formal and real subsumption

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booeyschewy
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Jan 28 2008 18:03
formal and real subsumption

give me one-line definitions of each please. i dare you. seriously though, where can I find concise explanations in capital?

todd

booeyschewy
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Jan 28 2008 18:53

that makes sense. So is real subsumption shifts in the production like toyotism and stuff, hence why left commies are so into it?

booeyschewy
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Jan 28 2008 19:31

I read that bit in the economic manuscripts right? Is there nothing about it in capital? I've read Vol 1 and part of 2 but hadn't seen it.

severin
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Jan 28 2008 19:50
revol68 wrote:
booeyschewy wrote:
I read that bit in the economic manuscripts right? Is there nothing about it in capital? I've read Vol 1 and part of 2 but hadn't seen it.

You'll be looking for the originally unpublished section of Capital, "Results of the immediate processes of production" that Marx left out of Capital, it was suppoused to go in just after the section on Primitive Accumulation. It isn't in my copy of Capital, infact I only found out about it cause Zizek quotes from it on Real and Formal Subsumption in the Parralax View.

It's in the Penguin edition. As an appendix.

http://www.amazon.com/Capital-Critique-Political-Economy-Classics/dp/0140445684

RedHughs
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Jan 28 2008 20:11

Let me predict how the discussion will unfold: Someone, maybe several people will give a detailed history and bibliography, of the term. Then someone else will describe how later authors, Negri say, attempted to extend the concept. Then someone will give close readings of the originals texts showing how these later thinkers violated Marx's ORIGINAL INTENTIONS and call the later authors and anyone who was defended their ideas stupid and moveover call any discussion about the relevance of these ideas to modern struggles also stupid. Since people are tired of being beat up over these points, perhaps the ideas of those extending the concepts will be denounced without anyone bothering to defend them.

Personally, I've never used the formal/real distinction much. I know Negri and maybe Aufheben used the formal/real distinction to describe different levels of capitalist domination at present. I think that some terminology for describing various levels of contemporary capitalist domination is useful, even crucial, but in this case formal/real isn't appropriate. Today things are more like the real and the surreal. domination than real and formal except in less advanced third world nations (and even these are catching up).

Red

capricorn
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Jan 28 2008 20:59

I think it is clear that all Marx meant was that, when capitalism first spread to production in a big way, in the 18th century, at first the wage-paid producers were only "formally" subject to capital in the sense that instead of working on their own spinning or weaving machines in their homes they worked on the same sort of machines but owned by a capitalist and on the capitalist's premises (in a factory). It was only later that the machines on which they worked were transformed into something that could not be operated by an individual in their homes that the producers became "really" subordinated to capital. In other words, this is something that has been and gone a long tome ago (sometime in the last century but one). It is true that some "left communists" make a big song and dance about it as if it's something that only happened in 1914. But they are wrong.

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OliverTwister
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Jan 28 2008 21:04

Doesn't real subsumption also explain things like freeways, containerization, automization, teh interweb, etc.?

eta: or is that explained as "intensive accumulation"? If so, what's the relation between the two?

RedHughs
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Jan 28 2008 22:13

Hmm,

Actually, I think that paragraph revol quotes isn't about the movement of capital from formal to real subsumption but the qualities of real subsumption.

But the paragraph is very useful in describing capitalist development. Various other adjectives have been used to describe our present capitalist system which undergone this intensive process for many years. These other adjective include "advanced", "late", "decadent", "post-modern", "spectacular", "developed", etc.

Red

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Jan 28 2008 23:54

I agree largely with Capricorn on this. For Marx the essential transition here is between 'manufacture' and the factory system proper - the first being a form of associating artisan labour, the second being the 'classic' capitalist production line. It certainly isn't something that coinicides with 1914. The key moment of transformation takes place in the early 19th century, although Revol is right to see it as continuous since throughout the 20th century capitalism continues to turn essentially pre-capitalist forms of production into capitalist production proper. As for left commies making a song and dance about it, this would apply to certain ex-Bordigists like Camatte and above all Internationalist Perspective, who make the transition from formal to real virtually interchangeable with the transition from ascendance to decadence.

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Jan 29 2008 09:03

I was thinking of this post: "In formal subsumption old forms of production are assimilated into the the circuits of capital ie peasants producing for and being paid by capitalists, whilst real subsumption is when the very processes of production are transformed by capital ie modern factory farming". . I agree with this, but what other changes inside existing capitalist processes of production would come under this definition in your opinion?

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Jan 29 2008 10:02

I think to stick to Marx's defintion we have to talk about the labour process - in that sense real subsumptiion is indeed equivalent to directly associated labour in factories or similarly 'collectivised' workplaces.

Spikymike
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Dec 18 2016 19:09

Well I'm with 'Internationalist Perspectives' on this one I think. It seems to me that this concept orginating in Marx is indeed very useful and can be 'extended' to help understand both the past development of capitalist society and continuing changes going on throughout the world today - in China for instance. There is a parrallel concept here in the 'absolute' and 'relative' exploitation of labour which is perhaps more graphic in its description of the change in the dominant form of capital accumulation both globally and regionally. It can be argued that historically on a global level capitalism effectively made this shift around the beginning of the 20th century, but the process is of course still continuing (and with occasional hicups even when real domination seems the established norm in most 'developed' economies).

Whilst this seems a sounder basis to argue for a theory of decadence as IP does,

http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-archive/ip_42_how-capitalism-changed.html

this doesn't end the usefulness of the concepts in analysing and understanding what is going on around us today including some of the differences in different parts of the world.

mikus
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Feb 2 2008 19:29

The definitions are very simple in Marx. It's amazing to me that this always comes up as if it were a big issue. (Not necessarily on this messageboard, but in Marxist discussions).

Formal subsumption is when old labor processes performed by peasants, artisans, and so forth, are then undertaken under the command of a capitalist. So the old machinery, labor process, etc., is still used but now the capitalist directs the process. This is essentially what Capricorn said. What revol said was close but not quite right. He mentioned "peasants producing for and being paid by capitalists" as an example of "formal subsumption" but this isn't correct because if the laborers are peasants and not wage-laborers, then they have not been formally subsumed (i.e. the form of their labor is still private, peasant labor, even if the proto-capitalist skims off the top). (It is useful to think about the meaning of the word "form." In Marx this is generally used to distinguish the different sorts of labor processes characteristic of different epochs of production, say feudalism and capitalism. It wouldn't make much sense to say that peasant labor performed for the benefit of a merchant is "formally" the same as wage-labor, since in fact the "form" of the two sorts of labor is the primary distinguishing characteristic.) For Marx the putting out system was a transitional phase between feudal or private labor and formal subsumption. Formal subsumption only begins when the peasant is transformed into a wage-laborer. (This is also described in greater detail in a number of unpublished chapters in Vol. 3, where Marx describes the history of merchant and interest-bearing capital.)

Real subsumption occurs when the old labor processes are transformed. For Marx this occurred with the development of manufacture (to some extent) and especially with the factory system. (This is described in great detail in Chapters 13-15 of Capital, Vol. I, which in my opinion is Marx's most developed discussion of these issues despite the fact that he didn't use the infamous phrases themselves.)

Naturally the labor process is constantly transformed, as revol has pointed out and I doubt anyone would deny. But the terms are used (by Marx) as terms for one specific transition, namely that from the original transformation of peasants and independent laborers into wage-laborers, into the transformation of labor processes to such an extent that they were not and could not be used by independent laborers. Again, this is a matter of definition. If one wants to explain why labor processes are constantly transformed one would use not certain phrases, but Marx's theory of relative surplus-value.

A lot of the discussion suffers from the idea that when one explains what "formal" and "real" subsumption are, one is making some kind of empirical statement about "formal and real subsumption." In fact all one is doing is laying down definitions that are then used in the development of a theory. What "formal and real subsumption" are is not an empirical issue in the slightest, but only an issue of definition. In my opinion it would be easiest to stick with Marx's definitions since he was the least confused about this point but as it's not up to any one person how terms are used, I guess we will just have to deal with the confusion by being very clear on what we mean. (Rather than getting into ridiculous arguments where one side says "Real subsumption is x", and the other side says "Real subsumption is y", and it appears as if there is a substantive disagreement when in fact it is only a matter of definition.)

A good example of how this confusion manifests itself is this question asked by Oliver: "Doesn't real subsumption also explain things like freeways, containerization, automization, teh interweb, etc.?" The answer is "No." Formal and real subsumption are terms used to denote certain historical transitions. They are not theories. And as short-hand terms, they don't explain anything. Naming something does not explain it. (This is not to deny that one can "explain" those phenomena but the explanation will have nothing to do with simple definitions.)

And to the original question as to whether or not Marx used the term in Capital, Vol. I, Marx uses the phrases in passing, without defining them clearly, at the beginning of Ch. 16 (pg. 645 of the Penguin edition). Obviously Marx didn't think the terms themselves were terribly important and instead spent more time describing the actual transitions which took place (Ch.13-15).

Mike

mikus
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Feb 4 2008 06:28
revol68 wrote:
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What revol said was close but not quite right. He mentioned "peasants producing for and being paid by capitalists" as an example of "formal subsumption" but this isn't correct because if the laborers are peasants and not wage-laborers, then they have not been formally subsumed (i.e. the form of their labor is still private, peasant labor, even if the proto-capitalist skims off the top). (It is useful to think about the meaning of the word "form." In Marx this is generally used to distinguish the different sorts of labor processes characteristic of different epochs of production, say feudalism and capitalism. It wouldn't make much sense to say that peasant labor performed for the benefit of a merchant is "formally" the same as wage-labor, since in fact the "form" of the two sorts of labor is the primary distinguishing characteristic.)

I was saying they were wage labourers (that is paid by capitalists rather than simply selling their product to merchants) but essentially still peasants in that their labour process hadn't changed ie still working much like they did under feudalism for the lord, y'know like the seasonal landless peasants that were still a large group in Spain as far on as 1936.

I think you are talking about the "putting out system", where a merchant advances raw materials, tools and money to peasants, who produce from their own household, and who then give the finished product to the merchant who sells it for a higher price than his initial advances. (So the merchant is also a capitalist, since he is only interested in the expansion of his money.) In Marx's definition, this is not "formal subsumption" but is a transitional form of merchant's capital. (Marx also discusses how this system of production grows up in the interstices of the capitalist economy somewhere in Vol. 1 of Capital, probably in Ch. 15). If that's not what you were talking about, then perhaps you are correct, but it's hard to understand what production process you're specifically speaking of.

revol68 wrote:
Quote:
In my opinion it would be easiest to stick with Marx's definitions since he was the least confused about this point but as it's not up to any one person how terms are used, I guess we will just have to deal with the confusion by being very clear on what we mean. (Rather than getting into ridiculous arguments where one side says "Real subsumption is x", and the other side says "Real subsumption is y", and it appears as if there is a substantive disagreement when in fact it is only a matter of definition.)

Except Marx used the phrase 'formal and real subsumption' and that doesn't simply act as an value free arbitrary singifier like a name ie calling something formal and the other real isn't simply like saying 'this is A and this is B', but implies ideas of what are the correct forms of production for capitalism and what are simply residual forms destined to be transformed. The fact Marx dropped this section from Capital might well have been because of the can of worms that it opens.

Actually, it is exactly like saying "this is A and this is B". In science, theorists have the liberty to use terms they like. Scientists are constantly creating new definitions in the interest of precision. Unless, of course, you want to argue that, say, words like "mass" or "matter" have various non-scientific connotations within physics just because some hare-brained philosophers have used the terms for their own ridiculous purposes!

This is not to say that one might not read certain normative implications into the terminology (this has happened many times, which I'm not afraid to admit, indeed the confusion created by this is the entire reason I have posted on this thread), but that doesn't mean that such implications are there in Marx's own work. Unless you can demonstrate it with textual evidence, which I don't think you can.

And in any case this has little to do with the issue which I had brought up before, which is that the terms "formal" and "real subsumption" are not empirical theories. Even if we accept your claim that the phrases are normative, it doesn't change them into empirical theories, since giving a normative opinion on something does nothing to explain it.

(For example, if we had called "formal subsumption" something blatantly normative like "shitty subsumption", on the one hand, and called "real subsumption", say, "good subsumption" on the other, we still wouldn't have moved a step closer to making the terms into a theory. They'd still be no more than designators for a certain kind of production process It's just that the terms would additionally express an attitude to the facts. But an attitude towards facts is not an explanation of facts.)

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OliverTwister
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Feb 4 2008 11:24
Quote:
I think you are talking about the "putting out system", where a merchant advances raw materials, tools and money to peasants, who produce from their own household, and who then give the finished product to the merchant who sells it for a higher price than his initial advances. (So the merchant is also a capitalist, since he is only interested in the expansion of his money.) In Marx's definition, this is not "formal subsumption" but is a transitional form of merchant's capital. (Marx also discusses how this system of production grows up in the interstices of the capitalist economy somewhere in Vol. 1 of Capital, probably in Ch. 15). If that's not what you were talking about, then perhaps you are correct, but it's hard to understand what production process you're specifically speaking of.

I think he's referring to serfs/slaves-turned-sharecroppers, and being paid wages, but still using the same means of production.

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Feb 4 2008 12:03

well, here's an opportunity to agree with mikus....The defintion in Marx is rather precise and doesn't cover changes inside an already- existing developed capitalist production process, nor can it be directly applied to small producers like peasants still producing independently but oppressed by capital in various ways, although it may be the next stage of their exploitation.

I haven't read the IP article and will have to put it on my To Do list. In the meantime, perhaps spikeymike can summarise why he thinks the formal/real transition gives us a better basic for understanding the decadence
of capitalism?

mikus
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Feb 6 2008 01:57
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
I think you are talking about the "putting out system", where a merchant advances raw materials, tools and money to peasants, who produce from their own household, and who then give the finished product to the merchant who sells it for a higher price than his initial advances. (So the merchant is also a capitalist, since he is only interested in the expansion of his money.) In Marx's definition, this is not "formal subsumption" but is a transitional form of merchant's capital. (Marx also discusses how this system of production grows up in the interstices of the capitalist economy somewhere in Vol. 1 of Capital, probably in Ch. 15). If that's not what you were talking about, then perhaps you are correct, but it's hard to understand what production process you're specifically speaking of.

eh no I'm not talking about a 'putting out system' at all, I'm talking about peasants who are directly employed by estates and paid a wage for their labour. Why you are determined to misrepresent my post is beyond me.

If I was "determined" to misrepresent you I wouldn't have left open the possibility that you weren't talking about what I thought you were talking about. I would've simply said you were wrong.

revol68 wrote:
There was huge swathes of Europe that had massive estates unchanged from Feudal times except peasant workers no longer worked so many days a month on the lords harvest from an obligation but instead they were seasonal workers. They were in essence proletarian yet carried out the same work processes they did as serfs. Of course when one get's into the specifics of this example things get a whole fuck lot complex and that's because Marx's movement from formal to real is idealised, the wage labourers working for the capitalist still eek out a subsistence from small holdings. Even today aspects of "merchantilism" "persist" (as if they are simply historical residue), with IT workers being let go and becoming formally 'self employed' contractors. This whole issue highlights the problem of mistaking idealised conceptual movements for history itself. Your claim that Marx is simply describing a historical factual movement of A to B is absurd, because such movements continue to happen within modern capitalism, certain workers proletarianised, others atomised into 'self employment' and pitted against each other as competing 'contractors'.

OK.

revol68 wrote:
mikus wrote:
Actually, it is exactly like saying "this is A and this is B". In science, theorists have the liberty to use terms they like. Scientists are constantly creating new definitions in the interest of precision. Unless, of course, you want to argue that, say, words like "mass" or "matter" have various non-scientific connotations within physics just because some hare-brained philosophers have used the terms for their own ridiculous purposes!

This is not to say that one might not read certain normative implications into the terminology (this has happened many times, which I'm not afraid to admit, indeed the confusion created by this is the entire reason I have posted on this thread), but that doesn't mean that such implications are there in Marx's own work. Unless you can demonstrate it with textual evidence, which I don't think you can.

And in any case this has little to do with the issue which I had brought up before, which is that the terms "formal" and "real subsumption" are not empirical theories. Even if we accept your claim that the phrases are normative, it doesn't change them into empirical theories, since giving a normative opinion on something does nothing to explain it.

(For example, if we had called "formal subsumption" something blatantly normative like "shitty subsumption", on the one hand, and called "real subsumption", say, "good subsumption" on the other, we still wouldn't have moved a step closer to making the terms into a theory. They'd still be no more than designators for a certain kind of production process It's just that the terms would additionally express an attitude to the facts. But an attitude towards facts is not an explanation of facts.)

What nonsense, there are clear teological implications to Marx's use of 'Formal and Real Subsumption' infact he lays it out in the missing section 7, formal is whereby capital extracts surplus value using wage labour whilst 'Real' is when capital doesn't simply change the relations of payment and employment but changes the processes of production from those of 'feudalism' to those of 'capitalism'. Like if i said you are formally a member of this club meanig on paper but you are a real member when you actually take part in it, make use of it as it is suppoused to be.

The fact that you read those implications into the terminology does not mean Marx intended it that way. That'd have to be decided with (uh-oh!) textual evidence. Anything else is mere assertions. (And quotes probably won't work either, since any quote demands an interpretation. And if we don't agree on the interpretation, then the quote cannot be used to decide either way. And unless you have criterion for deciding interpretations, you will have to admit that my interpretation is just as good as yours.) If you actually read the passage in question (didn't you just read Zizek's discussion of it anyway? I think this is another case of you going on about something you have no idea about.) you'd know that Marx does not derive the transition from "formal" to "real" subsumption from something inherit into the production process of formal subsumption, but from his theory of rising productivity due to competition (so that competitors can lower their cost-price and make a super-profit while gaining a market share from their competitors). So there is no "teleological" implication to the terminology of "formal" and "real" subsumption. If you were particularly determined you could call the theory of rising productivity (rather than the theory of formal and real subsumption, which I deny exists) "teleological" but then you'd be using "teleological" in such a way that all sciences would be "teleological", which would make the term rather redundant. (Marx only explains how productivity develops in capitalism, he does not posit any kind of "goal" inherit in the process. It is just the case that competition compels the capitalists to be more productive. If this is teleological, then saying that an object moving along a certain path will eventually pass through point X would also be teleological. Any prediction would be teleological.)

revol68 wrote:
This sort of teology is no stranger to Marx's writings, infact forces of production determinism cropes up through out, this is simply a less explicit restatement of his quote from the German Ideology
Quote:
'The windmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam mill, society with the industrial capitalist'

Firstly, the quote is from The Poverty of Philosophy, which should show how seriously you should be taken.

Secondly, the debate wasn't about teleology in Marx's writings, but about the meaning of "formal" and "real" subsumption. You claimed that they have a teleological meaning. They don't, and you have no evidence that they do, except that you just so happen to choose to read the passage that way (if you've even read the passage at all). Now you're switching to a discussion of Marx's writings in general. Fine. I'll even concede the point, because I don't really care. There can be teleology all over Marx's writings. There is no teleology in the discussion of formal and real subsumption, however.

revol68 wrote:
As for 'mass' and 'matter', well I'm afraid Marx isn't dealing with hard sciences but with social relations and history so terms like formal and real subsumption carry alot more implications.

I thought you were a philosophy major. I'm not aware of terms like "formal" and "real subsumption" having connotations in normal language or in philosophy-speak. I am aware of "matter" having connotations in both. Very strong ones in fact, which contradict current physical theories. You should let the physicists know that the words don't mean what they think they mean but in fact imply various religious and half-baked scientific views.

Mike

mikus
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Feb 7 2008 04:54
revol68 wrote:
Except competition is constantly driving changes within capitalist production, if Marx was simply stating that competition forces such changes then it does become a constant process as alive today as it was in the 19th century,

What?

revol68 wrote:
however if we read 'formal to real subsumption' as a one of historical movement (as you wish to) then it actually becomes about a movement from 'uncapitalist' production processes to properly 'capitalist' production processes, which clearly implies a notion of 'correct' production inline with capitalist development and 'residual' processes destined to be overthrown. It isn't a matter of simple continuous competition driven development but epochical and qualitive.

No, because Marx is quite clear that in formal subsumption the worker is commanded by a capitalist and also produces surplus-value. Marx never says that this is not really capitalist production. In fact he distinguishes formal subsumption from the putting out system and various pre-capitalist forms of production, so it makes quite a bit of sense to read him as saying that formal subsumption is capitalist production. What is not specifically capitalist is the labor process itself (in the material sense, in the production of use-values). In fact, if I remember correctly, Marx sometimes refers to the production process under real subsumption as the "specifically capitalist" process of production. Clearly he is just trying to distinguish between production processes which capitalism takes as a given (and he calls this "formal subsumption"), and then capitalism's later development on its own basis through accumulation (he calls this sort of production process "real subsumption). Analogous to the way he distinguishes between primitive accumulation and accumulation of capital.

revol68 wrote:
Like I said however Marx talks about it being a constant process, it is you that wants to argue it relates to a specific historical movement.

What is the "it"? If "it" is technical change, then yes Marx talks about it being a constant process, and I would not want to say that it is a "specific historical movement." If "it" refers to the change from formal to real subsumption, then Marx doesn't argue, but defines formal and real subsumption as a specific historical movement. I am simply explaining his definition. I am not arguing anything about formal and real subsumption, as if there were something to argue about before we had given our terms meanings.

revol68 wrote:
As for your snipe about me mistaking the quote from the Poverty of Philosophy and The German Ideology, I must apologise a thousand times my learned friend I had shamefully got temporarily mixed up as the book i was using for a source stuck them together as they are both writings from the same year. I can not tell you the great burden this lapse has put on my shoulders, nay the very lineage of my family. roll eyes Seriously there is only one thing worse than a nerdy pedantic cunt and it's a nerdy Marxist pedantic cunt.

If you got into an argument with someone about, say, what Shakespeare said, and then you took a quote from Midsummer Night's Dream and said it came from Romeo & Juliet, no one would take you seriously. Similarly, I don't take you seriously. There is nothing terrible about not remembering a title, but it is clear that you were trying to use a quote which you had no idea of the context of in order to try to prove a point. (A point which didn't even have anything to do with the original argument anyway.)

revol68 wrote:
And 'formal and real' clearly do carry connoations in everyday life and certainly in philosophy. If someone says something is a 'formality' they mean it is essentially superflous to a real process that has or is destined to take place eg. Manchester United's half time performance against Portsmouth has made the win simply a formality.

If Marx had called certain labor processes the "production processes which are capitalist only by a formality" then you might have a point. But he didn't. Marx was very big on "social form" and he did not mean "form" in the sense of "formality" but in the sense of the nature of the form of society, production process, etc. Marx called the commodity the social form of the product of labor, for example. Are you going to suggest that this implies that the commodity is only a product of labor as a "formality"?

revol68 wrote:
revol68 wrote:
There can be teleology all over Marx's writings. There is no teleology in the discussion of formal and real subsumption, however.

As for this, it is simply just absurd, if teleology ran all through Marx's work surely it makes perfect sense to try and contextualise any given text in light of this rather than pretending sections of his writings can be cut out and dissected completely independent of the rest of his work, especially as something as overarching as a teleological approach. I wouldn't go so far to claim that there is a a simple clear teleological thread through out Marx's work rather there are tendencies and counter tendencies, a constant tension, as one would expect from a writer whose entry into political theory was through the subject/object dialectic.

This is like Devrim's "I've never read Kropotkin, but I know that there must be a connection between his theory and his support of the Allies in WWI." It's really not a convincing argument unless you can provide specific evidence for your assertion.

Also to say that Marx's "entry into political theory was through the subject/object dialectic" is ridiculous. His first communist writings involved criticizing Hegel's reversal of subject and predicate, to put things back on their feet in a very commonsense way. It was not a "subject/object dialectic" in any philosophical sense.

But before we go on with this not-so-interesting discussion, I must ask, have you even read Marx's discussion of formal and real subsumption in the so-called missing sixth chapter, or have you just read Zizek's discussion of it? Or is it more nerdy Marxist pedantry to ask that you read something before you comment on it?

redtwister
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Feb 15 2008 15:05

If the relation of subject to predicate is a question not merely of grammar but of logic ("Socrates is a man", where Socrates is the subject and man is the predicate), the issue of Marx's early writings are also ontological, and therefore a matter of subject and object, which Marx also reverses in his critique of Hegel's work. Marx attempts to establish the human being, the actual, living, historical, sensuous human being, as the subject, and the state and God as objects of man. IMO, Marx was already working towards the critique of Hegel that Feuerbach then more fully develops first, and this is why Feuerbach's work was so important for Marx, and why Marx could so easily recognize its importance.

As such, while I agree with Mike's point that Marx reverses Hegel's subject-predicate relationship, it has ontological implications regarding the relationship of subject and object. IMO Feuerbach helped to clarify and make more conscious the ontological implications of the reversal, but in his critique of the Philosophy of Right the change is already there implicitly in considering the relationship between civil society and the state, for example.

On Formal and Real, I agree with Mike's emphasis on the idea that form and formal for Marx are not what we might call "mere appearance" or formalities, but the necessary form of appearance, the mode of existence of an essence.

I looked back over the sections on Formal subsumption and Real subsumption that were posted.

Formal subsumption does not alter the labor process. What this means may be less evident to many people today than in the mid-19th century, but if one goes into the Chinese countryside, which I have had the opportunity to do, when a significant part of agricultural production still uses ox-drawn plows, it becomes pretty clear what this means. The product is produced for the market, largely, but it is done using a labor process that could have been found in 1800 (despite the plows being manufactured elsewhere these days.) And the farm workers keep a portion of their product for themselves, and even often produce a significant part of their own use-values directly. I mention China in part because I have had a chance to see it, but also because that implicates not a few thousand or even a few million people, but hundreds of millions. Include in this large parts of India and the rest of Asia and Africa, and (much smaller) parts of Latin America, and the scope of areas formally subsumed can be quite large.

Real subsumption means a transformed labor process, of the sort where the means of production take on an autonomy from the workers and the where capital actually determines the conditions of production.

I think that this is best understood if the difference between absolute and relative surplus-value production are kept in mind. Absolute surplus-value production increases the production of surplus-value extensively: longer hours and doing the same task more quickly, but both of those have certain physical limits. Relative surplus-value production involves intensive extension of surplus-value: transformations in the means of production and corresponding labor process allows more commodities to be produced in the same (or less) amount of time, with the same (or fewer) workers, resulting in less necessary labor-time, both absolutely and proportionally, to surplus labor-time. This does not depend per se on the workers working longer hours or simply working more quickly, but involves the constant transformation of the technical means of production, the large-scale application of science and machinery.

Formal subsumption can only involve absolute surplus-value because the labor process remains that which capital inherited from earlier social relations. This puts a strict limit on the ability to increase surplus-value production, mostly human (and in some cases, animal) exhaustion.

Real subsumption allows the intensive and much more flexible increase in surplus-value production. It has no physical limits beyond those of the current technology and labor process. It does not eradicate absolute surplus-value production, since capital frequently fights to lengthen the working day and speed workers up, but that usually represents a period of relative weakness in which the existing technical means of production and labor process have become less and less profitable. A new period of generalized accumulation, of rapid valorization of value, requires a transformed labor process grounded in the introduction of new means of production that extend the intensive exploitation of labor. The importance of this was evident after WWII where companies were able to increase wages and even shorten working time, while increasing productivity even faster, so that relative surplus-value production (and therefore exploitation) exceeded the (often considerable) increase in wages and (slight) shortening of working time.

I am not here making any claims regarding what causes the end/decline of a period of accumulation, as it is beyond the scope of this discussion.

All of this seems rather straightforward to me.

The mistake, IMO, is to turn formal/real subsumption into some means of periodizing capitalist society. This is what many people have tried to do with it. I don't think it is correct on its own terms, as formal subsumption is not something that somehow 'was', since real subsumption is still predicated on formal subsumption (the continual reproduction of the specific social relationship between capital(ists) and workers as that between owners of means of production and products and owners of labor-power, of capital and wage-labor), and formal subsumption, as I argued above, still defines the relationship of a large part of the global proletariat to capital. It also leads to oddities like the periodization of 'formal, real, real(2), etc.'

This formal/real periodization mostly seems to be a way to try and defend another periodization: ascendant/decadent. Supposedly this provides a/the mechanism by which capital moves from its ascendant to its decadent phase. Not only do I think that move completely transforms the concepts of formal and real subsumption, such that they have little to do with Marx's concepts, in which case one should at least say as much, I think it also fails. Aside from the fact that both the lock and the key are fakes, that key doesn't even fit that lock.

Chris

Chris

mikus
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Feb 18 2008 06:39
redtwister wrote:
On Formal and Real, I agree with Mike's emphasis on the idea that form and formal for Marx are not what we might call "mere appearance" or formalities, but the necessary form of appearance, the mode of existence of an essence.

Except, I didn't say any of that. I related Marx's use of the term "form "in "formal subsumption" to a phrase he sometimes used, "social form". This is very different from "form" as distinct from "essence". (And both are again different from "formalities.")

It would be rather strange to mean "form" in "formal subsumption" as "form of appearance of an essence", unless you thought that labor processes characterized by not having been transformed by the capitalist drive to increase productivity (i.e. the formally subsumed labor processes) was a form of appearance of something else.

What exactly the "something else" could be isn't at all clear.

redtwister
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Feb 18 2008 17:00
mikus wrote:
redtwister wrote:
On Formal and Real, I agree with Mike's emphasis on the idea that form and formal for Marx are not what we might call "mere appearance" or formalities, but the necessary form of appearance, the mode of existence of an essence.

Except, I didn't say any of that. I related Marx's use of the term "form "in "formal subsumption" to a phrase he sometimes used, "social form". This is very different from "form" as distinct from "essence". (And both are again different from "formalities.")

It would be rather strange to mean "form" in "formal subsumption" as "form of appearance of an essence", unless you thought that labor processes characterized by not having been transformed by the capitalist drive to increase productivity (i.e. the formally subsumed labor processes) was a form of appearance of something else.

What exactly the "something else" could be isn't at all clear.

You are correct that I collapsed your notion of social form into another notion of form, when it might be necessary to distinguish between them.

I have seen the notion of "social form" distinguished from "mode of existence", or form in the sense of a “form of appearance” of an essence, recently (after I wrote this, I think it was in an article by Michael Heinrich).

Now, if I was to distinguish the two, let me follow your comments from before.

The “commodity is the social form of the product of labor.” What do we understand this to mean? That a product becomes a commodity as a result of its social form, the “field” of social relations it is inscribed in, not as some natural property of it as a particular product or use-value. Thus a knife for a 13th century peasant and a knife for you and I may still be a knife, but the latter was probably a commodity (produced for sale in the total circuit M-C-M’ and purchased by us, unless one of us is a knife-maker, which I am not) and the former was not a commodity. Hence commodity refers to the social form of the knife.

Now, it seems to me that when we speak of forms in another way, such as commodity-form, value-form, money-form, etc., and Marx frequently uses the term “form of appearance”, IMO he has in mind e.g. that exchange-value only appears in the money-form, but and exchange-value is the form of appearance of value, and value is the form of appearance of the product. But then this form of appearance is also its social form, it is not something inherent in the product. To the degree that is expresses an essence, its essence is not a pure, ideal thing, but a previous form.

So in the case of “formal subsumption”, the labor process remains largely the same, but its product has become a commodity (as has the labor power of the producer). The social form of the process has changed, even if the material process has not. However, this means that the while the labor process has not materially changed, its essence has changed because it is now the production of value and surplus-value. The labor process, without having materially changed, nonetheless suddenly involves the split between use-value and exchange-value, and between concrete labor and abstract labor.

I am not sure, therefore, that social form, even if it is worth distinguishing from form in the sense I used, is not still related to it. Part of what you said lent itself to that reading, in your phrase “nature of the form of society, production processes, etc.” What is the “nature of the form” if not its essence? I mean, you could not very well say “the social form of the form of society”, could you?

So it seems to me that the “Formal Subsumption” changes the essence of the labor process, and at the same time becomes the way in which that changed essence appears. That form of appearance will eventually itself be surpassed by the Real Subsumption.

This is fairly provisional, as I am still chewing on the distinction, and the validity of the distinction, between social form and form in the sense of form/essence.

Have you read Michael Heinrich, and maybe also John Milios and Dimitri Dimoulis? If so, any thoughts on them?

Chris

mikus
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Feb 18 2008 20:46
redtwister wrote:
mikus wrote:
redtwister wrote:
On Formal and Real, I agree with Mike's emphasis on the idea that form and formal for Marx are not what we might call "mere appearance" or formalities, but the necessary form of appearance, the mode of existence of an essence.

Except, I didn't say any of that. I related Marx's use of the term "form "in "formal subsumption" to a phrase he sometimes used, "social form". This is very different from "form" as distinct from "essence". (And both are again different from "formalities.")

It would be rather strange to mean "form" in "formal subsumption" as "form of appearance of an essence", unless you thought that labor processes characterized by not having been transformed by the capitalist drive to increase productivity (i.e. the formally subsumed labor processes) was a form of appearance of something else.

What exactly the "something else" could be isn't at all clear.

You are correct that I collapsed your notion of social form into another notion of form, when it might be necessary to distinguish between them.

I have seen the notion of "social form" distinguished from "mode of existence", or form in the sense of a “form of appearance” of an essence, recently (after I wrote this, I think it was in an article by Michael Heinrich).

The person who I think talks about "social form" more than anyone is Patrick Murray. I don't remember if he goes into a distinction between "form of appearance" and "social form", but I'd assume he does since "social form" is his whole thing. (I find his writings generally very repetitive.)

redtwister wrote:
The “commodity is the social form of the product of labor.” What do we understand this to mean? That a product becomes a commodity as a result of its social form, the “field” of social relations it is inscribed in, not as some natural property of it as a particular product or use-value. Thus a knife for a 13th century peasant and a knife for you and I may still be a knife, but the latter was probably a commodity (produced for sale in the total circuit M-C-M’ and purchased by us, unless one of us is a knife-maker, which I am not) and the former was not a commodity. Hence commodity refers to the social form of the knife.

Yes, this is what I think Marx meant by "social form" and it is what I went. I think he also uses it a little bit differently at times, using it basically as synonymous to "mode of production", so that he can talk of a feudal social form of exploitation and so forth. (I'd need to look through some things to say that for sure, though. It's been a while since I've dealt with this kind of thing.)

redtwister wrote:
Now, it seems to me that when we speak of forms in another way, such as commodity-form, value-form, money-form, etc., and Marx frequently uses the term “form of appearance”, IMO he has in mind e.g. that exchange-value only appears in the money-form, but and exchange-value is the form of appearance of value, and value is the form of appearance of the product. But then this form of appearance is also its social form, it is not something inherent in the product. To the degree that is expresses an essence, its essence is not a pure, ideal thing, but a previous form.

You can say value is a social form. You can also say exchange-value is a social form. Neither are natural things but are a result of certain production relations. I don't see anything tricky here.

When Marx talks about exchange-value as the "form of appearance of value", he is, first of all, "coquett[ing] with the modes of expression peculiar to" Hegel. Secondly, he means that we don't experience value directly, but only its effect through exchange-value, which is the exchange ratios between commodities. So "exchange-value" is the "form of appearance" of this hidden independent variable, social labor. (Yeah, I know you might have your own reasons for not liking value to be described as an "independent variable" (Murray certainly has his reasons for this, although I think they're incoherent) but I have my own reasons for thinking this is perfectly fine. Anyway, you could describe this slightly differently if you want with the main points remaining the same.)

redtwister wrote:
So in the case of “formal subsumption”, the labor process remains largely the same, but its product has become a commodity (as has the labor power of the producer). The social form of the process has changed, even if the material process has not. However, this means that the while the labor process has not materially changed, its essence has changed because it is now the production of value and surplus-value. The labor process, without having materially changed, nonetheless suddenly involves the split between use-value and exchange-value, and between concrete labor and abstract labor.

Yes, although it's not clear that Marx thought the distinction between concrete labor and abstract labor only occurs alongside the differentiation between necessary labor time and surplus labor time. (I don't think any of the many papers/books which have discussed this issue of what Marx thought on this have been anything close to conclusive. Probably Marx was toying around with both ideas without deciding finally upon either, or at least not writing it down if he did.)

redtwister wrote:
I am not sure, therefore, that social form, even if it is worth distinguishing from form in the sense I used, is not still related to it.

In certain cases, namely the case of the capitalist mode of production, the two ideas are very closely related, since in capitalism the "social form of the product of labor" (i.e. the commodity) is also the "form of appearance" of something else (namely value). I think in other scenarios this would not be the case, which shows that the two phrases describe different things, even if at times they might describe different aspects of one object (in this case, the commodity).

redtwister wrote:
Part of what you said lent itself to that reading, in your phrase “nature of the form of society, production processes, etc.” What is the “nature of the form” if not its essence? I mean, you could not very well say “the social form of the form of society”, could you?

You were interpreting my sentence philosophically, where as I meant "nature of the form of society, production processes, etc." in a more commonsense way. By "nature of the form of society..." I meant whether the society is capitalist, feudal, "natural economy" (and obviously there are endless distinctions between different societies here), and so forth.

redtwister wrote:
So it seems to me that the “Formal Subsumption” changes the essence of the labor process, and at the same time becomes the way in which that changed essence appears. That form of appearance will eventually itself be surpassed by the Real Subsumption.

Here is where I depart from you. You seem to mean "essence" in a philosophical sense that "appears" in formal subsumption, as if, say, the capitalist mode of production existed and then "appeared" in formal subsumption, in a similar way to Hegel's Spirit would have liked to "appear" in various spheres of the Prussian state. I think this is either nonsense or a plainly false empirical claim. By "capitalism", I don't mean anything other than a bunch of capitalist production processes, related to each other in a particular way (through the world market). So if I were to say that formally subsumed labor processes were the "form of appearance" of the capitalist mode of production, then I'd be saying that the capitalist mode of production were the "form of appearance" of itself, which might sound pretty to those with certain tastes (unfortunately not me), but would be saying very little.

redtwister wrote:
Have you read Michael Heinrich, and maybe also John Milios and Dimitri Dimoulis? If so, any thoughts on them?

Yes. My general feeling is that, like nearly all academic Marxism, they are all useless. (Although I'm more familiar with Heinrich than Milios and Dimoulis. I think I only read one of their articles in Historical Materialism some time ago. It seemed to be of about the same caliber as most other stuff in that journal. Take that as you'd like.)

marxfan69
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Feb 18 2008 21:06

Before this conversation becomes completely subsumed by another debate over whether or not Marx was a Hegelian, I would like to intervene and suggest that we address the distinction between real subsumption as a term used by Marx, and real subsumption as the periodization mentioned by Chris. Since both Mike and Chris have fleshed out the original terms used by marx sufficiently enough, can anyone say much about the origin and definition/theory of the periodization real subsumption (part one or part two)?

It seems to me that is periodization is not used so much to bulster an asendent/decendent theory of capitalism, but reframe class-struggle, revolution and communism. To wit, communism could not have existed prior to real subsumption, as relative-surplus value was not generalized and workers were not opposed to capital in a way that would require their self-destruction along with its defeat... whilst class-struggle (unionizing or taking the factory) was initially (during formal or is it the first phase of RS?????) a struggle for capitalism proper (a completed real subsumptioning), and revolution was the coming to power, or the valorizing and affirming of the Worker... and only now (in what ever phase of subsumption we are in) can class-struggle really be class-struggle, i.e. self-abolishing, etc. etc.

This all seems to be tied, in my mind, to the idea that as a result of real subsumption (the Marxian one), the means of production become strictly capitalist and alien, and therefore the idea of self-managment is just another form of capitalist domination, as the domination of capital is manifest in the post-real-subsumption factories and machinery, rather than being inscribed in such things as private ownership, the existence of exchange, the market, competition etc. etc. The question is then of course, given this senario, what is the way out capitalism? If traditional forms of organization are as obsolete as the "nature" of the mode of production for which they were designed, then what are the new forms, etc. (Here when i say nature i indeed mean the social form, and perhaps even the social form of the social form).

I guess i'm just asking if anyone knows anything about this other "real subsumption" and could explain/defend this position, or more accurately describe it. I think this needs to be examined, especially if people think real subsumption is explaining one thing or another. (In Marx real subsumption does not explain anything, it is the whole of Capital that explains real subsumption).

It's weird how one can know (or not know) so much about something one has never read about. Please, if someone has done the reading, explain the other real-subsumption.

maya

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Feb 18 2008 21:44

I should think that Camatte was the first person to use this periodization in a serious way. (Serious not in the sense that his writing is serious, which I don't think it is, but in the sense that it played a major role in his thought.) In this regard, it is useful to point out that the formal/real subsumption distinction has been used not only to say that communism used to be impossible but now is possible (or perhaps even inevitable), but also the reverse. (Namely by Camatte.) Others might think that communism is possible now but it will not be a product of a worker's movement. (Postone, Jappe, and similar approaches.) The people who wrote Lip and the Self-Managed Counter-Revolution used the distinction between formal and real subsumption simultaneously as a sort of decadence theory and in an anti-self-management way, if I remember correctly.

Perhaps Panzieri used the formal/real subsumption distinction in his discussion of technology? It's been so long since I've read his essay that I can't remember, but it seems to me that his ideas would lend itself to that sort of periodization.

I actually don't think most theories that focus on the formal/real subsumption distinction are decadence theories. Mostly I think it involves a position on whether or not the working class can emancipate itself, whether or not technology is good or bad, and so forth. (This is not universally true, as I know Internationalist Perspective has tried to formulate a theory of decadence based on the distinction. I believe redtwister argued that Grossman was trying to do something similar in a debate with me from several years ago, and I think this is legitimate if one casts the net of "decadence theory" wide enough.)

As for "periodizations", I don't see them as anything more (nor less) than attempts to highlight one or another aspect of capitalist society. I could easily periodize capitalism based on, say, the development of the nuclear bomb. The periodization would be "true" insofar as there indeed was a time period before the development of nuclear weapons, and also a time period after it, but the real function of such a periodization would be to focus our attention on the importance assumed by nuclear weapons in international politics, war, etc.. The periodization would be an analytical frame put around the facts, rather than a fact itself. Which is fine, but it seems that discussions inevitably enter into whether or not a given periodizaiton is "true" or not. Whereas, it seems entirely reasonable to me to periodize capitalism in a wide variety of ways depending on the circumstances.

If I'm talking about the development of capitalist machinery, I might talk about formal and real subsumption, or maybe I'd talk about Taylorism. Or if I was talking about warfare between capitalist nations I'd talk about nuclear weapons. Or if I was talking about imperialism, I could use Lenin's distinction between a period in which all parts of the earth are already carved up between imperialist nations and a period when they weren't. Or perhaps I could talk about the succession of different "hegemons". All of them are fine for highlighting certain things we wish to talk about. The usefulness of the varying criterion is a matter what we are trying to do. Some of them will be more useful than others in given cases. Some will be entirely useless. But it's not an issue of their "truth", unless you think that statements like "There are two kinds of people, people who are tall and people who are short" are "true."

Mike

redtwister
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Feb 19 2008 03:37

On periodization, I think that Mike is basically correct that the decadence aspect is primarily used in the Bordigist milieu that way. It has a different role in the autonomist/operaist milieu, and Panzieri did bring it to the fore first. It does play something of a role in their periodization of professional worker/mass worker/social worker (Negri, not necessarily all autonomists), but not much as a theory of decadence.

There is an interesting tidbit here http://poltergeist.blogsome.com/2006/11/15/logic-and-history-in-the-concept-of-subsumption/.

I think that Theorie Communiste definitely uses it for a periodization, but again I happen to agree with Mike that periodizations are somewhat arbitrary (my summary of the tenor of his long comment) or maybe as useful only if restricted to a particular question. IMO, TC's usage is implicitly a theory of decadence, though they explicitly reject such a reading.

Personally if I tend to any kind of periodization, I think it has to be on the basis of cycles of valorization/devalorization, and that it does not follow a uniform linear movement of any sort, but is highly dependent on the specific outcome of each previous period, which is a matter of the concrete outcome of a particular set of struggles.

Maya, I actually think that you capture the basic points as say, TC uses it, quite clearly. So to explain why despite real subsumption did not lead to successful revolution, they have had recourse to Real Subsumption 2, or what i tease them with as Really Real Subsumption. A lot of the argument between TC and Guilles Dauve was around this in one form or another.

Chris

redtwister
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Feb 19 2008 04:32
mikus wrote:
The person who I think talks about "social form" more than anyone is Patrick Murray. I don't remember if he goes into a distinction between "form of appearance" and "social form", but I'd assume he does since "social form" is his whole thing. (I find his writings generally very repetitive.)

I admit that Patrick Murray puts me to sleep for some reason. i have tried reading him, but it has never worked very well.

Quote:
redtwister wrote:
Now, it seems to me that when we speak of forms in another way, such as commodity-form, value-form, money-form, etc., and Marx frequently uses the term “form of appearance”, IMO he has in mind e.g. that exchange-value only appears in the money-form, but and exchange-value is the form of appearance of value, and value is the form of appearance of the product. But then this form of appearance is also its social form, it is not something inherent in the product. To the degree that is expresses an essence, its essence is not a pure, ideal thing, but a previous form.

You can say value is a social form. You can also say exchange-value is a social form. Neither are natural things but are a result of certain production relations. I don't see anything tricky here.

When Marx talks about exchange-value as the "form of appearance of value", he is, first of all, "coquett[ing] with the modes of expression peculiar to" Hegel. Secondly, he means that we don't experience value directly, but only its effect through exchange-value, which is the exchange ratios between commodities. So "exchange-value" is the "form of appearance" of this hidden independent variable, social labor. (Yeah, I know you might have your own reasons for not liking value to be described as an "independent variable" (Murray certainly has his reasons for this, although I think they're incoherent) but I have my own reasons for thinking this is perfectly fine. Anyway, you could describe this slightly differently if you want with the main points remaining the same.)

On this, I just keep coming back to Marx's statement in Volume 3 of Capital: ‘[A]ll science would be superfluous if the form of appearance [Erscheinungsform] of things and their essence [Wesen] directly coincided.' He also raised in discussing 'prices of production': "In competition, therefore, everything appears upside-down. The finished configuration [Gestalt] of economic relations, as these are visible on the surface, in their actual existence [realen Existenz], and therefore also in the notions [Vorstellungen] with which the bearers and agents of these relations seek to gain an understanding of them, is very different from the configuration of their inner core, which is essential [wesentlichen] but concealed [verhullten], and the concept [Begriff] corresponding to it. It is in fact the very reverse and antithesis of this."

As these come from outside of Chapter 1, Vol. 1, I tend to think that the question is not simply one of Hegelian modes of expression.

My take is that not only do we not experience value directly, we don't even experience exchange-value directly. The money-form is the mode of existence of exchange-value. And the money-form is definitely key to making it to the concept of capital. I guess the question is what one thinks Marx is doing and by what methods he is proceeding. i don't think that Value can exist without exchange-value 9and in fact use-value, but not as a form), that exchange-value cannot exist without the money-form, and therefore value outside the money-form is meaningless, as the generalization of the money-form requires capital as the general conditions of production.

If Michael Heinrich is interesting to me, it is in how he develops this line of thought and where he takes it in relation to interest, credit, and crisis, but also his assertion, which I think it sensible, that ultimately the money-form does not require a material money commodity. Milios, et al I find almost entirely unreadable, but I only have the HistoMat article (a journal that, like most, is of value for the occasional article, but which otherwise exists as a place for academic Marxists to get published as much as anything) and one other, and I find them both quite horrible.

I am not sure what to make of social labor as an "independent variable". Can you explain that a bit more? i honestly have no opinion on it at all.

Quote:
Yes, although it's not clear that Marx thought the distinction between concrete labor and abstract labor only occurs alongside the differentiation between necessary labor time and surplus labor time. (I don't think any of the many papers/books which have discussed this issue of what Marx thought on this have been anything close to conclusive. Probably Marx was toying around with both ideas without deciding finally upon either, or at least not writing it down if he did.)

I think we could say this about a lot of the ideas in Volume 1 he seemed to continually re-write over the 3 or 4 editions he personally did. I think you are correct that this remains an open question.

Quote:
redtwister wrote:
I am not sure, therefore, that social form, even if it is worth distinguishing from form in the sense I used, is not still related to it.

In certain cases, namely the case of the capitalist mode of production, the two ideas are very closely related, since in capitalism the "social form of the product of labor" (i.e. the commodity) is also the "form of appearance" of something else (namely value). I think in other scenarios this would not be the case, which shows that the two phrases describe different things, even if at times they might describe different aspects of one object (in this case, the commodity).

Agreed.

Quote:
redtwister wrote:
Part of what you said lent itself to that reading, in your phrase “nature of the form of society, production processes, etc.” What is the “nature of the form” if not its essence? I mean, you could not very well say “the social form of the form of society”, could you?

You were interpreting my sentence philosophically, where as I meant "nature of the form of society, production processes, etc." in a more commonsense way. By "nature of the form of society..." I meant whether the society is capitalist, feudal, "natural economy" (and obviously there are endless distinctions between different societies here), and so forth.

I should have been clearer. I did not mean that you meant it that way, but rather that that phrasing made me think of that and go in that direction.

Quote:
redtwister wrote:
So it seems to me that the “Formal Subsumption” changes the essence of the labor process, and at the same time becomes the way in which that changed essence appears. That form of appearance will eventually itself be surpassed by the Real Subsumption.

Here is where I depart from you. You seem to mean "essence" in a philosophical sense that "appears" in formal subsumption, as if, say, the capitalist mode of production existed and then "appeared" in formal subsumption, in a similar way to Hegel's Spirit would have liked to "appear" in various spheres of the Prussian state. I think this is either nonsense or a plainly false empirical claim. By "capitalism", I don't mean anything other than a bunch of capitalist production processes, related to each other in a particular way (through the world market). So if I were to say that formally subsumed labor processes were the "form of appearance" of the capitalist mode of production, then I'd be saying that the capitalist mode of production were the "form of appearance" of itself, which might sound pretty to those with certain tastes (unfortunately not me), but would be saying very little.

Hmm, I would not use form and appearance that way. They are not separate in space or time, they are not alternate realities. Rather, the capitalist world came into being in the form of the Formal Subsumption, that is, capitalist relations of production came into the world by taking over the pre-existing labor processes. This coming into existence involved both the extension and generalization of exchange relations, money, trade, etc., the creation of a class of wage-laborers by enclosure, etc., and the taking over of the existing labor processes so that the producers now worked for an employer, were paid a wage, were allowed to use the tools of the trade but not own them (although in many cases the workers did in fact own their own tools, but not the raw materials), and the product belonged to the capitalist. So that even though the labor processes were left over from previous social relations, they were nonetheless essentially transformed because they were now a part of increasingly generalized commodity production for the production of profit.

But i am also stretching this a bit and toying around with it. I am honestly not even sure to what extent Formal and Real subsumption are useful. i admit to wondering out loud why Marx dropped them in favor of the other development of that section of Capital.

Ok, bed time!

Chris

mikus
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Feb 24 2008 20:48

I forgot to respond to this. The stuff that deals specifically with Hegel I'll respond to on the other thread.

redtwister wrote:
mikus wrote:
The person who I think talks about "social form" more than anyone is Patrick Murray. I don't remember if he goes into a distinction between "form of appearance" and "social form", but I'd assume he does since "social form" is his whole thing. (I find his writings generally very repetitive.)

I admit that Patrick Murray puts me to sleep for some reason. i have tried reading him, but it has never worked very well.

Yeah, he's not a terrible theorist or anything, he's just... boring. And obviously I don't agree with the whole Value-Form Theory thing, although I think out of that group of people he's one of the better ones.

redtwister wrote:
My take is that not only do we not experience value directly, we don't even experience exchange-value directly. The money-form is the mode of existence of exchange-value.

You are using a different definition of exchange-value from Marx here. Marx defines exchange-value as "a quantitative relation, as the proportion in which values in use of one sort are exchanged for those of another sort, a relation constantly changing with time and place." (First or second page of Capital.) You can respond to this by saying that Marx describes this as exchange-value "at first sight", but at that point in Capital Marx has not yet distinguished between exchange-value and value, and therefore has to use the same term ("exchange-value") to refer both to the quantitative proportions of commodities in exchange, and the hidden cause which regulates those proportions (what he later calls "value"). Once Marx distinguishes between the two things ("exchange-value," on the one hand, and "value," on the other), "exchange-value" becomes synonymous with the proportions between commodities (price), and value becomes synonymous with the social labor which regulates those proportions.

What exactly you mean by "the money-form is the mode of existence of exchange-value" is a bit weird to me. Do you mean money itself is the mode of existence of exchange-value? That is incompatible with Marx's definition of exchange-value as the proportions in which commodities are exchanged, so I must assume you are using a different definition (although exactly what definition, I'm not sure). If you the money-form the proportions in which commodities are exchanged (and I'm guessing you don't, although I'm not sure), then you are saying that exchange-value is the mode of-existence of itself, which is unnecessary.

redtwister wrote:
And the money-form is definitely key to making it to the concept of capital. I guess the question is what one thinks Marx is doing and by what methods he is proceeding. i don't think that Value can exist without exchange-value 9and in fact use-value, but not as a form), that exchange-value cannot exist without the money-form, and therefore value outside the money-form is meaningless, as the generalization of the money-form requires capital as the general conditions of production.

Okay.

redtwister wrote:
If Michael Heinrich is interesting to me, it is in how he develops this line of thought and where he takes it in relation to interest, credit, and crisis, but also his assertion, which I think it sensible, that ultimately the money-form does not require a material money commodity.

I have to disagree on your judgment of Michael Heinrich. He emphasizes the circuit of commodity circulation (C-M-C) in order to say that Say's law is untrue (as Marx showed). But he really doesn't say anything new or of interest here. He dismisses the falling rate of profit theory simply by saying that it can be disproved by some very simple mathematics. I'm pretty sure he has something along the lines of Okishio in mind (perhaps Tugan-Baranovsky specifically, who used a very simple "proof" of the same point), especially given that at a conference I went to he actually supported Bortkiewicz to argue that Marx's account of the relation between values and prices is incoherent and to say that we need a theory in which there is no distinction between values and prices!

Anyway, I thin other people have done much more interesting work on circulation, credit, and crisis, first of all Marx, but even more importantly Grossman. (Especially the Dynamics essay.) I mean, just saying that purchases aren't necessarily succeeded by sales is not very illuminating for anyone who has read even the first 3 chapters of Capital, whereas Grossman at least went into a detailed account of how the reproduction schemas can be used to show the precarious nature of any kind of proportionality.

redtwister wrote:
Milios, et al I find almost entirely unreadable, but I only have the HistoMat article (a journal that, like most, is of value for the occasional article, but which otherwise exists as a place for academic Marxists to get published as much as anything) and one other, and I find them both quite horrible.

Like I said I don't really remember what they said, but I remember thinking it was worthless.

redtwister wrote:
I am not sure what to make of social labor as an "independent variable". Can you explain that a bit more? i honestly have no opinion on it at all.

Oh, this is actually something that Murray goes into in an essay, where he criticizes the view that value is an independent variable regulating price, which is a dependent variable. I won't go into it because his argument is pretty convoluted, but it's clear he doesn't understand Marx nor what is meant by independent and dependent variables.

redtwister wrote:
mikus wrote:
]Yes, although it's not clear that Marx thought the distinction between concrete labor and abstract labor only occurs alongside the differentiation between necessary labor time and surplus labor time. (I don't think any of the many papers/books which have discussed this issue of what Marx thought on this have been anything close to conclusive. Probably Marx was toying around with both ideas without deciding finally upon either, or at least not writing it down if he did.)

I think we could say this about a lot of the ideas in Volume 1 he seemed to continually re-write over the 3 or 4 editions he personally did. I think you are correct that this remains an open question.

I disagree about Volume 1. The fact that he published it means that he does seem to have finally decided on at least the bulk of the ideas contained in the first volume. (I'd argue that he was clear about the bulk of the other volumes as well, partly because he mentions the coming volumes a few times in footnotes, and some of his claims in Vol. 1 depend on developments in Vol. 2 and 3.) I know Heinrich and others emphasize changes Marx made but in my opinion none of them are very significant. And his general points seem to have remained fairly constant since at least the 1861-63 economic manuscripts.

redtwister wrote:
I am honestly not even sure to what extent Formal and Real subsumption are useful. i admit to wondering out loud why Marx dropped them in favor of the other development of that section of Capital.

It's useful to the extent that we make use of it. I can see how a historian might find the distinction of interest, alongside Marx's more specific distinctions between "cooperation", "manufacturing" and "machinery", and a million other possible distinctions.

noammela
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Dec 30 2009 18:47

Karl Marx, Capital, trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin Books, 1976 [1867]), pp. 1019-1038

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automattick
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Feb 3 2011 15:10

Did Marx actually intend to keep Chapter 6 on Real v. Formal Subsumption, or was that posthumously added by his editors?

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Khawaga
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Feb 3 2011 18:22

posthumously added.

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automattick
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Feb 6 2011 21:38
Quote:
posthumously added.

Thank you, Khawaga. Assuming that Marx left that section out intentionally, I wonder just how important it really is for Marxists to consider...