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Marx is interested in two things from the outset.
1. The properties of things that are produced for the purpose of being
exchanged, not simply goods which just happening to have exceeded
subsistence requirements are thrown into the market--while this obviously
predates capitalism, it does presuppose that exchange has acquired a
sufficient extention and importance. Marx is interested in labor products
in which "their character as values has already to be taken into
consideration during production". (capital 1, p. 166. Vintage).
2. The properties of commodities when there is an immense accumulation of
commodities, i.e., when the commodity becomes the *general* form of social
labor (the study of the preconditions for which is deferred until part 8 of
At both levels, we have ontological novelty, new properties are brought
David L provocatively notes in 3034:
"*Of course* the categories of commodity and money *carry
over* into capitalist production relations, and *of course* they acquire
unique significance as fully developed forms of themselves in that
But then does not make any attempt to spell out this seemingly crucial
"unique significance. Talk about leaving us hanging!
And this does not respond to Fred's excellent point that Marx was not
interested in the evolution of the historical forms of capital but in the
theoretical understanding of a fully developed capitalism. Indeed
historically originary forms of capital can only be understood as
derivative of the newer form of industrial capital. This seems to be
obviously why Marx deferred discussion of usury and merchant's capital and
rent until he had laid out the circuits and reproduction of industrial
One should add parenthetically that this methodology provides the
theoretical basis for critique of the the socialism of fools which was
focused on the more antiquated forms as somehow the dominant and purer
forms of capital even in a fully developed capitalist system.
I would like to add some mention of possible unique significance.
Even though commodites had the property of value before capitalism, only
when the commodity is the general form must commodities themselves regulate
via their bearing of supra sensate properties in their sensate form the
distribution of social labor as a whole which is no longer primarily
organized naturally or traditionally.
As Postone argues, the value of commodities now comes to have novel
function--the fetishistic distribution of society's labor as a whole
(hitherto accomplished through natural patriarchy or a traditional division
of labor as in India's villages) while money in such a society has new
functions too or its hitherto marginal functions become dominant,
specifically money becomes first and foremost a form of capital rather than
a means of exchange or store of wealth.
This of course is becoming clearer as soon very little money will be held
in non interest bearing currency or coin; money will be shifted more and
more from very low interest checking accounts. Smart money, debit cards,
money management accounts already, electronic money in general will be more
handsomely interest bearing. So we have the development of forms of money
which are most adequate to money as a form of capital.
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