In our society, wealth grows and at the same time poverty grows; the exclusion of a lot of people from the existing wealth grows. In this society, there is a need for work – not for the fruits of work, but for work itself. This economy must grow all the time. In good times and in bad times, this growth depends not simply on producing what is needed, but on producing more this year than last year, and next year more again. This society knows the absurd problem of having to constantly find new products that are capable of being sold.
Marx attacked this misanthropic and absurd logic of the capitalist economy in his main work, Capital. We want to explain some of his objections in the following.
Part I - If wealth takes the commodity form
“The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as 'an immense accumulation of commodities,' its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity.”
Capitalism is not an economy in which scarcity prevails, Marx maintains. On the contrary, it brings about enormous wealth in the form of an “immense accumulation of commodities.” This statement is certainly as correct today as it was in its time, yet by an even higher level of magnitude. If today there is poverty, then it is not because of a lack of consumer goods. If it was the purpose of production, the high level of the productive forces – which expresses itself in almost completely automatic manufacturing plants and deserted factory floors – would make possible freedom from the need to work, consumption and leisure.
Instead, the world is divided into “rich” and “poor states,” and poverty has also not gone extinct in the rich states. Completely the opposite. Not only is the provision of unemployed persons and pensioners – those who no longer work – increasingly discussed as an unacceptable burden on the economy, so is the livelihood of those who work but are still not safe from becoming the “working poor.”
Already, from these few notes, it is clear that the presence of poverty is not caused by natural factors, by limits given by nature or the inability of production to control nature. It lies rather in the specific character of wealth in our society. In the above sentence, Marx has immediately identified what this consists of. Wealth presents itself as “an accumulation of commodities.” Nearly everything that is produced is produced as a commodity and thus for the market, meaning that it is not simply a thing for use whose sole criteria is its usefulness. It acquires another quality. After it has been produced, the commodity awaits not its use in consumption, but its sale. Completely apart from its use value, its usefulness for the satisfaction of a need, the commodity also has a price. Everything can be bought, but everything also must be bought.
“A given commodity, e.g., a quarter of wheat is exchanged for x blacking, y silk, or z gold, &c. – in short, for other commodities in the most different proportions. Instead of one exchange value, the wheat has, therefore, a great many. But since x blacking, y silk, or z gold &c., each represents the exchange value of one quarter of wheat, x blacking, y silk, z gold, &c., must, as exchange values, be replaceable by each other, or equal to each other. Therefore, first: the valid exchange values of a given commodity express something equal; secondly, exchange value, generally, is only the mode of expression, the phenomenal form, of something contained in it, yet distinguishable from it.” (Capital Vol. I)
The prices of different commodities – commodities with different useful qualities – are equated with each other. One commodity represents just as much wealth as any other commodity, assuming only that it is present in the correct amount. It is to be inferred from this general equating of the results of production by prices that commodities are not only use values – carriers of useful qualities – but, in addition, carriers of a value quality common to them all. The fact that a thing represents wealth, and a certain amount of it, expresses itself in the free market economy not in its use, but in its value.
Certainly, commodities must have a use value – nobody buys useless things – however, it is obvious that it is impossible to derive the quality of wealth from the use values of the commodities equated with each other. What pertains to the use values, and the benefits they contribute, must just differ between exchanged commodities. A commodity does not exchange itself for a copy of the same kind. If, however, it is not the useful qualities which are necessary for equating what is common to all commodities, what is it then? In addition, Marx says:
“If then we leave out of consideration the use value of commodities, they have only one common property left, that of being products of labor … All that these things now tell us is, that human labor power has been expended in their production, that human labor is embodied in them. When looked at as crystals of this social substance, common to them all, they are – values.” (Capital Vol. I)
In exchange, the results of a production process are compared with one another. They are not compared according to the qualities that they have as use values. As use values, they must directly differ. They are compared according to the expenditure – of labor – that their production requires. What commodities are compared by in exchange is the labor necessary for their production. In this society, wealth does not result from labor having produced something useful. It comes about in a different way. Labor and its exertions are necessary to produce commodities, and this puts their owner in the position of being able to demand money for them.
Labor itself has its natural measure in time. The time necessary for production is therefore decisive for the value of commodities. However, value is not given simply by knowing how long and how arduous the labor was. Namely:
“The labor … that forms the substance of value, is homogeneous human labor, expenditure of one uniform labor power… average labor power of society” which “requires for producing a commodity, no more time than is needed on an average, no more than is socially necessary.” (Capital Vol. I)
Marx points out that the labor effort that the individual producer has exerted does not determine the size of the value of a product. Individual differences in the workforce, and the degree of their exertions, are of no concern to the buyers and, therefore, find no consideration. Every worker is considered the same as every other, so each produces value only to the degree that they function as a socially average labor force. Accordingly, the value of a product is not determined by the individual labor hours, but solely how many labor hours are necessary for the production of a commodity in the social average. Only to the extent that it is necessary in the social average does it form value.
Whether and how much value are represented by the results of labor can be known by each producer only when his commodities are actually transformed on the market into money. Sale on the market is the social test to which the privately produced commodities are subjected. On the market, the results of the producing owners are referred to each other, independently of each other – without the need having been established and without a socially planned division of labor – and are exposed to comparison. Then the subjective exertions, which the producers have put into the production of the commodities, finds their objective social evaluation: either confirmation or correction.
Only in the exchange relation, in whether and how much money is to be obtained for their commodities, do the commodity producers get to know to what extent their expenditure has been worthwhile. What is determinant is not the effort they had to expend, but how many working hours for the production of the commodities are necessary in the social average. Only to the extent that the labor is necessary in the social average is it value forming.
Whether and to what degree labor creates value is not determined simply by itself, and not at all according to the criterion whether something useful was produced or not, but only whether and to what extent it was average socially necessary labor. This “necessary” has two sides. One side of the necessity consists of the fact that only as much time may be spent in working hours as is necessary with the given social level of the productive forces. The second side of the necessity consists in the fact that the work expended must have been socially necessary in the sense that the commodities are actually needed, or are needed in the quota in which they were put on the market. If the commodity is not bought, no exchange value was produced, even if there was a lot effort exerted in its production and it was produced with the best productivity. Maybe a use value was produced, maybe the thing is useful, but it has no value if it does not find a buyer.
One can draw a first conclusion about current social relations from this. Before us, we have social relations in which a strange sort of division of labor exists; a division of labor not in the sense that the work is shared and divided, but a division of labor in which what is actually necessary labor is determined only by the anarchy of competition. Independent private producers go to work and only afterwards – after production, after the expenditure – the social test takes place whether what they produced was actually socially needed.
Everyone produces for the market, produces something which aims, from the use value side, at the needs of other people. In this respect, everyone makes a contribution with his production to the satisfaction of a need. But the satisfaction of the need is not at all the purpose; everyone works for the needs of others, but in doing so, works only for himself. The satisfaction of others’ needs is not the purpose of the producers. Just the opposite; the need of the customers is the weakness they are inflicted with, so that exchange value can be extracted from them in the form of money. What the individual producer produces for, according to this purpose, is purchasing power. He produces for the social power to be able to access the products and the labor of other people. He does it for this and for nothing else.
Neither the sellers nor the buyers take the point of view of paying for the transacted efforts. The seller would like to use the need for his commodity as best he can, in order to gain as much money as possible. His intention is to use the existing need as optimally as possible. The buyer has, conversely, a diametrically opposite interest. His intention is not to compensate the expenditure of the seller and pay the value. He would like to pay as little as possible. In this society, people experience their common need to cope with life – everyone is dependent on each other – as a continual conflict of interests.
Competition rules not only between customer and producer, but also between the producers themselves. Each produces with the intention of selling, and in the market meets his peers, who have the same intention. They mutually make their success contentious for each other. They all compete against each other, with the intention of using their products to take as much for themselves from the limited social purchasing power as possible, and hence from the others. This pressure, which they exercise against each other, forces all of them to reduce the price of their commodities as much as possible, but, at the same time, also the profit that they are after with it.
The crucial lever they have to win this price war, and at the same time the crucial barrier, is the production that takes place under their command. By constantly ensuring that they use only as little labor time in the production of their commodities as possible, and by producing in the same working hours a much larger amount of commodities, they are able to underbid their competitors in the price war and to thereby push them – at least as a tendency – from the market. Because they all try to do this – with more or less success – they reduce the labor time for the production of their commodities to the degree that is really socially necessary and at the same time reduce the profit that they foresaw in it, but also, on the other hand – the value of their commodities. Thus, without wanting to, they mutually enforce the law of value against each other.
On the other hand, in this community in which everyone is dependent on the others, a universal competition rules where everyone tries to push through his benefit against that of the others, thus all try to mutually use each other and to damage each other. In this relationship, exchange value is the purpose, and use value, the work of making useful commodities, is only the means. Use values are produced and they must be produced, because commodities are not to be sold without use values. However, they are produced not because of the benefit that they contribute as use values, but only because of the value that is in them. In our society, producing useful things is a means of appropriating wealth, and is not the purpose of production.
When production has the purpose of producing exchange value, the alleged all-around benefits do not go very far
These conflicts of interest which prevail in the market economy are not denied by the apologists for this economic system. Of course, only egoistic motives prevail in the society. But in their conception of the world, this conflict of economic interests is interpreted as a universal egoism that, nevertheless, thanks to the beneficial work of an “invisible hand,” leads in the end to the greatest possible benefit for everyone.
However, this greatest possible general benefit, maintained by the political economists, does not go very far if production is for the market.
If one produces for the market, then one only produces to get money from others. Then the needs that cannot be paid for are economically virtually non-existent, no matter how urgent they are. Without the fulfillment of this all-important precondition for the capitalist mode of production, needs remain neglected. Think only of AIDS and malaria medicines for Africa, the existence of hunger, misery and homelessness.
Vice versa, needs are served only insofar as they can be paid for. This explains why, on the one hand, needs for the highest types of luxuries are satisfied and, on the other hand, the most basic needs are not satisfied, because they cannot be paid for.
Therefore, it is impossible to maintain that our society is rational in the sense that, as long as there are people who have no roof over their head, the production of luxury buildings is put on hold. This rational order is impossible in our society, because need has its measure of recognition in the money that someone has.
The fact that use values are produced only for the purpose of attracting money from the pockets of potential customers lowers the quality of the use values that are produced. In the borderline between poor and rich buyers, the choice of products divides into luxury goods of the finest quality for some and a lot of junk and mass-produced commodities, food that makes people sick, for those who don't have much money but are certainly not to be scorned as a commercial opportunity.
When production is for the market, all risks are privatized. Someone who is older, ill or handicapped, or is only less adept, who cannot perform the average socially necessary labor, who must make greater efforts, has bad luck. He is not able to put competitive products on the market, and one sees where he is left.
However, this socially necessary average has yet another side. It means the question whether the labor that one expended is needed. And it is the customers who decide with their willingness to pay money on whether an individual who has made his expenditure has actually objectified socially necessary labor. Or whether it was simply wasted.
One day the society needs, for example, lots of computer scientists. Lots of students crowd into packed lecture halls, obtain the necessary knowledge in the hope of an insane job and a good salary, and then one day no more computer scientists are needed. This risk is their problem.
So the alleged greatest possible general benefit does not look so great. And one can deduce from all this only that production is production for the market, a mode of production whose purpose is to produce exchange value.
Part II – If work is the measure of wealth
If production is for the market, if the purpose of production is exchange value, then labor is the substance of value. This is not good for the workers. Labor creates value and this, contrary to communists and social democrats up to the present, is no reason for praise, but for criticism. Marx did not want to say: labor creates value and therefore deserves respect, but that labor creates value in capitalism and this is terrible.
From the equating of the products of labor in exchange, Marx concluded that the different activities do not create wealth as concrete labor, as the work of a dressmaker, a weaver, a baker, etc. On the question as to what extent they do, he gives the following answer:
“Productive activity, if we leave out of sight its special form, viz., the useful character of the labor, is nothing but the expenditure of human labor power. Tailoring and weaving, though qualitatively different productive activities, are each a productive expenditure of human brains, nerves, and muscles, and in this sense are human labor.” (Capital Vol. I)
Work in capitalism also gets a completely new, not to mention strange, determination. Wealth is not created from all kinds of natural materials and resources by the specific efforts that manufacture products – skirt, fabric, bread – which provide good services on the basis of their qualities for consumption or production. These concrete, specific use-value creating activities are, from the point of view of exchange, a mere precondition for supplying a result that is interesting for exchange.
The creation of value does not depend on the fact that someone put labor into something, but that the labor spent on it is socially average necessary labor time. The labor is abstract labor. Just as the use value is a mere precondition for value, so the specific form of labor – its usefulness – is a mere precondition for the fact that abstract labor is performed. The equating of all labor activities ignores the specific usefulness of the respective labor. If it concerns which labor activity is worthwhile, each one is virtually as good as any other; or perhaps not at all, in spite of the useful skill it may offer.
It can be recognized from the fact that different labor activities are equated in exchange that the labor that produces commodities depends on one single aspect of labor, namely that a general expenditure of labor power – brain, muscle, nerves, hands – has taken place. Something that belongs to every labor activity – which must be exerted to produce a certain desired result – this is the decisive aspect – decides the success or failure of the labor.
With every activity that is undertaken with the intention of producing something useful, it is necessary to exert effort and to concentrate. And one also can and must determine how long it takes to produce a certain object. However, it never is – under reasonable circumstances – the effort that is to be undertaken, and the time that is needed to produce the desired result, that is the measure for whether and to what extent this purpose was realized. In other words, this expenditure is never a measure for the reaching of the purpose. Rather, this effort is subsumed under the aimed-for benefit. If one paints a room, the freshly painted room is the aimed-for purpose. Certainly, the effort of painting is necessary, but in itself this does not determine the success or failure of the work of painting.
It is different in capitalism. Here this abstraction really becomes the all-decisive criteria. The peculiarity of value-creating labor consists just in the fact that this one aspect of all labor – it has a certain intensity and takes a certain amount of time – is actually the crucial one. The ability to create lots of wealth means that many useful commodities are not produced. The production results are not the measure of wealth in this society, but how much socially necessary labor is in them. Therefore, in capitalism more wealth never means less labor, but more.
“The commodity is considered as an exchange value … always only from the standpoint of the result. It is not about the service that it performs, but the service that has been performed in production.” (Marx-Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 13, p. 24)
One must make clear to oneself the absurdity of this capitalist definition of wealth. When is something valuable? Not simply by the fact that a useful object is created by labor. The object is valuable because there is a lot of labor in it; a lot of labor is necessary for its production. The more labor put into the object, the more valuable it is and, vice versa, if the production of an object only takes a little effort, it is only worth a little.
If exchange value is the purpose of production, expending labor is a means and measure for reaching this purpose. Then, more expended labor is worth more money-wealth. Precisely the negative side of labor, not how a thing benefits people, but what it takes – the strain – is the measure of wealth. This is not a rational relation.
The double character of labor
Labor is doubly determined in a commodity producing society. On the use value side, it is concrete labor. It creates value as abstract labor. A contradictory movement arises from this double character of labor. In addition, the following quotation from Marx:
“An increase in the quantity of use values is an increase of material wealth. Nevertheless, an increased quantity of material wealth may correspond to a simultaneous fall in the magnitude of its value. This antagonistic movement has its origin in the twofold character of labor. Productive power has reference, of course, only to labor of some useful concrete form, the efficacy of any special productive activity during a given time being dependent on its productiveness. Useful labor becomes, therefore, a more or less abundant source of products, in proportion to the rise or fall of its productiveness. On the other hand, no change in this productiveness affects the labor represented by value. The same change in productive power, which increases the fruitfulness of labor, and, in consequence, the quantity of use values produced by that labor, will diminish the total value of this increased quantity of use values, provided such change shorten the total labor time necessary for their production; and vice versa.” (Capital Vol. I)
We have an antagonistic movement between the use value creating and the exchange value creating sides of labor. As far as labor creates use value, with rising productive power it produces ever more useful things, and with less and less effort. Here one would like to say: this is good! This tends to make labor – the toilsome side of life, the side of necessity – superfluous, and the realm of freedom increases, vice versa. This makes life easier. In itself higher productivity is a fine thing. Not in capitalism.
To the extent that labor produces exchange value, an increase of productive power cannot increase the value produced because the value is measured by the expenditure. The expenditure of one hour of socially necessary labor always remains the expenditure of one hour of socially necessary labor, regardless of how many use values have been produced in this hour. Such a society does not become wealthier under these circumstances, either on a use value basis or on an exchange value basis. It can even be – this is the last sentence in the quotation – that the exchange value wealth of a society decreases, while the use value wealth increases. In capitalism, use value and exchange value stand in conflict with each other.
Productive power plays a strange role in competition. While the productive power of labor is actually the major index of wealth in use values, so it also has an absolute value if use value is concerned, in competition it has only a relative value.
Someone whose labor productivity is above average, and therefore the expenditure that he must make per piece is below average in his industry, does good business and can secure the market and make an extra profit at the expense of his competitors. However, as soon as the competitors follow suit and have appropriated the same productivity, the advantage of the productive power of labor disappears again.
Although productive power is absolutely the greatest power on the use value side, in this society – in capitalist competition – it is only a relative means. It is increased, but its benefit is lost as soon as it is generalized. Because, in this society, it just does not concern use value. Because one does not measure wealth in a lot of use values and a lot of free time, but in a lot of value, a lot of effort!
Our society wants to become much richer. It also says it wants growth. Monetary wealth, for which production is undertaken if one produces for the market, can always increase only by more work. This society can become richer only if there is ever more work. Therefore, even another enormous increase in productive power cannot reduce the labor effort that has to be made. This does not apply to use value wealth. The use value wealth increases with the increase of productive power and labor becomes relatively redundant. However, monetary wealth always increases only by more and more work.
However, this is the definition of wealth that counts in our society. It is this definition that is out of reach of the worker. Anyone who works knows that wealth means obtaining the means of need satisfaction, as well as free time for oneself. Wealth is no joke if it consists of being exploited more and more, so that someone else then has more and more. This relation is absurd. But exactly this relation prevails in our society.
This society has an insatiable need for work. One must work if one wants to produce a certain useful thing. One must exert oneself if one wants to paint the house. Then one makes the necessary effort and is happy when it is over and the desired effect is achieved. Not in our society. Here there is a real longing for work. And, to be sure, from two extremely antagonostic positions.
The entrepreneurs use the labor of other people – of the workers – by buying their labor in order to become richer from their work. From their point of view, more work is worthwhile for them; the more the better. Because of this, there can never be enough for them.
Not only the entrepreneurs, but also the workers need work. Not a need, as would actually be reasonable, for the products of labor – then one does the work if one wants to have the products – but actually a need for work. Why?
This circumstance refers to the fact that the workers’ ability to do only the work that is necessary for themselves is taken away from them. They must work, but they cannot work. They are not able to work according to their own decision about what would be necessary for them – to perform the socially average work. In themselves, they are a mere labor force – a labor capacity. The people who have to work in this society are mere labor power, and whether this potential to work, which is what they are, also becomes a reality, is not within their power. They do not control this themselves.
The precondition for this working ability to become a reality is taken away from them. In this society, normal working people are not able to objectify the socially necessary average labor because the means of production belong to other people.
There are millions of unemployed persons all over Europe and America – these are people who are not able to perform the work necessary for their own living. Only if someone else who possesses the necessary means of production needs their work to increase his money wealth, and allows them a wage for this service, can they work and live.
This circumstance – that they cannot do the work necessary for themselves – is what forces the perverse longing for work on them. They need work and what do they do? They long for it; hopefully someone will give it to them. As if work was a luxury. Yes, in a society in which the objectification of labor is made impossible for people, the need actually develops to be able to work.
Labor expenditure is a measure of wealth only in an economics of exploitation
A mode of production in which labor creates value, a society that becomes richer the more people work, is a mode of production based on exploitation. The next quotation:
“For real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals. The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labor time, but rather disposable time. Labor time as the measure of value posits wealth itself as founded on poverty, and disposable time as existing in and because of the antithesis to surplus labor time; or, the positing of an individual's entire time as labor time, and his degradation therefore to mere worker, subsumption under labor. The most developed machinery thus forces the worker to work longer than the savage does, or than he himself did with the simplest, crudest tools.” (Grundrisse, p. 709)
The first sentence refers to a rational society. In such a thing, under no circumstance would it be working hours that would measure wealth, but free time, the time beyond the realm of necessity: the time in which the fruits of labor are enjoyed.
If, on the contrary, labor expenditure establishes wealth, then the worker is not the subject of wealth, but its means. Then ever more labor expenditure on the part of the workers is the means to wealth in this society. The wealth of this society is based on poverty.
If more wealth means more labor, then the workers must be worked as long and as intensely as possible. Then there is an economic necessity for the expansion of the working day. Accordingly, every minute of reduction in working time has to be fought for by the workers. The last time working hours were shortened was over 20 years ago. At present, working hours are again extending.
The wealth in this society is based on the subsumption of the workers’ lifetime under work, to the degradation of being a mere worker. This is good for the companies. Work creates wealth, not for the worker, but for the capitalist company, which uses the worker in order to obtain profit.
How this works is simple. The worker works longer than would be necessary to reproduce the monetary value of his wages. Only in this way does he create profit. Vice versa, if the entrepreneur would only let him work for as long as the expense of what he costs, there would be no profit, and for the entrepreneur no reason to actually have production take place.
If value is the purpose of production, then the true content of economic activity is not simply value, but surplus value – the surplus that the worker produces by his labor, i.e. the surplus measured above what his own maintenance costs. The maintenance of the worker, his wages, is conversely only an appendage to the production of surplus value; it is paid only in accordance with the usefulness of the worker for this purpose.
If surplus is the purpose, it is a matter of making this surplus as large as possible, by the application of all technical and organizational means. This is equivalent to increasing the time that the worker works for the firm and not for himself – the surplus labor time. In addition, there are three basic methods:
One way is to simply extend the working day. The time in which the worker works for the wages that are paid to him stays the same, but during a longer working day, the part in which he works for the company, and thus the profit, is increased.
In addition, the entrepreneur can simply decrease the wages. Simply said: tomorrow there is less money paid. In the future, after another – more favorable for the company – collective agreement or cheaper wage package.
Finally, however, it can be increased exactly the same by applying new technology to the productive power of labor, by refined machinery, by a new organization of work, to ensure that less labor is necessary to produce the product which is sold, so that in the same hours a value product with more cash value is turned out, and thus the worker with his wages constitutes a smaller part of the value sum which is produced.
It is a devastating judgment on this mode of production that the impoverishment of people is just as useful as the development and enlargement of the well-springs of wealth. Both perform the same service for this economic mode. The productive power of labor increases so that more use values result per unit of time; this is just as useful as simply paying less wages.
The increase of productive power has a strange benefit in capitalism. The entrepreneur increases the productive power of labor to save labor. He does this, however, not to save the worker work, but to save himself the costs of paid work. He saves on labor, but only for the purpose of saving on labor costs. To save on labor costs means to separate the workers yet another little bit further from their product.
This division happens in two ways: one part of the staff produces with, say, doubled productivity, now the old staff performs a doubly good service for the enterprise for the same wage or the same service as previously, but for half the wage. All “labor-saving” investments do not save on labor – on the contrary, as a rule it becomes more intense – but on paid labor, by making the applied work more productive; the quantity of commodities for sale per wage payment rises. The other half of the staff becomes unemployed because their work has become redundant. The creation of disposable time, the creation of free time – which should actually be the positive side of an increase in productive power – actually happens in this society in the form of unemployment.
The expansion of working time has limits. Likewise, wage reduction, which is very flexible, has limits. How far people allow themselves to become impoverished is not established from the outset, and for the moment the workers show an enormous flexibility in this area. The epochal method to increase the yield of work for the company is therefore the increase of productive power. Rationalization, as it is also called, is the lowering of the expended labor so that less work must be paid. That is good for the company.
The advantage for the company is that it increases the profit per piece, as long as the company can take the unchanged market price. Then labor time per hour produces more value than in one hour of average social labor time. The value product produced by the workers rises. This applies, however, only as long as the individual company is below the average in its respective industry with its unit cost prices.
The other firms follow, the competitors catch up, the reached state establishes itself in the necessary labor time and thus in unit costs as a new social average, and this advantage disappears. Then the whole value product has shrunk again because the product of the whole working day, if it becomes the socially average necessary labor time, can never again be more than the product of one working day.
This takes place continuously, with the result that the products – televisions, washing machines, computers, etc. – become cheaper. That is one half. If all companies follow in terms of productive power, the advantage of the increase of productive power for the individual capital is again lost.
This does not mean, however, that the same condition rules again as before. Now more products are in circulation which, however, do not represent more value than the previous smaller quantity. Now the same value is transacted in sales with a lot larger mass of use values, because the necessary work time per piece was reduced.
Now one needs a much bigger market to realize the same value. Or one must find new products for which customers can again be found. Then the beautiful perversion comes about in our society that is called here: “Could one not create new products?” It is perverse because normally, if we lack something, then we produce whatever it is that we lack. With us, this is turned around, one does not know what is lacking, but someone says: something is needed so that labor can be objectified again. Could one not discover something so that labor can be done again?
The necessary labor has been reduced in a double sense. On the one hand, the time that is necessary to produce a product and, on the other hand, the time that is necessary so that the worker reproduces his wage. Both have been reduced.
The second is the profit that the firm gets from it, and this is the crux of what it buys with it. The profit consists in the fact that the worker now works a smaller part of the day for himself; it depends on this. The other is, so to speak, the setback, because the whole value product of a given quantity of commodities sinks. In order to make the same value in sales, now the firm must make much more televisions, it needs a much bigger market to realize the same monetary value. Capital thereby sets the bar for profitable work ever higher. Marx writes:
“Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it presses to reduce labor time to a minimum, while it posits labor time, on the other side, as sole measure and source of wealth. Hence it diminishes labor time in the necessary form so as to increase it in the superfluous form; hence posits the superfluous in growing measure as a condition – question of life or death – for the necessary.” (Grundrisse, p. 706)
This means: on the one hand, capital constantly reduces the necessary labor. On the other hand, it reduces the necessary labor only so that the worker works much longer for the firm and always less for himself. And capital, or the capitalist economic mode, produces ever larger productive power, but it wards it off, it uses it only – and for nothing else – than to realize the invested capital value. And this barrier thereby becomes precisely ever higher.
So we have this absurdity: to the degree that the wealth of the society increases on the side of use value – and the capitalist mode of production is the mode of production that increases productivity without end – to that degree, the exclusion from the existing wealth also grows in this society.
On the one hand, less and less work is necessary in order to produce useful things, and on the other hand, people get to feel ever more the dependence of their livelihood on the value achieved by the work they scrape out, thus precisely on something that is invariably less and less successful. Because there is no demand for them. We experience a misery that really has nothing to do any more with the misery of former societies. In those times, people starved if there was a harvest failure. Humans were poor because there was nothing. And in this country, people are poor because the sources of producing wealth have been too highly developed. Because the development of the productive forces went through too grandiose a development!