December 26, 2017

Grundrisse: Notebook V – Difference between the capitalist mode of production and all earlier ones

Influence of circulation on the determination of value. – Circulation time = time of devaluation. – Difference between the capitalist mode of production and all earlier ones (universality etc.). Propagandistic nature of capital. – Abbreviation of circulation (credit). – Storch. – What the capitalist advances is labour. (Malthus.) – Barriers to capitalist production. (Thompson)

In as much as the renewal of production depends on the sale of the finished products; transformation of the commodity into money and retransformation of money into the conditions of production – raw material, instrument, wages; in as much as the circuits which capital travels in order to go from one of these forms into the other constitute sections of circulation, and these sections are travelled in specific amounts of time (even spatial distance reduces itself to time; the important thing e.g. is not the market’s distance in space, but the speed – the amount of time – with which it can be reached), by that much the velocity of circulation, the time in which it is accomplished, is a determinant of how many products can be produced in a given period of time; how often capital can be realized in a given period of time, how often it can reproduce and multiply its value. Thus a moment enters into value-determination which indeed does not come out of the direct relation of labour to capital. The frequency with which the same capital can repeat the production process (creation of new value) in a given period of time is evidently a condition not posited directly by the production process itself. Thus, while circulation does not itself produce a moment of value-determination, for that lies exclusively in labour, its speed does determine the speed with which the production process is repeated, values are created – thus, if not values, at least to a certain extent the mass of values. Namely, the values and surplus values posited by the production process, multiplied by the number of repetitions of the production process in a given period of time. When we speak of the velocity of the circulation of capital, we postulate that delays in the transition from one phase to the next arise only from external barriers, not such as arise from the production process and circulation itself (such as crises, overproduction etc.). Thus, in addition to the labour time realized in production, the circulation time of capital enters in as a moment of value creation – of productive labour time itself. While labour time appears as value-positing activity, this circulation time of capital appears as the time of devaluation. The difference shows itself simply in this: if the
totality of the labour time commanded by capital is set at its maximum, say infinity, ∞, so that necessary labour time forms an infinitely small part and surplus labour time an infinitely large part of this [infinity], then this would be the maximum realization of capital, and this is the tendency towards which it strives. On the other side, if the circulation time of capital were = 0, if the various stages of its transformation proceeded as rapidly in reality as in the mind, then that  would likewise be the maximum of the factor by which the production process could be repeated, i.e. the number of capital realization processes in a given period of time. The repetition of the production process would be restricted only by the amount of time which it lasts, the amount of time which elapses during the transformation of raw material into product. Circulation time is therefore not a positive value-creating element; if it were = to 0, then value-creation would be at its maximum. But if either surplus labour time or necessary labour time = 0, i.e. if necessary labour time absorbed all time, or if production could proceed altogether without labour, then neither value, nor capital, nor value-creation would exist. Circulation time therefore determines value only in so far as it appears as a natural barrier to the realization of labour time. It is therefore in fact a deduction from surplus labour time, i.e. an increase of necessary labour time. It is clear that necessary labour time has to be paid for, whether the circulation process proceeds slowly or quickly. E.g. in trades where specific workers are required, who can, however, only be employed for a part of the year because the products are, say, saleable only in a given season, [in those trades] the workers would have to be paid for the entire year, i.e. surplus labour time is decreased in exact proportion to the reduction in their possibilities of employment during a given period of time, but still they must be paid in one way or another. (For example in the form that their wages for 4 months suffice to maintain them for a year.) If capital could utilize them for 12 months, it would pay them no higher, and would have gained that much surplus labour. Circulation time thus appears as a barrier to the productivity of labour = an increase in necessary labour time = a decrease in surplus labour time = a decrease in surplus value = an obstruction, a barrier to the self-realization process [Selbstverwertungsprozess] of capital. Thus, while capital must on one side strive to tear down every spatial barrier to intercourse, i.e. to exchange, and conquer the whole earth for its market, it strives on the other side to annihilate this space with time, i.e. to reduce to a minimum the time spent in motion from one place to another. The more developed the capital, therefore, the more extensive the market over which it circulates, which forms the spatial orbit of its circulation, the more does it strive simultaneously for an even greater extension of the market and for greater annihilation of space by time. (If labour time is regarded not as the working day of the individual worker, but as the indefinite working day of an indefinite number of workers, then all relations of population come in here; the basic doctrines of population are therefore just as much contained in this first chapter on capital as are those of profit, price, credit etc.) There appears here the universalizing tendency of capital, which distinguishes it from all previous stages of production. Although limited by its very nature, it strives towards the universal development of the forces of production, and thus becomes the presupposition of a new mode of production, which is founded not on the development of the forces of production for the purpose of reproducing or at most expanding a given condition, but where the free, unobstructed, progressive and universal development of the forces of production is itself the presupposition of society and hence of its reproduction; where advance beyond the point of departure is the only presupposition. This tendency – which capital possesses, but which at the same time, since capital is a limited form of production, contradicts it and hence drives it towards dissolution – distinguishes capital from all earlier modes of production, and at the same time contains this element, that capital is posited as a mere point of transition. All previous forms of society – or, what is the same, of the forces of social production – foundered on the development of wealth. Those thinkers of antiquity who were possessed of consciousness therefore directly denounced wealth as the dissolution of the community. The feudal system, for its part, foundered on urban industry, trade, modern agriculture (even as a result of individual inventions like gunpowder and the printing press). With the development of wealth – and hence also new powers and expanded intercourse on the part of individuals – the economic conditions on which the community rested were dissolved, along with the political relations of the various constituents of the community which corresponded to those conditions: religion, in which it was viewed in idealized form (and both [religion and political relations] rested in turn on a given relation to nature, into which all productive force resolves itself); the character, outlook etc. of the individuals. The development of science alone – i.e. the most solid form of wealth, both its product and its producer – was sufficient to dissolve these communities. But the development of science, this ideal and at the same time practical wealth, is only one aspect, one form in which the development of the human productive forces, i.e. of wealth, appears. Considered ideally, the dissolution of a given form of consciousness sufficed to kill a whole epoch. In reality, this barrier to consciousness corresponds to a definite degree of development of the forces of material production and hence of wealth. True, there was not only a development on the old basis, but also a development of this basis itself. The highest development of this basis itself (the flower into which it transforms itself; but it is always this basis, this plant as flower; hence wilting after the flowering and as consequence of the flowering) is the point at which it is itself worked out, developed, into the form in which it is compatible with the highest development of the forces of production, hence also the richest development of the individuals. As soon as this point is reached, the further development appears as decay, and the new development begins from a new basis. We saw earlier that property in the conditions of production was posited as identical with a limited, definite form of the community; hence of the individual with the characteristics – limited characteristics and limited development of his productive forces – required to form such a community. This presupposition was itself in turn the result of a limited historic stage of the development of the productive forces; of wealth as well as of the mode of creating it. The purpose of the community, of the individual – as well as the condition of production – [is] the reproduction of these specific conditions of production and of the individuals, both singly and in their social groupings and relations – as living carriers of these conditions. Capital posits the production of wealth itself and hence the universal development of the productive forces, the constant overthrow of its prevailing presuppositions, as the presupposition of its reproduction. Value excludes no use value; i.e. includes no particular kind of consumption etc., of intercourse etc. as absolute condition; and likewise every degree of the development of the social forces of production, of intercourse, of knowledge etc. appears to it only as a barrier which it strives to overpower. Its own presupposition – value – is posited as product, not as a loftier presupposition hovering over production. The barrier to capital is that this entire development proceeds in a contradictory way, and that the working-out of the productive forces, of general wealth etc., knowledge etc., appears in such a way that the working individual alienates himself [sich entäussert]; relates to the conditions brought out of him by his labour as those not of his own but of an alien wealth and of his own poverty. But this antithetical form is itself fleeting, and produces the real conditions of its own suspension. The result is: the tendentially and potentially general development of the forces of production – of wealth as such – as a basis; likewise, the universality of intercourse, hence the world market as a basis. The basis as the possibility of the universal development of the individual, and the real development of the individuals from this basis as a constant suspension of its barrier, which is recognized as a barrier, not taken for a sacred limit. Not an ideal or imagined universality of the individual, but the universality of his real and ideal relations. Hence also the grasping of his own history as a process, and the recognition of nature (equally present as practical power over nature) as his real body. The process of development itself posited and known as the presupposition of the same. For this, however, necessary above all that the full development of the forces of production has become the condition of production; and not that specific conditions of production are posited as a limit to the development of the productive forces. –

If we now return to the circulation time of capital, then its abbreviation (except for development of the means of communication and transport required to bring the product to market) [means] in part the creation of a continuous and hence an ever more extensive market; and in part the development of economic relations, development of forms of capital, by means of which it artificially abbreviates the circulation time. (All forms of credit.) <It may be further remarked at this point that, since capital alone possesses the conditions of the production of capital, hence satisfies and strives to realize [them], [it is] a general tendency of capital at all points which are presuppositions of circulation, which form its productive centres, to assimilate these points into itself, i.e. to transform them into capitalizing production or production of capital. This propagandistic (civilizing) tendency a property exclusively of capital – as distinct from the earlier conditions of production.> The modes of production where circulation does not form the immanent, dominant condition of production, naturally [do] not [meet] the specific circulation requirements of capital and hence also do not [provide for] the working-out of the economic forms as well as of the real forces of production corresponding to them. – Production based on capital originally came out of circulation; we now see that it posits circulation as its own condition, and likewise the production process in its immediacy as moment of the circulation process, as well as the circulation process as one phase of the production process in its totality. – In so far as different capitals have different circulation times (e.g. one a more distant market, the other a near one; one a guaranteed transformation into money, the other a risky one; one more fixed capital, the other more circulating capital), this makes for differences among them in realization. But this happens only in the secondary realization process. Circulation time in itself is a barrier to realization (necessary labour time is of course also a barrier; but at the same time an element, since value and capital would vanish without it); [it is a] deduction from surplus labour time or an increase in necessary labour time in relation to surplus labour time. The circulation of capital realizes value, while living labour creates value. Circulation time is only a barrier to this realization of value, and, to that extent, to value creation; a barrier arising not from production generally but specific to production of capital, the suspension of which – or the struggle against which – hence also belongs to the specific economic development of capital and gives the impulse for the development of its forms in credit etc. <Capital itself is the contradiction [, in] that, while it constantly tries to suspend necessary labour time (and this is at the same time the reduction of the worker to a minimum, i.e. his existence as mere living labour capacity), surplus labour time exists only in antithesis with necessary labour time, so that capital posits necessary labour time as a necessary condition of its reproduction and realization. At a certain point, a development of the forces of material production – which is at the same time a development of the forces of the working class – suspends capital itself.

‘The entrepreneur can resume production only after he has sold the completed product, and has employed the price for the purchase of new materials and wages: thus, the more prompt circulation is in bringing about these two effects, the more is he capable of beginning his production anew, and the more products does the capital supply in a given period of time.’ (Storch, 34.)  ‘The specific advances of the capitalist do not consist of cloth etc., but of labour.’ (Malthus, IX, 26.) ‘The accumulation of the general capital of the community in other hands [than] those of the operative labourers, necessarily retards the progress of all industry save that of the usual remuneration of capital, which the time and circumstances afford to the holders of the capital … In the previous systems, the force of production regarded in reference to and subordinate to actual accumulations, and to the perpetuating of the existing modes of distribution. Actual accumulation and distribution are subordinate to the power of producing.’ (Thompson, 3.)