Absolute and Relative Surplus Value – Seminar

In contemporary social science, the concept of “value” has attained currency in such disciplines like Economics, Sociology, Political science etc. in these disciplines, value is considered as those essentials needed by members of a society. It is further seen as scarce resources pursued by competing groups. Value in political economy, basically refers to that portion that creates wealth or the so called reward for the “risk taker”, the entrepreneur.In other words, value refers to that unpaid labour of the worker which the capitalist pockets or recapitalizes. It should be noted that, the concept of value is an integral part of the labour process in general, capitalist commodity production, wear and tear of the working class and of course class antagonism.

In essence, the concept of value (Absolute and Relative) cannot be understood without recourse to the mode of production that brings it about as well as the nature of social relations of production.Under capitalism, labour power becomes a commodity and like any commodity, it has its value and use value. The value of any commodity like labour power is determined by the expenditure of social labour on its production and reproduction. Therefore, surplus value is derived from surplus labour of a worker. The worker creates a value which the owner of the means of production appropriates without compensation. Marx’s Das Capital not only revealed the exploitation surrounding the extraction of surplus value, he as well revealed the degree and ratio of exploitation involving the labour power of the workers.In this direction, he maintained that that surplus value can be categorized into “Absolute and Relative”.

With this, Marx gives an analogy of how the value of labour power is used in extending capital. A school master is a productive labour or his labour power becomes of value when he finds himself in a school factory, that he must ensure that teaching and non-teaching staffs become productive as to ensure not only the preservation of capital assets of the owner of the means of production but that they produce surplus value that exceeds the rate of hiring them.Beyond this, Marx situated the social relations of production in historical context which has continued to associate the worker and surplus value creation. From the foregoing, capitalist exploitation of the labour power of workers can be looked at from two angles: the first being the production of Absolute surplus value which becomes possible in the prolongation of the working day. In other words, to Marx, Absolute surplus value is obtained by increasing the amount of time worked per worker in a given time.From one stand point, any distinction between Absolute and Relative surplus value appears illusory. Relative surplus value is Absolute since it compels the absolute prolongation of the working day beyond the labour time necessary to the existence of the labourer himself; While Absolute surplus value is relative since it makes necessary such a development of the productiveness of labour, as will allow of the necessary labour time being confined to a portion of the working day.

The second way of increasing the degree of the exploitation of labour power through the relative surplus value which is derived by a reduction of the necessary labour time without any changes in the working day. For Marx, it is possible to reduce the labour time primarily by increasing social labour productivity in branches producing means of subsistence for the workers. Consequently, both the Absolute and Relative surplus value are defined within the logic of the establishment of capitalism which perpetually subjects labour to capital.Again, Marx tries to highlight the differences between the Absolute and Relative surplus value, which he says is defined with the establishment of the capitalist mode of production; that is it is the prolongation of the working day beyond the point at which the labourer would have produced just an equivalent for the value of his labour power, and the appropriation of that surplus labour by capital. Although, as a special method of reducing relative surplus value, he continues capitalist industries get operated by by the army of workers themselves with the ultimate aim of ensuring the revolution of the entire capitalist production.It is with regard to the forgoing, that the author presupposes that when the above two conditions that creates surplus value for the capitalists are absent or when the labour spends all his labour time for the reproduction of himself, then the cycle of capital reproduction is obstructed and class division disappears. However, Marx goes on to say that the increasing complexity of the needs of society has correspondingly increased the absolute and relative surplus value extracted in the process of production.

Regarding the origin of surplus value and labour power from its engagement, Marx is of the opinion that it was influenced under two conditions: The first being the subsistence of workers when man gathered natural wealth for subsistence. The second is market conditions when market production got underway, instruments of labour such as navigable rivers, wood, coal, metal etc became important in the capitalist production of goods and services. Inhering from the consequence of commercial production is the issue of climatic change which is caused the excessive demand for consumer goods.So, the lesser the natural wants of man; the greater the fertility of the soil and the suitable climatic conditions and ultimately, the less impoverished the labourer. From the foregoing, the capitalist mode of production, according to Marx, thrives on man’s assertiveness on the wealth of nature. The differentiation of the fertility of the soil and its components such as the changes of the seasons informs social division of labour in societies and by extension multiplied human wants, his capabilities, means of production and surplus value. t therefore follows that human labour is the only source of new economic value since it is indispensable for the conservation and transfer economic value (maintenance and redistribution of capital assets).

In other words, the ability of the capitalist to manipulate the surplus labour time in order to produce surplus product is the starting point for the extraction of surplus value. Bourgeois economists such as David Ricardo did not see surplus value as the driving force behind the productiveness of labour rather as an essential part of labour production that determines surplus value.Again, this view of the Bourgeois scholars contrasts from that of the merchantilists which believe that surplus value originates from the aspect of exchange of the labour product above its original value. Another, bourgeois scholar with yet another perspective is John Stuart Mill who sees surplus value as inhering from the duration of the product of labour. In other words, Mill believed surplus value can still be made without the exchange value of commodities. But, in reality, surplus value can be derived from subtracting the total expenditure made in the process of production and exchange from the final price of the commodity.Surplus value is in fact the main goal and the driving force of capitalist production.

It is also important to note that it is on the basis of the engagement of labour power that surplus value is extracted. Since capital needs a steady flow of labour power to preserve the capital assets and provide surplus value, it is where the mystery of capitalist exploitation lies, it becomes pertinent to examine the views of Karl Marx on the following Sub themes: CHANGES OF MAGNITUDE INTHE PRICE OF LABOUR POWER AND IN SURPLUS VALUE: Labour power is determined by the expenditure of social labour on its production and reproduction. In other words, in order to live and work, a worker has to have food, clothes, housing, etc , in order to meet his needs and fulfill his role as a member of society. Essentially, for Marx, there are three important factors that determine the value of labour power: i.The value of the necessaries required by the worker ii. The expenses involved in skills acquisition of the labourer iii. The value of the means of subsistence required to maintain the worker’s family.

In addition, labour power has a specific use value which no other commodity possesses. For example, the use value of commodities such as bread, clothes, footwear, writing materials, etc is fully used up in the process of consumption while the use value of labour power has the capacity to produce more value than it has itself.This also constitutes the cradle of capitalist exploitation and appropriation of surplus value. It is based o the above premise that Marx underscores that the Relative magnitudes of surplus value and of price of labour power are determined by three circumstances: a. The length of the working day b. The normal intensity of labour c. The productiveness of labour The above factors or circumstances could variously be combined.

One of the three factors could be constant and the others variable or two constant and one variable or lastly all three simultaneously variable.The following analogy further explains the various combinations that determine the relative magnitudes of surplus value and the value of labour power: LENGTH OF THE WORKING DAY AND INTENSITY OF LABOUR CONSTANT. PRODUCTIVENESS OF LABOUR VARIABLE : The above assumptions are determined by three laws: First, a working day of a given length always creates the same amount of value, irrespective of the productiveness of labour and with it the mass of the product and the price of each of the product may vary.What the capitalist would do in this circumstance in order to extract surplus value is to divide the working day into two parts: The first is the necessary labour time and the other is surplus labour time. The capitalist maximizes the utility of the surplus labour time in which time the worker expends surplus labour and creates surplus value. Again, Marx added that the outcome of labour process varies with the productiveness of labour. Second, surplus value and the value of labour power vary in opposite directions.

A variation in the productiveness of labour, its increase or decrease influence the variation in the opposite direction of the value of labour power and in the same direction in surplus value. In other words, the capitalists through the intensity of labour can reduce the value of labour power, while at the same time increase their extraction of surplus value. Further, the value of labour power cannot fall and consequently surplus value cannot rise without a rise in the productiveness of labour.For instance, a working day of seven hours created a value of #10,000 as a constant. The constant quantity is the sum of the surplus value plus the value of labour power; therefore, neither of them can increase without the other diminishing. It then follows that the value of the labour power cannot decrease from #10,000 to #8,000 unless an increase in the productiveness of labour makes it possible to produce in five hours the same quantity of necessaries as previously required in 7 hours to produce.On the other hand, the value of the labour power cannot rise from #10,000 to #12,000 without a decrease in the productiveness of labour, whereby 9 hours become sufficient to produce the same quantity of necessaries for the production of which 7 hours previously sufficed.

Third, increase or diminution in surplus value depends on the corresponding diminution or increase in the value of labour power. Every change of magnitude in surplus value arises from an inverse change of magnitude in the value of labour power.According to this third law, a change in the magnitude of surplus value presupposes a movement in the value of labour power, which movement is brought about by a variation in the productiveness of labour. WORKING DAY CONSTANT. PRODUCTIVENESS OF LABOUR CONSTANT. INTENSITY OF LABOUR VARIABLE : In this case, increased intensity of labour in a constant working day of 7 hours will amount to more products than one of less intense labour. Productiveness of labour will also result in more products in a given day of 7 hours.

Evidently, the mass of surplus value can be increased both by increasing the rate of the exploitation of labour power and by increasing the number of wage workers. In addition, the reduction of the value of the workers means of subsistence and consequently the value of labour power or a reduction of the necessary labour time and increase in the surplus labour time can generate surplus value in the process of capitalist production. Again, technology increases surplus value at the expense of labour power.In fact, capitalism as a social system puts all the achievements of the technical progress at the service of non-working, parasitic classes and dooms the working class to poverty and rightlessness. Machines serve to intensify the exploitation of labour and wear out the human organism at a faster pace. When the value created by a day’s labour increases from #8,000 to #10,000, then the two parts into which this value is divided, ie price of labour power and surplus value may both increase simultaneously, equally or unequally.Here, the rise in the price of labour power does not necessarily imply that the price has risen above the value of labour power.

On the contrary, the rise in price may be accompanied by a fall in value. This occurs whenever the rise in the price of labour power does not compensate for its increased wear and tear. PRODUCTIVENESS AND INTENSITY OF LABOUR CONSTANT. LENGTH OF THE WORKING DAY VARIABLE: The length of the working day creates a greater or less amount of value. In addition, every change between the magnitudes of surplus value and the value of labour power arises from a change in the absolute magnitudes of the surplus labour.Furthermore, the absolute value of labour can change only in consequence of the reaction exercised by the prolongation of surplus labour upon the wear and tear of labour power. From the foregoing, one can conclude that: A shortening of the working day under the conditions leaving the value of labour power and its necessary labour time unaltered; it then reduces the surplus labour and surplus value.

A change in the productiveness and intensity of labour either precedes or immediately follows a shortening of the working day.Second, if the working day be lengthened say 2 hours and the price of labour power remain altered; the surplus value increases both absolutely and relatively. In other words, the change of relative magnitude in the value of labour power is the result of the change of absolute magnitude in surplus value. The point to be emphasized here is that the wear and tear of workers is not adequately compensated in Nigeria. SIMULTANEUOS VARIATIONS IN THE DURATION, PRODUCTIVENESS AND INTENSITY OF LABOUR The ifferent variations are capable of counteracting one another, either wholly or in part. In speaking of diminishing productiveness of labour, it is in relation with those industries whose products takes care of the subsistence of the worker such as the fertility of the soil and the consequent dearness of its products like food, shelter, clothes, etc. In the latter case, should there be no change in the working day, the capitalists will experience a fall in surplus value because the price of the labour power required for production would have increased.

Therefore, with diminishing productiveness of labour and a simultaneous lengthening of the working day, the absolute magnitude of surplus value may continue unaltered, at the same time that its relative magnitude diminishes; its relative magnitude may continue unchanged at the same time that its absolute magnitude increases; both the absolute magnitude and relative magnitude may increase in so far as the duration of the working day is sufficient. On the other hand, the increasing productiveness of labour with a simultaneous shortening of the necessary labour time results in the relative surplus value.When the productiveness of labour is as a result of increasing social labour productivity in branches producing means of subsistence for the workers and their families, it serves to reduce the value of labour power and subsequently produces absolute and relative surplus value when the necessary labour time is reduced at the expense of the surplus labour time. However, the more the productiveness of labour increases, the more can the working day be shortened; and the more the working day is shortened , the more can the productiveness of labour increase.VARIOUS FORMULAE FOR THE RATE OF SURPLUS VALUE: The rate of surplus value in production is defined by Marx as the volume of surplus value produced by the workforce divided by the variable capital expended to produce: a Surplus value S = Surplus value = Surplus labour Variable capital V Value of labour power Necessary labour b. Surplus labour =Surplus value =Surplus product Working day Value of the Product Total ProductHere, the intensity and productiveness of labour embodied in a working day depicts the degree of exploitation of labour. The formula for the mass of surplus value (S) is = S’x V, where S is the rate of surplus value and V is the variable capital advanced for the remuneration of all the workers.

Evidently, the mass of surplus can be increased both by increasing the rate of the exploitation of labour power and by increasing the number of wage workers. Conclusion:

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