SUBJECTIVITY, HEGEL'S ABSOLUTE, SELF-EXPANDING CAPITAL

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sun Jul 23 19:15:39 MDT 1995


I very much appreciate Paul C's characteristically lucid and well-reasoned
reply.  For my purposes, I want to list a couple of his criticisms of a
capital-logic school. I think that one could construct replies based on
Albritton's article and Postone's analysis, esp pp. 268 ff.

1. Distorts the analysis of concrete social formations

>This Hegelian treatment of capital in the abstract can lead to very
>superficial and misleading analyses at the level of the social
>formation.

Albritton is especially sensitive to the problems of levels of analysis,
calling this the outstanding problem of Marxist theory, though he does not
say anything about Kevin Brien's treatment in Marx, Reason and the Art of
Freedom. Temple.

I will have more to say about this after I read more of Albritton's work
(but I have 60 papers to grade this week).  It should be noted that
Albritton's methodological comments are extremely provocative, and I hope
that some respond to the challenge he has posed.

2. fallacy of composition: imparts to the system as a whole a logic of the
part, a logic which the system cannot maintain.

First an indication of what Postone means by Capital as Subject:

 "Capital, then, is a category of movement, of expansion; it is a dynamic
category, 'value in motion.' This social form is alienated,
quasi-independent, exerts a mode of abstract compulsion and constraint on
people, and is in motion. Consequently, Marx accords it the attribute of
agency.  His initial determination of captital, then, is self-valorizing
value, as the self-moving substance that is subject.  He describes this
self-moving subjective-objective social form in terms of a co continuous,
ceaseless process of value's self-expansion, generates large-scale cycles
of production and consumption, creation and destruction.  capital has no
fixed, final form, but appears at different stages of its spiraling path in
the form of money and commodities.  Value, then, is unfolded by Marx as the
core of a form of social mediation that constitutes social objectivity and
subjectivity, and is intrinsically dynamic: it is a form of social
mediation that necessarily exists in objectified, materialized form, but is
neither identical with, nor an inherent property of its materialized form,
whether in the shape of money or goods." (269)

Paul states the fallacy of composition:

>It is invalid to apply the schematic abstraction of this analysis
>m-c-m' to the level of society as a whole, and thus to posit an
>abstract 'Capital' that has the same requirement to self expand.
>Once one starts to analyse both the conditions of production and
>the conditions of aggregate demand at the level of social reproduction,
> one sees that there is
>no similar necessity for self expansion of value at the aggregate
>social level.
>Self expansion of social capital is not something to be assumed,
>it is something whose conditions of possibility have to be explained.

The self-expansion of capital cannot be questioned; the tendency towards an
equilibrium growth path is another question altogether (has anyone read
Alan Freeman's piece in the last Capital and Class on non-equilibrium
economics).

And I think that Marx explains how the self expansion of capital is
possible on the basis of the duality of labor, on the basis of the
reproduction of a duality of abstract labor and concrete labor.  This is
what Rosdolosky emphasizes in his chapter on the Reproduction Schemes

The nature of the contradictions engendered by the self-expansion of
capital is a critical question.  And this brings us back to the various
schools of crisis theory (kaleckian theory being I think a variant of
underconsumptionism), with Postone inagurating a new one, based on the
Grundrisse, which he likens to a shearing process.

More traditionally though Postone does explicitly link self-moving value to
the constitution of class struggle, as well as the material achievements
which make the abolition of capital via revolutionary class struggle a real
possibility.

I say this because I think that an examination of the relevant passages
will indicate that Postone has not banished from history the revolutionary
struggles of concrete subjects (not the same as the Capital as Absolute
Subject, a distinction Postone insists upon but ignored by many of his
formidable critics).

In fact I think the argument can be made that he has put class struggle as
the focus of social analysis on a firm basis, without reference to
questionable normative appeals to study the conflict between classes.  See
Postone's discussion, p. 314ff.

I have one question about Paul's analysis of state capitalism:

Is the  economizing of labor time--a datum of planning in a post-capitalist
society--only a conscious application of the law of value.  Is this what
distinguishes socialism: the conscious application of the law of value?
Does value persist under socialist relations of production, as argued by
Stalin for example.

>it is still necessary for
>   value in the sense of abstract social labour to enter into the
>   economic calculus of the unit of production. Minimum cost alternatives
>   must still be chosen. However it is now possible for this to
>   be done by direct labour time calculations. Now in a sense
>   value-determination of production persists, since labour time is
>   value, but it does so directly without being expressed in
>   monetary form.



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