# [OPE-L:4575] Vintages (Marx's example in Ch.12)

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Thu, 27 Mar 1997 14:29:23 -0800 (PST)

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MARX'S EXAMPLE IN VOL. I, CH. 12

Alejandro Ramos
February 26, 1995

In the example given in Capital I, Ch. 12 (Penguin, pp. 433-6), Marxs
purpose is to illustrate, assuming prices = values, the production of
relative surplus-value. A standard-productivity capital, whose
features are presented in the following Table, is firstly considered:

Standard-Productivity Capital: Simple Labour and Uniform MEL
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Constant Capital Value-Product Value Q Unit Price
-------------------------------------------------------------------
s. h. MELPL s. h. MELLL s. h. MEL
-------------------------------------------------- 12 12d.
6 12 0.5 6 12 0.5 12 24 0.5
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: physical amount "pieces"
MELPL: MEL of past labor
MELLL: MEL of living labor

Twelve pieces (Q) of a certain commodity are produced and sold for
12 pence (12d. = 1 shilling) each. Then, a total of 12 shillings (s.)
are realized as money-value. Constant capital is equal to 6s. and
value-product (the money expression of living labour) amounts 12s.-
6s. = 6s. As Marx supposes that the average or general MEL is 0.5s.
per hour[1], constant capital represents 12 hours (h.) of past
labour, and the working day of 12 hours is objectified as a value-
product amounting 6s. Total abstract labour contained in the 12
pieces is, thus, equal to 12h.+12h. = 24 hours.

Then, Marx presents another individual capital with a double
productivity, i.e. it produces 24 pieces using the same quantity of
living labour. Meeting this output requires to double the consumption
of means of production, whose price remains constant, so constant
capital is now 12s (= 24 hours).

Double-Productivity Capital: Complex Labour and Diverse MEL
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Constant Capital Value-Product Value Q Unit Price
-------------------------------------------------------------------
s. h. MELPL s. h. MELLL s. h. MEL
-------------------------------------------------- 24 10d.
12 24 0.5 8 12 0.67 20 ? ?
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: physical amount "pieces"
MELPL: MEL of past labor
MELLL: MEL of living labor

Marx explains that, by reducing the price, the capitalist may realize
the whole product. The 24 pieces are sold charging 10d., that is 2d.
below the price of standard capital (12 d.). Total value realized by
this new capital is then 24*10 d. = 20s. As the price of the means of
production price remains the same, constant capital amounts 12s.
Value-product is the difference between total value and constant
capital: 20s.-12s. = 8s.

Now then, it is clear that while the monetary expression of past
labour (MELPL) corresponds to the assumed average (0.5s. per hour),
the monetary expression of living labour (MELLL) is greater than it:
12 hours are expressed as 8s., which implies that the MELLL =
0.67s. per hour > average = 0.5s. per hour[2] .

This difference occurs because, in the new capital, living labour has
an *exceptional productivity* and thus acts as intensified or complex
labour:

The exceptionally productive labour acts as
intensified labour; it creates in equal periods
of time greater values than average social labour
of the same kind. (Penguin, p. 435)

Therefore, one capital operating with a superior productivity
exhibits a MELLL greater than the average. Its living labour is being
represented by an amount of money greater than that corresponding to
simple labour: in the same period, this labour creates more
MONEY-value than the simple labour does.

This situation avoids one to directly obtain the whole amount of
labour objectified as value by the capital with superior
productivity. In effect, it is impossible to sum simple labour-time
--as is the past labour contained in the means of production-- with
the complex labour-time represented by living labour. Actually, each
complex labour time-unit counts as many simple labour time-units.
Hence, in order to know how many hours of simple labour are contained
in the commodity, it is necessary to reduce complex labour to simple
labour.

It is plain that the ratio between complex and simple labour (K) is
given, precisely, by the relation between the monetary expression of
the complex living labour (MELLL) and the general monetary expression
of labour (MEL):
MELL 0.67
K = ----- = ------ = 4/3
MEL 0.50

So, the 12 hours of complex living labour represent 12*4/3 = 16 hours
of simple labour. This reduction permits one to add past and living
labour: The 24 pieces of the commodity contain 24h.+16h. = 40 hours
of simple abstract labour.

Double-Productivity Capital: Reduction to Simple Labour
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Constant Capital Value-Product Value Q Unit Price
-------------------------------------------------------------------
s. h. MELPL s. h. MELLL s. h. MEL
-------------------------------------------------- 24 10d.
12 24 0.5 8 16 0.5 20 40 0.5
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: physical amount "pieces"
MELPL: MEL of past labor
MELLL: MEL of living labor

In **terms of simple labour** the MEL is common for all the kinds of
labour and equal to 0.5s per hour.

This means that when the more productive capital sells its 24 pieces
for 20s, APPROPRIATES the equivalent of 40 hours although in its own
production only 36 hours were objectified. The labor appropriated
by this capital comes from the less productive capitals operating in
the branch.

The surplus-labour appropriated by this capitalist can be calculated
either in complex labour-time or in simple labour time. As value-
product is equal to 20s.-12s. = 8s. and Marx assumes that wage is
5s., the capitalist appropriates 8s.-5s. = 3s. as surplus-value. The
augmented productivity alters the individual relation between surplus-
value and variable capital. This ratio increases from the 1:5,
prevailing in the standard capital, to 3:5, achieved by the new
capital which, thus, appropriates a relative surplus-value. The
proportion 3:5 implies that, in terms of complex labour-time, the 12
hours of living labour are divided into 7.5 hours representing
necessary labour and 4.5 hours corresponding to surplus-labour. In
terms of simple labour-time, the corresponding 16 hours are broken
down into 10 paid hours and 6 unpaid hours.

Finally, we may assume that the old standard-productivity capital is
replaced by the new, more productive one, and that the demand matches
its output. In this case, unit-price falls accordingly with the
reduction of socially necessary labour-time which has been carried
out by the more productive capital.

New Standard-Productivity Capital: Simple Labour and Uniform MEL
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Constant Capital Value-Product Value Q Unit Price
-------------------------------------------------------------------
s. h. MELPL s. h. MELLL s. h. MEL
-------------------------------------------------- 24 9d.
12 24 0.5 6 12 0.5 18 36 0.5
-------------------------------------------------------------------
Q: physical amount "pieces"
MELPL: MEL of past labor
MELLL: MEL of living labor

The old capital needed 24 hours/12 pieces = 2 hours to produce
each piece, while the new capital reduced this time to 36 hours/24
pieces = 1.5 hours each. This reduction of 25 0s, then, reflected by
a 25% reduction in price which falls from 12d. to 9d. What was the
individual value of the more productive capital, becomes the social
value of commodity (see Penguin, p. 434).

However, the 12 hours corresponding to living labour are no longer
complex labour. As the more productive technique prevails, this
labour directly yields the same amount of money as other branches and
thus it becomes simple labour:

Even though the productivity of labour has been doubled,
the day's labour creates, as before, a new value of 6s. and
no more, which is now however spread over twice as many
articles. (Penguin, p. 434)

Accordingly, past and living labour contained in the commodity have
the same, general, monetary expression.

Notes:

[1] "If 1 hour's labour is embodied in 6d. [0.5s.], a value of 6s.
will be produced in a working day of 12 hours." Capital I, p. 433.

[2] "There remain 8s., which are the expression in money of the
value newly created during the working day. This sum is greater than
the sum in which average social labour of the same kind is expressed:
12 hours of the latter are expressed by only 6s." Capital I, p. 435.