[OPE-L:1682] Re: Definitions and subject matter

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Thu, 4 Apr 1996 01:10:40 -0800

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>(1) Simple commodity production
>Some seem to believe that the category of simple commodity production
>describes an actual stage in pre-capitalist development that is analyzed
>with Marx's "logical-historical" method. I believe instead that it is a
>logical construction in Marx's argument and is not intended to be a
>description of an actual mode of production prior to the advent of
>capitalism or a kind of pre-capitalism. The first interpretation, I
>believe, goes back to Engels and was popularized by Kautsky and others.


One does not have to posit a stage. What we are talking about
are modes of production not social formations. It is social
formations that go through sequential development not modes of
production. During their sequential development the mix of modes
of production may vary. Petty commodity production is a definite
set of production relations that can exist in combination with other
modes of production. At times it may in fact be dominant in the
sense of employing the greater portion of societies labour.
But this does not make it, or capitalist production for that
matter 'stages'.

>(2) national vs. international
>Many Marxists have _de facto_ or explicitly argued that the categories in
>_Capital_ can be used to analyze national economic developments, i.e.
>they view the subject matter of _Capital_ as an *individual* economy
>rather than capital as a world system without distinction regarding
>individual capitalist nations. It is true that Marx *alludes* to foreign
>trade and differences in national economies in different parts of
>_Capital_. I don't believe, though, that he intended to systematically
>develop our understanding of that subject within the work.

Question is whether he would have dealt with it in a future volume.
Whatever the answer we neet to examine it ourselves.

>(3) historical sections
>There are clearly many historical sections of _Capital_. What is their
>significance analytically? My belief is that those sections are not
>*required* analytically and that the form of presentation could have been
>altered to not include these "digressions." So why were they included?
>Two likely answers would be the following: a) Marx wanted to show that
>his theory mirrored actual historical developments, i.e. that his analysis
>was rooted in social reality and was not an idealistic construction;

If we accept this latter argument, then your previous assertion falls.
He could not both produce a work of historical materialism and eliminate
the historical chapters. He would deviate into the sort of idealist
apriorism that is characteristic of economic theory. Why is there no
detailed historical work in Roemer or Steadman for example?
Paul Cockshott