Questions on Chapter 1 (Das Kapital)

daviesj at daviesj at
Thu Aug 10 09:21:46 MDT 1995

On Tue, 8 Aug 1995, Guillermo Cruces wrote:

> Thanks to those who answered my SOS about Law & Economics. It will be hard
> to fight against Chicago&company, but I will try.
> This post is about Chapter one of Capital. Let me first say a few things:
> 1.-We are a group of Sociology students (I study Economics too). It's
> hard to begin with chapter one, and specially for people that read 18
> Brumaire..., German ideology, Communist manifesto.... It becomes really
> "economic" (and we all know how important it is).
> 2.-We have a couple of questions (let's say a LOT of questions) we are
> going to discuss with a professor, but we would like to post them to the
> list. But not to use the list as a "student's advisor or he*lp". Just
> to know if any of our questions are important things (to discuss) or just
> some topics (incontrovertible-if that kind of topics exists...) we will have
> to fight with and finally (may be) understand.

In light of Guillermo's first posting about how to combat his Chicago Boy
professor, I really like the idea of posing -- even if for the second or
nth time -- the kinds of questions he and his fellow students in
Argentina are struggling with.  I am also not trained as an economist,
and struggle mightily with economic argument.  I would like to ask those
colleagues and comrades on the list with a better grasp of Marx's
economic arguments if we could revisit some of these questions, but maybe
with a different twist:  rather than focussing strictly on interpreting
Marx's writings, I'd like to see some discussion of the marxist critique
of the current orthodoxies in bourgeois economics as well.  I am not
hostile to the exegetical work, I just think that it is more helpful --
and more akin to Marx's own methods -- to take the fight to the enemy.

I am a "Latin Americanist" in the scholarly division of labor, and my
main concerns over the last few years have been with neoliberalism.
While I try to understand the economic dimension of the restructuring of
social formations under neoliberalism (e.g., the growth of the informal
sector), my main interests have been with the ideological triumph of
neoliberalism (N.B. is anyone else on the list familiar with or
interested in Robert Cox?) globally, and with the question of the state.
(I am very far behind with some pressing work right now, but perhaps in a
couple of weeks I'll try to write a thoughtful post on the state under
neoliberalism in Latin America.)  A better understanding of how marxists
respond to the claims of toadies of the market would help both here and
in Argentina.

> After this introduction, here are some of the questions, with no order at all:
> -Can we say about capital, or about chapter one, that it is a "model", with
> some assumptions (ceteris paribus...), like in "modern economics"(?)? What
> kind of "asumptions" are we making?
> -Why is *time* what determines value? We understand that it can't be weight...
> but why "time"? Are there any "natural" reason, "historical"/concrete reasons?
> Is the social "construction" of time important for value (let's say, church's
> bell's... during middle age...)?
> -Value exists ONLY in "commoditie-producing society" (sorry, don't know how to
> translate it)? Was it VALUE what was exchanged by fenicians...? Value ALWAYS
> existed or is it just a characteristic of pre-capitalist and capitalist
> society?

I'd like to add a question; although it may not be immediately germane to
Chapter 1, it may help to bring the chapter into focus as a weapon
against the Law and Economics ideologues:  What is the market?  What is a
market society?  This is the ground on which the neoliberals fight; it
seems to me to be their Achilles' Heel, at least in theory.  (N.B. anyone
else on the list interested in Karl Polanyi?)

> Thanks to you all!

Hombre, gracias a ti!
> ---
>                                        Guillermo Cruces
>                                     Buenos Aires-Argentina
>                                        Marxism list mail:
>                                     marx at
Matt Davies

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