Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Michael Heinrich (m.heinrich@PROKLA.DE)
Date: Mon Oct 10 2005 - 20:37:27 EDT

Dear Michael, Jerry and others,

before coming to your points, just one remark. If there is something
like a "materialist reading" (but I am not sure if this is a useful
notion), then I suppose the first step of it would be to recognize very
precise what texts we have, which notions are used and which are not
used. Therefore the first step in discussing "capital in general" should
be just to recognize that this notion, which played during six years
such an  important role in Marxian writings and was used so extensivly
in manuscripts and letters, that this notion vanished completely after
summer 1863.
I think (without giving any interpretation) this is a puzzling fact and
I am a little bit puzzled, that Michael and Jerry seem not very puzzled
about this fact.

But now to the arguments Michael and Jerry presented. Michael
accentuated, that Marx also in "Capital" makes a difference between
inner structure and surface. I fully agree that such differences is
fundamental also in "Capital", but in the first instance inner structure
and surface are metaphors and in a "materialist reading" we should not
satisfied by repeting just these metaphors, we should ask to which
categories hint these metaphors, which is the way these categories are
connected etc.

Jerry, in our mail you give a quotation, where Marx excludes competition
without any restriction from presentation and in this you recognize an
argument that the "general analysis of capital" is synonymous with
"capital in general". But contrary to what Marx said in this quotation
from ch. 14, he already dealt with competition in ch. 10. If Marx really
claimed in ch. 14 to exclude any form of competition from the
presentation in "Capital", then he had already hurted this claim. Puzzling?
What Marx really excluded from his presentation (when we check the
chapters)  was competition at the world market, and in the most cases he
also accentuate this in his methodological remarks. And to answer your
question Jerry, to this level of analysis Marx relies, when he used the
term "general analysis of capital" and - among other features - because
this analysis includes abstract forms of competition as well as the view
on "special" capitals like at the end of vol. II it is not the same as
"Capital in General").

It seems to me, that there is a misunderstanding in Michael L.s answer
to John's mail. You wrote:

>  If in CAPITAL Marx abandoned his very clear distinction between inner
> laws developed at the level of capital in general and the way in which
> these are executed on the surface of society by the many capitals (and
> thus the 'externalized and prima facie irrational form..., a form that
> appears in competition'), how do you explain his continued
> distinctions between that inner and outer?

Seemingly you think the proposition, that we cannot understand "Capital"
by the notion "capital in general" means  to drop the distinction
between "inner laws" and their "execution on the surface". But this is
not the case.

This distinction Marx discovered during the 1850ies. During the late
1840ies Marx used "competition" like bourgeois economists as an
explanation for a lot of phenomenons. In his London notebooks (1851-53)
we can find the first traces, that Marx begins to see these things
different, and in "Grundrisse" Marx has clearly in mind, that
"competition" is not a reason for explanations but executes something
which itself needs explanation (and which is not explained in bourgeois
economics). This fundamental insight lasted, it is also present in
"Capital". But the insight, that competition is not a reason but only a
field of execution, this insight needs a theoretical framework, in which
it is fixed, it is not a theoretical framework by itself. "Capital in
general" was the first extensive attempt of Marx to fix this insight in
categories, in a theoretical framework, developed during he wrote
"Grundrisse" (1857/58). The core of  this framework was to develop all
categories, which appear in the "real movement" of the "many capitals"
but in abstraction from these many capitals (John already pointed to
this). When trying to give a full presentation in "Economic manuscripts
1861-63" Marx had to accept that it was not possible to realize this
original plan, because of several reasons. One reason in short: a
category, which is needed presenting competition is interest. So
interest was included in the field of categories belonging to "capital
in general". But as a category interest cannot be "developed" without
the average rate of profit (only then money has this new attribute, that
every sum of money can bring this average and can be "sold" with this
attribute). But the average rate of  profit cannot be developed without
at least an abstract presentation of  competition. As a result it is
impossible to develop all categories belonging to "capital in general"
in abstraction from competition.

This situation forced Marx to drop "capital in general" and to look for
a new theoretical framework, which can express his old insight, that
there is a difference between "inner laws" and "execution" of this laws
in competition. In "Capital" Marx has found and articulated a new
framework, which is more complex then the former distinction between
"Capital in general" and "competition". (All these points I discussed
extensively in an article: "Capital in General and the Structure of
Marx's CAPITAL", Capital & Class 38, Summer 1989.)


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