part of the laborers, of stock enterprises on the part of the bourgeoisie, even the last pretext for the confusion in matters of profit of enterprise and wages of management was removed, and profit appeared also in practice what it was undeniably in theory, mere surplus-value, a value for which no equivalent was paid, realised unpaid labor. It was then seen that the investing capitalist really exploits labor, and that the fruit of his exploitation, when he worked with a borrowed capital, was divided into interest and profit of enterprise, a surplus of profit over interest.
On the basis of capitalist production, a new swindle develops in stock enterprises with the wages of management. It consists in placing above the actual director a board of managers or directors, for whom superintendence and management serve in reality only as a pretext for plundering stockholders and amassing wealth. Very interesting details concerning this are found in ”
The City or the Physiology of London Business; with Sketches on ‘Change, and the Coffee Houses, London. 1845.”Here is a sample: “What bankers and merchants gain by being on the boards of eight or nine different companies, may be seen from the following illustration: The private account of Mr. Timothy Abraham Curtis, handed in by the court of bankruptcy on his failure,
showed an income of 8,900 pounds sterling per year under the head of directorships. Since Mr. Curtis had been a director of the Bank of England and of the East Indian Company, every stock company was happy to secure him as a director.” (P. 82.)—The remuneration of the directors of such companies for each weekly meeting is at least one guinea. The proceedings of the court of bankruptcy show, that these wages of superintendence are as a rule inversely proportioned to the actual superintendence performed by these nominal directors.
The Slave Power, London, 1862, p. 48.)
Philosophy of Manufactures, French translation, 1836, I, p. 68, where this Pindarus of the manufacturers at the same time testifies that most of the manufacturers have not the slightest understanding of the mechanism, which they set in motion.
Labor defended against the Claims of Capital, etc., London, 1825.)
Principles of Political Economy, 2nd ed., London, 1849, I, p. 463.)
Part V, Chapter XXIV.