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According to Marx, "[t]he surplus value produced within a given period of circulation, when measured against the total capital which has been advanced, is called — profit."

Distinguishing characteristics

Distinguishing characteristics of profit include:

  • Profit is thus best understood as the value of the commodities produced by the workers after deducting their wages, the cost of raw materials and the overhead.
  • Profit stands in dialectical opposition to "value in process" insofar as profit is removed from the circulation of capital and thus is not in process.


"Surplus-value and the rate of surplus-value are... the invisible essence to be investigated, whereas the rate of profit and hence the form of surplus-value as profit are visible surface phenomena" [Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 3]

"Under "profit" is included not only interest — known to be a mere portion of the total profit — but also the rent of land, which is nothing but a part of the capital employed in agriculture."

“The rate of profit is the motive power of capitalist production. Things are produced only so long as they can be produced with a profit.” [Marx, Capital, vol. III, ch. XV, part III]

“A part of the surplus-value realized in profit, i.e., that part which assumes the form of interest on capital laid out (whether borrowed or not), appears to the capitalist as outlay, as production cost which he has as a capitalist, just as profit in general is the immediate aim of capitalist production. But in interest (especially on borrowed capital), this appears also as the actual precondition of his production.

“At the same time, this reveals the significance of the distinction between the phenomena of production and of distribution. Profit, a phenomenon of distribution, is here simultaneously a phenomenon of production, a condition of production, a necessary constituent part of the process of production. How absurd it is, therefore, for John Stuart Mill and others to conceive bourgeois forms of production as absolute, but the bourgeois forms of distribution as historically relative, hence transitory. I shall return to this later. The form of production is simply the form of distribution seen from a different point of view. The specific features—and therefore also the specific limitation—which set bounds to bourgeois distribution, enter into bourgeois production itself, as a determining factor, which overlaps and dominates production.” [Marx, TSV, 3:83-84]

See also