political marxism and value theory mashup?

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Jun 15 2012 10:20
political marxism and value theory mashup?

This discussion grew out of the A critical review of David Graeber's Debt thread.

I asked around and there seemed to be enough interest to explore this further.

So I'll throw in some quotes from that, as background.

georgestapleton wrote:
So this is probably true: "[Graeber] works with trans-historical phenomena, without raising questions as to their historical-social form. This is a trait he shares with the economic mainstream that he otherwise criticizes." But it is also true of much marxist theory. And Stützle's call for historicization, one i agree with, is not one that is heard by most value theorist. There is a complete lack of serious historical work on the development of social forms. The sole exception to this being the work by Heide Gerstenberger and (possibly Kurz in the the Black book, but that's not translated yet so I don't know.)
[...]
When I was in Berlin we spoke about political marxism's relation with value theory. And although both of us think that there is a big undeveloped convergence there, it's worth noting that the leading political marxist working on finance/credit etc (Sam Knafo) is pretty against value theory. (See his Political Marxism and Value Theory.) So it is interesting to see yet another value theory person go to Political Marxism for their historical work.
Angelus Novus wrote:
I'm totally convinced that Political Marxism and value theory are like unwitting cousins. In Charlie Post's _American Road to Capitalism_, he says he prefers the term "Capital-centric Marxist".
Hektor Rotweiler wrote:
I agree with Angelus about value theory and political marxism. It's all about the relationship between the material and the ideal maaan. Can anyone recommend works other than the Gerstenberger and the Bensaid that attempt to work out some sort of relationship between the two?

I read the Knafo sometime ago. As an IR scholar I can understand his stress on empirical capitals. But I don't understand why he can be dismissive of value form theory and retain a long and abiding interest in Lacan.

Knafo is here:
mediafire dot com/?42vjbqbj6ej9bvz

georgestapleton wrote:
The problem is that value theorists too often insist on the the historical specificity of a phenomenon but don't show that the phenomenon did not previously exist. (Actually this is a problem generally on the left - see the endless claims about debt and the unending nature of the current crisis - we'll never have growth again, blah, blah, blah.)
[...]
And as I said, we don't have a decent value theoretic account of the emergence of money that we can point to. And that is needed if value theory is to be taken seriously.
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Jun 15 2012 15:31

...no, no after you. I insist...

(ahem)

OK, so points of commonality between two tendencies that don't currently seem to have much to do with each other, and yet a good few of us seem to think complement each other in some way.

Firstly, the PM rejection of the "commercialisation model" - i.e. that the relations of capitalism were always latently waiting to happen, and arose through the gradual intensification of commercial activity in the cities (capitalism as the rise of the bourgeoisie in the original sense of the latter). This seems to me to parallel value theory's rejection of the law of value as always existing, since the time of the pyramids, and simply waiting to develop the forces of production, through commercial competition, to the level of full capitalism. That is, in both cases there is a rejection of the "always already existing" or trans-historically latent nature of capitalist social relations.

By emphasising the discontinuity between the commercial activity of earlier, pre-capitalist periods, and the different, unique dynamics of capitalism proper, both tendencies put the question of exactly how the transition from pre-capitalist relations to capitalist ones, actually came about. In the case of value theory, other than the negative of refusing the downplaying of the discontinuity involved, this transition is not imho very well theorised.

In the PM case, recourse to history (again with a strong negative element of attacking existing presumptions) with an emphasis on looking at the very specific contingent features of the particular relations of property and production that led to the emergence of capitalist relations in one particular place and period, has been very productive so far. If perhaps not yet having found the answers to every question, or dotted the last i and crossed the last t.

Other than that (and dispensing with the rotten corpse of "orthodox Marxism", at least in the area of the historical origins of capitalism) I'm not sure what the other connections are. Anybody?

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Jun 15 2012 15:53

Perhaps a few lines of inquiry:

- Value theory tends to draw heavily on Capital, whereas PM, focusing heavily on class struggle doesn't. This raises the question of the relationship of the analysis in Capital to class struggle. While it's neither value theory nor PM, I find The Incomplete Marx excellent on this, Chapter 5 probably being the most relevant.

- Tentatively, that could give rise to the thesis that value theory can at best explain the 'logic' of one side in the class struggle, capital's, but not the other. PM's rejection of/scepticism towards 'logic of capital' arguments may stem from this: working class struggle has its own logic(s) and the conflict between them drives historical developments.

- While class struggle is largely bracketed from analysis in Capital, one of the places it is implicit is in the discussion of the value of labour power. No time to find the passage, but Marx says something like 'the value of labour power is the same as any other commodity, the labour socially necessary to reproduce it at a certain standard, contingent of social norms and historical development'. In other words, the value of labour power is the product of constant class struggles. This might be a pivot between value theory and PM.

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Jun 15 2012 16:00

On that last point, it is very close to what Negri argues in Marx Beyond Marx. That when we talk about exploitation the focus should be on necessary labour, i.e. our needs, rather than on how capital extracts surplus value. Problem with Negri of course is that he considers value-theory to be bourgeois metaphysics, and want to focus on the money-form alone as it is domination incarnated. However, what he writes about money hold for value as well. So maybe there is something in MBM if the emphasis is a bit different.

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Jun 15 2012 17:53

I agree with the tangents drawn by Ocelot. I'm only familiar with EM Wood's work and it seems it really fits rather nicely with the modern (i.e. anti-historicizing) reading of the section on the value-form and generally with the emphasis on the historical specificity and uniqueness of (industrial) capital.

But I think the expression "value theory" is problematic. What exactly is meant by this? Sweezy, Morishima or Backhaus would probably all agree that their concern was "value theory" in some sense, but it meant very different things to each of them. Incidentally, I think this is one of the many problems of Knafo's article. He divides "value theory" very broadly – and highly selectively, mentioning only works available in English – into two groups, each of which is still a mix of very different views (the latter conflated by Knafo into "value-form approaches").

Personally, I'm not very much interested in Sweezy's contributions, nor in the possible connections between Sweezy's views and Political Marxism. So in my case, I take "value theory" to be the kind of reading of Marx's Capital which emphasizes that it's an immanent critique of political economy whose goal is to lay bear the "laws of motion" of developed capitalist production in their "ideal average" and to "decipher" the forms of wealth historically specific to capitalism – i.e., the kind of reading developed mostly in Japan and West Germany after WW2 and anticipated by a few earlier thinkers (Rubin, Pashukanis and some less-known predecessors).

Once value theory is interpreted like this, I think the relationship can be pretty straightforward as long as both approaches are conscious of their limits. Value theory provides the basic categories in the abstract – capital, wage labor, labor process, money, state – which can be used as guiding threads in empirical historical research in PM. "The anatomy of the Man is the key to the anatomy of the ape" (and to the ontogeny of Man, or capitalism, as well), or something to that effect.

On the other hand, PM can do what value theory (as a sort of a theory of "pure capitalism") can't: show the specific historical modifications that characterized a particular capitalist economy in a particular period. This can be very important as a sort of a corrective feedback loop for value theory. As I said, I'm only familiar with Wood's work, but it seemed to work like this when I read it. (On a related note, I agree with Knafo that "value theory" tends to be hermetic and navel-gazing. I don't know to what extent this shortcoming is reflected in anglophone "value-form theory", but I've come across several pleads to do something about this from within the "new reading of Marx" that originates in Germany. And I think something really needs to be done about this. If we wish to argue that the capitalist credit system is historically specific and subordinated to the needs of capitalist production, as Marx argues in Capital, we'd better have a lot of data to back this up.)

But as I said, I think both approaches have to be conscious of their limits. Perhaps a better way of putting this that both are digging through the same mountain, but from opposite directions, and the point is to meet somewhere in the middle.

Incidentally, the limits are why I was very upset by Knafo's article. He ventures into this speculation of what a "proper" and more realistic value theory could look like, and ends up with a purely phenomenalistic theory of "mark-up" surplus-value devoid of "socially necessary labor time" etc. It seems like the fact that without it, the analysis of fetishism which he seems to accept will completely fall apart, escapes the author. Not to mention that his discovery of "mark-up" is basically extra profit, which in "value theory" is (rather uncontroversially, I think) the main mechanism in which the law of value practically imposes itself.

---

As far as class struggle in Capital is concerned, I don't think it's fully "bracketed". It's there, but the focus is mostly on the capitalist's side (with some notable exceptions important in the development of the overarching argument: e.g., the working day and the theoretical transition to relative surplus-value; or the manufacture and the resistance of skilled workers, which mediates the theoretical transition to machinery). This led to the "objectivist" readings, famously criticized by the operaists.

As is well known, in the original 6-book plan, Marx intended to write a book on Wage, which he never did. We can only hypothesize what its contents would have been. I don't think that this missing work can be provided by PM, though. What is at stake here is not the history of the working-class – just like in Capital, the issue is not (or at least not primarily) the history of capital or capitalists. What the book on Wage would have to be to complement Capital is, in my view, a theoretical analysis of the various "social forms" which confront the proletariat, from the point of view of the proletariat. Part of it is done in Capital (e.g., the chapters on Wage), but a lot of stuff is missing: perhaps most notably, the question of reproduction of labor-power, but also the issues of hierarchies within the working class, or questions of combination (unions). Historical work into these topics is obviously important (and can be the only bases for constructing anything else about it), but what is also needed is a general critique of proletarian life and consciousness in its "ideal average".

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Jun 15 2012 18:59

One other thing that came to my mind, and I think this also popped up in the discussions here: Sometimes a counter-argument to Marx's analysis in Capital is put forward that historically, "free wage labor" was never globally the dominant form of employment (perhaps this is still true today, I don't know). We know that Marx himself was aware of this. There is a table somewhere in Volume 1 (IIRC) where he lists the structure of the working population in England and the industrial proletariat was clearly a minority – with personal servants forming a sizable sector. And of course the industrial proletariat itself was all but fully "free in the double sense". Why, then, did Marx ignore this in the analysis of the capital relationship?

I think this is a good illustration of the limits I mentioned above. Marx presupposes universal free wage labor because he's interested in laying bare the anatomy of capitalism à la lettre, in the "ideal average". This also has to do with the fact that it's an immanent critique. The point is, an apologist of capitalism can always say: If only everyone was a free wage laborer, free from all the fetters, then labor would truly be remunerated according to the effort (or productivity or whatever). Well, no, it wouldn't, and the idealizing assumption of universal free wage labor is there to show this. The job of rigorous historical research like that which comes from PM is to provide the details.

andy g
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Jun 15 2012 20:25

was wondering who would blink first!!!! now you've started it seems rude not to join in.....

TBH I was slightly surprised to hear people voice the opinion of an "unconscious overlap" between PM and value theory. I can't pretend to be particularly well acquainted with PM in its entirety or Brenner's economic analysis in particular but it's clear he rejects LTV, isn't it? I must confess to being singularly unimpressed with the Knafo article. His wanton misinterpretation of LTV, his construction of a subjective theory of value (as if "valuation" were an intentional process accomplished by an agent or authority) and the lack of any substantive alternative concept of the operation of the capitalist mode of production (bar a version of the law of unintended consequence) all stand out glaringly.

I enjoyed Brenner's contributions to the "transition debate" and firmly agree with his critique of the Sweezy-Wallerstein idea of market expansion as the driver of capitalist development. I do think the version of historical materialism that PM advocates is a bit dodgy though. it could be said that in an attempt to stress agency it has thrown the baby out with the bath water and emphasised class struggle without properly considering the material conditions/determinants of that struggle. EP Thompson is often touted as an authority but his conflation of class and class consciousness etc has been convincingly exposed (eg by Perry Anderson in "Arguments within English Marxism"). More generally it seems PM rejects some pretty pivotal concepts of historical materialism - the "dialectic" of forces and relations of production as an explanation of historical change, for instance. It seems we are left with a kind of comparative sociology of different modes of class domination with no clear concept of the movement of one to another

RedHughs
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Jun 15 2012 20:57
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The point is, an apologist of capitalism can always say: If only everyone was a free wage laborer, free from all the fetters, then labor would truly be remunerated according to the effort (or productivity or whatever).

Well, just for accuracy I think the standard apology for capitalism is "if only everyone was a small entrepreneur" (then labor would truly be remunerated according to etc, etc).

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Jun 16 2012 22:37

Charlie Post begins "The American Road to Capitalism" with a quotation from Capital Vol. III which I think neatly encapsulates the research program of the value-form, Political Marxism, and Open Marxism schools.

The one problem I have with this passage, however, is I think it can be read in a sort of "base-superstructure" way, of the relations of production being determinant.

Quote:
The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers — a relation always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity — which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state. This does not prevent the same economic basis — the same from the standpoint of its main conditions — due to innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural environment, racial relations, external historical influences, etc. from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances.
andy g
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Jun 17 2012 08:51

I like that Marx quote (used it myself on the "abract labour" thread, he says, polishing his "i've read Capital Club" membership badge). I certainly prefer it as a summary of the core principles of historical materialism to the Preface of 1859, if only because the latter is tainted by association with Second International evolutionism.

I do question the interpretation of it put forward by Wood though. Take this from instance

Quote:
the proposition that history is propelled forward by the inevitable contradictions between forces and relations of production,contradictions that emerge as developing productive forces come up against the ‘fetters’ imposed by production relations......(is) vacuous

("Marxism and the Course of History", Wood, NLR 147, 1984)

as Callinicos has pointed out in a critique of PM

Quote:
once the structural contradictions between the forces and relations of production have been excised from historical materialism it is not clear that what is left amounts to a theory of social transformation in any real sense. Class struggle alone cannot account for the transition from one mode of production to another. Open or concealed conflict between exploiter and exploited is an endemic feature of class societies.......to do so in terms of class struggle itself....is to reduce historical materialism to a voluntarist social theory where the motor of change is the clash of hostile wills

("The Limmits of 'Political Marxism'" NLR 184)

andy g
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Jun 17 2012 18:06

guessing we all very busy or actually not that interested after all....

In Against Beyond
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Jun 18 2012 09:39

I recently came across someone called Ingo Elbe. He is part of the Neue Marx Lekture scene in Germany. In one of his articles, "Marx versus Engels: Value Theory and the conception of Socialism", he managed to use some insights of the Value Form Theory for drawing some important political conclusions. Like jura had already tried to explain, Elbe in this text showed that the notion of "simple commodity economy as a historic period" is not Marx´s concept at all. BUT, he didn´t stop there and went on to show how Engels and his followers used the SCE concept to model a vision of future Socialist/Communist society. The perpetuation of the exchange of commodities would continue, value would be "sexied up" to just and "harmlessly" reflect direct labour time embodied in every producers commodity. Elbe called this an "adjectivist" Socialism... /and we had enough of it in the Eastern Bloc! sad
So, to summ up, the Value Theory a la Neue Marx Lekture may often seem too "abstract", impractical, etc. But Elbe shows that it doesnt have to be. I think his writing indicates to a possibility of this badly needed point in the middle of the mountain, that Jura had mentioned on this thread.
The German original of "Marx versus Engels: Value Theory and the conception of Socialism" is here:

http://www.rote-ruhr-uni.com/cms/Marx-vs-Engels-Werttheorie-und.html

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Jun 18 2012 10:35

@andyg - I think you'll find that contributions on these threads drop off over the weekend as all us wage slaves who spend our days in front of a computer, take a break from screen-time. Plus, posting on obscure political theory is not nearly as fun as when you're doing it on the bosses time. wink

Has anyone got a copy of the Callinicos text on PM available? It's paywalled on the NLR site.

andy g
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Jun 18 2012 11:25

yeah - I do most of my posting when at work too!

I have a pdf of the Callinicos article - can e-mail it to you of required. PM me an e-mail address

Hektor Rotweiler
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Jun 18 2012 19:41

@In Against Beyond.
Sad to say I don't know of any Elbe that has been translated outside of this http://communism.blogsport.eu/, of course.

@andyg I've been busy with other commitments and I have to move this week but I want to participate.

I also have uni access to journals. So y'all should let me know if you need them.

For now i'll just say that I think Jura does a great job of laying out how I see the problematic and the possible intersections between the two. But as you say Andyg there are also instances where political marxism can be said to be theoretically deficient as i think can also be seen in a definition knafo gave at a recent talk where he defined the emergence of capitalism as new management technique.

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Jun 18 2012 20:01

In Against Beyond, where in the Eastern bloc are you? Nice to see a comrade around from my part of the world smile.

andy g
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Jun 18 2012 21:26

only meant it as a joke, comrades! no offence intended - just my crap sense of humour in evidence again

Hektor Rotweiler
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Jun 18 2012 21:32

ok. I skimmed the Knafo. My main impression is the following: he goes about trying to work out some relationship between value theory and political marxism in pretty much the opposite way i would be interested in. (This may be because he is an IR scholar and I study theory.)

This is because: (a) he quickly asserts that value theory has no relation to history or empirical reality and (b) moves to relate value theory to empirical reality by reducing value theory to a dubious reading of alienation.

In my view this gets things the wrong way around because (a) value theory provides (or at least tries to provide) a systematic explanation of the constitution and reproduction of capital. Interpreting value simply as alienation as Knafo does (or reducing it to the 1844 manuscripts as others do) thus eliminates
the significance of value theory. While (b) simply dismissing it as having any relation to empirical reality seems to pass the buck.

I did, however, seem some possible points of intersection between Knafo's attempt to recast the LTV along political lines and Arthur's. I'll have to think about that more.

I could go into more detail about these points or criticize some of the definitions he provides which i think are a bit baggy, but i'll hold off unless someone is interested.

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Jun 19 2012 10:56
andy g wrote:
I do question the interpretation of it put forward by Wood though. Take this from instance
Quote:
the proposition that history is propelled forward by the inevitable contradictions between forces and relations of production,contradictions that emerge as developing productive forces come up against the ‘fetters’ imposed by production relations......(is) vacuous

("Marxism and the Course of History", Wood, NLR 147, 1984)

as Callinicos has pointed out in a critique of PM

Andy. First of all, thanks for sending me the Callinicos piece and the Wood piece that the above quotation is constructed. I say constructed, because Callinicos has been a bit dirty here. He's actually put together two different quotes by Wood:

p. 100 of "Marxism and the Course of History"

Quote:
The Development of Productive Forces

Where, then, do the forces of production figure in all this?14 The proposition that history is simply the inexorable progress of productive forces is vacuous and by itself inconsistent with Marx’s analysis of capitalism. It can accommodate a whole range of possibilities, from the revolutionizing of productive forces under capitalism to the tendency of productive forces to ‘petrify’ in pre-capitalist societies. The sense in which it is true is very limited in its explanatory value and begs the critical question of capitalist development.

spliced with:

p 102

Quote:
What, then, of the proposition that history is propelled forward by the inevitable contradictions between forces and relations of production, contradictions that emerge as developing productive forces come up against the ‘fetters’ imposed by production relations and ‘their relatively inflexible superstructural expressions’?17 Since (among other things) this proposition begs the question of whether and to what extent productive forces do and must develop in the first place, it may seem, on the face of it, hardly less vacuous than the general law of technological development in its simpler form. It can certainly be said that there is a minimum level of productive forces without which any set of production relations cannot be sustained, and it is also true that any set of production relations can permit or encourage only so much change in the forces of production and only in a limited range of forms. But it would be quite another matter to suggest that there is a particular set of productive forces to match every set of production relations (or vice versa), or that development in one must go step by step in tandem with the other. Productive forces establish the ultimate conditions of the possible, but the range of production relations that can be sustained by any set of productive forces is quite broad; and the various changes in production relations that have occurred cannot be explained simply by reference to the development of productive forces, either in the sense that the former have followed the latter or in the sense that the former have changed ‘in order to’ remove obstacles to the development of the latter.

I think Callinicos' critique basically evades the problem of the "Theory of the Productive Forces" begging the question of "what makes the forces of production develop?", by accusing Wood of "voluntarism" and "sociology" through a misrepresentation of her actual problematic. It's a minor point, but Callinicos, Harman and the rest of the SWP appear to have decided, perhaps in order to compensate for their extreme political opportunism, to appoint themselves as the theoretical guardians of Marxist orthodoxy, as far as the "inexorable development of the productive forces as mainspring of history" theory goes. I guess it reassures them that their victory is historically inevitable or something...`

edit: in a way I think its probably symptomatic that Callinicos finds it not a problem to merge the two statements, as for him they amount to the same thing.

andy g
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Jun 19 2012 12:14

gotta disagree, ocelot (takes deep breath of trepidation...)

firstly, whilst AC may have "spliced" quotes I think it questionable if there is any serious misrepresentation of Wood's position involved. I think Wood subjects her own argument to multiple caveats - mostly in footnotes to the "Marxism and the Course of History" article - that make its conclusion less clear than the confident tone the main body of the text conveys. Does she attribute any explantory value to the concepts of forces and relations of production or not? how does she envision their relationship and development?

secondly, AC has explicitly disavowed any concept of "an inexorable development of the forces of production as the mainspring of history" repeatedly over the years. See, for instance, his discussion of Cohen's "primacy thesis" in "Making History". In fact, I think he even goes as far as advocating the causal primacy of relations of production at points (in "Is There a Future for Marxism?" and "Marxism and Philosophy") as he acknowledges their role in shaping (or preventing) the development of the productive forces. At work so don't have the texts to hand so cannot quote directly - apologies. Interestignly, Wood refers (approvingly?) to an article by Erik Olin Wright which she argues is "compatible" with her thesis. AC has done so (again repeatedly) pointing out that it allows for a concept of "directionality" not predestination in historical materialism

thirdly, how do you feel Wood has been misrepresented? AC is saying that exclusive focus on class struggle can't explain "epochal" transformations in itself. why did the class struggle between peasant and serf produce the impetus towards agrarian capitalist development when it did and not earlier? wasn't "the specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labour was pumped out of the direct producers" substantially the same as it had been much earlier?

(pauses for breath) I'm trying to read up on Brenner's economic analysis and its relationship to LTV. any pointers (preferably free to download, of course!)

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Jun 19 2012 13:34
andy g wrote:
I'm trying to read up on Brenner's economic analysis and its relationship to LTV. any pointers (preferably free to download, of course!)

Not specifically Brenner and the LTV. Tbh I find Brenner's writing style somewhat sawdusty, so I haven't read a great deal by him, I tend to stick to Woods or Teschke who are both much more readable (personal taste, your mileage may vary). But, as an intro to similar themes between AC and Wood, I quite like the transcript of the 2004 debate between Chris Harman and Brenner, here.

I'll come back to the rest later...

andy g
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Jun 19 2012 13:54

yeah, I've seen the Brenner-Harman thing.

is also an article of Harman's on the origins of capitalism

http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=21

know what you mean about Brenner's writing style....zzzz

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Jun 19 2012 14:48

From that Harman piece

Quote:
Since the first agriculture in the Middle East some 10,000 or so years ago there has been a cumulative, if sporadic, growth of new forces of production spreading right across the connected land masses of Europe, Asia and Africa. The rise of capitalism in Europe is just one passing phase in this whole process.

That's some pretty old-skool "inexorable development of the forces of production as the mainspring of history" stuff right there, if I'm not mistaken.

andy g
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Jun 19 2012 15:06

hmmm... perhaps not the best way of putting it on Chris's part.

selective quotation perhaps though, ocelot - see later in the same piece

Quote:
The recent discussions on the breakthrough of capitalism on a worldwide scale suffer from some of the same faults. In particular, they fail to see that contradictions between the economic base of society and its political and ideological superstructures are not resolved by economics alone. They are fought out between rival classes ideologically and politically as well as economically. And success in such battles is never guaranteed in advance, but depends upon initiative, organisation and leadership.

and TBH the piece generally acknowledges a co-determinant role for class struggle in shaping historical processes....

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Jun 19 2012 15:45

Sure, I recognise that both Harman and Callinicos are proposing a "dualist" analysis with class struggle on the one hand and the structuralist determination of the contradiction between forces of production and relations of production on the other. But it's the other, trad. ortho pole that concerns me. The development of the FoP is taken as exogenous - what determines it, its rate, etc is never explained, it's just taken for granted like some kind of background radiation of technological innovation that simply accumulates over time, until its level becomes the structural determinant that makes epochal transition possible, even if they recognise (to a degree) the role of class struggle in determining the actual messy historical process of the transition. But, like Woods says, this still begs the question of what is determining the development of the forces of production. Particularly as Marx's example in the discussion of relative accumulation in Capital 1, puts it the other way around.

from note in Woods, M&CH

Quote:
21 ‘The production of relative surplus-value, revolutionizes out and out the technical processes of labour, and the composition of society. It therefore presupposes a specific mode, the capitalist mode of production, a mode which, along with its methods, means, and conditions, arises and develops spontaneously on the foundation afforded by the formal subjection of labour to capital. In the course of this development, the formal subjection is replaced by the real subjection of labour to capital.’ (Capital Vol. 1, pp. 477–8.) In other words, a transformation in the social relations of production, which gave rise to the ‘formal subjection’ of labour to capital—the transformation of producers into wage-labourers directly subject to capital, without at first transforming the means and methods of production—set in train a process which had as its eventual consequence the revolutionizing of productive forces. Capitalist relations carried a compulsion to increase surplus-value; and, as the production of absolute surplus-value gave way to relative surplus-value, the need to increase labour-productivity was met by completely transforming the labour-process, the ‘real subjection’ of labour to capital. The revolutionizing of productive forces was thus only the end of a complex process that began with the establishment of capitalist social relations.
andy g
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Jun 19 2012 18:26

a couple of things -

Quote:
The development of the FoP is taken as exogenous - what determines it, its rate, etc is never explained, it's just taken for granted like some kind of background radiation of technological innovation that simply accumulates over time, until its level becomes the structural determinant that makes epochal transition possible, even if they recognise (to a degree) the role of class struggle in determining the actual messy historical process of the transition

TBH i don't know how you can maintain this interpretation of Callinicos (who I chose as his stuff is more directed at the "social theory" level). as I said he devotes the best part of a whole chapter of "Making History" to a critique of Cohen and the "primacy" and "development" theses. he repeatedly acknowledges that RoP condition/shape/enable/prevent the growth of FoP, ironically enough approvingly quoting Brenner to that effect

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the development of the productive forces arises not from some transhistorical principles of human conduct. Rather, as Balibar puts it, "the rhythm and pattern of their development" are dictated "by the nature of the relations of production and the structure of the mode of production"

p62 (although there lots of passages here and elsewhere i could bore people with)

I think AC poses the question correctly here

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the central difficulty with historical materialism is how the two principal contradictions, those between the forces and relations of production, and between classes, relate to one another to bring about social transformations

p54

my point is that PM appears to place almost exclusive emphasis on one to the neglect of the other and thus undermines historical materialism. that's why I questioned the role of FoP and RoP for Wood and PM in general

andy g
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Jun 20 2012 07:31

sorry to labour the point but re-read this last night and it pretty much sums it up

Quote:
To argue in this manner is not, however, to accord causal primacy to the
productive forces. Their development is best understood, in my view, as a
necessary, but not sufficient condition of changes in social relations. Furthermore,
the scope for developing the productive forces is determined by the
prevailing relations of production. These relations are best conceived as a
specific mode of appropriation of surplus-labor, which in turn depends upon
the distribution of the means of production. Forces and relations mutually
limit one another, rather than the one exerting primacy over the

Callinicos "Anthony Giddens :a Contemporary Critique"

[url]http://www.jstor.org/stable/657087 .[/url]

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ocelot
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Jun 20 2012 10:57

What the left hand giveth the right hand taketh away. I will grant you that Callinicos, as the SWP's only semi-credible intellectual, does make more of an effort to protect his reputation by defending himself against the charges of economistic and technological determinism and historical teleology, than the likes of Harman (and that article you linked by Harman is full of technological fetishism and teleological "embryos", "green shoots" and "transitional forms"). But anyway, I'm not interested in discussing (yet again) why the SWP have shit politics.

Let's try and refocus on the critique of PM. The charge of "voluntarism" that Callinicos levels against Wood, is imo based on an inversion of her challenge. Woods affirms the relevance of the contradiction between the FoP and RoP in capitalism, but she asserts that the historically specific dynamics of capitalism allow us to analyse the relation between the two. What she is challenging in the 'fetters' formulation, is precisely it's "universal law of history" status. Specifically she does so on the basis that it is used dogmatically to make a claim that it answers the question of historical development. When she says that its invocation is "begging the question", she means (imo) that it is used as a blockage to the question - by insisting that the answer has already been found. Woods is saying that the question that Callinicos poses in an upside-down, idealised (reified) form "how the two principal contradictions, those between the forces and relations of production, and between classes, relate to one another to bring about social transformations", is precisely the question that cannot be answered so long as the dogmatic blockage that the ortho formula represents, is not discarded. Additionally, that the method for answering that question will be historical, rather than apriori.

And here, by way of segue, we move back to one of the differences/problems between PM and Value Form theory, at least of the Chris Arthur type*, imo. In the case of the latter, it seems to me that there is a problem with the historical and the agency of the class struggle disappearing. By retreating to such an abstractified, Hegelian level, where categories move of their own volition and contradictions between them determine the course of history (as in Callinicos' version of the formula), the central role of the class struggle, which links E.P. Thompson, the PMs, and the post-autonomists, seems to disappear. This seems to me to be the biggest obstacle to bringing VF into productive dialogue with PM and AM.

* True confessions time, I haven't actually read any of Chris Arthur's books, my impressions rely on the handy conspectus given in Endnotes #2.

andy g
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Jun 20 2012 12:37

I have my differences with some of Harman's stuff too. Will gladly leave the subject of the SWPs apparently "shit politics" if only because it appears to cause "blockages" of its own, not to mention unnecessary vitriol in an otherwise (I'd hoped) fraternal debate.

TBH your strictures against dogmatic incantation of a priori formulae as a substitute for empirical analysis could equally apply to any social theory. doesn't mean its not well observed, of course. it also doesn't mean that empirical enquiry isn't "theory impregnated" or that rendering the concepts employed clear is a bad thing. AC employs concepts derived from Lakatos to argue

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in the case of Marxism, ... its heuristic consists in
the basic concepts and propositions of historical materialism, while the
auxiliary hypotheses are analyses of specific modes of production, social
formations, and conjunctures....

It is an implication of this argument that the proof of the pudding is in the
eating. Is historical materialism capable of providing empirically satisfactory
analyses of pre-capitalist societies? The work of Marxist historians suggests
that it is

It seems you, he and I agree on this. which is nice.

I haven't read Arthur either (oh the shame!) but from what I know of his work what you say seems accurate. Must admit to zoning out when Hegel comes into play....

andy g
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Jun 20 2012 12:40

what do people think of the idea of the association between PM (through Brenner) and "analytical marxism" being a block on it and value theory? IIRC analytical marxists almost unanimously rejected LTV, possibly under the aegis of Sraffianism

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georgestapleton
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Jun 20 2012 14:18

Is there an "association between PM (through Brenner) and "analytical marxism""?

I know Brenner attended the 'Spetember Group' meetings and contributed to the debates. But my impression of his contribution was that he participated to say that most of the analytical arguments were historical bullshit. Now my impression here is based on reading Brenner's essay 'the social basis of economic development' quite a long time ago.