What appears to be surplus value on the part of capital appears on the worker’s side to be, precisely, surplus labour far beyond his requirements, that is to say, far beyond his immediate needs for the maintenance of his livelihood. The great historical feature of capital is that it produces this surplus labour, which is superfluous labour from the standpoint of ordinary use value and mere subsistence. The historical vocation of capital is fulfilled as soon as, on the one hand, demand has developed to the point where there is a general need for surplus labour beyond what is necessary, and surplus labour itself arises from individual needs; and on the other, general industriousness has developed (under the strict discipline of capital) and has been passed on to succeeding generations, until it has become the property of the new generation; and finally when the productive forces of labour, which capital spurs on in its unrestricted desire for wealth and the conditions in which alone capital can achieve this, have developed to the point where the possession and maintenance of general wealth requires, on the one hand, shorter working hours for the whole of society, and working society conducts itself scientifically towards the progressive reproduction of wealth, its reproduction in even greater profusion; so that the sort of labour in which the activities of men can be replaced by those of machines will have ceased. Capital and labour behave in this way like money and goods; if one of them is the general form of wealth, the other is only the substance which aims at immediate consumption.
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