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 Post subject: Beginners' questions about Marxism
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:58 pm 
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I'm planning on starting Capital within the next few months, but first I am reading Wage Labor and Capital and Value, Price, and Profit because I know next to nothing about economic dimension of Marxist thought. I thought I would ask a few questions here and see if I couldn't get some answers to them.

In the The Nature and Growth of Capital section of Wage Labor and Capital:

Quote:
Capital consists not only of means of subsistence, instruments of labour, and raw materials, not only as material products; it consists just as much of exchange values. All products of which it consists are commodities. Capital, consequently, is not only a sum of material products, it is a sum of commodities, of exchange values, of social magnitudes. Capital remains the same whether we put cotton in the place of wool, rice in the place of wheat, steamships in the place of railroads, provided only that the cotton, the rice, the steamships – the body of capital – have the same exchange value, the same price, as the wool, the wheat, the railroads, in which it was previously embodied. The bodily form of capital may transform itself continually, while capital does not suffer the least alteration.
Here, is he simply saying that the constituent elements of capital (i.e. raw materials, instruments of production, labor power) have themselves become commodities, or is he continuing what he was explaining in the previous paragraphs, about how raw materials, instruments of production, etc. only take upon the character of capital under specific social relations, specifically under those which introduce money (countering the dominant notion that these things were capital in the abstract, outside of a specific historical context)? Or is it both?

Quote:
Every sum of exchange values is an exchange value. Each particular exchange value is a sum of exchange values. For example: a house worth 1,000 pounds is an exchange value of 1,000 pounds: a piece of paper worth one penny is a sum of exchange values of 100 1/100ths of a penny. Products which are exchangeable for others are commodities. The definite proportion in which they are exchangeable forms their exchange value, or, expressed in money, their price. The quantity of these products can have no effect on their character as commodities, as representing an exchange value , as having a certain price. Whether a tree be large or small, it remains a tree. Whether we exchange iron in pennyweights or in hundredweights, for other products, does this alter its character: its being a commodity, or exchange value? According to the quantity, it is a commodity of greater or of lesser value, of higher or of lower price.
I take this to simply be a reaffirmation that commodities are exchangeable with each other at specific ratios.

Quote:
How then does a sum of commodities, of exchange values, become capital?

Thereby, that as an independent social power – i.e., as the power of a part of society – it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labour-power.

The existence of a class which possesses nothing but the ability to work is a necessary presupposition of capital.

It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital.

Capital does not consist in the fact that accumulated labour serves living labour as a means for new production. It consists in the fact that living labour serves accumulated labour as the means of preserving and multiplying its exchange value.
When he says "it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labor power," is the underlying thrust that the total value of labor power and the other constituent elements of capital is increased when new value is generated by labor power acting upon the instruments of production to produce commodities?

Also, when he says "It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital" by accumulated, materialized labor is he referring to dead labor, the labor crystallized in the means of production used by workers to produce new value, or is he referring to something else entirely? It would make sense because those who have nothing but their ability to work are completely subservient to those who own the machines and instruments of production.

Sorry if I'm way off the mark on these. Thanks in advance if you all can help me out with these questions.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginners' questions about Marxism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:49 am 
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swordfishtrombone wrote:
Quote:
Capital consists not only of means of subsistence, instruments of labour, and raw materials, not only as material products; it consists just as much of exchange values. All products of which it consists are commodities. Capital, consequently, is not only a sum of material products, it is a sum of commodities, of exchange values, of social magnitudes. Capital remains the same whether we put cotton in the place of wool, rice in the place of wheat, steamships in the place of railroads, provided only that the cotton, the rice, the steamships – the body of capital – have the same exchange value, the same price, as the wool, the wheat, the railroads, in which it was previously embodied. The bodily form of capital may transform itself continually, while capital does not suffer the least alteration.
Here, is he simply saying that the constituent elements of capital (i.e. raw materials, instruments of production, labor power) have themselves become commodities, or is he continuing what he was explaining in the previous paragraphs, about how raw materials, instruments of production, etc. only take upon the character of capital under specific social relations, specifically under those which introduce money (countering the dominant notion that these things were capital in the abstract, outside of a specific historical context)? Or is it both?


The latter

Quote:
Quote:
Every sum of exchange values is an exchange value. Each particular exchange value is a sum of exchange values. For example: a house worth 1,000 pounds is an exchange value of 1,000 pounds: a piece of paper worth one penny is a sum of exchange values of 100 1/100ths of a penny. Products which are exchangeable for others are commodities. The definite proportion in which they are exchangeable forms their exchange value, or, expressed in money, their price. The quantity of these products can have no effect on their character as commodities, as representing an exchange value , as having a certain price. Whether a tree be large or small, it remains a tree. Whether we exchange iron in pennyweights or in hundredweights, for other products, does this alter its character: its being a commodity, or exchange value? According to the quantity, it is a commodity of greater or of lesser value, of higher or of lower price.
I take this to simply be a reaffirmation that commodities are exchangeable with each other at specific ratios.


Pretty much yea.

Quote:
Quote:
How then does a sum of commodities, of exchange values, become capital?

Thereby, that as an independent social power – i.e., as the power of a part of society – it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labour-power.

The existence of a class which possesses nothing but the ability to work is a necessary presupposition of capital.

It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital.

Capital does not consist in the fact that accumulated labour serves living labour as a means for new production. It consists in the fact that living labour serves accumulated labour as the means of preserving and multiplying its exchange value.
When he says "it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labor power," is the underlying thrust that the total value of labor power and the other constituent elements of capital is increased when new value is generated by labor power acting upon the instruments of production to produce commodities?

Also, when he says "It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital" by accumulated, materialized labor is he referring to dead labor, the labor crystallized in the means of production used by workers to produce new value, or is he referring to something else entirely? It would make sense because those who have nothing but their ability to work are completely subservient to those who own the machines and instruments of production.


You seem right on both counts.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginners' questions about Marxism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:02 pm 
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Thanks for the confirmation.

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"There is no trace of utopianism in Marx, in the sense that he invented or imagined a 'new society.' No, he studied the birth of the new society from the old, the forms of transition from the latter to the former as a natural historical process. He examined the actual experience of the mass proletarian movement and tried to draw practical lessons from it. He 'learned' from the Commune, like all the great revolutionary thinkers who were not afraid to learn from the experience of the great movements of the oppressed classes, and who never preached pedantic 'sermons.'"- Lenin


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 Post subject: Re: Beginners' questions about Marxism
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:02 pm 
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Our resident ignorant, ScienceFictionTuberculosis, says:

sftb wrote:
Here, is he simply saying that the constituent elements of capital (i.e. raw materials, instruments of production, labor power) have themselves become commodities, or is he continuing what he was explaining in the previous paragraphs, about how raw materials, instruments of production, etc. only take upon the character of capital under specific social relations, specifically under those which introduce money (countering the dominant notion that these things were capital in the abstract, outside of a specific historical context)?

The first quotation is essentially making the point that the substance of capital is value, and not any specific use-value or physical form. Capital isn't simply means of production, for example, but takes multiple forms in the cycle of capital, where it can be money, products or means of production while still remaining the same capital. This is significant, in that it a) means that the cycle of capital can exist, because capital is able to maintain itself over the whole cycle and hence become a common factor tying it together, and b) it means that capital implies the existence of value, or that the commodities have a certain substance which can be interchanged regardless of their specific physical traits, which is necessary if capital can retain the same magnitude and remain the same capital despite changing objects. Capital is, as it were, somewhat like Count Dracula, who can change shape into a dog or anything else while still remaining the same person, and therefore the various shapes become subordinate to capital (various forms taken by one thing which is greater than them), or value is prioritised over use-value.

sftb wrote:
I take this to simply be a reaffirmation that commodities are exchangeable with each other at specific ratios.

The quantity of a commodity can't determine its value, because it has to have a certain amount of value before its quantity matters. One could say that two yards of linen have a greater price than one because there are more of them, but that presupposes that one yard of linen has a price already, and so it doesn't explain the phenomenon of price. One can't explain what a tree is by making a larger tree, and likewise that two of a commodity has a certain value can only be the case if one of that commodity has a certain value, which is thus assumed.

swtb wrote:
When he says "it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labor power," is the underlying thrust that the total value of labor power and the other constituent elements of capital is increased when new value is generated by labor power acting upon the instruments of production to produce commodities?

Pretty much, yes. As was said in the first quotation, capital is able to preserve itself through various forms because it is a value ('exchange value' in the terminology of these works; Capital diverges in its use of the word, so don't assume that they mean the same there), and therefore the particular use-value is incidental. However, this doesn't distinguish capital from a commodity as such, or doesn't show how you get from the definition of a commodity (a unity of use-value and value) to capital, which is a more complex form. What does distinguish capital here is that it not only maintains itself while transforming into different use-values, but it actually increases, and to do this it requires a specific use-value which is able to increment value, namely labour-power. Hence, while with commodities as such you simply have C-M-C, or commodities are sold for money to buy commodities, which are then consumed, with capital you have M-C-M', where the whole point is the expansion of value, and this is only possible through a transformation of C to incorporate labour-power, or, what is the same, the transformation of human labour-power into a commodity.

If you like, by the way, this represents a higher elevation of value over use-value, insofar as value becomes end and beginning of the process rather than simply a means of consumption. If you're reading Capital, keep in mind that the form M-C-M is something that is being developed through the account of money in the first chapter, although it is still senseless because one doesn't give up money simply to receive the same amount of money, or this only happens on a social scale. Nonetheless, in this sense money represents value gaining a degree of autonomy which will only be fully realised in capital, or money posits the possibility of capital, and also its necessity insofar as M-C-M is closer to the nature of value than C-M-C, where value is still subordinate to its particular forms. If the point of production is the use-value, then value exists for the producers only as an emanation of the specific use-values, rather than as something autonomous which can be transformed between them at will.

swaadfish wrote:
Also, when he says "It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital" by accumulated, materialized labor is he referring to dead labor, the labor crystallized in the means of production used by workers to produce new value, or is he referring to something else entirely? It would make sense because those who have nothing but their ability to work are completely subservient to those who own the machines and instruments of production.

Refer to the first quotation here. Capital isn't dead labour confined to the form of means of production - although this is a specific form of it - but is dead labour generally, as in labour which has already been performed and thus takes the form of value, hence of commodities, money, etc., in contrast with labour which is in the act of performance and hence is not yet value. When one has created a door, then it represents a value, but when one is creating it, it isn't yet a value. And so capital is merely formed out of what the labourers themselves produce, and this comes to dominate them in the social labour process, indeed it raises above them as soon as they have produced it. Marx compares this to a sorceror who summons up arcane forces, but then finds himself in their control.

Conversely, it's only because of its ability to dominate living labour that capital is capital*, or in short because of a certain set of social relations. This gives it a generally parasitic role, in that it stands over living labour while in fact being structurally dependent on it. This means that ultimately nothing is actually to be credited to capital as an independent force, or in short the subjugation of the labourer isn't a product of capital as an external force coming and imposing itself on living labour, but that ultimately capital can't be referred to except in terms of its domination of living labour, or in short that what comes first is the production process and its relations, and only then capital as an independent force. This is reminiscent of the 1844 manuscripts, where Marx posits that alienated labour is the starting-point which births class differentials, etc., ultimately, rather than alienated labour being the product of imposition by an alien class. This is also why class has to be located in the relations of the production process itself at first, rather than in external relations such as ownership of the means of production, which can't impose itself upon the production process but only takes on a significance arising from it. Labourers aren't alienated because capitalists own the means of production, capitalists own the means of production because labourers are alienated, although evidently the historical process is one where both factors partake (although ultimately the driving force is the transformation of the process of production, rather than the volition of the upper class.)

That last part may have been a bit obscure, but ask about anything that remains unclear. Good luck with DK, and thanks for asking reasonable questions. Also, s/o to Brole for the succinct affirmations, we can good cop/bad cop the world into a haven of Marxist knowledge. Have fun, in any case.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginners' questions about Marxism
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:23 pm 
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ZeroNowhere wrote:
Our resident ignorant, ScienceFictionTuberculosis, says:

sftb wrote:
Here, is he simply saying that the constituent elements of capital (i.e. raw materials, instruments of production, labor power) have themselves become commodities, or is he continuing what he was explaining in the previous paragraphs, about how raw materials, instruments of production, etc. only take upon the character of capital under specific social relations, specifically under those which introduce money (countering the dominant notion that these things were capital in the abstract, outside of a specific historical context)?

The first quotation is essentially making the point that the substance of capital is value, and not any specific use-value or physical form. Capital isn't simply means of production, for example, but takes multiple forms in the cycle of capital, where it can be money, products or means of production while still remaining the same capital. This is significant, in that it a) means that the cycle of capital can exist, because capital is able to maintain itself over the whole cycle and hence become a common factor tying it together, and b) it means that capital implies the existence of value, or that the commodities have a certain substance which can be interchanged regardless of their specific physical traits, which is necessary if capital can retain the same magnitude and remain the same capital despite changing objects. Capital is, as it were, somewhat like Count Dracula, who can change shape into a dog or anything else while still remaining the same person, and therefore the various shapes become subordinate to capital (various forms taken by one thing which is greater than them), or value is prioritised over use-value.


Yea pretty much.

Quote:
sftb wrote:
I take this to simply be a reaffirmation that commodities are exchangeable with each other at specific ratios.

The quantity of a commodity can't determine its value, because it has to have a certain amount of value before its quantity matters. One could say that two yards of linen have a greater price than one because there are more of them, but that presupposes that one yard of linen has a price already, and so it doesn't explain the phenomenon of price. One can't explain what a tree is by making a larger tree, and likewise that two of a commodity has a certain value can only be the case if one of that commodity has a certain value, which is thus assumed.


Spot on so far.

Quote:
swtb wrote:
When he says "it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labor power," is the underlying thrust that the total value of labor power and the other constituent elements of capital is increased when new value is generated by labor power acting upon the instruments of production to produce commodities?

Pretty much, yes. As was said in the first quotation, capital is able to preserve itself through various forms because it is a value ('exchange value' in the terminology of these works; Capital diverges in its use of the word, so don't assume that they mean the same there), and therefore the particular use-value is incidental. However, this doesn't distinguish capital from a commodity as such, or doesn't show how you get from the definition of a commodity (a unity of use-value and value) to capital, which is a more complex form. What does distinguish capital here is that it not only maintains itself while transforming into different use-values, but it actually increases, and to do this it requires a specific use-value which is able to increment value, namely labour-power. Hence, while with commodities as such you simply have C-M-C, or commodities are sold for money to buy commodities, which are then consumed, with capital you have M-C-M', where the whole point is the expansion of value, and this is only possible through a transformation of C to incorporate labour-power, or, what is the same, the transformation of human labour-power into a commodity.

If you like, by the way, this represents a higher elevation of value over use-value, insofar as value becomes end and beginning of the process rather than simply a means of consumption. If you're reading Capital, keep in mind that the form M-C-M is something that is being developed through the account of money in the first chapter, although it is still senseless because one doesn't give up money simply to receive the same amount of money, or this only happens on a social scale. Nonetheless, in this sense money represents value gaining a degree of autonomy which will only be fully realised in capital, or money posits the possibility of capital, and also its necessity insofar as M-C-M is closer to the nature of value than C-M-C, where value is still subordinate to its particular forms. If the point of production is the use-value, then value exists for the producers only as an emanation of the specific use-values, rather than as something autonomous which can be transformed between them at will.


Still looking good.

Quote:
swaadfish wrote:
Also, when he says "It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital" by accumulated, materialized labor is he referring to dead labor, the labor crystallized in the means of production used by workers to produce new value, or is he referring to something else entirely? It would make sense because those who have nothing but their ability to work are completely subservient to those who own the machines and instruments of production.

Refer to the first quotation here. Capital isn't dead labour confined to the form of means of production - although this is a specific form of it - but is dead labour generally, as in labour which has already been performed and thus takes the form of value, hence of commodities, money, etc., in contrast with labour which is in the act of performance and hence is not yet value. When one has created a door, then it represents a value, but when one is creating it, it isn't yet a value. And so capital is merely formed out of what the labourers themselves produce, and this comes to dominate them in the social labour process, indeed it raises above them as soon as they have produced it. Marx compares this to a sorceror who summons up arcane forces, but then finds himself in their control.

Conversely, it's only because of its ability to dominate living labour that capital is capital*, or in short because of a certain set of social relations. This gives it a generally parasitic role, in that it stands over living labour while in fact being structurally dependent on it. This means that ultimately nothing is actually to be credited to capital as an independent force, or in short the subjugation of the labourer isn't a product of capital as an external force coming and imposing itself on living labour, but that ultimately capital can't be referred to except in terms of its domination of living labour, or in short that what comes first is the production process and its relations, and only then capital as an independent force. This is reminiscent of the 1844 manuscripts, where Marx posits that alienated labour is the starting-point which births class differentials, etc., ultimately, rather than alienated labour being the product of imposition by an alien class. This is also why class has to be located in the relations of the production process itself at first, rather than in external relations such as ownership of the means of production, which can't impose itself upon the production process but only takes on a significance arising from it. Labourers aren't alienated because capitalists own the means of production, capitalists own the means of production because labourers are alienated, although evidently the historical process is one where both factors partake (although ultimately the driving force is the transformation of the process of production, rather than the volition of the upper class.)

That last part may have been a bit obscure, but ask about anything that remains unclear. Good luck with DK, and thanks for asking reasonable questions. Also, s/o to Brole for the succinct affirmations, we can good cop/bad cop the world into a haven of Marxist knowledge. Have fun, in any case.


Yup, this all looked fine to me.

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 Post subject: Re: Beginners' questions about Marxism
PostPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:57 pm 
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Broletariat wrote:
ZeroNowhere wrote:
Our resident ignorant, ScienceFictionTuberculosis, says:

sftb wrote:
Here, is he simply saying that the constituent elements of capital (i.e. raw materials, instruments of production, labor power) have themselves become commodities, or is he continuing what he was explaining in the previous paragraphs, about how raw materials, instruments of production, etc. only take upon the character of capital under specific social relations, specifically under those which introduce money (countering the dominant notion that these things were capital in the abstract, outside of a specific historical context)?

The first quotation is essentially making the point that the substance of capital is value, and not any specific use-value or physical form. Capital isn't simply means of production, for example, but takes multiple forms in the cycle of capital, where it can be money, products or means of production while still remaining the same capital. This is significant, in that it a) means that the cycle of capital can exist, because capital is able to maintain itself over the whole cycle and hence become a common factor tying it together, and b) it means that capital implies the existence of value, or that the commodities have a certain substance which can be interchanged regardless of their specific physical traits, which is necessary if capital can retain the same magnitude and remain the same capital despite changing objects. Capital is, as it were, somewhat like Count Dracula, who can change shape into a dog or anything else while still remaining the same person, and therefore the various shapes become subordinate to capital (various forms taken by one thing which is greater than them), or value is prioritised over use-value.


Yea pretty much.

Quote:
sftb wrote:
I take this to simply be a reaffirmation that commodities are exchangeable with each other at specific ratios.

The quantity of a commodity can't determine its value, because it has to have a certain amount of value before its quantity matters. One could say that two yards of linen have a greater price than one because there are more of them, but that presupposes that one yard of linen has a price already, and so it doesn't explain the phenomenon of price. One can't explain what a tree is by making a larger tree, and likewise that two of a commodity has a certain value can only be the case if one of that commodity has a certain value, which is thus assumed.


Spot on so far.

Quote:
swtb wrote:
When he says "it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labor power," is the underlying thrust that the total value of labor power and the other constituent elements of capital is increased when new value is generated by labor power acting upon the instruments of production to produce commodities?

Pretty much, yes. As was said in the first quotation, capital is able to preserve itself through various forms because it is a value ('exchange value' in the terminology of these works; Capital diverges in its use of the word, so don't assume that they mean the same there), and therefore the particular use-value is incidental. However, this doesn't distinguish capital from a commodity as such, or doesn't show how you get from the definition of a commodity (a unity of use-value and value) to capital, which is a more complex form. What does distinguish capital here is that it not only maintains itself while transforming into different use-values, but it actually increases, and to do this it requires a specific use-value which is able to increment value, namely labour-power. Hence, while with commodities as such you simply have C-M-C, or commodities are sold for money to buy commodities, which are then consumed, with capital you have M-C-M', where the whole point is the expansion of value, and this is only possible through a transformation of C to incorporate labour-power, or, what is the same, the transformation of human labour-power into a commodity.

If you like, by the way, this represents a higher elevation of value over use-value, insofar as value becomes end and beginning of the process rather than simply a means of consumption. If you're reading Capital, keep in mind that the form M-C-M is something that is being developed through the account of money in the first chapter, although it is still senseless because one doesn't give up money simply to receive the same amount of money, or this only happens on a social scale. Nonetheless, in this sense money represents value gaining a degree of autonomy which will only be fully realised in capital, or money posits the possibility of capital, and also its necessity insofar as M-C-M is closer to the nature of value than C-M-C, where value is still subordinate to its particular forms. If the point of production is the use-value, then value exists for the producers only as an emanation of the specific use-values, rather than as something autonomous which can be transformed between them at will.


Still looking good.

Quote:
swaadfish wrote:
Also, when he says "It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital" by accumulated, materialized labor is he referring to dead labor, the labor crystallized in the means of production used by workers to produce new value, or is he referring to something else entirely? It would make sense because those who have nothing but their ability to work are completely subservient to those who own the machines and instruments of production.

Refer to the first quotation here. Capital isn't dead labour confined to the form of means of production - although this is a specific form of it - but is dead labour generally, as in labour which has already been performed and thus takes the form of value, hence of commodities, money, etc., in contrast with labour which is in the act of performance and hence is not yet value. When one has created a door, then it represents a value, but when one is creating it, it isn't yet a value. And so capital is merely formed out of what the labourers themselves produce, and this comes to dominate them in the social labour process, indeed it raises above them as soon as they have produced it. Marx compares this to a sorceror who summons up arcane forces, but then finds himself in their control.

Conversely, it's only because of its ability to dominate living labour that capital is capital*, or in short because of a certain set of social relations. This gives it a generally parasitic role, in that it stands over living labour while in fact being structurally dependent on it. This means that ultimately nothing is actually to be credited to capital as an independent force, or in short the subjugation of the labourer isn't a product of capital as an external force coming and imposing itself on living labour, but that ultimately capital can't be referred to except in terms of its domination of living labour, or in short that what comes first is the production process and its relations, and only then capital as an independent force. This is reminiscent of the 1844 manuscripts, where Marx posits that alienated labour is the starting-point which births class differentials, etc., ultimately, rather than alienated labour being the product of imposition by an alien class. This is also why class has to be located in the relations of the production process itself at first, rather than in external relations such as ownership of the means of production, which can't impose itself upon the production process but only takes on a significance arising from it. Labourers aren't alienated because capitalists own the means of production, capitalists own the means of production because labourers are alienated, although evidently the historical process is one where both factors partake (although ultimately the driving force is the transformation of the process of production, rather than the volition of the upper class.)

That last part may have been a bit obscure, but ask about anything that remains unclear. Good luck with DK, and thanks for asking reasonable questions. Also, s/o to Brole for the succinct affirmations, we can good cop/bad cop the world into a haven of Marxist knowledge. Have fun, in any case.


Yup, this all looked fine to me.

I concur.

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