[OPE-L:229] Re: Procedural Proposal -- 10/6

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Mon, 9 Oct 1995 15:09:59 -0700

[ show plain text ]

I am responding to Jerry's request to make suggestions on his 6 book
outlie. I am concerned here with overall logical interactions between the
books more than anything else.

The question of order
In the construction of conventional books, the question of order is very
important. We can justly surmise that Marx gave great thought to this in
laying out the first volume of capital, in an attempt to get the logical
dependence of concepts in the same order as the order presentation.

There seem to be 4 orders that are involved in the production of such a

1. The order of discovery of the concepts,
2. The order of historical development of the
3. The order of logical dependence of the
4. The order of presentation of the concepts.

Let us assume that the order of discovery should become invisible in a
finshed work. The question then is whether the order of presentation
shoul follow the order of historical development, that of logical
dependene, or none of these, being oriented instead to ease of
understandig - presenting ideas first in a familiar form, and then
dialectically showing the inadequacy of these before going on to a more
profound presentation - this for instance, is a common way of proceeding
in elementary science textbooks.

However, the advent of hpertext, HTML and the Web, releases the
constraint somewhat. It is no longer necessary for an intellectual work
tohave a single order. Instead, one can have several different orders of
traversal through the concepts, historical, logical and explanatory.

I would suggest that since this is an experiment in using the internet
for collective theoretical work, we should try to use it to the full, and
aim to produce not a six volume book, but a corpus of logically,
historically and expositorily linked components, to be published
initiallyon the net, but with possible paper or CD-ROM versions to

Logical Orders
A problem with the strictly sequential mode of presentation forced on one
by the Book, is that one may be tempted to give the impression that all
ideas in a work can be logically deduced from one another in a sequential
fashion. In practice one finds that the real world that one is trying to
model in thought reveals multiple lines of logical dependence. Using
Marx's book headings I would like to explore some of the logical
dependences that may be present.

A. Capital:
1) capitalist production;
2) capitalist circulation;
3) capitalist production as a whole
B. Landed Property
C. Wage-Labour
D. The State
E. International Trade
F. World Market and Crises

A.i & A.ii Production and circulation
Let us look at the relationship between the production and circulation of
surplus value. Presentationally in CAPITAL the order goes from the
production of surplus value to its circulation. In practice there is a
simultaneous logical dependence between the two. The level of aggregate
capitalist expenditure, ( assuming no workers savings etc ) determines
the level of their aggregate profit, though at the same time, the
apparent determination for the generality of capitalists considered
individually is that their level of profit determines their expenditure.

Again, one must assume the existence of the law of value in order to
establish how surplus value is produced ( Gil bear with us at this point
), but the reason why the law of value exists as a law is not apparent at
this level. Its assumption is a precondition of capitalist production,
but it is only at a later stage that one can consider what it is about
aggregate social production that guarantees its conditions of existence.

A.i & D. Money and the state
Money is presented in Capital as arising directly out of the category of
the commodity. Whilst it is certainly the case that the possibility of a
universal equivalent is implicit in the commodity, that this should be a
universal equivalent governed by the law of value is a highly specific
historical result. It, as much as the Robinson, or isolated individual of
bourgeois economics is the product of a long an precarious historical
evolution. The assumption of gold money with a low or non-existent
minting charge is invalid for the greater part of monetary history, and
indeed of capitalist history. In practice the history of money is the
history of debasement. This however, presupposes the state, and the
existence of the issue of money as a specific form of state revenue.

If ones task is to show how money operated in Victorian England, this was
a valid set of assumptions, but to understand money in its historical and
contemporary development, it is impossible to deal with money in
abstractin from the state. All currencies that exist today, are state
moneys, with a forced circulation imposed not by the law of value but by
tas law. Thus to deal with money one must deal with the state and
moreover deal with the economomic precondition of the state - its ability
to appropriate part of the social surplus product, one must deal with the
laws of taxation.

A.ii & D. Circulation and the state
In analysing the circulation process in any real capitalist economy, one
obviously has to deal with the fact that a very substantial part of the
value product, maybe a 1/3 to 3/5 appears in the form of state revenues.
Thus the conditions of circulation analysed in Capital II have to be
generalised to deal with this fact. This is clearly a precondition for
being able to present a reasonable account of the effect of the state in
mitigating crises.

D & E International trade and the state
When discussing international trade, what one is really discussing is
inter-state trade. Thus the existence of the state is a precondition for
trade having an international aspect, since however, international trade
is not a precondition for the existence of the state, the determination
here is one way.

Credit and Debt
This has relevance as a topic at 4 levels:
1. capitalist production as a whole - where it is dealt with by Marx.
Here one can show that debt arises out of the necessary temporal
dislocatins of commodity circulation.
2. At the level of the state, since the public debt has always been one
of the mainsprings of the credit system.
3. At the level of international trade, since this has as its monetary
reflex the formation of international debt and 'international capital
flows', ( a concept that must be problematised ).
4. In the relations between the proletariat and the employing class,
since debt dependence has become an increasingly important way of
imposing the obligation to labour.

B. Landed Property and Differential rents

This topic has a history and complexity that prevents it being simply
reduced to its specifically capitalist form - hence the recognition of
absolute ground rent. In the present day one would have to extend it to
deal with other phenomena governed by differential rents:
1. The production of oil and minerals.
2. The monopolisation of the electromagnetic spectrum.
3. The establishment of rents for works of art protected by copyright.
4. The establishment of private ownership of classes of organisms and of
the human genome.

What is missing from the above headings
There is no adequate slot in the 6 book scheme for the combination of the
capitalist mode of production with other modes of production. What is
particularly relevant here for political reasons is to deal with the
combinations between:
1. Capitalism and the domestic mode of production.
2. Combinations of capitalism with the socialist
and communist modes of production.
3. The interdependence of capitalism and feudal
forms of production. ( though this might be in
book B ).

Paul Cockshott