Marxian Analysis of Surplus and Profit

  • Michael Howard
Part of the Radical Economics book series


Marx’s analysis of the surplus is more ambitious than that of any other work with which we shall be concerned. The surplus concept forms the basis of a comprehensive social theory, encompassing all historical development. Social relationships, for Marx, are essentially those of classes, and at the centre of any class society are the relationships through which the dominant classes extract and gain control of the surplus. This is the case whether the historical form is that of oriental despotism, slavery, feudalism or capitalism:

The specific economic form, in which … surplus … is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers — a relation always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity — which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state.1


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Copyright information

© Michael Howard 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Howard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WaterlooOntarioCanada

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