[OPE-L:2890] Re: re:starting points

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sun Apr 23 2000 - 09:42:19 EDT

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I also (like Nicky) thank Andy for reminding us of the very interesting
and important article by Banaji (in the volume edited by Diane Elson
entitled *Value: The Representation of Labor in Capitalism* (1979)). I
don't understand a lot about Hegel, but from what I know about Marx,
Banaji's article seems on the right track as an interpretation of Marx's
logical method and the influence of Hegel. Especially with regard to the
STARTING POINT of Marx's theory in Capital.

However, I think that Andy's memory of Banaji's article is not quite
accurate. Banaji talks about TWO starting points of Marx's theory in
Capital, not three.

1. The first starting-point is the COMMODITY, understood as the most
abstract form of appearance of CAPITAL. Banaji argues very persuasively
that Marx's commodity in Chapter 1 is definitely NOT a general commodity
that could also apply to non-capitalist modes of production. Please see
the subsection "Capital as Presupposition of the Commodity",
pp. 28-30. (Nicky, please take note). Chris Arthur has also argued a
similar point in several papers.

It is true, as Andy says, that this abstract commodity has not yet been
POSITED (i.e. explained) as a product of capital. But capital is
PRESUPPOSED from the very first sentence of Capital. Marx's theory begins
not with a general ahistorical commodity.

2. Banaji calls the commodity-as-product-of-capital the ANALYTICAL point
of departure. From this abstract commodity, Marx derived the VALUE of
commodities (in Section 1 of Chapter 1), which then forms the second
starting-point, which Banaji calls the SYNTHETIC point of departure of
Capital (see the section "The Double Structure of the Beginning" on
pp. 36-40). From value, Marx derived the concepts of money, capital,
surplus-value, and all the other forms of appearance of capital.

Banaji writes: "the beginning is a movement between two points of
departure... As the immediate appearance of the total process of
capital, ... the individual commodity forms the ANALYTIC point of
departure. From this, however, we do not pass over directly to the
concept of capital. By analyzing the commodity, drawing out its
determinations, we arrive at the concept of VALUE as the abstract-reified
form of social labor. This as the ground of all further conceptual
determinations (money, capital) forms the SYNTHETIC point of departure of
Capital... The passage from one point to the other forms the structure
of the beginning as such." (pp. 39-40; emphasis in the original). Banaji
argues further that Marx's passage from the commodity to value is similar
to Hegel's passage from Immediacy to Mediation, or from Being to Essence.

However, contrary to Andy, there is not a third starting-point in
Banaji. Banaji does not argue that the concept of capital, introduced in
Chapter 4 of Volume 1, is a third starting-point. Instead, the concept of
capital is derived as part of the "synthetic development" from the
starting-point of value (through the concept of money).

Banaji again: "Through our analysis of the simple commodity we arrive at
the concept of value and thus at a basis for defining,
dialectico-logically, the concept of capital." (p. 38) This is the
"return to the ground" of capital. But the logic returns to the ground,
it does not start with the ground.

On the other hand, I agree with Nicky (in 2859) that, in Marx's theory,
"labor confronts capital as a subject" which is "outside the reach of
capital" and that this may indeed be a "brilliant inversion of Hegel's
ontology." As Nicky puts it: "The logic of capital does NOT in
actuality reflect a SELF-DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCEPT towards
unity." (emphasis added) In other words (as I understand this), capital
is not sufficient unto itself. The essence of capital - dM - cannot be
explained solely on the basis of capital itself (even though it appears
that way to bourgeois economists). The explanation of dM requires
something outside of capital, the opposite of capital: wage-labor. A
necessary condition of the existence of capital is the external existence
of labor.

However, this does not mean that "the real starting point" of Marx's
theory is the fully developed capital-form in Chapter 4. What does
STARTING-POINT mean in this context? In Capital, capital and the
confrontation between capital and labor are introduced in Part 2. But
there is a very important prior logical (not historical) development in
Part 1, in which the concept of capital is itself derived. In what sense
is Part 1 not the logical starting point of Marx's theory?

Nicky, Enrique Dussel (an Argentinian living in Mexico, who I think is one
of the most interesting Marxian philosophers in the world today) makes an
argument similar to yours - both that labor confronts capital as a subject
outside of capital (and also that this is an inversion of Hegel, based on
Schelling according to Dussel) and that this confrontation between capital
and labor is the real starting-point of Capital. Dussel presented a paper
on this subject at the 1997 IWGVT mini-conference, which I think is still
on the IWGVT website. I agree with the first point - labor as subject
outside of capital as the source of dM - but disagree with the second
point - that the confrontation between capital and labor is the real
starting-point of Capital. Again, what does "starting-point" mean
here? Does it mean that Part 1 is in some sense unnecessary? Or a false

I look forward very much to the continuation of this very interesting


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