Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings

By Karl Marx; Max Eastman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
HOW CAPITAL REVOLUTIONISES THE MODE OF PRODUCTION

(A) Cooperation

(Extracted from vol. 1, ch. 13.)

CAPITALIST production begins when each individual capital employs simultaneously a comparatively large number of labourers. A greater number of labourers working together at the same time in one place (or, if you will, in the same field of labour), in order to produce the same sort of commodity, constitutes both historically and logically the starting point of capitalist production. With regard to the mode of production itself, manufacture (for instance) is originally hardly to be distinguished from the handicraft trades of the guilds, otherwise than by the greater number of labourers simultaneously employed by one and the same individual capital. The workshop of the master handicraftsman is simply enlarged.

At first, therefore, the difference is purely quantitative. Nevertheless, within certain limits, a material modification takes place. In every industry each individual labourer, be he Peter or Paul, differs more or less from the average labourer. These individual differences compensate one another and vanish, whenever a certain number of labourers are employed together. Edmund Burke asserted (in the 18th century) on the strength of his practical experiences as farmer, that even if only five farm labourers work together, all individual differences vanish, and that consequently any given five adult farm labourers taken together will in the same time do as much work as any other five. But however that may be, it is clear that the collective working-day of a large number of labourers simultaneously employed gives one day of average social labour. If, for instance, the capitalist employs 12 labourers during 12 hours each, this means for the capitalist a working- day of 144 hours. And although the labour of each of the dozen men may deviate more or less from average social

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