Re: [OPE-L] marx on invisible hand

From: Dogan Goecmen (Dogangoecmen@AOL.COM)
Date: Sun Dec 03 2006 - 11:00:34 EST

Hi Jerry,
I got your question(s) and I find your project very interesting (pitty that  
Paul Z. hesitated to join). But as you noted in your earlier email there is no 
 textual evidences in the chapters concerned. Of course we can work out not 
only  what is explicily stated but also implicitly suggested between the lines 
and  this is from methodological point of view absolutely legitimate. But then 
I  remembered that Marx refers in many passages in the "Grundrisse" again and 
again  to the concept of the invisible hand in different contexts critically. 
The idea  was to look at these passages and examine whether we can get a more 
solid  foundation before returning to your more specific question. So give me 
 please some time.
Another passage in the "Grundrisse", which might be read as another  implicit 
critical reference to the notion of the invisible hand:
"In ihrer Kombination erscheint diese Arbeit [Arbeit als  Totalität 
kombiniert durch das Kapital] ebensosehr einem fremden Willen und  einer fremden 
Intelligenz dienend, und von ihr geleitet - ihre  seelenhafte Einheit außer sich 
habend, wie in ihrer  materiellen Einheit untergeordnet unter die Gegenständliche 
Einheit  der Maschinerie, des capital fixe, das als beseeltes  ungeheuer den 
wissenschaftlichen Gedanken objektiviert und  faktisch das Zusammenfassende 
ist,  keineswegs  als Instrument zum einzelnen Arbeiter sich verhält, vielmehr 
er als beseelte  einzelne Punktualität, lebendiges isoliertes Zubehör an ihm 
existiert." (Marx,  op cit.,  p. 374).
Warm regards
In einer eMail vom 03.12.2006 15:40:28 Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt  

> I came accross a passage in  the Grundrisse, that may be seen as a critique 
of the notion of the 'invisible  hand'. As A. O. Hirschman has shown this 
notion was broadly used by  almost all philosophers since the 16th century in 
Europe. I think that this  notion can even be traced back to Aristotle's 
conception of 'unmoved mover"  and followed up to Hegel. Christopher Hill argued that 
this notion played at  one point in history a progressive role and  not only 
in the interests of  ruling classes but also in the interests of subordinated  
classes.   I have only the Greman version of the Grundrisse. So  I tried to 
translate the passage into English. I hope it is up to your  standards! <
Thanks for the reference in the  _Grundrisse_ and the situation of an
invisible hand-type belief in  intellectual history.  I was thinking of 
something a bit more specific in  Marx so maybe it might help if I
explained more.
"The Law" (the law of the tendency  for the general rate of profit to 
LTGRPD), as presented in Volume 3  is, in part - as the author makes clear -
a critique of Ricardo.   Consider the famous line from Ch. XV,  "The *real 
barrier* of capitalist production is *capital  itself*".   What Marx wants to 
stress is that  "the Law" is a manifestation of an  "internal contradiction" 
of  capital.  This contrasts to the Ricardian  perspective where the decline
in profitability is a consequence  of  rising rents and wages and hence
--  *others*  -- landlords and wage-workers.
The LTGRPD is one of many notable attempts to show the contradictory  
and ironic character of capitalism.  Other examples include:   centralization 
is a consequence of competition (i.e. competition tends to  undermine
itself); the general rate of profit falls as a consequence of the primary  
thru which capital seeks to increase surplus value;  there is a  periodic 
tendency by which wage-labor is "freed" to join the industrial reserve  army,
etc.  These are all deductions rather than literary flourishes but I  think he
was very well aware of the potential impact of  highlighting these ironies on 
So now we return to the "invisible hand" doctrine in Smith.  In the  Smithian 
doctrine,   the competition among capitalists is the  mechanism through which
the wealth of the nation increases.  It is the vehicle through which  there is
economic growth and development.  Like Ricardian  doctrine,  entrepreneurs
have heroic status: they are the personifications of increased  wealth and 
well-being.  Quite a contrast to both the physiocratic  conception and Marx's 
Volume I  metaphor in _Capital_ of how capitalists are  vampiric!   The 
mission of  capitalists in Smithian doctrine is to usher in a new  period of 
prosperity and well-being. In Marx's   perspective,  capitalists seek to 
their _individual_ rates of profit  and this manifests itself in the  
tendency for the 
_general_ rate of profit to decline [NB: and it is the historical  mission of 
to become the  "gravediggers" of capital].   The pursuit of  self-interest -- 
capital simply acts in accord with its inner nature, as capital  personified 
-- leads 
not to an increase in the wealth of the nation, but rather to a  
process whereby capitalist expansion is marked by periods of declining  
profitability.    Can this not be  seen as an  implicit critique of the 
invisible hand 
In Volume 3, Ch. 15, the quote I cited earlier was from Section 2:  "Conflict 
between expansion of production and expansion of surplus  value". Note
how that paragraph continues:
"It is that capital and its self-expansion appear as the starting  
and the closing point, the motive and the purpose of production;  that
production is only production for *capital* and not vice versa, the
means of production are not mere means of constant expansion of the
living process of the *society* of producers.  The limits within  which
the preservation and self-expansion of the value of capital resting  on
the expropriation and pauperization of the great mass of producers 
can alone move -- these  limits come continually into conflict with  the
methods of production employed by capital for its purposes, which 
drive towards unlimited expansion of production, towards production 
as an end in itself, towards unconditional development of the  social
productivity of labour.  This means -- unconditional development of  
the productive forces of society -- comes continually into conflict 
with the limited purpose, the self-expansion of the existing  capital.
The capitalist mode of production is, for this reason, a historical 
means of developing the material forces of production and
creating an appropriate world-market and is, at the same time, a 
continual conflict between this its historical task and its own
corresponding relations of social production." (International ed., 
p. 250).    Can't this be seen as a critique of Smithian  doctrine?
Does he have to say "Smith" for us to make that connection?
I hope not. The critical reader should be able to read not  only
what is explicitly stated but also what is suggested and implied.
Sometimes -- as Mike L has noted -- it is the 'omissions' that speak  
louder than the inclusions.
In solidarity, Jerry


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