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Andrew, your post was very usefull to me. It made me thing about the question
of essence and appearance. In fact, if essence and appearance do not coincide
then science ( in our case, the study of capitalism), in unraveling how
capitalism works must necessarily unravel as well how its mode of working
produces illusions, false consciousness, ideology. In this sense, the
analysis of fetichism cannot be something lateral to issues such as labor
power, exploitation, accumulation, crisis. It can only be an intrinsic part
of the analysis. No wonder it appears in the analysis of the commodity; the
wage; simple reproduction (context: initial capital as a value reproduced by
labor as opposed to the idea of it being the result of a primal capitalist
labor); profit as seemingly arising from circulation time (context: critique
of Ricardo qualifications of the law of value); the appearance of profits as
arising from all capital employed (context: transformation of surplus value
into profit, first chapters of vol III); profit of enterprise as wages of
supervision; interest bearing capital. It emerges at all level of analysis.
That is no coincidence.
> In OPE-L 2560, 2565, and 2575, Paul Zarembka has denied that Marx's
> theory of fetishism is central to _Capital_. Paul at first tried to
> justify this denial by counting the number of pages devoted explicitly to
> the explication of the theory. Yet as he recognizes in OPE-L 2575, the
> real issue is whether the theory is integral to and influences the whole
> or whether, as he thinks, "'fetishism' was a very specific concept as
> discussed in the relevant 12-page section."
> In defense of the latter proposition, he continues that "If it were meant
> to illuminate EVERYTHING its status would have been MUCH MORE obvious by
> a much more greater discussion by Marx." I do not agree.
> First, I think the centrality of the theory of fetishism IS obvious.
> Second, I just don't think it is true that an author will always directly
> discuss something at great length if it is central. I would argue, for
> instance, that "becoming" is central to Hegel's _Science of Logic_. Yet
> there is only a bit of direct discussion of becoming, at the beginning.
> Nonetheless, the forward movement from category to category is in every
> case a matter of becoming.
> Paul has also responded to the following argument of mine:
> "what is Marx's analysis of the development of capitalist production,
> especially machine production, all about if not that the worker is
> dominated by the product of her on hands, just as in religion the thinker
> is dominated by the product of his own brain? Coming to the section on
> Wages that Paul mentions, it is one *transformation* after another,
> various 'irrational' forms of the value of labor-power that actually
> exist in the real world -- again, it is not a matter of illusion.
> "And then there's Vol. III. It would be easy to point to the Trinity
> Formula, or to the crucial discussion of relations of production and
> relations of distribution. But really, this whole volume is again one
> *transformation* after another. The whole thing is about how the
> inversion of subject and object -- worker and machine -- that occurs in
> the production process necessarily gives rise to fetishistic forms of
> appearance in which capital has powers."
> Paul writes: "No, *Capital* is about the exploitation and domination by
> one social class over another in the specific form of the capitalist
> mode of production. It is NOT principally about workers being
> 'dominated by the product of her/his own hand'.
> But Paul did not justify his rejection of my interpretation. Nor did he
> confront the evidence I provided.
> For the record, this is how Marx ends the first section of the chapter on
> the General Law of Capitalist Accumulation: "Just as man is governed, in
> religion, by the products of his own brain, so, in capitalist production,
> he is governed by the products of his own hand" (_Capital_ I, Vintage, p.
> And in Volume III (Vintage, p. 136), as I noted, he writes that "the way
> that surplus-value is transformed into the form of profit ... is only a
> further extension of that inversion of subject and object which already
> occurs in the course of the production process itself. ... value, i.e.
> the past labour that dominates living labour, is personified into the
> capitalist; on the other hand, the worker conversely appears as mere
> objectified labour-power, as a commodity. This inverted relationship
> necessarily gives rise ... to a correspondingly inverted conception of
> the situation ... which is further developed by the transformations and
> modifications of the circulation process proper."
> Perhaps Paul could argue that _Capital_ is not "principally" about this.
> But what criterion does he have for deciding whether something is
> "principal" or not? I do not know. Are we going to go back to page
> counting? If so, I'd just note that what Paul considers central --
> classes -- gets even less explicit treatment and less prominent treatment
> than the theory of fetishism. It is not developed explicitly at all in
> Volume I, and in Vol. III there is only a two-page fragment at the end
> that Marx didn't bother to complete!
> But I think the real issue is whether Paul is justified in making the
> SEPARATIONS he makes. It is these separations, above all, that enable
> him to say that fetishism is confined to 12 pages of the text.
> The first separation is that he writes as if "exploitation and domination
> ... in the specific form of the capitalist mode of production" is one
> thing, while "workers being 'dominated by the product of her/his own
> hand'" is something entirely different. But the latter IS the capitalist
> mode of production:
> "in the valorization process ... it is not the worker who makes use of
> the means of production, but the means of production that make use of the
> worker. ... The means of production ... now manifest themselves moreover
> as the rule of past, dead labour over the living" (Marx, _Capital_ I,
> Vintage, p. 988 ["Results of the Immediate Process of Production"]).
> Paul also tries to separate "the exploitation and domination by one
> social class over another" from "workers being 'dominated by the product
> of her/his own hand'." But for Marx they were not separate at all. On
> the very next page, Marx (ibid., p. 989) writes that
> "In fact the rule of the capitalist over the worker is nothing but the
> rule of the independent *conditions of labour* over the *worker*,
> conditions that have made themselves independent of him. ... And this is
> the case even though this relationship comes into existence only in the
> course of the actual process of production ...."
> Thus, for Marx, the domination of workers by capitalists is *IN FACT*
> NOTHING BUT the rule of the independent means of production over the
> worker. The latter relationship, moreover, was the primary one. As he
> says again and again (e.g. in the passage from Vol. III) and as he
> repeats here, the capitalist is only the personification of the dead
> labor that dominates living labor:
> "The *functions* fulfilled by the capitalist are no more than the
> functions of capital -- viz. the valorization of value by absorbing
> living labour -- executed *consciously* and *willingly*. The capitalist
> functions only as *personified* capital, capital as a person .... Hence
> the rule of the capitalist over the worker is the rule of things over
> man, of dead labour over the living, of the product over the producer.
> ... Thus at the level of material production ... we find the *same*
> situation that we find in *religion* at the ideological level, namely the
> invesion of subject into object and *vice versa*" (ibid., pp. 989-90).
> I'd be interested in knowing Paul's response to this evidence.
> Another possible separation is between fetishism and value. In reply
> to John Holloway, Paul writes: "If you are using 'value' and 'fetishism'
> synonymously, there is no reponse I can give." This seems to recognize
> that, if fetishism is "synonymous" with value, fetishism is central to
> _Capital_ because value is. But they need not be "synonymous"; fetishism
> is still central if, as I suggest, it is *closely and internally related*
> to value.
> What gives rise to the fetish, after all? The *material* characteristics
> of a commodity do not give rise to the fetish -- material things have
> always existed without there being a commodity fetish. What gives rise
> to fetishism is rather that commodities aren't only material things, but
> also something *immaterial*, values. The fetish arises from the fact
> that the value character of the commodity is inseparable from its
> material nature and appears as something material.
> Moreover, value is a social power. The commodity in its dual character
> is thus a thing that has un-thingly power. That makes it a fetish.
> Hence, when Marx explores the workings of value production and
> accumulation, he is exploring the social power that value has in this
> society, the fetish in action.
> Andrew Kliman
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