Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Michael Heinrich (m.heinrich@PROKLA.DE)
Date: Sun Oct 16 2005 - 21:17:21 EDT

Sorry, that I am so late, but during the week I have problems to find
time for writing. Jerry, thanks for Fred's paper, which I didn't know
until now.
Although the discussion went on, I will come back to sme early
contributions of this debate, because I want at least to sketch some
answers to questions adressed to me.

Jerry wrote

>>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'.

Just the opposite: if Marx didn't make a significant conceptual change,
why should he change his notions?  Why should he drop a notion he used
extensively for six years?

>{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:
>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?_}
e) is no explanation of the puzzle. If Marx didn't feel the need to
distance himself from the idea of capital in general in "Capital", why
he shouldn't continue to use it? I don't feel the need to distance
myself from Marxian theory, so I continue to use it. If I would stop use
Marxian theory, would you interpret this in the same way, saying Michael
H doesn't feel the need to distance himself from Marx, so he didn't
mention him?

>>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"?
Marx was careful with concepts he used. As far as I know, he didn't take
a term, used it for a while and then just dropped, without any purpose.
But this carefulness didn't contradict, that sometimes in formulations,
sentences in drafts he was not so careful: he just noted thoughts for
himself. For example, a lot of sentences in drafts are not ready or
grammatically wrong.

>>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.
I am glad, that you agree on the content, that Marx included in his
analysis in "Capital" an abstract form of competition. But this also
alters the whole concept. As developed in "Grundrisse", the constitutive
moment of the concept "Capital in General" was the complete abstraction
from competition. It is not a quantitative problem, to include "a little
bit" competition, it is qualitative problem, at which level of
abstraction it is necessary to argue and this qualitative level  hat
changed by including competition and therefore, I think, Marx dropped
the notion of  "Capital in General" after 1863, but this did not mean,
that he  dropped all his insights.

In solidarity

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