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

From: Hanno Pahl (hanno.pahl@UNI-BIELEFELD.DE)
Date: Tue Jan 18 2005 - 07:23:58 EST

Dear Rakesh and Michael,

thanx for Your hints/references! 

So far it seems to me that You share my basic intention to interprete Marx notion about the Capital-as-a-whole as a link to the 'emergence of credit', as one could put it. 

I also remembered and found the passage from Grundrisse that You, Michael, quoted (that one where Marx amplified that in the money market capital is posited in its totality (Penguin-classic-edition: p.275). But You mentioned another very interesting passage: 

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

Is this a quotation from Marx, too? I haven't found it yet.

Best wishes,


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: michael a. lebowitz 
  Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 4:13 AM
  Subject: Re: [OPE-L] capital in general as a real existence

  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

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