Re: Brenner, C. L. R. Ja mes, & J?==?ISO-8859-1?Q?osé Carlos Mariátegui

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Oct 26 14:53:01 MDT 2000

>>> furuhashi.1 at 10/26/00 03:36AM >>
Also, there is a good reason why Marx starts _Capital_ with a
"structuralist" analysis, rather than a "historical" one.  Marx wants
us to grasp the generative mechanism (the specific way in which
surplus gets extracted as surplus _value_; why the "discovery" of the
"labor theory of value" does not free us from commodity fetishism;
etc.) of the specificity of capitalism that distinguishes it from all
other modes of production.


CB: Is this accurate ? As Jim D. pointed out a  few weeks ago, Chapter 1 of capital
discusses simple commodity production as well as capitalist commodity production. In
other words, right in Chapter 1 , capitali is discussed historically or as a
development,as well as structurally, in its  roots as well as its composition.  It is
an abstract historical discussion, but historical none the less. The discussion of
history and origin at the end of Capital I is more concrete, but the concrete
discussion of structure is not until Volume III.  As Marx says, he proceeds in general
from the abstract to the concrete.

As to the differentia specifica of capitalism, as with all dialectics the specific is
expressed in unity with the general.


 An empiricist and/or functionalist
analysis of history, unlike a historical materialist one, erases this
specificity, implicitly or explicitly.  More than anything else,
_Capital_ and _Grundrisse_ are a critique of _political economy_.

*****   ...Whenever we speak of production, then, what is meant is
always production at a definite stage of social
development-production by social individuals.


CB: Yes, discussing something at a definite stage of social development requires
discussing both the "stage" and the development or the history. And this is what Marx
does when he practices what he says here. This is none other than the dialectical
method See Marx's disucssion of this in the Afterword to the Second German Edition of


 It might seem,
therefore, that in order to talk about production at all we must
either pursue the process of historic development through its
different phases, or declare beforehand that we are dealing with a
specific historic epoch such as e.g. modern bourgeois production,
which is indeed our particular theme.  However, all epochs of
production have certain common traits, common characteristics.
Production in general is an abstraction, but a rational abstraction
in so far as it really brings out and fixes the common element and
thus saves us repetition.  Still, this general category, this common
element sifted out by comparison, is itself segmented many times over
and splits into different determinations.  Some determinations belong
to all epochs, others only to a few.  [Some] determinations will be
shared by the most modern epoch and the most ancient.  No production
will be thinkable without them; however even though the most
developed languages have laws and characteristics in common with the
least developed, nevertheless, just those things which determine
their development, i.e. the elements which are not general and
common, must be separated out from the determinations valid for
production as such, so that in their unity -- which arises already
from the identity of the subject, humanity, and of the object, nature
-- their essential difference is not forgotten.  _The whole
profundity of those modern economists who demonstrate the eternity
and harmoniousness of the existing social relations lies in this
forgetting_.  For example.  No production possible without an
instrument of production, even if this instrument is only the hand.
No production without stored-up, past labour, even if it is only the
facility gathered together and concentrated in the hand of the savage
by repeated practice.  Capital is, among other things, also an
instrument of production, also objectified, past labour. Therefore
capital is a general, eternal relation of nature; that is, _if I
leave out just the specific quality which alone makes 'instrument of
production' and 'stored-up labour' into capital_.  The entire history
of production relations thus appears to Carey, for example, as a
malicious forgery perpetrated by governments....   (emphasis mine,
Karl Marx, _Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political
Economy_, at
<>   *****

This is in fact very difficult to keep in mind, and even very good
Marxists tend to forget it often.  However, it is absolutely
necessary to resist this "forgetting," since ideology emerges through
the "forgetting."


CB: Certainly, discussing capital's specific qualities alone will not demonstrate that
the existing social relations are not eternal and harmonious. On the contrary, the
only way to not forget that they are not eternal and harmonious is by reference to
other previously existing social realations, in other words to discuss them
historically. In fact, the differential specific of capitalism cannot be apprehended
without contrasting it with prior forms. So for example, we cannot understand what
production for exchange ( commodity production) is without contrasting it with
production for use.  Or we cannot understand predominance of commodity production
without contrasting it with peripheral commodity production. Or we can't understand
labor power as a commodity without contrasting it with labor power not sold, but its
products extracted in tribute. Or we can't understand capitalist accumulation except
in contrast with feudal wealth or slave mode wealth.

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