The Working-Day


Section 1 - The Limits of the Working-Day
Section 2 - The Greed for Surplus-Labour. Manufacturer and Boyard
Section 3 - Branches of English Industry without Legal Limits to Exploitation
Section 4 - Day and Night Work. The Relay System
Section 5 - The Struggle for a Normal Working-Day. Compulsory Laws for the Extension of the Working-Day from the Middle of the 14th to the End of the 17th Century
Section 6 - The Struggle for the Normal Working-Day. Compulsory Limitation by Law of the Working-Time. The English Factory Acts, 1833 to 1864
Section 7 - The Struggle for the Normal Working-Day. Reaction of the English Factory Acts on Other Countries




We started with the supposition that labour-power is bought and sold at its value. Its value, like that of all other commodities, is determined by the working-time necessary to its production. If the production of the average daily means of subsistence of the labourer takes up 6 hours, he must work, on the average, 6 hours every day, to produce his daily labour-power, or to reproduce the value received as the result of its sale. The necessary part of his working-day amounts to 6 hours, and is, therefore, caeteris paribus, a given quantity. But with this, the extent of the working-day itself is not yet given.

Let us assume that the line A—-B represents the length of the necessary working-time, say 6 hours. If the labour be prolonged 1, 3, or 6 hours beyond A—-B, we have 3 other lines:

Working-day I.   Working-day II.   Working-day III.
A———B-C.      A———B—-C.     A———B———C.

representing 3 different working-days of 7, 9, and 12 hours. The extension B—-C of the line A—-B represents the length of the surplus-labour. As the working-day is A—-B + B—-C or A—-C, it varies with the variable quantity B—-C. Since A—-B is constant, the ratio of B—-C to A—-B can always be calculated. In working- day I, it is 1/6, in working-day II, 3/6, in working day III 6/6 of A—-B. Since further the ratio

 surplus working-time,
 necessary working-time,

determines the rate of the surplus-value, the latter is given by the ratio of B—-C to A—-B. It amounts in the 3 different working-days respectively to 16 2/3, 50 and 100 per cent. On the other hand, the rate of surplus-value alone would not give us the extent of the working-day. If this rate, e.g.,  were 100 per cent., the working-day might be of 8, 10, 12, or more hours. It would indicate that the 2 constituent parts of the working-day, necessary-labour and surplus-labour time, were equal in extent, but not how long each of these two constituent parts was.

The working-day is thus not a constant, but a variable quantity. One of its parts, certainly, is determined by the working-time required for the reproduction of the labour-power of the labourer himself. But its total amount varies with the duration of the surplus-labour. The working-day is, therefore, determinable, but is, per se, indeterminate.1

Although the working-day is not a fixed, but a fluent quantity, it can, on the other hand, only vary within certain limits. The minimum limit is, however, not determinable; of course, if we make the extension line B—-C or the surplus-labour = 0, we have a minimum limit, i.e., the part of the day which the labourer must necessarily work for his own maintenance. On the basis of capitalist production, however, this necessary labour can form a part only of the working-day; the working-day itself can never be reduced to this minimum. On the other hand, the working-day has a maximum limit. It cannot be prolonged beyond a certain point. This maximum limit is conditioned by two things. First, by the physical bounds of labour- power. Within the 24 hours of the natural day a man can expend only a definite quantity of his vital force. A horse, in like manner, can only work from day to day, 8 hours. During part of the day this force must rest, sleep; during another part the man has to satisfy other physical needs, to feed, wash, and

  By PanEris using Melati.

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