Social Scientist. v 5, no. 50 (Sept 1976) p. 45.


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Marxian Political Economy PAR! Five

IN ITS unquenchable thirst foi surplus value, the capitalist class first seeks to lengthen the working day as much as possible. It may be recalled heic that Marx terms it ^absolute surplus-value production." Historically, production of absolute surplus value characterizes the early phase of development of the capitalist mode of production ' when techniques aie i datively unchanging, and the capitalist mode has not yet "seized the labour process by its roots55. In this piMse, the value of labour powei. and thus necessary labour, is given and relatively constant, so that smplus labour 01 suprlus value can be enhanced only by lengthe'nmg th^ wolking day.

The development of the class struggle between labour ^.nd capital places seveie limits to this mode ofcnhancin-g surplus value. The working class carries on a struggle against the lengthening of the working day, a stiuggle tliat is sooner or latei victorious. (We are speaking here in somewhat general terms, for clearly there are many countries in the world today where the working class has not yet successfully completed this stiuggle.) Given the length of one working day, surplus value can only be increased by reducing necessary labour time, that is, by A reduction in the value of labour power. We leave aside here the possibility of wages being pushed below the value of labour power, although this plays all



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