[OPE-L:3044] Re: Marx's starting point

From: Steve Keen (stevekeen10@hotmail.com)
Date: Mon May 08 2000 - 20:51:13 EDT

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Thanks Fred,

As you and some others on OPE-L know, my interpretation of this starting
point of Marx's analysis leads to a quite non-orthodox perspective on Marx's

I'm presenting that perspective at a talk at the New School this Thursday at
5.30pm. The title is deliberately provocative:

"Dialectics and the demise of Marx's Labor Theory of Value"

I'd be delighted to have members of OPE-L attend--even if I do annoy your
socks off in the process (i.e., I don't expect to convert anyone to my
perspective)! It would be good to put faces to names after all these years.

I'm not sure of the room details, but if anyone wishes to come along, email
either me or the organizer Leanne Ussher (317366@newschool.edu) for details.


>From: "Fred B. Moseley" <fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu>
>Reply-To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
>To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
>Subject: [OPE-L:3036] Marx's starting point
>Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 21:27:24 -0400 (EDT)
>On Sat, 6 May 2000, Steve Keen wrote:
> > As somewhat of a lurker on the list, I wasn't following the debate
> > enough to identify the motivation behind Paul M's claims. Of course,
> > puts my "answers" to the questions you posed in a completely different
> > light, since I believe that Marx began with the commodity because that
> > what his dialectical insights of 1857 indicated to him was the essential
> > feature of capitalism--and not because this is how classical economists
> > normally started their analysis of capitalism.
>Steve, I am very glad that you agree with the interpretation that Marx's
>commodity in Chapter 1 is a product of capitalist production.
>I agree with your comment in (3022) that one of Marx's important
>discoveries while writing the Grundrisse was that the commodity should be
>the starting point of his theory of capitalist production (although I
>would not say it was "THE major discovery" of the Grundrisse; other
>important discoveries of the Grundrisse were his theory of surplus-value
>and the related distinction between constant capital and variable
>The passage you quote from the end of the Grundrisse articulating this
>discovery of the starting point of his theory is very important, and
>widely overlooked. It makes clear once again that the commodity with
>which Marx begins is the product of capitalist production:
> "The FIRST CATEGORY in which BOURGEOIS WEALTH presents itself is
> the COMMODITY." (G. 881)
>A year later, Marx began his *Critique of Political Economy* with almost
>exactly the sentence:
> "The wealth of BOURGEOIS society, at first sight, presents itself
> as an immense collection of commodities, its unit being a single
> commodity."
>And of course, 8 years later, Marx began Capital with essentially the same
> "The wealth of societies in which the CAPITALIST MODE OF
> PRODUCTION prevails appears as an "immense collection of
> commodities"; the individual commodity appears as its ELEMENTARY
> FORM."
>Plus, in the Preface to Volume 1, Marx made the following important
>comment on the starting point of his theory:
> "BEGINNINGS are always important in all sciences. The
> understanding of the first chapter, especially the section that
> contains the analysis of commodities, will therefore present the
> greatest difficulties... (I)n the analysis of economic forms neither
> microscopes nor chemical reagents are of assistance. The power of
> ABSTRACTION must replace both. But for BOURGEOIS society, the
> COMMODITY-FORM of the product of labor, or the value-form of the
> commodity is the economic CELL-FORM."
>Ajit and David, how do you interpret these passages? Isn't Marx saying
>that the commodity with which he begins is the "elementary form" or the
>"economic cell-form" of bourgeois society or the capitalist mode of
>By the way, Steve, I also agree with your comment that "exegetical work on
>Marx is both feasible, desirable, and to date, done extremely poorly by
>Marxists." But I think it is getting better.
>Thanks for your interesting comments.

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