[OPE-L:3210] Re: Re: Re: Re: capitalist mode of production

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 17:46:29 EDT

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On Mon, 15 May 2000, Allin Cottrell wrote:

> On Mon, 15 May 2000, Fred B. Moseley wrote:
> > As textual evidence to support his unusual interpretation that the
> > "capitalist mode of production" includes non-capitalist forms of
> > production (such as worker coops and the putting-out system), Gil offers
> > one sentence fragment from deep in Volume 3 of Capital (in Part 5 on
> > interest). The sentence fragment is the following:
> >
> > Concealed in this idea, moreover, is the still greater nonsense
> > ... that the capitalist mode of production could proceed on its course
> > without capitalist production. (p. 501)
> I agree with Fred's interpretation of this statement, in terms
> of the suppressed clause concerning interest-bearing capital,
> and therefore also agree that the quotation is not really grist
> for Gil's mill.
> But I don't agree with Fred's corollary:
> > Marx explicitly stated that the commodity that he starts with in Chapter 1
> > is a product of capitalist production. For example, from the "Results",
> >
> > We began with the commodity, with this specific social form of
> > the product - for it is the foundation and premiss of
> As Paul C has said, this is a non-sequitur. The commodity can
> be the "foundation and premiss" of capitalist production,
> without being /exclusive/ to capitalist production.

Allin (and Paul), thanks a lot for your comments.

1. I agree of course that the commodity also exists in other modes of
production besides capitalism, i.e. is not "exclusive to capitalist
production." The passage you quote from Chapter 6 just states this
fact. I am not denying this; never have. But I am arguing that the
commodity that Marx was analyzing in Part 1 was considered as the product
of capitalist production. That is what he tells us in many passages. The
passage you quoted from the "Results" continues:

           We regard the commodity as just such a premiss and PROCEED

And another passage quoted in my last post:

        It is as such a prerequisite that we treat the commodity,
        since we PROCEED FROM IT as the SIMPLEST ELEMENT

Marx does not say that he "proceeds from the commodity as a general
product of different modes or production." Rather he says that he
proceeds from the commodity as "the simplest element of CAPITALIST
PRODUCTION." And there are many passages like this. One more from "Notes
on Wagner:

        "WHAT I START OUT FROM is the simplest social form in which
        the labor-product is presented in CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY."

Marx's object of analysis from the beginning of Capital is a concrete
historical mode of production - capitalism. The commodity is abstracted
from this specific concrete totality as its simplest element.

2. Now, it may be that the laws of commodity circulation derived by Marx
in Part 1 apply in part to non-capitalist commodity modes of
production. But I argue that is a separate question, and one not
explicitly addressed by Marx. Marx generally held that there are no
general laws (of any significance) that apply to all modes of
production. Each mode of production has its own historically specific
laws and requires its own theory. But there may be a kind of
middle-ground: some laws that apply (at least in part) to different
commodity modes of production. But Marx was not interested in deriving
such quasi-general laws. Marx's theory from the beginning to the end of
Capital is the about the historically specific capitalist mode of

3. And my main point in the discussion with Gil is that the recognition
that Marx's theory is about the capitalist production from the beginning
helps us to understand that Part 2 of vol. 1 is also about the capitalist
production. The surplus-value analyzed in Part 2 is the product of
capitalist production and the capital analyzed in Part 2 is capital
invested in capitalist production (as Marx tells us explicitly). Marx was
not trying to prove that capitalist production is the only way to produce
surplus-value (that is clearly wrong). Marx was assuming capitalist
production from the beginning and trying to explain how surplus-value is
produce within capitalism.

Allin, do you agree with this historically specific interpretation of Part
2, as you seem to suggest in (3168) and in (3208)?

I look forward to further discussion.


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