Chris Burford cburford at
Tue Jan 17 01:05:55 MST 1995

"The system as a whole to repeat is nothing other than the
combined production of all capitalist enterprises: a mass of
value and surplus value, representing socially necessary
labor-time quantities embodied in commodities.  This mass of
value and surplus value is at any moment of a definite size,
alterable only by either the destruction or the expansion of
capital.  This mass sets the limits within which each capital
can move..."

Bravo for repeating this passage!. I am sure Rakesh will
respond. It is the sort of thing I am looking for in my sense
that something that could be called systemic Marxism
is waiting to emerge.

Although this passage is not part of the Marxian canon, it
seems to me fully consistent with Marx's analysis.
It allows us at a time when revolutionary change to socialism
in any one country seems difficult, to get a handle on the
socialist goal that social production should be socially

I submit it is consistent with the world economy being a
_biological_ not a _mechanical_ system. A system that
pulsates, in which its contradictions are part of internal
feedback mechanisms which determine the broad parameters
within which it fluctuates (unless it reaches a point of
turbulence and there is a qualitative change).

It suggests that socialists should be gardeners not
engineers. It suggests that what the bourgoeisie does is
cannier than what we do: they tend this biological system
subtly in order to ensure that it is a garden that benefits
their own kind of animal, currently transnational

Such an outline of a systemic approach would allow
elaboration of relatively neglected areas of Marxism very
relevant to the present day.

a) the widening of this biological system through the
extension of commodity exchange to every crevice of the

b) the effects of continually changing technology through
"relative surplus value" and how it interacts with the
overall mass of value.

c) the drastic phenomena sometimes called "unequal exchange"
whereby countries with relatively backward means of
production have to export ever increasing quantities of
embodied labour just to stay still, or their workers have to
risk migration in large numbers to more developed countries
with all the psychological and social conflicts that ensue.

d) the social choice we have as a global species, to affect
the pattern of how much of human activity we wish to be
mediated through commodity exchange and how much through
other forms of intercourse, not yet monetised.

The very act of making this process conscious is a major step
in enhancing co-operation to bring it under the control that
we want.

Chris Burford
Community Psychiatrist, specialising in schizophrenia.
Member of the Forum for Marxism, Philosophy and Science,
and the Southern Africa Economic Research Unit, SAERU.

London                                   "Only connect..."


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