Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings

By Karl Marx; Max Eastman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
PURCHASE AND SALE OF LABOUR POWER

(Extracted from vol. 1, ch. 6.)

Now that we have seen that the value of commodities is constituted solely by the human labour contained in them, let us return to the question as to how it is possible for the manufacturer to obtain from his commodities a greater value than that invested by him in them.

We will put the case once more before the reader: a capitalist needs a definite sum, say $25.00, for the production of a certain commodity. He subsequently sells the finished product for $27.50. As our investigation has shown that the surplus value of $2.50 cannot have arisen in the process of circulation (i. e. in the turnover of the commodities), it must have its origin in the process of production. It is now incumbent on us to show how this comes about.

The problem, it is true, is partly solved, once we know that value is created by socially necessary labour. In order to produce yarn with the available means of production, e. g. spinning-frames and cotton, labour is performed in the spinning-mill. In so far as such labour is socially necessary, it creates value. It therefore adds a new value to the already existing means of production--in this case raw cotton--by transmitting at the same time the value of worn-out machinery, etc. to the yarn. But the difficulty remains, that the capitalist would also seem to have included payment for the newly performed labour in his costs of production, seeing that wages are likewise reckoned among such costs of production. along with the value of the machines, buildings, raw materials, and other requisites. And these wages are paid precisely for the labour performed in spinning. It appears therefore as if all the values available after the process of production were also available previously.

But it is clear that the value which has been newly created by the work of spinning is not necessarily identical with the value paid by the capitalist in the shape of wages. It can be

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