[OPE-L:1473] RE: Gil and Mike's Surprising Agreement [re-sent]

riccardo bellofior (bellofio@rs950.cisi.unito.it)
Wed, 13 Mar 1996 03:27:06 -0800

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At 21:45 12-03-1996 -0800, Michael A. Lebowitz wrote:
> So, I would like now to find out specifically how other people on this
>list feel about that agreement. Does everyone agree that Marx did *not*
>establish a case proceeding logically from (A) the concept of capital
>(M-C-M') to (B) the buying of labour-power--- in the sense that one *must*
>proceed from A to B rather than one *may*?
>(I think this captures what we agree upon--- although we may differ over
>where exactly the logical leap occurred and how important the lapse is. To
>jog your collective memory, I'll remind you that I argued that if this was
>true we could not say that capitalist relations of production are implicit
>in the commodity--- because they require historically specific conditions
>which are not implicit in the commodity.)
> If you *don't* agree, please explain to Gil and me exactly what the
>logical argument is--- so we don't go on from here to even greater errors
>(if that's possible). It is the comradely thing to do, no?
> I'll let Gil have the last word on this:
>> [Mike considers our agreement on this point "surprising". To the
>> contrary, I'm surprised that more listmates have not
>> accepted this point. I mean, an invalid argument is an invalid argument,
>> no matter what you think about Marx's method, the value of money,
>> or the connection between total prices and total values.]

On my part, I agree with how Mike stated why and how he agreed with Gil, in
this loong quote I append from [OPE-L: 1234] to refresh your memories.

However, I suspect that to pursue coherently this line of argument,
centered on *living labor* as *not-capital*, something must be changed in
the money theory Marx sets as the ground of his argument in Capital, vol.
I, and may be even in the same definition of abstract labour.

In any case, I repeat, the case for a logical leap *in _Capital_, vol. I*
is convincigly made.


----Well, I knew that one of the hazards of taking a break
before writing this message was that Gil would jump in to
announce what our "surprising agreement" is. In 1224, Gil
states that, as I have noted, nothing in my posts depends
for its validity on Marx's conclusions at the end of Ch. 5
and that it seems that I agree "at least tacitly" with the
basic point of his critique--- that "the appropriate basis
for understanding the significance and dynamics of the
capitalist mode of production is... not the value-theoretic
grounds established in Ch. 5."
OK, here's my confession: even though I continue to
disagree with Gil (as indicated in the posts resulting from
yesterday's burst of energy) because of his grievous errors
in treating non-capitalist relations as capitalist (thereby
gliding into revisionism, fundamentalism or some other
equally heinous heresy), I *do* agree with his statement in
1166 that:

"**whether or not** Marx intendedly limits his focus to the
societies in which the capitalist mode of production
prevails, nothing in the logical structure of his argument
depends on this limitation. Thus either the argument is
logically valid or it isn't. And it isn't."

Let me immediately qualify this agreement. I think
Marx's logical argument in CAPITAL proceeding from the
commodity to money to capital is brilliant. I have problems,
however, with the argument presented for the movement from
capital to the capital/wage-labour relation (which
encompasses not only Ch. 5 but also Ch. 6). I am not saying
that a valid logical argument could not be constructed to
bridge from the understanding of capital as M-C-M' to the
buying and selling of labour-power as the premise of
capitalist relations of production--- merely that it is not
there in Chs. 5 and 6, where a puzzle and an assumption
serve in its place. Further, I think this is one of those
places where we need to distinguish clearly between the
method of enquiry and that of presentation.
Let's go back to the Grundrisse. It was there that
Marx, who had long understood that the central relationship
in capitalism was that of capitalist and wage-labourer (cf.,
eg, 1844 Mss., Wage-Labour and Capital), grasped that you
could not move (logically) from labour to capital but
needed--- if one was to grasp the nature of capital--- to
proceed from money to capital. Where, then, did wage-labour
come in? The question Marx asked in the Grundrisse is---
what is the use-value for capital which stands outside
capital as such? He answered (Vintage/Penguin, 272), "The
only *use-value*, therefore, which can form the opposite
pole to capital is *labour (to be exact, value-creating,
productive labour*." He underlines his (dialectical) point
two pages later: "the real *not-capital* is *labour*.
It is obvious here from the outset that the subject
Marx has in mind is capital-as-a-whole, since the opposite
pole to any *individual* capital can be *another* individual
capital (as it is indeed at the level of many capitals).
There is no need to reveal this by pointing out that the
capitalist class cannot defraud itself, and there is no
place at all here for questions of equivalent or non-
equivalent exchanges. Rather, the question is what is not-
capital, what is the opposite to the objectified labour (in
money and commodities) of which capital is a specific unity?
Marx's point was the same when he began to plan the
extension of his Contribution to the Critique of Political
Economy. You can see this in the Collected Works, Vol. 29
(p. 503), when he says: "*Labour is* the only *use value
which can present an opposite and a complement to money as
capital*, and it exists in labour capacity, which exists as
a subject." And, he continues: "The exchange through which
money becomes capital cannot be its exchange with
commodities [in general] but can only be one with its
conceptually determined opposite, the commodity which is
itself a conceptually determined opposite of it--- labour."
(504). (I restrained myself from adding italics to
"conceptually determined".)
Marx returned to the same point in his 1861-3 Mss in
his discussion of the transformation of money into capital,
where he notes, "The sole antithesis to objectified labour
is non-objectified, *living labour*." (Vol. 30, p.35) He
goes on to note that the only commodity which "has any
direct use value at all for the value which is to be
valorised" is one whose "use itself constitutes the creation
of value" and "such use value is only possessed by *living
labour capacity*" (36).
As can be seen, Marx is very clearly arguing here in
value-theoretic terms. The logical question (once the
concept of capital is developed) which drives his enquiry
is-- what can be a use-value for capital, self-valorising
value, when it enters into an exchange? The only trace you
can find of this, however, in Ch. 5 and Ch. 6 is Marx's
statement at the beginning of Ch. 6 that capital "must be
lucky enough" to find on the market "a commodity whose use-
value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of
value, whose actual consumption is therefore an
objectification of labour, hence a creation of value"
(Vintage,270). That's it! No discussion of how labour-power
is necessary for capital to exist as such (as opposed to as
money), no consideration of labour as "the conceptually
determined opposite" of capital, no stress upon living,
subjective labour vs. objectified labour.
In its place, we get the exercise of Ch. 5 (which
surfaces in the 1861-3 Mss as an exploration of whether
capital as such is compatible with the nature of money,
commodity and circulation) and Ch. 6's dropping from the sky
of both the existence of the doubly-free producer (as a
"historical presupposition") and *also* the situation of
that doubly-free producer as seller of labour-power
(presumably *another* historical presupposition--- since
nothing here has explained why that producer does not rent
means of production).

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