[OPE-L:2567] Re: a priorism - definition of capitalism

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Tue, 25 Jun 1996 11:59:10 -0700 (PDT)

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A reply to Paul C's ope-l 2562.

I wrote that Paul takes for granted the truth of the category of
capitalism he employs. I do not think he has responded to this. Instead,
he says differences in terminology are unimportant unless the partioning
of sets different terminologies lead to is a different one. But this is
exactly the case here. By defining (?) capitalism as characterized by
"private appropriation," Paul's "terminology" a priori excludes
"actually existing socialist" societies from the subset capitalist, whereas
my "terminology" doesn't. So I don't understand Paul's point.

Paul states that "there is no meaning to the 'internal coherence of a
category.'" (I think his category of capitalism is not internally
coherent.) Well, as Paul says, determino est negato, so the category
"whole" is defined by its negation, the category "part." But understood
thus, whole excludes part, so whole is not whole, but *part* of a whole
that includes mutually opposed categories, whole and part. So the
distinction between whole and part breaks down, whole turns into its
opposite, and the category, understood thus, is not internally coherent.
So I reassert that the "*adequacy* of the different concepts of
capitalism," and of categories generally, is an issue. The categories'
truth cannot be taken for granted.

Forget "law of value" for the moment. The "USSR" was subject to
working-class revolt and resistance, and to crises of various sorts.
I maintain that the reality thus didn't conform to Plan, and hence
the allocation of labor didn't occur "according to a politically
determined state plan."

Paul says that "a firm [is ...] real, it is not just an idea in my head."
Sure. So is production for production's sake, capitalism, etc. But
as the example of "a firm" shows--it is impossible to SHOW anyone a
firm--its reality is not purely material. This is true of any and
every concrete thing. The "building" that houses the "firm" is
a universal as well. You can't show anyone a building, only "bricks,"
etc. But "bricks" is also a universal that you can't show, only the
"sand" and the "clay," but these are also universals, etc., etc. In the
end you end up saying "This is matter." Well "this" is also a universal,
and "matter" divorced from any properties is a pure abstraction.

I don't think that saying accumulate, accumulate is Moses and the
prophets is a "charitable interpretation of capitalism," especially when
this is understood not to imply that the drive to accumulate is always
realized. I agree that centralization per se, as against concentration,
is not very good evidence of a drive to accumulate. But the fact that
we observe concentration, not the opposite, and not the absence of a
tendency, convinces me that there is a drive to accumulate. That there
is at the same time a tendency to stagnation, again, does not negate this.
I've explained this already, and it isn't clear why Paul disagrees with
my explanation.

Again, the motives of capitalISTS is not at issue. So whether takeover
bids in the water and electricity industries in Britain are motivated
by a desire to accumulate or not is not at issue.

Paul's way of measuring the share of surplus-value accumulated seems
basically reasonable, but I still have a question about taxes. A lot
of taxes go to finance state capital projects, and are thus capital
accumulation, so this matters. It might be interesting also to look
at the cyclical sensitivity of this share. If it is pro-cyclical, then
that would tend to suggest that low accumulation shares are due to the
self-limiting character of accumulation. On the other hand, there's always
another interpretation of the evidence.

Paul's example of a falling organic composition, and greater employment
with a smaller value of the capital stock, doesn't seem to me to contradict
the condition that Iv + Is > IIc is needed for expanded reproduction. First
of all, as I stated, the demonstration assumes constant values. Second of
all, to refute the condition, one needs to show that expanded physical
reproduction can take place where all the means of production except those
which simply replace the ones used up in Dept. I, go to Dept. II. Paul
may have a counterexample (which wouldn't refute the point, exactly, because
Marx's demonstration also assumes a static technology), but I don't see it

Paul raises a difficult issue concerning whether this condition, which he
agrees implies that Dept. I engages in production for the sake of production,
is specifically capitalist. The fact of the matter is that other
societies didn't accumulate, in the main. Why? The purpose of production
was consumption or some other limited needs (of whatever sort). I also
can't imagine a socialism in which the growth of means of production
continually would outstrip the growth of means of consumption, due to the
expansion of needs (about which Mike L. has written incisively). It
should also be kept in mind that under socialism, labor-time devoted to
an expansion of means of production would not be surplus-labor-time. So
the schema seem inappropriate to socialism, because the division of
things into means of production and means of consumption wouldn't hold in
the same way. But I agree there needs to be a lot more thinking devoted
to this matter.

Andrew Kliman