From: Pen-L Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sun Mar 04 2007 - 23:30:41 EST
Quoting Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM>: > 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. Hi Howard, I have a 1995 paper in Capital and Class (#55) which is a critique of Heinrich’s 1989 paper, which you probably know about (“Capital in General and Marx’s Logical Method: A Response to Heinrich’s Critique”). Attached is a more recent paper (“Capital in general and competition: the quantitative dimension”) which has a section on Heinrich’s interpretation. Very briefly, I argue that the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition correspond roughly to the distinction between the production of surplus-value and the distribution of surplus-value. The main question at the level of abstraction of capital in general is the production of surplus-value, or the determination of the total surplus-value produced in the economy as a whole. The main question at the level of abstraction of competition is the distribution of surplus-value, or the division of the total surplus-value into individual parts (average profit, commercial profit, interest, and rent). The theory of the distribution of surplus-value at the level of abstraction of competition is based on the premise that the total surplus-value is taken as given, as already determined by the prior theory of the production of surplus-value, at the level of abstraction of capital in general. Thus there is a clear logical progression in Marx’s theory from the determination of the total surplus-value at the level of abstraction of capital in general to the determination of the individual parts at the level of abstraction of competition. To take the most important example, in the theory of the general rate of profit and average profit and prices of production, the total surplus-value is taken as given, as already determined. Heinrich told me last summer that he agrees with my interpretation of Marx’s theory of the production and distribution of surplus-value, including the prior determination of the total surplus-value (although, as mentioned in my last message, he thinks that this method is ultimately a failure; but that is a separate issue). However, he has a different interpretation of capital in general and competition. In other words, according to Heinrich’s interpretation, there is no logical connection in Marx’s theory between the production and distribution of surplus-value and the levels of abstraction of capital in general and competition. I think there is lots of textual evidence to the contrary (some of which is presented in the above-mentioned papers). But I am content to continue to disagree about capital in general and competition. To me, the most important point is the logical structure of Marx’s theory of the production and distribution of surplus-value, not the concepts of capital in general and competition. > > 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. But the main point of Part 5 is the division of the total surplus-value into enterprise profit and interest. Interest is one component part of the total surplus-value, along with industrial profit, commercial profit, and rent, all of which are analyzed in Volume 3. It is true that in Part 5 money capital is “treated as the common capital of the [capitalist] class”, but (in my view) this does not mean that Part 5 is at the level of abstraction of capital in general. The level of abstraction of capital in general is mainly about the determination of the total surplus-value, and that theory has already been presented in Volume 2 (and expanded to include turnover times in Volume 2). > 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. It is two different levels of abstraction because there is SEQUENTIAL DETERMINATION, and the results of the first level (the total surplus-value) are carried over and taken as given in the second level (the determination of the individual parts of the total surplus-value). If instead there were simultaneous determination of all the variables together, then it might be considered one level of abstraction. > 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. You seem to be ignoring (or at least deemphasizing) the quantitative dimension of Marx’s theory. I think this is the most important dimension. Comradely, Fred ---------------------------------------------------------------- This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.
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