Re: [OPE] CAPITAL AS POWER: free PDF download

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Mon Dec 20 2010 - 15:28:51 EST

A historical-materialist reply to Nitzan's idealist conception of the world in which 'power
relations are only in our heads'.

Relations are subsets of Cartesian products of the human agents. Can we say there is a 'minimal' class of such relation sets? Yes, it consists of relations necessary for the material reproduction of the human agents and the rearing of their offspring.

This is the premise of a materialist conception of history. The 'minimal' class is a basic condition that is logically prior to and affects every other relation set. From it grows class relations and other relations in which some agents are capable of controlling the action sets of other agents, i.e. 'power relations'.

The agents may or may not carry representations of these relations in their heads; the important factor, rather, is their sets of actions as determined by their positions in the structure of relations. The efficacy of 'power relations' does not rest on beliefs, but the actual constraints they impose on individual agents that form the collective reproduction of class divisions.

If one says the relations rest merely as mental representations one immediately falls into several problems: Why these ideas? What is their origin? Why are they reproduced? Why do they change? Lacking any base in the material reproduction of the agents, i.e. the 'minimal' class, one is only left answering these questions with the most vulgar form of idealism or sociobiology.

//Dave Z

On 2010-12-19 14:24, Paul Cockshott wrote:
> There seems to be a certain irony here. The assertion that capital is power has a respectable classical pedigree, Smith asserted that monetary wealth was power, specifically the power to command the labour of others. If they were to give a measurable correlate to power they would do well to follow Smith. But in doing so they would have to abandon their opposition to the labour theory of value, since in Smith's case the power is a power over labour and there is a direct correlation between amount of money and amount of labour commanded. This correlation, Bichler and Nitzan deny, thus depriving their theory of the realistic foundation that Adam Smith had.
> ________________________________________
> From: [] On Behalf Of Dave Zachariah []
> Sent: Saturday, December 18, 2010 11:43 PM
> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
> Subject: Re: [OPE] CAPITAL AS POWER: free PDF download
> On 2010-12-16 04:37, Allin Cottrell wrote:
>>> Bichler& Nitzan's claim that "labour values, just like utils,
>>> cannot be shown to exist" is hard to sustain.
>> I agree, but "hard to sustain" is putting it mildly!
> Leaving aside Nitzan& Bichler's poor criticism of Marxist political
> economy for a moment. I watched Nitzan's presentation of 'Capital as
> Power' which convinced me that their alternative framework has little to
> offer since it rests on the most extreme form of historical-idealism.
> 'Power' rests simply on the beliefs of the agents! Nitzan admits this
> when answering the first question during the Q&A, saying 'power
> relations are only in our heads'.
> Moreover, their criticism of the theoretical status of labour-value
> becomes incomprehensible when one has a look at their own supposedly
> measurable quantities 'normal rate of return', 'risk' and 'hype' (!).
> //Dave Z
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