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“One of the many Marx toys, have you all of them? part 3

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This story supports a group reading of Karl Marx’s Capital Vol 1. #GoodMorningMarx #WeeklyMarx This covers chapters 14, 15, 16. 

Chapter 14 will provide further evidence of alienation in the division of labor and manufacturing in the capitalist reorganization of labor. 

Chapter 15 describes more closely the production process and its relation of technology (to power as machinery and as social relation)

Figure 2: The inversion of subject and object: technology as capitalist means of domination

Figure 1: Marx
Figure 1: Marx’s dialectical concept of the machine system in Capital Volume 1’s chapter 15

For  Marx,  production  means  that  a  subject  (labour  power)  uses  objects  (means  of  production) to create a labour product (a subject-object) (see Fuchs 2014a, chapter 2).

Each working  machine  is  a  dialectical  system  that  creates  a  product.  

In a machine system, working machines are dialectically connected to each other so that the labour-product created in one stage enters as object of labour into the labour process that is part of another working machine in the next stage.

Figure 1 shows the dialectic of the machine system. It visualizes the cooperation  of  three  working  machines  WM1,  WM2,  WM3  at  three  temporal  stages  of  production t1, t2, t3 so that changing products P1, P2, P3 that pass from one working machine to the next are created.

Chapter 15’s first section is a dialectical combination of historical and dialectical elements: Marx describes the historical development of the predominance of physical labour towards machines and machine systems. At the same time this historical transition changes the logic of how the productive forces are organized, which Marx describes by making use of dialectical reasoning. The historical is itself dialectical because the machine system dialectically sublates (aufheben) physical labour and simple machines. In chapter 15, Marx describes in detail which effects the machine system has on society. He does so by logically and dialectically characterizing phenomena such as the prolongation of the working day, the intensification of labour, the inversion of subject and object and of means and ends of production as process of alienation, etc. Marx characterizes and theorizes these phenomena dialectically and shows based on reports of factory inspectors how these dimensions of capitalist industry shaped the life of workers in Great Britain in the 19th century. The historical dimension is a detailed analysis of the bad working conditions wage workers were facing. It is coupled to a dialectical analysis of technology in capitalism and its effects on everyday life. A crucial theoretical aspect of chapter 15 is that Marx argues that technology in capitalism does not serve human needs, but is a means of domination and relative surplus-value production that puts the logic of profit above human interests. Marx expresses this circumstance as inversion of means and ends and of subject and object, i.e. an antagonism between worker and technology that is caused by class relations into which both are embedded:'s_Capital_Reflections_on_Johan_Fornas'_book_Capitalism_A_Companion_to_Marx's_Economy_Critique [accessed Nov 02 2020].

Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14 / Chapter 15

Summary by Harry Cleaver: (11)… (12)… (13)…  (14)… (15)…


Chapter 14 Outline of Marx's Discussion Manufacturing


= “a particular sort of co-operation” based on the division of labor among large numbers of specialized workers
= “division of labor in manufacturing is merely a particular method of creating relative surplus value”
= “dependent on the strength, skill, quickness and sureness with which the individual worker manipulates his tools”

Manufacturing Period = mid-16th — last third 18th Century

1. The Dual Origin of Manufacture
–from the assembling of large numbers of different kinds of skilled workers
–from the assembling of large numbers of the same kind of skilled workers
–both cases -an increasing division of labor, increasingly narrow specialization
–“decompostion of a handicraft into its different partial operations”

2. The Specialized Worker and His Tools
–“collective worker” made up of highly specialized individual workers
–one-sided work means less time in execution, i.e., increased productivity
–repetition of same task eliminates gaps in work, increases productivity
–as the workers becomes more specialized so do their tools
–tools of specialized worker = differentiated, simplified and adapted to specialized tasks, e.g., 500 varieties of hammer
–both worker and tool become perfected for narrow task, impoverished for others

3. The Two Fundamental Forms of Manufacture
–heterogeneous: parts made separately workers then assembled, e.g., watch making
–organic: production through a series of sequential processes, e.g., needle making

The “collective worker”
= “formed from the combination of the many specialized workers”
= each worker a specialized organ of the whole

Mutual interdependence
= a given proportionality to achieve continuity of all workers
= appropriate number of workers for each operation
= extension of scale by multiplying groups
= different skills = different training = different values of labor power
= hierachy of labor-powers, hierarchy of wages

Simplification of tasks = devaluation of labor power, as V decreases, S increases

4. The Division of Labor in Manufacture and Society

Division of labor in manufacture
–unmediated by exchange
–planned, organized by the despotism of capitalists
–depends for its development on growth of social division of labor

Social division of labor in society
–mediated by exchange of commodities (anarchy) e.g., cattle-breeding, tanning, shoemaking
–division of labor in general (agriculture vs industry etc)
–division of labor in particular (particular industries)
–division of labor in detail (within the workshop)

“foundation of every division of labor . . . is the separation of town from country”

Division of labor at each level has an impact on the division of labor on other levels
–“anarchy in the social division of labor and despotism in the manufacturing division of labor mutually condition each other”
–ultimately, the division of labor “seizes upon, not only the economic, but every other sphere of society”

Earlier forms of society: “”ancient Indian communities
–fixed, authoritative plan of division of labor and village
–blending of agriculture and handicrafts
–mostly “self-sufficing” communities, production for use
–each individual craftsman . . . conducts in his workshop all

the operations of his handicraft in the traditional way
–medieval guilds
–separated, isolated and perfected handicrafts
–master, limited number of journeymen
–worker and tools closely united

5. The Capitalist Character of Manufacture
–“the collective working organism is a form of existence of capital”
–productive power of collective worker “appears as the productive power of capital”
–“knowledge, judgement and will” which “is lost to specialized workers is concentrated in the capital which confronts them”
–counterpart to this is the impoverishment and crippling of the specialized worker
–“converts the worker into a crippled monstrosity”, “mutilates the worker”
–capitalism is the first system “to provide the materials and the impetus for industrial pathology”
–Greeks understood the division of labor only in terms of use-value
–Main Obstacle: resistance of handicraft workers who are still “the regulating principle of social production”, skills of handicraft workers in manufacturing gives them power to be insubordinate
–Results: failure to seize all disposable labor time, manufactures must follow movement of workers
Solution: introduction of machinery which will “abolish the role of the handicraftsman as the regulating principle of social production.”

Chapter 15 Section 1. The Development of Machinery
Outline of Marx's Discussion

Mill: machines have not lightened toil
Marx: machines are the means for producing relative surplus value

Rise of machinery = conversion of tool into machines

= complex tool
= tool driven by natural force
= motor mechanism + transmitting mechanism + tool or working machine
= tools of man have become implements of a mechanism, multiplied
= a mechanism that performs with its tools the same operations as the worker formerly did with similar tools, whether the motive power is derived from man or from another machine
= soon becomes one element in a complex system of machinery

Complex system of machinery
= simple co-operation of similar machines
= “a connected series of graduate processes carried out by a chain of mutually complementary machines of various kinds”
= “the co-operation by division of labor which is peculiar to manufacture, but now it appears as a combination of machines with specific functions”
= fixed proportions established by their capacities, numbers, speed
= “collective working machine” = “articulated system”
= “constitutes itself a vast automaton”
= automatic system of machinery when the machines “elaborate the raw material, without man's help, and needs only supplementary assistance from the worker”
= “a mechanical monster”
= development in one sector led to development in connected spheres
= implied need for large scale industry to produce machines, i.e., for machines to be built by machines
= replacement of the worker-subject by an “objective organization”
= organization of machinery technically requires co-operation of labor

Section 5. The Struggle between Worker and Machine
Outline of Marx's Discussion

Worker struggles against machines

–18th Century: struggles against ribbon-looms, wool-shearing machines, sawmill
–19th Century: struggles against power-looms by handloom weavers
–Luddite movement, early 1800s
–Sheffield file grinders in 1865
–machines become “competitor of the worker himself”
–“section of the working class thus rendered superfluous”, e.g., unemployed
–In England, gradual extinction of hand-loom weavers
–as prices dropped, “many weavers died of starvation”
–In India, “bones of the cotton-weavers are bleaching the plains”
–machines are “a power inimical” to the worker
–weapon to suppress strikes

There remain contemporary examples:


The a priori system on which the division of labour, within the workshop, is regularly carried out, becomes in the division of labour within the society, an a posteriori, nature-imposed necessity, controlling the lawless caprice of the producers, and perceptible in the barometrical fluctuations of the market-prices. Division of labour within the workshop implies the undisputed authority of the capitalist over men, that are but parts of a mechanism that belongs to him. The division of labour within the society brings into contact independent commodity-producers, who acknowledge no other authority but that of competition, of the coercion exerted by the pressure of their mutual interests; just as in the animal kingdom, the bellum omnium contra omnes more or less preserves the conditions of existence of every species. The same bourgeois mind which praises division of labour in the workshop, life-long annexation of the labourer to a partial operation, and his complete subjection to capital, as being an organisation of labour that increases its productiveness that same bourgeois mind denounces with equal vigour every conscious attempt to socially control and regulate the process of production, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of property, freedom and unrestricted play for the bent of the individual capitalist. It is very characteristic that the enthusiastic apologists of the factory system have nothing more damning to urge against a general organisation of the labour of society, than that it would turn all society into one immense factory.


The knowledge, the judgement, and the will, which, though in ever so small a degree, are practised by the independent peasant or handicraftsman, in the same way as the savage makes the whole art of war consist in the exercise of his personal cunning these faculties are now required only for the workshop as a whole. Intelligence in production expands in one direction, because it vanishes in many others. What is lost by the detail labourers, is concentrated in the capital that employs them. [43] It is a result of the division of labour in manufactures, that the labourer is brought face to face with the intellectual potencies of the material process of production, as the property of another, and as a ruling power. This separation begins in simple co-operation, where the capitalist represents to the single workman, the oneness and the will of the associated labour. It is developed in manufacture which cuts down the labourer into a detail labourer. It is completed in modern industry, which makes science a productive force distinct from labour and presses it into the service of capital. [44]…


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