SUBJECTIVITY, HEGEL'S ABSOLUTE, SELF-EXPANDING CAPITAL

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Tue Jul 25 19:20:22 MDT 1995


If  I understand Paul who is patiently trying to understand me, I think he
has unsurprisingly misuderstood me.  I will not try to clarify my previous
post. And in order to keep it interesting, I will quote extensively from
authorities.

I think that our disagreement centers on the function and purpose of Marx's
reproduction schemes.  This disagreement also forces us to go to the heart
of Marx's method, in particular his method of idealization.

According to Paulo Giussani in the Dictionary of Marxist Thought, the schemes

1. "are nothing but a FIRST approximation to the concrete interaction of
the single capitals, the scope of which is only to show how the
relationship between value and use value with the reproduction of [total
social, I belive--rb]capital..."; and

2. demonstate that reproduction itself is not possible with an arbitrary
choice of the accumulation rates [k] of kc1 and kc2.  The two of them must
be consistent with each other, or else the reproduction process will be
obstructed.  The  fundamental relation of expanded reproduction shows how
the social aggregate capital CAN grow without any problem of market and
effective demand."

The second conclusion is the basis of a critique of underconsumptionism.
But these schemes neither prove the limitlessness of accumulation (as we
discover with the third volume's law of tendency of FROP) nor the
satisfaction of the equilibrium condition, including a tendency towards it,
in the actual history of the accumulation of capital on a historically
enlargening basis (a point emphasized by Mattick at many points--see his
comments on Mandel and Rosdolsky in Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory).

As Giussani says, they are but a first approximation.  Perhaps one could
say (if he knew more of the methodology of the social science)the schemes
are exemplary of Marx's method of idealization.

So I was not pointing to a conflict between individual capital and total
social capital, but to difference between the first approximation of the
total reproduction of total social capital and its real history.  That
capital as a system has indeed expanded is what I was taking to be
unquestionable. That it has not expanded smoothly as in its idealization I
also take to be unquestionable.

In his remarkable textbook, William Blake (pseud.) wrote:

"The apparently innocent beginnings of the theory of Marxian value--the
distinction between the use-value and exchange-value; the separation
accordingly of concrete labor that produces use values and abstract that
produces value itself, manifested only in exchange; the realization of this
exchange quality of value by the use-value of another commodity; the
consequent lesson that use-value can transfer value, so that constant
capital, or use values are transferred whereas new values are added by
abstract labor; that concrete and abstract labors are united in the same
process so that they eye does not distinguish their contributions; that one
is physical and the other social--all this filiation of ideas that so many
superficial critics say Marxism could do without, comes to its fruition in
the schemes of total reproduction, which show how this system of
definitions is confirmed by the final test, the MOTION of capitalism as a
whole; its reproduction on a historically enlargening basis.  And this
motion was what the theory of value was origininated to explore.  Without
the two characters of labor, the theory of reproduction becomes impossible
and the theory of surplus merely static."

The question of whether the Sraffian system can explain reproduction on a
historically enlagening basis without a theory of value is now becoming
very interesting to me. Quoting Spencer Pack, the Sraffian system can
indeed show that for "the system to reproduce itself over time, the
commodities will be exchanged with each in quite definite proportions;
hence they will have definite exchange values."

And Blake also seems to suggest that the equilibrium condition for the
exchange between the two departments depends on values being expressed as
exchange values.  So it seems to me in order to explain the reproduction of
the system, one indeed does NOT need values.

 But the question then becomes (esp in light of the many criticisms of
Sraffa as static): in order to explain the dynamic  expansion of the system
on a 'historically enlargening basis', as well as its historical limits,
does one still need the pivot of the whole critical conception--the duality
of labor, abstract labor which produces value and concrete labor which
produces use values?  Moseley has argued that, yes, in order to understand
the movement of the average profit rate in time, one cannot dispense with
values.

At any rate, Blake then goes on to critique the idea, held by Bauer and
Tugan-Baronwsky, that " by these formulas Marx shows a harmonious
equilibrium between the sections of production. But that is to misread his
purpose.  He illustrates the mechanisms by which the transfers take place;
for this he assumes an ideal model, exactly as for the theory of value he
assumed that objects exchanged at their value and, to isolate surplus
value, at exact equivalence. But since the ideal conditions of harmonious
reproduction would require a constant and definite proportion of value and
of use-value throughout the social production of, and the complete
realization of both value and concrete use by both sections, there is no
correspondence between a formula based on what would happen were these
conditions fufilled and what does happen in fact, excpet that it enables us
to trace the OBJECTS of such transfers among their distortions, and to
explain the satisfaction of these objects WHEN, AS and IF they are
attained."

Then Blake makes clear that the schemes, based on the duality of labor,
serve as a critique of alternative crisis theories. "...the crude theory of
underconsumptionism is eliminated, for it [Marx's theory of total
reproduction] is based on the assumption that the products of labor are all
consumed."  In my initial post, I was only emphasizing that these
harmonious transfers are never realized in real life.

Giussani also suggests that the reproduction schemes can show the
possibility of expanded reproduction against a threat of a permananent
sales crisis  even  when they are extended to cover the case of fixed
capital, increases in productivity and changes in the OCC and rate of SV.
I take this on faith here (actually I think I disagree, the overproduction
of fixed capital cannot be theorized away, this I take to be a major point
of Grossmann's dynamics)

So far I have quoted some important ideas on Marx's theory of the social
accumulation of capital.  Especially in regards to what it does and doesn't
demonstrate, viz. namely the actual realization of these harmonious
transfers.

I think it cannot be exaggerated how much hinges on the interpretation of
the schemes.  They seem to me to be, more than the philosophical positions
critiqued by Korsch for example, the basis of a scientistic, technocratic
anti-class struggle interpretation of Marx.  I won't say any more about
this.  The point is argued by Werner Bonefeld in a volume he edited, along
with others, Emancipating Marx. London: Pluto 1995.  This is the third
volume of the series Open Marxism.  The article also speaks powerfully to
the conceptualization of capital as self-subsistent.  I highly recommend
it.

Rakesh




     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---

     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list