A nation is really rich if the working day is 6 hours rather than twelve

Book proposal: Marx’s Fetters and the Realm of Freedom: a remedial reading — part 2.8

by Tom Walker


In “The Trinity Formula,” in chapter 48 of volume 3 of Capital, Marx returned to the contradiction between the forces and relations of production. This time, however, it was not to deplore or analyze the fetters but to examine the realm of freedom that would become possible when “socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power.” This governance of the metabolism with nature would constitute the realm of necessity upon which the true realm of freedom can flourish. “The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite.”

Marx’s “prerequisite” echoes his draft of the resolution on the limitation of the working day of the International Working Men’s Association and remarks on the Ten Hour Bill in his Inaugural Address to the International. It also resonates with the “fine statement” from The Source and Remedy that Marx lingered over fondly in Theories of Surplus Value:

…where men heretofore laboured twelve hours they would now labour six, and this is national wealth, this is national prosperity. After all their idle sophistry, there is, thank God! no means of adding to the wealth of a nation but by adding to the facilities of living: so that wealth is liberty– liberty to seek recreation–liberty to enjoy life–liberty to improve the mind: it is disposable time, and nothing more. Whenever a society shall have arrived at this point, whether the individuals that compose it, shall, for these six hours, bask in the sun, or sleep in the shade, or idle, or play, or invest their labour in things with which it perishes, which last is a necessary consequence if they will labour at all, ought to be in the election of every man individually.