Translating Marx

jones/bhandari djones at
Sat Sep 9 01:13:42 MDT 1995

Here's the same passage again , followed by comments:

>Marx, in Capital, vol III, p. 1021. Vintage:
>"Although on the basis of capitalist production the social character of their
>production confronts the mass of immediate producers in the form of a strict
>governing authority, and the social mechanism of the labor process has
>received here a completely hierarchical articulation--though this authority
>accrues to its bearers only to as the personification of the conditions of
>labor vis-a-vis labour itself, not to them as political or theocratic rulers
>as in earlier forms of production--the most complete anarchy reigns among the
>bearers of this authority, the capitalists themselves, who confront one
>another simply as owners of commodities, and within this anarchy the social
>interconnection of production prevails over individual caprice only as an
>overwhelming natural law."

Well, it seems that this passage is a restatement of that dichotomy
discussed by Marx in vol I between despotism within the labor process and
anarchy in the social division of labor.  .

Yet there is so much to think about:

what is the nature of the mechanism through which our social connection
prevails (and what does this concept of social interconnection imply about
the social ontological presuppositions of Marx's, as opposed to say
Hayek's, theory);

why is it that the mechanism through by which the "inner laws" of social
production (another concept requiring clarification) assert themselves take
the paradoxical form of *competition* among independent commodity

why does this mechanism appear (or in what way is it indeed truly
experienced) as either a strict governing authority (the meaning of which
is unclear) or a natural law; and

if our social interconnection asserts itself in the form of a natural law,
is it possible that our very conception of the natural is itself
conditioned by the social relations of production (I haven't read Fenyman's
The Concept of a Natural Law; are there connections here?); and

why do the bearers of authority in the capitalist production process appear
only as personifications of the condition of labor and thus essentially
different from earlier rulers (though, in another dialectical reversal,
Marx has demonstrated that only capitalists, as opposed to their historical
ruling predecessors, suffer from   a *boundless thirst* for surplus exactly
because it takes the historically specific form of value; on why the form
of surplus undergirds the immanent dynamic specific to capital, see

I don't have answers to these questions, nor am I sure that they are good

I do think that Juan's posts have opened up the possibility of a deeper
reading of Capital on such topics as alienation, social ontology, and
capital's immanent dynamic.

On another note, from Chris S' posts I have been introduced to criticism
of utopianism and the synoptic fallacy, yet for Marx our collective
consignment to anarchic commodity production means not only "the
reification of the social determinations of production and the
subjectification of the material bases of production" (the meaning of
which we need to explore in  depth) but also something graver, in the
absence of collective revolutionary action: "a particular form of
development of the social productive powers of labour, but as powers of
capital that have asserted their autonomy vis-a-vis the worker, thus
directly opposing his own development."

All quotes from this short chapter 51 of vol III


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