Re: [OPE-L] 3 crucial points?

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Wed Jan 31 2007 - 05:36:14 EST

Hi Rakesh,

The fact that something is mere form does not mean it is unnecessary or
inert.  Marx refers to law in some contexts as mere form, but it is a
necessary constituent.  Take some liquid.  The container is likely to be
mere form.  But once in the container how you ship or store is usually
determined.  Also the form can relate back, e.g. for low priced wines there
is apparently a greater risk of losing this or that case if you cap with a
cork than with a faux cork.

Anyway, here's Marx at the end of the third section of the Results, p. 1064
of the Penguin ed.:

"It follows that two widely held views are in error:

"There are firstly those who consider that wage labour, the sale of labour
to the capitalist and hence the wage form, is something only superficially
characteristic of capitalist production.  It is, however, one of the
essential mediating forms of capitalist relations of production, and one
constantly reproduced by those relations themselves.

"Secondly, there are those who regard this superficial relation, this
essential formality, this deceptive appearance of capitalist relations as
its true essence.  They therefore imagine that they can give a true account
of those relations by classifying both workers and capitalists as commodity
owners.  They thereby gloss over the essential nature of the relationship,
extinguishing its differentia specifica."

[italics omitted throughout]

Apologies to all for having sent an empty reply on the tribute to Guy Mhone.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 11:46 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] 3 crucial points?

> >
> Howard wrote:
>  Hi Hans,
> >
> > Thanks for the reference!  I looked back through Ch 23 and 24.  I am
> > always
> > amazed at how Marx worked with his manuscripts.  Invariably after
> > laboriously working through and learning some point in the manuscripts
> > returns to Capital I and finds the point had already been made there
> > clearly and had just never been noticed.  Compare, for example, the last
> > paragraph of the chapter on Simple Reproduction and the very first
> > introductory paragraphs (still part of the outline) of the 'Results'.
> >
> > Without doubt the point you make is correct -- the exchange between
> > and capital in circulation is form; the relation in production itself is
> > content.  Marx uses the concept of 'form' differently.  'Form
> > determination'
> > can show how the form of a thing just is its content (content has
> > form into itself, in the wording of his doctoral dissertation), but here
> > there is a divorce between the two that mystifies and the derivation
> > be
> > traced.
> >
> > But we still need to deal with the 'becomes':  'wird formell' =
> > formal.  There I think the reference to the immediately preceding
> > of the passage clarifies the meaning.  The process of production in any
> > form
> > requires joining the direct producer to the means of production.  The
> > content the relation between capital and labor can have is as joined in
> > the
> > process of production.  The relation between capital and labor in
> > circulation is formal as compared to that.  But where an independent
> > individual produces as part of the social division of labor, then there
> > an immediate unity between the direct producer and the conditions of
> > production. Capitalist production destroys production on this basis and
> > therefore the relation between labor and its conditions first manifested
> > in
> > exchange *becomes* formal.  That is, where an individual produces
> > independently, the relation between labor and its conditions is not
> > formal.
> Marx is saying that at first the capitalist exchanges money (amassed in
> sordid way) for labor power but  that under repeated exchanges the
> relation becomes
> one of appropriation as the initial capital has been consumed and the
> capitalist
> "exchanges" only what he has already appropriated or taken without
> equivalent from
> labor power. That is,  under quantitative pressure as per dialectics
> the relation is now only formally one of exchange and substantively one of
> appropriation
> or more precisely wage slavery, i.e. the opposite of an exchange
> relationship.
> I don't think any other economic theory builds dialectical materialism
> into its very structure.
> But if exchange is only a semblance or has only formal existence, then in
> what way
> could it possibly be a necessary constituent of the capital relation or
> the capitalist mode of production?
> Rakesh
> >
> > Rakesh, it seems to me considerations of that sort answer your two
> > questions.  Of course the exchange between capital and labor in
> > circulation
> > is essential to the capital relationship and to the capitalist mode of
> > production.  We could only say that it wasn't by ignoring precisely the
> > social form of capitalist production and treating it as immediately the
> > labor process in general.
> >
> > Howard
> >
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "ehrbar" <ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU>
> > Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 8:53 AM
> > Subject: Re: [OPE-L] 3 crucial points?
> >
> >
> >> Howard,
> >>
> >> it seems the Penguin translation is wrong here.
> >>
> >> A good explanation why the exchange between laborer
> >> and capitalist is only "formal" can be found in chapter 24,
> >> Penguin edition pp 729/30.  Here is the translation as I
> >> have it in my Annotations:
> >>
> >>  The exchange of equivalents, the original operation with which we
> >>  started, has now become turned round in such a way that only the mere
> >>  semblance of exchange remains.  This is owing to the fact, first,
> >>  that the capital which is exchanged for labor-power is itself but a
> >>  portion of the product of others' labor appropriated without an
> >>  equivalent; and, secondly, that this capital must not only be
> >>  replaced by its producer, but replaced together with an added
> >>  surplus.  The relation of exchange between capitalist and laborer
> >>  becomes a mere semblance appertaining to the process of circulation,
> >>  a mere form which is foreign to the content itself {730} only
> >>  mystifies it.  The ever repeated purchase and sale of labor-power is
> >>  now the mere form; what really takes place is this---the capitalist
> >>  first appropriates, without equivalent, a portion of the materialised
> >>  labor of others, and then exchanges a part of it for a greater
> >>  quantity of living labor.
> >>
> >> In "Resultate", Marx says similar things too, for instance he says
> >> that capitalist and laborer "sich scheinbar als *Warenbesitzer*
> >> gegenuebertreten" ("scheinbar" means that this is what it looks like,
> >> this is the form it takes, but this is not what is really the case).
> >> Maybe one could translate it as: they confront each other as commodity
> >> owners only in semblance.  Again the Penguin translation as "each
> >> confronts the other apparently on equal terms as the owner of a
> >> commodity" got the "apparently" wrong and added a phantasy "on equal
> >> terms" which cannot be found anywhere in the German (MEGA II/4.1,
> >> p. 64)
> >>
> >> Hans.
> >

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