[OPE-L:2897] Re: Re: re:starting points

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Mon Apr 24 2000 - 11:39:32 EDT

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Thank you very much, Fred, for your interesting intervention on Banaji
[OPE-L:2890]. What follows is a partial reply:

>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.

Just in case I've been unclear in previous posts, I fully agree that Marx's
commodity can not be usefully applied to non-capitalist modes of
production. Other people on this list disagree:- does that mean that
Marx's exposition (his analysis of the commodity) in the first chapter of
Capital is open to different interpretations? If so, is it true that
Marx's analysis of the commodity is not adequate to his subject matter -
which I take to be a theory of capitalist value? I'm not sure. But,
reading Banaji drew my attention to the possibility that Marx may have had
a Hegelian use of the 'substance' concept - which I have previously assumed
to be a Ricardian/Neutonian lapse.

>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.

I think there is ONE starting point, not TWO (Fred) or THREE (Andy). "The
beginning is a movement between two points of departure" - ONE beginning,
but TWO points of departure. Or to put it the other way - analytic and
synthetic points of departure, but a single STARTING POINT - the MOVEMENT
itself. This is what I meant when I said that the starting point is like a
Gestalt image - the whole business of investigating the image - and
interpreting it - consists of a movement between two positions. That is
why Gestalt images are psychologically complex. We can't say begin at A
and we see C, or begin at B and we see D, because it is not possible to see
either C or D, without seeing the relation between A and B (A and B are
simultaneously concept and ground). But, perhaps, stretching the Gestalt
analogy to Marx's starting point was going too far. Sorry if this has been

>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

Thanks for the reference Fred, I will see if I can find Enrique Dussel's
paper. But, I did not mean to say that Part 1 is unnecessary or a false
start. Only that the starting point in Chapter 1 of Capital (the
bi-directional movement between the commodity and its ground in capital) is
ambiguous, in the sense that the capitalistic nature of the commodity (the
capital-labour relation behind the production of the capitalistic
commodity) is not adequately captured by Marx's derivation of the substance
of value as homogenous human labour.

Hope I've made a better job of it this time,

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