Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63
2) Absolute Surplus Value by Karl Marx
[III-102] The amount of surplus value evidently depends not only on the surplus labour performed by an individual worker above and beyond the necessary labour time; it depends just as much on the number of workers employed simultaneously by capital, or the number of simultaneous working days it makes use of, each of these = necessary labour time + surplus labour time. If the necessary labour time = 10 hours, the surplus labour = 2, and the total working day of a worker therefore equals 12 hours, the magnitude of the surplus value will depend on its own magnitude × by the number of workers employed by capital, or by the number of simultaneous working days from which the surplus value has resulted. By simultaneous working days we mean the period during which a certain number of workers work on the same day.
If a capitalist employs e.g. 6 workers, each of whom works for 12 hours, the 6 simultaneous working days, or 72 hours, objectified by him in the production process, are transferred to the objective form of value. If the surplus labour of a worker amounts to 2 hours, on top of 10 hours of necessary labour time, the surplus labour of 6 workers = 6 × 2 = 12 hours . (That is, the surplus labour of the individual worker multiplied by the number of workers simultaneously employed.) With n workers, then, n × 2, and it is clear that the magnitude of the product n X 2 depends on the magnitude of n, the factor which expresses the number of workers or the number of simultaneous working days. It is equally clear that if the mass, the total amount, of surplus value grows with the number of workers and depends on it, the ratio of surplus value to necessary labour time, or the ratio in which the capital advanced in the purchase of labour valorises itself, the proportionate magnitude of the surplus value, is not thereby altered, hence there is no change in the ratio between the paid and the unpaid labour. 2:10 is 20%, and so is 2×6:10×6, or 12:60. (2:10 = 12:60.) (Or, expressed more generally, 2:10 = n×2:n×l0. For 2×n×10 = l0×n×2.) Assuming that the ratio of surplus value to necessary labour time is given, the amount of surplus value can only grow in proportion to the increase in the number of workers (of simultaneous working days). Assuming that the number of workers is given, the amount, the mass, of surplus value can only grow in the measure to which the surplus value itself grows, i.e. as the duration of the surplus labour increases. 2×n (n being the number of workers) is equal to 4×n/2.
It is therefore clear that if a particular ratio between necessary labour time and surplus labour is given — or if the total time worked by the worker has reached what we shall call the normal working day — the amount of the surplus value depends on the number of workers who are simultaneously employed, and it can only grow in so far as this number increases.
We therefore take the normal working day as the measure of the consumption and valorisation of labour capacity.
The amount of surplus value therefore depends on the population and other circumstances (size of capital, etc.) which we shall investigate straight away.
This much must be noted before we proceed. For the owner of money or commodities to be able to valorise as capital his money or commodities, in short the value he possesses, and therefore for him to produce as a capitalist, it is necessary in advance that he be capable of employing a certain minimum number of workers simultaneously. From this point of view, too, a certain minimum magnitude of value is a prerequisite if it is to be employed as productive capital. The first condition for this magnitude is given from the outset by the fact that, in order to live as a worker, the worker would need merely the amount of raw material (and means of labour) required to absorb the necessary labour time, say 10 hours. The capitalist must be able to buy at least as much more raw material as is required to absorb the surplus labour time (or also as much more of the matières instrumentales, etc.). Secondly, however: Suppose the necessary labour time is 10 hours and the surplus labour time is 2 hours. The capitalist, if he does not work himself, would have already to employ 5 workers, so as to take in a value of 10 hours of labour a day in addition to the value of his capital. But what he took in every day in the form of surplus value [III-103] would only enable him to live like one of his workers. And even this only on condition that his purpose was merely the preservation of his life, as with the workers, hence not the increase of his capital, which is the presupposition with capitalist production. If he worked alongside them, so as to earn a wage himself, his mode of life would scarcely differ from that of a worker (it would merely give him the position of a somewhat better paid worker) (and this boundary is made hard and fast by the guild regulations). He would in any case still stand very close to the position of a worker, particularly if he were to increase his capital, i.e. capitalise a portion of the surplus value. This is the situation of the guild masters in the Middle Ages, and in part still that of the present master craftsmen. They do not produce as capitalists.
If the necessary labour time is given, and similarly the ratio of surplus labour to it — in a word, the normal working day, the overall sum of which = the necessary labour time + the time the surplus labour lasts — the amount of surplus labour, hence the amount of surplus value, depends on the number of simultaneous working days, or the number of workers who can be set in motion simultaneously by capital. In other words: the amount of surplus value — its total amount — will depend on the number of labour capacities available and present in the market, hence on the magnitude of the working population and the proportion in which this population grows. Hence the natural growth of population, and therefore the increase of the number of labour capacities present in the market, is a productive power of capital, since it provides the basis for the growth in the absolute amount of surplus value (i.e. of surplus labour).
It is clear on the other hand that capital must grow in order to employ a greater quantity of workers. Firstly, its constant part must grow, i.e. the part the value of which merely re-appears in the product. More raw material is required to absorb more labour. More of the means of labour is also required, though in a more indeterminate proportion. If we assume that manual labour is the main factor, that production is carried on in a handicraft manner (and here, where we are still only considering the absolute form of surplus value, this assumption is valid; for although this form of surplus value remains the fundamental form even of the mode of production transformed by capital, it is still characteristic of capital’s mode of production, and it is its sole form as long as capital has only formally subsumed the labour process under itself, i.e. actually a previous mode of production, in which human manual labour was the chief factor of production, has merely been brought under capital’s control), then the number of instruments and means of labour must grow fairly uniformly with the number of the workers themselves and the quantity of raw material required for labour by the increased number of workers. Thus the value of the whole constant part of capital grows proportionately to the growth in the number of workers employed.
Secondly, however, the variable part of capital, which is exchanged for labour capacity, must grow (as constant capital grows) in the same proportion as the number of workers or the number of simultaneous working days. This variable part of capital will experience its greatest growth under the conditions of industry of the handicraft type, where the essential factor of production, the manual labour of the individual, only delivers a small amount of product in a given time, hence the material consumed in the production process is small in proportion to the labour employed; likewise the handicraft instruments, which are simple and themselves only represent insignificant values. Since the variable part of capital forms its largest constituent, it will have to grow most of all when capital grows; or since the variable part of capital forms its greatest part, it is precisely this part which will have to grow most significantly when exchanges are made with more labour capacities. If I employ a capital 2/5 of which is constant, and 3/5 of which is laid out in wages, the calculation will be as follows, if the capital is to employ 2 × n workers instead of n workers: Originally the capital was = n (2 /5 + 3/5). 2n/5 + 3n/5. Now it will be 4n/5 + 6n/5. The part of capital laid out in wages, or the variable part, always remains greater than the constant part, in the same proportion as the growth in the number of workers; in the same proportion as it was presupposed to be greater at the outset.
On the one hand, therefore, the population must grow, to allow the amount of surplus value, hence the total capital, to grow under the given conditions; on the other hand, it is presupposed that capital has already grown so that the population may grow. Thus there appears to be a circulus vitiosus here //which should be left open as such at this point and not explained. It belongs in Chapter V//.
[III-104] If one assumes that the average wage is sufficient not only for the preservation of the working population but for its constant growth, in whatever proportion, an increasing working population is given in advance for growing capital, while a growth of surplus labour, hence also an increase of capital through the growth in population, is simultaneously given. In analysing capitalist production one must actually proceed from this assumption; for it implies a constant increase in surplus value, i.e. in capital. We do not yet need to investigate how capitalist production itself contributes to the growth of population.
The population numbers working under capital as wage labourers or the number of labour capacities available on the market can grow without any absolute growth in the total population or even in the working population alone. If for example members of working-class families, such as women and children, are pressed into capital’s service, and they were not in this position before, the number of wage labourers has increased without any increase in the overall size of the working population. This increase can take place without any increase in the variable part of capital, the part which is exchanged for labour. The family might receive the same wage from which they lived previously But they would have to provide more labour for the same wage.
On the other hand, the overall working population may grow without any absolute growth in the population as a whole. If sections of the population which were previously in possession of the conditions of labour, and worked with them — such as independent handicraftsmen, allotment-holding peasants, and lastly small capitalists — are robbed of their conditions of labour (of property in them) in consequence of the impact of capitalist production, they may turn into wage labourers and thus increase the absolute number of the working population, without any increase having occurred in the absolute number of the population. There would merely have been an increase in the numerical size of various classes and in their proportional share in the absolute population. But this is known to be one of the effects of the centralisation brought about by capitalist production. In this case the amount of the working population would have risen absolutely. The amount of wealth available and employed in production would not have increased absolutely. But there would have been an increase in the portion of wealth turned into capital and acting as capital.
In both cases there is growth in the number of wage labourers without any absolute increase, in the one case, in the working population, and in the other case, in the total population; without any increase, in the one case, in the amount of capital laid out for wages, and in the other case, in the absolute amount of wealth devoted to reproduction. This would at the same time produce an increase b in surplus labour and surplus value and therefore dynamei the increase in capital necessary to support the absolute growth of the population. //This will all be considered under Accumulation.  //