I’m still in prefatory mode with regard to the reading group on chapter 25 of v1 of Capital. Duncan and NP have kicked things off good and proper with posts on chapter 25. There’s been some particularly substantial discussion at Duncan’s, I need to re-read it soon when I’ve had more sleep than I did during my first read through. Check it out.

Like I said, I’m in prefatory mode still. This post is my notes on chapter 24. Chapter 25 next, soon-ish.

It seems to me that part of what Marx is on about in chapter 24 is extensive and intensive tranformations of capital (I’m not sure if it’s transformations of *capitalism*, though). Part of the stakes of Marx’s discussion of simple reproduction in chapter 23 is intensive transformation of capital, even when capital (at the level of a single enterprise) doesn’t expand but merely persists. In chapter 23 Marx noted something to the effect that even if a capitalist began with some quantity of money for initial investment and
then much later still only had about that initial quantity of money, the capitalist’s money has changed in its origin. That is, initially the money came from wherever, conceivably (“it’s logically possible,” Marx seems to imply) from the capitalist’s own work. But that initial money got spent buying raw materials and instruments of labor and paying wages to employees. So even if the capitalist ends up with an amount which is quantitatively identical to the original sum, that sum the capitalist ends up with is still different in where it came from – it came from surplus value, uncompensated labor time, extracted from employees. (This is surplus value at the level of the relationship between the capitalist and the employees even if the firm does not run a surplus in the sense of an increment greater than the capitalist’s operating costs – a firm which breaks even still exploits.) To be totally honest I’m not really sure what Marx’s point is with all that other than a moral one (one I like very much), confirming that even a capitalist who really did work hard and worked without exploiting others to get the initial starting money and who doesn’t make massive profits and all, that capitalist is still an exploiter.

In the opening of chapter 24 Marx defines accumulation as “The employment of surplus-value as capital, or its reconversion into capital.” (725.) According to this definition, a capitalist who only manages to reproduce the firm without expansion still accumulates. The change in the capitalist’s money discussed in chapter 23 is exactly a transformation of surplus value into capital. The capitalist’s initial outlay is eaten up over time and replaced at exactly the same rate as it’s eaten up, replaced by surplus value. That’s a transformation of SV into capital, ie, accumulation.

Marx remarks as well on the opacity of money. “£2,000 is £2,000. Neither seeing nor smelling will tell us that this sum of money is surplus-value.” (725.) In the next sentence Marx writes that “When we know that a given value is surplus-value, we know how its owner came by it; but that does not alter the nature either of value or of money.” This sentence touches on the intensive transformation I mentioned from chapter 23. On the one hand, it matters that even if the capitalist maintains a quantity of money equal to the initial outlay, the initial outlay disappears and is replaced by surplus value. It looks the same but it’s different, it’s owner came by it differently. This matters to Marx (I assume so, on the grounds that he discusses it and is not in the habit of discussing things he doesn’t think matters). On the other hand, this does not matter with regard to the nature of the quantity as value or as money.

Oh hell. I’m out of time on this for now. I’ve only managed to recap bits of ch23 and to write about the first page of ch24! I’ll come back later and continue to slog through the remaining 35 pages of the chapter. I think I’ll put the rest of my notes all in this post, adding to the post as I go along.


Back to it.

One of the things Marx addresses in this chapter is the set of relationships between (or, processes involving) money, surplus value, and capital. Marx notes that value advanced is usually in monetary form, and that at the end of the circuit that value plus an increment is realized again in monetary form: again, the M-C-M’ circuit, or more expansively M-C…C’-M’. Prior to the realization of value advanced surplus value still exists. It “existed from the outset as the value of a definite portion of the gross product.” (726.)

The capitalist spends money on a set of commodities including labor power and means of production, which combined produce new commodities salable for more money. That more money is the money form of surplus value. Capital is a process, a series of activities in and over time – one who buys to sell once is not a capitalist. Or rather, one who buys to sell is a capitalist for the duration of the buying and selling. A capitalist really is someone who buys to sell (and sells to buy more, in order to sell more) on an ongoing basis. When Marx talks about surplus product containing surplus value it’s on the presumption that the product will be sold and the value (value advanced plus the surplus) will be realized. If value isn’t realized then there is no surplus. This is not a matter of individual acts, though. (Just after my daughter was born as we were getting ready to go home from the hospital one of the nurses said something to the effect of “with your baby individual incidents aren’t that important – if she’s too warm or too cold once, or cries for a long time once; what’s important are patterns of behavior, if she’s consistently too warm or to cold and so on.” Marx takes a similar perspective.) If an auto plant producing cars for export makes ten boat loads of cars and 8 of them sink, it is not the case that the autoworkers were exploited only while producing the two boatloads of cars that did not sink, even if the company takes a loss on them.

That feels jumbled. Ah well.

Marx is emphatic that markets do not produce new value. They can only carry out “the interchange of the individual components of [the] annual product.” (the annual product, that is of “the total social capital,” defined as “the sum total of the individual capitals”, relative to some market. 726.) Market transactions “cannot increase the total annual production.” (726.)

Marx also notes that capitalists do not produce surplus product solely or primarily to “satisfy the needs and desires of the capitalist class” defined as their “consumption fund.” (I think this is awkward on Marx’s part. As I’ve tried to say, I don’t find it useful [I don’t need it?] when Marx pegs needs/desires to use value but not to exchange value – if use value is that which satisfies some want [any want whatsoever, even one springing ‘from the fancy’], then if we had someone who wanted capitalist exchange to happen, then whatever helped satisfy that need would have that use. Thus, exchange could be a use value.) Terminological quibbles aside, Marx’s important point is that the capitalist, insofar as s/he acts like a capitalist, re-invests the results.

The only things that can be turned into capital are “such articles as can be employed in the labour process (i.e. means of production), and such further articles as are suitable for the sustenance of the worker (i.e. means of subsistence).” That is, for accumulation to continue, “a part of the annual surplus labour must have been applied to the production of additional means of production and subsistence, over and above the quantity of these things required to replace the capital advanced.” (726-727.) That is, the capitalist needs to replace capital advanced and purchase the commodities needed to produce even more. That’s accumulation.

Marx here again suggests that life off the clock, reproduction, is productive or at least functional for capital. He adds that capitalism reproduces “the working class as a dependent on wages, a class whose ordinary wages suffice, not only to maintain itself, but also increase its numbers.” Workers have kids who grow up to be workers (and often, who work while still kids, before they’re grown up.) Marx calls this “additional labour-power, annually supplied by the working class.” (727.) He makes a similar point on the next page, calling “the necessaries with which the workers are sustained (…) nothing but component parts of the surplus product” taken by the capitalists. (728.)

There’s an interesting methodological/theoretical footnote on 727, I’m not sure what to make of it just now, I’ll try to remember to come back to it. Marx states that “In order to examine the object of our investigation in its integrity, free from all disturbing subsidiary circumstances, we must treat the whole world of trade as one nation, and assume that capitalist production is established everywhere and has taken possession of every branch of industry.” Two immediate thoughts on this.

1. I’ve argued in the past to people in reading groups and so on that I think part of Marx is doing over all in this book is to set up an ideal type of capitalism, to take capitalists or at least their apologists and theorists, at their word or their fantasy (and as Duncan notes, Marx likes to damn them with their own words). Marx sets up an ideally functioning capitalism and shows that its problems are inherent. Marx doesn’t want anyone to be able to say to his main objections “oh, you’re focusing on a few bad apples, you’re magnifying a few unfortunate atypical distortions into systemic phenomena, if you looked at a better version of capitalism then these objections would go away.” Marx formulates objections to any form of what he would recognize as capitalism.

2. This ties to all that postoperaismo stuff on real subsumption and postfordism I’ve been on about and annoyed by with such tedious repetition for so long now. That stuff asserts among other things that there’s one capitalist market-society which everything, everyone, everywhere and everywhen is implicated in. That seems to me not much different from Marx’s methodological assumption as expressed in this footnote.

Whatever capitalism’s historical novelty, it retains old elements – “surplus product” is “the tribute annually extracted from the working class by the capitalist class. Even if the latter uses a portion of that tribute to purchase the additional labour-power [i.e., the children of the working class,] at its full price” and “the whole thing still remains the age-old activity of the conqueror, who buys commodities from the conquered with the money he has stolen from them.” (728.)

Marx remarks on the irony of workers, the class who make everything, having to buy what we want and need from the capitalists. We “buy back the fruits of [our] previous labour with more llabour than they cost.” (728.) Marx remarks that “If we view this as a transaction between the capitalist class and the working class, it makes no difference that additional workers are employed by the means of the unpaid labour of the previously employed workers.” (728.) “[T]he working class creates by the surplus labour of one year the capital destined to employ additional labour in the following year.” (729.)

As I mentioned earlier, earlier in this post or maybe the one on chapter 23, Marx discusses the money that capitalists start out with. It could the result of their own labor. Even if so, over time the capitalists’ money consists solely of accumulated surplus value. Once that point is reached then “The ownership of past unpaid labour is thenceforth the sole condition for the appropriation of living unpaid labour on a constantly increasing scale.” (729.)

Marx notes a change here. It’s not clear to me right now it’s a change in perspective – part of what happens when we look in class terms – or a change in social reality. I’m inclined toward thinking the first. Marx writes that “The exchange of equivalents, the original operation with which we started, is now turned round in such a way that there is only an apparent exchange, since, firstly, the capital which is exchanged for labour-power is itself merely a portion of the product of the labour of others which has been appropriated without an equivalent; and, secondly, this capital must not only be replaced by its producer, the worker, but replaced together with an added surplus. The relation of exchange between capitalist and worker becomes a mere semblance belonging only to the process of circulation, it become a mere form, which is alien to the content of the transaction itself, and merely mystifies it. The constant sale and purchase of labour-power is the form; the content is the constant appropriation by the capitalist, without equivalent, of a portion of the labour of others which has already been objectified, and his repeated exchange of this labour for a greater quantity of the living labour of others.” (729-730.)

It strikes me that these last two sentences quoted here support and speak to NP’s point about Marx referencing back to the section on commodity fetishism late in v1, and also that Marx wants us to re-read that early passage differently once we get to the end – since what is mystified and mystifying here is not a matter of commodities and exchange as such, but of commodified labor power and the exchange of money for that commodity (ie, wages).

Back to it, going to take at least a few minutes to continue to grind away at this post!

Marx asserts here among other things that the extension of capitalism results in … umm… results which seem to fly in the face of ostensibly capitalist principles. As I quoted above, the class relation becomes a mere semblance of free exchange. “[H]owever much the capitalist mode of appropriation may seem to fly in the face of the original laws of commodity production, it nevertheless arises, not from a violation of these laws but, on the contrary, from their application.” (730.) The term “mode appropriation” is useful too – capitalism is not only a system of production of use values, but a system of appropriation of the labor time of some by others. In fact, the former – production of use values – is subordinated to the former. This is what is meant by the predominance of (surplus) value production over use value production, of the valorization process over the labor process. (There are, in a different sense of the word than is more common in marxism, different modes of production – that is, different senses of the term “production” when Marx uses it.)

Marx reviews “the consecutive phases of motion whose culminating point is capitalist accumulation” as follows. First, the “transformation of a sum of values into capital” (730) in keeping with the principles of exchange – the purchase/sale of labor power at its value as determined by average socially necessary labor time. This commodity labor power is then put to use with other commodities to produce a new product which belongs to the buyer of all these, the capitalist. (“Put to use” is an awkward phrase on my part – on the one hand the capitalist does make use of purchased labor power, on the other hand labor power puts itself to work – workers do the work, we do so for capitalists for various reasons, it’s still our activity even though the product belongs to someone else.) The labor plus raw materials makes a new product worth more than the total purchase price (including wages) expended by the capitalist. The amount of that “more” is surplus value. It’s made possible because labor power is unique among commodities, “possess[ing] the pecular use-value of supplying labour, and therefore of creating value.” (731.) I think this means that Marx is interested in the power of humans over other humans (I resist here the attempts – which, admittedly, I don’t really understand – that various friends and acquaintances and others make of trying to make inanimate [ie, not human or animal and perhaps not plants] objects into political actors; at the very least, those attempts differ from what I see Marx doing here). The peculiarity of labor power means that the laws of exchange, which may involve a substantive equality when dealing with other commodities (I can’t speak to that), when applied to labor power involve an ostensible or formal equality which is really domination.

The net results, as money is made into capital:
– capitalists own the product produced
– this produce is worth more than the capitalist’s total outlay, it “costs the worker labour but the capitalist nothing”
– the worker can continue to sell labor-power as a commodity

Marx says that simple reproduction is the continuation or repetition of all this, including the making of money into capital. (731.) He suggests that a key difference between simple and extended reproduction (accumulation) is where the surplus goes – if it is spent on the individual consumption of the capitalist or re-invested as productive consumption (ie, buying more labor power and other means of production). Marx makes the important point here that there are two perspectives, that which is internal to commodity production and that of class relations, which is external to commodity production in the sense of capitalist understandings thereof. Marx also suggests that the former looks at “the individual capitalist and the individual worker” while the latter “view[s] them in their totality.” (732.) He adds that “If commodity production (…) is to be judged according to its own economic laws, we must consider each act of exchange by itself, apart from any connection with the act of of exchange preceding it an that following it (…) it is not admissible to look here for relations between whole social classes.” (733.) The “its own economic laws” bit is interesting, as it reads here like a matter of capitalist (capitalist apologists’) rhetoric – clearly the operation of commodity exchange in a capitalist system – where commodities are labor power, items to be used by labor power, or the result of labor power – is precisely a matter of class relations. That’s why “in the period of capitalism (…) social wealth becomes to an ever-increasing degree the property of those who are in a position to appropriate the unpaid labour of others over and over again.” This the case when “commodity production becomes generalized and becomes the typical form of production” such that “every product is produced for sale from the outset and all wealth produced goes through the sphere of circulation.” (733.) This is yet another place to take on the formal vs real subsumption and the real subsumption of society stuff in Negri et al, I think, as there is in a sense a subsumption of all of society here already: “all wealth” passes through circulation. This recalls the first line of the book. I’m not sure if Marx is consistent in his use of the term but at least some of the time Marx uses “wealth” to mean more than monetary wealth and/or value. The term includes use values. The point is that wealth in an expanded sense is subordinated to wealth in a narrow sense, due to/as part of the subordination of the working class to the capitalist class – in the specific form of appropriation of workers’ time by/for the capitalist class. All of this results from the commodification of labor power and the exclusive or at least majority access to means of subsistence via the wage: all this “becomes inevitable from the moment there is a free sale, by the worker himselv, of labour-power as a commodity. (…) Only where wage-labour is its bassis does commodity production impose itself upon society as a whole (…) only there does [commodity production] unfold all its hidden potentialities.” (733.) Thus the laws of commodity production “undergo a dialectical inversion so that they become laws of capitalist appropriation.” (734.) Marx again accentuates the point that even if capitalists worked for their originally advanced capital, even if capitalists started with their hands clean, once full blown capitalism exists they are expropriating the time of others as the source of their wealth – regardless of whether they expand or merely maintain their wealth.

EDIT: Back again, at least briefly. This post is taking ages! Ah well.

Marx writes that a reserve of goods “is a phenomenon which is common to all modes of production” and adds that he’ll say more about this in v2. (736.) Marx takes pains to distinguish productive from unproductive consumption here. Not all production that produces labor power is, for Marx, productive. This makes intuitive sense. If two workers produce equally on the job, and one spends all of her wages on food and lodging, while the other spends half her wages and hoards the rest, the extra consumption by the first (relative to the second) is not a productive increment but an unproductive one. That’s not really what Marx is on about here, though, he’s more interested in consumption by productive vs unproductive laborers. The servants of a capitalist – the butler, the maid, the chef, the chauffeur, the masseusse, etc – do not produce wealth for the capitalist in the form of surplus value. The money spent on those people’s wages does not produce surplus value for the capitalist who consumes their labor power in the form of services. What’s more, only a portion of surplus value extracted and plugged back in during accumulation leads directly to new wealth, ie, only a portion goes into hiring more workers: “There can be no greater error than” the view that “all surplus value that is transformed into capital becomes variable capital.” (736.)

Marx briefly speaks to a difficulty in or limit to his form of presentation or analysis, or at least to a way in which it is not yet complete: “The annual process of reproduction is easily understood, as long as we look solely at the sum total of the year’s production. But every single component of this annual product must be brought into the market as a commodity, and there the difficulties begin. The movements of the individual capitals and personal revenues cross and intermingle, and become lost in a general alternation of positions, i.e. in the circulation of society’s wealth. This confuses the onlooker, and provides the investigation with very difficult problems to solve.” Marx says he’ll get back to this in v2. (737.)

Marx sums up part the difference between unproductive and productive expenditure: the former is “surplus value (…) consumed by the capitalist as revenue” and the latter “is employed as capital, i.e. it is accumulated.” (738.) The ratio of one of these uses of surplus value to the other “determines the magnitude of the accumulation,” everything else being equal. That ratio is determined by the capitalist, “[i]t is an act of his will.” (738.) The degree to which the owner of surplus value dedicates it to the later is the degree to which “he performs is function as a capitalist.” It is only to this degree, “as capital personified” that Marx cares about the capitalist here. Otherwise, “the capitalist has no historical value.” “[I]n so far as he is capital personified, his motivating force is not the acquisition of use-values, but the acquisition and augmentation of exchange-values. He is fanatically intent on the valorization of value; consequently he ruthlessly forces the human race to produce for production’s sake.” (739.)

Marx suggests that as the capitalist class does this collectively it “spurs on the development of society’s productive forces, and the creation of those material conditions which alone can form the real bases of a higher form of society.” (739.) I hate that. This is Marx at his worst.

That new society is “a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle. ” Cool.

“[A]s a personification of capital (…) he shares with the miser an absolute drive towards self-enrichment. But what appears in the miser as the mania of an individual is in the capitalist the effect of a social mechanism in which he is merely a cog. Moreover, the development of capitalist production makes it necessary constantly to increase the amount of capital laid out in a given industrial undertaking, and competition subordinates every individual capitalist to the immanent laws of capitalist production, as external and coercive laws. It compels him to keep extending his capital, so as to preserve it, and he can only extend it by means of progressive accumulation.” (739.)

This is another part of the implied argument against mutualism. It also works for arguments people might want to make about good bosses. An individual employer may want to do things differently, and may well for a time, but the system is such that there are incentives for not doing so.

To the degree that the capitalist’s “actions are a mere function of capital – endowed as capital is, in his person, with consciousness and a will – his own private consumption counts as a robbery committed against the accumulation of his capital.” (739.)

“Accumulation is the conquest of the world of social wealth. It is the extension of the area of exploited human material and, at the same time, the extension of the direct and indirect sway of the capitalist.” (739-740.) Accumulation at the level of a firm – we might call this relative accumulation – expands the power of the capitalist involved. Accumulation at the level of society – we might call this absolute accumulation – expands the portions of the world subordinated to capitalism.

Marx suggests a sort of recapitulation theory of capitalist development: “At the historical dawn of the capitalist mode of production – and every capitalist upstart has to go through this historical stage individually – avarice, and the drive for self-enrichment, are the passions which are entirely predominant.” This changes eventually, though, and it comes to be the case after enough capitalist development that “a conventional degree of prodigality, which is also an exhibition of wealth, and consequently a source of credit, becomes a business necessity to the ‘unfortunate’ capitalist. Luxury enters into capital’s expenses of representation.” (741.) In some circumstances, acting rich projects an air of being rich, which implies that one is a good credit risk. The point about capitalists’ discipline, ‘denying’ themselves spending money as revenue in order to spend it as capital, is something Marx will later criticize as an ineffective way to explain capitalism’s origin – this is part of the point of the chapters on primitive accumulation.

“the direct exploitation of labour costs labour, as every slave-driver knows.” (741.)

“what use is it to lament a historical necessity?” Exactly. Necessity is a doctrine of apology. (742.)

Marx again does a bit of pulling back the curtain to show some of the machinery behind his presentation. “In the chapters on the production of surplus value we constantly assumed that wages were at least equal to the value of labour-power. But the forcible reduction of the wage of labour beneath its value plays too important a role in the practical movement of affairs for us not to stay with this phenomenon for a moment. In fact, it transforms the worker’s necessary fund for consumption, within certain limits, into a fund for the accumulation of capital.” (747-748.)

A few things. One, Marx here suggests that his earlier arguments present a sort of ideal type of capitalism, not actually existing capitalism. This is in part because one of Marx’s aims is to present a capitalism without accidental problems, a best possible capitalism, to show that even that capitalism still needs to be eliminated. Second, some of Marx’s descriptions don’t describe the actually existing world immediately. In this example, the actual practices of real historical capitalism are worse than what Marx’s abstract descriptions earlier in the book would suggest. Third, here we again see working class consumption, which implies reproductive labor, is productive of capital.

Marx quotes JS Mill, who said “If labour could be had without purchase, wages might be dispensed with.” Marx replies, “But if the workers could live on air, it would not be possible to buy them at any price. This zero cost of labour is therefore a limit in a mathematical sense, always beyond reach, although we can always approximate more and more nearly to it. The constant tendency of capital is to force the cost of labour back towards this absolute zero.” (748.) Among other things, this includes a tendency to dispose of workers’ lives.

Marx then discusses different schemes people have come up with to allow workers to live more cheaply, so they might be paid less. He goes on to discuss how parish relief allowed farmers and landlords in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to pay for labor power below its cost of reproduction. I’ve heard arguments that unwaged reproductive labor in much of the world serves to lower the socially necessary labor time to produce labor power (because SNLT is measured in monetary terms and is not always the actual total labor time socially necessary to produce a commodity). There’s an interesting point here about welfare, . I could imagine an argument along the lines of the following: “today welfare is managed by the state, which represents and manages the interests of collective/total social capital, and the funds for welfare come in part from taxes paid by capitalists.” That seems basically right to me, but that does not entail that a similar dynamic doesn’t hold. That is, it could still be the case for at least some capitalists that welfare lowers their costs in wages, allowing them to pay less for labor power than its full worth. (Because among other things “the funds for welfare come in part from taxes paid by capitalists” does not mean that those taxes are the sole source of welfare funding nor that the taxes are evenly distributed.)

Marx refers to “direct robbery from the worker’s necessary consumption-fund in the formation of surplus value, and therefore in the formation of the fund for the accumulation of capital.” (751.) This is a rather abstract way to put a point he will articulate with more vitriol elsewhere, referring among other things to the coining of children’s blood into capital. One of the analytical points, though, is that in some cases a lethal form of consuming labor power can be quite profitable. Marx cites paid domestic work as one example of this. He (or Engels, or the translators, not sure who) indicates that the discussion of the textile industry in the chapter on machinery is an example, specifically the discussion (p601-604 in the Penguin edition) around the introduction of sewing machines. (That’s a section that folk who like the category of the common and so on should reconstruct in their idiom.)

Marx discusses the sufficiency of constant capital to variable capital, noting that the ratio of employees to machinery varies and is not fixed solely by the machinery. (751.) 100 workers running machines for 8 hours a day produce some amount of surplus value. This amount could be augmented by hiring more workers to work alongside those 100, but that would mean buying more machines. The capitalist could also make the 100 workers stay later, or hire workers on a second shift. Marx sums this up sying “additional labour, arising from a greater exertion of labour-power, can augment the surplus product and surplus-value (…) without a proportional augmentation in the constant part of capital.” (751.) In this type of scenario, machinery is used up more quickly. That’s actually in the capitalist’s favor at least theoretically, because by the time the old machinery is used up it will have lost less value due to the decrease in labor time socially necessary for its production. (See also 753.)

Marx makes the point though not in so many words that fully developed capitalism retains a tendency toward absolute surplus value, that is, toward lengthening the working day. (752.) He also makes the point that greater productivity of labor can lead to cheaper costs in wages – he makes the point more strongly than that, saying greater productivity *does* this, not that it *can* do this. This can mean cheaper costs to capitalists at the same time as increased real wages for workers (product produced for cheaper means that wages go further). Given his discussion of wages below the cost to maintain workers, though, it seems to me that it fits with Marx’s analysis to see this as also compatible with lowering real wages over time.

Marx discusses science as a tool for capitalists to use to expand production (754), he earlier discussed land and the productivity of labor as similar tools/factors. (752.) None of this reduces the importance of the working class in Marx’s understanding of capitalism, even though it appears to capitalists as if the use values of labor power are internal properties of capital (755), “just as the productive forces of social labour appear as inherent characteristics of capital, and just as the constant reappropriation of surplus labour by the capitalists appears as the constant self-valorization of capital. All the power of labour project themselves as powers of capital, just as all the value forms of the commodity do as forms of money.” (756.)

This strikes me as yet again confirming NP’s point about the recurrence of/return to the analysis of fetishism late in the book. Marx continues, “Since past labour always disguises itself as capital, i.e. since the debts owed to the labour of A, B, C, etc. are disguised as the assets of the non-worker X, bourgeois citizens and political economists are full of praise for the services performed by past labour.”Marx adds a moment later that “The ever-growing weight of the assistance given by past labour to the living labour process in the form of means of production is therefore attributed to that form of past labour in which it is alienated [entfremdet] (this term is also translated as “estranged”), as unpaid labour from the worker himself, i.e. it is attributed to its form as capital. The practical agents of capitalist production and their word-spinners are as incapable of thinking of the means of production separately from the antagonistic social mask they wear at present as a slave-owner is of thinking of the worker himself as distinct from his character as a slave.” (757.)

Reading this as fetishism, some things strike me. First, this is a mistake made by the other side much more than the working class. Second, this is a mistake, not something inherent about labor under capitalism that requires that it be misunderstood by all people in a capitalist society (that’s a common reading of fetishism, or at least on I’ve bumped into a lot). Third, the important point about fetishism is not about commodities per se but about commodified labor power.

Marx begins his summation of the chapter saying “capital is not a fixed magnitude, but a part of social wealth which is elastic, and constantly fluctuates with the division of surplus-value into revenue and additional capital.” The elasticity is a function of labor power, science, and land. Marx adds parenthetically that the term land “means, economically speaking, all the obejcts of labour furnished by nature without human intervention.” This elasticity give capital some independence from its magnitude – some latitude, some wiggle room. (758.)

Marx notes that the amount of variable capital, which is to say, of labor power, required to set constant capital in motion is not fixed by constant capital. (759.) Or rather, the number of workers who must be employed is not fixed. It depends among other things on the rate of exploitation. And likewise the price of labor power is not given – “only its minimum limit, which is moreover very elastic.” (760.)

Finally done w/ this post. Really should go back over these notes, since I’m writing them on several days and have trouble remembering stuff from before. I should also go back over the theme of reproduction stretched throughout this and the last chapter. Now it’s on to the main event, ch25. Hopefully that’ll go faster than this one did.