Sociology Index


In Marxist theory surplus value is the value created by individual labour which is left over, or remains in the product or services produced, after the employer has paid the costs of hiring the worker. Surplus value is the additional value or surplus value which the worker produces but does not get paid for, allowing the capitalist owner to expand their capital. "Surplus value" is a translation of the German word "Mehrwert", which simply means value added. Karl Marx uses the term Mehrwert to describe the yield, profit or return on production capital invested. Marx's use of Mehrwert has always been translated as "surplus value", distinguishing it from "value-added."

Absolute Surplus Value and Relative Surplus Value

Absolute surplus value is the surplus value generated by increasing the length of the Working day, thus increasing the surplus labour time. Relative surplus value is the surplus value generated by cutting wages or reducing the cost of living, thus reducing workers’ Necessary labour time in proportion to the surplus value extracted.

The production of surplus value is directly related to the rate of exploitation of workers in the workplace. The production of absolute surplus value entails an increase in the amount of total value produced, by intensifying the work done, by limiting breaks, and supervision by management.

The production of relative surplus value is produced through the reduction of the value of labor power by means of improvements in the production of goods, considered the appropriation of productivity gains by the capitalist class. In relative surplus value, the working day and wage remain the same, and the value of labor power falls leaving a higher surplus value. Relative surplus value is achieved by the introduction of better machinery, and a better organization of the workplace. 

The Counterfactual Method of Marx's Theory of Surplus value - Perri S. Abstract: The aim of this paper is to show that Karl Marx supports his theory of surplus value by developing a counterfactual argument, that is, by comparing the 'normal' state of a capitalist economy against a hypothetical state in which no surplus is produced. Marx then divides his analysis of value into three successive steps:

the first deals with the production of new value in the sphere of production;

the second with the process of creation of surplus value, both in the sphere of production and in the sphere of circulation; and

the third with the process of equalisation of the rate of profit, which is accomplished via capitalist competition in the sphere of circulation.

Social process of production, pumps a definite quantity of surplus-labour out of the direct producers, or labourers; capital obtains this surplus-labour without an equivalent, and in essence it always remains forced labour. This surplus labour appears as surplus value, and this surplus value exists as a surplus product.

In a capitalist society, surplus value, or surplus product, is divided among capitalists as dividends proportionate to the share of the social capital each holds. In this form surplus value appears as average profit which falls to the share of capital, an average profit which in turn divides into profit of enterprise and interest, and which under these two categories may fall into the laps of different kinds of capitalists. - Abstract from: The Trinity Formula -

Surplus Value, Unemployment and Industrial Turbulence 
A Statistical Application of the Marxian Model To Post-War Japan 
Yoshio Sugimoto. The paper examines in quantitative terms how powerful such Marxian concepts as the amount and rate of surplus value and the size of the industrial reserve army of labour are in accounting for levels of industrial turbulence.

Emotional labour and surplus value
Panikkos Constanti, Paul Gibbs. Abstract: The employee's behavior requires 'emotional labour' [Hochschild, 1983] where the front-line employee has to either conceal or manage actual feelings for the benefit of a successful service delivery. The implication is not necessarily of equality or mutual benefit but of satisfaction for the customer and profit for the management. The article discusses whether the service employee is being exploited in this three-way relationship, and how surplus value accrues and its benefit distributed.

Estimates of the Rate of Surplus-Value in the Postwar United States Economy 
Fred Moseley, Economics, Colby College, Waterville.

One important prediction of Marx's theory is that the rate of surplus value will increase as a secular tendency. This paper subjects this prediction of Marx's theory to an empirical evidence test, by deriving annual estimates of the rate of surplus-value in the United States economy over the period 1947-1977. These estimates show that the rate of surplus value in the United States economy increased significantly over this period.

These estimates are then compared with other estimates of the rate of surplus value in the postwar United States economy which are based on different interpretations of the main theoretical issues involved in the estimation of the rate of surplus value.

This comparison shows that the theoretical issue which makes the most difference in the estimated trend of the rate of surplus value is whether or not Marx's distinction between productive labor and unproductive labor is taken into account in the definition of the rate of surplus value.

Marx's Value, Exchange and Surplus Value Theory: A Suggested Interpretation - JEAN CARTELIER.

Abstract: The concept of commodity society based on a specific division of labour (opposition between private and social labour) and that of surplus-value are the most prominent achievements of Marx's intellectual efforts in dealing with the economy of capitalism. This paper attempts to evaluate the consistency of the theoretical propositions inherent in these concepts.

The main contention is that an internal criticism of Marx's theory of exchange value and surplus-value leads one to restate it in a different framework. This framework. which mas be called monetary approach represents an alternative to value theory. The second section points out the logical inconsistencies which make the surplus value theory unsuitable for its purpose.

Theories of Surplus Value, Marx 1861-3.

Absolute surplus-value. (a) Labour-process and the process of producing surplus-value. (b) Constant capital and variable capital. (c) Absolute surplus-value. (d) Struggle for the normal working-day. (e) Simultaneous working-days (number of simultaneously employed labourers). Amount of surplus-value and rate of surplus-value (magnitude and height?).

Relative surplus-value. (a) Simple co-operation. (b) Division of labour. (c) Machinery. etc.

Combination of absolute and relative surplus-value. Relation (proportion) between wage-labour and surplus-value. Formal and real subsumption of labour under capital. Productivity of capital. Productive and unproductive labour.

Reconversion of surplus-value into capital. Primitive accumulation. Wakefield’s colonial theory.