Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Michael Heinrich (m.heinrich@PROKLA.DE)
Date: Sun Oct 16 2005 - 21:18:11 EDT

Fred Moseley wrote:

>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
>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).

Until now I couldn't read the paper Jerry sent, but according to this
brief abstract of your position, I disagree at several points. You give
an explanation about the content of "capital in general" (production of
surplus value) and "competition" (distribution of surplus value) which
is different from Marx's explanation. Especially in "Grundrisse", where
Marx is very explicit in explaining, what is "capital in general". I
think you will find no explicit statement of Marx with such a simple
reduction of capital in general / competition to production/distribution
of surplus value (the other question not to discuss here would be, if
such a simple division is possible in a consistent way).

Instead of  a production/distribution distinction related to capital in
general / competition, Marx wrote in "Grundrisse" about capital in general:
"Capital so far as we consider it here, as a relationship of  value and
money, which must be distinguished, is capital in general, i.e. the
quintessence of characteristics, which distinguish value as capital from
value as simple value or money. ... But we are concerned neither as yet
with a particular form of capital nor with one individual capital as
distinct from other individual capitals, etc." (MECW, vol. 28,. p.229,
underlining by Marx)

And about competition:
"What is inherent in the nature of capital is actually externalised, as
an outward necessity, only by competition, which is merely the forcing
by the many capitals of  the immanent determinations of capital upon one
another and upon themselves" (MECW, vol. 29, p.39, underlining by Marx)

Because "capital in general" should show " the quintessence of
characteristics, which distinguish value as capital from value as simple
value or money", profit and  interest were included in all the plans
Marx made for the presentation of "capital in general"  (see the plan
vol. 28, p.205, were Marx divided his presentation in three big
sections, I. Generality,  II. Particularity, III. Singularity. The first
section ends with "Capital as profit. Capital as interest", competition
belongs to section two). Compare also the heading of section three of
his chapter on Capital (in "Grundrisse"): "Capital as Bearing Fruit.
Interest. Profit. (Production costs, etc.)"
There is no doubt, that Marx explicitly included profit and interest in
"capital in general". Therefore Marx division between capital in general
and competition is not the same as Fred's division.

In his first plans Marx spoke of profit and not of average profit.
Indeed, I think, he was not totally clear about average profit in
"Grundrisse". The first precise presentation of  the average rate of
profit and the process of competition related to this we can find in
"Economic Manuscripts 1861-63". In this text Marx gets clarity, that the
presentation of the average rate of profit needs to consider at least an
abstract form of competition, and this means to consider the movements
of individual capitals (which were excluded form "capital in general"
see the quotation above). But this had an enormous impact: interest
belongs to "capital in general", interest couldn't be developed without
the average rate of profit, the average rate of proft couldn't be
developed without competition, i.e. without leaving the scope of
capital in general. What Marx intended to do with his concept "capital
in general", to present a certain content at a certain level of
abstraction, has proofed to be impossible. Marx draw the consequences
and looked for a new theoretical framework, which saved his fundamental
insights, but which could cop with conceptual problems, which emerged.

In solidarity


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