Capitalists, also called the bourgeoisie, are guided by the inherent drive present in the capitalism system to accumulate as mush profit as possible as fast as possible. The system recommends for over saving and then transforming these savings into capital. Afterwards the notion changes to accumulate as much as possible. Unlike other modes of production, capital bears the capacity to expand without limits and exceed geographical boundaries. As such, capital accumulation gives rise to free trade that exceeds international borders. This creates a need for competition laws as capitalists are driven to accumulate more and more. This creates stiff competition among capitalists with each striving to control a larger share of the market so as to increase profits. The desire to maximize profits forces capitalists to engage in other modes of increasing profits such as lowering the costs of production. Coupled with harsh competition, capitalists reduce prices in an effort to outdo competition. However, reducing prices too much may hurt profits, making reducing the cost of production a more viable option to increase profits.
The drive for profits while curtailing on costs drives the bourgeoisie to maximize on surplus value. The proletariat or working class enter the value chain here. The working class are paid for their labour power rather than labour. As such the capitalists aim to maximize the labour provided by the working class by increasing the number of working hours to achieve more labour at the same cost. As such, working days are fashioned in such a manner as to increase hours worked by the proletarians. Per Marx, the capitalist is the buyer of the labour commodity and the proletarians the seller (342). As such, the buyer will try to make the working day as long as possible and even strive to make two working days out of one. The seller, on the other hand, maintains the right to impose a limit on the consumption of the commodity; labour. Thus, the buyer tries to increase the working day as much as possible while the seller limits it to a particular normal length. This creates a state of antinomy where it is now up to force to decide who emerges victorious. This explains the quote: “hence, in the history of capitalist production, the establishment of a norm for the working day presents itself as a struggle over the limits of that day, a struggle between collective capital, i.e. the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e. the working class.”
Surplus value refers to the value produced by surplus labour. Proletarians are paid by capitalists to work for a limited number of hours per day such as 8 hours. However, the capitalist can still get the proletarian to work past this 8-hour limit. The produce resulting from this remainder of the day is surplus value or profit. Proletarians are constantly limiting their working days to a certain number of hours. Nevertheless, the capitalists can still find a way of increasing surplus value. This can be explained by a simple illustration. If the worker’s working day limits are A to C then A is the beginning of work and C the quitting of work. This can further be broken into A to B for necessary labour and B to C for surplus labour. A capitalist can increase surplus value by reducing necessary labour. Relative surplus value can also be increased by increasing the productivity of the means of subsistence and the raw materials and instruments used in the production of the means of subsistence.
Marx, Karl, et al. Capital: a critique of political economy. Vol 1. Capital, Courier Corporation, 2012. Print.