Karl Marx's Theory of Surplus Labour
For Marx surplus labour is the extra labour produced by a worker for his employer, to be put towards capital accumulation. The worker must do this work to keep his job but otherwise gains nothing by it. By helping the accumulation of capital he contributes to the cycle of mechanization and division of labour, which allow for fewer workers to do more work, thus adding to the competition between workers, and lowering their wages. Yet despite how it will contribute to a lessening of his earnings, the worker has no choice but to contribute surplus labour.
If a man had the means of production and could work for himself producing what he needed or what he could trade for what he needs, then a man could stop when he has what he needs. If a man does not own the means of production and therefore cannot sell the product of his own labour then he must sell his labour power to someone who owns the means of production. He will be paid a wage. Marx makes it very clear that the wage is paid not for the labour, but for the labour-power, that is, the use of the worker for whatever set amount of time. Marx writes: "Labour-power, then, is a commodity, no more, no less so than is the sugar. The first is measured by the clock, the other by the scales." (1847. Wage-Labour and Capital. pg 3. All subsequent references will be marked by page number only.)
The wage that the worker is paid will be somewhere around the subsistence wage – that is the wage necessary to keep the worker returning to the job the next day. While the subsistence wage for an individual worker can be just what is needed to keep the job position filled (not necessarily by the same person) the subsistence wage overall has to be enough that the working class can raise children to be the next generation of workers. (9) This is the cost of production of labour-power (a commodity) and Marx writes that "the actual price of a commodity, indeed, stands always above or below the cost of production; but the rise and fall reciprocally balance each other" (8). If there is a shortage of workers or the workers ban together then the wage may go above the subsistence wage for a while, as the employers compete to hire the workers. If there is a shortage of jobs or the capitalists ban together then the wage may go down for a while, as the workers compete for the jobs. Yet over all, the wage will remain at the subsistence level.
Note that the workers wage is generally paid out of the money the capitalist has already, and not out of the immediate days earnings. While the workers wage will be decreased or his job lost if the price of the commodity he produces falls over a length of time, on a day to day basis his wage is independent of the sale of the products he produces. (4)
The wages that the worker earns is an expense that the capitalist must pay. As shown above, he cannot lower the wage of the worker. Thus for him to earn money from his capital he must see to it...