[OPE-L:2471] Re: assumptions, assumptions, assumptions

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Tue, 4 Jun 1996 17:50:15 -0700

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Andrew in [OPE-L:2645] writes:

> I understand "abstraction" (pretty well), but the notion
> of an ordering of levels seems to have a rather limited validity. It
> works as a way of explaining Hegel's _Logic_, perhaps, which is
> structured on the self-development of the Idea from its simplest beginning.
> But I don't see how it works for, e.g., _Capital_. That book is not
> structured in the same way, IMO.

_Capital_ is *presented* in a different way than Hegel's works are
presented. Yet, a systematic dialectical *investigation* (the analytical
content rather than the physical format) is compatible with alternative
modes of presentation (are you listening Mike W. or Tony? Is that
correct?). I think it would be well to remember that the presentation was
affected by a number of non-analytic variables, not the least of
which was Marx's desire that _Capital_ be a popular book which would have
a political impact.

Rather, Vol. I deals with the process of
> production of capital, Vol. II with the circulation of capital; Vo. III
> with the forms of appearance of the process as a whole. Vol. IV (TSV)
> with the history of the theory of surplus-value. I don't think the idea
> that these are "ordered" in terms of increasing concreteness holds up.
> E.g., what's not concrete about the analysis of the production process?

What level of concreteness are we talking about? The sub-title of V3 is
"The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole." I do not in any way
think that it is accidental that *after* examining the process of
capitalist production and circulation separately, he then examines the
"Process as a whole." I believe this format of presentation is a
reflection of Marx's Hegelian and anti-Hegelian method (or was the fact
that there were *3* volumes and the sub-title of V3, in comparison to the
first 2 volumes, accidental?). Also, isn't the *content* of V3, e.g.
competition, more concrete than the analysis of V1-- even though both
dealt in part with capitalist production? [that is one part of an answer
to your last question above -- many capitals is more concrete than
capital in general]. As an aside, let me note re_TSV_, that it was
never Marx's selection for a title or subject (called by Marx either
"Critical History of Political Economy" or in an 1866 letter to Kugelmann
"On the History of Political Economy").

> I realize a lot has been written on this, and that an increasing number
> of people want to link the structure of _Capital_ to that of Hegel's
> _Logic_. I've read a lot of this, and even written a wee bit about it,
> and I'm not convinced. Not infrequently, appeal is made to the unpublished
> intro to the _Grundrisse_, on the movement from abstract to concrete.
> But there are two huge problems with that interpretation. (1) Marx is
> there referring to the method of inquiry, not of presentation;

As explained above, the mode of presentation is secondary to the method
of inquiry.

> (2) In
> the Preface to the CCPE, Marx says explicitly that he is omitting the
> Intro., and that the reader who wishes to follow him at all must
> pass from the *special* to the *general*. I.e., the reverse process.

My copy says that the reader will "have to decide to advance from the
particular to the general" (International edition, p. 19). What is the
particular? Is it not the commodity? [NB: The title of Part One of CCPE is
"Capital in General". In the first sentence that follows he introduces the

[BTW, Andrew, since you brought up the topic of the Preface to the
CCPE could you please give us your interpretation of the relevance of the
first paragraph of the Preface?].

> But it still seems
> absolutely clear to me that MArx *is* assuming zero wages.

I think we should hear from others on the list since we quite obviously
have different interpretations of the same passages.

> Marx makes the wages = 0 assumption in order to clarify that there is
> a limit to exploitation *other* than wages.

Marx and you could have made the same point *more* clearly by assuming
that v was *constant* rather than the special and absurd case of v=0.

In a previous post, Andrew talked about warning bells going off in his
head. I will admit that warning bells -- fire alarms -- went off in my
head when I saw the workers "living on air" v=0 assumption. Why? When we
abstract from wage labor, we abstract from capitalism itself.

In OPE-L Solidarity,