[OPE-L:412] Comments from Riccardo-3

Riccardo Bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Sat, 4 Nov 1995 04:18:08 -0800

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9. What can we reasonably do?

Alan is right when he says that 'most people learn by listening,
and the more they disagree, the more they learn'. But this has rather
different conclusions from the one he draws.

I don't expect we come into agreement, but I do expect that we read
each others *taking in mind the other's aproach to a common problem*. So
there are two things: we must have common issues; we must recognize the
other as different from us, and no t judge his results too immediatley on
our own pre-conceptions. Thus, it is extremely useful if Alan convinces
Gil of the errors of analytical marxism, and Gil convinces Alan of the
erros of labor value. Not because the two will in fact succeed. But becau
se they will be able to develop Gil's analutical marxism, and Alan's value
approach, in a better way. The other direction, trying to convince the
other that one's own apprach to Marx, or modern capitalism, is the best,
will take us nowhere, if divorced fr om this starting point that accepts
the challenge to reason within the other mind.

Can we go further than that? I don't know, but I think that cannot
be planned from the start.

10. A provocative note

Bill says that capitalists receive income that they do not earn. Is
he right? I rather think that capitalists (in the Marxian sense, i.e. not
merely as rentier) *do* earn their profits, because without them the
surplus value wouldn't be there - and , look, surplus value is not due
exclusively to the 'starving' of the working class, or to the fact that
labourers do not eat all the surplus. It is due to the fact that
capitalism is the most dynamic mode of production ever seen, and thus that
the surplu s is growing - in the past even with rising real wages and
shorter working hours.

11. Another provocative note

Alan wants us to study inequality, crises and war. So do I. But do
we agree that the same issue are at the heart of bourgeouis social
thought? Take Adam Smith: his problem was explaining inequality; and what
was, according to you, the idea that in the future there will be a
stationary state, not a kind of crisis theory, which is also able to
explain wars? Schumpeter had even a theory of imperialism.

The problem may well be not that 'poor stay poor': have we
'Marxists' a strong (and persuasive) reply to the idea that poors would
stay *less well* in a non capitalist society?

12. A suggestion on Sect. I of Capital.

I don't know if this issue was raised before: we have *four*
versions of the beginning of Capital (if not more): the first German
edition, the appendix on 'value-form' (published years ago in Capital and
Class), the French edition, and the last one
which I think is both the one in the English and in the Italian edition.

I think it is not possible to assume that the last was the better
one to understand what Marx was saying. To take only one example, a
comparison of the four clarifies well what otherwise could be not well
understood. That for Marx value is exactly an abstraction of the kind THE
animal taken as a true, existing entity, which finds its external
appearance in this or that animal. That is, capitalist reality is a
reality to which Hegelian logic can be applied also because it is an
*inverted* reality. T he mysticism is in the thing itself. The abstraction
is a real abstraction, not a mental one.

13. On surplus labor before capitalism

Since I agree with those who see abstract labor and value as
specifically capitalist notions, let me try this explanation of the fact
that Marx speaks of surplus labor and exploitation also for the modes of
production before capitalism (the implici t reference is to the Grundrisse
'Precapitalistic forms of production' section, and to Alfred Schmidt's

The precapitalistic modes of production were connected in a
'natural' way, not a 'social' one. Only with capitalism the *social*
properties of labor, and its *universality*, comes to life and are
developed, though in an alienated form. The inversio n of this potential
wealth in the 'poverty' of wage labor, the abstract and not concrete
nature of the universality of the human being, is what specifically
caracterizes capitalism.

But useful labor has *always* been, with land and instruments of
production, the producer of use values. In the natural, precapitalist
modes of production, the economy was stationary. The dimension of the
surplus product, defined in physical termas
and appropriated by the dominant class, was, therefore, correlated with
the expenditure of labor, and had nothing to do with a revolution in the
means of production. Though exploitation was there caused by a 'personal',
political, subjection, it can be s aid that the surplus product hides a
surplus labor, because there was no *productive* intervention of the
ruling class In this argument nothing hinges on the reduction of the
product to the labor embodied.

In capitalism, on the contrary, the surplus product is not defined
in physical terms before production; it is rather a product of an
increasing production, and a growing productivity, due also to machines,
to technical change in its capitalist form . Material (use-value)
production is more and more dependent from capital embodiment in means of
production. It is only through the reduction of the commodity to abstract
labor that, according to Marx, is possible to show that the (plausible)
idea that su rplus value comes out from capital and not from workers can
be contrasted, showing how the struggle on labor time is at the heart of
the question.

14. First specific proposal

Bill's post was a wonderful one. Why not generalizes the method,
with some amendment? Why not, every week, each one of us (I put myself at
the 15 place on the list) does not send a letter in which he explains us,
with reference to his personal expe rience, formation, and way of seeing
the practical development of capitalism and struggles, why he think
Marx(ism) is important, and OPE-L can help?

15. Second specific proposal

As Jerry said, there is a problem of communication among us due to
the fact that we do not have read all the other production. Could be
useful a place on the list where one finds the bibliography of the

16. Final quote

"One element these diverse events have in common is the issue of
time: people struggling to control the shape of their own time, as this
time experience is lived both together and separately. While the labor
movemment resists the increasing relentl essness of industrial and
bureaucratic labor-time, the women's movement begins to appeal to
alternative notions of cyclical time and urban voting blocs try to do this
at a political level. Now it might be said that every event occurs in
time, so that ever ything is, in a very general way, about time, just as
it is, in a vague way, about space. But I want to make a stronger and more
precise claim: that the struggle over the organization of social time is,
in modern society, a political struggle. The theoret ical underpinning to
this assertion will come from Karl Marx's labor theory of value. By
introducing the concepts of "labor-power" and "labor-time" and by arguing
that capitalism manipulates this units in certain wys to routinize and
spatialize time, Marx suggest that there might be other ways to organize social power and
social time." Nancy L. Schwartz



(3. THE END, at last 8-)

Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975