[OPE-L:293] getting my late assignment in

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Fri, 20 Oct 1995 01:41:43 -0700

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I haven't been able to prepare a list along the lines that Jerry proposed
but do want to pose a few points which will indicate some of my concerns.
Basically, I think there is one over-all question that should guide us,
and that is--- why is capitalism still around? Can we explain that by
finding that there is:
(1) a problem in Marx's analysis of capitalism--- ie., did Marx get
something significantly wrong in his view of capitalism as finite?
(2) not a problem in Marx's analysis of capitalism as such but a failure
on the part of subsequent Marxists to recognise the significant lacunae
following from his own failure to complete his original conception of
capitalism in his 6 book mega-plan.
(3) a problem resulting from significant changes and developments in the
nature of capitalism.

Insofar as the issue of the continued existence of capitalism (and the
corollary, how to help put an end to that) is what motivates me, then among
the points that follow is that, while I certainly feel we need to consider
what Iwao calls principles, we need to explore as well the levels of stages
and current analysis.
Also, from this perspective, questions revolving around the analysis of
value, the transformation problem, etc appear to be of less than central
importance. Eg., while I have definite views on value, money, etc, I've
never felt that writing about these were of a high political priority. (I've
said this often and it is the type of assertion that could come back to
haunt me just as one made years ago about not needing to consider Marx's
work before CAPITAL.) I'm willing to be convinced, however, of the error of
my ways since I recognise that out here on the northwest coast of North
America I'm a bit out of the loop in terms of the conferences,etc of the
working group on value theory; presumably this will be possible as we begin
to work our way through CAPITAL I.
I think there are definitely problems in the analysis--- whether this can
be traced to Marx or to subsequent Marxists. As I've argued, I think the
absence of a book on wage-labour (and thus of a systematic look at capital
from the perspective of the worker) minimises the extent to which, in the
normal course of things, capital *must appear as necessary* to the
wage-labourer--- and that this inherent mystification of capital (which is
more than the result of the fetishism of commodities) is central to the
answer to the over-all question posed above. Further, if it is assumed that
the prediction of a secularly declining rate of profit is an important part
of Marx's argument about the finiteness of capital, then I would suggest
that this is wrong both analytically and textually. (I seem to be at odds
with Alan's statement in 242 that he does not accept-- contra 99.90f
Marxists-- that Marx got the falling rate of profit wrong, but it may be
that when we get around to discussing this question we'll find that we are
in agreement.)
Finally (for now), I see serious problems in the analysis of capitalism
without the exploration of the capitalist world economy and the
interactions/ articulation with parts of the world not characterised by
capitalist relations of production. Eg., we should recognise the inadequacy
of analysis (theoretical and empirical) which looks at capitalism from the
perspective of the nation-state; rather, we need to begin with capital as a
whole--- world capital. In arguing this, I don't want to suggest that we
assume that nation-states do not exist nor that they cannot play an
important role in checking capital's ability to divide and separate workers
internationally. I could not resist making this last point, which will be a
red flag (or its opposite) for some. 8-)
Well, Jerry, I got my assignment in and I wasn't even the last.

in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 255-0382
Lasqueti Island: (604) 333-8810
e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca