Re: [OPE-L] Capital in General

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Oct 23 2005 - 11:01:38 EDT

On Sun, 23 Oct 2005 09:29:51 -0400
  Fred Moseley <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU> wrote:
> On Wed, 19 Oct 2005 glevy@PRATT.EDU wrote:
>> > I do not mean to minimize the importance of capitalism's tendency toward
>> > crises.  I have devoted a lot of years to Marx's crisis theory, especially
>> > the falling rate of profit as applied to the US economy.  However, I have
>> > come to realize that the three volumes of Capital are generally at a
>> > higher level of abstraction than crises.  "Crises and the world market"
>> > was the 6th book in Marx's original 6-book plan.  Capital was only the
>> > first book.  Capital provides the basis for a more concrete theory of
>> > crises, but such a theory is not presented in the three volumes.  Before
>> > concrete crises can be analyzed, the production and distribution of
>> > surplus-value must be explained.  These fundamental questions are
>> > explained in Capital on the basis of the assumption that capitalism is
>> > "functioning normally", i.e. that S = D and price = value or = price of
>> > production.
>> Fred:
>> I agree with you on this point,
> Jerry. I am very glad that we agree on this important point.
>> but I wonder:  after you came to this
>> realization, how did that impact and/or modify your understanding of the
>> more concrete mechanics of crisis?  I'm genuinely curious about that.
>> In solidarity, Jerry
> Nothing has changed fundamentally.  I still think that Marx's
> theory of the falling rate of profit provides the basis for the theory of
> crises in capitalism.  But it is an abstract basis, and more factors need
> to be considered at more concrete  levels of abstraction in order to
> analyze real capitalist crises.
> In the first place, the possible effects of government intervention of the
> rate of profit must be analyzed, as Mattick did.  (Marx planned to include
> "the state" in book 4 of his original 6-book plan) .

Yes but even if had written that book, I don't think he would have
written about the Keynesian state unless there were proto forms
of debt financed macro-economic stabilization programs and central
bank interventions. That seems to be an unreasonable burden
of prescience on him. The question is what Marx would have himself
written in this missing book, and whether one can a good sense thereof
by collecting his writings in many different places. For example, is his
critique of the Rechtsstaat well developed? I think so. Is this what Marx
attempted to accomplish in terms of the critique of the state? I think yes,
primarily so. So we have Pashukanis, Hal Draper, Richard Hunt and others
on Marx's state theory. Marx's critique of the state is remarkably complete!
Also see Paul Thomas, Derek Sayer and others.
Does that mean that there is nothing left for us to say about the state?
No. Of course not. But that is a different question from whether Marx
completed what he understood as his basic theoretical critique of the

   A second factor:
> the distinction between productive labor and unproductive labor should be
> incorporated.  Marx's theory of the falling rate of profit applies only to
> productive capital.  I (and Shaikh and others) have extended Marx's
> abstract theory of the falling rate of profit to this more concrete level
> and analyze the "conventional rate of profit" for the total capital,
> including unproductive capital.


> Beyond that, debt-credit relations are obviously very important for
> crises, and much more work needs to be done along these lines.
Even Grossmann argued that Marx's theory of credit was what he
had left undeveloped!

> Plus, I would also add international economic relations, including
> exchange rates (which Marx also planned to analyze in book 5).

But again do you think Marx intended to write about exchange
rate instability resulting from the end of the gold standard? This
could not be what he would have done in the fifth book. Can
what Marx intended to write on the world market be culled from
his many writings? Again I think Grossmann makes a good case
for that.

Yours, Rakesh

> I just realize more clearly that the 3 volumes of Capital are at a very
> high level of abstraction.  Capital is a book of "basic theory" or
> "principles".  Much work needs to be done - by us - to develop Marx's
> theory toward more concrete applications.
> Comradely,

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