Front Page Titles (by Subject) I. Causes Implying a Variation of the Price of Production. - Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole
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I. Causes Implying a Variation of the Price of Production. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, by Karl Marx. Ed. Federick Engels. Trans. from the 1st German edition by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co. Cooperative, 1909).
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I. Causes Implying a Variation of the Price of Production.
THE price of production of a commodity can vary only from two causes:
1) The average rate of profit varies. This can be due only to a change in the average rate of surplus-value, or, if the average rate of surplus-value remains the same, by a change in the proportion of the sum of the appropriated surplus-values to the sum of the advanced total capital of society.
Unless a variation of the rate of surplus-value is due to a depression of wages below normal, or their rise above normal,—and such movements must be considered as mere oscillations—it can take place only for two reasons: Either the value of labor-power may have risen or fallen. The one eventuality is as impossible as the other without a change in the productivity of that labor which produces means of subsistence, in other words, without a change in the value of the commodities which are consumed by the laborer. Or, the proportion of the sum of appropriated surplus-values to the advanced total capital of society varies. Since the variation in this case is not due to the rate of surplus-value, it must be due to the total capital, or rather to its constant part. The mass of this part, technically speaking, increases or decreases in proportion to the quantity of labor-power bought by the variable capital, and the mass of its value increases or decreases with the increase or decrease of its own mass. Its mass of value, then, increases or decreases likewise in proportion to the mass of the value of the variable capital. If the same labor sets more constant capital in motion, labor has become more productive. If less, less productive. There has then been a change in the productivity of labor, and a change must have taken place in the value of certain commodities.
The following rule, then, applies to both cases: If the price of production of a certain commodity changes in consequence of a change in the average rate of profit, its own value may have remained unchanged, but a change must have taken place in the value of other commodities.
2) The average rate of profit remains unchanged. In that case the price of production of a commodity cannot change, unless its own value has changed. This may be due to the fact that more or less labor is required to produce this commodity, either because the productivity of that labor varies, which produces this commodity in its final form, or of that labor which produces the commodities consumed in its production. Cotton yarn may vary in its price of production, either because cotton is produced at a lower figure, or because the labor of spinning has become more productive in consequence of improved machinery.
As we have seen before, the price of production is equal to k + p, equal to cost-price plus profit. This implies k + kp', and k, cost-price, stands here for a variable magnitude, which changes according to different spheres of production, but is everywhere equal to the value of the constant and variable capital consumed in the production of commodities, while p' stands for the percentage of the average rate of profit. If k = 200, and p' = 20%, the price of production k + kp' is equal to 200 + 200 20/100 = 200 + 40 = 240. It is evident that this price of production may remain the same, although the value of the commodities may change.
All changes in the price of production of commodities reduce themselves in the last analysis to changes in value. But not every change in the value of commodities needs to find expression in a change of the price of production. For this price is not determined merely by the value of any particular commodity, but by the aggregate value of all commodities. A change in commodity A may eventually be balanced by an opposite change of commodity B, so that the general proportion remains the same.