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 rent). 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 understood. 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 them. 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 religion. Jurriaan 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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