[OPE-L:1701] Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?

Subject: [OPE-L:1701] Re: value-form theories and the Uno-school?
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Fri Nov 19 1999 - 10:19:52 EST

Re Makoto's [OPE-L:1699]:

Thank you for your response. I, also, will respond briefly:
> Though they should not be confused, they should correlatedly be considered.
> Although the subject matter of Capital is capitalist economy, (1) the first
> two parts are not directly of the analyses of capitalist economy,

This is where we disagree. I certainly acknowledge that the interpretation
which argues that the first two parts of _Capital_ concerns petty
commodity production, and consequently concerns the development of
categories which are not exclusive to the comprehension of capitalism, has
been - from the perspective of the history of thought - the dominant
interpretation of Marxists up until relatively recently. I think it traces
as far back as Engels and Kautsky and was adopted in general by
German-Austrian social-democratic and Bolshevik interpretations alike.

Yet, the pendulum now seems to have swung the other way -- at least among
Marxists in Europe and North America. And, since this is such a
fundamental divide among Marxists today re interpretations of _Capital_, I
think it well worth discussing more in order to flush out the differences
in perspective on this topic. Consequently, I invite others on the list to
comment on this issue.

> (2)
> the whole theoretical system clarifies in every steps the historically
> specific characters of commodity economy and capitalism so as to suggest the
> possibilty for socialist alternative for the future, not just distinction
> with past social systems.

I agree that a desire to read _Capital_ in part from the perspective of
developing a vision of socialism is related to the question of how many
interpret the beginning parts of Volume 1.

And it certainly could be argued that just as capitalism has the
birthmarks of feudalism and other pre-capitalist modes of production
stamped on it, so too it contains within itself both the embryo and the
midwife of socialism. Yet - again - we have to consider the first two
parts on their own terms rather than read into them contingent
possibilities about the characteristics of socialism. Moreover - let us
not forget - socialism is not only defined as negativity, i.e. the absence
of capitalist relations. Thus, an understanding of what socialism is not
only tells us very incompletely and indirectly what is is.
> Then, how do you define the dual characters of labour in a socialist
> economy, if you follow Marx's suggestion in the section of fetishism or the
> last part of Capital to imagine an associational society to use
> labour-time consciously?

I think that the duality of the labour process, and especially the
category of abstract labour, are specific to capitalism and is not
relevant to non-alienated labour.

> There has been a long debate on this issue as you know which would
> be too much to repeat in this type of communication. P

Yes, I agree that the debate over whether the category of abstract
labour is trans-historical or specific to the comprehension of
capitalism has long been the subject of debate and - even today -
is a major dividing line in terms of different Marxist

> If you compare Grundrisse and Capital, Marx's original concept of capital in
> general was clearly presented in the former. Capital in general assumed to
> present the whole capital in relation to labour, without treating,
> competition, credit and joint-stock form of capital in the stage of
> Grundrisse. Obviously though the term followed Hegelian triangle,
> generality, specificity and individuality, the contents must be more in
> line with the nature of capital. Capital in general also sometimes seemed to
> assume a theoretical system of ideal average to follow and critisize the
> classical political economy, especially Ricardo's. In contrast, the third
> volume of Capital contains the basic theories of compitition, credit,
> business cycles as well as landed property under the title of the Process of
> capitalist production as a whole. The level of abstraction must therefore
> the principles of capital, or a capitalist economy as a whole, not confined
> to capital in general, though Marx occasionally states as if he still works
> within the framework of capital in general. The more important
> methodological distinction must be between the level of principles like in
> Capital, and more concrete levels of stages theory of capitalist development
> and empirical analyses of contemporary capitalism.

My understanding of the title of Volume 3 ("The Process of Capitalist
Production as a Whole") is that it represents a level of abstraction where
there is a unity between the processes of capitalist production and
circulation (the subject matters of Volumes 1 and 2 respectively). Thus,
we can not judge whether the level of abstraction has transcended "capital
in general" by reference to this point alone. As for landed property, I
don't think that this subject was included in Volume 3 - rather the
subject of rent (and related issues concerning the distribution of surplus
value) was included. Similarly, although there is certainly reference to
competition in Volume 3, we can not conclude that this represents a
systematic development of the categories associated with the comprehension
of "many capitals". As for business cycles, this remains *very*
underdeveloped in Volume 3 and a good case could be made that this subject
can only be fully developed at the level of analysis of "world market and
crises". Moreover, if the subject matter of Volume 3 was the basic theory
of capitalism (which I take it to be your interpretation), what about the
analysis of the state? After all, the analysis of the state-form is
integrally and non-contingently tied to the capital-form and can't be
relegated to only empirical/historical analysis (as in "stages theory"),

What do other listmembers have to say about these issues?

In solidarity, Jerry

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