ABSOLUTE AND RELATIVE SURPLUS VALUE: A REVIEW ESSAY
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...
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