[OPE-L:8022] comprehending capitalism as a totality

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Nov 18 2002 - 20:01:15 EST

Re: [OPE-L:8013] Re: Re: Re: Re: Robert BrennerRe the exchange between Paul B and Rakesh (see excerpts below):

I would suggest a third position.  I agree with Rakesh that the capitalist
system must be conceptualized in a 'holistic' sense but agree with Paul
that the reality of nation states must also be grasped.  

Here's an outline of _a_ way of conceptualizing capitalism as a totality:

I.  *Simple unity*

At the level of analysis of 'capital in general'  there is simple unity within
both the capitalist class and the working class.   This is an abstraction, 
however, which doesn't grasp other necessary moments in a 
comprehension of capitalism as a totality, e.g. it doesn't grasp class 
subjectivity and  divisions, the state,  trade, or  the world market and 

II.  *Diversity*

Here capital is divided  within separate national states with sovereignty.  
We see then that there is not only competition by individual capitals but 
also rivalry among nation states.  The relation between national capitals 
and nation-states is framed by uneven development (highlighted by 
Lenin)  or uneven and combined development (if you prefer Trotsky's 
formulation).  Capital-in-diversity gives rise to  (and/or perpetuates)  
nationalism and hence national chauvinism.  Other forms of class 
divisions -- including  those within the working-class -- must also be 

III. *Unity-In-Diversity*

*Only here*  can capitalism be grasped as a totality.  Here this totality 
is comprehended more than just one-sidedly as 'simple unity'  (a 
conception sometimes held by those who advance the thesis of 
'globalization') or one-sidedly as diversity (which Rakesh perhaps 
warns against).  Only when the 'world market and crisis' is grasped 
can the puzzle be pieced together in its entirety.   We observe here 
other trends: e.g.  the increasing  international concentration and 
centralization of capital brings about multinational corporations (or 
transnational corporations, if you prefer) which both subsist with 
and come into conflict with individual states.  Also, the bonding 
together of individual states for mutual economic protection and 
advantage -- thus the creation of 'regional trade associations' 
such as the European Union, which subsists with and comes into 
conflict  with  other nation-states, federations, and units of 
international capital.   Also, the  changing relation between expanding 
capitalist social relations on  a global scale and the persistence of 
pre-capitalist relations and the 'drive'  by the working-class towards 
the 'new historic form'.    The world market, Marx tells us in the 
_Grundrisse_  is: 

   "the conclusion, in which production is posited as a totality 
     together with all its moments, but within which, at the same 
     time, all contradictions  come into play.  The world market 
     then, again, forms the presupposition of the whole as well as 
     the substratum. Crises are then, the general intimation which 
     points beyond the presupposition, and the urge which 
     drives towards  the adoption of the new historic form" (Penguin 
     edition,  pp. 227-28)

This conclusion is consistent with Paul B's emphasis in [8010]  that 
imperialism,   anti-imperialism, worker internationalism and revolution 
must  all be grasped together.  

Paul and Rakesh and others:  [other than being very abstract, but no 
more abstract I think than Rakesh's 8019 and Paul's 8021], what is wrong 
with the above?

In solidarity, Jerry
>From Paul B's [8021]:
> I have always been a 'holist' in that sense and I have no doubt that Spinoza was a great influence on Marx there.  But the social relation requires enforcement, and the extension of that enforcement has taken the form of replications of the 'nation state model' ( even where there were many 'nations' incorporated in a State)  by the bourgeoisie as it has advanced and conquered  previous social systems. One cannot ignore the reality of the state, or the conflict of the most powerful capitalists shielding behind the most expensive and powerful state machinery.  Neverthless 'the relation itself ' is the 'prius' when understanding the general issues.<
>From Rakesh's [8019]:
> Re 8013: >
Perhaps Rakesh you could explain how anti imperialism excludes 'worker internationalism' ?
It need not. I was trying to get at another point: capital as global social relation is more than a mere aggregate of national economies which impinge on each other. Anti imperialist discourse seems to take as the fundamental unit of analysis the national economy; one national economy dominates another through for example the export of capital. As biological reductionists such as John Maynard Smith tend to view the organism as the nothing more than a site for intragenomic conflict, I am saying that Marxists often seem to undertand the world capitalist market as nothing but the site for  conflict among capitalist nations. But the organism of capital as a global social relation has ontological and conceptual priority over the apparently self subsistent national economies out of which it is composed. In short, I am making a rather weak suggestion for a kind of holism in the analysis of the capitalist system. Cyrus Bina and John Holloway have also argued for a kind of holism though on different grounds. <

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Nov 20 2002 - 00:00:01 EST