Spring 1999

Capital, Volume 1

Parts Seven and Eight


Go back and look at the structure of all of volume 1.


·Part 1: Commodities and Money.  The nature of the commodity and the nature of value that are revealed in the processes of exchange.

·Part 2: The Transformation of Money into Capital.  The definition of capital and self-valorizing value and the focus on labor-power as the central commodity in this process (still from the perspective of exchange).


·Part 3: The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value.  Descent from exchange to production.  Unpaid labor-time and the struggles over the length of the working day.

·Part 4: The Production of Relative Surplus-Value.  Production of surplus-value by increases in productivity in manufacture (division of labor) and large-scale industry (mechanization).

·Part 5: The Production of Absolute and Relative Surplus-Value.  Bringing together Parts 3 and 4.

·Part 6: Wages.  The costs of reproduction (the other side of production).  This would be the place to consider the needs and desires of the working class, but not really developed.


·Part 7: The Process of Accumulation of Capital.  Now we come out of the immediate processes of production and consider the regime of accumulation in which production takes place.

·Part 8: So-Called Primitive Accumulation.  What made capitalist production and accumulation possible in the first place?  The whole book has been considering capital in the abstract, as an ideal system.  This last part looks back on the whole process considering the English historical development as exemplary.


Part 7: The Process of Accumulation of Capital

To begin considering accumulation we have to take a larger view than we have been taking with respect to production, or specifically we have to extend our vision temporally from one process of production to the next.  Here we are primarily concerned with reproduction: reproduction of the worker, reproduction of the means of production, reproduction of the capitalist -- but most important, reproduction of the capital-relation itself.

Marx divides this into simple reproduction and expanding reproduction.  Simple reproduction occurs when we just have a repetition of the process of production again and again always on the same scale.  For this to happen the capitalist must consume all of the surplus value produced in each productive process and not reinvest any of it.  The capitalist merely reproduces the worker (via the wage), reproduces the means of production (raw materials and instruments), and eats up the rest. 

p. 718: “The maintanance and reproduction … reproduction of capital.”

Productive consumption, individual consumption (worker reproduction – no less necessary), and unproductive consumption (excess worker consumption), pp. 717-718.

Working class is inside capital:

p. 716: “capitalist produces the worker”

p. 719: “working class is an appendage of capital”

The really important point here is the emphasis on the reproduction of the total process: "The capitalist process of production, therefore, seen as a total, connected process, i.e. a process of reproduction, produces not only commodities, not only surplus-value, but it also produces and reproduces the capital-relation itself; on the one hand the capitalist, on the other the wage-labourer" (724).


Accumulation proper only really begins with reproduction on an expanding scale.  (I didn't put this part on the minimal reading list but should have, pp. 738-746.)  The accumulation of capital is the reconversion of surplus value into capital.  The key to this expansion is that the capitalist does not really consume all the surplus value.  "In the former case [simple reproduction] the capitalist squanders the whole of the surplus-value in dissipation, in the latter [reproduction on an extended scale, accumulation] he demonstrates his bourgeois virtue by consuming only a portion of it and converting the rest into money" (Engels, 732).  That money then is not hoarded but reinvested into production.  As accumulation expands, then, so must production.  There must in each new productive cycle be more raw materials, more instruments of production, more labor, and then of course new markets to sell the additional commodities, and so forth.  This expansion opens a whole set of interesting questions -- that we'll see primarily in volume 2.  (Already, though, this necessary expansion of capitalist production is the key to the classic readings of the necessary connection between imperialism and capitalism.)


Marx makes two points with regard to accumulation.  The first is the change it effectively introduces into the capitalist notion of property: "the inversion which converts the property laws of commodity production into laws of capitalist accumulation."  The rights of property in commodity exchange (and the buying and selling of labor power) seem to be based on each's own labor.  Each owns what he or she has made (including one's own labor-power).  The exchanges are made on the basis of these property rights.  "Now, however, property turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product, and the impossibility, on the part of the worker, of appropriating his own product.  The separation of property from labour thus becomes the necessary consequence of a law that apparently originated in their identity" (730).  Hence the inversion.  The right that seemed to be based on the identity between property and labor is really based on their separation.


The second point is more of a cultural argument about the bourgeoisie as a class, a more or less Weberian point.  Capitalists are ascetic and political economy preaches abstinence to them.  Rational miser: “Only as a personification … respectable” (p. 739).  Surplus-value is divided between the capitalist's own consumption and reinvestment to increase the scale of production (ie, accumulation).  Capital demands that the capitalist renounce pleasures and abstain as much as possible from "wasting" the surplus value on his own consumption -- this opposed to the "dashing feudal lord's prodigality" (741).  Conflict between accumulation and enjoyment.  "Accumulate, accumulate!  That is Moses and the prophets!" (742).


Chapter 25: The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation.  What are the tendencies that push forward accumulation and are driven by it.

·On the side of capital: concentration and centralization.  Concentration here refers the increasing concentration of the social means of production in the hands of individual capitalists as production expands.  Centralization refers rather to the distribution of means of production among the various individual capitalists.  Read: "And this is what distinguishes centralization from concentration ... parts social capital" (779).  Centralization is really the tendency for big capital to win over small capital, and thus for there to be increasing large units of capital -- joint-stock companies, trusts, etc.  The laws of competition lead to centralization and hence lack of competition.

·(This is what Lenin focuses on most in his book on Imperialism.  And one point that he makes is that this centralization does carry with it an enormous social potential.  Read: "Everywhere the increased ... processes of production" (780).  Lenin: "Competition becomes transformed into monopoly.  The result is immense progress in the socialization of production.  In particular, the process of technical invention and improvement becomes socialized."  "Capitalism in its imperialist stage arrives at the threshold of the most complete socialization of production.  In spite of themselves, the capitalists are dragged, as it were, into a new social order, a transitional social order from complete free competition to complete socialization" (25).)

·On the side of labor accumulation brings contrasting tendencies.  First of all there must be a growth of labor to answer the growth of production.  On the other hand, however, with increased productivity and relative surplus value generally, there is a decline of the portion of labor needed with respect to machines, raw material, etc.  Marx calls this the (accelerated) relative diminution of variable capital.  Marx characterizes this change as a change in the "composition of capital" -- that is the portion that is needed for variable and constant capital.  So in one respect increase, in another decrease.

·The other change for labor has to do with the cycles of expansion of capital.  Read: "With accumulation ... additional means of production" (784-85).  Read: "there must be the ... supplies these masses" (785).


Part 8: Primitive Accumulation


Original Sin: two races of people.  "Long, long ago there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent and above all frugal élite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living" (873).  The theological tale of original sin tells us how all humans are condemned to this life, but the original sin of political economy divides humanity into two races.

Real creation of classes was of course quite different and anything but idyllic.  What were created above all were "two very different kinds of commodity owners" (874).

·"free workers", "vogelfrei" (896) = divorced from the means of production (874)

  1) freed from serfdom and guilds (875)

  2) free of the means of production

·for primitive accumulation, epoch-making revolutions are made "when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled onto the labour-market as free, unprotected and rightless proletarians" (876).


Inclosures and clearing of the estates

In 15th century England free peasant proprietors (1) worked the land to which they had title and (2) had access to common lands for grazing, firewood, etc.  "The prelude to the revolution that laid that foundation of the capitalist mode of production was played out in the last third of the fifteenth century and the first few decades of the sixteenth" (878).  This is a revolution in the relations of production.


·First step: evictions, inclosures.  "Transformation of arable land into sheep-walks was therefore the slogan" (879).  Arable land required many people to work it while pastures could be worked by a small number of herdsmen.

 - Reformation adds to process: "The dissolution of the monasteries, etc., hurled their inmates into the proletariat" (881).  Also State lands (884).

 - yeomanry, the class of independent peasants, lasted longest (883).

 - transformation of feudal property to modern private property and "convert the land into a merely commercial commodity" (885).  The Bill of Inclosures and debates throughout 18th century.  (Compare to debates over family farm in US.)


·Final culminating step: clearing of the estates.

 - Scottish highlands: Highland celts were organized in clans and the representative of the clan, the chief, was titular owner.  "The Highland Celts were organized in clans, each of which was the owner of the land on which it was settled.  The representative of the clan, its chief or 'great man', was only the titular owner of this property, just as the Queen of England is the titular owner of all the national soil" 890).  In the legal transformation from feudal to modern property, the chief became owner in the full sense.  "On their own authority, they transformed their nominal right to the land into a right of private property" (890).  Example: Duchess of Sutherland turns county into a sheep walk.  Each sheep farm was given to a single family.  The rest of the peasants became fishermen.

 - Finally sheep farms were made into dear forests.


·read summary (895) 


Bloody legislation

The proletariat (or really pre-proletariat) created by clearing the estates was vogelfrei (896).  New legislation against vagabondage.

·Series of laws in England.  "Thus were the agricultural folk first forcibly expropriated from the soil, driven from their homes, turned into vagabonds, and then whipped, branded and tortured by grotesquely terroristic laws into accepting the discipline necessary for the system of wage-labour" (899).

·It's not enough to have capitalists and proletarians, the prols must work not by compulsion but as if by a natural law (899).  This is a disciplinary society: "The advance of capitalist production develops a working class which by education, tradition and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of production as self-evident natural laws" (899).

·But for now the State is needed to force the system to work (read 899- 900).

So the complete process of creating a proletariat is

1) free the workers from the land (the old means of production)

2) compel them to work in the new wage-labor system (through legislation)

3) train them to view the system as natural and to enforce it themselves.


Why does this happen?  One could easily give a conspiracy theory explanation: that the future capitalists are orchestrating this articulated and complex process.  What really is driving it?

·Was it legal?  That's not really the right question.  What is the rule of law and legality in carrying it out?


Conquest and colonization

Primary points

1.      Violence, political domination – State and colonial system.

2.      Necessary role of slavery and colonialism.


Userer’s capital and merchant’s capital, p. 914.

·conquest as chief moments of primitive accumulation (read 915).  Acceleration of process, hothouse, also p. 918.

·concentration of capital (read 918).  Who profited from colonialism?  The colonial system is the same kind of legal system as the bloody legislation.  It is extraeconomic support that is needed until economic power can take over.   European capital needed colonialism for a certain period but then became autonomous.

Slavery, pp. 924-925.

p. 929 – dialectic: centralization -> world market -> workers’ power -> comunism.

pp. 935-936: open spaces of settler colonies; p. 934: common land.