Re: 'accumulation' proper v. 'primitive' or 'primary' or 'by dispossession'

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Tue May 11 2004 - 09:47:14 EDT

On Tue, 11 May 2004, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> In fact, what Marxists ignore is that Marx's own text proves beyond any
> doubt, that he talks alternately about capital as a thing, a sum of money,
> an asset, an objective value, a social relation and a social power. I will
> not bore you with quotes here, but you can read the book and see for
> yourself. The basic meaning Marx has for "capital" is that of an instrument
> (a means) of value-accretion,

"Marx's own text proves beyond any doubt"... uhm?  Reads like a dogmatism
to me.  Anyway, if I thought "Capital" and Marx's total work does not have
the specific social relations of the production in the capitalist mode of
production as capital's basic meaning, I'd close up shop.

> In his dialectical exposition, he aims to define capital in motion, because

I guess we also don't share an opinion about Hegel.

> he argues it can only be understood in motion, but this means he actually
> must apply several related definitions, in order to explain what it means,
> that capital becomes a social power, the "Kommandogewalt" over human labor.
> Replying to complaints that Marx used multiple definitions, Engels replied
> that one must bear in mind the utility of definitions, that all definitions
> are relative and limited in their application, you cannot define a
> developing object with a fixed definition, and so forth. Harry Braverman
> remarked that Marx's whole book was his "definition of capital".

I'm getting lost in the above.  But I don't have a problem with needing

> I had this dispute before with the late Mark Jones, who argued the same way
> as you do.

I don't remember Mark Jones; wasn't he Stalinist inclined?  If not, I'd
apologize to his memory.  In any event, I'll just have to stand by myself.

> And I agree, it sounds very profound, very radical and
> revolutionary to say that "capital is a social relation".


> ... capital is a thing by virtue of a social relation,
> that is, the social relation (what Marx calls specifically the
> capital-relation, Kapitalverhaltnis) permits privately owned assets
> (physical or ideational) to have a power over people, and regulate their
> behaviour.

If "capital is a thing by virtue of a social relation", then is not the
basis of capital that social relation (even if I cannot go along with
capital being a "thing")?

> ... It is not in fact the "social relation" that
> buys labor, but money owned by people that buys labor-capacity owned by
> other people, under the condition of a social relation which permits it to
> be bought, a social relation normally enshrined in law.

First, labor POWER is bought, not labor.  Second, $ or euros do not buy
(or fire) labor power, capitalists do.  $ or euros are simply pieces of
paper, finely crafted by workers.

> We can of course talk about "value" as a social relation (as e.g. John Weeks
> does), but what does that mean ? It would be a relation between people who
> make valuations in regard to labor-time and traded objects, and this sounds
> very revolutionary and profound and so on.


> The real point is that, for Marx at least, value itself becomes lodged in
> material objects which exist independently from the consciousness of
> particular people, ...

You seem to regard 'value' itself as a thing, like a neutron.

> Supposing that capital itself is defined as a social relation (the
> capital-relation, effectively a class relation), how could a social relation
> then exist objectively and mind-independently ? In my experience, most
> Marxists cannot explain this, and in fact they cannot actually clearly and
> precisely explain what a "social relation" is either, in a scientific sense.

Yes, science needs to develop the meaning of 'social relations of
production', i.e., it's not a proton.

> My own view, as I have expounded at various times, is that a social relation
> must be understood as distinct from an interpersonal relation, and that
> Marx's own idea of what a social relation is, evolved over time and became
> more sophisticated. Initially, Marx defined it as a "relation of
> co-operation" (at the time he wrote Die Deutsche Ideologie) but subsequently
> his concept becomes much more developed, because it then includes ownership
> relations and the articulation of class relations. Correctly defined, a
> social relation is:
> (1) a relation between individuals, insofar as they are members of a larger
> social group
> (2) a relation between social groups (kinship groups, genders, institutions,
> ethnic groups, social classes etc.)
> (3) a relation between an individual and a social group.

Yours seems to be a sociological definition of 'social relation'.  I don't
know why this would be "correctly defined" within Marxism.


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