[OPE-L:2550] Re: a priorism

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Thu, 20 Jun 1996 09:44:59 -0700 (PDT)

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This is a reply to Paul C's ope-l 2533.

We are discussing whether the "USSR" was a capitalist society. Paul's
a prioristic method of discussing this is clear from the following:

"capitalism ... is characterised by ... private appropriation."

"We have to explain the behaviour of the whole system as a result of the
interaction of a mass of unco-ordinated private firms."

These statements either assume exactly what they need to prove, or are
empty tautology ("Capitalism is private because that's how I define it.")

Paul burdens me with inverting the real causality. No, I was not giving a
*causal* explanation. Paul may think that only causal explanations are
valid. I do not. "Production for production's sake" IMO renders the
overall tendency of capitalist society more intelligible than it would be
without this category, and contributes to an explanation, in this sense, of
capitalism's law of motion.

Of course the "driving motive of capitalist society" exists only in the
mind. The same is true of "capitalist society," "capitalist," "firm,"
etc. SHOW me "a firm," Paul. You can't. It is a mental category, and
you understand particular firms as forms of appearance of that universal.
This does not imply anything specifically Platonic.

It is self-evident to me that firms need to accumulate, or go under. Paul
asks for evidence. The best evidence is the concentration and centralization
of capital. It is indirect evidence, but it is very, very strong. Along
with Marx, I understand state-capitalism to be part of this concentration and
centralization. In Ch. 25 of _Capital_ he wrote that the limit to centrali-
zation in a given capitalist society wouldn't be reasched until all capital
was in the hands of one single capitalist or one single capitalist company.

Paul's empirical test is too crude for me. First, I don't know what he means
by "net accumulation." How, for instance, are you counting business taxes?
Wages for unproductive labor? Second, what do you mean by "capitalist
consumption"? Is it the same as "unproductive consumption"? But third, and
most important, the test is invalid because, as I pointed out, the capitalist
drive to accumulation is self-contradictory, self-limiting, which will
likely bias accumulation rates downward.

Marx's reproduction schema are not ONLY a demonstration that expanded
reproduction is possible. They have another, in my view more important,
theoretical significance. They show the DIRECTION that expanded reproduction
under capitalism must take, if it occurs. And that direction is production
increasingly for the sake of production. The "USSR" differed in no way
from this.

Andrew Kliman