[OPE-L] Reply to Rakesh

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Oct 07 2006 - 09:50:29 EDT

A few comments - Obviously there is a relationship between Marx's theory of
wage labour and his theory of the reproduction of capital, I don't think
Makoto Itoh would deny that. Marx already makes this explicit in Cap. Vol. 1
when he talks about simple reproduction. The idea is already made explicit
in the Grundrisse, and the foundational distinction between labor and labor
power was clearly presented by Marx in 1859 (though the exact difference
from Ricardo's theory is, as Ian Steedman suggests, may not be as great as
one might think).

Whether or not variable capital is advanced or not may depend on the length
of the production period, the nature of output and credit conditions, but
normally it is not advanced, and as aggregate net result it is not advanced.
The basic claim Marx makes is that the distribution of products, incomes and
assets is determined by the property relations governing production.
Consequently distributional issues cannot be understood at all, without
references to the social relations of production.

The wage relation I think is not equal to de facto slavery, since the worker
has at least some autonomous control over his choice of employer, his
working conditions, his private life and his consumption, i.e. he is a
legally free contracting subject, even although also subject to economic
coercion, and trapped in a relation of economic dependence or subservience
which Marx tries to explain.

I think what the book on wage labour would most likely have contained is a
study of the evolution of various modalities of the wages system, labour
markets, state regulation and labour law, working conditions, competition,
trade unions etc. from the point of view of the worker both as (1) producer
(seller of labor power, creating surplus value), (2) as citizen
participating in public life, and (3) as consumer with personal and social
needs (as buyer of consumer items sold for profit). But this obviously
presupposes some kind of analysis of the rule of bourgeois law, and of the
political state.

With obvious moral indignation Marx says in his critique of Lasalle's "iron
law of wages" that "It was made clear that the wage worker has permission to
work for his own subsistence-that is, to live, only insofar as he works for
a certain time gratis for the capitalist (and hence also for the latter's
co-consumers of surplus value); that the whole capitalist system of
production turns on the increase of this gratis labor by extending the
working day, or by developing the productivity-that is, increasing the
intensity of labor power, etc.; that, consequently, the system of wage labor
is a system of slavery, and indeed of a slavery which becomes more severe in
proportion as the social productive forces of labor develop, whether the
worker receives better or worse payment." (Critique of the Gotha Program).

What Marx does not say in making this analogy, is that the worker IS really
a slave, it is rather "as if" the worker is a slave, or as good as, given
the compulsion to work for a living under the authority of the capitalist.
If he was a slave, the emancipatory project would be one of abolishing
slavery. Marx's political program is rather specifically the abolition of
wage-slavery, the abolition of the wages system. This was much more radical
than Lasalle, obviously. Needless to say though, if you abolish the
capitalist wages system, you would need to devise an just alternative
allocation system which is not despotic, including an enforcable legal
system which explains why people are entitled to incomes, products and
assets, and an allocation procedure which is practical and efficient. And
basically the experience of Soviet and Chinese communism is that workers
still prefer free wage labor, in the previously defined sense, to the
precise extent that it increases their autonomy. Marx could hardly conceive
of masses of wage workers who can own houses, save substantial funds and
travel to foreign lands for a holiday.

Marx specifically distinguished between the theory of international trade
and the theory of the world market, the first should I think be understood
before the second. There is no evidence I know of that Marx ever decided
that the six-book plan was faulty, but in presenting his findings he
obviously did change the storyline, and he progressed not much beyond the
intended books on "capital in general" and landed property (though the
theory of landed property would presumably include more than simply ground

I doubt however whether this development (the lack of books 5 and 6, and the
introduction of book 4) had anything specifically to do with the concept of
"capital reproduction" however. I basically agree with Itoh/Rosdolsky/Mandel
that "The function of the reproduction schemes is to show that capitalist
production can continuously exist, by satisfying the basic material
conditions of reproduction common to all societies, rather than revealing
the inner contradictions of capitalism" (Itoh, p. 183). "Unlike Quesnay and
Leontief however, Marx sees in the schemes not merely the material
conditions of reproduction, but also the necessary social relations of
labour-time embodied in the products under the price-form as the social
content of the law of value in a capitalist economy" (ibid. p. 179).

Thus, the construction of a theory of crises from the reproduction schemes
is unlikely to succeed.

In the Grundrisse, Marx insisted that "The exact development of the concept
of capital is necessary, since it is the fundamental concept of modern
economics, just as capital itself, whose abstract, reflected image is its
concept, is the foundation of bourgeois society. The sharp formulation of
the basic presuppositions of the relation must bring out all the
contradictions of bourgeois production, as well as the boundary where it
drives beyond itself." (Grundrisse, Nicolaus edition,  p. 331).

That is what he set out to do, be it in a way that could be popularly

Book 6 on the world market is referred to in Cap. 3 together with the credit
system as subjects which "do not come within the scope of this work and
belong to its eventual continuation" (Cap. 3, International
Publishers/Progress edition, p. 110). They could be presented only "after
the the general nature of capital is understood".
Parts of the analysis of the credit system are however included in Cap. 3,
as are currency exchange rates and balance of trade.

There exists I think another 1854/55 manuscript by Marx on the exchange rate
and crises, though not sure whether this was published in English.

I do not regard Das Kapital as "a theory of the reproduction of the whole of
capitalist society" as you claim, since (by Marx's own testimony) it was a
theory of the capitalist mode of production, viewed as the unity of
production and circulation of commodities, and NOT the whole of bourgeois
society. I regard this also as a mistake made by Kozo Uno, who
reconstructs/deconstructs a "theory of a purely capitalist society" without
a theory of the state, of civil society, and of the sphere of consumption.

What's missing from Marx's Cap. 3 manuscripts is I think a more thorough
analysis of the capital turnover, share capital (joint-stock companies and
stock market), credit and capital finance generally, the modalities of
capitalist competition, the formation of social classes and their incomes,
the definition of gross product, monetary theory, price formation, and
crises. Marx relied on Engels to put the manuscripts in some kind of order,
but beyond plugging a few gaps, Engels left things pretty much as Marx wrote

So do we have a "torso"? Yes and no - we have a fairly complete exposition
of what Marx & Engels thought defined the capitalist mode of production, but
not a complete theory of distribution, of social classes, of foreign trade
and the world market, of wage labour and so on. More particularly, we do not
have a theory of bourgeois society as a whole. Many so-called Marxists act
as though Marx had the total theory of everything, but I do not share their


I told you about strawberry fields,
You know the place where nothing is real.
Well here's another place you can go,
Where everything flows.
Looking through the bent backed tulips,
To see how the other half live.
Looking through a glass onion.

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