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 Post subject: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 10:01 am 
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Anyone have any particularly strong opinions of this.

I'm referring mostly to the way in which we interpret the first three chapters of Capital. Traditionally, the view was that these chapters referred to a historical development. Individual acts of exchange and barter precipitate the rise of money as the measure of value and medium of circulation, on the basis of which capitalism originally begins to appear. This seems like a pretty 'common sense' interpretation - everyone knows that money and the exchange of commodities existed at least as far back as Ancient Greece, at least two millenia prior to the development of the capitalist production process as the dominant form in which society produces it's material existence.

The retort of the 'logical' school is that it only when capitalism becomes the dominant social mode of production, and the labour process takes on the twofold aspect of being a process of production of a specific material use-value, and also a process of valorisation, that the commodity form becomes generalised throughout society as the dominant form assumed by social wealth.

To me it seems like a lot of the debate is purely academic, no-one actually thinks that there actually existed a pre-capitalist regime where the majority of the social product took on the form of commodities. There is the question of whether the law of value existed prior to capitalism. Generally I'm of the opinion that it didn't, the operation of the law of value to it's fullest extent requires that the social product takes the form of commodities, which requires that the dominant social relation of production is one in which the instruments of labour are separated from the labourers themselves, requiring these workers to sell their labour-power as a commodity.

This whole thing takes on a political dimension inasmuch as it is used as a stick to beat 'Second International/'Orthodox' Marxism' with. After a while this kind of thing gets tiresome, and as much as 'Marx's Marxism' is used on the one hand by the 'ultra-left' to defend itself against the mainstream of Marxist thought, it's also used by certain elements to promote outright garbage politically (The last time I visited the Marxist-Humanist initiative page, there was a screed from, wait for it, a Bernie Sanders supporter, apologising for their staunch opposition to Hillary Clinton, 'Marx's Marxism' indeed), and in both cases the end result in terms of politics is shit*.

ZeroNowhere* used the analogy with me once of the construction of a watch mechanism**. The watch only functions completely as a watch once all of it's component parts are in place, nonetheless, the actual construction of the mechanism requires the watchmaker to assemble the pieces one by one. I generally think this is the correct way of looking things, the presentation in Capital is 'historical' and 'logical', logical in the sense that the most striking feature of capitalist society is that the social product presents itself in the form of commodities, historical in the sense that products had to take the form of commodities in a more than incidental way to provide a further basis for the development of capitalist production.

*c.f. this thread for further discussion of shit, both it's production, and the mediation of this production by circulation and consumption as a part of the process of shit reproduction
**inb4 Broletariat bans me for being a Nazi sympathiser
***I might be misremembering or misinterpreting this in some way, the way I remember it makes sense to me

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"The death of the poor man is the worst eventuality for the creditor. It is the death of his capital together with the interest."
- Marx, Comments on James Mill -

"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 11:07 am 
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Quote:
To me it seems like a lot of the debate is purely academic, no-one actually thinks that there actually existed a pre-capitalist regime where the majority of the social product took on the form of commodities.


Nobody thinks all of social product was sold (that's indeed wilful mis-characterisation), but it's a fair historical question what the extent of the market was just prior to the dawn of capitalism.

Quote:
There is the question of whether the law of value existed prior to capitalism. Generally I'm of the opinion that it didn't, the operation of the law of value to it's fullest extent requires that the social product takes the form of commodities, which requires that the dominant social relation of production is one in which the instruments of labour are separated from the labourers themselves, requiring these workers to sell their labour-power as a commodity.


This article argues that the law of value did exist prior to capitalism: https://libcom.org/library/law-value-un ... -dunaevsky

The title is about the law of value in capitalism, indicating that the dispute perhaps also affects your understanding of the operation of the law of value now, ie how it sets itself through concretely.


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 Post subject: Re: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 5:18 am 
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Favorite recourse for many-- opening chapters of Capital represent an empirical, archeological, history of the market, rather than the logical history of exchange, as a condition of labor.

Then of course, once we establish the archeology, it's just a matter of tracing the artifacts until we arrive linearly, inevitably, and universally, at capitalism, which then gets translated into the eternal existence of the law of value.

Ain't so; ain't real; ain't Marx.

Simple commodity production? Giving rise to industrial capitalism? Where? Certainly not in England, the only place according to Marx where the transformation to capitalism was complete and was his basis for deriving the antagonism between the condition of labor, and the labor process itself.

Simple commodity production is the petit bourgeois' Eden myth. The "state of almost-nature" before the "fall"-- a holdover from the physiocrats, and Jefferson's "agrarian democracy."

Nonsense. Where are the class relations that morph into capitalism? Where is the antagonism at the heart of simple commodity production that produces the classes, the new relations to property?

And.....the same question, but posed differently... how can the law of value be a law, a governing principle for the organization of social labor time BEFORE labor power itself is compelled to present itself in the market as a VALUE for exchange?


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 Post subject: Re: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 7:31 am 
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It's not about linear arrival to capitalism. It's about arrival to money, through various forms of value. Money is not the same as capital. And even eternal existence of exchange (which the historical account of Marx exactly disproves) would still not mean eternal existence of law of value (which is exchange of products by equivalent labour-time). If only that was their argument, every economist would believe in the LTV.


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 Post subject: Re: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 3:02 am 
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I didn't say Capital is about the linear progression to capitalism, I said the "historical interpretation" by the simple commodity production enthusiasts gets them to the linear progression to capital. More than a mere technicality.

This debate has taken place over the years on several different discussion boards== the one that I recall most clearly is the one on Libcom. And yes, those advocates of SCP were also advocates of the "eternal" operation of the law of value. And if I recall remarks by Engels and Kautsky, they too advocated the notion that the law of value "ruled" prior to establishment of capitalism as the dominant mode of production.


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 Post subject: Re: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 9:35 am 
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Engels does claim that the law of value operated prior to the existence of capitalism, quoting a section from volume 3 (this gets into a tricky area of Marx scholarship though because Marx never intended those manuscripts to be published, Engels was the one who arranged them as volume 3 of Capital. But then we generally take volume 3 seriously when it comes to things like the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, even though some people want to claim that it wasn't important for Marx, and a lot of these same people hang heavily on the Grundrisse, which again is an unpublished manuscript). 'Ruled' is another question, and I'm pretty sure, although don't quote me on this, that there isn't anything in Engels about the law of value continuing in operation after capitalism.

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"The death of the poor man is the worst eventuality for the creditor. It is the death of his capital together with the interest."
- Marx, Comments on James Mill -

"Citizen Weston illustrated his theory by telling you that a bowl contains a certain quantity of soup, to be eaten by a certain number of persons, an increase in the broadness of the spoons would produce no increase in the amount of soup. He must allow me to find this illustration rather spoony."
- Marx, Value, Price and profit -


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 Post subject: Re: Historical vs Logical Interpretations of Capital
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 4:40 pm 
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Zanthorus wrote:
there isn't anything in Engels about the law of value continuing in operation after capitalism.


Of course not, as I wrote on another thread:


Quote:
Recognising the law of value in SCP doesn't lead to the political position of market socialism. Diquattro is an example of a market socialist who firmly rejects the law of value in SCP. Not only that, but it seems he even buttresses his market socialism precisely by rejecting the law of value in SCP, characterising it instead as a "moral economy":

The Labor Theory of Value and Simple Commodity Production. Arthur Diquattro. Science & Society Vol. 71, No. 4 (Oct., 2007), pp. 455-483.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/40404443?s ... b_contents

(And of course Engels himself wasn't a market socialist.)


http://libcom.org/forums/theory/german- ... e-03112009


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