There’s this stuff I want to write about primitive communism and production of/for use value, but I can’t get out of my own way without tripping, so I dig up a bunch of quotes by Marx. That didn’t help very much, it was kind of another direction than I wanted to go. Still, the notes might be useful later.

The text in question is a section of “The Production Process
of Capital: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Third Chapter, Capital in General
.” Marx describes this text in a letter as containing “the quintessence” of that which “Englishmen call ‘The Principles of Political Economy’” and as a sequel to the 1859 Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
, which was written about two years after the Grundrisse, and about five years before the so-called “unpublished sixth chapter” to v1 of Capital, published as an appendix to the Penguin edition. The manuscripts fall between the two, the Contribution and the sixth chapter, and all form part of the preparatory work – still worth reading in its own right – Marx did leading up to his 1867 masterpiece, volume 1 of Capital.

In this selection from the manuscripts, Marx writes defines labor as the expenditure of human energy, brain and muscle (find, cite). He also defines work as the production of use values. (Economic Manuscripts of 1861-1863, ch25, sec 2e, here

Marx states that “the surplus labour of the workers is the condition of existence of the whole superstructure of the society.” This could be taken to say that ideology or rather ideologies in the Althusserian sense would not exist without surplus value.

“The free time [non-workers] have at their disposal, whether for idleness or for the performance of activities which are not directly productive (as e.g. war, affairs of state) or for the development of human abilities and social potentialities (art, etc., science) which have no directly practical purpose, has as its prerequisite the surplus labour of the mass of workers, i.e. the fact that they have to spend more time in material production than is required for the production of their own material life. The free time of the non-working parts of society is based on the surplus labour or overwork, the surplus labour time, of the working part.” Parenthetical remarks are Marx’s.

The free development of non-workers is predicated on “the fact that the workers have to employ the whole of their time.” This fact is what allows “the room for [nonworkers’] own development,” the amount of time they spend “purely in the production of particular use values.” Marx sums up by saying “the development of the human capacities on one side is based on the restriction of development on the other side.”

Since Marx’s nonworkers produce use values then it is hard to see in what sense these nonworkers are not workers. If work is defined as the production of use values, and these nonworkers produce use values, then they are not non-workers at all. They may well be workers in a different sense, but for that work has to be defined as more than use value production. The implicit definition here is of course the basic – that is, fundamental and fundamentally correct – Marxist one, wherein workers are those who produce surplus value, expend labor above what is needed for their own subsistence. This formulation too is clumsy, though, for the point is not so much that workers spend more time than is needed for their subsistence but is instead that workers have additional work imposed upon them without remuneration, time stolen from them, which they are not allowed to make use of for subsistence or any other use. As Marx writes, this is “an excess of production over and above the quantity the working class requires and consumes for its own subsistence.” This excess is appropriated by and for the capitalist class.

“[V]alue is present in a use value” and “surplus value is (…) present in a surplus product. The surplus labour is present in surplus production, and this forms the basis for the existence of all classes not directly absorbed in material production.” Material production is vague. Art and science are material, and they use values.

When Marx writes then that society “develops in contradictory fashion through the absence of development of the mass of workers, who form its material basis” the base is not more material than that which is not in the material basis. Rather, the distinction is another one. I would say it’s relative subjugation and freedom, in the sense of the quantity of time forced upon or from people.

Here Marx says similar:

“[T]he surplus labour time worked by the mass of workers is simultaneously materialised in extra product, surplus product, and this surplus product is the material basis for the existence of all the classes apart from the working classes, of the whole superstructure of society.” Surplus labor by workers “provides free time, gives [nonworkers] disposable time for the development of their other capacities. Thus the production of surplus labour time on one side is at once the production of free time on the other. The whole of human development, so far as it extends beyond the development directly necessary for the natural existence of human beings, consists merely in the employment of this free time and presupposes it as its necessary basis. Thus the free time of society is produced through the production of unfree time, the labour time of workers prolonged beyond that required for their own subsistence. Free time on one side corresponds to subjugated time on the other side.”

This is interesting. Marx writes:

“The form of surplus labour we are examining here — labour prolonged beyond the necessary labour time — is common to capital and all forms of society in which development has taken place beyond the purely natural relation; a development which is therefore antagonistic, making the labour of one section into the natural basis of the social development of another section.” Marx equates natural and necessary, when the heart of the matter is really that these are subjugated. To be ‘made the natural basis of’ is the same as to be ‘subjugated to’, it seems to me. Taken-as-natural, in the sense of subjugated, not necessarily natural in the sense of biological.

Again with this ambiguity on work. “[A]ll the classes which do not work must share the product of surplus labour with the capitalist, so that this surplus labour time not only creates the basis of their material existence but also their free time, the sphere of their development.” Insofar as their development is the production of particular use values, and insofar as work is the production of use values, how is their development not work? How are they not workers, though perhaps privileged strata.

I like this: “absolute surplus labour time remains the basis in capitalist production too” and “later too always remains the dominant form.”

Here we are, re: natural.

“Just as plants live from the earth, and animals live from the plants or plant-eating animals, so does the part of society which possesses free time, disposable time not absorbed in the direct production of subsistence, live from the surplus labour of the workers. Wealth is therefore disposable time. We shall see how the political economists, etc., consider this opposition as natural.” Natural here is ‘considered as natural’ and that which gets considered in this way is precisely that which is subjugated.

“[S]urplus value is initially represented in the surplus product, but all other work is disposable time in comparison with the labour time employed in the production of the means of nourishment”. This offers some distinction between forms of work/labor, but the distinction is not use value vs something else. It is instead some use values vs others. It seems obvious to me that doing ‘disposable work’ is not sufficient to render one a non-worker, as most anyone not working in the production of nourishment would thus be a non-worker.

I don’t know what to make of this:

“The branches of labour employed in the production of commodities are distinguished from each other according to their degree of necessity, and this in turn depends on the extent to which the use value they create is necessary for physical existence. This kind of necessary labour is related to use value, not exchange value. That is to say, we are concerned here not with the labour time necessary to create a value reducible to the sum of the products necessary to the worker for his existence; rather with the relative necessity of the needs satisfied by the products of different kinds of labour. In this respect the most necessary of all is agricultural labour (understanding by this all work required to procure the immediate means of nourishment). It is agricultural labour which first provides the disposable free hands for industry, as Steuart says.[156] However, we must make a further distinction. While one person employs the whole of his disposable time in agriculture, the other can employ it in manufacture. Division of labour. But the surplus labour in all other branches similarly depends on the surplus labour in agriculture, which provides the raw materials for everything else.”