[OPE-L:3175] Re: Re: Re: Marx's starting point

From: Ajit Sinha (ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in)
Date: Sat May 13 2000 - 08:30:30 EDT

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Fred B. Moseley wrote:

> On Tue, 9 May 2000, Ajit Sinha wrote:
> > I'm generally opposed to the practice of quoting from *Grundrisse* or
> > even *A
> > Contribution to the Critique* in interpreting *Capital*. I think
> > during 1861-63,
> > Marx's thinking about the problem went through a subtle but
> > significant
> > change--this could have been because of a close reading of
> > Ricardo, which Marx
> > did during this period. A lot of problem which we face now in
> > interpreting
> > *Capital* appears to be due to Marx's attempt to maintain a
> > continuity with his
> > earlier book, *A Contribution*. The first part of *Capital* vol.1
> > is largely an
> > abridged version of *A Contribution*. The new book *Capital*
> > actually begins from
> > part 2.
> Ajit, I don't see any evidence of a shift in Marx's "problematic" between
> 1859 and 1867. What evidence do you have?


The three volumes of the TSV and most of *Capital* is my evidence. If you are
looking for a statement from Marx where he says that there is a logical break
in *Capital*, then I can tell you, you will not find it. No subject
consciously makes contradictory statements. Theoretical contradictions or
problems in someone's work has nothing to do with the author's consciousness.
There is a significant difference between my approach of doing history of
thought and most of the people on ope-l. Most of you are interested in reading
an author, in this case Marx, as a subject. You are interested in getting into
his mind, so to speak, to find out what was he thinking, i.e., whether he
meant this or that. If he was alive today, you could have asked him whether
his commodity is the product of capital or not. And his answer yes or no would
have settled the issue for you once and for all. For me that is not the case.
The author is not the last arbiter of his book. I read a *book* or a series of
books as an object that needs to be analyzed on its own, irrespective of what
the author meant. From this point of view, when I read the theory propounded
in *Capital* carefully, I find the book throws up many contradictions and
theoretical problems. The theory of wages and the explanation of surplus
production presented in the later part of *Capital* is in conflict with the
concept of labor-power as a commodity. Capital-labor relation that produces
surplus is in conflict with the relation between a buyer and a seller on a
commodity market. The problematic of allocation of labor (highlighted in 1868
letter to Kugelmann) is in conflict with the problematic of surplus
production. Thus on such evidence I make the claim that there is break in the
logic of *Capital*. Since we know that part one of *Capital* was a deliberate
attempt to present an abridged version of *A Contribution*, which was
published in 1859, and which had allocation of labor as its central
theoretical focus, whereas the TSV and the rest of the *Capital* have surplus
production as their central focus, I hazard to suggest that such a shift in
focus must have taken place between 61-63, the period of his next round of
serious preparation for *Capital*.

> Fred:
> The *Critique* was clearly intended as Part 1 of his book on *Capital*.
> *Capital* was the long-planned continuation of the *Critique*.


This is a bit odd. As Marx informs us in the preface to the *Contribution*
that his intended book on Capital will have three chapters: (1) The Commodity;
(2) Money or simple circulation; (3) Capital in general. Isn't it odd that the
two chapters out of three were covered in few pages and the third chapter of
the book became long enough to cover literally six volumes in print. There is
evidently something seriously wrong with such a composition of a book.

> Marx's
> problematic remained the same throughout: to explain surplus-value,
> i.e. how money is transformed into more money.


As for you and many others on this list, value is money and surplus value is
more money, then why banking authorities cannot produce surplus value by
simply creating money inflation?

> Part 1 is the necessary
> logical starting-point of Marx's theory of surplus-value. In order to
> explain how money is transformed into more money, Marx first explained
> what money is. This was the logical structure of Marx's theory from the
> Grundrisse on.

______________Ajit:Is it because you said so, or your consensus has already
established this? I think many of us would like to hear some arguments to
support such bold claims.

> > As far as your first three quotations are concerned. I think they
> > are just not
> > important. In all those quotations 'commodity' is defined as
> > elementary unit or
> > form of "bourgeois wealth". But nowhere in *Capital* we are told,
> > nor I think you
> > hold the opinion, that the subject matter of *Capital* is
> > "bourgeois wealth". Do
> > you think that the subject matter of *Capital* is an analysis of
> > "wealth"?
> "Bourgeois wealth" means CAPITAL.

Since when such a definition was consecrated? Capital is a relationship but
wealth is a collection of things.

> > For the last quotation, I think you
> > will find Althusser's lengthy commentary interesting.
> Where is Althusser's commentary on this passage (the passage in the
> Preface to the First Edition about "beginnings are difficult in all
> sciences" and the "commodity is the economic cell-form of capitalist
> production")? What would I find interesting about it?

Take a look at *Reading Capital*. You will find it interesting because it will
give you a new perspective.

> Althusser's recommendation is of course to skip over Part 1.
> Is this purely pedagogical, or does Althusser think that Part 1 is in some
> sense logically unnecessary?

He finds it problematic. I have gone ahead of him and shown a problematical
break from economic theory perspective. Althusser, of course, did not know
much of economics and probably so did not know where exactly to put his

> > Now, it is obvious that Marx must
> > have thought that to begin with commodity makes sense, since
> > that's how the book
> > begins. Thus any quotation in favor of such a presentation from
> > Marx will not
> > solve any problem for people who think that there is some problem
> > with such a
> > beginning. Cheers, ajit sinha
> Are you not switching the question here, from how Marx started Capital to
> how he SHOULD HAVE started? The passages quoted were addressed to the
> first question, and not just whether or not Marx started with the
> commodity (he obviously did), but whether or not Marx's commodity is the
> product of capitalist production. If you don't like the
> (capitalist) commodity as the starting-point, that is another
> matter. What would you start with instead?


How Marx started *Capital* is before everybody. Why should there be any
controversy about that? You unfortunately cut out an important question I had
raised. How could Marx avoid the transformation problem in chapter one if
there is surplus production in the system being analyzed. And if there is no
surplus production in chapter one, then how can those commodities be products
of capital?

Now, you ask me, what would I start with instead. I'll start from description
of the capitalist system, as a system based on capital- wage labor relation
with extensive social division of labor and competition among capitalists.
I'll take up any given system as a whole (i.e. the whole of input-output
system rather than taking one commodity at a time) and contract it in such a
way that the total net output turns out to be equal to total wage consumption
of the workers. The living labor time involved in this system gives us the
necessary labor time. Then I'll expand the system back to its original size to
show how the non-wage income is related to the surplus labor time. Then i will
move into the analysis of the length of the working day, and why the workers
are forced to work surplus labor time in the system (i.e. theory of wages etc.
will come here). Then the question of why the exploitation in this system
remains hidden, i.e. cannot be seen by observing the work in a factory etc.,
be introduced. At this stage the social division of labor and the necessity of
exchange of commodities will be introduced (at this place one can not only
talk about commodity fetishism but also alienation, which chapter one couldn't
do). And finally the aspect of capitalist competition and price formation and
its relation to exploitation in labor terms will have to be introduced and
Cheers, ajit sinha

> Comradely,
> Fred

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