[OPE-L:2899] Re: Re: Re: re:starting points

From: Andrew Brown (A.N.Brown@uel.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Apr 25 2000 - 10:42:16 EDT

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I read Banaji's article to death some years back. Great to see the
interest in him now.

Having looked at the article again, some suggestions:

First, Fred is right that Banaji stresses two points of departure, not
three (as I had orginally and mistakenly suggested). Nicky is right,
also, to stress the beginning as a *movement* between the two. The
two points of departure are (1) the 'commodity' (as 'Schein' or
immediate so illusory being) and (2) 'value' (NOT 'value-form')
whose concrete historical synonym is the 'commodity-form'.

However, I don't think I was all that far off the mark in suggesting
three starting points. This is because value is only the 'abstract
essence' of Marx's investigation; in its 'concrete essence' value posits
itself as capital (M-C-M'). This latter is the most abstract definition of
capital, one which Marx goes on to develop more and more
concretely. Thus the 'double structure' of the beginning is indeed a
movement from Being to Essence; a movement between two points of
departure; but it is vital to note that value [the second point of
departure] is only the 'abstract essence' of Marx's investigation;
capital being the 'concrete essence'. [I should add that Banaji himself
does not say absolutely explicitly that capital is the 'concrete essence'].

Alfredo, the notion of 'two points of departure' is fairly clear from the
first few pages of Volume one, chapter one: Marx starts with the
'commodity' as the immediate appearance of bourgeois wealth; he
then analyses it (the commodity as analytic point of departure) first
into use value and exchange value, next (looking at the matter more
closely) reaching the concept 'value', of which exchange value is the
form. Marx returns to the commodity, but now he grasps the
commodity as a form of value. Value, or the commodity*-form*, is
then the synthetic point of departure from which Marx derives the
money-form and then the capital-form.

The sequence of categories entailed is: commodity, use-value,
exchange value, value [here we get congealed abstract socially
necessary labour], commodity-form, money-form, capital-form. In
general, I don't think that the various presentations of systematic
dialectics follow the above sequence (eg. I interpret Tony Smith,
1990, as starting from the 'synthetic' point of departure - value - so
missing out the first three categories of the above sequence; Chris
Arthur rejects the introduction of labour so early in the presentation.
Apologies if I have mis-interpreted).

For myself, looking back at Banaji, I am a little bit apprehensive that
he cites Itoh's criticisms of Marx (regarding the illegitimate discussion
of value prior to the discussion of money). This would then have,
perhaps, some resonance with the 'value-form' criticisms of Marx
(with which I disagree). I don't think that Banaji refers to 'congealed'
abstract labour quite as I would. But he does refer to the abstract
reified form of labour so, to the extent that I can grasp it at all (few,
it's tough going!), I pretty much agree with Banaji's interpretation.

Many thanks,


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