Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

From: Pen-L Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Fri Mar 09 2007 - 09:27:06 EST

Quoting Jerry Levy <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM>:

>>  To me,
>> the most important point is the logical structure of Marx's theory of
>> the production and distribution of surplus-value, not the concepts of
>> capital in general and competition.
> Hi Fred:
> Why?
>> You [Howard] seem to be ignoring (or at least deemphasizing)
>> the quantitative dimension of Marx's theory.  I think this is the most
>> important dimension.
> On what basis can you claim that the quantitative is "the most
> important dimension" of Marx's theory?
> Marx himself never claimed that, did he?
> In solidarity, Jerry

Hi Jerry,

The title of the book is Capital.  Capital is defined as “money that
makes more money” i.e. M … (M + dM).  This is the main phenomenon to be
explained in Marx’s theory, which he highlights and emphasizes in
Chapter 4 of Volume 1.

Then in Chapter 5 he argues that this all-important question cannot be
answered if one restricts one’s theory to the sphere of circulation
alone .  And at the end of Chapter 5 he dramatically poses this
question once again in his famous “Hic Rhodes!  Hic Salta!” challenge
to himself and to all others.

Then in Chapter 6 he presents the first step toward answering this
all-important question:  capitalists must be able to purchase, in the
sphere of circulation, a commodity whose use-value, outside the sphere
of circulation, is a source of additional quantity of value (which is
of course labor-power).  This is the necessary condition for
transforming M into (M + dM).

Then in Chapter 7, the most important chapter in the whole book, he
presents his basic theory of surplus-value, and explains this
all-important phenomenon, and boasts in the end:  “The trick has at
last worked [or has been explained]:  money has been transformed into
capital” [i.e. into a greater quantity of money; e.g. 27 shillings into
30 shillings].

Then the rest of Parts 3 and 4 are about the two main ways to increase
the quantity of surplus-value:  extend the length of the working day
and reduce necessary labor through technological change.

I think this overall structure of Volume 1 makes it clear that the
quantity of surplus-value is the most important question which Marx’s
theory is intended to explain.

And in the “Results”, Marx succinctly summarized this main question of
his theory, and why:  “The fact that the purpose of the process is that
x should be transformed into x + dx also points to the path our own
investigations should take.  The result must be expressed as the
function of a variable quantity, or be transformed into one during the
process.”  (p. 977).

I am not saying that other questions are not important.  I am just
saying that the production is the most important feature of capitalism,
and therefore the most important question in Marx's theory of
capitalism.  And my main point has been that the TOTAL surplus-value in
the economy as a whole is determined in Volume 1 (and adjusted to take
into account turnover time in Volume 2) and then taken as given in the
analysis of the division of this total surplus-value into individual
parts in Volume 3 (including most importantly in the theory of the
general rate of profit and prices of production in Part 2).


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