[OPE-L:2881] Re: Re: re:starting points

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Fri Apr 21 2000 - 12:30:57 EDT

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Finally, a response to Andrew [OPE-L:2867]:

>Banaji's 1979 chapter, recently drawn upon by Chris Arthur, and
>others, suggests that there are *three* starting points for Capital
>(depending on how you look at it).

Banaji (in Elson, 1979) maintains that: 'It was Hegel who first enunciated
the conception of a point of departure which is simultaneously the
foundation of the movement which it initiates' (p.19; cf Hegel, *Science of
Logic*, [SL] A.V. Miller translation, 1969, p.71). Banaji interprets: 'the
beginning is not something "dead", something fixed and static, but
something "self-moving"' (p.19). In this sense 'substance is subject'
(p.19; cf Hegel, Preface to the *Phenomenology*).

I don't think, therefore, that Banaji posits *three* starting points or
perspectives - but the same starting point, or "subject". The starting
point is not defined (fixed as starting point), but itself a process
(concerned with the movement of the commodity as value, i.e. capital). I
find this very useful, because my own analysis now seems very "flat" in
comparison. Also, the concept of 'substance as subject' puts a whole new
gloss on Marx's derivation of abstract labour as the "substance of value".
Is it a Ricardian/Neutonian hangover after all?
>(1) The 'commodity'. This is the commodity in its 'immediate being'
>('Schein' - [I wish read German]). The commodity as it appears on
>the surface of society; not yet 'posited' as a moment of capital. This is
>literally where Marx starts from, on the first page of the first chapter.

Banaji (p.30): "This means: (i) that the individual commodity contains
immediately within itself determinations that can be drawn out of it. "Our
investigation...begins with the analysis of the commodity' (Capital 1,
p.125). The individual commodity is a concrete in the specific dialectical
sense that it comprises a *relation within itself* (SL, p.75) "As
concrete, it is *differentiated within itself* (Hegel, SL, p.830), hence
something analysable. However, (ii) in drawing out the differentiated
determinations that lie within the given object, analysis only initiates,
or sets in motion, a process that allows us to return to the commodity and
identify it now as a 'moment', a form of appearance of capital. The
immediacy from which we started then becomes what Hegel calls 'a mediated
immediacy' (SL, p.99)".

To return to the idea of 'substance as subject', even at the outset it is
not the commodity, but capital (albeit, as you say, not yet 'posited' as

>(2) The 'value-form'; or its 'concrete historical synonym', the
>'commodity-form'. Note carefully that Banaji has distinguished
>between the 'commodity' and the 'commodity-form'. It is this
>distinction which he suggests '990f commentators' have failed to
>recognise. This I think Banaji calls the 'abstract essence' of capital. It
>is the commodity now comprehended as (positing itself as) a form of
>value. Value itself is comprehended as congealed abstract socially
>necessary labour. [I may be putting my own gloss on Banaji here,
>regarding the notion of 'congelation']

This is related to Banaji's concept of 'ground', see below.

>(3) 'Capital'. This is the most abstract notion of capital. It is the result
>of the derivation from the commodity and money forms. It is a notion
>that must itself be developed dialectically. It is the notion that Nicky
>has in mind as the starting point I think. [Banaji mentions stuff on
>'essence' and 'ground' in Hegel also - I can't remember the details]

You interpret my 'starting point' correctly. To take it a step further,
think of Gestalt Psychology, in which a problem (foreground) cannot be
separated from it's context (background). It is a bit like those images
where a line separates a dark area from a light area, and each area can be
read as either the background or the foreground image (i.e. the image might
be read as a vase or two reversed human profiles, according to whether you
see the light area as object or ground). Banaji is not dealing with a
simple gestalt of course, but I think the analogy might be helpful in
reading his work also. Consider his quote from Hegel (p.38), where he says
that dialectical inquiry advances as

"a retreat into the ground, into what is primary and true, on which depends
and...from which originates, that with which the beginning is made...The
ground...is that from which the first proceeds, that which at first
appeared as an immediacy" (Hegel, SL, p.71)

Thus, 'The "first", the commodity, proceeds from capital, whose own
development posits it as a mediated immediacy, i.e. a "moment" of its own
process, hence something mediated. This enables us to say that Marx
regarded *capital* as the ground of the movement of his investigation'
(Banaji, p.38). Through analysing the commodity, Marx arrives at the
ground, capital. However, the individual commodity 'is equally the ground'
(cf. Hegel, SL, p.71) in so far as it presupposes a historical process that
lies within it (cf. Grundrisse; see Banaji, p.39).

Banaji relates the 'ground' of dialectical logic to essence logic: Capital
is 'essence' in so far as it is value in process, or the form of value;
i.e. 'value is the dominant subject' (p.39). But value is likewise the
'essence' of the commodity in so far as the commodity is the posited form
of value, and in this sense grounds the whole movement [btw, I think the
basis for Banaji's distinction between commodity and commodity form, lies
in his distinction between the commodity as starting point and the
commodity as ground - but please correct me if you think I'm wrong].

many thanx for this enjoyable exchange,

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