[Marxism] [UCE] Forwarded from Ed George

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 6 09:23:08 MST 2013

Hi Louis,

I tried (twice) to send this (a response to Hans to his answer to my
question) to the list this morning but it doesn't seem to have got
through (maybe the server thinks it's spam, since I sent a few messages
one after the other with the same subject line). Could you forward it on?




To answer Hans Ehbar.

First, while I’m here, I’d like to say how incredibly useful your
Capital annotations project 
(<http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~ehrbar/akmc.htm>) has been for me (and 
for others) in tackling Capital. I’m very grateful.

Onto your comment.

Hans: ‘I don't think you should look for a specific mechanism, you
should look for the underlying systemic necessity which will  be
realized in many different ways.’

Me: Maybe my question then is what the ways in which the ‘underlying
systemic necessity’ is realised are. But also, then, it would have to be 
as to what the underlying systemic necessity is, and why it is as it is.

Hans: ‘According to my understanding of Marx, the real definition  of
capital cannot be that it generates surplus-value, because then you have 
a false distinction between capital and surplus-value. The real
definition of capital is value  in motion, value that generates more
value out of itself, not just once but indefinitely.’

Me: I fully agree. Capital is, for Marx, by definition self-expanding.
He’s very clear on it, time and time again. And that capital is
self-expanding in nature is also an observable fact. But to mind what
this poses is why is capital *necessarily* self-expanding. I don’t think 
the naswer can be ‘because it is’. Why can’t capital exist without 
self-expanding. It obviously doesn’t but why can’t it?

Hans: ‘I think modern systems theory calls this an autopoietic system or 
an auto-catalytic system but I am not well versed in this, I just throw 
it out there if you want to look up  these terms. Capitalism can only 
function if it expands,  and its functioning promotes its expansion (at 
least until it hits the planet's resource constraints which Marx did not 
consider enough).’

Me: Agreed. Capital is self-catalysing. But how does this happen?
Individual capitalists make concrete investment decisions under given
circustances; it is through these that the necessity of the
self-expansion of capital expresses itself. But there is a link between
this necessity and those decisions that I can’t see.

Hans: ‘If you look at the Accumulation chapter you find several such
autocatalytic causal chains, such as: capital accumulation leads to
bigger firms leads to more  economics of scale and therefore faster
capital accumulation.’

Me: True. But if accumulation leads to accumulation, this presupposes
what is to be explained. Why accumulation in the first place?

Hans: ‘Interestingly, there is no competitive mechanism prescribing  how 
much of surplus-value should be converted into capital. Marx says in 
chapter 24 that this is the decision of the  capitalist.’

Me: Yes. As I read Marx he seems very clear that it is accumulation and
the consequent fall in the rate of profit that intensifies competition,
not that intensified competiton forces technical change. This last seems 
to be the result of voluntary decisions on the part of capitalists. My 
question is why do they make this decision. To realise surplus-profit, 
yes, but why?

Hans:  'I think this should be read to mean the decision of the
capitalist class. If wages are too high, they can collectively decide to 
accumulate more slowly to make wages lower again.'

Me: Indeed. Marx talks about (in a different context) in volume 3 that
‘the capitalists, no matter how little love is lost among them in their
mutual competition, are nevertheless united by a real freemasonry
vis-a-vis the working class as a whole.’ (p.300.)

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