A Companion to David Harvey's Companion to Marx' Capital, Chapter 1

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critisticuffs
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Mar 24 2014 15:52
A Companion to David Harvey's Companion to Marx' Capital, Chapter 1
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David Harvey is the dominant commentator on Capital in English. Many Capital reading groups use his video lectures or his book – A Companion to Marx' Capital – as a guide. Capital can be a daunting book and David Harvey's commentaries have encouraged many to pick it up and work through it. This, in principle, is a valuable project as much can be learned about the world we are forced to live in from that old book.

The authors of this text, too, have recently spent time reading Capital. During the course of our engagement with Capital we found problems with David Harvey's Companion and with the account it gives of Capital. It is important to highlight these problems not because they misrepresent Marx – although this is often the case – but because David Harvey's account in A Companion does not adequately explain the commodity, money and capital; in short capitalism. As a consequence, the solutions he suggests to the misery around us do not offer any way out but presuppose the social relations that produce this misery.

As an example for such an attempt at a solution, we look at David Harvey's more recent suggestion for an alternative form of money: oxidisable money, which he argues would prevent the accumulation of social power. This view on money stands in direct opposition to what can be learned from Capital about what money and value are, as well as to Marx's view on the matter of alternative monies.3 In this article we will show that this opposition stems from David Harvey's misunderstanding of one of the most fundamental categories of political economy: abstract labour, the labour that produces value. We will hence look at and explain what Marx says about abstract labour in chapter 1 and contrast it with Harvey's commentary on it. We then move on to Harvey's recent proposal for a new money and show that it is based on an appreciation of commodity circulation and production, i.e. the conditions under which labour is expressed in value. Finally, we critique David Harvey's account of the fetish-like character of the commodity.

There is more to critique about A Companion than what we deal with here: Harvey's tendency to turn Capital into an enigma full of “cryptic assertions” and “a priori leaps”, his advise to look out for specific words without explaining why, his tendency to talk about entirely different points instead of what is in front of us4 and his tendency to discuss processes, movement and pattern of arguments instead of explaining the specific argument about the actual process of movement he is commenting on. While all these limit the usefulness of A Companion as a guide to reading Capital, our focus shall be on A Companion's economic content and how it relates to the content of chapter 1 of Capital.

http://critisticuffs.org/texts/david-harvey/

alb
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Mar 27 2014 07:02
critisticuffs wrote:
As an example for such an attempt at a solution, we look at David Harvey's more recent suggestion for an alternative form of money: oxidisable money, which he argues would prevent the accumulation of social power. This view on money stands in direct opposition to what can be learned from Capital about what money and value are, as well as to Marx's view on the matter of alternative monies.

There's some good stuff here.It is particularly good in criticising Harvey's proposal for an "oxidisable" money, i.e one that cannot be accumulated. How someone who has written widely on what Marx is supposed to have meant can end up advocating a reform of the monetary system is incredible.