[Marxism] [UCE] Re: Re: Question

Ed George edgeorge1963 at gmail.com
Wed Feb 6 11:51:38 MST 2013

(Don't think this got through; apologies if it appears twice.)

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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