Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Thu Oct 13 2005 - 01:11:10 EDT

I look forward to the opportunity soon to read Fred's paper. Given
that I view the study of competition as occurring at a different
logical level than capital in general rather than a study of
distribution of a pre-existing surplus, I'm not certain our positions
are the same, but it will be interesting to see why if and why we
differ. Meanwhile, a brief response to Michael H:
         Michael, I don't deny that the lack of mention of capital in
general in Capital is interesting; however, as Rob Lucas points out
in Marx Myths, there are very few mentions of communism (which I see
as permeating CAPITAL) there too. There are other possible answers
besides the one you offer (that Marx found it necessary to abandon
the concept)-- among them that, unlike the Grundrisse and the 1861-3
mss, Capital was intended for publication. You'll agree, I hope, that
the question is not the term but, rather, whether his argument
changed. If it had, though, would Marx have continued to talk about
profit, rate of profit, price and price of production as FORMS? I
noted with interest that you made no comment at all about those
quotations from Volume III that I provided in my last note. Is his
repeated distinction between invisible essence and form just a
metaphor? (I think Howard has challenged you well on this.)
         It's been many years since I saw your 1989 C&C article on
the subject, don't recall what I thought about it at the time and
have no access to it now. Was your argument then that Marx abandoned
his earlier distinction between capital in general and competition because:

>  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.

         My immediate reaction is that if profit is a FORM of surplus
value (which is invisible), then so too is interest a mere FORM---
ie., not something that belongs to the inner structure of capital in
general. Again, Marx was consistent. Here is another quote from the
book (Following Marx) that I mentioned in my last post (this from a
different chapter, 'what is competition?'):

>Yet, as discussed in Chapter 5, persisting appearances are not
>sufficient to reveal necessity. Marx was very explicit in his
>recognition that those 'laws' may be purely external and not rooted
>in the essential characteristics of the system; thus, one could not
>be guided by surface phenomena.
>             In some cases, the apparent regularities may help
> 'those caught up in the practice of competition' to 'arrive at some
> idea, even if still a superficial one, of the inner connection of
> economic relations that presents itself within competition.' But,
> not all appearances suggest the general and necessary. Discussing
> the question of a natural rate of interest, Marx declared:
>         Where, as here, it is competition as such that decides, the
> determination is inherently accidental, purely empirical, and only
> pedantry or      fantasy can seek to present this accident as
> something necessary (Marx, 1981b: 485).

         I'm sure that I would have disagreed with your 1989 argument
if you were identifying interest as a category of the inner then
because the above quote from Volume III appears in my 'Theoretical
Status of Monopoly Capital' from the 1985 book, Rethinking Marxism,
edited by Rick Wolff and Steve Resnick (which is reprinted in my
'Following Marx'). Insofar as competition is necessary for the
category of interest (and average profit), the latter are
distinguished from the inner connections.
         in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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