Machines and large scale production

Reading Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, Class 8

Machinery and Large-Scale Industry

Machines free up time, but not for leisure. Capitalism has other plans for the worker.

speed things up, standardise and control. More gets produced at an ever-accelerating rate, but increasing that rate is the end goal. Machines are not a liberator of workers from labour. Instead, they draw ever more people into the capitalist mode.

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Specialisation of labour

Reading Marx’s Capital – Volume 1 Class 7

Busy Bees Might Not be Happy Bees

With a limit to the hours of work and the works who can work them the only way to increase surplus value is to increase productivity.

Shrinking time and space by bringing all the functions together in a single factory allows the entire process to be seen as a whole, and reconfigured to be more efficient. Tasks that were the role of the skilled craftsmen are broken down into tasks capable of being performed by the unskilled labourer.

Tasks that were the role of the skilled craftsmen are broken down into tasks capable of being performed by the unskilled, but specialist labourer, with a corresponding loss of understanding and control.

The delights of honey-gathering in the fields is swapped for the the drone of the factory.

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The length of the working day

Reading Marx’s Capital – Volume 1 Class 6

“Moments are elements of profit” (page 353)

The history of labour is one of exploitation. The attempt to capture other people’s time as surplus value and the attempt to get as much of it as possible for as little as possible is the essence of capitalism. essential to capitalism.

But though capitalism might want limitlessness (and to some extent, capitalists are victims of this as much as they are drivers), people have limits and can only be worked so hard and for so long. Ironically, it’s the successful attempt to limit the working day that might have stopped capital from destroying itself. Continue reading

Labour power

Reading Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, Class 5

Labour is the Only Thing

There are a lot of inputs into the creation of a product, but they can be broken down into two categories:

  • constant – the materials and tools of production; the value of these is the same at the beginning and end of the process.
  • variable – or labour, which is the catalyst for creating value in the process and tied tightly to time.

The usual framework for capitalism is to throw these two together to give a  profit ratio, but pulling them apart leads to some uncomfortable insights.

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Reading Marx (with help from David Harvey)

New year resolutions come in strange forms (especially when they are begun before the new year), and one of mine is to expose myself to new texts and ideas. To be brand consistent, and in keeping with my site strapline Reading: everything I’ve already read, should have read and plenty I probably shouldn’t, below is an introduction to my project to work through Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics S.)

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