Value in motion

“The more developed the capital, therefore, the more extensive the market over which it circulates, which forms the spatial orbit of its circulation, the more does it strive simultaneously for an even greater extension of the market and for greater annihilation of space by time. Only in so far as the direct product can be realized in distant markets in mass quantities in proportion to reductions in the transport costs, and only in so far as at the same time the means of communication and transport themselves can yield spheres of realization for labour, driven by capital; only in so far as commercial traffic takes place in massive volume — in which more than necessary labour is replaced — only to that extent is the production of cheap means of communication and transport a condition for production based on capital, and promoted by it for that reason. All labour required in order to throw the finished product into circulation — it is in economic circulation only when it is present on the market — is from capitals viewpoint a barrier to be overcome — as is all labour required as a condition for the production process (thus e.g. expenses for the security of exchange etc.). The sea route, as the route which moves and is transformed under its own impetus, is that of trading peoples xat’ ezochn. On the other side, highways originally fall to the community, later for a long period to the governments, as pure deductions from production, deducted from the common surplus product of the country, but do not constitute a source of its wealth, i.e. do not cover their production costs. In the original, self-sustaining communes of Asia, on one side no need for roads; on the other side the lack of them locks them into their closed-off isolation and thus forms an essential moment of their survival without alteration (as in India). Road construction by means of the corvée, or through taxes, which is another form, is a forced transformation of a part of a country’s surplus labour or surplus product into roads. If an individual capital is to undertake this — i.e. if it is to create the conditions of the production process which are not included in the production process directly — then the work must provide a profit.

Circulation proceeds in space and time. Economically considered, the spatial condition, the bringing of the product to the market, belongs to the production process itself. The product is really finished only when it is on the market. The movement through which it gets there belongs still with the cost of making it. It does not form a necessary moment of circulation, regarded as a particular value-process, since a product may be bought and even consumed at the point of its production. But this spatial moment is important in so far as the expansion of the market and the exchangeability of the product are connected with it. The reduction of the costs of this real circulation (in space) belongs to the development of the forces of production by capital, the reduction of the costs of its realization. In certain respects, as an external condition for the existence of the economic process of circulation, this moment may also be reckoned as part of the production costsof circulation, so that, with respect to this moment, circulation itself appears as a moment not only of the production process in general, but also of the direct production process. In any case, what appears here is the determination of this moment by the general degree of development of the productive forces, and of production based on capital generally. This locational moment — the bringing of the product to market, which is a necessary condition of its circulation, except when the point of production is itself a market — could more precisely be regarded as the transformation of the product into a commodity. Only on the market is it a commodity. (Whether or not this forms a particular moment is a matter of chance. If capital produces to order, then neither this moment nor the transformation into money exists as a particular moment for it. Work done to order, i.e. supply corresponding to a prior demand, as a general or predominant situation, is not characteristic of large industry and in no way arises from the nature of capital as a condition.) ”

Karl Marx, Grundrisse