The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.
Eric J. Herboso
18 September, 2003
Capital, Volume One: “Production of Relative Surplus Value”
In Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume One, Marx explores many different ideas, all of which argue against one basic concept: capitalism. In Part VI, Chapter XV, Section 3 of the text, Marx talks of what he terms as “Production of Relative Surplus-Value”, which can be loosely described as that principle effect of the development of machinery upon workers – in other words, exploitation. His argument is basically a response to Mill, of whom tacitly assumes in his “Principles of Political Economy” that the goal of mechanical inventions is to lighten the workload of society in general. Marx says that the goal is not as not Mill would purport, but rather to increase production. By the emergence of machinery, what used to require hard labor can now be done by workers with less strength and endurance, and thus the door opens for women and children to work whereas only men worked before. This additional workforce may be more expensive to hire and pay for initially, but the relative increase in production is a far higher gain than the loss accrued in the extra cost.
Furthermore, this mechanical “revolution” has become the “most powerful means…for lengthening the working-day beyond all bounds set by human nature” (Marx 404). This seeming paradox is an idea that, according to Marx, even the ancients knew nothing about. He says of them: “to preach slavery of the masses, in order that a few crude and half-educated parvenus, might become ‘eminent spinners,’ ‘extensive sausage-makers,’ and ‘influential shoe-back dealers,’ to do this, they lacked the bump [referencing the pseudo-science of phrenology] of Christianity” (407).
Marx makes a very compelling argument of capitalism using the emergence of technology to further “enslave” mankind. It will be very interesting to see what else he says in Capital.
Tucker, Robert C. Capital, Volume One, The Marx-Engels Reader. Au. Karl Marx.
W. W. Norton & Company.: New York/London, 1978