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One of the issues being looked at by the Imperialism study group is super-exploitation in/of the Third World.  Below are notes to the discussion.  Walter asks that readers here keep in mind this is not an attempt at a full analysis of super-exploitation; it is some notes contributed to the study group discussion.  He (and the rest of us) are keen to get feedback on any material from the study/discussion group, so we look forward to people contributing to the comments section below.  We will regularly be sticking up notes by study group participants and reports on the study group.

by Walter Daum, July 28

The term “super-exploitation” has often been attributed to Lenin, but I have not been able to find it in his writings. The closest is this: “sections of the working class in the oppressor nations receive crumbs from the super-profits the bourgeoisie of these nations obtains by extra exploitation of the workers of the oppressed nations.” ( “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism,” 1916.)

In this context, “extra exploitation” does not simply mean exploitation of additional workers but rather deeper exploitation of oppressed workers; hence the super-profits extracted. Lenin did often use the term “super-profits,” but as we discussed this past weekend, that did not necessarily mean profits extracted from capitalistically employed wage-workers. In the above passage, however, that does seem to be what he is referring to.

The specific term “super-exploitation” is of more recent origin, having been introduced by Latin American Marxist economists in the 1960’s. I think the originator was Ruy Mauro Marini.

Defining the Term

There have been basically two definitions of super-exploitation. One might be called absolute super-exploitation: paying workers less than necessary to reproduce their labor power. For example, Andre Gunder Frank defined the term as “the appropriation by capital of so many of the fruits of the workers’ labor that the workers cannot maintain themselves or reproduce their labor power.”

The second definition is based on relative rates of exploitation. Workers are super-exploited if their rate of exploitation is significantly higher than normal because they are poorly paid. A key question in this regard is what standard we should take as normal – the value of labor power in the imperialist countries, its value in the oppressed world, or some sort of average? Some bourgeois economists hold that in the 21st century, the value of labor power is in effect the “China price.” After all, they argue, workers in the richer countries have to realize that, given the mobility of capital – “the world is flat” – their labor is in competition with China’s, so they have to get used to creeping, and in some cases drastic, wage reductions. The austerity assault in Greece in recent years is an example that the imperialist powers hope will serve as a precedent for many more countries. While each country will have its own “historical and moral” level of wages, the international average is lowered by the existence of super-exploitation on a large scale: wages in the rich countries are gradually forced downward by competition from firms employing cheaper labor.

John Smith and Andy Higginbottom have pointed out that Marx in Capital put aside discussing the depression of wages below the value of labor power, pending a fuller discussion of competition – aside from an passing reference to “capitals invested in colonies.” (Today, of course, capital investment in the oppressed countries is crucially important.) Interestingly, there is a little-known passage in Marx that suggests that wages in the dominant capitalist countries could be brought down to the “China price.” He cites a document by an English manufacturer who complains that French workers are paid one-third less than English and yet survive, so why not bring English wages down to the French level? Marx comments:

“In our day these aspirations have been left far behind, thanks to the cosmopolitan competition into which the development of capitalist production has thrown all the workers of the globe. It is no longer a case of simply reducing English wages to the level of those of continental Europe, but to reduce, in a future more or less close at hand, the European level to the Chinese level. This is the perspective that Mr. Stapleton, a member of the English parliament, has just revealed to his electors in a speech on the future cost of labor: ‘If China should become a great manufacturing country, I do not see how the manufacturing population of Europe could sustain the contest without descending to the level of their competitors’.”

This is translated from the French edition of Capital. There is a more condensed formulation in the English edition: Vol. 1, Chapter 24, Part IV, footnote 40, in which Marx adds: “The wished-for goal of English capital is no longer Continental wages but Chinese.”

This paragraph on “cosmopolitan competition” shows that Marx considered the reduction of wages below the value of labor power to be more significant than other passages from Capital suggest. Still, although China has indeed become “a great manufacturing country,” it has not happened that “European” wages have been brought down all the way to the Chinese level, and certainly not in “a future more or less close at hand” to Marx’s day.

So much for the capitalist standpoint. From the working-class standpoint, the “historical and moral” value of labor power in a globalized economy should be taken as the prevailing average of what workers in the most advanced regions have won over the years. The “China price” of labor does not suffice to reproduce the working class – not even in China, where hundreds of millions of migrant workers lack rights to adequate housing, medical care and education for their children. Whether or not the capitalist system today can afford it, the fact that capitalism provided it for many workers in the recent past says that technology has developed to the point where such a level is conceivable for all.

I think the definition of super-exploitation should focus on the relative interpretation, with a side glance at the absolute version. Thus: workers are super-exploited if  they are subjected to a substantially higher rate of exploitation than is prevalent in the economically-advanced countries; this often leads to their being paid below the average level required to reproduce labor power. (It is necessary to exclude cases where workers are poorly paid but are employed very inefficiently and so are not highly exploited. They would be super-oppressed but technically not super-exploited.)

This definition does not rule out the possibility that some workers in advanced countries can be subject to a higher-than-average rate of exploitation. But for the foreseeable future it will be hard in an imperialist country to match the levels of exploitation in countries like China and Bangladesh. There are, however, left theorists who argue that the workers in the most advanced industries in the imperialist countries are the ones who face the highest level of exploitation in the Marxist sense. John Smith criticizes some of these; it is a popular perception among certain strands of “orthodox” Marxist theory today. Possibly the first to present this erroneous case was Henryk Grossman, who relied on a misreading of an example presented by Marx.

The Prevalence of Super-exploitation

John Smith has dramatically shown the eye-opening shift in global production. In 1950 there were about twice as many industrial workers in the “more developed” regions as in the “less developed.” By 1975, equality was reached. In 2000, there were almost three times as many in the Global South, and by 2010 the ratio was approaching 4 to 1. The numbers in the South are way ahead and rising, and the gap is growing. That is the result of “globalization,” the “neo-liberal” offensive that world imperialism has taken since about 1980 to try to recover from stagnant profit rates. The so-called periphery is no longer peripheral.

Super-exploitation by imperialist capitalists has two faces: the importation of immigrants (many of whom are undocumented or otherwise restricted) into the imperialist countries, and the export of productive capital (or just production) to countries with low wage levels. Both methods allow capitalists to acquire cheap labor from the super-exploited, and therefore to drive down the wages of the normally exploited workers as well. Towards these ends, even though the flow of workers from South to North is enormous, immigration restrictions by imperialist countries serve both to keep undocumented immigrant workers in the imperialist countries passive, and to force workers in the oppressed countries to stay at home as low-wage workers or members of the unemployed reserve army. Although the degree of exploitation is lower for those who manage to immigrate to the imperialist centers, both groups of Southern workers are super-exploited.

Even though the vast increase in the number of super-exploited workers allows workers in the oppressed countries to improve their wages through struggle, few will escape super-exploitation altogether. And the more some rise, the more other laborers in other regions will join the ranks of the super-exploited, as capital shifts to where wages are even lower. Super-exploitation will not be eliminated as long as capitalism survives; indeed, capitalism will seek to drive normally-exploited workers into the ranks of the super-exploited rather than developing in such a way that the super-exploited escape that category.

In the present phase of imperialism, since the great majority of industrial workers are in the oppressed countries, super-exploitation has become the predominant way of increasing the rate of exploitation. Michael Roberts, who is mostly an excellent blogger on economic issues, has disputed this and other issues concerning super-exploitation as argued by John Smith. This debate has been going on for several months. Here is an excerpt from the most recent round, Roberts’ July 19 blog entry, “Getting off the fence on modern imperialism.”

“Super exploitation is not part of the theory of value because, as Marx says, it is temporary and changes and is different in each country etc.  In the process of production, capitalists might force a lower wage. If the value of labour power has remained the same, i.e. if the necessities of life and their production price remain the same, the lower wage can purchase less wage goods and the price of labour power (wages) falls below its value, the production price of those socially determined necessities. That is super exploitation.

“But if this low wage is maintained, workers must eventually accept a lower value of labour power in the goods and services they can buy with it.  In that sense, super exploitation becomes simply a higher level of (“normal”) exploitation because the value of labour power has been lowered in the class struggle.  Yes, more exploitation, but not super-exploitation as a new category of capital.”

Roberts adheres to the absolute definition of super-exploitation, and argues that if capitalists can bring all wages down to where what was a level of super-exploitation becomes the new normal, then the result cannot be called super-exploitation. Maybe, in a narrow technical sense. But in reality super-exploitation would have been not eliminated but generalized.

There are many (and long) comments to Roberts’ July 19 blog post. I have only skimmed them, but it looks like there are some insightful ones, including contributions by Smith and Higginbottom. Check out especially the posts by Roberts and Smith to see what’s under debate. Also, there are additional arguments concerning super-exploitation in my reply to Roberts’ review of Smith’s book in the Weekly Worker of the CPGB. The review is in the March 31 issue, where Roberts also reviewed Tony Norfield’s book; my letter is in the April 7issue under the subhead “Super.”

One last note. Even though super-exploitation is so prevalent in the present phase of imperialism, capitalism today certainly does not do without traditional forms of  relatively and absolutely increasing the rate of exploitation. Workers in Chinese factories notoriously work 70-hour weeks, an expression of absolute surplus-value; at the same time, firms like Foxconn in China are introducing robots to reduce labor costs, thereby advancing relative surplus-value. Still, the fact that the great majority of industrial workers today are now in the oppressed countries does indicate that super-exploitation of wage-labor there is the characteristic mode in the imperialist epoch – at least in the phase of globalization that flourished after the opening up of China’s labor force to imperialism. The predominance of super-exploitation points up that capitalism is no longer in its historically progressive stage.  

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Comments
  1. sartesian says:

    “One last note. Even though super-exploitation is so prevalent in the present phase of imperialism, capitalism today certainly does not do without traditional forms of relatively and absolutely increasing the rate of exploitation. Workers in Chinese factories notoriously work 70-hour weeks, an expression of absolute surplus-value; at the same time, firms like Foxconn in China are introducing robots to reduce labor costs, thereby advancing relative surplus-value. Still, the fact that the great majority of industrial workers today are now in the oppressed countries does indicate that super-exploitation of wage-labor there is the characteristic mode in the imperialist epoch – at least in the phase of globalization that flourished after the opening up of China’s labor force to imperialism. The predominance of super-exploitation points up that capitalism is no longer in its historically progressive stage. ”

    Question for Walter: Over on Michael Roberts’ site, you argued that increasing the productivity of labor through the application of machinery did not, could not, increase relative surplus value, which indeed, is what John Smith argued. Now you seem to saying the direct opposite. What gives?

    • Admin says:

      Hi Sartesian.

      The objective of posts from the Imperialism study group is to have a useful, educative, comradely discussion. I have no idea whether anything Walter said here is different from something he said somewhere else, but I don’t see that your question is useful, educative or comradely. It just looks like you’re trying to play silly buggers with Walter. It would be better if you tried to make comments that were actually helpful to the discussion. If you think there is a contradiction in Walter’s posts on different sites, why don’t you drop him a comradely email and ask your question that way.

      • sartesian says:

        John Smith claims that the higher organic compositions of capital, the application of technology, does not alter relative surplus value. Marx himself is ambiguous, at the very least, on this point– arguing that only reduction in the value of the wage, the value of the necessities equivalent to the wage impact relative surplus value, while in the Economic Manuscripts, Volume 3, etc. he refers to the real subsumption of labor by capital as being the application of machinery, objectified labor, to production, and this creates the dominance of extracting relative surplus value for capital accumulation.

        This is a critical issue in the discussion of imperialism, having vital importance reaching all the way back to Lenin’s work as well as Smith’s current argument.

        Walter’s statements to one side, the question is – are rates of surplus value altered by the “real subsumption” of labor by capital through the substitution of objectified labor for living labor?

  2. David O'Kane says:

    re current ‘immigration’ into NZ…. its seems (in the popular press) to be framed most around ‘rich’ ones… any idea how many are ‘working class’?

    • Daphna says:

      It looks like about half the migrants are workers. Some of the other ‘migrants’ are NZers returning home, so hard to know how many are workers.

      Immigration policy mostly has been to plunder skilled workers (which depletes skills from oppressed countries leaving them worse off) . Last year net migration (including returning NZers) was 68,000. In 2015/16 there were 38,825 people issued work visas. Interestingly, the majority of the work visas were going to Europeans. 6500 from the UK compared to 1577 from China. This article from Stuff has some good stats http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/80804893/the-migrant-debate-by-the-numbers-whos-really-coming-to-new-zealand

  3. Admin says:

    Thanks Sartesian. Your second post is much more productive (after a bit of editing!). The way the post is now still makes the same substantive points but without making it look like you are somehow trying to trip Walter up.

    In vol 1 of ‘Capital’, Marx clearly distinguishes between relative and absolute surplus-value and indicates how both are increased: absolute surplus-value by lengthening the workday and relative surplus-value by increased investment in plant, machinery, technology. And, of course, the result of the rising organic composition of capital is to depress the rate of profit. And this sends capital in search of more profitable fields of investment, as well as trying to drive down the cost of labour-power through attacks on workers’ wages, conditions, rights and general living standards.

    Id’ say one of the benefits of investment in the ‘Third World’ (and what used to be the ‘Second World’) is increased profits through the deployment of both methods (increasing relative and absolute surplus-value).

    Phil F

    • sartesian says:

      I’m gratified that you found my post to be “productive.” However your interpretation of Marx’s analysis of relative surplus value is not accurate. Marx carefully and explicitly confines increases in relative surplus value to the decline in the value of labor power, which is dependent upon a decline in the value of the necessities equivalent to the wage. This requires improvement in the productivity of labor in those sectors of production that provide the necessities. However, not all improvements in productivity in all sectors of production increase relative surplus value. “But an increase in the productiveness of labour in those branches of industry which supply neither the necessaries of life, nor the means of production for such necessaries, leaves the value of labour power undisturbed.” (vol 1, Chapter 12).

      Nothing in improving the productivity of labour for example in the output of air conditioners used in Cadillac automobiles impacts the value of labour and hence cannot increase relative surplus value…….or so it would seem from Marx’s exacting analysis.

      Now as I said, Marx then seems to “forget” this point in certain discussions of the “real subsumption of labour by capital” which he identifies with the application of machinery to the production process. Marx is ambiguous.

      John Smith is not. He argues that relative surplus value is hardly a factor; that the “productivity of labour” is more or less a scam, a shell game, rearranging peas among the shells of capital, but creating no new peas.

      He does not agree that higher productivity of labour or higher rates of surplus value exist, much less are extracted, in “advanced” countries and are the basis of the higher wages.

      I’m looking for a bit of clarification, and ignoring the ambiguity in Marx, in vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, the Economic Manuscripts, the “unpublished” 6th chapter of Capital “On the Direct Results of the Production Process” etc etc does nothing to provide that clarification, and does nothing to understand the process by which capital subordinates the entire world to the demands of accumulation.

  4. Admin says:

    Nope, I’m not mistaken. It is *precisely the increased investment in plant, machinery, technology etc* which lowers the value of labour-power by, as you note, bringing about a decline in the value of necessities. You yourself recognise this when you say such a decline of the value of labour-power “requires improvement in the productivity of labor in those sectors of production that provide the necessities.” In other words, you need to go back a step: this increase in productivity is the result of the rising organic composition of capital (more constant capital deployed in relation to variable capital).

    This investment takes place in the sectors where necessities are produced *and also* in the production of means of production for those.

    For some reason, I can’t get into the MIA at present, to directly quite Marx myself, so I’m using the ‘Reading Capital in Sydney’ blog in the para below:

    RCS: There are various ways in which value of labour-power can fall. One way is by a rise in the productivity of labour “in those branches of industry whose products determine the value of labour-power, and consequently either belong to the category of normal means of subsistence, or are capable of replacing them.” (p. 432); another way is “by an increase in the productivity of labour, and by a corresponding cheapening of commodities in those industries which supply the instruments of labour and the material for labour, i.e. the physical elements of constant capital … required for producing the means of subsistence.” But, as Marx points out, “an increase in the productivity of labour in those branches of industry which supply neither the necessary means of subsistence nor the means by which they are produced leaves the value of labour-power undisturbed.” (p. 432)

    Me: Thus an increase in surplus-value, in this case relative surplus-value.

    Also from RCS: Marx points out that “once the capitalist mode of production has become the established and universal mode of production, the difference between absolute and relative surplus-value makes itself felt whenever there is a question of raising the rate of surplus-value” (p646).

    Back to me: The reason capital spreads around the world is, to put it simply, that it expands or dies. Moreover, it doesn’t just spread geographically, it spreads into every nook and cranny of human existence. Driven by “Accumulate! Accumulate! Accumulate!”

    In relation to John Smith, you won’t find much in the way of comments about him in the notes that have gone up so far, because we are working on Lenin’s ‘Imperialism’ at present. We’ll be moving on later to Tony N’s book then John S’s book.
    Phil F

  5. Admin says:

    Huh, just as I had sent the 12.08 post, MIA is available again. Here’s Marx’s core definition of relative surplus-value: “the surplus-value arising from the curtailment of the necessary labour-time, and from the corresponding alteration in the respective lengths of the two components of the working day, I call relative surplus-value.”

    So, absolute surplus-value is that which arises from lengthening the working day. Relative is that which arises through changing the proportions of the working day between necessary and surplus labour-time.

    You can change those proportions by the deployment of the lash, but in modern capitalist society the method is investment of more constant capital, making the worker more productive. They can now reproduce the value of their own labour-power in less time, which means more of their working time is now producing surplus-value (assuming a constant overall working time). This is also the basis for the anti-capitalist argument that, if we get rid of capitalism, we can produce all humanity needs and have a shorter working week

    Production of relative surplus-value became important for several reasons. For instance, the working day can only be prolonged to a limited extent – eventually people get worn out. Also, workers got organised and fought for a shorter working week. This made their lives less exhausting but also helped capital by forcing capitalists to be more efficient – ie to develop the means of production more and more.

    Phil

    • sartesian says:

      Well Phil, you are correct relative surplus value is derived from curtailing the necessary labor time. I agree. Marx however directly confines this process to reducing the value of labor power through reducing the value of necessities.

      What does it mean to reduce the necessary labor? It means to reduce the time necessary to produce the value equivalent to the value of the wage. It does not automatically mean that the application of machinery, objectified labor, in any sector always yields greater relative surplus value.

      Now if it is your claim that applications of machinery to the production process always and everywhere lowers the value of labor power, you have to be able to explain what occurred after WW2 when real wages expanded; you have to explain what happened after 1973 when the cost of necessities rose at a rapid rate; you have to explain the period from 1992-2000 when the cost of necessities rose, modestly, and wages also expanded,reaching a post 1973 high in 2000, yet the rate of profit also recovered.

      In any case, no matter how many quotes we throw at each other, Marx always comes back to his “restriction” on the means for expanding relative surplus value– reducing the necessary labor by reducing the value of the labor power.

      Now such a process took place in the US between 1870 and 1895, the period incorrectly known as the “Long Depression” which in reality was a Long Deflation. Nominal wages declined during that period, but costs of food, clothing, housing declined even more, so at the end of the period real wages were actually higher.

      The response to the Long Deflation, was the tremendous concentration and centralization of capital as smaller enterprises were absorbed, driven out of business, consumed by larger, and the costs of necessities stopped their decline.

      And while I agree with you that the one of the countervailing tendencies to the decline in the rate of profit brought about by the increased organic composition is the increase in the extraction of relative surplus value– John Smith does not and neither did Walter Daum several months ago (March 2016, IIRC). And Marx is never explicit about this. He really is ambiguous.

      My key concern is this: is the wage differential between advanced countries and less advanced countries based on “super-exploitation” of workers in the less-developed countries, and John Smith means super-exploitation as Marx meant it, compensation of labor power below the costs of its own reproduction? Or is it based in part on historical circumstances, in part on the level of capitalist development, in part on the combativeness of the working class at critical junctures, and in part on profitability, in part on the relative productivity of labor?

      Here’s the super short version of the questions: Most productive steel plants are in Japan and South Korea. South Korean workers earn about $18/hr. In South Korea, it takes about 1 hour to produce 1 ton of steel. In China, it takes (or took) about 30 hours to produce 1 ton. China’s steel workers are paid about $3.25 an hour. Now where is the greater rate of surplus value derived? Is the wage of the South Korean workers based on a “value transfer” from the “super-exploited workers of China, or is it based on something else?

      As for not finding much in the way of comments about Smith– Walter’s piece is devoted almost in total to Smith’s arguments.

      • Admin says:

        I wonder whether you’ve got stuck on Walter’s notes and not got to Tony Norfield’s yet on the value of labour-power, wages, productivity and imperialism. A lot of what you are trying to discuss is dealt with there.

        Keep in mind, too, that what Walter was writing above and what Tony writes are notes; they’re not articles that deal exhaustively with the topic. They’re study group notes. But, if you put the sets of notes together, you should have something to get your teeth into.

        Phil F

  6. sartesian says:

    I read Tony’s comments, too. I just wanted clarification on this point, that’s all.

  7. sartesian says:

    Just to tie this up and put a bow on it, if the Admins have Walter Daum’s email address, and forward my question to him, that would be great. He can contact me at sartesian@earthlink.net, if he cares to.

  8. Walter Daum says:

    I’m responding belatedly because I didn’t see the comments on Redline until now.

    1. On relative surplus-value and the rate of exploitation, as far as I can tell my view has been consistent. It also seems to be much the same as what Phil F has been arguing here.

    Increasing the productivity of labor through the application of machinery increases the rate of exploitation relatively IF (as Marx says clearly in Capital I, Chapter 12) an innovative application of machinery takes place in the wage-good producing industries (Dept II), or in the Dept I industries that Dept II makes use of, directly or indirectly. Then the rate of exploitation is increased overall, but it is not specially increased in the workshop of the innovating capitalist.

    As to that particular workshop, if the innovating capitalist makes use of new machinery that adds to his costs but allows more value to be produced per hour, that extra value comes from the extra constant capital C embodied in the product (value transferred from the new machinery). That does not in itself result in a higher rate of exploitation (S/V), since that algebraic expression does not involve C. True, the innovating capitalist does acquire more S, by producing individual commodities more cheaply than his competitors and underselling them. But the extra surplus value is not created by his workers beyond the level they have previously created; it may appear that way, but it really comes out of the pockets of his undersold competitors. So the rate of the workers’ exploitation is not changed in this workshop (except possibly in the general sense described in the previous paragraph); only the distribution of surplus-value among the capitalists is changed. And the innovator’s advantage is only temporary, because the competitors, at least those who survive the intensified competition, catch up and adopt the new innovation.

    2. I don’t see the ambiguity in Marx’s view between what he says in Capital I.12 and what Sartesian sketchily cites from Capital III etc.

    3. Sartesian says that “one of the countervailing tendencies to the decline in the rate of profit brought about by the increased organic composition is the increase in the extraction of relative surplus value.”

    This is precisely wrong. The relative increase in the rate of surplus-value (that is, the rate of exploitation S/V) brought about by an increase in the composition of capital is the main cause of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, not a countertendency. Of course, the innovating capitalist does get a higher rate of profit as described above – initially. But then as the innovation is picked up by competitors, and the composition of capital increases more widely, then the rate of profit is driven downward, including that of the original innovating capitalist.

    In this I leave aside the effects of the several countertendencies to the falling rate of profit, most problematically the cheapening of elements of constant capital brought about by rising productivity. But that is a subject for another, and probably much longer, discussion.

  9. sartesian says:

    Walter,

    Thanks for the response. In comments on Michael Roberts’ blog, where this first arose in his review of John Smith’s book, I posed the following directly to you:

    “OK, Walter, (and Michael, and anyone else who care to comment)– do you agree with that?– Not that the total value produced in a working day remains the same, but that the apportioning of that value between necessary and surplus labor time remains the same regardless of the organic composition of capital in a particular sector?”

    You replied: “OK, Walter, (and Michael, and anyone else who care to comment)– do you agree with that?– Not that the total value produced in a working day remains the same, but that the apportioning of that value between necessary and surplus labor time remains the same regardless of the organic composition of capital in a particular sector?”

    “Yes I agree, as does Marx”

    That seems to run counter to your notes published here: “at the same time, firms like Foxconn in China are introducing robots to reduce labor costs, thereby advancing relative surplus-value.”

    The organic composition of capital is an expression of the relationship of the technical composition of capital to the value composition of capital– that as the technical composition shifts so that fewer laborers are animate a greater mass of objectified labor, the value composition shifts in the same direction, the constant capital, particularly its fixed asset portion rises, replacing labor power, value producing labor-power. An example of the technical composition would be the increase in the mass of container ships (in deadweight tonnage and/or number of TEUs it can carry) and the relative decline in the number of laborers required to operate the ship. This has a value equivalent– where the massive increase in “c” is accompanied by the decrease in “v”– and the convergence, or paralleling of these ratios is the organic composition. In your case, its the robots Foxconn is installing to reduce labor costs. The mass of the means of production grows, while the number of laborers decline; the value of the objectified labor, the robots, expands; the value of “v” living labor declines.

    Now if employing robots at Foxconn in China increases the organic composition of capital and at the same time increases the extraction of relative surplus value, why doesn’t increasing the organic composition of capital in the UK, the US, France, Germany, Singapore anywhere in any sector increase the extraction of relative surplus value?

    And FWIW, Marx does not agree with you: Capital Volume 1, Chapter 15: “Machinery produces relative surplus value; not only by directly depreciating the value of labor power and by indirectly cheapening the same through cheapening the commodities that enter into its reproduction [NB– the cheapening of the cost of reproduction is an “indirect” method of increasing relative surplus value!-SA], but also, when it is first introduced sporadically into an industry by converting the labour employed by the owner of that machinery into labour of a higher degree and greater efficacy, by raising the social value of the article produced above that of its individual value….”

    Of course this last element disappears as soon as the machinery as widely adopted, meaning that capital cannot outrun its own shadow, cannot ever overcome its antagonisms, or rather overcomes its antagonisms only temporarily, by expanding them Nevertheless, machinery does directly, according to Marx, increase the extraction of relative surplus value.

    Marx goes on in this chapter to write:”….Generally speaking the mode of producing relative surplus-value consists in raising the production power of the workman so as to enable him to produce more in a given time with the same expenditure of labour.”

    And further Marx writes “The immediate result of machinery is to augment surplus value and the mass of products in which surplus value is embodied.

    Thanks. SA