[OPE-L:2128] Re: Depreciation as such

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Thu, 9 May 1996 18:05:09 -0700

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Alan wrote in [OPE-L:2117]:

> We have to leave the past intact and show where the discrepancy
> manifests itself in the present.
> Marx makes this accounting adjustment under the heading of 'release
> and tie-up of capital' in chapter 6 of Volume III and briefly
> in TSV III in the discussion on Ramsay. Here he shows that if the
> capitalists choose, having replaced their money outlays, to continue
> production on the same scale, they will find their accumulation fund
> larger than profits if prices have fallen, and smaller than profits
> if prices have risen.

We can't change the past, it is true. But, what kind of "past" are we
talking about here? At best, it is a stylized version of the past. This
can be seen from the beginning of the opening paragraph of Ch. 6, Section 2:

"The phenomena under investigation in this chapter assume for their
full development the credit system and competition on the world market,
the latter being the very basis and living atmosphere of the capitalist
mode of production. These concrete forms of capitalist production,
however, can be comprehensively depicted only after the general
nature of capital is understood;, it is therefore outside of the
scope of this work to present them -- they belong to a possible
continuation. Yet the phenomena listed in the title to this section
can still be discussed here in broad terms. They are both
inter-related and related to the rate and mass of profit?" (Penguin
ed., p. 205).

I think it's clear from the above that Marx is concerned here with more
than just an "accounting adjustment." Alan, how does the "full
development [of] the credit system and competition on the world market"
affect this process? Marx doesn't give an answer to that question -- or
does he?

> Moreover. Whatever the appearances generated by the credit system (and
> Paul's proposal to abstract from banks and credit makes this much easier)
> they cannot actually spend their profits until they have actually made
> them. And by this point these profits are already objective data,
> already in the past, and cannot be altered.

We can abstract from the credit system as a simplifying assumption, but
we are then required to investigate later how the "appearances" of the
credit system affect the circuit of capitalist production.

> So I'm happy to abstract from credit in discussing depreciation. I think
> it is an excellent simplification, one of the best proposed yet. If we
> could all agree to it we could take the discussion a long way.

We can abstract from credit in discussing depreciation *if* we then
*investigate* the role of credit in depreciation (and the release and
tie-up of fixed capital). Now that would take the discussion a long way.

> (1) what the capitalists attempt or claim, and what happens, are two
> different things. We have to be careful not to include their
> accounting mistakes in our calculations.

True, but what they claim happens has an affect on what does happen *next*.

> We made these damn things, how come we can't
> control them? The question is, to what extent does free human
> subjectivity become an alien object independent of human will?
> Do our own creations confront us only as monsters?

Good questions. What are your answers?

> Only when class struggle challenges the
> nature - not just the size - of capital, does human subjectivity
> assert itself.

Huh? Why do you assert that "only when class struggle challenges the
nature - not just the size - of capital, does human subjectivity assert

Firstly, what *is* _human_ subjectivity?

Secondly, aren't workers' struggles for improved working conditions,
wages, etc. an expression of subjectivity even though they do not
necessarily challenge the nature of capital?

Thirdly, what is the developmental process of this subjectivity, i.e.
what is the process - concretely - that leads class struggle in the
direction of challenging the nature of capital?

[Now those are *really* "big" questions].

> (7)The capitalists are under no compulsion at all to take the
> proceeds thus secured and re-invest them.

Then, why is the accumulation of capital anything more than an abstract

In OPE-L Solidarity,