Absolute and relative surplus value, technology & booms

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Sat Aug 10 13:16:39 MDT 1996

No, Hans, you got it wrong.

If the workers have to *work more* as a result of machinery *intensifying*
labour, they *produce more value* as a result of the extra labour-power

If the machinery increases output *without* requiring an increase in the
intensification of effort, then you get more use value but the same
exchange value.

Look at it this way:

Absolute surplus value results from *extending* a working day consisting of
labour of a given social intensity, to increase the proportion of unpaid
labour when the necessary labour time (the time in which the worker
reproduces the value of his own labour-power, ie his wages) cannot be

Relative surplus value results from either *intensifying* the labour effort
required in a given time or *cheapening* the cost of labour, so that the
necessary labour time *is* changed, ie reduced, thus increasing the
proportion of unpaid labour.

This inflexibility of the necessary working day with respect to absolute
surplus value is why it was the main form in the beginnings of capitalism
when labour was only formally subordinated to capital, and the old methods
of work persisted.

The constant malleability of the necessary working day when it comes to
relative surplus value is the reason why Marx points to it as the main form
of extracting surplus value when there is real subordination of labour to
capital. And why he also says that it leads to the ceaseless
revolutionizing of the whole of capitalist production.



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