[OPE-L:1661] the necessity for logical deduction

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Mon, 1 Apr 1996 01:59:32 -0800

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In 1534, Fred asked how I could argue both that Marx indicates right
from the outset that the subject of Capital is capitalism (which, for me,
presumes the purchase of labour-power) and also that the purchase of
labour-power must be derived.

> Mike seems to be saying both that capitalism is assumed from the beginning
> and that capitalism has to be derived. I don't get it. If capitalism is
> assumed from the beginning, why does it have to be derived?

To say that capitalism is the subject of Capital is not the same as
assuming capitalism and therefore presumably finding no need to derive its
characteristics. Fred cites the passage from the Grundrisse Introduction,
where Marx stresses that we must not forget that "In the succession of the
economic categories, as in any other historical, social science, it must
not be forgotten that their subject - here, modern bourgeois society -
is always what is given, in the head as well as in reality...." I don't see,
however, that this statement should be interpreted in any way as superceding
the necessity of reproducing the concrete in the mind by proceeding
logically from the abstract to the concrete (which Marx talks about earlier
in the Introduction). Eg., isn't it necessary to derive money? Someone might
argue that since capitalism is assumed and since it is obviously it is
obviously a money economy in which labour-power is purchased with money, it
accordingly is not necessary to derive the economic category of money from
the commodity. Fred has not and would not make this argument because it is
obvious that it is only through Marx's derivation that we grasp what money
is (and can not treat it as external and indifferent to the commodity). By
the same logic, isn't it necessary to derive capital?
In short, I think that Fred would have to agree that the issue is not at
all whether logical deduction is necessary (even though it is acknowledged
that capitalism is the subject) but, rather, whether we are worried about
the adequacy of that deduction in places. As indicated, I think that a
logical leap did occur in Chs. 5 and 6 of Vol. I.

> 2. Mike argued:
> Marx notes clearly that before there can be the buying of labour-power,
> there must first be the separation of producers from the means of
> production. We can add to that another condition, which Marx is not
> explicit about here, which is that capital furthermore must have "seized
> possession" of production (which precludes labour hiring capital or
> Roemer's "credit-market island"). Are these conditions implicit in M-C-M'?
> I interpret Fred to mean that we shouldn't worry about such things--- that
> we just assume that these have occurred (which is what Jerry says). But,
> then, what's happened to the logical development if these are dropped from
> the sky to enable us to move from a concept of capital in the sphere of
> circulation?
> Is it not true that to assume capitalism from the beginning in Chapter 1 -
> which we all seem to agree Marx did - is "to assume that these have
> occurred"? What else does it mean to say that capitalism is assumed from
> the beginning? Capitalism is not "dropped from the sky" in Chapter 6.
> Instead, capitalism is assumed from the beginning.

From the way Fred is arguing, I think I need to extract myself from the
apparent agreement that capitalism is assumed. Going back to the opening
paragraph, I think it is more appropriate to state that what Marx indicates
is that the object of study is "societies in which the capitalist mode of
production prevails" and that the project is to investigate them. This would
certainly make clear that the project is not one in which we are hostage to
the historical succession or order of categories (although it is not
precluded that the logical order will correspond to the historical order).
If we substitute this view of capitalism as the object of study rather than
as the assumption, then it's not clear how much of Fred's argument stands
up. Eg.,:

> 4. Mike also asked whether anybody has answered Gil's critique that
> Marx's argument in Chapter 5 that "the capitalist class as a whole cannot
> defraud itself" is mistaken because the capitalist class can defraud
> another class and thereby appropriate surplus-value. I have answered
> this critique as follows:
> I have argued, and Gil has indicated that he agrees or at least is
> willing to accept, that Marx's theory from the beginning of Capital - and
> in Chapter 5 - is about the capitalist mode of production. Hence Marx
> ruled out by assumption the possibility of appropriating surplus-value
> from non- capitalist modes of production. His analysis is concerned
> solely with surplus-value produced and appropriated within the capitalist
> mode of production. Therefore, under this assumption, Marx's argument
> that "the capitalist class as a whole cannot defraud itself" is valid.
> (Unfortunately I lost track of the post number from which this comes. It
> was toward the end of February and I think the number was around 1200).
> Again, the validity of Marx's argument in Chapter 5 that the capitalist
> class as a whole cannot defraud itself, like the validity of the argument
> in Chapter 6 of the necessity of labor-power, depends on the prior
> specification that the subject of Marx's theory is capitalism. Gil's and
> Mike's critiques seem to disallow this prior restriction and then to
> accuse Marx of making a "logical leap". This is a "dirty trick". On the
> basis of Marx's own logical method, there is no logical leap, but a
> simple logical deduction from the labor theory of value.

From what I've said, it should be clear that I agree with Chai-on, when he
states (1538):
> Even if the subject of capital is "capitalism", it is still
>necessary to unfold the "capital" concept from the simplest "commodity"
>showing the logical necessity for such unfolding, which is not historical
>but logical genesis of capital.

On the other hand, I'm not certain about the following and hope that
Chai-on will develop his argument:

> Even the emergence of the proletariat is
>also to be expounded logically, from the working of the law of value in
> simple commodity production, rather than from the primitive accumulation
> (bloody violences, etc).
>Otherwise, capitalism cannot be seen as a historical stage in the human
> prehosor, in the prehistory of human-being.

There's lots more that I need to respond to yet and hope to get to more
tomorrow night.
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