Re: [OPE-L] interpretations of capital and Marx

From: Pen-L Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Thu Mar 15 2007 - 10:59:21 EDT

Quoting Jerry Levy <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM>:

>> Capital is not "defined" as  "money that makes more money".
> Fred:
> If capital is defined as "money that makes more money" how can
> you ALSO claim that there is "constant capital"?

Hi Jerry,

My cryptic definition of capital as “money that makes more money” was
perhaps too cryptic, and perhaps misleading, especially in the case of
constant capital.  A better, less cryptic definition would be “money
invested to make more money”.  This definition would obviously include
constant capital as well as variable capital.  The whole M = C + V is
invested in order to make more money.

According to Marx’s theory, only the variable capital actually “makes
more money”, but the constant capital must also be invested, and is
invested for the same purpose, and goes through the same process.

The title of Part 2 of Volume 1 is “the transformation of MONEY into
CAPITAL”.  This does not mean that money is transformed into something
that is not money.  Rather it means the transformation of money in
general to money which performs specific functions and which goes
through its own form of circulation:  M – C – M’, which is of course
the “general formula for CAPITAL”.

>> And I would argue that an advantage of my interpretation is that it
>> makes Marx's theory a logically consistent, without unsolved "logical
>> problems" that have to be dealt with.  Why not give Marx the "benefit
>> of the doubt", instead of insisting on an interpretation for which
>> there remains unsolved logical problems?
> The same question has been asked repeatedly by Freeman and Kliman.
> Instead of  asking "why not give Marx the benefit of the doubt?" you
> should have asked "Why not give *my interpretation* the benefit of the
> doubt?" since neither you nor Kliman nor Freeman (nor anyone else) can
> speak for Marx.
> I find the "why not give Marx the benefit of the doubt?" question to be
> similar to a claim that we "trust you", i.e. it embodies a presumption that
> Marx was the authority and that given two sets of claims (Marx was right
> or Marx was wrong) we should favor the interpretation that says that
> Marx was right.
> Why apply this standard to Marx alone?  Why not say, for instance, that
> if there are two interpretations of Sraffa (one that says that Sraffa was
> right and the other that says that Sraffa was wrong) then we should give
> Sraffa "the benefit of the doubt" and favor the interpretation which says
> that Sraffa was right?
> The reason we shouldn't apply the "benefit of the doubt" argument to
> Marx, Sraffa, or ANYONE, is that we have to be CRITICAL OF
> *ALL*.
> *NO* authority -- Marx or anyone else -- is entitled to special, privileged
> treatment.

I am not saying that we should give Marx the “benefit of the doubt”
because he obviously made a mistake, and we should forgive him for
that.  Rather, I am saying that there are two different possible
interpretations of Marx, both with substantial textual evidence.
According to one interpretation, Marx made a mistake with the
transformation problem, and according to the other interpretation, Marx
did not make this mistake.  So in this “toss-up” situation, why not
accept the interpretation that makes Marx’s theory a logically
consistent whole, rather than insist on the interpretation with logical

And yes, I would apply the same criterion to Sraffa and to others.
This does not mean that Marx or Sraffa is necessarily “right”, but that
when there is uncertainty in their writings, which can be interpreted
in different ways, that priority be given to those interpretations that
make the theory internally logically consistent.  To me this seems to
be the most reasonable and the most "fair to the author" way to go.


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