Date: Fri Mar 24 2006 - 11:08:58 EST
2 of 3 Christopher J. Arthur, The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital. Source: Labour/Le Travail: Fall, 2004 issue Author(s): Albritton, Robert This leads to incoherence because he then wavers between emphasizing the preeminance of value form theory, on the one hand, and the claim that "value is the outcome of class struggle at the point of production" (57) on the other. If we take this latter claim seriously, then the laws of motion of capital disappear altogether, since we cannot generalize about value beyond saying that it varies with the balance of class forces in each factory. The problem is that he defeats his own dialectic by first evacuating use-value and then returning to it with such a vengeance. It is fine to claim that "labour is in and against capital;" but at the level of systematic dialectics, we cannot give the "against" any specific content, precisely because at this level the labour market, periodic crises, etc. regulate wages and the supply of labour. Again, it is not a question of denying labourers all subjectivity, but of seeing capital's commodification of labour-power as successfully channelling that subjectivity into channels supportive of profit maximization. For example, workers are free to quit any job, but at this level of abstraction, we assume that any other job will have similar wages and working conditions. Workers are free to bargain for the highest wages possible, but this bargaining power is undermined by the fact that in pure capitalism we cannot assume the existence of trade unions and by periodic crises that produce high unemployment. Arthur again falls towards incoherence when he argues that the systematic dialectic of capital has two subjects--capital and labour. If labour is outside capital, then the dialectic must be of capital and labour--two totalities and their interrelations. Arthur tries to say that there is really one totality, but labour is relatively autonomous within this totality. But if labour is even relatively outside, it can continually disrupt the dialectic in unpredictable ways thus preventing it having any coherence. In order to have a coherent theory of capital's inner logic, we must assume that labour power has been securely commodified. The reason Arthur has a problem with this is that he wrongly thinks that such an assumption must deny all subjectivity to workers, and because he thinks that the class struggle that is so present in history must for some reason be diminished if it is not also given a central position in systematic dialectics. This latter concern, I believe, stems from inadequate attention to articulating the relations between systematic and historical dialectics as distinct levels of analysis. In other words, Arthur at times gets sucked into the very logical-historical method that he explicitly rejects. For if the levels are distinct, the reification at the level of systematic dialectics that subsumes labour to capital can, at the level of historical analysis, always be resisted and even radically transformed. My recommendation would be to see the entire three volumes of Capital as a single dialectic in which value generates successive categories by gradually overcoming the fundamental use-value obstacles present in all capitalist economies. The use-value of commodities is an obstacle to exchange until we dialectically generate the money form from the commodity form. But even with the money form, the exhange of one use-value for another is an obstacle unless we generate the capital form that uses money to make more money. In turn this becomes inexplicable unless labour and production processes are subsumed to the capital form, and so forth. At the level of systematic dialectics we study how variations in the length of the working day impact on the extraction of suplus value, but we do not have a working day of a given length. For that we need to turn to historical analysis where numerous causal factors may play a role, though we would expect that among these class struggle would always be important. What systematic dialectics shows is that there is necessarily an antagonistic relationship between capital and labour, but it cannot show how this is translated into historically specific forms of class struggle. Thus instead of making the gratuitous claim that class struggle is the primary determinant of systematic dialectics, we should claim instead that systematic dialectics presents a clear structural theory of class and shows why class antagonism is likely to be the constant companion of capitalism in history. And four dialectic encompasses all three volumes we will also understand how capital achieves not only indifference to land, but also, in the form of interest, indifference to itself. Indeed in the present age of finance capital, we are being made painfully aware of possible consequences of such indifference.
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