[OPE-L:3038] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re:starting points

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sun May 07 2000 - 22:04:55 EDT

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On Sun, 7 May 2000, Ajit Sinha wrote:

> Fred,
> I don't think a theoretical or interpretational problem can be solved
by appeal
> to consensus or head count. This is a poor way of settling an argument.

Ajit, I am not trying to take a head count to settle a theoretical
dispute. Much evidence and arguments have already been presented in
previous posts to support the "commodity-in-capitalism" interpretation of
Chapter 1. And a number of people have said that they agree with this
interpretation. I was just trying to get some sense of how general the
agreement is and engage in further discussion with the dissenters. So I
appreciate very much your and David's posts.

> Who are
> these people whose consensus you are talking about? There are many good
> of Marx who are not debating these issues because they don't think it
is going
> anywhere. There are some people who get together and publish some
mumbo-jumbo and
> declare that they are a paradigm and that they have demonstrated every
body else
> to be wrong. Not many serious scholars have time to entertain all kinds of
> gebrish that comes out in print--and all of us know how much of junk
there is out
> there in print.

The people I am talking who have said that they accept the
"commodity-in-capitalism" interpretation of Chapter 1 include: Banaji,
Chris Arthur, Andy B., Alfredo, Nicky, Steve K., Mario Robles (his paper
at the recent IWGVT was on this topic). I also think, but am not sure,
that the following accept this interpretation (they will obviously
correct me if I am wrong): Paul Z., Riccardo, Claus G., Tony Smith,
Patrick Murray, Geert and Mike, Martha Campbell, Mike L. I don't remember
what the TSS people say on this question; perhaps they could let us
know. I have probably forgotten others. But, in any case, this is a
pretty good group of the post-Sweezy-Meek-Mandle generation of Marxian
scholars. And they are of course far from a homogenous group. But this
wide range of diverse Marxists agree on this important aspect of Marx's

> The problem is not that whether Marx's "commodity" in chapter one is a
product of
> capitalist production or not. The relevant theoretical point is that
the concept
> of "capital" and "wage labor" are not part of the arguments in chapter
> analysis is conducted independent of these concepts.

I agree that the concepts of capital and wage-labor are not introduced in
Chapter 1 and are not part of the arguments in Chapter 1. Capital and
wage-labor are later defined in terms of commodities and
money. Therefore, in order to avoid circular reasoning, commodities and
money are defined prior to capital and wage-labor. But this does not mean
capitalist production is not the object of Marx's analysis from the very
beginning, nor that the commodity in Chapter 1 is analyzed is not the
"elementary form" of this concrete historical totality of capitalist
production. Yes, the commodity comes before capital and wage-labor in the
sequence of categories. But as the passage Nicky quoted from the
Grundrisse said, the sequence of categories is determined by "their
relation to one another in MODERN BOURGEOIS SOCIETY."

The passage that you quote from Chapter 6 simply says that the production
of commodities can take place in other modes of production besides
capitalism, whereas wage-labor is unique to capitalism. No one would deny
this. But this does not contradict the interpretation (supported by much
textual evidence) that the commodity Marx is analyzing in Chapter 1 is a
product of specifically capitalist production. Or, as Marx put it in the
Preface to Volume 1, the commodity with which he begins is the "economic
cell-form" of "bourgeois society".


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