Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Mon Oct 10 2005 - 23:37:10 EDT

Michael, John, and others,

I don't think Michael L's challenge can be left aside as metaphor.  (I mean
if we're going after metaphors there are others that haunt our discussions
to be sure!)  Suppose we speak of depth.  Certainly we are familiar with
levels of organization in nature -- from subatomic particles to molecules to
cells to organisms to ecosystems -- and we don't explain the inheritance of
purple or white leaves by the inspection of features of the pea plant
accessible to the unaided eye.  There is a difference between depth and
surface and this has to do with essence, as Michael suggests, and levels of
organization.  Interest, etc., which appear in Book III all work at a much
richer level of determination than what was originally targeted (by
abstraction, as Michael suggests) by capital in general.  Perhaps there must
be a new theoretical framework, but as far as I can see dropping the term
'capital in general' ('general' after all easily generates misunderstandings
and precisely of the sort in fact that fail to distinguish between surface
and deep structure) does not change Marx's concept of the deep structure of


----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Heinrich" <m.heinrich@PROKLA.DE>
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2005 8:37 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

> 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.
> 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.)
> Cheers
> Michael

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