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

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Mon Jan 17 2005 - 22:13:35 EST

At 17:23 17/01/2005, Hanno wrote:
>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)


>  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.

         I think the link is to money-capital as the form of capital in 
general. In an essay, "The Theoretical Status of Monopoly Capital" in the 
1985 volume, Rethinking Marxism edited by Wolff and Resnick, I touched on 
the quote as follows (I don't have the citations because the essay will 
reappear in a collection I'm putting together for Brill and I haven't 
edited the scanned version yet):

         It is the perpetual tendency of capitals to bring about through 
competition this equalization in the distribution of 
surplus-value      produced by the total capital, and to overcome all 
obstacles to this equalization.

The process by which this occurs, of course, is the shift of capital from 
one sphere to another, the free movement of capital. But, this requires 
that capital exists in its universal form--- money-capital. Only here does 
capital possess “the form which enables it as a common element, 
irrespective of its particular employment, to be distributed amongst the 
different spheres, amongst the capitalist class, according to the 
production needs of each separate sphere.” Only here, in money-capital, in 
the money-market, do all distinctions as to the quality of capital disappear:

         All the different forms assumed by capital according to the 
different spheres of production or circulation in which it 
is       invested, are obliterated here. It exists here in the 
undifferentiated, always identical form, that of independent 
exchange-value,      i.e., of money.

Here, in the money market, “capital appears as the general element as 
opposed to individual capitals”; here, there is a real presence of capital 
as a whole:

         In the money market, capital is posited in its totality; there it 
determines prices, gives work, regulates production, in a word,       is 
the source of production.

Capital is always latently One in the form of money-capital, the form by 
which the equalization of profit rates is accomplished­a process which 
“implies, furthermore, the development of the credit system, which 
concentrates the inorganic mass of the disposable social capital vis-a-vis 
the individual capitalist”.

Welcome, Hanno,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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