[OPE-L] capital in general as a real existence

From: Hanno Pahl (hanno.pahl@UNI-BIELEFELD.DE)
Date: Mon Jan 17 2005 - 16:23:33 EST

Dear all, 


I joined the list yesterday and already want to pose a question. Here it is! 


There is a methodologically very interesting passage in the Grundrisse, where Marx - somewhat incidentally - phrases: 


"Before we go any further, just one remark. Capital in general, as distinct from the particular capitals, does indeed appear (1) only as an abstraction; not an arbitrary abstraction, but an abstraction which grasps the specific characteristics which distinguish capital from all other forms of wealth - or modes in which (social) production develops. [.] (2) however, capital in general, as distinct from the particular capitals, is itself a real existence. This is recognized by ordinary economics, even if it is not understood, and forms a very important moment of its doctrine of equilibrations etc. [.] While the general is therefore on the one hand only a mental [gedachte] mark of distinction [differentia specifica], it is at the same time a particular real form alongside the form of the particular and individual" (English: Penguin Classics: 449/50, German: MEW42:  362)


If we first leave the content completely aside: the logical structure reminds me of that passage from the first edition of capital, Vol.1, where - within the context of the value-form analysis - Marx describes the money form as follows:


"It is as if, besides lions, tigers, hares, and all other real animals, ... also the animal existed, the individual incarnation of the whole animal kingdom".


(I don't know if the first edition of Capital, Vol.1 was published in English, I guess it was, I found this quotation on the web)


While with the animal, supposed to exist as an individual or particular form, Marx refers to the relationship between commodities and money, the quotation from the Grundrisse belongs to a 'higher' level of the Marxian dialectical reconstruction of economic categories. On this level, the individual or particular forms are thought to be the single, 'empirical' forms of capital ('Einzelkapitale'). But what does Marx mean by posing that the capital in general itself has a real existence, too? Is there an empirical correlate to money on this level? Is this a link to credit theory, e.g. to interest as the price of money? Marx mentioned the economists doctrines of equilibrations here. This reminds me of Volume 3 of Capital too, where Marx had later on  elaborated the formation of a general/average rate of profit. 


Helpful might be the following: As far as I can see, as well in the philosophy of mind as in recent sociological systems theory (more popular over here!), one would possibly mark the logical structure of these Marxian phrasings as 'emergent'. While one could regard the commodities or the single capitals as elements, money and capital in general would possibly be interpreted as categories on the systems-level or the whole.


Any hints about this? 


Please excuse my somewhat poor English, also I tried my best but its hard to deal with this stuff for me in English.


Best wishes,


Hanno Pahl


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jan 19 2005 - 00:00:02 EST