[OPE-L:1476] Re: Marx's ordering

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 14 Oct 1999 14:10:49 -0400 (EDT)

Re Jurriaan's [OPE-L:1475]:
> I kind of see what you mean here, but I have difficulty with your schema
> for abstraction. In the first place I don't think one can derive state
> forms from the "logic of capital" as the state derivationists tried to do.

The state-form is already implied in the categories *commodity and money*.
The very fact that the category of money is developed in abstraction of
the state-form in Volume 1 tells us that for its further development the
state-form must be investigated at a lower level of abstraction.

> Secondly, I think the state has always been necessary for the (expanded)
> reproduction of capitalism from its very origins.

Absolutely. Yet, we're talking about a process of *abstraction* here. The
question here is not the historical necessity of the state to capitalist
development. Rather, it is the logical order in which the state-form is
incorporated into the theory.

> Real capitalism is
> unthinkable without the role of the state.

Absolutely. This tells us that unless we want our analysis of capitalist
to be descriptive of real capitalism, rather than only some ideal of
capitalism (i.e. an "empty abstraction" like "free market capitalism")
then an analysis of the state-form must be integrated into our theory.

> Real capitalism didn't get off
> the ground without imperialism.

I guess that depends on how you are defining "imperialism" here. As a
historical process, capitalism required the "original" (or "primitive")
accumulation of capital. This, however, is not normally understood as
"imperialism" by Marxists who have been influenced by Lenin's
understanding of that subject. But, I'm open to hearing why you think
that imperialism -- as however *you* define it -- was systematically
required for capitalism to become airborne.

(btw, we haven't really discussed imperialism, although Paul C wanted us
to do so in our very early period of formation. Perhaps now might be a
decent time to discuss the relevance [or irrelevance] of the Leninist
theory of imperialism).

> Lastly,
> and here I am maybe heretical, I believe that in fact the specific overall
> level of profitability captured by the rate of return is not so important
> for the reproduction of capitalist relations as such in the long run, as
> long as (1) the rate stays positive, (2) the working classes shut up and
> work, (3) sufficient social mechanisms exist for integrating people
> (however barbarically) into society.

I don't see what is "heretical" in the above. All you seem to be saying is
that the survival of capitalism depends more on the whether the
working-class will come to understand and act on their historical role as
"gravediggers" than the rate of profit. btw, I would add that it is
certainly possible to have a revolution _even when_ the rate of profit is

> But I detect a certain ambiguity in what you say. If Marx
> did not have the last word, why then should we necessarily try to finish
> his book for him and be bound by his narrative ?

We're not bound by his "narrative". The point is not to finish "his" work
but rather for us to finish a large part of our work (and legacy).

I.e. the question is not primarily about the "missing books". The question
primarily concerns, imo, whether we have a theory which does all that it
is "supposed to" do.

(E.g. you have referred, in passing, to the "laws of motion" of capital
[NB: Marx used the singular -- "law" -- rather than the plural]. Well ...
what are these "laws"? Do we know? If we can't say what these "laws" are,
then shouldn't we stop using the expression?).

> Why couldn't we write our
> own book, using our own approach, while learning from Marx's ideas ?

We can and we should.

> I
> think it is an admirable project to want to finish Marx's book, but also a
> bit odd, because now we are at the end of the 20th century and Marx has
> been dead more than a hundred years, during which time a lot of changes
> have occurred in the very functioning of the capitalist mode of production.
> So it seems to be that the "integrated theory" you desire has to go beyond
> Marx from the very start.


In solidarity, Jerry

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