From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Wed Oct 12 2005 - 10:27:49 EDT
I have been trying to find the time in the middle of a busy semester to enter the very interesting and important discussion about capital in general and competition. This is a start; more to come later as time and other duties permit. I have argued in several recent papers (see references below) that Marx did indeed continue to structure his theory in Capital in term of the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition (although he used synonyms rather than the specific term "capital in general" as Jerry has pointed out; synonyms such as "the general formula for capital", "the general nature of capital", "the general analysis of capital", and "capital as such".) I argue that the quantitative dimension of the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition is the parallel distinction between the PRODUCTION of surplus-value and the DISTRIBUTION of surplus-value. The level of abstraction of CAPITAL IN GENERAL is mainly concerned with the PRODUCTION of surplus-value, or the determination of the TOTAL surplus-value for the "capitalist class as a whole". On the other hand, the level of abstraction of COMPETITION is mainly concerned with the DISTRIBUTION of surplus-value, or the division of the total surplus-value into INDIVIDUAL PARTS - first the equalization of profit rates across industries (Part 2 of Volume 3) and then the further division of the total surplus-value into commercial profit (Part 4), interest (Part 5), and rent (Part 6). In Marx's theory of the distribution of surplus-value at the level of competition in Volume 3 of Capital, the TOTAL surplus-value is TAKEN AS A PREDETERMINED MAGNITUDE, as determined at the prior level of abstraction of capital in general. This quantitative dimension of the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition has not yet been mentioned in the discussion, but I think it is the most important aspect of these levels of abstraction. In my papers, I have presented loads of textual evidence from all the drafts of Capital that Marx consistently maintained this quantitative logic of the determination of the total surplus-value prior to its distribution in all these drafts, including especially the final draft of Volume 3 in the Manuscript of 1864-65 (what we know as Volume 3, except for Engels' editing). Since this quantitative dimension of the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition is maintained in this manuscript, these levels of abstraction are themselves maintained as the basic logical structure of his theory of the production and distribution of surplus-value. Michael H. argued in a recent post (and more extensively in his 1989 paper, which he cited) that Marx's original plan was to explain the average rate of profit at the level of abstraction of capital in general, and this explanation of the average rate of profit at the level of abstraction of capital in general was supposed to abstract from competition. (John M. agrees with Michael's argument in a recent post.) But I argue that Michael's interpretation of Marx's original plan for capital in general is mistaken. Marx never planned to explain the average rate of profit at the level of abstraction of capital in general. At least from the Grundrisse on, Marx was very clear and explicit that the explanation of the average rate of profit belonged to the level of abstraction of competition. See G., pp. 436, 557, 669, 684, and 758-67, and the papers cited below for further references in the other drafts of Capital. Contary to Michael's argument, Marx encountered no difficulties in the Manuscript of 1861-63 explaining the average rate of profit at the level of abstraction of competition, based on his prior determination of the total surplus-value at the level of abstraction of capital in general. Therefore, Marx continued to maintain this basic logical structure of his theory in the Manuscript of 1864-65 and in the final versions of Volume 1. I look forward very much to continuing this discussion. Comradely, Fred My papers referred to above are: (1995). "Capital in General and Marx's Logical Method: A Response to Heinrich's Critique." Capital and Class, no. 55. (1997). "The Development of Marx's Theory of the Distribution of Surplus- Value," in Moseley and M. Campbell (eds.), New Investigations of Marx's Method, New Jersey: Humanities Press. (2002). "Hostile Brothers: Marx's Theory of the Distribution of Surplus- value in Volume 3 of Capital," in M. Campbell and G. Reuten (eds.), The Culmination of Capital: Essays on Volume 3 of Capital. London: Palgrave. (2005). "Capital in General and Competition in Volume 3 of Capital: The Quantitative Dimension", working paper attached to Jerry's last message, and soon to be available on my website: www.mtholyoke.edu/~fmoseley.
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