Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Fri Mar 02 2007 - 09:13:45 EST

Hi Fred,

This is extremely interesting.  You say here that Michael agrees "that
Volume 1 is about total social capital (the determination of total
surplus-value), and Volume 3 is about individual capitals (the division of
the total surplus-value into individual parts)" but that you disagree about
capital in general.

Could you tell me how you understand capital in general?  Please do give me
a brief explanation of this, or reference.  I'd also be interested in your
understanding of the disagreement on that point with Michael, although, as
you say, he can speak, and, in the article of course has.

His article argues that individual capital and total social capital are
reciprocally constituting, but that individual capital comes first and that
up to Chapter 25, accumulation, Marx's discussion in volume 1 abstracts from
one capital's interaction with other capitals.  The concept of total social
capital does seem to depend on such interaction, and certainly as he uses it
it does.  Do you both mean the same thing by the concept of total social
capital?  Your focus is on understanding the problem of total surplus value.
His seems to be on how capital as a mass comes to constitute itself as the
common capital of a class.  He says that in volume 3 individual capitals
constitute total social capital by establishing a general rate of profit.

Anyway, large questions seem raised.  It does seem to me that Marx refers to
what I understand as total social capital in Part V of Book III where money
capital is treated as the common capital of the class and distinct from
particular capitals.  Also Book I does not focus on developing the
interaction of one capital with another.

We speak of levels.  Both total social capital and individual capitals in
the way you use them seem to be on the same level -- surplus value is
produced and then divided.  Is this wrong?  But are Book I and Book III on
the same level?  Michael argues in his article that they're not.

I can look at a sample of water and then look globally at all the water
around and see that my sample is wet and all the rest is wet and nonetheless
completely miss water's molecular constitution.  I can make a like mistake
by treating an individual capital as representative of total social capital.
Taking an average, for example, doesn't give me any guarantee that I've
understood the nature of a thing.

Michael criticizes Marx because the concept of 'capital in general' has no
'direct empirical correlate'.  Presumably individual capital and total
social capital as he uses them do.  But that's the problem.  We'll define
gold as yellow and malleable, not as the element with atomic number 79, and
water as wet, not as H2O.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Pen-L Fred Moseley" <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 10:57 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] questions on the interpretation of labour values

Hi Howard,

I am not saying that both Volume 1 and Volume 3 are about the total
social capital.  I am saying that Volume 1 is about the total social
capital (the determination of the total surplus-value), and Volume 3 is
about individual capitals (the division of the total surplus-value into
individual parts).

I had extensive discussions with Michael about this point in Berlin
last June.  We disagree about the definition of capital in general, but
he agrees with the above formulation of Volume 1 and Volume 3.
Although he also accepts the usual critique that Marx "failed to
transform the inputs", so he thinks that Marx failed in his attempt to
determine the total surplus-value prior to its individual parts.  But
that is a separate point.  He at least agreed that this is what Marx
tried to do - determine the total surplus-value in Volume 1 and then
determined individual parts of surplus-value in Volume 3.  Michael can
of course speak for himself, but this is the way I understood our
discussions last summer.


Quoting Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM>:

> I don't think point 1 is correct, Fred.  That's one thing that Michael
> Heinrich has right in his article on capital in general.  He argues that
> total social capital depends on competition  -- e.g. equalization of
> rates.  So if analysis in Book III depends on competition and the analysis
> of Book I doesn't, then total social capital doesn't work for both.
> social capital is appropriate for the analysis of capital as money capital
> and real capital, a theme that runs through Part V of Book III.  But this
> analysis presuppposes the equalization of rates of profit by means of
> competition.  Perhaps the distinction gets obscured insofar as the circuit
> of money capital is taken as the framework for analysis.
> On the other hand, this is not to endorse Heinrich's critique of capital
> general.

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