Reply to Mike Ballard

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at
Thu Dec 12 19:52:43 MST 2002

Hi Jurriaan,

--- Jurriaan Bendien <J.Bendien at> wrote:
> All that Marx really says in the passage you quote
> is that in order for
> money, assets or commodities to be accumulated (used
> for value accretion,
> i.e. used as capital), definite social relations are
> necessary,

Yes.  By selling their skills for a wage over time,
workers alienate the product of their labour.  This
product becomes a commodity, it becomes Capital.  As
they sell their skills on a daily basis to their
employers, this becomes the social relation which is
known as Capital, which in turn is based on

encoded or
> reflected in specific private property relations,
> ideological forms,
> institutional arrangements etc. I don't deny that at
> all, of course. And
> further, that capital becomes an alien social power,
> that people effectively
> become the slaves of capital accumulation, whatever
> they may think. I don't
> deny that either.

If the government is not under the direct control of
the producers, the social product of their labour will
appear to them as things (commodities) which they, as
employees of the State, buy with their wages.  Thus,
the social relation of capital is reproduced.  In the
eye of the wage-labourer, the things out there for
sale are seen "camera-obscura", as if something other
than they themselves produced the wealth around them.
They tend to see themselves as individual consumers,
as opposed to the producers of Capital (aka all social
wealth, excepting Nature), including Capital as a
social relation.  This process corrodes and eventually
destroys whatever revolutionary class consciousness
which may have existed before this relation has been

> But when Marx later says capital "is not a thing,
> but a social relation" I
> think it would be better to say it is a specific
> thing within, or by virtue
> of, a social relation. It is a thing which has an
> alien social power, by
> virtue of the existence of specific social
> relations, encoded in property
> forms, ideological forms etc. Marx cannot very well
> say that "things
> dominate people" or that "relationships between
> people are expressed as
> (take the form of) relationships between things" and
> then also say that
> those things ARE social relations.

Capital is a unity of many opposites.  Wage-labour is
necessary for Capital to exist and vice versa.  Fixed
capital is the term for machinery which is created by
wage-labour.  Money--the universal
equivalent--represents and allows for the circulation
of the exchange-value produced by wage-labour.
Variable capital expands exchange-value when it is
employed as wage-labour.

> I see Das Kapital basically as an attempt to
> describe and explain those
> social relations which generalised commodity
> production causes us
> "spontaneously" to abstract away from, and
> reifies/objectifies as value
> relations. In neo-classical economics, social
> relations do not exist as a
> theoretical object, they are excluded from economic
> science as
> "extra-economic factors" (perhaps they are smuggled
> back in, in practice).
> Thus the reified appearance-form of the market
> economy is taken as the only
> object of economic science.

Yes.  When the fetish blinders are removed i.e. when
we become class conscious, we discover ourselves as
the 'invisible hand'.  We are the market.  We produce
the market and the things within it.  Capitalism is
mediated by things; it is not produced by things.

Mike B)

"Man first begins to philosophize when the necessitites of life are supplied."  Aristotle

"determinatio est negatio"  Spinoza

"There are no ordinary cats."  Colette

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