What is surplus value?

We explain what surplus value is and a little history about this concept. In addition, what is the use value and the exchange value.

  1. What is surplus value?

The surplus is one of the key concepts in the theory Marxist . It had a strong influence for the entire subsequent economy , being one of the key points to explain the exploitation and accumulation process of the capitalist system.

Goodwill is defined as “the unpaid surplus to the worker for his work performed” . However, this formula may be somewhat empty if certain essential concepts are not taken into account in Marxist theory. These include the concept of “use value” and “exchange value”, in addition to that of “merchandise.” For this, we will make a brief summary of the Marxist theory to better understand the concept of surplus value.

Karl Marx revolutionized almost all areas within which he worked. Both economics and politics and even philosophy suffered a turning point after the ideas introduced by this thinker, along with his partner Engels. However, we must consider Marx’s work as a totality, since all his theory is destined to the awareness of the proletariat, since the splitting of theory with practice is one of the most criticized points by Marxist theory.

In his analysis of capitalist society, Marx understands that its origin is mainly due to the emergence of private property . After the liberation of the communes and commerce with the Middle East, the bourgeoisie makes its appearance in history. This new social class were free men who accumulated large portions of land and property, while a bulk of the populationshe was stripped of her land and in possession of only her work forces. This generated a new panorama, completely new for the first time in history. They were no longer the landowners (although they still retained part of their power), but free men with the means of production (first the land, then the factory) who faced a large mass of the dispossessed.

The liberal theory understood that two men are in the market for exchanging goods, but the funny thing of capitalist society is that the workforce is presented as a commodity . This is a part of what is known as “merchandise fetishism”, where the real nature of the work is presented as an object in the market, while the goods are “objectified”, that is, stripped of their character historical, not as the result of the actions of men, but as objects themselves.

As we saw, we have people who own the means of production and others who only have their workforce. This generates the class division known as bourgeois and proletarians. The bourgeoisie uses the proletariat, paying a basic salary sufficient for their subsistence to work within the productive system.

The worker is “alienated” (retaking this concept that Marx uses of Hegel) or separated from the means of production, and is forced to sell his labor force. As we see, the proletariat needs the bourgeois to subsist, since it does not have the means to subsist on its own.

Once inside the production gear, the bourgeois hires a worker for a certain amount of hours. Now, this has nothing to do with the amount of wealth produced by the worker. For example, a worker receives a minimum wage for eight hours, while what is produced surely exceeds that amount. That surplus produced is known as surplus value .

It is one of the central pieces within capitalism, since by appropriating this the capitalist reinvests it in the productive process , either in new machinery or by hiring new workers . As we see, the richer a capitalist is, the poorer the worker. This is further accentuated the longer the working day is extended.

  1. Use value and exchange value

This relationship of the salaried worker with the capitalist system can be thought of in terms of use value and exchange value.

  • Use value : We understand by use value that value that refers to the ability to meet a need, regardless of its economic value.
  • Exchange value : On the other hand, the exchange value refers to the value that a particular product obtains in the market, regardless of its ability to satisfy a need (either something material like eating, or something related to the intellectual or spiritual, such as it can be a show, for example).

As we said before, the novelty of the capitalist mode of production is its ability to make work an exchange value , a commodity that obtains a price in the process of exchange in the market. But this merchandise is different from all the rest, because it is the only merchandise that produces value: it is only work that intrinsically possesses the ability to generate more wealth.

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