Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
1) Transformation of Money into Capital

The Valorisation Process

The Labour Process

Volume 30, MECW, p. 54-66

[I-A] [41] In considering the exchange between capital and labour we have to distinguish two things:

1) The sale of labour capacity. This is a simple sale and purchase, a simple relation of circulation, like any other sale and purchase. In investigating this relation the employment or consumption of the commodity purchased is irrelevant.

The harmonisers seek to reduce the relation of capital and labour to this first act, because here buyer and seller meet each other only as commodity owners, and the specific and distinctive character of the transaction is not apparent.[42]

2) The consumption of the commodity obtained in this exchange by capital (of labour capacity), the using up of its use value, forms here a specific economic relation; whereas with the simple sale and purchase of commodities the use value of the commodity, just like the realisation of this use value, consumption, is irrelevant to the economic relation itself.

In the exchange between capital and labour the first act is an exchange (purchase or sale), comes entirely within the sphere of simple circulation. The exchangers only confront each other as buyer and seller. The second act is a process qualitatively distinct from the exchange. It is an essentially different category. [I-A]

[I-28] After the owner of money has bought labour capacity — made the exchange for labour capacity (the purchase is complete once the two sides have reached an agreement, even if payment takes place later) — he applies it as use value, consumes it. But the realisation, the actual use, of labour capacity, is living labour itself. The consumption process of this specific commodity sold by the worker therefore coincides with, or rather is, the labour process itself. Since labour is the activity of the worker himself, the realisation of his own labour capacity, he enters into this process as a labouring person, a worker, and for the buyer he has in this process no other existence than that of labour capacity in action. It is therefore not a person, but active labour capacity personified in the worker, that is working. It is characteristic that in England the name for workers, hands, is derived from the main organ with which their labour capacity performs its function, namely their own hands.

Real labour is purposeful activity aimed at the creation of a use value, at the appropriation of natural material in a manner which corresponds to particular needs.[43] Whether the muscles or the nerves suffer greater wear through this activity is in this connection irrelevant, as is the degree of idealisation the materials of nature have already undergone.[44]

All real labour is particular labour, the exercise of a particular branch of labour distinct from the others. Just as one commodity is distinguished from another by its specific use value, so a specific kind of activity, of labour, is embodied in it. Since the conversion of money into capital or the formation of capital presupposes a developed circulation of commodities, it presupposes a developed division of labour, a division of labour understood here in the manner in which it is manifest (appears) in the multiplicity of commodities in circulation, hence as a division of the totality, of the whole of social labour, into manifold modes of labour, hence a totality of specific modes of labour.[45] The labour performed by the worker will therefore belong exclusively to a specific branch of labour, just as his labour capacity is itself specific. The particular content or purpose, and therefore the particular mode of labour, concern us here just as little as the particular material or use value of the commodity concerns us when we analyse the commodity.[39] Which specific branch of labour the worker works in is irrelevant, although of course the purchaser can only buy labour of a specific kind. The sole point to be kept in view here is the specificity of labour where it appears as a real process. It will be seen below that this indifference towards the specific content of labour is not only an abstraction made by us; it is also made by capital, and it belongs to its essential [I-29] character.[46] //Just as the investigation of the use values of commodities as such belongs in commercial knowledge, so the investigation of the labour process in its reality belongs in technology.[47] //

In looking at the labour process we are only interested in the entirely general moments into which it falls and which belong to it as labour process. These general moments must emerge from the nature of labour itself. Before the worker had sold the disposition over his labour capacity, he could not set the latter in motion as labour, could not realise it, because it was separated from the objective conditions of its activity. This separation is overcome in the actual labour process. Labour capacity now functions, because in accordance with its nature it appropriates its objective conditions. It comes into action because it enters into contact, into process, into association with the objective factors without which it cannot realise itself. These factors can be described in entirely general terms as means of labour. But the means of labour themselves fall necessarily into an object which is worked on, and which we want to call the material of labour, and the actual means of labour, an object which human labour, activity, interposes as a means between itself and the material of labour, and which serves in this way as a conductor of human activity. (This object does not need to be an instrument, it can be e.g. a chemical process.)[48]

A precise analysis will always reveal that all labour involves the employment of a material of labour and a means of labour. It is possible that the material of labour, the object to be appropriated by means of labour for a specific need, is available in nature without the assistance of human labour: the fish caught in water for example, or the wood felled in the primeval forest, or the ore brought up out of the pit. In such a case only the means of labour itself is a product of previous human labour. This characterises everything that can be called extractive industry; it only applies to agriculture to the extent that, say, virgin soil is being cultivated. Here, however, the seed is both means and material of labour, just as everything organic is both at once, the animal in stock-breeding for example. In contrast to this, it can only occur at the most primitive stages of economic development, hence only in conditions where the formation of the capital-relation does not come into question, that the instrument of labour is available in nature without further mediation. It is apparent of itself, and follows from the nature of the case, that the development of human labour capacity is displayed in particular in the development of the means of labour or instrument of production. It displays, namely, the degree to which man has heightened the impact of his direct labour on the natural world through the interposition for his working purposes of a nature already ordered, regulated and subjected to his will as a conductor.

The means of labour, in contrast to the material of labour, comprise not only the instruments of production, from the simplest tool or container up to the most highly developed system of machinery, but also the objective conditions without which the labour process cannot occur at all, e.g. the house in which the work is done or the field on which sowing takes place, etc. These do not enter directly into the labour process, but they are conditions without which it cannot occur, and therefore necessary means of labour. They appear as conditions for the occurrence of the whole process, not as factors enclosed within the process. The means of labour equally include substances consumed in order to make use of the means of labour as such, like oil, coal, etc., or chemical substances used to call forth a certain modification In the material of labour, as e.g. chlorine for bleaching, etc. There is no point in going into details here.

With the exception of the production of raw materials the material of labour will always have itself already passed through a previous labour process. What appears as material of labour and hence raw material in one branch of labour appears as result in another. The great majority even of things regarded as products of nature, e.g. plants and animals, are the result, in the form in which they are now utilised by human beings and produced anew, of a previous transformation effected by means of human labour over many generations under human control, during which their form and substance have changed. As we have already noted, the means of labour in one labour process is the result of labour in another.

[I-30] Hence in order to consume labour capacity it is not sufficient for the money owner to buy labour capacity //temporary disposition over it//; he must also ‘buy the means’ of labour, a bigger or smaller quantity of them: the material of labour and the means of labour. We shall come back to this afterwards. Here we only need to remark that for the money owner who has bought labour capacity to be able to proceed to its consumption, i.e. to the actual labour process, he must, with another part of his money, have bought the objective conditions of labour, which roll round within circulation as commodities. Only in combination with them can labour capacity make the transition to the actual labour process.

The money owner also buys commodities, but commodities whose use values are to be consumed by living labour, consumed as factors in the labour process: in part as use values which are to constitute the material of labour, and hence the element of a higher use value; and in part as means of labour, which serve as a conductor for the operation of labour on the material of labour. To consume commodities — here initially the use values of commodities — In this way in the labour process is to consume them productively, namely to consume them only as the means or object through and in which labour creates a higher use value. It is the industrial consumption of commodities (use values).[49] So much for the money owner, who transforms his money into capital by making the exchange with labour capacity.

Within the actual labour process itself commodities are only available as use values, not exchange values; for they confront real living labour only as its conditions, as means for its realisation, as factors determined by the nature of labour itself, which it requires for its realisation in a particular use value. The linen weaver, for example, is related in the act of weaving to the material of his labour, the linen yarn, only as material of this particular activity, weaving, only as an element in the fabrication of the product, linen. He is not related to it in so far as it has an exchange value, is the result of previous labour, but as a thing in front of him, whose properties he utilises for its rearrangement. In the same way, the fact that the loom is a commodity, the repository of exchange value, is of no concern at all here, it only matters as the means of the weaver’s labour. Only as such is it used and consumed in the labour process. The material of labour and the means of labour, although they are themselves commodities and therefore use values which possess an exchange value, confront actual labour only as moments, as factors of its process. This being so, it is obvious that in this process they do not confront labour as capital either. Actual labour appropriates the instrument as its means and the material as the material of its activity. It is the process of appropriation of these objects as of the animated body, the organs of labour itself. Here the material appears as the inorganic nature of labour, and the means of labour as the organ of the appropriating activity itself.50]

When we speak here of “higher” use values, this should not be understood in a moral sense; we do not even mean that the new use value necessarily occupies a higher rank in the system of needs. Grain distilled into schnapps is a lower use value than schnapps. Every use value that is preposited as an element in the formation of a new one is a lower use value vis--vis this new one, because it forms its elementary prerequisite, and the more labour processes have been undergone by the elements out of which a use value has been freshly formed, i.e. the more mediate its existence, the higher that use value is.[51]

The labour process is therefore a process in which the worker performs a particular purposive activity, a movement which is both the exertion of his labour capacity, his mental and physical powers, and their expenditure and using-up. Through it he gives the material of labour a new shape, in which the movement is materialised. This applies whether the change of form is chemical or mechanical, whether it proceeds of itself, through the control of physiological processes, or merely consists in the removal of the object to a distance (alteration of its spatial location), or only involves separating it from the body of the earth. Whilst labour materialises itself in this manner in the object of labour, it forms it and uses up, consumes the means of labour as its organ.[52] The labour goes over from the form of activity to the form of being, the form of the object. As alteration of the object it alters its own shape. The form-giving activity consumes the object and itself; it forms the object and materialises itself; it consumes itself in its subjective form as activity and consumes the objective character of the object, i.e. it abolishes the object’s indifference towards the purpose of the labour. Finally, the labour consumes the means of labour, which likewise made the transition during the process from mere possibility to actuality, by becoming the real conductor of labour, but thereby also got used up, in the form [I-31] in which it had been at rest, through the mechanical or chemical process it had entered.

All 3 moments of the process, whose subject is labour and whose factors are the material on which and the means of labour with which it operates, come together in a neutral result — the product. In the product labour has combined with the material of labour through the agency of the means of labour. The product, the neutral result in which the labour process ends, is a new use value. A use value in general appears as a product of the labour process. This use value may now either have attained the final form in which it can serve as means of subsistence for individual consumption, or, even in this form, it can again become a factor in a new labour process, as e.g. corn may be consumed not by human beings but by horses, may serve for the production of horses; or it can serve as an element for a higher, more complex use value; or the use value is a finished means of labour which is to serve as such in a fresh labour process; or, finally, the use value is an unfinished, a semi-manufactured product, which has to enter again as material of labour into a longer or shorter series of further labour processes, distinct from the labour process from which it has emerged as product, and also pass through a series of material changes. But with respect to the labour process from which it has emerged as product, it appears as a finished, conclusive result, as a new use value whose fabrication formed the content of the labour process and the immanent purpose of labour’s activity; formed the expenditure of the labour capacity, its consumption.

Therefore in the labour process the products of previous labour processes are employed, consumed by labour, in order to manufacture new products of higher, i.e. more mediated, use value. Within the limits of the particular labour process itself, in which the objective factors of labour only appear as the objective conditions of their realisation, this determination of use values, that they are themselves already products, is entirely irrelevant. It does however demonstrate the mutual material dependence of the different social modes of labour and the way they supplement each other to form a totality of social modes of labour.

To the extent that past labour is considered in its material aspect, i.e. to the extent that in looking at a use value which serves as means or material of labour in a labour process the circumstance is kept in mind that this use value is itself already a combination of natural material and labour, the past concrete labour objectified in use values serves as a means to the realisation of fresh labour, or, and this is the same thing, the formation of fresh use values. But one should certainly keep in mind the sense in which this is the case in the actual labour process. For example, loom and cotton yarn serve in weaving only in the qualities they possess for this process as material and means of weaving, only through the physical qualities they possess for this particular labour process. Cotton, wood and iron have taken on the forms in which they perform these services in the labour process, the one as yarn, the others as the loom. The fact that they have acquired this particular employment of their use value through the agency of previous labour, that they themselves already represent a combination of labour and natural material, is, as such, a circumstance which — just like the circumstance that wheat performs the particular services, finds the particular employment of its use value we see in the nourishment process — is irrelevant for this particular labour process as such, since they serve in a particular manner as use values, acquire a specific useful application. The process could not however, take place if cotton, iron and wood had not acquired the shape and therefore the specifically applicable qualities they possess as yarn and loom as a result of an earlier, past labour process.

Looked at purely materially, from the point of view of the actual labour process itself, a definite past labour process therefore appears as a preliminary stage and a condition for the entry into action of the new labour process. But then this labour process itself becomes merely a condition for the manufacture of a particular use value, even viewed from the standpoint of use value. In the consumption of a use value in general the labour contained in it is irrelevant and the use value only functions as use value, in other words it satisfies certain needs according to its qualities in the process of consumption, hence only the qualities it possesses as this object and the services it renders as this object are of interest; equally, in the labour process, which is itself only a definite, specific process of the consumption of use values, a particular, specific manner of using them up, what matters is only the qualities the products of earlier labour have for this process, not their existence as the materialisation of past labour. The qualities acquired by any natural material through earlier labour are now its own physical qualities, with which it functions or serves. The fact that these qualities are mediated by earlier labour, this mediation itself, is cancelled out, extinguished, in the product.

[I-32] What was the specific mode, the driving purpose, the activity of labour, now appears in its result, in the alteration in the object brought about by labour in the product, as an object with particular new qualities which it has for use, for the satisfaction of needs. If we are reminded in the labour process itself that the material and means of labour are the product of earlier labour. this only happens in so far as they fail to develop the necessary qualities, e.g. a saw that does not saw, a knife that does not cut, etc. This recalls to us the imperfection of the labour which has provided a factor for the labour process currently under way. Where products of earlier labour processes enter into a new labour process as factors, as material or means, it is only the quality of the past labour that interests us. We want to know whether its product really possesses the useful qualities it claims to have, whether the work was good or bad. It is labour in its material effect and reality that interests us here. For the rest, where the means and the material of labour serve as such use values in the actual labour process and possess the appropriate qualities — though whether they possess these qualities as use values at a higher or lower level, whether they serve their purpose more or less perfectly, depends on the past labour whose products they are — it is entirely irrelevant that they are the products of previous labour. If they fell ready-made from the sky they would perform the same service. If they interest us as products, i.e. as the results of past labour, it is only as the results of specific labour. We are interested in the quality of this specific labour, on which depends the quality of the results as use values, the degree to which they really serve [as] use values for this specific consumption process. Similarly, in a given labour process the labour is only of interest to the extent that it functions as this particular purposive activity; but the particular material content, and the degree to which the product is good or bad, to which it really possesses, acquires, the use value it ought to acquire in the labour process, depends on the higher or lower quality of the labour, on its thoroughness and suitability to the purpose.[53]

On the other hand, products which are destined to enter as use values into a fresh labour process, hence are either means of labour or unfinished products, i.e. products which need further treatment in order to become real use values, to serve for individual or productive consumption; products which are therefore either means or materials of labour for a further labour process, are realised as such only by entering into contact with living labour, which overcomes their dead objectivity, consumes them, transforms them from use values which only exist potentially into real and effective use values by consuming and utilising them as the objective factors of its own living movement. A machine that does not serve in the labour process is useless, dead wood and iron. Apart from this it falls victim to consumption by elemental forces, to the universal metabolism [of nature]. Iron rusts, wood rots. Yarn that is not woven or knitted, etc., is only wasted cotton, cotton unfitted for the other useful applications it possessed in its state as cotton, as raw material.

Since every use value can be made use of in various ways, every thing having various qualities in which it can serve to satisfy needs, it loses these qualities by acquiring use value in a particular direction through an earlier labour process, acquiring qualities with which it can only be useful in a particular subsequent labour process; hence products which can only serve as means and material of labour not only lose their quality as products which they acquired through the earlier labour, their quality as these particular use values, but also the raw material of which they consist is spoiled, pointlessly squandered, and along with the useful form it acquired as a result of labour previously carried out it falls victim to the dissolving action of natural forces. In the labour process the products of an earlier labour process, the material and means of labour, are as it were awakened from the dead. They only become real use values by entering as factors into the labour process, only in that process do they act as use values and only through it are they withdrawn from the dissolving action of the universal metabolic process so as to re-appear in the product as a new formation.

The labour process also destroys the machine, but as a machine. It lives and acts as a machine, for it to be consumed is the same thing as to be effective, and in the changed form of the material its movement is realised, fixed, as the quality of a new object. Similarly, it is only in the labour process itself that the material of labour develops the useful qualities it possesses as such. The process of its consumption is a process of refashioning, alteration, from which it emerges as a use value of a higher order.[51]

[I-33] Hence if existing products, the results of earlier labour, mediate the realisation of living labour as its objective conditions, living labour, for its part, mediates the realisation of these products as use values, as products, and preserves them, withdraws them from the universal metabolism of nature, by breathing life into them as the elements of a “new formation”.

In so far as actual labour creates use values, is appropriation of the natural world for human needs, whether these needs are needs of production or individual consumption, it is the universal condition for the metabolic interaction between nature and man, and as such a natural condition of human life it is independent of, equally common to, all particular social forms of human life.[43] The same is true of the labour process in its general forms; it is after all nothing but living labour, split up into its specific elements, whose unity is the labour process itself, the impact of labour on the material of labour working through the means of labour. The labour process itself appears in its general form, hence still in no specific economic determinateness. This form does not express any particular historical (social) relation of production entered into by human beings in the production of their social life; it is rather the general form, and the general elements, into which labour must be uniformly divided in all social modes of production in order to function as labour.

The form of the labour process which has been examined here is only its abstract form, a form divorced from all particular historical characteristics and fitting equally well with every kind of labour process, irrespective of the social relations human beings may enter into with each other in its course. just as little as one can tell from the taste of wheat whether it has been produced by a Russian serf or a French peasant, equally little can one tell from the labour process in its general forms, the general forms of this labour process, whether it is happening under the whip of the slave-driver or the eye of the industrial capitalist, or indeed whether the process is that of a savage dispatching wild beasts with his bow.[54]

With his money, the money owner has in part bought disposition over labour capacity, in part material and means of labour, so that he can use up, consume, this labour capacity as such, i.e. have it operate as actual labour, in short, so that he can have the worker really work. The universal determinants of this labour, which it has in common with every other manner of working, are not altered by the fact that it is done here for the money owner or appears here as the process of his consumption of labour capacity. He has subsumed the labour process under his dominion, appropriated it, but thereby left its general nature unchanged. To what extent the character of the labour process is itself changed by its subsumption under capital is a question which has nothing to do with the general form of the labour process and will be discussed later on.[55]

The wheat I eat, whether I have bought it or produced it myself, functions in either case in the nourishment process according to its own natural characteristics. Similarly, it does not change anything in the labour process in its general form, i.e. it changes nothing in the conceptual moments of work in general, whether I work for myself with my own material and instrument of labour, or I work for the money owner, to whom I have temporarily sold my labour capacity. The consumption of this labour capacity, i.e. its actual operation as labour power, actual labour, which in itself is a process wherein an activity enters into certain relations with objects, remains the same as before and moves within the same general forms. The labour process or actual work implies precisely that the separation in which the worker found himself before the sale of his labour capacity from the objective conditions which alone permit him to activate his labour capacity, to work — that this separation has been overcome, that he now enters into the natural relation as worker to the objective conditions of his labour, that he enters into the labour process. Hence in considering the general moments of this process I am only considering the general moments of actual labour in general.

(The practical application of this is namely that the apologists of capital confuse or identify it with a moment of the simple labour process as such, maintaining that a product intended for the production of another product is capital, that raw material is capital or that the tool of labour, the instrument of production is capital, that therefore capital is — whatever the relations of distribution and forms of social production — a factor of the labour process as such, a factor of production. It will be better to deal with this point when once the valorisation process has been treated.[56] For money to be transformed into capital (productive capital), it must be transformed into material of labour, instrument of labour and labour capacity, all of them products of past labour, use values provided through the agency of labour and employed for new production. Viewed from its material side capital thus appears now — in so far as it exists as use value — [I-34] as existing, present in the form of products which serve for new production, raw material, tools (but also as labour). The converse, however, by no means follows: these things are not as such capital. They only become capital given certain social pre-conditions. Otherwise it could just as well be said that labour is in and for itself capital, hence the usefulness of labour could be used to demonstrate to the worker the usefulness of capital, since in the labour process the labour belongs to the capitalist just as much as the tool does.)

The moments of the labour process, considered in relation to labour itself, have been specified as material of labour, means of labour and labour itself. If these moments are considered with regard to the purpose of the whole process, the product to be manufactured, they can be described as material of production, means of production and productive labour (perhaps not this last expression).[57]

The product is the result of the labour process. But products appear just as much as its prerequisite, with which it does not end but from whose existence it starts out as a condition. Not only is the labour capacity itself a product; the means of subsistence the worker receives as money from the money owner for the sale of his labour capacity are already finished products for individual consumption. Likewise, his material and means of labour, one or the other, or both, are already products. Products are therefore presupposed to production; products both for individual and for productive consumption. Nature itself is originally the store-house in which the human being, equally presupposed as a natural product, finds available for consumption finished natural products, as well as finding available in part, in the very organs of his own body, the first instruments of production for the appropriation of these products. The means of labour, the means of production, appears as the first product produced by the human being; and the first forms of. this product, stones, etc., are also found present in nature by him.[58]

As we have said, the labour process as such has nothing to do with the act of purchasing the labour capacity on the part of the capitalist. He has bought the labour capacity. Now he must employ it as use value. The use value of labour is work itself, the labour process. We therefore ask what this process consists in, in its general moments, i.e. independently of the future capitalist, in the same way as if we were to say: he buys wheat and now wants to use it as a means of nourishment. In what does the process of nourishment by cereals consist, or rather, what are the general moments of the nourishment process as such?