[OPE-L:1494] Re: surprising agreement?

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Wed, 13 Mar 1996 22:59:07 -0800

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In (1469), Mike asked:

> 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 really don't have the time to adequately answer this question before I
leave for Boston at 6 am in the morning. But I want to try to make a brief
response while the question is before us.

My brief response is NO - I do not agree with the statement: "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*".

My brief reasoning is the following:

1. I have emphasized on several occasions that Marx's subject from the very
beginning of Capital is capitalism. Marx is not trying to explain the
historical emergence of capitalism or derive the necessity of capitalism
from general commodity production, but is instead analyzing actually
existing capitalism ("modern bourgeios society" as Marx often called it).

To quote just one brief passage (among many) in which Marx made this point
(from the introduction on the "method of political economy" in the

Capital is the all-dominating economic power of *bourgeois society*.
It must form the starting-point as well as the finishing-point [of a
theory of bourgeois society; FM), and must be dealt with before
landed property. (G. 107; emphasis added)

Here it is clear that the "capital" Marx was talking about is the capital IN

Gil claims that this limitation of the subject of the theory to capitalism
"does not affect the logical structure of the argument" in any way. But how
can it not affect the logical structure of the argument? It restricts the
possible answers to the question being asked. When Marx asked the question
in Chapters 5 and 6 - "how can capital make a profit?" - he was not asking a
general question about all the various possible ways in which capital as a
general category could make a profit in various different modes of
production. He was asking a much more "historically specific" question:
how can capital IN CAPITALISM make profit? This limitation requires that
the answer to this question must be an element of actually existing capitalism.

2. Marx's answer to his question follows simply and directly from his the
labor theory of value presented in Chapter 1, which is the basic assumption
of Marx's theory thereafter. ACCORDING TO THE LABOR THEORY OF VALUE, the
source of additional value (and hence of suruplus-value) MUST be additional
labor. This MUST is certainly dependent on the assumption of the labor
theory of value, but follows just as certainly from it. WITHIN CAPITALISM,
additional labor can be provided only by the purchase and consumption of
labor-power. This is not a "leap" of logic, but is a simple logical
deduction from the labor theory of value and the specification of the
subject of the analysis as capitalism. I do not see any possible problem
with this deduction. And note that this argument is VALUE-THEORETIC; i.e.
it obviously depends on the labor-theory of value.

This I agree with Jerry (1474) in which he made similar arguments.

to be continued next week ...