[OPE-L:1732] Accumulation of capital in Ch. 24, V1

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 15:58:20 -0700

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I wrote a version of what follows yesterday, but the server at Pratt
crashed as I was completing the post and I lost the file. I decided to
re-write the post especially for Chai-on's benefit so that he is not
"perplexed" the next time he checks his e-mail.

It is my sense that in a slow iterative way most of the central issues
are coming to the surface. In an effort to continue that process, I
will attempt to move beyond Paul Z's question and address other issues.

Paul Z wrote in [OPE-L:1650], regarding Ben Fine's entry in: Tom
Bottomore ed. _A Dictionary of Marxist Thought_ (1st edition, Cambridge,
US, Harvard University Press, 1983 pp. 3-4):

> And he also makes a mistake when he states that "While the object of
> accumulation of capital is productivity increase...". This is exactly a
> neoclassical conception of "accumulation of [its use of the word] capital."

(1) I believe the above is a rather harsh judgment. After all, Marx did
write in the course of explaining accumulation in Ch. 24: "Another important
factor in the accumulation of capital is the degree of productivity of
social labor" (Vol. 1, Kerr ed., p. 662). [See below].

Nor do I believe that the process of accumulation can be reduced to the
expansion of capital as a social relationship since the accumulation
process has both a qualitative and a quantitative side [More later].

(2) In Ch. 24, I believe that Marx is *not* attempting to *define*
accumulation (since he does that in the first paragraph of the chapter).
Rather, he is attempting to explain *initially*, subject to certain
assumptions described below and the level of analysis in Vol. 1, the
*process* of accumulation. More specifically, he explains the conditions
which make an *increase* in the accumulation of capital *possible*.

In discussing this process, there are a number of important
considerations which also highlight and illustrate his *method of

(3) At the outset of Ch. 24, Marx notes that "from the standpoint of the
individual capitalist", "we can neither see nor smell in this sum of
money a trace of surplus-value" (Ibid, p. 634). What, I believe, he is
doing in part of this chapter is to distinguish the *appearance* of the
accumulation process from the standpoint of capitalists and classical
political economy from the underlying *essence* of the accumulation process.
For instance, "From a concrete point of view, the accumulation process
resolves itself into the reproduction of capital on a progressively
increasing scale" (Ibid, p. 636). That much, however, is apparent even from
Malthus's definition of accumulation of capital cited in a footnote at the
beginning of the chapter (Ibid, p. 634). What Marx is attempting to do,
IMHO (by way of critique) is to transcend the appearance of accumulation
in classical p.e. to understand the relations that are obscured and
hidden beneath the surface.

(4) In order to accomplish the above, he very explicitly introduces logical
simplifying assumptions. For example, he writes:

"We take no account of export trade, by means of which a nation can
change the articles of luxury either into means of production or
means of subsistence, and *vice versa*. In order to examine the
object of our investigation in its integrity, free from all
disturbing subsidiary circumstances, we must treat the whole world
as one nation, and assume that capitalist production is everywhere
established and has possessed itself of every branch of production"
(Ibid, p. 636)

Note that historically this has *never* been the case, although, one
could argue that this assumption is mirrored by an actual and on-going
historical process.

He also explicitly utilizes the *ceteris paribus* assumption in various
sections of this chapter.

(5) He also explicitly states the logical and historical *preconditions*
for the accumulation of capital (see p. 641). [Gil take note].

(6) The form of presentation and the mode of investigation is filled with
what Paul Z. might call "Hegelianisms" (e.g. see p. 639).

(7) He explicitly discusses, in passing, land and nature (Paul B take
note). For example:

"As on the first day of production, the original produce-formers,
now turned into the creators of the material elements of capital --
man and Nature -- still work together" (Ibid, p. 661);

"General result: by incorporating with itself the two primary
creators of wealth, labour-power and the land, capital acquires a
power of expansion that permits it to augment the elements of its
accumulation beyond the limits apparently fixed by its own
magnitude, or by the value and the mass of the means of
production, already produced, in which it has its being" (Ibid, p.

[DIGRESSION: Although it is not explicitly dealt with in this chapter given
the assumptions described above, it would be interesting to examine the role
of bringing into productive use land which had hitherto not been
utilized to examine the process of the accumulation of capital in
specific social formations historically. It would seem to be of relevance
to early US economic history and more recent (20th Century) developments
in other social formations such as Russia and Mongolia. It, also, might
be of relevance for some contemporary topics such as the utilization of
land and nature in Antarctica for commercial purposes].

(8) What makes increased accumulation of capital possible? Initially,
Marx examines the division of surplus value between capital and revenue.
He writes: "To accumulate it is necessary to convert a portion of the
surplus product into capital" (ibid, p. 636). In Section 3, though, Marx
suggests that capitalists are "capital personified" and that they must
convert surplus value into capital through accumulation ("Therefore,
save, save, i.e., reconvert the greatest possible portion of
surplus-value, or surplus product into capital. Accumulation for
accumulation's sake, production for production's sake: by this formula
classical economy expressed the historical mission of the bourgeoisie,
and did not for a single instant deceive itself over the birth-throes of
wealth", p. 652). [Alan take note].

[DIGRESSION: This assumption that capitalists are mere carriers of
capital relations, "character masks", is, of course, a simplification.
While it is appropriate for the level of analysis in V1, when is the
subject of *capitalist subjectivity* dealt with more concretely? The
question (Mike L and Massimo take note) of working class subjectivity is
often discussed. What about the development of capitalist subjectivity?
Is this issue dealt with satisfactorily in V3 or is it a subject for the
unwritten book on "competition" that Marx still planned to write at the
time that he wrote the drafts for what later became V3?].

(9) Therefore, given the division of surplus value between capital and
revenue, what determines the rate of accumulation? The answer, it
appears, is the magnitude of surplus value. This is discussed in Section
4 which begins:

"Circumstances that, independently of the division of surplus-value
into capital and revenue, determine the amount of accumulation.
Degree of exploitation of labour-power. Productivity of labour.
Growing difference in amount between capital employed and capital
consumed. Magnitude of capital advanced" (p. 656).

More specifically:

(i) "In the chapters of the production of surplus-value, it was
constantly presupposed that wages are at least equal to the value of
labour-power. Forcible reduction of wages below this value plays,
however, in practice too important a part, for us not to pause upon it
for a moment. It, in fact, transforms, within certain limits, the
laborers' necessary consumption fund into a fund for the
accumulation of capital" (p. 657).

[DIGRESSION: does the above have relevance for conjunctural
increases in accumulation within specific social formations, e.g.
the US under Reagan and the UK under Thatcher? It would seem that
it would be particularly relevant as well for fascist regimes such
as Nazi Germany. Notice how this question is presented from the
perspective of capital. What about workers' self-activity?
Presumably this would help to establish, in practice, the social
limits to this process].

(ii) an increase in the production of absolute s -- dealt with in earlier
chapters but not explicitly in Ch. 24. Yet, in practice, this as well
has relevance for particular social formations.

(iii) an increase in relative surplus value either by increasing the
intensity of labor (and) or increasing technical change. In either
case, the productivity of labor and the production of s increases
(shades of the PEN-L debate on productivity).

Although the production of relative s through technical change is
more important *from the standpoint of capital* in terms of
increasing s, increasing intensity of labor as well is an important
variable (although, Marx *mentions* in an earlier chapter the
social and natural limitations to that process).

Note that I am not attempting here to carry the discussion of
accumulation forward to Ch. 25, although, we could do that next. In the
meantime, the above might serve as a point of departure for additional

In OPE-L Solidarity,