Class 09 Reading Marx’s Capital Vol I with David Harvey

Class 09 Reading Marx’s Capital Vol I with David Harvey


So far in this rather long and fairly complicated chapter on machinery,
I suggested you might want to keep in mind two things; one is those conceptual elements in the footnote which bring together in some kind of ensemble the idea of technology, relation to nature, the processes of production, the sustaining of daily life, social relations and mental conceptions and try to look at how those elements combine in this account, to try to give you some sort of idea of how machinery and large-scale industry is working. The other thing I’ve suggested was that you should pay attention to the section headings because they give you a good guide as to what Marx is about. So far we’ve looked at the general way in which capitalism found its unique and special technological basis by transforming the world of handicrafts and manufacturing into a world which is made up of the production of machines by machines and also a factory system. But one of the things that differentiates machinery from cooperation and divisions of labour as ways of generating relative surplus-value is that you have to
pay for a machine, it is a commodity. So that immediately raises the question of how the value incorporated in the machine gets incorporated in the product. And Marx uses a straight-line
depreciation model which says ‘the machine last ten years and one-tenth of its value part is one of the product every year’ Then out of that came a very important limitation on the utilization of machines, which is going to crop up periodically throughout the rest of ‘Capital’, which is the idea that the labour embodied in the machine should not be greater than the labour you saved by it, otherwise it doesn’t make sense to actually produce the machine or use the machine. Which then also suggests that if there are differentiations in the value of labour-power
from one place to another then the machine dynamic is likely to be very different. Marx uses the example of the United States where there’s a relative scarcity of labour and the value of labour was relatively high compared
to Britain, so that machinery that was invented in Britain gets utilized in the United States, A more contemporary version of this which
I don’t think I mentioned when we were looking at the section, would be one of the arguments about why West-Germany was so technologically dynamic during the 1970s-1980s , it was because of strong labour unions which kept the cost of labour relatively high and in response to that the capitalists innovated very rapidly with the result of that they threw a lot of
people out of work so Germany ended up with a high paid wage force, but also with a high level of structural unemployment at the end of this as a result of dynamic so we have contemporary examples of this sort of issue. Then in the third section, he asks the question:
What does this mean for labour? -What this means is first of all the substitution of the family wage
for the individual wage, which has all kinds of repercussions for how family-labour is organized, how the labour of women, children gets organized, how the gang system gets structured, how patriarchal systems within the working-class get deployed and reinforced through these mechanisms. The second thing that’s very important in Marx’ view, is the way in which the labourer is caught up in this machine world by a very peculiar term,
I’ve never quite understood why Marx used it, which is the ‘moral depreciation’ of machinery which really amounts to the accelerated obsolescence of machinery because new machinery is coming on line, which means that capitalists have an incredible incentive to actually get their money back out
of the machines fast as they can which means extending the length of working day keeping the machinery employed 24 hours a day and the like. And the final point which Marx makes here is that machinery, in so far as the pace of the work is now controlled by machine technology, machinery becomes a major weapon for increasing the intensity of labour because the intensity is no longer under
the control of the labourer but is under the control of those people who are regulating the machine. This brings him in the next chapter which we’re looking at now, to the question of the factory system. He summarizes a little bit the argument of the last three sections and then points out two ways in which you can think
of the factory system as given by Dr. Ure, who was one of the chief ideologists of capitalism in the early 19th century, in which there is this idea that there’s a combined cooperation of many workers and Marx contrasts that with the other interpretation which Marx is going to follow, which is “…’a vast automaton,
composed of various mechanical and intellectual organs, acting in uninterrupted concert for the production of a common object,
all of them being subordinate to a self-regulated moving force’.” In what follows then Marx is going to largely take that line of argument and point out that first of, the skill that the labourer once had as their
own skill is now incorporated in the machine. So you get something called deskilling,
there’s been a big debate in the literature, Harry Braverman among others, about to the degree to which deskilling continues to be a significant aspect of how capitalist economies work. Marx is saying the skill goes inside the machine therefore the labourer is deprived of control over that skill. And this of course disrupts the typical divisions of labour that occurred under the manufacturing and manufacturing period and turns division of labour into, as he says: “The essential division is that between workers who
are actually employed on the machines… …and those who merely attend them” That is, feed them with raw materials etc. So that the deskilling really completely reorganizes social relations within labour itself except, as he says at the bottom of page 545: There “is a superior class of workers, in part scientifically
educated, in part trained in a handicraft; they stand outside the realm of the factory workers, and are added to them only to make up an aggregate.” That is, for that group there is a certain reskilling going on, which is about being the engineers, the assembly lines and all the rest of it. The impact on the labourer then is to transform the labourer from a lifetime of being involved
with a particular skill, handling the same tool, into a lifetime of being attached to the same machine. And at the same time the labourer can’t escape that, they’re brought into it Which leads on page 548, I think what is the key social critique which he is going to introduce in this chapter, when he says “In handicrafts and manufacture, the worker makes use of a
tool; in the factory, the machine makes use of him. ” “In the factory we have a lifeless mechanism which is independent of the workers, who are incorporated into it as its living appendages.” The workers become appendages of the machines. and he this then goes on to talk about what the implications of that are, when he says: “Factory work exhausts the nervous system to the uttermost; at the same time, it does away with the many-sided play of the muscles, and confiscates every atom of freedom, both in bodily and in intellectual activity.” The kind of work you’re now doing is deprived of any content, furthermore as you go down the page,
he talks about another very important aspect: “The separation of the intellectual faculties of
the production process from manual labour, and the transformation of those faculties” i.e. the intellectual faculties “into powers exercised by capital over labour,” he says, ‘we’ve seen elements of this going on before
but here we see it finally completed by large-scale industry. He says: “The special skill of each individual machine-operator, who has now been deprived of all significance, vanishes as an infinitesimal quantity in the face of the science,” -read mental conceptions— “the gigantic natural forces, and the mass of social labour embodied in the system of machinery, and the massive social everybody in the system and machinery which which, together with those three forces, constitutes the power of the ‘master’.” That is, capital has taken over skill, incorporated that in the machine, has taken over intellectual capacities and utilized those to his own advantages, has taken over science and using that to its own advantage, these all become, powers, appropriated powers by which capital can dominate labour. And to that is then added a disciplinary apparatus and right at the end Marx makes a lot of the systems of fines etc. There’s a long footnote on page 550-551, footnote 9 which is worth reading, about the way in which capitalists actually organize the disciplinary apparatus both in the work process and outside the work process to make absolutely sure that the worker is both disciplined but then also uses that disciplinary apparatus to try to actually regain some of the value that they have in wage labour. That I,s if you find people who’re being late
and then you have somebody who actually put the clock wrong so everybody’s late, then actually you fine them
so they no longer get the wages that are really due to them. And this is one of the tactics and tricks that capitalists play with that sort of thing. He ends favorably quoting Fourier, for a change, and Fouriers description of factories as really just mitigated jails. This all leads to, immediately into the next section which is if this is what’s going on to the labourer, then you would expect some response. And response we’re going to look at in section 5. The Luddite response, which is a political movement which was about machine breaking, destroyed the machines, and there are good reasons for doing that, Marx outlines some of these, that of course, the machinery is displacing wage labour so that people are thrown out of jobs. They become as he says on 537: “The worker becomes unsaleable, like paper money thrown out of currency by legal enactment.” The disciplinary apparatus inside of of the factory is really troublesome because of the way in which machinery gets used. So we get a description here then of the luddite movement and furthermore on 562-563, he outlines one other element in the story when he says: “machinery does not just act as a superior competitor to the
worker, always on the point of making him superfluous. It is a power inimical to him, and capital proclaims this fact loudly and deliberately, as well as making use of it. It is the most powerful weapon for suppressing strikes, those periodic revolts
of the working class against the autocracy of capital.” He then says on top of 563: “It would be possible to write a whole history
of the inventions made since 1830 for the sole purpose of providing capital with weapons against working- class revolt.” So machinery is actually constructed in the minds of capital as a weapon of class struggle. workers are getting uppity, introduce machines that disciplines them, throws them out of work, disrupts them, generates insecurity, all of those kinds of things. So that, technological change is not simply about gaining surplus-value from the relative surplus-value that comes from that, it’s also about disciplining the workers. And actually there is plenty of evidence, particularly in the 19th century that this was a conscious idea, a machine manufacturer in Paris in the 1860s, when asked the question: What are the things that drive you to do innovate? He said three things: -increasing efficiency -increasing output and increasing discipline of the labour force” And of those three the third was probably the most important for him. So that this question of machinery as a weapon in class struggle becomes actually absolutely central. In a sense, the struggle of the worker against the machine and the fight against the machine becomes understandable, but there’s an interesting wrinkle, and so I want to go back here to when Marx first introduces the Luddite movement at the bottom of p.554, because there’s an interesting question that this poses. Having introduced the Luddite movement, Marx makes the following comment: “It took both time and experience before the workers learnt to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital, and therefore to transfer their attacks from the material instruments of production to the form of society which utilizes those instruments.” There’s an interesting question here, and it’s important to think how we might read this: does this imply that the machinery is itself neutral? and that what really matters is the social relations behind the use of the machine? and there is evidence constructed by many social and economic historians of this period in Britain and of the Luddite movement, that indeed the Luddites started off by breaking almost any machine they found, to going after and targeting specific capitalists
who were using them in a particularly obnoxious and brutal way. So there is considerable evidence that Marx is correct in saying that workers at that time learned to distinguish between all the machines being deployed and specific horrendous utilization of those machines by specific capitalists, and the targeting largely over time converged on those specific capitalists who were using it in the most obnoxious fashion. but then think about this for a moment and worry
a little bit about what this might in general imply. When Lenin came in, and the Bolshevik revolution occurred, Lenin basically said well the Fordist factory is fine, there’s nothing wrong with the Fordist factory, mass production is fine, we need it, because we need to produce the arms with which we’re going
to defend ourselves and all the rest of it, but all that really matters is that the social relations change. So in a sense, Lenin was arguing that the machines were socially neutral, and there is in fact a long history within marxism for example, as treating machines as good things, all that you have to do is get the social relations
behind them right and everything is fine, this does not really converge very well with the argument
that I was making about how to think about that footnote. That footnote would imply that in exactly the
same way that capitalism had to find a technological basis for itself, so indeed, socialism, communism would have to find a new technological basis for itself which would in fact be radically different from that derived under capitalism, as different from that which Marx is here describing as this is from the manufacturing era. In other words, the long-run concern would be not to treat the technology as neutral but to treat it as embodying in many respects certain ideas about the elation to nature,
certain mental conceptions, certain social relations and all the rest of it. And that a transformation of all of those elements would require a radical change in the trajectory of technological development. But that was certainly not what Lenin did. And when Lenin looked to Fordism and praised the Fordist system as being a great invention which the soviets would have to emulate, you could argue that he’s going the wrong way unless, unless you took the view which Marx does, that you cannot a change society
without utilizing all of the elements that are already there and exactly the same way that capitalists had to use the technologies of the manufacturing period. so there’s absolutely no a way that in the condition
of revolution such as 1917 in the Soviet Union, the condition of that sort, you had no option except to utilize capitalist technologies, particularly since capitalism is breathing down your neck and trying to invade you with all kinds of sophisticated arms and technologies and all the rest of it. You have no option. But that’s a very different way of looking at it than looking at that as a long-term perspective, and there are certain ways in which a marxist reading of this argument which turns technology into something neutral, actually can then lead you into many of the problems of actually existing socialism or communism, as emerged in the 1970-80-90s labour process is that in many ways were indistinguishable from what you would find in Detroit, conditions of labour and repression (!) actually that were not much different than you would find in Detroit. So this question, I think, about how to read this passage becomes very important. I would read it against the background of those footnotes, but there’s a lot of marxist reading of this
which would rather take on a rather Promethean view on technology and a Promethean view of all of this and say ‘this is the basis, this technology is the basis, all we have to do is to make it super efficient and make sure the social relations behind it are adequate to justify this technology, the big problem is that the social relations that are necessary to manage these kinds of technological systems are hierarchical systems, are command and control systems, which are not necessarily democratic systems. So these are the sorts of issues that this little phrase here actually sets up. Which is carried over actually into the next section, section six, on the compensation theory, starts on p.565. Now, the bourgeois political economists maintained that
the development of machinery was neutral, again there’s this neutrality assumption, was neutral in relationship to total aggregate labour employment. They accepted there were disruptions, moving from here to there and everywhere else, but in aggregate, the compensation theory said, for every job you lose -because machines are employed- you’re going to get a job back somewhere else. And this compensation was understood as being 1: 1 in aggregate, and as Marx points out, you find all kinds of people peddling this idea, “James Mill, MacCulloch, Torrens, Senior and John Stuart Mill”, but you will notice in the footnote he says that “Ricardo originally shared this view, but afterwards expressly disclaimed it, with the scientific impartiality and love of truth characteristic of him.” Very rare that you find Marx saying nice things about bourgeois economists, but he was, as I’ve mentioned, seriously admiring of Ricardo and also seriously admiring of Adam Smith. but very different from Nassau Senior and all of the crass apologists and so on. Now what Marx does of course is to immediately dismiss this whole line of argument, and he points out that actually there’s a very peculiar way in which they’re making the argument which is that by throwing people out of work you save
on the subsistence they otherwise would have consumed. So there’s a lot more subsistence available in society, and all kinds of crazy ways in which they argued this neutrality thing, and he goes on and says on p.567: “the real facts…are these: the workers, when driven out of the workshop by the machinery,
are thrown onto the labour-market. Their presence in the labour-market increases the number of labour-powers which are at the disposal of capitalist exploitation.” Further down, because “I’m going to deal with this later in great depth” and he does… “workers who have been thrown out of work in a given branch of industry can no doubt look for employment in another branch. If they find it, and thus renew the bond between them and the
means of subsistence, this takes place only through the agency of a new, additional capital which is seeking investment, which is seeking investment and in no way through the agency of the capital that was already functioning previously and was then converted into machinery.” So the conversion into machinery has nothing to do with it, it’s just that added capital is coming in and mopping up the surplus labour then he goes on to say “And even if they do find employment, what a miserable prospect they face! Crippled as they are by the division of labour, these poor devils are worth so little outside their old trade that they cannot find admission into any industries except a few inferior and therefore over-supplied and under-paid branches. As soon as machinery has set free a part of the workers employed in a given branch of industry, the reserve men are also diverted into new channels of employment, and become absorbed in other branches; meanwhile the original victims, during the period of transition,
for the most part starve and perish. It is an undoubted fact that machinery is not as such responsible for ‘setting free’ the worker
from the means of subsistence. It cheapens and increases production in the branch it seizes on, and at first leaves unaltered the quantity of the means of subsistence produced in other branches. Hence, after the introduction of machinery, society possesses as much
of the necessaries of life as before, if not more, for the workers who have been displaced, not to mention the enormous share of the annual product wasted by non-workers. And this is the point relied on by our economic apologists! The contradictions and antagonisms inseparable from the capitalist application of machinery do not exist, they say, because they do not arise out of machinery as such,
but out of its capitalist application! Therefore, since machinery in itself shortens the hours of labour, but when employed by capital it lengthens them; since in itself it lightens labour, but when employed by capital it heightens its intensity; since in itself it is a victory of man over the forces of nature but in the hands of capital it makes man the slave of those forces; since in itself it increases the wealth of the producers, but in the hands of capital it makes them into paupers, the bourgeois economist simply states that the contemplation of
machinery in itself demonstrates with exactitude that all these evident contradictions are a mere semblance, present in everyday reality… … Thus he manages to avoid racking his brains any more, and in addition implies that his opponent is guilty of the stupidity of contending, not against the capitalist application of machinery, but against machinery itself.” Again we’re getting this whole discussion and debate over whether it’s machinery or
the capitalist application of machinery that is the problem, and here he’s using the bourgeois defense of the deployment of machinery as being neutral in order to actually highlight ‘we should be thinking about the social relations’, But does this mean that indeed the machinery is neutral in itself? This is again, as you can see where one of the problem starts to rise and we’ll get to discuss that a bit later. In other words machinery when you look at the last two sections,
has been very much about managing the labour surplus, and managing the supply of labour. He then goes on, on p.570 to raise the issue and say, it doesn’t automatically mean that the labour surplus remains unemployed. In fact, the generating of a labour surplus by throwing people out of work creates all kinds of possibilities for new capital investment to come in and mop up that labour surplus. So on 570 he’s starts to talk about the way in which having people thrown out of work “…may… bring about an increase in employment in other industries.” but he says ‘this has nothing to do with any kind of theory of compensation; it has to do with whether there’s investment capital out there looking for surplus labour and if it is you can get a massive increase of employment simply because capitalism is itself being very dynamic and one of the ways in which it can be dynamic is because an increase in technology in one sector can put tremendous
demands on the flow of raw materials from elsewhere. Towards the bottom of p.570 he says “the production of raw material must be quadrupled” you got a machine now which is producing four times as much cloth as before
then you need for four times as much of the raw materials, that means a lot of
employment in those kinds of segments. He then says, on p.570 at the bottom: “How far employment is thereby found for an increased number of workers depends, given the length of the working day and the intensity of labour, on the composition of the capital employed.” The composition of capital is the ratio of constant to variable capital, a very important concept which Marx is going to use throughout Capital and he’s introducing it here for the first time. It’s really a measure of labour intensity, of capital intensity if you like that capital-intensive industries are going to demand less labour, labour intensive industries are going to do demand more labour. So it’s the intensity of the capital : labour ratio which is crucial of whether actually people do get an increase in employment. So there’s a possible increase of proletariat. Bottom of page 572 he introduces another problem which is by and large ignored in Volume 1 of Capital,
and I’m going to emphasize it because it’s an important problem, which is not going to be analyzed elsewhere. but typical Marx, he introduces it and says ‘you don’t need to think about it, actually is going to be the topic of Volumes II and III, but here it comes in. You’ve not only to think about how the labour surplus is gonna be managed, so you’ve always got a labour supply, you’ve also got to think about where on Earth are you going to dispose of the commodity surplus which you produce, where is the market for surplus-value going to go? Where is that market? Who’s going to consume all this excess of production? Let’s suppose you introduced new machinery and you got so
much more cloth coming and so many more shirts and so on; It’s quadrupled, who’s going to buy it all? Clearly the workers are not really in a position to buy it because they’re being exploited like crazy, so who’s going to buy it? So he introduces this issue very briefly at the bottom of 572, he says: ” The immediate result of machinery is to augment surplus-value
and the mass of products in which surplus-value is embodied. It also increases the quantity of substances for the capitalists and
their dependants to consume, and therefore the size of these social strata themselves.” Increase in capitalist class, increasing capitalist consumption, “Their growing wealth, and the relatively diminished number of workers required to produce the means of subsistence, begets both new luxury requirements and the means of satisfying them. A larger portion of the social product is converted into surplus product, and a larger portion of the surplus product is reproduced and consumed in a multitude of refined shapes. of refund checks in other words the production of luxuries increases.
In other words, the production of luxuries increases.” Then he introduces foreign trade and relations to the world market. Here too you have a way of engaging with where the surplus is going to go, which of course increases the demand for labour in the transport industry and alike. So foreign trade, spatial relations, geographical expansion, gets put on the agenda. Next passage, you could also put some of the surplus into long-term capital projects which don’t produce anything for many, many years. He says: “an extension of work that can only bear fruit in the distant future, such as the construction of canals, docks, tunnels, bridges and so on.” He then talks about a whole series of industries which are engaged in that sort of thing, “gas-works, telegraphy, photography, steam navigation and railways.” So there’s a lot of what I’ve called both temporal and spatial displacement of the consumption of the surplus going on here. Finally on p.574 he introduces the idea of services. And on p.574 he also introduces ideas about a servant class, “it is possible to reproduce the ancient domestic slaves,
on a constantly extending scale, under the name of a servant class, including men-servants, women-servants,… and then of course there are the “‘ideological’ groups, such as members of the government, priests,
lawyers, soldiers, etc.; then all the people exclusively occupied in consuming the labour of others in the form of ground rent, interest, etc. ; “paupers, vagabonds and criminals” have something to do with it too. But notice something here, thing at the bottom of that page, how large the servant class is! It’s huge! Now we sometimes say to ourselves, oh well recently capitalism has gone into services, of course, the difference here was the servant class was in the house, we now live in a world where services are commidified, you buy them in the market. the famous lines that were going on in the 1930s, ‘you can’t get good nannies and personnel anymore’ ‘can’t get good servants anymore’, so you have to take it outside. You go and get your you washings done, you get your pressings down outside, all the services are taken outside. But the point here is the structure of class relations, look at that servant class. It’s huge! Marx does not have much to say about it, he doesn’t have much to say about any of these issues here at all. But what that servant class was about and how it was working and what its conditions of labour were is actually a very important topic which I think is only now being beginning to be unraveled by social and economic historians. But again, the point here is that the implications of this system, this machine system are huge both for the management of the labour surplus but also the management of the disposal of the surplus into world markets. and this is an issue, like I say, that he doesn’t deal with, throughout Volume 1 of capital, but it becomes important elsewhere. this is the one part where he does explicitly mention it as an issue. Section seven, long section about, as its title says “Repulsion and attraction of workers through the development of machine production. Crises in the cotton industry” Even bourgeois political-economists at the time realized that there were transitional problems, when people were thrown out of work here they had to find work there, and these transitional problems meant that there were certain kinds of cyclical movements in industries. I’m not going to go through this section in any great detail because it really is about the inflow and outflow of people mainly in the cotton industry, but there are a couple of interesting points. The first is on page 579: where he talks about “as soon as the factory system has attained
a reasonable space to exist in, and reached a definite degree of maturity, and in particular as soon as the technical basis peculiar to it, machinery, is itself
produced by machinery…” then he goes on: “in short, as soon as the general conditions of production appropriate
to large-scale industry have been established, this mode of production acquires an elasticity, a capacity for sudden extension by leaps and bounds, which comes up against no barriers but those presented by the availability of raw materials and the extent of sales outlets.” Relations to nature, raw materials, sales outlets, the consumer economy. Out of this comes also, right at the bottom of the page: “A new and international division of labour springs up, one suited to the requirements of the main industrial countries, and it converts one part of the globe into a chiefly agricultural field of production for supplying the other part, which remains a pre-eminently industrial field.” Which of course is what the British were doing to India, India was providing the raw materials and at the same time India was the market for British goods. So the whole imperialist project was to turn in India into a field for the production of raw materials for British industry and then use India as a sink for British products. This leads into what he says, in a way a temporal business cycle, that there are rapid fluctuations and much more volatility
gets introduced into the system. It’s kind of funny given the current state
of volatility in global markets to find Marx actually emphasizing that volatility is very much what capitalism is always about, expands by leaps and bounds and then goes crash,
and then turned back and expands again. As he says: “The factory system’s tremendous capacity for expanding with sudden immense leaps, and its dependence on the world market,
necessarily give rise to the following cycle: feverish production, a consequent glut on the market, then a contraction of the market, which causes production to be crippled. The life of industry becomes a series of periods of moderate activity, prosperity,
over-production, crisis and stagnation.” Marx is here talking about what he sees as the production of the business cycle. And some of these are long term. These business cycles have implications for labour which is what he’s talking about in the cotton industry for the next 15 pages. And I think that this is a very important aspect of the dynamic of machinery, which differentiates the industrial system from
the system that preceded it, the handicrafts and manufacturing system could could not move as quickly,
could not throw people out of work, there was too much monopoly power in the labour sector to do that, but here you can just throw people out of work, bring them back in, they’re all machine minders anyway, you don’t care about their skills too much,
just throw them out and bring them back in, so that’s the way in which a rather callous industrial system
works. Section Eight, he talks about ‘the revolutionary impact of large-scale industry on manufacture, handicrafts and domestic industry’. I’m not going to go through this in too much detail, because the main story is to set up the factory system as against these other manufacturing systems. Clearly in his period of time the manufacturing system was still present, the handicraft system was still present, the domestic system of manufacturers
was still present. And in fact, in some respects they have become even more sophisticated than in the period when they were dominant, partly because that was the only way in which they could maintain themselves and maintain their system in relationship to this overpowering factory system that was coming into being. On page 590, he makes I think some very interesting remarks about this, “The principle of machine production, namely the division of the production process into its constituent phases, and the solution of the problems arising from this by the application of mechanics, chemistry and the whole range of the natural sciences, now plays the determining role everywhere.” It even gets applied in the modern ‘domestic industry’. and he then goes on to say: “This modern ‘domestic industry’ has nothing except the name in common with old-fashioned domestic industry, the existence of which presupposes independent urban handicrafts, independent peasant farming and, above all, a dwelling-house for the worker and his family. That kind of industry has now been converted into an external department of the factory, the manufacturing workshop, or the warehouse. Besides the factory worker, the workers engaged in manufacture, and the handicraftsmen, whom it concentrates in large masses at one spot, and directly commands, capital also sets another army in motion, by means of invisible threads.: the outworkers in the domestic industries…” The organization of many separate domestic industries into a system of production under the command of capital became a very important aspect of industrial organization in the 19th century. If you look for example at what happened in industry in Paris during the Second Empire, you don’t see an increase of factory production, factory production actually goes way out, either to the suburbs, or to places like Saint-Étienne, Lille, Mulhouse and the like. But industrial production inside of Paris proliferated immensely during the Second Empire, and it proliferated by exactly this mechanism he’s talking about here: the organization of domestic industry into a very sophisticated system of capitalist production under command of merchant-capitalists who were orchestrating what was happening. My favorite example of this would be the production of artificial flowers, which was one of the big industries of Paris at the time. In the 1840s you’d find workshops that were just specializing on one kind of flower, by the time you get to 1850s-60s you’d find workshops that were specializing
on one kind of stamen or workshops that were specializing on one kind of petal or something like that. And they’re all being put together and assembled in a very integrated system, it’s a very intricate sort of putting-out system. If you want a very good description of it, of this contrast -by the way- of this industrial system and this domestic system, you read Zola’s ‘L’Assommoir’, where in fact what you’ll find there, there’s a description of a mechanical monster factory which is now making bolts, it’s machines making machines, as it were, at the same time as there’s an intricate description of this couple in its workshop, residents at the top of the house which is making gold thread, wire. And each month the merchant comes with a certain amount of gold and then at the end of month comes and takes the wire back. He’s very pushy about exactly how much wire is being made in relationship to
the amount of gold that’s being given and these people were working day in and day out, just making this wire in this system which is going to the jewelry trade. These systems of production became very common in the 19th century, but they never went away. As I think I mentioned earlier, one of the big problems, I think, Marx has here, is his tendency to think that the factory system is actually going to drive everything else out. But actually if you look at the Japanese auto industry in the 1980s a lot of it was actually erected on an assembly line of components which were made, basically, in people’s attics. They had a whole domestic system which in fact was one of the big strengths of the Japanese system because the costs of any kind of downturn wasn’t visited on the car companies, it was visited on this mass of people who were producing component parts and suddenly didn’t have orders for
the component parts. So actually, that system worked extremely well for Japanese capital vis-a-vis, for example, Detroit capital which was very much based on a more integrated system
with large-scale component parts manufacturers, where you really couldn’t do these kinds of things. So this domestic system that he’s talking about here and these invisible threads which are controlling this domestic system become very important to look at in any industrial organization. If you go to contemporary Hong Kong, you’ll see it all over the place, if you go to some areas of the Philippines, you’ll see it all over the place., and this is a very different labour system. But Marx is talking about it here
, becoming very different from the manufacturing system itself as it used to be. It is a new kind of manufacturing structure which Marx is seeing as going on around him but which he doesn’t actually accord great significance to
, as being the centerpiece of what the world is going to become like. He even talks here, about
the significance, on p.591, the significance of decentralization. He says: “In the so-called domestic industries this exploitation
is still more shameless than in modern manufacture, because the workers’ power of resistance declines with their dispersal…” When you read the account in Zola’s novel, it’s very hard to imagine the
guy going out and getting together with all the other people who are in the jewelry business and actually…, you can’t do that, almost impossible to know, you would not know
where to find a lot of those people So the dispersal becomes a significant aspect of it. He then talks about, p.595, the modern domestic industry and the horrors that go on there. This is about the lace industry and Marx is again going to quote masses and masses of information from the factory inspectors and the Children’s Employment Commission reports. I’m not going to go into that, go to page 602, Marx comes back to the idea ‘how did the machine system arise out of the manufacturing?’ in the middle there he talks about this:
“The revolution in the social mode of production which is the necessary product of the revolution in the means of production is
accomplished through a variegated medley of transitional forms.” So he’s very interested in these transitional forms, then on p.603 he makes what is a very blanket statement, ten lines down he says: “The variety of these transitional forms does not, however,
conceal the tendency operating to transform them into the factory system proper.” This is his argument, there’s almost a teleological argument here, that the whole system is going to become like the factory system, and I think there’s very good reasons to say that he was wrong about that. Then there’s some great stuff about sewing-machines and so on. Then on p.604 he makes another very interesting point when he says: “This industrial revolution, which advances naturally and spontaneously, is also helped on artificially – by the extension of the Factory Acts to all industries…” Again this is a very interesting phenomena that
is worthwhile following up historically: To what degree has regulation and the regulatory system today actually contributed to the increasing centralization of capital and increasing concentration of capital? Because of a lot of those regulatory regimes become very hard for small producers to bear. So at some point and Marx actually makes the point here:
At some point capitalists think ‘this is a great idea, regulate it! we can take on the regulation, they can’t! This gives us a competitive advantage through the state apparatus we can drive them out of business, simply by imposing upon them rules and regulations that they cannot possibly exceed to’. So here too we see that there’s a sort of counter-intuitive result:
You would think that factory acts would actually help workers, but actually what it does is it helps big capital in particular, the factory acts help big capital, not necessary the workers. As he says on p.607, very explicitly: “But though the Factory Acts thus artificially ripen
the material elements necessary for the conversion of the manufacturing system into the factory system, yet at the same time, because they make it necessary to lay out a greater
amount of capital, they hasten the decline of the small masters, and the concentration of capital.” Then he goes on to talk about irregular habits of workers and so on. On p.608 he has another interesting point: A lot of demand for products is seasonal, how does the system adjust to seasonal demand? One of the answers is, of course, to introduce a certain periodicity into the labour process itself, but also he anticipates something which became very important in more recent times, when he starts to talk about the way in which the adaptability of the system depends upon adequate communication. On p.608 he talks about “The habit of giving such orders becomes more frequent with
the extension of railways and telegraphs. ‘The extension of the railway system throughout the country
has tended very much to encourage giving short notice. Purchasers now come up from Glasgow,
Manchester, and Edinburgh once every fortnight or so…” so “instead of buying from stock as they used to do”, they buy directly. “Years ago we were always able to work in the
slack times so as to meet the demand of the next season, but now no one can say beforehand what will be in demand then.’ ” so you get overwork during the season, underwork at other times,
but also so you get the emergence of an almost just-in-time system, that capitalists, not wanting to keep great stocks, start to use the new structures of communication
, start to use the new structures of transportation, to introduce something akin to what we now call just-in-time system. That is, a kind of flow of commodities which goes very fast when you need in the season and then slacks off, so actually this again introduces more volatility into the labour-process over a period of a year. This problem of volatility of seasonal unemployment for example in 19th century Paris was a really big problem for the health and well-being for much of the population and part of the year a large chunk of the working-class literally starved, or stole or did something like that in order to live in order
to be well enough to go into high-intensity labour when the season came around and they were needed, in which case they would be working 80 hours a week, so they’d be doing that for a short period of time then six months of the year they’d be doing almost nothing. I think we better actually stop here and then do ‘The health and education clauses’
and then have a general discussion on the chapter on machinery. Because it really does warrant some serious debate.
So let’s pause here, and we’ll race through section 9 and section 10 when we come back. He starts off by sort of saying ‘this is pretty paltry stuff, anyway the capitalist can have all kinds of ways to go around it’. Then p.614, he says, well at least the factory acts acknowledge that there is some role for education and therefore it opens up the question of what this education is about. And he says on p.614, quoting Robert Owen, positively I think: “As Robert Owen has shown us in detail, the germ of the education of the future is present in the factory system; this education will, in the case of every child over a given age,
combine productive labour with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of
adding to the efficiency of production, but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings.” Now, this is a pretty strong statement, of course, he’s siding with Robert Owen and the Owenist vision, about which we can discuss and debate. He’s siding with Owen saying ‘we’re not going to junk the factory system, what we have to do is we have to actually transcend it in some way’, but exactly how is not clear from this. He then contrasts that idea, that socialist idea with the fact that the workers are living appendage of the machine and that this is the appalling nature of the actual system that we’re concerned with. Then follows a whole series of remarks which add up, I think, to a suggestion that Marx does not view the factory and the machine altogether in a negative light, in fact it has positive elements and he’s going to build upon that comment by Owen in certain ways. So what are then the positive elements? First, within the reorganization of the division of labour
he notes something which I think is very important for us to note, and this is on p.616 in the middle, when he’s contrasting old form labour-processes which have been transmitted over the generations, from one generation to another by word of mouth and by example. and he says “It is characteristic of this situation that, right down to the 18th century, the different trades were called ‘mysteries’ (mysteres), into whose secrets none but those initiated by their profession and
their practical experience could penetrate. Large-scale industry tore aside the veil that concealed from men their own social process of production and turned the various spontaneously divided branches of production into riddles, not only to outsiders but even to the initiated. Its principle, which is to view each process of production in and for itself, and to resolve it into its constituent elements without looking
first at the ability of the human hand to perform the new processes, brought into existence the whole of the modern science of technology. The varied, apparently unconnected and petrified forms of the social production process were now dissolved into conscious and planned applications of natural science, divided up systematically in accordance with the particular useful effect aimed at in each case. Similarly, technology discovered the few grand fundamental forms of motion which, despite all the diversity of the instruments used, apply necessarily to every productive action of the human body, just as the science of mechanics is not misled by the immense complication of modern machinery into viewing this as anything other than the constant re-appearance
of the same simple mechanical processes. Modern industry never views or treats the existing form
of a production process as the definitive one. Its technical basis is therefore revolutionary, whereas all earlier modes of production were essentially conservative. By means of machinery, chemical processes and other methods, it is continually transforming not only the technical basis of production but also the functions of the worker and the social combinations of the labour process. At the same time, it thereby also revolutionizes the division of labour within society, and incessantly throws masses of capital and of
workers from one branch of production to another. Thus large-scale industry, by its very nature, necessitates variation of labour,
fluidity of functions, and mobility of the worker in all directions. But on the other hand, in its capitalist form it reproduces the old division of labour with its ossified particularities. We have seen how this absolute contradiction does away with all repose, all fixity and all security as far as the worker’s life-situation is concerned; how it constantly threatens, by taking away the instruments of labour,
to snatch from his hands the means of subsistence, and, by suppressing his specialized function, to make him superfluous.” So this is about “the reckless squandering of labour-powers, and in the devastating effects of social anarchy. This is the negative side. But if, at present, variation of labour imposes itself
after the manner of an overpowering natural law, and with the blindly destructive action of a natural law that meets
with obstacles everywhere, large-scale industry, through its very catastrophes,
makes the recognition of variation of labour and hence of the fitness of the worker for the maximum number of different kinds of labour into a question of life and death. This possibility of varying labour must become a general law of social
production, and the existing relations must be adapted to permit its realization in practice. That monstrosity, the disposable working population held in reserve,
in misery, for the changing requirements of capitalist exploitation, must be replaced by the individual man who is absolutely available for the different kinds of labour required of him; the partially developed individual, who is merely the bearer of
one specialized social function, must be replaced by the totally developed individual, for whom the different social functions are different modes of activity
he takes up in turn.” Now, what do you make of this? There’s a negative and there’s a positive. You can say ‘well you know, Marx is having his cake and eating it’, what’s the relationship between this negative and this positive? He’s plainly seeing a lot going on inside of the industrial capitalist system, which has immense potentialities for human emancipation down the way, and the big question is: How do you think about mobilizing what he’s seeing as positive? The other way to think about it, is to say ‘to what degree is he actually pinning down a major contradiction within the history of capitalism? Which is on the one hand, you want workers who are kind of idiots, who are just trained guerrillas, if you like, can’t think, won’t think and don’t think, who are not active subjects. At the same time, the development of the capitalist system demands a labour force
which is pretty flexible, which is at least partially educated, which could actually respond to new instructions and new situations very rapidly, which must therefore to some degree or other be able to think for himself. So this is a dilemma actually around the whole history of public education in capitalist social order. And how that contradiction is resolved has indeed been one of the big social stories, of what capitalism has been about worldwide. And you could see that right now, in this country people are moaning on about the fact that we don’t have
people who know enough math and science, and my god, look at those Chinese, they got millions of them! And how we’re becoming uncompetitive. And so
part of the bourgeoisie and part of the capitalist class is saying ‘we have to improve education and math and sciences and engineering because otherwise we’re messed’. Actually they’ve done alright in the past, they’ve let the Russians train them and with the collapse of the Soviet Union they all came here. They let the Chinese train them, they’ve let the Indians train them,
and they just imported them, and actually they trained them for free, that’s the great thing,
the United States did not have to pay the cost of education, let the Indians pay for it,
let the Chinese pay for it, let the Russians pay for it, we won’t to pay for it, we’ll just take the skilled labour, very sophisticated skilled labour and we’ll bring it in.
That’s one of ways in which you can resolve this particular dilemma. But now people are beginning to get worried
because a lot of the Chinese whom they thought were going to stay here have gone back to China, because they
get better jobs in China than they get here. So what you’re going to do with with that kind of problem. So the point I think that Marx is making is that there is a fundamental contradiction for capitalism and that fundamental contradiction opens up some possibilities for radical thought, radical ways of of working. And it turns out that of course that issue which is at the heart of university education, university education these days in this neo-liberal guise is not to put you in courses like this. It’s meant to train you to be good thoughtful people around engineering good neo-liberal kinds of theorists and an activists. But at the same time the trouble is that when people get that
and start to think for themselves, what are you gonna do about that? Well, you can repress and do those kinds of things. This is a dilemma actually many societies have had, and I think
what Marx is pointing to is the dilemma, and I think that’s correct to look at it. On the other hand I have a certain discomfort
with the way in which he’s saying ‘well the factory system is okay, out of that’s going to come, if we only have gymnastics and all those kinds of things,
everything will be okay. That’s what the Soviet Union believed and actually that’s how the Japanese workforce is organized too, calisthenics before you go in, cheer-leading and all those kinds of things. It’s a bit bothersome what he’s saying here but you can see where he’s coming from. But also this other Marxist principal you have, is here kicking in with a vengeance, which is that no society could set itself tasks to which it does not already have at hand certain solutions. So we just can’t go to Mars and hope we will find solutions on Mars.
We have to find them in our society in the here and now. And so what Marx is willing to do here is to look inside the factory system and to look for solutions inside of the contemporary factory system as he saw it at that time. And I think he’s inviting us to do the same sort of thing, and how you think about that is a big political question but this is where he is certainly at. This leads on to an argument on p.619, this is one of the rare places he does this in ‘Capital’, he says “the Factory Act, that first and meagre concession wrung from capital, is limited to combining elementary education with work in the factory, there can be no doubt that, with the inevitable conquest of political power by the working class, technological education, both theoretical and practical, will take its proper place in the schools of the workers. There is also no doubt that those revolutionary ferments
whose goal is the abolition of the old division of labour stand in diametrical contradiction with the capitalist form of production, and the economic situation of the workers which corresponds to that form. However, the development of the contradictions of a given historical form of production is the only historical way in which it can be dissolved and then reconstructed on a new basis.” In other words, these are the contradictions with which you have to work if you want to construct an alternative kind of society. There’s not much in ‘Capital’ which tells you about Marx’ theory of revolution, this is a brief kinda synopsis. Then he continues in this vain on the next page, 620. when he starts to talk about the economic foundation of the family, and he says at the top that “large-scale industry in overturning the economic foundation of the old family system,
and the family labour corresponding to it, had also dissolved the old family relationships.” Then he goes on to talk about what’s happening to parents and what transformed parental power into its misuse,
which is talked about earlier in that family-labour stuff. Then he goes on to say: “However terrible and disgusting the dissolution of the old family ties within the capitalist system may appear, large-scale industry, by assigning an important part in socially organized processes of production, outside the sphere of the domestic economy, to women, young persons and children of both sexes, does nevertheless create a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and of relations between the sexes.” A negatively is suddenly converted into a positive, and he then says further on in that paragraph:
“It is also obvious that the fact that the collective working group is composed of individuals of both sexes and all ages must under the appropriate conditions turn into a source of humane development, although in its spontaneously developed, brutal, capitalist form,
the system works in the opposite direction, and becomes a pestiferous source of corruption and slavery…” In these sections what we’re getting is an account of the misery of the system, but also something about what Marx sees as the possibilities within it. Then what follows up is a real account of the misery of the system which is mainly about what is right down the mines, and how that all works and so on, I’m not going to go over that. At the end of this section, on page 635: “If the general extension of factory legislation to all trades for
the purpose of protecting the working class both in mind and body has become inevitable, on the other hand, as we have already
pointed out, that extension hastens on the general conversion of numerous isolated small industries into
a few combined industries carried on upon a large scale; it therefore accelerates the concentration of capital and the exclusive predominance of the factory system.” Then he talks about destroying the ancient and transitional forms, “But by doing this it also generalizes the direct struggle against its rule. While in each individual workshop it enforces uniformity, regularity, order and economy, the result of the immense impetus given to technical improvement by the limitation and regulation of the working day is to increase the anarchy and the proneness to catastrophe
of capitalist production as a whole…” Bottom of the page: “By maturing the material conditions and
the social combination of the process of production, it matures the contradictions and antagonisms of the capitalist form of that process, and thereby ripens both the elements for forming a new society and the forces tending towards the overthrow of the old one.” Again he’s emphasizing the contradictory character of this, its instability, its volatility, its anarchy, its awfulness,
but at the same time talking about the ways in which we might look for revolutionary transformation out of that system, not by going outside of it, but by going inside of it to see what is going on there. Thinking about things like automation and so on. You could see, in some ways, reading these passages where a lot of philosophy of the Soviet Union came from. That is, what you’re trying to do is not undo the factory system, you try to find those elements within it which are potentially liberatory, so the Soviets concentrated immensely on things like automation, robotization, etc. And they sought paths of technological change down in that direction. They also sought to instantiate the factory system and education alongside of it, a highly developed educational system alongside of it, which was technical education which explains why it is that if you go to certain (…) I remark this one time went I went the Hubble Space Telescope building at Johns Hopkins, which is where all of the mathematical whizzes are on astronomy, cosmology
and all the rest of it, and you go sit down at the table there and the lingua franca in the dining room is Russian. Hardly anybody speaks English in the place, it’s Russians in exile
who have been brought over and have the skills and the ability to do this stuff, which a lot of us don’t have. Let’s just look quickly at the last piece, which is “large-scale industry and agriculture” Marx is interested here in the relationship between the industrial system and the relation to nature, in effect, through agriculture. Again, he has some real possibilities here, he says on p.637, on the one hand “technological application of science replaces the previous highly irrational and slothful traditional way of working.” It produces all these revolutions “But at the same time it creates
the material conditions for a new and higher synthesis, a union of agriculture and industry on the basis of the forms that have developed during the period of their antagonistic isolation.” On the other hand “it concentrates the historical motive power of society; it disturbs
the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed
by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil.” He goes on in next page, it transforms the metabolism. And he says right at the end: “Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the worker.” That is, the dynamic of capitalism moves towards the degradation
of the worker and the degradation of the environment, these two things go hand-in-hand. This is a proposition, by the way, that was taken up by a very forcefully by Karl Polanyi in ‘The Great Transformation’, so if you ever get to read that book, you’ll find Polanyi basically saying: ‘the capitalist system (…) ‘ He wrote it in 1944 so he never cited Marx, but he’s obviously quoting Marx, in a lot of this, when he talks about the way in which capitalists, left to their own devices, unregulated is likely to generate depletion of the labour-supply and destruction of the soil. Okay, so I’ve whizzed through this chapter on machinery and large-scale industry, I’d like now to reflect on it and get some of your thoughts about it. It’s a complicated chapter for the reasons I suggested which is that the dynamics are not always clear as to which way Marx is going, in terms of how do we understand the machine and how do we understand the factory. Is it positive and negative? Is it positive? Is it negative? and what are we to attribute to social relations and what are we to attribute to technology? There’s a dialogue going on on the technology—social relations front
and the relation to nature front as well at the end here. The dialogue there, which I think has all kinds of problematics in it,
unless you look at it also from the standpoint of what the revolutionary possibilities are inside of this distinctively capitalistic system, because here he’s dealing with the capitalistic mode of production in it’s full-fledged form and in all of its splendor as it were, and all of its horrors. What are we going to make about that, how we’re going to utilize that, as part of a transitional kind of process to a socialist society becomes part of the question that he’s involved in, which I think
accounts for the way in which he starts to set up these negative and positive arguments towards the end of the chapter. I’m going to push ahead here, I’ve suggested you read the chapter on absolutely and relative surplus-value, I would do that, we’ll do a brief commentary on that next time. I’m not going to really talk about chapters 17 and 18, all Marx does there is to consolidate his formula, I think this is a point where he’s been seems to be nervous
about the fact that people haven’t quite got his point, so he sort of repeats it all, in slightly different ways, and so they’re not they’re not terribly informative. The whole section on wages, again I’m not going to talk about them, but just to briefly mention, It’s really only about the wages system, and it’s fairly self-evident and obvious, and we’ll talk about it very briefly. But I really want to do, next time, chapters 23 and 24. And I want you to pay particular attention to the introductory page-and-a-half
when he introduces part seven. Very important thing, but I want to take chapters 22, read the other stuff, we’ll talk very briefly about it, But you should be able to go through the rest of that stuff fairly easily. But we start to get into some very interesting, very important stuff in chapters 23 and 24, so I want to concentrate on 23 and 24 next time.

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