Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Mon Oct 10 2005 - 23:24:46 EDT

Hi Michael H and Giannus:

The subject of competition is not  systematically developed within
_Capital_   Where competition is raised in _Capital_ it is only at the
level of its most simple possible determination. The reason for this is that
the subject of competition can only be presented in any depth after an
examination of the subject of *classes*.   I.e. it is impossible to develop
all essential categories related to competition in abstraction from class.
While Marx posed the question  "What makes a class?" in the final chapter
of _Capital_ (Vol. 3, Ch. 52),  he does not answer it.  Note that this
question conceptually has to be addressed long *before*  an examination
of the world market: i.e. the  subject of class must conceptually be
developed before an examination of the state (Book 4 in Marx's 6-book-plan)
or foreign trade (Book 5 in the 6-book-plan). Unless one believes that class
including class diversity and unity-in-diversity (both of which entail the
further development of the subject of competition) are not essential for the
grasping of those subjects, it must be developed beforehand at a less
concrete level of  abstraction.

Turning to some of your other comments:

> 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 extensively
> 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.

It is only puzzling if one believes that there is a significant conceptual
difference between  'capital in general' and the 'general nature of
capital'/'general analysis of capital'.

{Now if you like 'puzzles', here's one:
                  *JERRY'S PUZZLE OF THE DAY*
Suppose an author, let's say Karl Marx, publishes a book [_A
Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy_] which says that the
"entire material lies before me in the form of monographs" for  the 3rd
part of the "first book" on capital [capital in general] and the subjects
of landed property, wage-labour, the state, foreign trade, and world
market.  Now suppose that the same author, Karl Marx, publishes
another book years later on one part of the subject of capital [Volume 1
of  _Capital_].   Yet, _he makes no mention of a change in plan or
why he doesn't use the expression 'capital in general'_.  *Don't you
find that puzzling?*    There are several possible explanations for
this puzzle:
a) the author didn't think his readers would notice the change.
This explanation presumes a certain disdain by the author for the
intelligence of the readers!
b) the author didn't feel that an explanation was required.  This
explanation also presumes a certain disdain by the author for
the readers -- many of whom had already read his earlier work
and had for many years been looking forward to the bigger,
more thorough book.
c) the author didn't want to publicly admit that he had been
mistaken in his prior writing.  This explanation imputes something
rather unkind about Marx's character.
d)  the author forgot what he had written in the earlier work.  This
explanation presumes that the author's  memory capacity had
sharply deteriorated.
e) the author didn't feel the need to distance himself from the
idea of capital in general  in _Capital_ because the scope of
capital was unchanged; he didn't feel the need to distance himself
from the 6-book-plan because it was still his intention, or at least
desire. to write on all of these subjects.
*I pick e).*
_Which answer to the puzzle do Giannus and you pick?_}

> 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 indeed since you did say the other day that Marx was very careful
about his formulations ["Marx was very precise with his terms"]. The puzzle
for Giannus and you to answer then should be: _why did he write Ch. 14,
Section 2 in the way that he did_?   If he was mistaken in his formulation,
doesn't that conflict with your understanding that he was so "very
precise with his terms"?

> 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").

This seems to me to be a reasonable interpretation: i.e. that the general
analysis  of capital includes the most abstract undifferentiated form of
competition.  This  doesn't mean though that he abandoned the concept
of capital in general,  though.It perhaps means instead that he modified
his understanding of what it meant.

In solidarity, Jerry

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