[OPE-L:7484] Re: Reply to Rob Albritton by Gil Skillman

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Thu Aug 01 2002 - 19:09:36 EDT

Hi Gil,
hmmm. a rather lengthy reply to Albritton's relatively brief post. 
Doesn't seem your speech was so easily chilled after all!  I hope 
that the length of your reply does not chill Albritton's speech...

I'll just stay at the beginning

>In virtually all of these passages, Marx emphasizes that although 
>these circuits of capital yielded surplus value, they did not 
>involve even formal subsumption of labor under capital.

Let us not talk about the conditions in which the circuit of capital 
can yield surplus value but rather the conditions in which the law of 
value comes to regulate production and exchange. I think Albritton is 
concerned about the latter. You of course are concerned about the 

What is meant by regulation by the law of value?

I am not sure, but perhaps these are three possible meanings.

i. capitalists sufficiently indifferent to use value that capital 
will be shifted to where it yields the greatest possible surplus 
value (Albritton emphasizes this).

ii. the tendential ability to realize prices of production becomes a 
condition of supply (Mattick Jr underlines this).

iii. social relations are mediated through commodities: society is in 
accordance with the commodity principle (again see Albritton). (For 
example, let us assume that we are on the free wage island, the 
commodity principle would not hold if workers were to form direct 
cooperative relations with each other and then borrow inputs from 
banks or merchants which in effect guaranteed the appropriation of 
surplus value; unions would also seem to interfere with the commodity 

Now it seems that Albritton believes that for conditions i and ii to 
be met, (a) wage labor has to be doubly free and (b) capital mobility 
more or less achieved. I have questioned (a).

Without (b) there could of course not even be the formation of the 
very average rate of profit which is held to be a condition of supply 
(Albritton notes that capital markets were too undeveloped for there 
to have been the formation of an average rate of profit in the period 
Brenner calls agrarian capitalism which thus could not have been 
regulated by the law of value).

Weeks adds that condition ii will not be realized without more or 
less full monetization of the inputs.

It seems to me that Albritton is saying that when conditions i-iii 
are met we have a pure, competitive capitalism which of course never 
exists in history but can be analyzed by means of a thought 
experiment for its laws of motion. Albritton seems to think however 
that mid 19th century England best approximated pure capitalism.

The problem then becomes one of connecting levels of abstraction; 
Albritton gives three: pure theory, stage analysis, conjunctural 

It seems that Albritton is arguing that Marx's *Capital* was meant to 
stay at the first level of abstraction but there are very damaging 
confusions of levels of abstraction in his analysis.

Since the Uno-Sekine-Albritton interpretation of the methodology of 
*Capital* is one of the major schools of Marxian thought, I would 
like for us to get what they are saying more or less right.


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