Submitted by Malcy on April 13, 2012

Thought people might be interested in this:

Heinrich intro to Capital

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus has been pimpin' that book. I've got my copy on pre-order. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes. it's really the best introduction to Capital.

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

P.P.S. Heinrich's _The Science of Value_ is also forthcoming from the Historical Materialism book series. Fantastic book emphasizing Marx's break with classical political economy, and the remnants of the classical discourse in Marx's mature theory.

Hektor Rotweiler

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Any idea on when the The Science of Value is forthcoming? Can't wait.

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hektor,

I assume next year at the earliest.

Malcy

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

sorry, didn't realise mate!

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Anybody involved with a print publication who is interested in writing a review of the Capital introduction, or who is in a position to assign somebody for review, please send me a message.

Railyon

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

Yes. it's really the best introduction to Capital.

Though apparently Heinrich is not uncontroversial; Gegenstandpunkt have written on his readings of Capital in "Wie man „Das Kapital“ nicht schon wieder neu lesen sollte" (http://neoprene.blogsport.de/images/HeinrichKritikausGSP208.pdf).

Have yet to read any Heinrich but maybe you can enlighten me a bit. Then again I think a lot of Capital interpretations are one giant pissing contest, blah blah you read that wrong and blah blah Marx said this...

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

Though apparently Heinrich is not uncontroversial; Gegenstandpunkt have written on his readings of Capital in "Wie man „Das Kapital“ nicht schon wieder neu lesen sollte" (http://neoprene.blogsport.de/images/HeinrichKritikausGSP208.pdf).

I wouldn't make GSP the barometer of how "controversial" something is. They pretty much don't give their seal of approval to any theorist outside of their own group. Ask them for recommendations on any topic, and they'll recommend GSP literature. Sometimes they write good stuff, but their range of acceptable literature is...aaah...limited.

If you point out that this is a bit strange, their supporters will accuse you of changing the topic and not addressing the matter at hand. ;-)

That said, I thought that review of Heinrich was rather weak, even when it came out. The intent seems to basically try to pin an overly "objectivist" reading of Marx on Heinrich. That's not surprising for GSP; they don't have much use for Marx interpretations that make use of concepts like "fetishism".

For GSP there aren't systemic imperatives or fetishized perceptions of reality; merely opposing subjective wills, and rational subjective actors who hold ideas that they (perhaps mistakenly) believe to be in their interests.

Anyway, the Heinrich introduction has pretty much established itself as a "standard". I'd say read it and make up your own mind.

I'm talking about the book that has the German title Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Eine Einführung, BTW. That's the one that's coming out soon in English. The other book mentioned, Wie das marxsche Kapital lesen isn't really an introduction to Capital as a whole, it's a detailed, passage-by-passage commentary on the first few chapters of Vol. I.

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus

The other book mentioned, Wie das marxsche Kapital lesen isn't really an introduction to Capital as a whole, it's a detailed, passage-by-passage commentary on the first few chapters of Vol. I.

Who wrote that? And I guess no translation forthcoming soon? (I should really brush up on my German... annoying not being able to read longer, complicated texts.)

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Khawaga

Who wrote that?

Heinrich. He's looking to write a subsequent volume, since the first one only covers Chapters 1 and 2. IIRC, the plan is to expand it to incorporate further chapters of Vol. I, but not the entirety of Vol. I.

Railyon

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

I wouldn't make GSP the barometer of how "controversial" something is. They pretty much don't give their seal of approval to any theorist outside of their own group.

As much as I like some of their stuff, that's exactly the impression they left on me (which also goes for a lot of other groups who claim to be the sole true heir of marxist interpretation).

I'll give the book (Einführung) a read, would you recommend it to someone who has read vol 1 and 2?

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

I'll give the book (Einführung) a read, would you recommend it to someone who has read vol 1 and 2?

Why not? I read it after already having read Vol. I. It definitely enriched and clarified my understanding.

meinberg

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Anyway, the Heinrich introduction has pretty much established itself as a "standard". I'd say read it and make up your own mind.

yes, but not because it is so good, but because it is cheap, short, ubiquitous in left bookstores and written in good prose.

that said it is a good read with a lot of content for such a small book, but there are some (political) problems with it, f.e.:

- it is not clear that the mistakes he identifies in capital (Marx was wrong with the tendency of falling profit rate and with the money commodity) are really mistakes. (i would say theyy are not)

- for him capitalism is something that can work an does so. for heinrich f.e. the current crisis of capitalism is not a real crisis.

- class anatagonism isn't really mentioned in the introduction

two good critical reviews (in german) of his capital introduction are:

http://www.wildcat-www.de/wildcat/75/w75_heinrich01.htm

http://www.wildcat-www.de/wildcat/75/w75_heinrich02.htm

klaus u

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

Angelus Novus

I wouldn't make GSP the barometer of how "controversial" something is. They pretty much don't give their seal of approval to any theorist outside of their own group.

As much as I like some of their stuff, that's exactly the impression they left on me (which also goes for a lot of other groups who claim to be the sole true heir of marxist interpretation).

It's not a question of being the true heir of marx. The GS criticize Marx if they think that he was wrong, e.g. the Communist Manifesto. http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/CommunistManifesto.htm . Maybe the GS Interpretation of Marx is wrong - so what? The arguments have to be right, no matter who wrote them first.

And that political tendencies suggest books and authers that they agree with, that's a logical consequence. Should they say: "This book / auther is wrong but go ahead, and read it, we recommend it?" That's silly.

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

meinberg

- it is not clear that the mistakes he identifies in capital (Marx was wrong with the tendency of falling profit rate and with the money commodity) are really mistakes. (i would say theyy are not)

The money commodity issue I think is a constant source of contention in Marxological circles, but the formulas about the falling rate of profit are rather convincing, IMHO. Also, people never seem to notice that the very next chapter in Capital is about factors that counteract the supposed tendency of the falling rate of profit.

for him capitalism is something that can work an does so. for heinrich f.e. the current crisis of capitalism is not a real crisis.

This pseudo-argument is made so often by Heinrich's critics it's become tiresome. Heinrich constantly stresses that capitalism is a system that is always prone to crisis. What he rejects is the notion that such crises lead to the system's automatic collapse. He has stressed this time and time again, so I can only conclude that there's something cynical about the constant attempts to attribute to him positions he doesn't hold.

class anatagonism isn't really mentioned in the introduction

Heinrich stresses that class antagonism exists in all societies. What distinguishes capitalism as a mode of production is not the existence of class antagonism, but rather the social form that this antagonism assumes. That strikes me as such an uncontroversial point, I really don't understand the problem that people have with it.

Railyon

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

klaus u

And that political tendencies suggest books and authers that they agree with, that's a logical consequence. Should they say: "This book / auther is wrong but go ahead, and read it, we recommend it?" That's silly.

Yes of course, but I'm more concerned with silly in-fighting over (to me) relatively minor theoretical points. It certainly has its place but I feel like punching a hole in the wall when I see it done in a way that makes it seem like dancing around the holy cow of marxist theory.

That said I find myself agreeing with them more often than not so it doesn't have much to do with them per se.

meinberg

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i tried to write a satisfying answer but my english is to bad. so just a short answer..

Angelus Novus

This pseudo-argument is made so often by Heinrich's critics it's become tiresome. Heinrich constantly stresses that capitalism is a system that is always prone to crisis. What he rejects is the notion that such crises lead to the system's automatic collapse. He has stressed this time and time again, so I can only conclude that there's something cynical about the constant attempts to attribute to him positions he doesn't hold.

in this point i may be wrong. the last time i read something from heinrich to the current crisis he was saying its just a normal cyclical crisis, business as usual. now i read an interview (http://www.oekonomiekritik.de/524ak%20Interview.rtf) in which he seems to say that the current crisis is more than that. but it is pretty weak nonetheless. imo he tends to play down the current fundamental crisis of the system to isolate himself from the position that capitalism can automatically collapse (which i don't hold btw)

Heinrich stresses that class antagonism exists in all societies. What distinguishes capitalism as a mode of production is not the existence of class antagonism, but rather the social form that this antagonism assumes. That strikes me as such an uncontroversial point, I really don't understand the problem that people have with it.

now my english really leaves me. when i said he doesn't really cover class antagonism, i meant that he doesn't see the specific form of antagonism in the capitalist mode of production, the antagonism between work and capital. he ignores the use value side of capital (gebrauchswertseite), the struggle in the production process to get the workers to produce value. because of that he sees abstract work only in exchange etc...

capital as heinrich presents it is so only attempt to criticize capitalism and bourgeois economics but not a contribution to revolutionary theory.

Vaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

klaus u

And that political tendencies suggest books and authers that they agree with, that's a logical consequence. Should they say: "This book / auther is wrong but go ahead, and read it, we recommend it?" That's silly.

Yes of course, but I'm more concerned with silly in-fighting over (to me) relatively minor theoretical points. It certainly has its place but I feel like punching a hole in the wall when I see it done in a way that makes it seem like dancing around the holy cow of marxist theory.

That said I find myself agreeing with them more often than not so it doesn't have much to do with them per se.

I cannot contribute to the real topic of this thread either, as I have NOT read Marx. But some comments made me think that a new thread to discuss the "dancing around the holy cow of marxist theory" might be interesting.

Dogmatism, religious fundamentalism and Marxism?

RC

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus has made an important contribution by translating Heinrich's book, which will be helpful to any English speaking reader of Capital. Heinrich is particularly good on the first part of Capital; he understands that Marx's critique begins with value and not just with the second part when he gets to surplus value.

[GSP] don't have much use for Marx interpretations that make use of concepts like "fetishism".

Its not a problem with the concept, but the use that's made of it. Yes, in capitalism human relations are reified – but that's still very abstract. Its not wrong to say that people use others as means to an end – but so what? To be the instrument of the pleasure of a beautful woman is not a bad thing. Its also the basis for the division of labor that people use each other for their needs. More interesting to ask: What is the content of the reified relations? People use each other for exploitation – ie, I have what you need, so to get it, you have to do what I want you to do.

For GSP there aren't systemic imperatives or fetishized perceptions of reality; merely opposing subjective wills, and rational subjective actors who hold ideas that they (perhaps mistakenly) believe to be in their interests.

This is a false opposition between systemic imperatives and wills. The system is nothing other than the domination of the interest of the capitalists. Heinrich empties the content of interests. This leads him to see, not unlike some Anglophone Marxists (ie Andrew Kliman) to speak of workers and capitalists as both victims of the systemic imperatives.

This pseudo-argument is made so often by Heinrich's critics it's become tiresome. Heinrich constantly stresses that capitalism is a system that is always prone to crisis. What he rejects is the notion that such crises lead to the system's automatic collapse.

This is a wrong debate for Marxists to enter into, but one they never tire of: one side says the falling rate of profit leads to capitalism's doom, the other side says: no, it can cope with its crises. Its really much better to show that the system's prerequisites always contradict people's needs.

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

For GSP there aren't systemic imperatives or fetishized perceptions of reality; merely opposing subjective wills, and rational subjective actors who hold ideas that they (perhaps mistakenly) believe to be in their interests.

This is a false opposition between systemic imperatives and wills. The system is nothing other than the domination of the interest of the capitalists. Heinrich empties the content of interests.

Wait. So Capital as such does not exist? There are no systemic imperatives other than the sum of the interests of the individual capitalists? Sounds like fallacy of composition to me. Not to mention the wierdest reading of Marx I've ever heard of. Is this really the GSP position?

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

This is a false opposition between systemic imperatives and wills. The system is nothing other than the domination of the interest of the capitalists.

This assumes that all capitalists have a common interest. But Marx already points out that while an individual capitalist has an interest in the exploitation of his own workers, he also has an interest in having the other capitalist's workers as a market for his goods.

The common interests of capitalists is in the safeguarding of their "right" to property by force of the state, but beyond that?

This leads him to see, not unlike some Anglophone Marxists (ie Andrew Kliman) to speak of workers and capitalists as both victims of the systemic imperatives.

"Victim" sounds a bit moralistic, but capitalists are certainly subordinated to systemic imperatives. But pointing that out does not mean that they have an interest in ending the system the way workers do.

RC

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This assumes that all capitalists have a common interest.

Yep, their common interest is profit.

But Marx already points out that while an individual capitalist has an interest in the exploitation of his own workers, he also has an interest in having the other capitalist's workers as a market for his goods … capitalists are certainly subordinated to systemic imperatives

The fact that capitalists are in competition doesn't contradict their common interest. Capitalists always present themselves as subject to imperatives: “we regret [fill in whatever nasty thing, ie layoffs, wage cuts, etc] but we have no other choice [ie, we can't be criticized for it] because we are subject to the imperatives of competition.” One capitalist creates the constraint of the others because they have the same interest in profit; one gets the market share and sets the benchmark for the rest. But the profit motive is not created by competition. Its the other way around. They all want profit, so the question for them is: how? This can only be done against the others. The competition of capitalists is the consequence of their interest in succeeding against the others. For them, competition is not a constraint; it is their agreement to fight for profit that makes them compete.

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So Zeitgeist are right? Capitalism is really just a conspiracy of wicked greedy bastards? Yipes.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

what did you think, capitalism was a birthday present from jesus? i thought marxists were clear about capitalism being the system that the bourgeoisie installed in their revolution by wanting private property over the means of production? a conspiracy on the other hand is done IN SECRET and that is of course not the case with the bourgeois revolution. anyways Rc wasnt even talking about that, he/she simply mentioned that capitalists want to make profit. do you doubt that? wtf is this bullshit about capitalists wanting workers as a market? seriously lacks evidence! i have yet to meet capitalists giving their money to workers so they can buy the goods from them. thats fucking bullshit, this exists only as a theory of some economists (keynes), certainly not as an interest of the capitalists.

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yourmum

i thought marxists were clear about capitalism being the system that the bourgeoisie installed in their revolution by wanting private property over the means of production?

I think you're portraying the existence of capitalism too much like something that was just formally enacted one day by decree.

Not that force wasn't a constitutive element of the emergence of capitalism; Marx showed it was in the chapter on "the so-called primitive accumulation". However, it was really a long-term process.

Ellen Meiksins Wood has argued convincingly that there isn't any real causal relationship between the emergence of capitalism and the so-called "bourgeois revolutions". Often the former predates the latter by a few centuries. At best, the bourgeois revolutions merely removed some final remnants of the old estates-based order and formalized some liberal and democratic principles.

wtf is this bullshit about capitalists wanting workers as a market? seriously lacks evidence! i have yet to meet capitalists giving their money to workers so they can buy the goods from them.

The capitalist wants the workers of other capitalists as a market, not his own. Or do you seriously doubt that Wal-Mart exists to sell shoddy goods to working class people?

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

no they want to sell commodities, they dont give a fuck if its a worker or capitalist who buys it, actually usually they dont even know the difference. ever seen a sign in front of walmart: "no capitalists allowed in here"! guess not!

"At best, the bourgeois revolutions merely removed some final remnants of the old estates-based order and formalized some liberal and democratic principles."

really trivial, thats why it needed a bloody revolution in the first place. i anticipate to see some people in the future... "communism been around a long time in capitalism (free software development and other cooperatives) , the communist revolution merely removed some final remnants of the old private property-based order and formalized the stateless society.

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

no they want to sell commodities, they dont give a fuck if its a worker or capitalist who buys it, actually usually they dont even know the difference. ever seen a sign in front of walmart: "no capitalists allowed in here"! guess not!

So why the heck has there been an extension of consumer credit in the first place (e.g. Walmart credit cards etc.)? The majority of consumers of the means of subsistence will be workers because they are the majority. If you sell industrial goods, that's a whole different thing. Capitalists might not sit down and say "I want other capitalists workers to be consumers", but that's how they must view workers regardless.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

no they want to sell commodities

why wouldnt the capitalist want his own workers to buy his own products? why wouldnt they want capitalists to buy their products? this majority argument as a tactic of selling goods is something very different then what has been said before: capitalists dont want anyone as their market, they want workers of other capitalists as their market. prove this! where i work you even get a discount called "mitarbeiterabatt" (like work-member discount) on the house products. and there was even said before they have an interest in workers being able to buy their goods. no they dont! they have an interest in making profit and if it takes workers to buy them they cope with that. but that does not make them interested in the ability of workers to buy something per se. on the other hand there are economists who say this is the problem of capitalism, that capitalists cant sell because the buyers lack money. but this has nothing to do with the capitalists real interests, this is a theory of a system-problem. and last point about credit: why do you give a credit? because you make profit with it, thats why. the use value of a credit is having the money right now when u could only have it later, thats a credit. and if your not able to have it later your not getting the credit. not to say u dont know this but maybe you did not remember in this context.

and if your going to downvote me then at least make an argument or your just wasting energy. if the downvotes come from the people posting above then i take no offense.

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

why wouldnt the capitalist want his own workers to buy his own products?

Of course they would, but for larger businesses their own employees wouldn't be enough. Hence, they want other capitalists's workers to be their markets.

the use value of a credit is having the money right now when u could only have it later, thats a credit. and if your not able to have it later your not getting the credit. not to say u dont know this but maybe you did not remember in this context.

sure, but it also enables workers to realize the surplus-value of different circuits of capital. You seem to view credit from only the point of view of those who extend credit, but you also need to see it from a systemic standpoint.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

you dont respond to a negative sentence by contradicting its positive form. and no i dont need to see it from a systemic standpoint, tell me why i should. the system doesnt think for itself, making up interests that are not the same as real interests of the actors of a system is higher nonsense.

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Then I guess the directors of the ECB are the high priests of higher nonsense?

But you are correct, they at least get paid for looking at the question of credit from a systemic viewpoint whereas you don't. So if you are as keen on conventional neoclassical model of rational expectations as you are on their methodological individualism, your question of "why should I?" understood as "what's in it for me?" is unanswerable. Unless, of course, you were seeking to understand the workings of the capitalist system from a communist perspective, rather than an Austrian school one... :roll:

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

the system doesnt think for itself, making up interests that are not the same as real interests of the actors of a system is higher nonsense.

'The system' might not 'think for itself', but 'social systems' have 'interests' that are not the same as the 'interests' of the components of that 'system'.

That is the whole point of the notion of 'emergence' within the social philosophy of 'social realism', which I think is the best way for Communists to characterise the social world.

FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

Although, I'm open to correction from Khawaga, on this tentative point...

As for 'the actors', structures embody the 'real actions' of dead actors. This isn't 'higher nonsense', whatever that might be.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot, your turn for a logical argument would be to prove that nobody has a material interest in what the ecb does. this when all of capital is hanging at their mouth at every statement they make and the stock exchange plummets or rises simply from having their expectations fulfilled or not. you simply dont say that the "systemic viewpoint" those ecb director have is the success of accumulation of capital in their dominion. this is why the system and the material interests actually are the same in your "argument" when the theory was that interests that ARE NOT material interests of actors in the system are higher nonsense. this is all very fishy because we were talking about the theory that capitalists want to sell to workers of other capitalists and that in opposition to selling to whoever buys the stuff.

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, on a more meta- level, my real problem with your approach, is this tendency to transform originally rational insights (i.e. that much speculative or metaphysical nonsense has been talked, over the years, in the name of the Hegelian Totality) into dogmatic clubs to be used in the pursuit of politics as a game of ideological Whac-A-Mole. Every question is always closed with this approach, no openness can be tolerated, nothing can be problematized. When the primary purpose of the ideology is not liberation but the demonstration that everybody not in your particular tendency is either a cretin or an enemy, the results are sterile and boring.

But to return to the immediate discussion. My point was that, historically the emergence of central bankers (and many other roles) came not from the immediate "real interests" of the then capitalists, but the systemic problems (repeated banking crises, etc) that eventually convinced them that it was worth creating a body whose job it would be to try and manage the systemic problems. The key here is the order of causation: systemic crises -> (political) realisation of new common interest. Which brings me to my second point - your notion of "real interests" that appear as a given from "material reality", prior to any process of collective interpretation (political composition) that makes interests intelligible. On this second point, I'm really just repeating the points I made over on the "middle class" thread.

In summary, I find your rigid dichotomy between "real interests of real actors" (real) and "systemic interests" (false) to be unsustainable. The result is circularity. You say that central banks exist to manage the systemic problems of credit control, interest rates, employment, growth and other macro-economic criteria, because it is in the real interests of the central bankers and their capitalist and state backers, to do so. This is circular - if it exists, then it must be in someone's "real interest" that it does.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yes because it only makes sense the other way around. interests that have NO material basis are IDEOLOGY. of course all pursued interests have a material basis. I was proving to you the "systemic interests" are the real interests of capital. but the point of the argument (which you completely missed when you decided to get involved here and i credit you for this) is that if someone describes interests that are nowhere to be found in society and says those are systemic interests (why dont you stick to the original example?) this is a hint for bullshit.

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yourmum; working on appearances since 1860.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yourmum; working on appearances since 1860.

?

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yourmum

[...]if someone describes interests that are nowhere to be found in society and says those are systemic interests (why dont you stick to the original example?) this is a hint for bullshit.

Because it depends what you think the original question was that we should be sticking to.

If it was RC's assertion that

The fact that capitalists are in competition doesn't contradict their common interest. [...] But the profit motive is not created by competition. Its the other way around.

Then that would be interesting to discuss. Along with the questions that Angelus and RC were originally debating - i.e. the legitimacy, or no, of presupposing common interests amongst the capitalist class (that override, or even marginalise completely, the role of intra-class competition in the dynamics).

But if the "original example" you latched onto, is your contention that capitalists have no interest in selling their goods to other capitalists workers (see also advertising industry, for e.g.), then I'm afraid I find it too trivially wrong to be worth discussing any further.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The fact that capitalists are in competition doesn't contradict their common interest. [...] But the profit motive is not created by competition. Its the other way around.

that is correct.

my point was that capitalists are indifferent to whom they sell, be it their own workers, other capitalists workers, capitalists or aliens, they dont care bedause they care about sales and get no advantage from selling to a special group preferably / only / whatever.

if someone describes interests that are nowhere to be found in society and says those are systemic interests [...] is a hint for bullshit.

if you dont dispute this then we have nothing to "problematize" because that was my point and if the original poster didnt mean to say capitalists have a SPECIAL interest in selling to other capitalists workers then i misunderstood the intent of the contribution.

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

That is the whole point of the notion of 'emergence' within the social philosophy of 'social realism', which I think is the best way for Communists to characterise the social world.

FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

I think it's interesting you say this, because this was exactly what I thought when I read Steven Johnson's popular book on emergence many years ago. It prompted me to read Manuel Delanda's A Thousand Years of Non-Linear history, and I was annoyed that Marx's value theory is precisely the aspect of Marx that Delanda rejects. Of course, Delanda reads Marx's value theory as a theory of equilibrium price, and of course understands it in "substantialist" terms. But the whole Deleuzian tradition is very weak on the idea of social form, if not entirely dismissive.

Sorry for the digression...

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

Although, I'm open to correction from Khawaga, on this tentative point...

When did I become the arbiter of Marxian truth? Ask Dr. Kapital instead of me ;)

Anyway, yeah I think that's a sensible approach to understand value today. Indeed, I think it would help a lot if we started using different metaphors and conceptual approach than organic and biological ones he borrowed from Darwin amongst others. If Marx had been writing in the 1960 maybe he would've used the language of information theory and cybernetics; after the 1970s perhaps graph theory and chaos theory.

RedHughs

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well,

It seems like it misses something to say either that capitalism is just, is only, an impersonal system moving according to the blind hand of the market or that capitalism is simply, is only a conscious device of the bourgeois acting as a whole to maintain their power. Taking only one or the other viewpoint is a simplification that works against us.

The terminology of (much-hated) "Dialectics" has, uh historically, been used in describing the tension between these two aspects of capitalist relations (autonomous system and conscious class rule). It would indeed be nice to come with a more elegant and exact approach than Hegel's terminology. But revolutionaries do need a terminology, a systematic way to discuss the phenomena if we are going to avoid both simplifications. Graph theory, Chaos theory and systems might indeed be useful approach. However, it's worth noting that it is just as just to produce mystical baloney with this framework as with the terminology of dialectics.

Khawaga

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RedEd

Graph theory, Chaos theory and systems might indeed be useful approach. However, it's worth noting that it is just as just to produce mystical baloney with this framework as with the terminology of dialectics.

Sure it can, but I was more talking about keeping the dialectics and replace Marx's biological metaphors/language with something that is perhaps (culturally and historically) more easy to understand today.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

autonomous system and conscious class rule

the autonomous system would then be the unconscious class rule. is that to mean they have to be marxists to consciously class rule?

RedHughs

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Khawaga

RedHughs(actually)

Graph theory, Chaos theory and systems might indeed be useful approach. However, it's worth noting that it is just as just to produce mystical baloney with this framework as with the terminology of dialectics.

Sure it can, but I was more talking about keeping the dialectics and replace Marx's biological metaphors/language with something that is perhaps (culturally and historically) more easy to understand today.

And I wasn't saying it was a bad idea (with or without original dialectics), it's an appealing idea. It is simply that if one does it, one needs be careful about being rigorous.

RedHughs

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yourmum

autonomous system and conscious class rule

the autonomous system would then be the unconscious class rule. is that to mean they have to be marxists to consciously class rule?

Uh, why not quote at least a single full sentence, then you might get some relation to what I wrote.

I hope it's reasonably clear that I'm saying the rule of the bourgeois is neither fully a collective conscious act nor is it entirely unconscious. It's a mix, just as individual bourgeois both attack other bourgeois for their personal benefit and unite with other bourgeois to attack the proletariat.

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

FWIW, I'm coming to think that the best way to understand Marx's ideas about 'value' is by regarding 'value' as an emergent property of the capitalist economy.

.
Angelus Novus

I think it's interesting you say this, because this was exactly what I thought when I read Steven Johnson's popular book on emergence many years ago.

.
Khawaga

Anyway, yeah I think that's a sensible approach to understand value today. Indeed, I think it would help a lot if we started using different metaphors and conceptual approach than organic and biological ones he borrowed from Darwin amongst others.

Yeah, I think 'value' only makes sense when it's explained as part of a human relationship, rather than as a property of a 'thing' (as for bourgeois psychological notions of an individual estimating what the 'value' of something is to them).

And regarding ‘human relationships’, the concept of a stratified society of social relationships having properties at different levels which ‘emerge’ from relationships (ie. these properties are not present in the individuals themselves) seems to be the best way to explain ‘value’. And the ‘emergent property’ at one ‘level’ can’t be explained at a different ‘level’. Art can’t be explained at the atomic level, for example. It is reductionism to suggest otherwise. Society, and its emergent properties, can’t be explained at the level of the individual, as the bourgeois philosophers insist.

To take up Khawaga’s suggestion, one obvious ‘non-organic/biological’ but ‘human relationship’ metaphor is ‘parental love’.

A parent can buy a ‘bike’ as a ‘present’ for their child; but outside of the relationship it is only a physical ‘bike’. Its status as a ‘present’ can’t be separated from the relationship. If a bike is found abandoned in the street, its physical reality can be identified, but not its role within human relationships. Whether it is was a ‘present’ or just a personal mode of transport cannot be gleaned from looking at the physical appearance of the ‘bike’.

FWIW, this is the mistake I think that jura made in the discussion with Rosa the other week about the newly-discovered antique chair. A ‘chair’ is a ‘thing’, not the residence of a relationship. To the question, “What is the chair’s ‘value’?”, the simple answer is, “It, as a thing, doesn’t have any ‘value’”.

Within the bounds of this explanation, a ‘commodity’ can only be understood at the level of a ‘present’, not at the level of ‘bike’. As a ‘present’ passes from parent to child and displays the act of ‘loving’, so a ‘commodity’ passes from worker to capitalist and displays the act of ‘exploitation’.

Is a ‘bike’ a ‘present’ or a ‘commodity’? We can’t tell by examining the bike in isolation, with our own individual eyes, in the empiricist mode of positivism.

It’s only in the movement between humans that both ‘presents’ and ‘commodities’ can be understood, and it is the moment of transfer that illuminates both ‘love’ and ‘value’. Neither ‘love’ nor ‘value’ themselves can be seen or touched, only their manifestations within human relationships.

Of course, ‘love/loving’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to encourage, whilst ‘value/exploitation’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to suppress.

Khawaga, Angelus Novus, jura, ocelot, etc., … do you think that this explanation works?

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

not specifically in response to LBird's post but....

isn't this whole exchange a repetition of the whole "subject/object" or "structure/agency" dichotomy that has plagued bourgeois social theory and variants of the marxist tradition alike? Personally I think the transformational model of social action proposed by Bhaskar (and Giddens, Archer and others) is the best available solution to this conundrum. I take it the use of the term "emergence" signifies LBird is acquainted with this theoretical paradigm? Alex Callinicos has offered a version of it explicitly associated with historical materialism in his book "Making History" if anyone is interested.

On the whole "systemic logic" vs "class interest" debate - surely only agents can be considered have "interests" as these arise from the interaction of "needs and wants" with objective circumstance. It is an example of the "functionalist fallacy" to attribute qualities of human agents (needs or interests) to social systems so in that sense Your mum is right. However modes of productions as "ensembles of human relations" display emergent systemic properties, endowing social actors with specific powers and giving rise to mechanism through which social relations are reproduced/transformed through human action whether intentionally (socialist revolution) or unintentionally (workers sells labour power, buys consumption goods, realising value and surplus value embodied in commodities, reproducing capital/labour relation).

surely it's relatively "unproblematic" (don't kill me Yourmum!) to say that there are contradictions (ditto Rosa!) between the interests of individual capitalists and the conditions for the optimal reproduction of capital? hence individual bosses - say thise producing consumer goods for workers - may berate the lack of effective demand for their goods as this limits their ability to realise surplus value embodied in their commodities and at the same time resist wage rises in their own firm to maintain the rate of exploitation?

right, rambling and possibly incoherent post over...

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

...surely only agents can be considered have "interests"...

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andy g

...the interests of individual capitalists and the conditions for the optimal reproduction of capital...

Surely, andy, you're using 'conditions for' as a synonym for 'interests of'?

That is, the 'interests of the structure' of capitalism 'contradict' the 'interests of the capitalists' themselves?

You're right about Alex Callinicos and Margaret Archer on 'social realism', 'stratified reality', 'emergent properties' and 'systemic contradictions'.

FWIW, they both quote the conservative sociologist Auguste Comte's dictum that 'most social actors are the dead', and seem to see 'structures' as built by preceding generations, which then enable and constrain individuals in the next.

'Men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing'

Now, who said that?

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

this contradiction is the theme of bourgeois vs citoyen, they private material interest vs the interest in the condition of the private material interest which tends to come out as a contradiction to the private material interest.

marx said that, LBird. where can i get my cookie.

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

doh!!!! double post!

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful.

You're completely correct, andy!

As both Archer and Callinicos (and other social realists) make clear, only humans are actors, and a 'structure', by itself, does nothing.

But to capture the powers of and constraints upon actors, we need the concept of 'structure'.

A structural role (teacher?) both empowers and limits what the individual filling that role can do, within the confines of the structure (educational system?).

The 'role' does nothing, and the person filling the role can reject the constraints to some extent (the teacher can have an affair with a pupil), but examining the role within a structure can tell us alot about what the actor is very likely to do.

The only people who have a problem with this sort of thinking are those infected with bourgeois individualism, god bless 'em!

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

Very true. For the record, I should point out that people were originally talking about systemic imperatives before yourmum intervened and assumed that was equivalent to talking about systemic interests. (this could possibly be partly a language and translation issue).

I definitely agree that interest (or needs) should be attributed to agents, not systemic emergents. Especially to make the point (see again discussion on m/c thread) that interests necessarily require the subjective apprehension and articulation of living agents. i.e. that there are no "class interests" that can be taken as given, from the objective situation directly, prior to the political composition of a class perspective.

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

I definitely agree that interest (or needs) should be attributed to agents, not systemic emergents. Especially to make the point (see again discussion on m/c thread) that interests necessarily require the subjective apprehension and articulation of living agents.

I'm not sure that I agree completely with you here, ocelot.

While you and andy are correct to stress the need for a 'living agent' (I think we all agree that 'structures' do nothing, in themselves), but you seem to think that the 'living agent' is always completely conscious of their acts, possibilities and choices.

It seems to me that a 'structure' does have 'interests', and if an occupant of a structural position acts against those 'interests', they quickly find themselves removed. I'm pretty sure that other actors within the structure perceive its 'interests', without the actors being fully conscious of 'why' they are following them. I'm sure that the 'interests' of 'dead actors' are embodied in structures, often to the detriment of the living, even those within the structure.

Isn't this the point about 'capitalism' being out of human control?

Or an army armed with outdated weapons and using outdated tactics, sending its troops to certain death, which then sees the army commanders also captured and killed? The original actors who created the 'interests' of that army were already long dead, but, as a structure, it carried on regardless, to its destruction, following its own logic, embodied in the (now mistaken) ideas of its members.

Isn't it at this social level where we can talk about 'contradictions'? Perhaps it is a matter of semantics, though.

yourmum

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It seems to me that a 'structure' does have 'interests', and if an occupant of a structural position acts against those 'interests', they quickly find themselves removed

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragging

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

I don't think structures have interests as these should be seen as products of the interaction of the desires and wants of agents and the specific structural position they occupy in a determinate social context. For instance, a worker may want wage rises, job security, a decent pension etc. Her class position dictates realising these wants requires collective organisation and class struggle - these are the worker's class interests. A given worker may, however, believe these wants are best accomplished by toadying up to the boss, seeking promotion etc and that everyone else should follow suit. Her subjective perceptions are here at odds with her class interests given the nature of the capitalist system means her chosen course of action will not lead to the desired end. I guess this is the only basis on which a concept of "imputed class consciousness" makes sense without the assumption marxists understand the subjective needs and desires of other workers better that they do themselves.

whilst social relations are the outcome of human action they are also it's precondition. critical realists have argued that we shouldn't collapse one into the other but see them both as interdependent but distinct causalities. that's why I think we have to be careful about seeing structures as embodying the interests of a "dead actor". not sure what the interests of a corpse are anyway???

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

Yeah, I think 'value' only makes sense when it's explained as part of a human relationship, rather than as a property of a 'thing' (as for bourgeois psychological notions of an individual estimating what the 'value' of something is to them).
[...]
To take up Khawaga’s suggestion, one obvious ‘non-organic/biological’ but ‘human relationship’ metaphor is ‘parental love’.

A parent can buy a ‘bike’ as a ‘present’ for their child; but outside of the relationship it is only a physical ‘bike’. Its status as a ‘present’ can’t be separated from the relationship. If a bike is found abandoned in the street, its physical reality can be identified, but not its role within human relationships. Whether it is was a ‘present’ or just a personal mode of transport cannot be gleaned from looking at the physical appearance of the ‘bike’.

FWIW, this is the mistake I think that jura made in the discussion with Rosa the other week about the newly-discovered antique chair. A ‘chair’ is a ‘thing’, not the residence of a relationship. To the question, “What is the chair’s ‘value’?”, the simple answer is, “It, as a thing, doesn’t have any ‘value’”.

Within the bounds of this explanation, a ‘commodity’ can only be understood at the level of a ‘present’, not at the level of ‘bike’. As a ‘present’ passes from parent to child and displays the act of ‘loving’, so a ‘commodity’ passes from worker to capitalist and displays the act of ‘exploitation’.

Is a ‘bike’ a ‘present’ or a ‘commodity’? We can’t tell by examining the bike in isolation, with our own individual eyes, in the empiricist mode of positivism.

It’s only in the movement between humans that both ‘presents’ and ‘commodities’ can be understood, and it is the moment of transfer that illuminates both ‘love’ and ‘value’. Neither ‘love’ nor ‘value’ themselves can be seen or touched, only their manifestations within human relationships.

Of course, ‘love/loving’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to encourage, whilst ‘value/exploitation’ is an emergent social quality that we wish to suppress.

Khawaga, Angelus Novus, jura, ocelot, etc., … do you think that this explanation works?

Up to a point. It's a good illustration of how objects can be the bearer of social relationships without that relationship necessarily being something you can deduce from examining it's material body.

Second, the example of a gift is useful in that it makes clear that this feature of a material thing being the bearer of a social relation, is not just a feature of modern capitalism, but is present in many different types of societies (modes of production). Because gifts and the giving of gifts long predates capitalist social relations.

There are two limits to your example as it stands. One is the difference between a human relationship and a social relationship, which I will come back to in a minute. The other is that the example of the gift is best used to illustrate the nature of value by contrast, rather than by comparison. If the transmission of objects to children through a relation of parental love is a human relation found in many different social forms (nearly all of them, in fact), the exchange of commodities and value is specific to capitalism. What matters then, to understand value, is what is specific to this particular social relationship, what makes it different from all others that have at one time or another been conveyed between people through the circulation of material objects (kula ring, moka exchange, potlatch, etc).

Lets get back to the difference between human relationships and social relationships. Human relationships are personal relationships between two or more people. There is a limit to how many human relationships each person can realistically maintain (see Dunbar's number, etc). A social relationship is the relationship between the people, things, culture and information flows that make up a society. A far larger number of people can be interrelated by social relations, than by human relations.

Simple test. Look around your main living space. Try and see how many different individual made things there are in that space. Imagine that each individual made thing was magically transformed into all the people that had a hand in its making. Unless you lead a very spartan existence that forswears possessions with the rigid discipline of a sādhu, that's a lot more people than could fit in your room. You'd need a square. A big one. And even if they were all gathered in that square, the numbers would overwhelm your ability to shake each one of them by the hand and ask their name, whether they were married, had kids, were happy with their work, etc.

People get a little antsy with the "anti-humanism" of people inspired by the post-structuralists, whether it's the provocative ideas of Actor Network Theory, or post-Deleuze and Guattari "machinic assemblages" theories. But really, the idea that social relations are not just relations between people, but at the very least, between people and material things, is right there in Chapter 1.

So although a gift can be a bearer of a social relationship - as in the Moka exchange of PNG - in the case of parents giving a present to their child, it is more by way of a human relationship (let's not get tied up in the question of familial relationships and their interaction with wider social relations, just for the moment). In a human relation, a link is made between particular people and does not really have any meaning abstracted from those particular people. With value it is very different. The commodity breaks the relationship between creator and consumer by means of exchange. The relationship becomes not just social, but exclusively so, shorn of any particularity. It becomes a universalist relationship. Anyone with the money for a can of Coke can have a can of Coke, exactly the same quality can of Coke whether you're a billionaire or a beggar, without any need to be someone's daughter or son, or part of some gang or society or any particular interpersonal relationship. Instead of having a person, or persons, at both ends of the relation, there is now only one at one end, the other end is tied into the impersonal generality of the market. To a person trapped in a tightly-bound, oppressive system of interpersonal relations of deference, duty, obligations and restrictions, the fetishised commodity symbols of capitalist anonymity (blue jeans, trainers, cola, cars) can be associated with freedom. (think of the Saudi woman who wears her Levis and a risqué Dolche & Gabbana t-shirt under her burqa). If that sounds like neo-con propaganda, then in some ways it is - although they usually stick to the fetishistic power of the American/"Western" commodity as symbol. But of course, there's the other side, the dark side. The very impersonality of the generalised commodity economy means there's no easily identifiable figure to eliminate or escape from, to escape the domination of the social relation.

Value expressed the contradiction between the social nature of production (social division of labour) and the private appropriation of the results of production. The social nature of production makes the circulation of the products absolutely necessary. But the defence of the private appropriation of the products makes this impossible through the political means of agreed redistribution. Hence the necessity for exchange, the separation between the spheres of production and distribution (the economy) and politics. Exchange is the re-distribution of the social product in the mode of denying socialisation of the social product. The end result is that value, rather than being the subjective expression of our desires, stands before us transformed into its opposite - an alien force, implacably indifferent to our subjective desires. The source, not of our freedom, but our slavery and exploitation.

RC

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This discussion seems unnecessarily complicated.

We would probably all agree that capitalists by definition have the goal of profit; that is their interest, their personal purpose as capitalists. They want to enrich themselves. We would probably also all agree that the capitalists, as competitors with this same objective, conflict with each other, often quite fiercely, with some losing and others succeeding. Our disagreement begins with what we say about the “systemic imperatives” of capitalism and our criticism.

That the conscious agents of capital have a “common interest” in profit is not contradicted by the fact that they are in competition, but that they compete for the same thing. This competition creates those “behind their backs” imperatives which capitalists are “subordinated” to – nothing more than the results of them pursuing their interests.

To avoid misunderstanding: Yes, in capitalism the social relations are removed from people and control them. The law of value develops consequences that are not aimed at by anybody. And it is true that Marx writes this way: this is a society in which commodities control people instead of vice versa. This is a critique that can be found in Capital; but it is not the critique (even if it is the one that Marxist philosophers and sociologist from the Frankfurt school on down have taken a selective interest in). What it misses is: if humans are not the masters of their relations, what sort of relations are they? What are the goals of these social relations?

Take the imperative that Angelus pointed to: that a capitalist encounters a declining purchasing power on the market when other capitalists cut wages. But what is the capitalist “subordinated” to do when he faces this “imperative”? To use his means more effectively, i.e. to exploit labor power more intensely. He is subjected to nothing but his own interest.

By contrast, what do the systemic imperatives mean for the workers? Workers also pursue their interests in this system (wages) as competitors, but in doing so, they give up the goal they compete for. They are forced to the opposite: they sacrifice their interest when they try to be successful in competition.

That's why it is an inadequate criticism to say, as Angelus does:

… but capitalists are certainly subordinated to systemic imperatives. But pointing that out does not mean that they have an interest in ending the system the way workers do.

Capitalists simply have no interest in ending the system! It is their system!

Angelus Novus

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

that a capitalist encounters a declining purchasing power on the market when other capitalists cut wages. But what is the capitalist “subordinated” to do when he faces this “imperative”? To use his means more effectively, i.e. to exploit labor power more intensely. He is subjected to nothing but his own interest.

What is his alternative? Waking up one day and saying, "this capitalist stuff is for the birds, guess I'll go join the ranks of wage-dependent laborers"?

Either way, he's subordinated to systemic imperatives. One capitalist opting out of playing that role doesn't bring the system to a halt.
,

That's why it is an inadequate criticism to say, as Angelus does:

… but capitalists are certainly subordinated to systemic imperatives. But pointing that out does not mean that they have an interest in ending the system the way workers do.

Capitalists simply have no interest in ending the system! It is their system!

I'm not sure if English is your first language. You speak it very idiomatically, so at the very least you're fluent in it. However, here you've missed how language works:

1. Workers have an interest in ending the system.

2. Capitalists do not have such an interest.

Therefore, as I wrote, capitalists do not have an interest in ending the system the way workers do.

Of course, I could assume the worst and say you're just disingenuously trying to attribute a meaning to the sentence that isn't there, but I'll apply the principle of charity here and just assume you're unfamiliar with how subordinate clauses work in English.

RedHughs

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

While you and andy are correct to stress the need for a 'living agent' (I think we all agree that 'structures' do nothing, in themselves), but you seem to think that the 'living agent' is always completely conscious of their acts, possibilities and choices.

Crucial point. I think all of Ocelot's otherwise eloquently argued positions fall apart if he suddenly gets hung on the need for discreet agency.
Andy_g

that's why I think we have to be careful about seeing structures as embodying the interests of a "dead actor". not sure what the interests of a corpse are anyway???

Jeesh, it's the interests that those actors more-or-less believed they had when they were alive. Everyone observes the world, makes conclusions about they're interests and takes action. Those judgments about the world are often limited and the results of those actions often escape their intentions.

I mean the statement "only individuals have intentions, none of this baloney" has a fine absolutist purity that can let you sit back and avoid any of the problems. But it is not an otherwise useful approach.

All these categorizations that we are so confidently wrestling with are matters of degree and measurement and these degrees and measurement are themselves important only to the degree they relate to our collective, historical quandary. But here, in what sure look like advanced, nearly totalitarian capitalist relations, it seems quite plausible to say the system has intentions.

RC

We would probably all agree that capitalists by definition have the goal of profit; that is their interest, their personal purpose as capitalists.

Many capitalists motivated by fear of loss. You find lots of individual capitalists that aren't greedy as such but that doesn't change the operation of the overall system. Bill Gates has organized a whole raft of billionaires to give their wealth to charity. This doesn't change anything. Large scale cooperatives have existed at various times but they still also existed to extract labor power from their workers and essentially continue the wage-labor relation.

Angelus Novus

I think it's interesting you say this, because this was exactly what I thought when I read Steven Johnson's popular book on emergence many years ago.

Andy_g

I take it the use of the term "emergence" signifies LBird is acquainted with this theoretical paradigm?

The reservation I have with the use terms "emergence" is that it often involves someone with a social background reading a popular science writer's exposition of some of the "sexier", "edgier" parts of natural science. And when gets one's model second-hand, one really isn't in the position to have a critical analysis of which parts of those models are substantial and which parts have nothing going for them.

I mean, I will admit that those very well informed on the details of Capital have kicked my ass concerning what was previously my a rather glib statements about what a Marxian position was (though these detailed discussions haven't convinced me that this deeper Marx was, uh, right. It's more a proof he was sometimes, maybe often, closer to Second International Marxism than the Communization-Style (pseudo)Marxism which I'd still favor).

Now, if one is going to take a rigorous style in one's understanding of Marx, it seems important to take a similarly rigorous approach if one's going to start bringing in models from physics and math.

Further, the idea of value in particular being an emergent phenomena within society seems like an ill-informed use of the concept. Living within the general awfulness of capitalist relations, it seems like we should be painfully aware that value isn't an enrichment of our interpersonal relations but a simplicification of them. Value is a constrain on our personal activity and a process by which our personal activity (the conception of our "labor power") can appear as a smoothly varying resource to the feed-back-loop creators (managers) of this grand capitalist hell. And sure, saying modeling capitalism as simple, non-chaotic dynamic system which converse various quantities, ie, value appeals to the "I want both my horse-and-buggy-Marxism and my sexy-chaos-theory-analogies" desires in all of us but I suggest restraint here.

Further, a look at the prices at supermarkets should reveal that these are not neither chaotic nor far off equilibrium in a day-to-day basis. Capital markets, on the other hand, certainly a chaotic, Benoit Mandlebrot indeed formulated Chaos Theory look these markets. If we're going employ even crude logic here, this would suggest, (in diametric opposition Angelus Novus' position), that value is a constraint on the system while capital (or something like it) is the emergent phenomena.

RC

This discussion seems unnecessarily complicated.

We need to make these ideas "as simple as possible but no simpler".

I would agree that Ocelot's deep dive into "the difference between a human relationship and a social relationship" brings up no treasure for us. There are a vast multiplicity of distinctions we can make in ways human beings relate - how direct, how long-lasting, etc. etc. Within a vast realm of potential categorizations of the world, we take the category capitalism as crucial because it reproduces itself (or a bit less loosely, because the capitalist ruling class has continued to reproduce itself along with a system much like capitalism for quite a long time). We should expect our understanding of capitalism to come through finding irresistible arguments concerning the proper categories for understanding the world.

S. Artesian

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

LBird:

I guess marxists have become habituated to using language like the "needs" of the system and so on - it shouldn't conceal an important conceptual distinction though. we run the risk of lapsing into "the system" satisfying its "needs" by itself without the intervention of human agents if we aren't careful. then it's a slippery slope to the "laws of history" guaranteeing the victory of socialism - Kautsky rides again!!

My take's a bit different-- not that we run the risk of of capital satisfying its need without the intervention of human agents, because we know capital is but a social relation of production.

The point being that the intervention of those human agents, acting as individuals, represents material interests of classes, of forms of property.

Whatever the agents think or don't think doesn't matter, it's what they are compelled to do to preserve and extend their own social reproduction.

Kind of why the labor process is really the starting point for Marx, the one he comes to after recognizing the limit to Hegel's presentations. To reproduce oneself as a human being, the human being has to appropriate nature; but the human being does not appropriate nature individually, but rather socially. The human being then reproduces himself/herself as social beings and the appropriation of nature by the labor process becomes the appropriation of the labor process by the social organization.

From there, we have the chance to actually apprehend, in the critical sense, what capitalism does, why it does it, without whether or not the human agents are acting "rationally," "intelligently," "in their own best interests" etc. etc. blahblahblah.

Look, it's not that hard. If capitalism was really this difficult to figure out, Alan Greenspan, Volcker, Draghi, Mervyn King, Buffett, Trump would all be flipping hamburgers at Wimpy's.

RC

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus wrote:

What is his alternative? Waking up one day and saying, "this capitalist stuff is for the birds, guess I'll go join the ranks of wage-dependent laborers"?

His life choices as a human being are beside the point. In his role as a capitalist, he has no alternative except to exploit his workers more intensively and extensively. As I said, that's what the pursuit of his interest in profit requires!

You seem to want to pose the question of his guilt or innocence: it's the system and not the capitalists. In the first place, this is the wrong question and secondly, its a false opposition: the system is the domination of those who exploit.

Either way, he's subordinated to systemic imperatives.

So the capitalist is just a puppet of the invisible hand? Of the public interest? Where do these "systemic imperatives" come from that you keep citing?

1. Workers have an interest in ending the system.

2. Capitalists do not have such an interest.

Therefore, as I wrote, capitalists do not have an interest in ending the system the way workers do.

Thanks for the grammar lesson. But in re-stating your point – i.e., capitalists do not have an interest in ending the system – you beg the question: why would they, if the system serves their interest? Does the system not serve their interest? Does the system have no interests? Or what?

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

Where do these "systemic imperatives" come from that you keep citing?

From social structures?

If you reduce everything to the individuals who make up society (that is, the answer to your question is always 'from within individuals'), then surely you are using a 'methodological individualist' method?

I'm a 'social realist', and I think that 'social structures' have 'causal powers' in themselves to compel 'individuals' to act in certain ways (through ideologies, for example). Society is stratified, and the 'individual' is only one level of that stratification.

Unless we attempt to uncover the two-way relationships between 'individuals' and 'social structures', we won't be able to analyse and change 'society'.

'Men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing'?

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RegHughs:

you've concisely highlighted the error i was trying to highlight - the "dead" agents had intentions i.e. their beliefs and desires motivated there actions. those actions may or may not have effected a transformation in social structures but it's nonsense to then say those structures themselves have intentions in the same way.

emergence as a concept predates chaos theory. I use it in the sense Roy Bhaskar did in his "The Possibility of Naturalism" in 1979 (or I jope I do as I read it years ago and found it quite hard going). It simply implies a stratified conception of the real, each stratum dependent on but not reducible to those beneath it and each displaying properties or powers that are specific to it. On that basis all social structures or production relations have emergent properties i.e. involve distinct class positions endowing distinct causal powers and capacities to the agents occupying them etc.

IMO the concept of the capitalist mode of production is a way of understanding contemporary social relations, their causal powers to constrain and enable actors, the way these powers operate and the developmental tendencies they give rise to.

S Artesian

not sure if I disagree or if this a question of style. the labour process is the collective appropriation of nature by man. this is a social process, the social interactions involved are explained by and given rise to structural relations. these relations form the condition of social activity and are reproduced by it, whether the specific social actors are aware of this or not. but material production is still a purposive activity undertaken by men and women not "the system"

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

..."dead" agents had intentions ...but it's nonsense to then say those structures themselves have intentions in the same way.

.
andy g

It simply implies a stratified conception of the real, each stratum dependent on but not reducible to those beneath it and each displaying properties or powers that are specific to it.

No, but surely it's possible to say that 'structures have intentions' in a different way, a 'way' not reducible to 'live agents'?

That is, 'structures' have the 'intentions' of 'dead actors'?

FWIW, I think that we're very close in our ideas, and it might be just semantics, about 'intentions', 'imperatives', etc.

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LB

could be - I just remember being very struck when I first read Archer (or rather summaries of her work) with how persuasive the argument against "conflationism" is and how often the language marxists have used can lead to it

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah I think the danger to be avoided here is the problem of reifying or anthropomorphising the systemic-level entities and logics. Because Capital is not a living entity with consciousness or desires, to say that it had "interests" would be a case of pathetic fallacy*.

Hence, for the sake of clarity, that in talking of different levels of determination, the entities we are considering are of a different nature, it is more helpful to use depersonalised or abstracted terms like "the logic of... [a systemic entity]", or "imperatives" or "drivers".

Particularly when we're trying to fight against conflationism in the other direction** (the argument I made earlier about orthodox marxism's tendency to set an "objective" class interest against the actually-existing interests of the class composition).

People have interests, systems have imperatives. The whole idea of emergence is that those emergent imperatives can be distinct from the interests of the persons implicated in that system (whether in the past or present - the notion of the interests of the dead is a total confusion in that respect).

RC's position, if I understand it, is that any notion of determination above the human is a case of reification fallacy. A Hegelian malady of ghostly categories that move of their own volition. The laws of motion of the system are nothing more than sum total effect of the interests of the individual actors involved.

As well as the counter-challenge of "methodological individualism" which has been repeatedly ignored, I would like to point out that this also amounts to the animistic fallacy.

Name-calling aside, I think the philosophical problem can have real political effects when it comes to the question of the transition period. If the animistic fallacy is true, then having liquidated the power of the capitalists (through the appropriation of the MoP), the transitional society can continue to retain the relations of distribution proper to capitalism (the wage, price system by SNLT, etc) as per the Gothakritik. Whereas I take it as a starting point for all heterodox post-Marxists that the Gothakritik is wrong, that the retention of the relations of distribution of the wage and exchange carry with it not just capitalist "form" but also "content".

I'd be interested to hear the GSP viewpoint on the transition period and what is required to make the definitive rupture with the reproduction of capitalist social relations.

---
* from WP: "The pathetic fallacy is a special case of the fallacy of reification. The word 'pathetic' in this use is related to 'pathos' or 'empathy' (capability of feeling), and is not pejorative."

** I haven't found a converse to pathetic fallacy - that is the upwards transference of anthropomorphic characteristics to systemic entities - the converse, the downwards projection of systemic characteristics or logics onto their human subcomponents, should have a term, but doesn't appear to have. Avatar fallacy?

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

** I haven't found a converse to pathetic fallacy - that is the upwards transference of anthropomorphic characteristics to systemic entities - the converse, the downwards projection of systemic characteristics or logics onto their human subcomponents, should have a term, but doesn't appear to have. Avatar fallacy?

Given our discussion of 'dead actors', perhaps 'Zombie fallacy' is apt!

S. Artesian

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Zombies? Not exactly.

Shelley had it right in her novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

Monster to Dr. Frankenstein:

"You are my creator, but I am your master. You must obey!"

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Zombies? Not exactly.

Shelley had it right in her novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

Monster to Dr. Frankenstein:

"You are my creator, but I am your master. You must obey!"

But isn't that ocelot's 'pathetic fallacy'?

"pathetic fallacy - that is the upwards transference of anthropomorphic characteristics to systemic entities "

'Zombies' in social analysis sounds so much more exciting!

andy g

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

flesh eating embodiments of capital - Marx would have liked it! What with all the vampire and werewolf references in C v1!

ocelot

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Heh. Quite like the zombie fallacy. Accumulation as desire to eat brains. Nice.

Andy, I have to thank you for that reference to Margaret Archer above. I'd never come across her before (or any of that critical realism stuff really). But just reading the WP brief on her Analytical Dualism concept, that maps really neatly onto what I'm trying to articulate.

I think Manuel de Landa's attempt, in "An New Philosophy of Society" to get beyond micro-reductionism and macro-reductionism has some similarities. Although overall I wasn't impressed by his attempt to systematise D&G.

Anyway, ta for that.

for good measure, I'm going to quote a chunk of that Archer précis:

Archer argues that much social theory suffers from the generic defect of conflation where, due to a reluctance or inability to theorize emergent relationships between social phenomena, causal autonomy is denied to one side of the relation. This can take the form of autonomy being denied to agency with causal efficacy only granted to structure (downwards conflation). Alternatively it can take the form of autonomy being denied to structure with causal efficacy only granted to agency (upwards conflation). Finally it may take the form of central conflation where structure and agency are seen as being co-constitutive i.e. structure is reproduced through agency which is simultaneously constrained and enabled by structure. The most prominent example of central conflation is the structuration theory of Anthony Giddens. While not objecting to this approach on philosophical grounds, Archer does object to it on analytical grounds: by conflating structure and agency into unspecified movements of co-constitution, central conflationary approaches preclude the possibility of sociological exploration of the relative influence of each aspect.

S. Artesian

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

S. Artesian

Zombies? Not exactly.

Shelley had it right in her novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

Monster to Dr. Frankenstein:

"You are my creator, but I am your master. You must obey!"

But isn't that ocelot's 'pathetic fallacy'?

"pathetic fallacy - that is the upwards transference of anthropomorphic characteristics to systemic entities "

'Zombies' in social analysis sounds so much more exciting!

I don't think it's any fallacy. The nature of the social relation, the "logic" of accumulation requires the capitalist, as the personification of capital, to do certain things.

At a certain point, the capitalists themselves become merely the tool for capital-- the human expression of the dispossessed need.

Anyway, minor point. Not worth getting bogged down. The question is, always is, always becomes; what are the needs of accumulation and the immanent tendency within those needs for the overthrow of a capitalist accumulation?

klaus u

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'd be interested to hear the GSP viewpoint on the transition period and what is required to make the definitive rupture with the reproduction of capitalist social relations.

1) Why do you want to know this?

2) What's the connection to the debate about Heinrich's interpretation of Marx' Capital, Vol. 1?

RedHughs

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah I think the danger to be avoided here is the problem of reifying or anthropomorphising the systemic-level entities and logics. Because Capital is not a living entity with consciousness or desires, to say that it had "interests" would be a case of pathetic fallacy*.

Hence, for the sake of clarity, that in talking of different levels of determination, the entities we are considering are of a different nature, it is more helpful to use depersonalised or abstracted terms like "the logic of... [a systemic entity]", or "imperatives" or "drivers".

The point isn't that capital is exactly like a person but the people aren't exactly like what we think they are. IE, people don't absolutely unambiguously have intentions, etc. Needs, intentions, desires, etc are spread-about socially rather than being the atomistic possession of atomistic souls, citizens or whatever irreducible unit you might name (if you need an authority to reinforce this, as many seem to, try Vygotski). Trying to trace a given intention to a given person has all the poisonous metaphysics of trying to trace actions to their "first cause".

If you ever try to unravel some complex event, a murder, the construction of a housing development, the release of toxic wastes or whatever product of a series of actions you might name, the complexity of determining what someone's "real intentions" are becomes evident. Given this, it makes just as much sense as anything to talk about the sysem's needs, desires, etc (Artesian's "You are my creator, but I am your master. You must obey!" for example). Talking about the system's needs is not using logic at the level of syllogisms but to discuss the complex situation of people caught up in a game and simultaneously influencing that game, you simply aren't going to be able to do that. (I'll take an effective statistical dynamic model of the whole she-bang as proof that you can treat capital as purely a thing abstracted entirely away from our many intuitive senses of the world and it's "intentions". Go ahead, I'm waiting).

Building philosophical walls against one or another "error" just invites further error. The fire-walling simply has to happen at a completely different level.

Dave B

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think there is a different and valid interpretation of the Frankenstien story.

Actually the monster in the book is quite a sympathetic and innocent character who aspires to be as cultured as that which created him.

His creator(s) rejected him as an abomination.

For Shelly the bourgeois scientific enlightenment created industrial production and with it came automatically the unwashed and uncultured base working class, the monster.

The delicate intellectual bourgeois middle class liberals like Shelly and their circle where terrified of an industrial working class that couldn’t read Greek and appreciate poems.

Just like ‘terrified of Tunbridge Wells’ are today of walking through of council sink estates.

To say nothing of the unwashed and uncultured masses wanting to have a say in the running of society.

It was a paternalistic kind of idea, that you can get also from the otherwise sympathetic to the working class Dickens, and his fear of them kicking off as in Barnaby Rudge ( Orwell wrote and interesting essay on that) and to a certain extent Dickens anti trade union stuff in Hard Times.

LBird

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

Heh. Quite like the zombie fallacy. Accumulation as desire to eat brains. Nice.

Andy, I have to thank you for that reference to Margaret Archer above.

Margaret Archer calls her method 'The morphogenetic approach'.

Given our discussion about 'pathetic' and 'zombie' fallacies, which covers the same area as 'morpho' and 'genetic', I propose a different, more exciting, name for the method, as outlined by LibCom.

The 'Pathetic Zombie' method.

Imagine the front cover of LibCom's introductory text.

PS. ocelot, will the 'undead' get the vote, under Libertarian Communism?

jura

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Neoprene, thanks for that!

jura

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The transcript is really good. Heinrich makes a lot of sense in my view. It should be translated into English, because it clearly shows that Heinrich is not just another academic who thinks that if there just were enough Capital reading groups, everything would be great and we'd have a revolution. What he says about practical experience with struggles and the importance of interventions resonates nicely with the ultra-left take on these things.

Angelus Novus

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

What I find odd and somewhat paradoxical is that at the level of an analysis of capitalism, GSP accuses Heinrich of being overly structuralist, deterministic, and inattentive to the factor of human agency (which I consider a distortion of Heinrich, btw), yet when it comes to the question of how to dismantle capitalism, GSP have this completely deterministic, idealist conception of first convincing the majority of the population of a refined critique of capitalism, while Heinrich argues that human agency and activity is often able to break through the surface level fetishism.

Neoprene Walgesang

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The very abstract code word "human agency" very often, and here too tries to circumvent the obvious fact, that if humans do not see the need to do somehing specific, they simply do not do it. It may sound "idealistic" to try to convince sufficient people that it would be a good thing in general and especially for them personally to get rid of capitalism. But I don't see that any "activity" per see can be a substitute for this.

The basic untruth in this regard is the mythical "lesson" that can be had by "experiences". And of course automatically or rather without any real learning and understanding of those people who have lived through turbulent times or have participated in some sort of class action. Capitalism can "teach" different people quite different things, as everybody knows. Neither the successes nor the defeats bring about any correct understanding, any neccessary change of the beahvior of the masses. Otherwise we would be heading to victory on an even path to the socialist sun. But as some roughly 200 years of modern class struggle could show us: no, it does not work this way. Lessons can be "forgotten", class consciousness can get lost, victories can be taken away or even be given up. If you do not win that constant fight for the minds of the working class, you do not have any chance to win at all. And this is neccessary bedore fights, during fights and afterwards. The fights per se don't help.

(And only as a P.S.: Never got it better, when times got rougher. Bad times for the masses are normally not better times for communists, as the history of all major imperialist states unfortunately shows.)

Angelus Novus

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Neoprene Walgesang

that if humans do not see the need to do somehing specific, they simply do not do it.

But look at workers' everyday behavior under capitalism. Hardly anyone makes a conscious decision to perpetuate capitalist relations. Rather, people are confronted with a set of pre-existing circumstances, and have to act according to those circumstances. So if they don't want to starve, they have to sell their labor-power. But in doing so, they perpetuate capitalist relations. And without having intended to do so on any conscious level.

I imagine you'll counter that there are certain people in society whose job it is to consciously perpetuate capitalism, i.e. the state's functionaries, agents of capital, and that's correct, but it's only one side of the equation. Capitalist relations could not be perpetuated without the consent of the exploited, which is almost never consciously given, but is the result of blind processes.

So given that the perpetuation of capitalist relations is the result of a blind process, at least on the part of the exploited, I don't understand how the dismantling of capitalist relations has to be the result of some sudden, conscious decision. I think it's more the result of a series of steps within a larger process, one of which is that people attempt to fight for their own interests within the system, only to find that there is only a limited capacity for the system to satisfy their interests.

I have a hard time imagining how GSP supporters imagine the implementation of communism. Like, you just convince 50% + 1 of the general population of its necessity, and then take a vote?

Neither the successes nor the defeats bring about any correct understanding, any neccessary change of the beahvior of the masses.

Sure, but I don't see Heinrich suggesting that experiences necessarily lead to specific changes in perception, simply that there is a possibility that they can.

Also, I don't find it fruitful to evaluate struggles only in terms of their effects upon consciousness. This is a weirdly detached way of evaluating social conflict, as if by an impartial observer who doesn't have to worry about getting food on the table.

But when locomotive engineers go on strike, or Hartz IV recipients struggle for the fulfillment of specific demands, they do so to satisfy tangible material interests/needs. The struggles are worth waging for that reason alone, and not simply because they fulfill some litmus test of communist purity.

(And only as a P.S.: Never got it better, when times got rougher. Bad times for the masses are normally not better times for communists, as the history of all major imperialist states unfortunately shows.)

I don't think it's automatic either way, i.e. that good times or bad times lead to specific changes in consciousness. I would say that Germany's comfortable position as the neo-mercantilist master of Europe makes it extremely difficult to convince German workers that they have a stake in fighting the system alongside Greek and Spanish workers.

ocelot

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

I would say that Germany's comfortable position as the neo-mercantilist master of Europe makes it extremely difficult to convince German workers that they have a stake in fighting the system alongside Greek and Spanish workers.

Sorry. Total side-issue. I've seen the characterisation of the dominant German economic doctrine as neo-mercantilist before, e.g. from commentators in the FT like Martin Wolf, etc. Apriori it seems to fit. But my question is, has anyone looked into this (i.e. parallels between current doctrine and mercantilism) more formally or analytically? If so, I'd be interested in a few refs. Not important otherwise.

andy g

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

neoprene

I'm not sure any of us would agree with the simplistic notion that communist consciousness is somehow the immediate product of workers' everyday experience. certainly not where i work anyway!!

however, the opposition of "theory" to experience you seem to put forward is problematic too. it would be very strange for a materialist to suggest class consciousness develops in a vacuum, isolated from class experience.

not that it proves anything Charlie certainly had a more "dialectical" (light blue touch paper and retire)view:

Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01d.htm#d1

recession in itself doesn't make the growth of mass revolutionary consciousness inevitable OR impossible. of course communists have to propagandise and "educate". but surely we also have to organise resistance to the attacks on our class imposed under the banner of austerity? and in so doing prove the correctness and relevance of communism in action. relying on propaganda alone is a recipe for disaster IMHO

Neoprene W

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

look at workers' everyday behavior under capitalism. Hardly anyone makes a conscious decision to perpetuate capitalist relations. Rather, people are confronted with a set of pre-existing circumstances, and have to act according to those circumstances.

Who could object to this. With the rare exception of those few full time cadres of the revolutionary organizations even the communists amongst the general population have to work as wage laborers in most cases. A few Friedrich Engels types don't count. And, yes,

“in doing so, they perpetuate capitalist relations. And without having intended to do so on any conscious level.”

But, and this is a big but, this in no way dictates or forces them to think the way most of them do. A turning point for my political understanding and turning away from “classical” orthodox leninist thinking was a little story from Peter Decker's speech, that he gave to the stalinist SED cadres at their party college in 1991 just a few months before their state the GDR/DDR gave up and was swallowed up by West Germany:

“We stand before factory gates in West Germany, at each large factory. And people say, “we don’t need this,” and mean: sincerely sorry, I am a father and have an installment loan for my car. Your arguments do not help me any in getting by. Here he is right, really. Every special sales coupon is more useful for getting by than our criticism. Our criticism aims for something completely different: consider whether you do well to tighten your belt to live within your means, which they have set for you. We want to ask people whether they do not for once want to make a break in their willingness to get by. Are they ready for one moment to think about it, about what it is they actually get by with? And then they say to us: sorry, I don’t have time; I just have to get by.”

Most of the workers and most of the population in general unfortunately are no underground fighters, that eagerly wait for your communist call for action. The consciously and firmly are rooted in this capitalist society and positively accept their role as workers. (On a general political level this can also be seen in the very high percentage of workers that participate voluntarily in the democratic elections and thereby legitimize the governments that give them back austerity and state racism as the “unavoidable” policies of the day.)

Therefore I think it wrong and minimizing the problems that communist face, if you say:

“I imagine you'll counter that there are certain people in society whose job it is to consciously perpetuate capitalism, i.e. the state's functionaries, agents of capital, and that's correct, but it's only one side of the equation. Capitalist relations could not be perpetuated without the consent of the exploited, which is almost never consciously given, but is the result of blind processes.”

I don't understand why you come to the assumption that your counterposition in this debate and more precisely the position of RC (or GegenStandpunkt) would be “the dismantling of capitalist relations has to be the result of some sudden, conscious decision.”

I too think

“it's more the result of a series of steps within a larger process”

One part of this is

“that people attempt to fight for their own interests within the system, only to find that there is only a limited capacity for the system to satisfy their interests.”

The problem with “their interests”” is, that they are shaped and bent by the constraints of the “objective” laws of capitalist society. And therefore even a decent trade unionist can be satisfied with a meagre wage increase because more would endanger his existence as worker, because it would hurt profits to much.

You have a hard time imagining how GSP supporters imagine the implementation of communism. Neither do I. But even you should know that they definitively are no friends of democratic rules and therefore laugh at your

“50% + 1 of the general population of its necessity”.

A central point for me is your weak attempt to defend the insistence of Michael Heinrich on the miracles of “experiences”:

“Sure, but I don't see Heinrich suggesting that experiences necessarily lead to specific changes in perception, simply that there is a possibility that they can.”

Of course, as we speak about intelligent beings, a possibility for people to change their minds is given in every moment of their lives. But there in no inner neccessity that any specific experience brings them to a specific political understanding.

Peter Decker the leading spokesperson of the GegenStandpunkt tendency a few years ago answered to the question “Muß das Ganze nicht ir­gend­wann au­to­ma­tisch um­kip­pen, zwingt nicht ir­gend­wann die Er­fah­rung des Elends die Leute zum Auf­ruhr?” [Is there no neccessity that the whole thing will turn around automatically? Will the misery not force the people into an uprising?”

“Was wir bräuch­ten ist, dass die Leute sich eine an­de­re Frage stel­len: Mache nicht ich einen Feh­ler in der Er­fül­lung mei­ner Pflicht. Nicht, ma­chen die an­de­ren Feh­ler, weil sie ihre Pflicht nicht er­fül­len, son­dern ist nicht in mei­ner Pflicht, in dem Pro­gramm, das meine Pflicht aus­macht, liegt darin nicht der Feh­ler. Gebe ich mich nicht für etwas her, was für mein Wohl gar nicht ge­strickt ist? Diese Um­keh­rung der Fra­ge­stel­lung braucht man. Und das hängt nicht von der Größe der Ab­sur­di­tät und der Größe der Lei­den der Men­schen ab. Son­dern von der Weise, wie sie es sich er­klä­ren. Man kann ein Volk, dafür sind die Deut­schen ge­ra­de ein schö­nes Bei­spiel, un­glaub­lich nie­der­drü­cken und es muckt nicht auf. Wenn es davon über­zeugt ist, dass das halt nötig ist, um die ei­ge­nen Le­bens­grund­la­gen zu ver­tei­di­gen. (Ich meine hier Hit­ler und den zwei­ten Welt­krieg.) Und am Schluß fres­sen sie nur noch Dreck und haben immer noch nichts gegen den Laden. Wenn sie davon über­zeugt sind, dass das gegen ihr Leben und Über­le­ben ist. Wenn sie sich davon über­zeu­gen wür­den, was das für eine miese Sache ist, für die sie sich her­ge­ben, dann wür­den sie es nicht tun. Und dies nicht erst, wenn sie so­weit run­ter­ge­drückt sind.
Das ist ganz wich­tig: Von einem Au­to­ma­tis­mus, in zehn, fünf­zehn Jah­ren, dann kippt alles um, kann keine Rede sein. Es ist ein­zig und al­lein ab­hän­gig von der Mei­nungs­bil­dung derer, die die Las­ten tra­gen müs­sen. “

[What we would need is that people ask themselves another question: Could it be that it is a mistake when I always attempt to fullfill my duties? Not the question whther the other ones make mistakes when they du not act according their duties. Could it be that my duties and the programm that lies behind these duties are the real mistake? Could it be that I offer myself for something that basically does not have my wellbeing on its list? This kind of turning around the questions people ask themselves is what is necessary. And this does not depend on the amount of the absurdities of life they suffer or the amount of suffering. But only on the way they explain their life to themselves. You can make a people suffer to enormous degrees (the Germans are a “good” example for this) and it will not revolt: When it is convinced that these hardshipsare unavoidable to defend the basics of their lives. (I am speaking about Hitler and the Second World War) In the end the could only eat dirt and still firmly supported their system. Because they were convinced that it was a question of live or die [as a nation]. If they could convince themselves that it is a rotten thing that they are giving themselves to then they would not do it. And not only, or only then, when they are brought down that enormously as then.

It is very important: There does not exist any automatism: In 10 or 15 years the tide turns! No, it will not work like this. All and everything depends on the estimations the attitudes, the lessons of those who have to take the burdons.]

“But when locomotive engineers go on strike, or Hartz IV recipients struggle for the fulfillment of specific demands, they do so to satisfy tangible material interests/needs. The struggles are worth waging for that reason alone, and not simply because they fulfill some litmus test of communist purity.”

First of all, it is of enormous importance whether a group of workers (or more exact members of the working class in general) have a stance that they can put pressure on the capitalist side (as the GDL locomotive engineers in Germany a few years ago could) or whether you belong to the weakest elements of the class that the state has decreed to be an unneccessary burden on its task to bolster profits in its economy (as those millions of poor Hartz IV unemployed). Whatever can be won by workers in a capitalist society can only be won by those that can harm the other side by their class struggle action as strikes or sitdowns or blockades.

And, surprise, surprise, exactly for this reason the GegenStandpunkt has put quite some effort in its interventions in the GDL strike and strike solidarity movement. This must have impressed quite some people even in this traditionally conservative trade union of rather craft union type. As a first (as far as I know) for decades, one of the trade union locals printed an article of Peter Decker in its newspaper. I do not know of any other communist tendency that made it that far in this regard in the last years.

RedHughs

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

First of all, it is of enormous importance whether a group of workers (or more exact members of the working class in general) have a stance that they can put pressure on the capitalist side (as the GDL locomotive engineers in Germany a few years ago could) or whether you belong to the weakest elements of the class that the state has decreed to be an unneccessary burden on its task to bolster profits in its economy (as those millions of poor Hartz IV unemployed). Whatever can be won by workers in a capitalist society can only be won by those that can harm the other side by their class struggle action as strikes or sitdowns or blockades.

It seems like this represents relatively common train of logic but one which seems to me to simply not fit together.

Apologies if I'm miss-reading your position but this is what I "hear" you saying:

On the one hand, you have figured out that in the normal situation, the working class interested in communism because such communist ideas don't have any effect for it.

On the other hand, you've figured out that the capitalist class only pays attention to the most strategically located sector and this sector is what can bring the capitalist system to its knees.

Notice in the second part, I don't say "in the normal situation" because it seems like you have made this part a universal, true in both normal times and times of upheaval.

Given this, first I would ask what kind of trajectory you're imagining. Are you aiming to impart some knowledge that will allow the working class to gradually get stronger through the use of its strategic power? Are you aiming to cultivate some knowledge that won't be useful until a somewhat revolutionary situation appears? Do you have some third way you'd characterize the process?

Now if you look towards revolts, I'd like to point out that this whole "strategic sector" fixation seems really narrow and hardly gives an exact picture of how revolts have happened in the past. Certain groups of workers have been key but so crowds in the streets, the military and a whole rift of factors. You don't need to be a port worker to blockade a port.

However, if you look towards just an increase in power by strategic sectors in a normal, "pre-revolutionary" situation, you've got a lot of problems as well. Capital has been look at this problem for a long time and has hardened any of its weak points.

I also have to say that I think this fixation on "strategic sectors" neglects the power that solidarity has had in revolutionary and non-revolutionary situations. Collective action and mutual support can be as important as any bare calculation of power. The father with children you describe may indeed get nothing out of communist propaganda but I would suggest that he would get quite a bit out of a more collectively organized working class, either in concrete terms like mutual child care or abstract terms like comradeship.

If you don't have solidarity in the working class as a whole, even the cleverest members of the most advanced sectors really won't get that much but if you do have it, a whole range of possibilities opens up.

This isn't to say that I think solidarity could just appear and snowball in the working class under normal circumstances. Capital relentless and systematically works to destroy any terrain and any collective process where that could happen and normally leaves us defeated and in the situation only working to eat matters. Indeed, the whole history of the working class and the capitalist class struggling has involved the capital class' relentless destruction of the collective institutions of the working class, leaving us in the miserable situation of today.

But the point is that any snowballing of resistance would involve multiple developments - an increase in solidarity, the occupation of territory, disarray in the capitalist class, and, even, actions by strategic sectors and an awareness of the critique capitalism.

Neoprene W

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Let us start with your first assumption about my positions:

„On the one hand, you have figured out that in the normal situation, the working class [is not] interested in communism because such communist ideas don't have any effect for it.“

I don't understand your „on the one hand“. This observation simply is should be the starting point for communist activities. If there would be any „automatic“ development of communist class consciousness, we would have seen this by now, I am afraid.
Your „On the other hand“:

„you've figured out that the capitalist class only pays attention to the most strategically located sector and this sector is what can bring the capitalist system to its knees.“

Is not really my position: As long as we speak of basically isolated class struggles it is obvious that those workers who cann afflict more harm to the profits of the bosses can aspect to win more or them even short of any revolutionary upheavals. You are basicaly right if you hold a little bit against this evalutaions your

„Certain groups of workers have been key but so crowds in the streets, the military and a whole rift of factors. You don't need to be a port worker to blockade a port.“

As everybody knows, workers in key industries as heavy industries, formerly steel, car making these days, transportation (harbors, railways, air ports, inner city traffic) communications and a few others can cripple any economy with a comparable „short“ strike. But you are right in insisting, that masses of workers, either on mass picket lines as in the British NUM strike under Scargill or on the streets in big solidarity demonstrations can impress too. Therefore something like the Oakland Harbor blockade, or attempt to blockade could have big effects.

„Given this, first I would ask what kind of trajectory you're imagining. Are you aiming to impart some knowledge that will allow the working class to gradually get stronger through the use of its strategic power? Are you aiming to cultivate some knowledge that won't be useful until a somewhat revolutionary situation appears?“

I would rather say that the working class need a determined will to abolish its situation as wage laborers. The determination should be based on knowledge for sure, but knowledge per se does not help. In Germany for instance ten thousands of leftists starting in the Seventies of last century learned a few things about capitalism (not that much, I must admit with hindsight) but all this was in vain, as practically the whole „revolutionar movement“ has been absorbed by the majority bourgeois society and practically all those former subjective revolutionaries literally changed their minds and became reformists if it was much.

The problem indeed is, that as a revolutionary individual and as such an organisation you are offering something, that is not very „usefull“ for the survival in capitalist bounds. And it is a shame that so many leftists lie to the people by not admiting this. You can life a whole life as a revolutionary activist, even as trade unionist in or out of the main stream unions and must admit that the strategic power of the class coul not be increased that much that the mythical „revolutionary situation“ manifested itself. Since two hundred years, for a big part of the history of the revolutionary movement in many states for many years there was not much more to be done than „ cultivate some knowledge“ for later days.

When you say:

„I also have to say that I think this fixation on "strategic sectors" neglects the power that solidarity has had in revolutionary and non-revolutionary situations. Collective action and mutual support can be as important as any bare calculation of power. … If you don't have solidarity in the working class as a whole, even the cleverest members of the most advanced sectors really won't get that much but if you do have it, a whole range of possibilities opens up.“

than I can only answer that your „solidarity“ is my revolutionary will. You will not get the first one without the second one. The „collective“ as a fighting union does only come alive if the workers who fight together have a common understanding and at least roughly the same will. „Advanced“ in this regard are those sectors where you have many of these workers with this kind of consciousness.

RedHughs

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Apologies if I miss-represented your position.

Perhaps it is annoying but I try to get an understanding of other positions by restating them as simply as I can and putting forward counter-arguments.

Even if this starts with me misunderstanding, I think we can wind-up with a better understanding if we keep talking.

If there would be any „automatic“ development of communist class consciousness, we would have seen this by now, I am afraid.

Surely we have seen some development of communist relations at different times and in different forms throughout the history of capitalist society (see Paris Commune, 1917 Russia, Post-WWI Germany, Spain '36, Paris '68, workers councils in the Iranian revolution, etc).

I would still agree that what we do see is that normal capitalist relations of production reproduce themselves - they often don't lead to slowly building of communist relations within capitalism, especially in the modern world of television and celebrity gossip.

However, let me point out there is also a weird disconnect in your reasoning here. What exactly is the difference between "'automatic' development" and something else?? Because we haven't seen the working class develop communism "by itself", then it shows that consciousness needs to be injected from the outside or what?? But really, the point isn't to avoid vanguardism but rather that the whole capitalist system has been going for a while and the failures to get to communism are thus failures of everything that we have had. The failure to create communism reflects on all previous efforts, equally, processes within the mainstream of the working class and processes outside this mainstream.

The problem indeed is, that as a revolutionary individual and as such an organisation you are offering something, that is not very „usefull“ for the survival in capitalist bounds. And it is a shame that so many leftists lie to the people by not admiting this.

Sure but that's only one of a number of faults of the left or I would say, the left wing of capital.

In Germany for instance ten thousands of leftists starting in the Seventies of last century learned a few things about capitalism (not that much, I must admit with hindsight) but all this was in vain, as practically the whole „revolutionar movement“ has been absorbed by the majority bourgeois society and practically all those former subjective revolutionaries literally changed their minds and became reformists if it was much.

Sounds like quite a painful experience...

I don't think that consciousness is a "bad thing". We simply need to use it well, use it to gain a wider perspective but not imagine it will provide enough force by itself to bring the entire class to communism.

The thing is, I have the impression that many of the discussions of the left I hear here are descriptions of the left as it's been in the first world in the last thirty years - more like a trend or a social scene than a group of organizations (a situation which has its good and less good points but is only one incarnation of the left).

If you look at the overall history of the world I believe you can show that the left has had an impact and that this impact has been mostly as an agent of capitalist reform. And moreover, there aren't any ideas which by themselves provide an inoculation against this problem.

Here's something to consider. Perhaps, just perhaps, revolutionary ideas also weren't providing anything for the generation of revolutionaries you mentioned. Perhaps, the mouthing of radical ideas merely served as a signal, sign of belonging for a youth scene and thus it is entirely logical that as the members of this scene grew older, they discarded revolutionary ideas as readily as your average workers discard radical newspapers that are handed them.

But anyway, to make a long story short, my conclusion would be that would-be revolutionaries and atomized non-revolutionary workers are in a similar situation. Each needs a combination of ideas, solidarity and external circumstances to act. Ideas are not enough for any group.

Neoprene W

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

„Perhaps it is annoying but I try to get an understanding of other positions by restating them as simply as I can and putting forward counter-arguments.“

No, this approach is neither annoying nor unappropriate for discussions like this: I am new to this group, anybody who does not know me politically from other contexts therefore should nor rush to any verdict. Short comments can imply quite a few misunderstandings.

Of course it ist rue when you say

„Surely we have seen some development of communist relations at different times and in different forms throughout the history of capitalist society (see Paris Commune, 1917 Russia, Post-WWI Germany, Spain '36, Paris '68, workers councils in the Iranian revolution, etc).“

Butt his is more of an confirmation of my main thesis than a refutation: As I stated, intelligent people that constantly make up their minds, sometimes learn something, sometimes change their attitudes, sometimes start a fight to end somewhere different than where they started from, all these people can come to a sound and correct understandind of their world and the wish to get rid of it for these reasons any time anywhere. Some of them have done so in the past (more or less to bet rue) as you pointed to, and they will in the future, some of them do it right now (a bitter joke I have heard a few times from leading cadres from the Marxist Group/GegenStandpunkt tendency is „most of them I do know personally“)

My point was/is, that there is no „law“ of a development of communist thinking/organizing/successes „automatically“ built into history. Or as you have said

„they often don't lead to slowly building of communist relations within capitalism“

What I do not get is your point about my „weird disconnect in your reasoning here. What exactly is the difference between "'automatic' development" and something else??“

For me it is "easy" (well, rather simple): either the few communists that we have these days prepare themselves to agitate, organize to convince the rest of the working class to come to their communist understanding too or shit will hapen as it always has and does right now.

I indeed hold it to be obvious „that consciousness needs to be injected from the outside“. This „outside“ is a bad mistake anyway, as if the stupidities the workers these days have in mind and that are fostered by the forces that be would be something inherently positively and if a carpet bagger comes along, then this per se has to be damned. Where do you draw the lines between „inside“ the class and „outside“ anyhow? The teacher for instance who became a communist during its university education, is he „in“ or „out“?

It is cheap to attack „vanguardism“, because every leftist thinks he is right and the others are „backward“. I myself argue for a polite atempt to simply win over as much people as possible to my understanding of this capitalist world. As interested I was for most of my political life for „the failures to get to communism“ these days I think, one can produce good communist propaganda by simply explaining the inner laws of this society and the role the working class is forced to play in this right now. History is a luxury for hard core commies, but if it does not work without it then it will not work at all.

I think, ou are completely wrong if you say:

„Perhaps, the mouthing of radical ideas merely served as a signal, sign of belonging for a youth scene and thus it is entirely logical that as the members of this scene grew older, they discarded revolutionary ideas as readily as your average workers discard radical newspapers that are handed them.“

I knew quite a few of dedicated cadre of organisations that had some red flags on their newspaper banners, that invested their whole life in their (mostly maoist) projects to further communism. These where not the tyypical „youth scene“ guys. They unfortunately were wrong politically. And they were unsuccessful. Which is not the same.

But you are right, when they gave up, liquidated their „communist parties“ and went back to work normally in this society they ended in the same ideological space as the workers that dismiss communist leaflets as unneccesary for their life as workers that want to survive as workers.

RedHughs

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

For me it is "easy" (well, rather simple): either the few communists that we have these days prepare themselves to agitate, organize to convince the rest of the working class to come to their communist understanding too or shit will hapen as it always has and does right now.

The point of a materialist position is that all the classes and group are acting according to material factors rather than simply acting according to the ideas someone has persuaded them to believe.

If the way that history is changed by effective agitation, then the materialist theory of history is wrong. Instead, if we believe that history is changed by the most effective agitation, whatever group has the best propaganda will create the social system it wishes.

Further, we don't have a reason to think it is more likely that the communists will suddenly change their way of operating as opposed to the working class suddenly changing its way of operating.

And I would claim that one or another material factors propels the dedicated Maoist as much as they would propel the average factory worker.

Note that this is not an argument that we shouldn't do anything - this is an argument that our theory should not take the position that our agitation can be the decisive factor.

Neoprene W

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sentences like RedHugh's

"The point of a materialist position is that all the classes and group are acting according to material factors

always sound impressive: Who (amongst orthodox communists) would be in principle against "a materialist position"?
Who could be so stupid as to argue against "material factors"?
But obviously this kind of objectivist thinking is a nice justification for finding one's peace with the world as it is (unfortunately).
I only can point again to Peter Decker's attack on the classical stalinist tenets in his speech "Marxism – adaptation lessons or criticism?" that is to be found here:
http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/Marxism.htm
I personally am no "materialist" in this semireligious version: Things change only then and when enough people have decided for themselves that something fundamental has to be changed. Nobody else can bring this into existence, no objective law of historic development, no historic mission of the working class or whatsoever.

Another misunderstanding is that the group "with the best propaganda" will win the hearts and minds of the workers and voila victory is at hands. No: You can have the best writers very seasoned speakers, good organizers, but this never is a guarantee for success. Reading in hindsight the documents of the history of the communist left (for me this historically was the orthodox leninist trotskyist part of it) I very often found the articles and analysis of the tendencies that have lost to be the "better" ones compared to the "winner" tendencies.

Why on earth has everthing always to be "sudden"? No, communists never were able to change the "way of operating" of the working class from one moment to the other. This has always been a contradictory uneven process with wins and losses, with improvements of understanding what is going on on the one hand and degradation with other parts of the class and so on.

Therefore as a counterquestion: What are these mythical "material factors" that really are "decisive"? And if they really are decisive and make the wind blow in our faces, why should anybody fight a Don Chichote fight against these forces that be?

ocelot

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Finally! Maybe in a week or two amazon will get around to delivering my pre-ordered copy then. Maybe even in time to take as reading material to St. Imier. (not that I ever seem to get much reading done at these dos)

jura

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

To the Jura mountains, ocelot!

Angelus Novus

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Damn, I wish there was some way to sell these at the Anarchist conference. Unfortunately I don't have the funds to travel to Switzlerland.

S. Artesian

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just got my copy of the English translation; waiting for me in the post when I returned from Cairo. Well, I hope Heinrich lives up to the advertising...

oisleep

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Is the only way to get it in the UK at the moment to order it from the MR US site and pay a shit load for postage?

georgestapleton

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

Damn, I wish there was some way to sell these at the Anarchist conference. Unfortunately I don't have the funds to travel to Switzlerland.

As I said on the other thread Robert Kurz was supposed to be there so if you know anyone in Krisis or whatever this group is they might take the book. I'm going and would be happy to help sell a few if you found a way of getting them to me or to St Imier so I could collect them. But I'm not doing a stall or anything so that might not work.

Angelus Novus

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

Is the only way to get it in the UK at the moment to order it from the MR US site and pay a shit load for postage?

I'm guessing it will be available from Amazon soon enough.

Ogion

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

Finally! Maybe in a week or two amazon will get around to delivering my pre-ordered copy then. Maybe even in time to take as reading material to St. Imier. (not that I ever seem to get much reading done at these dos)

I made a pre-order from Amazon a while ago as well, but Amazon tells me it may not be delivered until August 13th -- and I'm based in the US. I may just cancel the order and order it directly from MR for the same price now that it’s published.

Spassmaschine

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ogion

ocelot

Finally! Maybe in a week or two amazon will get around to delivering my pre-ordered copy then. Maybe even in time to take as reading material to St. Imier. (not that I ever seem to get much reading done at these dos)

I made a pre-order from Amazon a while ago as well, but Amazon tells me it may not be delivered until August 13th -- and I'm based in the US. I may just cancel the order and order it directly from MR for the same price now that it’s published.

Yeah likewise preordered it on bookdepository, which is now alleging it won't be published until the end of October ):

Angelus Novus

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ogion

I made a pre-order from Amazon a while ago as well, but Amazon tells me it may not be delivered until August 13th -- and I'm based in the US. I may just cancel the order and order it directly from MR for the same price now that it’s published.

My only guess is that it takes a while for a distributor to actually get the book to retailers like Amazon. But honestly I have no idea.

petey

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

as of this afternoon the local b&n didn;t have it :x

Khawaga

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yup, Amazon.ca just sent me an e-mail saying it's taking a little longer to get the book from the supplier...

S. Artesian

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I ordered mine from Monthly Review, and it arrived a couple of days ago-- apparently MR is hooked up with New York University Press for the distribution of the book-- so you might try MR or NYU Press directly.

Angelus Novus

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So, Amazon.com in the US has got it now.

Ogion

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I just received my copy today from MR and can't believe how fast they shipped it as I only made an order from them a few days ago. I’d definitely recommend getting it from MR if you live in the US (or Canada, as it's only two dollars more for shipping), though I’m glad that it’s also now available on Amazon. It looks like it’s available from sellers on amazon.co.uk and amazon.ca as well, but not yet in stock from those retailers directly.

marrillo

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I´ve just ordered a copy of this through Amazon UK for 8.22 package and post. the book depository I think. And I nearly ordered it tghrough the US site yesterday for 5 quid more. A lucky escape.

LBird

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Received my copy yesterday, at last.

Just started a first read, and it's immediately clear that all the discussions that we've had here over the last few years about 'value', etc., have helped to prepare me, at least, for reading and understanding the book.

It's also obvious to me that there are many parallels between use value/value, and other social concepts like individual/worker.

ocelot

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Still no news from amazon.co.uk when my pre-ordered copy might be sent. Sad now. :cry:

S. Artesian

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Through the first 2 chapters... so far as good as advertised.

andy g

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Through the first 2 chapters... so far as good as advertised.

now that's just mean................... :twisted:

S. Artesian

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Apologies. Just wanted to let people know that it's worth the wait-- through the first 2 chapters. Interesting thing, and I think no accident, is that nowhere in the index do I find any mention of rent.

Actually, I think that's a great thing, since Marx's writings on rent are, IMO, his most problematic, confused, and confusing.

And as Marx said in the Grundrisse-- one can certainly understand capitalism without understanding ground rent, but one cannot understand ground rent without understanding capitalism.

Angelus Novus

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Interesting thing, and I think no accident, is that nowhere in the index do I find any mention of rent.

In the index it's under "Ground rent", but yeah, it's only dealt with in a footnote (number 54, footnote to a paragraph on page 181).

S. Artesian

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

AN,

Thanks.

RC

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

How not to do another New Reading of Marx’s Capital

Michael Heinrich’s commentary on Capital attempts to show how “exploitation and class domination ... function,” but focuses on what the verb conveys: capitalism’s “functioning.” This seems like a slight shift, but it’s a big mistake. His critique of capitalism focuses less on why this system of exploitation needs to be abolished than on how capitalist relations remain durable despite their “destructive potential.” His answer: everyone – capitalists as well as wage laborers, exploiters as well as exploited – is caught up in the “system” and keeps it going. A strange conclusions for a critique of capitalism! This gives us an occasion to dispute Heinrich’s new reading of Capital and at the same time clarify Marx’s arguments against capital, abstract labor, the fetish character of money relations, and the state.

Railyon

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Wait, that's a wholly different book though - ain't it?

I came across that criticism before and the response was that it did not apply to his Intro to Capital. Or are you of a different opinion, that Heinrich cannot keep away his "new reading" from an intro?

I've read neither books, interested in the intro but I'm currently reading Vol 3 on my own. Is Heinrich really such a polarizing figure?

S. Artesian

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Highly recommend the last part of Heinrich's chapter 2 on "The Secret of the Fetishism of Commodities and Money". Great analysis, and in the process, blows away the Kautsky/Engels "historical" reading of Capital as the story of the law of value dominating all production.

Of course, one can get the same, and even more explicit refutation from reading the Grundrisse but it's nice to know that somebody out there in this century, with a publishing house behind him, agrees with... those of us who have fought this battle here several times.

petey

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

His critique of capitalism focuses less on why this system of exploitation needs to be abolished than on how capitalist relations remain durable despite their “destructive potential.”

good, that sounds exactly like what i want to read.
why this system needs to be abolished is a thing i can figure out by walking our my front door in the morning and going to work. why so many people buy into it is a thing i'm having trouble figuring out.

andy g

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

wooohoooo!!!!!!!!!!!! amazon have despatched my copy!!!!!!!!!!!!

better get tranquiliser gun ready to ensure partner and kids given me peace to read it!

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

After all that... The one week I'm offline (thanks to crap wifi at St Imier) amazon try and finally debit the CC I used over 6 months ago for the initial pre-order, rather than the current one (which they have on record). Order automatically cancelled 3 days later. Grrrr.

edit: oh great. And now amazon are out of stock, so I can't order it again. kill.kill.kill.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I find Amazon's distribution mechanisms completely mysterious.

At the Amazon.com American site, they had one of those "18 in stock -- more on the way messages" on Sunday, which was reduced to 8 copies on Monday.

As much as I'd like to think they sold 10 copies overnight, there was nothing to indicate that, since the sales rank of the book didn't seem to move considerably (the first two weeks of its release, it would change chart position considerably by the hour).

I'm wondering if Amazon's warehouses/distribution centers are not exclusive to Amazon, but are rather used as inventory by other booksellers as well.

the button

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

After all that... The one week I'm offline (thanks to crap wifi at St Imier) amazon try and finally debit the CC I used over 6 months ago for the initial pre-order, rather than the current one (which they have on record). Order automatically cancelled 3 days later. Grrrr.

edit: oh great. And now amazon are out of stock, so I can't order it again. kill.kill.kill.

If it's any consolation, I ordered mine on a now-expired credit card too. Midway through chapter 3 now.
:)

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Goddam NoSQL...

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just-in-time my ass!

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

if you get desperate for a value form fix I will stick mine in the post to you when i've finished. will probably get their before amazon deign to take your order....

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Andy. But I've put my next gamble on bookdepository, see if that horse comes in first.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

here's hoping - they've been good for me in the past....

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

BTW, part of my summer reading is the Spanish translation of the book, so I'm basically reading it along with you all.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

angelus - i notice that the bibliography refers to a further book by Heinrich, The Science of Value as "forthcoming" from Brill Academic Publishers. Is this an English translation, do you know? The first footnote refers to an analysis of the first two chapters of Capital vol I published in 2008 and a further volume dealing with chapters 3 - 7 as forthcoming this year. Can't see anything by Heinrich dated 2008 and the bibliography though - are either of these 2 in English?

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

angelus - i notice that the bibliography refers to a further book by Heinrich, The Science of Value as "forthcoming" from Brill Academic Publishers. Is this an English translation, do you know?

Yep, I'm working on it as I type this (or rather, I'm taking a break from working on it as I type this!)

"Science of Value" is really good. Much of the issues touched upon in the Capital introduction, like the monetary theory of value, are given a more extensive treatment.

I should also add, on a personal note, it's kind of stoked my interest a bit in the philosophy of science that some of our own more analytically-inclined Libcommers are experts in.

The first footnote refers to an analysis of the first two chapters of Capital vol I published in 2008 and a further volume dealing with chapters 3 - 7 as forthcoming this year. Can't see anything by Heinrich dated 2008 and the bibliography though - are either of these 2 in English?

The first one is Wie das Marxsche Kapital lesen? (How to Read Marx's Capital) which is a detailed, line-by-line commentary on the first two chapters of Vol. I, which I've started translating, but have since shifted focus to the Science of Value, since the latter has a confirmed publisher (Brill/HM). I would love it if a publisher could be found for "Wie das", but I guess it has a potentially limited audience, although personally, I think it's very helpful.

The volume dealing with chapters 3-7, Wie das Marxsche Kapital lesen? Band 2, isn't even out in German yet; it's coming out out in the fall, the publisher already has a promotional page for it.

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

That's great news about vol. 2 of "Wie das...", Angelus. Preordering...

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

thanks angelus - now stop slacking and get back to it!!!!!!

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The incoherent scatterbrains at Principia Dialectica are about to reach a verdict:

"Apparently a character called Heinrich has written a book about Marx’s 3 volumes , but the result is not good. More on that in a few days…"

Anyone want to place any bets on how long their response will be? I'm guessing one sentence to three paragraphs at the most. I can already predict the essential reservations: 1) Heinrich "denies" the imminent end of capitalism, 2) Heinrich "thinks value is created in exchange". Also, his last name is not Kurz or Postone. :lol:

Joseph Kay

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

He's a dinosaur, surely?

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And he mentions class. And exploitation too. Of course, it's kind of hard to write an introduction to Capital without doing so, but still...

Railyon

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

I can already predict the essential reservations: 1) Heinrich "denies" the imminent end of capitalism, 2) Heinrich "thinks value is created in exchange". Also, his last name is not Kurz or Postone. :lol:

Isn't 1) kinda similar to the GSP critique of his Neu Lesen?

Anyway, what's with the Principia guys, heard them slagged off quite a bit but I can't fathom what the problem is?

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

For the "Principia guys", the new reading of Marx starts and ends with Postone, Kurz and Jappe, with all the contradictions and fallacies that entails. For example, they seem to think – in a classic marxism-mysticism way – that value really valorizes itself automatically, that capital really is like the expression "4 = 5", and presumably also that rent grows out of land next to cabbage.

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Anyone want to place any bets on how long their response will be? I'm guessing one sentence to three paragraphs at the most. I can already predict the essential reservations: 1) Heinrich "denies" the imminent end of capitalism, 2) Heinrich "thinks value is created in exchange". Also, his last name is not Kurz or Postone.

Let's not forget: we discount Heinrich's exegesis of Marx because of the 'Traditional Marxist' political orientation we erroneously ascribe to him.

My bets on two paragraph's consisting in incoherent assertions backed up by a few random quotes or jargon. Such as: 'Heinrich's scientific interpretation of the theory of value does not grasp the importance of Postone's re-interpretation of Marx's self-reflexive critical theory. He ends up on the side of positivism. Marx was not a scientist or a positivist. What we need to focus on instead of the meanderings of trot dinosaurs dressed in value form cardigans are the dialectics of self-reflexive critical theory.'

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

Isn't 1) kinda similar to the GSP critique of his Neu Lesen?

Nah. Whatever else you can say about the GSP, they're not collapse-mongers. Quite the opposite; I think they caught a lot of flak for their analysis of the financial crisis precisely because they regard it as being set in motion by dynamics in the financial sector, and not by any underlying profitability crisis in the "real" sector.

Anyway, what's with the Principia guys, heard them slagged off quite a bit but I can't fathom what the problem is?

Basically what Jura said. I don't even think they're even very aware of the thinkers that they do claim to like; otherwise they'd be aware of the inconsistencies in their own position.

I think in a typical ex-Situationist manner, they just like that stuff at the level of sloganeering, i.e. "against work", "critique of enlightenment", "critique of value." Robert Kurz was already a feuilletoniste, but they reduce him further to the level of graffiti spray-painted on a wall.

Hektor Rotweiler

Let's not forget: we discount Heinrich's exegesis of Marx because of the 'Traditional Marxist' political orientation we erroneously ascribe to him.'

Yeah, that's basically the extent of their "critique" of Chris Arthur too; didn't they say he had a "Trotskyist theory of value" or something like that?(!)

The irony is that on the two points where they differ most fundamentally with Heinrich -- their substantialist conception of value, and their insistence on the "law" of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall -- they're basically defending traditional Marxist orthodoxy. The sad thing is they don't even realize that. I'm not sure they've even read the thinkers they push, let alone the ones they attack.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Nice one, Angelus. Even I, supporter of the FROP tendency, recognize that it needs a bit more elaboration to qualify as a law. Know what else I like? That Heinrich devotes maybe a single chapter to Vol. 2. Cracked me up. Mind you, I think he misses a crucial point in Vol 2, but all in all, I think a chapter is about right.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hektor wins the bet! Two paragraphs. You got a couple of beers on me when you make it to Berlin.

For added comical effect, it's a reference to the Science of Value, not even the Introduction to Capital.

Since PD are hit-and-miss with publishing my comments, here's what I submitted. Dunno if they'll publish it:

LOL, over on Libcom we were speculating on how short and third-hand PD’s “critique” of Heinrich would be. I put my money on 1 sentence to three paragraphs, with some vague reference to something somebody in Nürnberg said. Hektor Rottweiler guessed two paragraphs at the most.

Hektor wins! Two paragraphs, consisting of two full sentences (and some sentence fragments).

P.S. Bonus points for comical sub-Stalinist inaccuracy: you announced a “critique” of Heinrich’s Introduction to Capital, but instead we get a mere reference to The Science of Value.

I kind of feel sorry for the Nuremberg crew that you guys are their English language franchise. At least over here they try to be somewhat serious in their argumentation.

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ha! that 'review' or 'critique' or 'gibberish' was even less coherent than i imagined. I'm not sure what the logic is behind the post but it seems to be something like this: the fact that the translator of Kurtz mentions Heinrich had 'polemics with Kurtz in the 90's' is considered sufficient grounds to dismiss '[The Science of value].

Question is if they find out Kurtz had polemics with Postone-- will their collective mind explode?

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There's also some biographical inaccuracy: a professor is not the same thing as a university instructor (having a Ph.D does not confer professor status; you have to write a habilitation treatise. Professors in Germany are actually sworn civil servants).

And AFAIK "political economy" is not a subject taught at any University or Polytechnic.

FWIW in my experience Sean Delaney is the somewhat fair-minded guy at PD, who's more open to German value theory in general. Michel Prigent -- some ex-Situ -- is the guy who posts all this vituperative anti-Heinrich stuff. I wonder if the vitriol against Heinrich has the same motivation as the vitriol against Chris Arthur or Werner Bonefeld: that there are schools of value-form theory which are pro- class struggle.

They claim they're publishing both parts of Kurz's "The Substance of Capital" for the next print issue of PD (though we're talking at least 100 or so pages of material, so I don't know if they're for real on that. Maybe Principia Dialectica 3 will be a digest!). If they publish Part 2, Kurz clearly distances himself from Postone's anti-substantialist conception of abstract labor. Maybe the cognitive dissonance thus provoked will inspire them to a less sectarian engagement with this stuff.

Railyon

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

And AFAIK "political economy" is not a subject taught at any University or Polytechnic.

I think a very few Volkswirtschaftslehre courses still go under that name, but it's become really uncommon. I remember one of my VWL books making a footnote reference to someone teaching it somewhere but I don't quite remember where that was, sorry...

Should come to no surprise that the VWL crew dislike attaching any outright political label to themselves though, but I like the sound of it...

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

I think a very few Volkswirtschaftslehre courses still go under that name, but it's become really uncommon.

Usually,

VWL = "macroeconomics."

BWL = "microeconomics."

If I thought PD and their droogies actually had brains, I'd assume that calling Heinrich a professor of "political economy" was intended as a polemical zinger (you know, because Capital is intended as a critique thereof), but in all honesty and seriousness, I don't even know if that was intentional on their part. I'm just not sure if they're that bright.

I just think these goofs are the "theory" equivalent of real estate speculators, trying to stake a claim to something hitherto unknown in the fashion-prone realms of Anglo-American academia. I think their hostility toward Heinrich results from some weird small-proprietor mentality: he's a representative of German value-theory, but he's not their representative of German value-theory.

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

Railyon

I think a very few Volkswirtschaftslehre courses still go under that name, but it's become really uncommon.

Usually,

VWL = "macroeconomics."

BWL = "microeconomics."

The term Marx uses prior to his 1845 visit to Manchester (to read English Co-operative movement and other early communist/socialist texts) is Nationalökonomie - see for e.g. "Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie. Einleitung" & "Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte" (not to mention Engels' "Umrisse zur Kritik der Nationalökonomie"). The next work, "Misère de la Philosophie" was actually published in French, so the language doesn't help us, but certainly everything in German thereafter seems to use politischen Ökonomie instead.

Nationalökonomie seems definitively out of fashion, but I'm not sure Sozialökonomie has precisely the same meaning? I still use Nationalökonomie sometimes, as it has the advantage of making explicit that the frame of reference of political economy is the nation state (including by implication all the problems of constructing a truly international value theory, where the categorisation of SNLT, as the average rate of productivity "in a given society", is not clearly defined)

Railyon

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

To me the terms Nationalökonomie, Politische Ökonomie and Volkswirtschaftslehre describe the same thing, though the latter term wants to eliminate the explicit political content and concern itself only with "pure economics". Of course they can never escape politics, even though they wish it were so...

Sozialökonomie is still being used as far as I remember. 'Political economy' seems more common in the states I guess.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Prigent's complaints are getting more bizarre with each post.

Apparently, their big issue with Heinrich is that he didn't engage in any leftist trainspotting by examining the finer points of contention between two Franconian sects that nobody outside of Germany has even heard of. Why he should've devoted the space in an introductory work on Capital to giving an account of two marginal groups he isn't even a member of is never explained.

Oh well, I guess PD's free publicity for the book is a good thing.

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Truly bizarre.

He's like the Glenn Beck of the ultra-left.

I do like his bold choice of strategy in the following: where the fact that Marx mentioned something once is sufficient grounds to prove that Marx had a theory of the collapse of capitalism

he says Marx never spoke of the collapse of capitalism in Capital, but further into his An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital [Monthly Review Press, 2012, a book published in Germany in 2004, translated into English by Alex Locascio] Heinrich admits that Marx spoke of the collapse of capitalism very briefly in the Grundrisse but Heinrich does not like that idea at all

This could take Marxology in an exciting and open direction. For instance my new interpretation--based on Marx's letter to Engels in 1865--is that Marx finished Capital in September of that year. To truly understand Capital, you must stop exactly at that point.

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Maybe we should go back from distinguishing labor-power and labor to saying stuff like "workers sell their labor". It's in the Grundrisse, after all!

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In this 2012 edition of his book Heinrich could have been a bit more accurate, with the help of his translator who claims to have a lot of negative potential. They could have mentioned the split in the Krisis group, and the emergence of Exit!, of which Robert Kurz was a member up to recently, before his untimely death..

Even worse, I believe the book totally fails to mention the split within the Class War Federation of the mid-90s over whether the national conferences should end with the singing of the Internationale or Yellow Submarine*. What kind of introduction to Capital can ignore such a vital debate and still ask to be taken seriously?

:roll:

* true story

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Cue Marx on the Slavs.

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Since Priget has shown any earlier statement Marx makes invalidates his subsequent theories I'm taking it back to the first paragraph in MECW. Boom, it's all there--

Nature herself has determined the sphere of activity in which the animal should
move, and it peacefully moves within that sphere, without attempting to go beyond it, without even an inkling of any other. To man, too, the Deity gave a general aim, that of ennobling mankind and himself, but he left it to man to seek the means by which this aim can be achieved; he left it to him to choose the position in society most suited to him, from which he can best uplift himself and society.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

Cue Marx on the Slavs.

Or his use of the n-word against Lassalle, or all the really vile anti-Semitic stuff peppered throughout his work at all points of his life.

I mean, it's almost comically dishonest to cherry pick the stuff that supports the conception of "Marx the Genius" (however one comes down on the "collapse" question), while ignoring all the evidence in support of the argument for "Marx the Asshole."

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

jura

Cue Marx on the Slavs.

Or his use of the n-word against Lassalle, or all the really vile anti-Semitic stuff peppered throughout his work at all points of his life.

I mean, it's almost comically dishonest to cherry pick the stuff that supports the conception of "Marx the Genius" (however one comes down on the "collapse" question), while ignoring all the evidence in support of the argument for "Marx the Asshole."

Particularly when the issue is capitalism.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks for writing a serious review, S. Artesian. I've got to mull it over a bit. For one thing, I'm not sure if you're right about how you order speed-up to the category of relative surplus-value. Ben Fine and Aflred Saad-Filho in their introduction say basically the same thing as Heinrich, that speed up or the elimination of break times belong to the category of absolute surplus-value. But I've got to dig around in Marx a bit.

Obviously that's not the only point you made but for some reason it's the one that got stuck in my brain.

Railyon

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

On the speed-up, if we take it solely as an increase in the intensity of work, it's absolute surplus value because in a given workday more abstract human labor gets objectified (vergegenständlicht) that way - that's how Krüger argues in his Allgemeine Theorie even though he does not use the term absolute surplus value actually.

The problem is that increasing productivity of labor counteracts this as it reduces the amount of abstract human labor per commodity.

According to Krüger, they spring forth from the same origin but with different results as to the production of value.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The issue is, IMO,-- what does speed up actually do, and how does it do it? Speed up increases the quantities, and rates, of "C" consumed in production. The value of the wage is reproduced in less time. The use-values are increased, but the V + S total does not. Eight hours is eight hours.

Speed up doesn't just occur with capitalism; it is not historically simply a case of the "drummer" on a slave ship increasing the rate of drumming to achieve a "ramming speed." Speed-up is both product and producer of changes in "technique"-- in rationalization of the "technical process."

Regarding "break times" etc.-- what's the difference between that and Taylorization, or any time-motion studies? Same same, IMO.

Railyon

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Speed up increases the quantities, and rates, of "C" consumed in production. The value of the wage is reproduced in less time. The use-values are increased, but the V + S total does not. Eight hours is eight hours.

If I understand your point correctly it's not absolute surplus value because the time frame, eight hours, remains the same?

I think it could be argued that if we assumed an average workday of eight hours and a given average rate of surplus, an increase in the intensity of labor for a single capital increases the abstract human labor objectified which would be for this single capital as if it were prolonging the working day. Which of course is also increasing relative surplus value.

Maybe I should go read up on this again though...

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, Marx, to my recollection, consistently states that absolute surplus value is increased exclusively by lengthening of the working day.

"Intensity of labor" has to have some parameters for measurement. I don't know how we do that except by measuring the time or production, and the relative time for the reproduction of the value of the labor-power. "Time is everything, man is nothing; at best time's carcass" Marx wrote [Poverty of Philosophy, I think]. And along those lines is his statement, which really defines the principle of capitalist production-- abstract labor-- that it's not the case that one man's hour is worth the same as another man's, but that during an hour, one man is worth the same as another.

Anyway, let's say a coal miner in 1870 works 9 hours a day using picks, walking 200 feet below the surface, and 200 feet back up, with no breaks, and loading the wagon to move the coal to the surface himself. The miner produces 200 kilos of coal per nine hours.

In 1990 a miner [these numbers are all hypothetical] works 8 hours, with two 30 minute breaks, riding an elevator to and from the drill site, using machine driven drills, with the ore automatically carried to the surface by a system of conveyors, The miner produces 5 metric tonnes of coal in the 8 hours.

Which is the greater "intensity of labor"?

Felix Frost

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian might be right that Marx only counts lengthening of the working day as absolute surplus value, but he is wrong about identifying intensity of labour with productivity. Marx analysed these as separate categories: See Chapter 17 Section 2, in Vol I for a discussion of the differences.

Marx

We know that, with transitory exceptions, a change in the productiveness of labour does not cause any change in the value of labour-power, nor consequently in the magnitude of surplus value, unless the products of the industries affected are articles habitually consumed by the labourers. In the present case this condition no longer applies. For when the variation is either in the duration or in the intensity of labour, there is always a corresponding change in the magnitude of the value created, independently of the nature of the article in which that value is embodied.

It therefore does make sense to say that an increase in the intensity of labour has the same effect as lengthening of the working day.

I had a quick read through S. Artesian's review, and I thought that most of his particular criticisms of Heinrich was off the mark. Just to take one example:

S.Artesian

Heinrich continues:

Finally, for the developed capitalist countries, the majority of which are poor in natural resources, a decisive point is the secure provision of raw materials and fuels. However, the point is not the conquest of corresponding territories so much as the "organization" of trade and its conditions: calculable extraction and secure transportation, the mode of price formation, and the currency in which the trade is conducted.

Really? Developed countries are "poor" in natural resources? Exactly how does "poor" become an attribute of quantities of natural resources, of use values? "Poor," "wealthy" are measures of social reproduction, and for Marx, they are determined by the aggrandizement of labor power.

Well, no, Marx did consider material wealth to consist of use values. To quote from Critique of the Gotha Programme:

Marx

Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power

Another example is S.Artesian criticising Heinrich for suggesting that the value of labour can be lowered. Now, I suppose that none of this invalidates his main objection to Heinrich, which seemed to be about what intrinsic limits there are to capitalism, but I found this part to be rather vague, so I'm not quite sure what to think of it.

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

On wealth and use values, this quote from Capital confirms Felix Frost's contention above:

The use values of commodities furnish the material for a special study, that of the commercial knowledge of commodities. Use values become a reality only by use or consumption: they also constitute the substance of all wealth, whatever may be the social form of that wealth.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

not sure if this is strictly consistent with all that Marx wrote but I have always take the distinction between relative and absolute surplus value as being about if an increase in the rate of exploitation is achieved through a transformation of the technical organisation of production or by wielding the supervisory whip for longer or more effectively. the former is a differentia specifica of the capitalist mode of production, the latter is common to all class societies. hence Marx sees the shift from the formal to real subordination of labour to capital as the shift towards the increasing importance of relative surplus value.

on this basis "speed up", in the absence of changes in productive technique is an increase in absolute rather than relative surplus value.

just a thought...

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

haven't finished the book yet so can't give a definitive opinion. my only real contact with the "value-form" school has been through Rubin and (indirectly) the value debates in Capital & Class. have now downloaded various bits and bobs translated into English and should really read those too before gobbing off. apparent strengths so far - strong emphasis on historicity of value as a social relation. not sure the "official marxism" versus value form theorists as true interpreters of Charlie dichotomy really plays that well. I have always had reservations about commodity fetishism so the importance this seems to assume makes me slightly uncomfortable.

more later....

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, but the measure of poverty is NOT the quantity of "natural resources" that are bestowed upon a particular "nation." We are precisely talking about the social form of that wealth; not "wealth" in its natural state.

Marx produces, at least for me, in his Economic Manuscripts, a kind of "eureka!" moment, when he concludes, states: "Wealth is the disposition over time." That's the issue.

Engels says somewhere that Ireland was "destined" [or words to that meaning] to be subordinate to England since England was so endowed with supplies of coal. That's not a "Marxist" argument; that's a teleological one. Wales had abundant supplies of coal, and look how much Wales has benefited from that.

The US, the UK, Russia, etc. are not "poor" in natural resources. Angola is not "rich" in natural resources.

The history of the superior development of US capitalism is not a history of superior abundance of its natural resources to those of Brazil, to China, to Russia

Yes, it is Marx's contention, that only by reducing the labor-time necessary for the production of necessities, can relative surplus value be increased. That is in fact Marx's argument, and Heinrich follows it.

And that is what occurred in the US for example during the "long deflation," as I describe, but capital produces its commodities as values, as equivalent, exchangeable, so that it is not strictly, exclusively improvement in the time of reproduction of the means of subsistence that drives relative surplus value; it is the time spent in reproducing the equivalent to the value of the means of subsistence, which is supposed to be equivalent to the value of the labor-power that is critical. Yeah, I disagree with Marx's emphasis on exclusivity regarding relative surplus value.

But Marx himself writes in volume 1:

on the other hand, given the length of the working-day, that rise can be effected only by a change in the relative magnitudes of the components of the working-day, viz., necessary labour and surplus-labour; a change which, if the wages are not to fall below the value of labour-power, presupposes a change either in the productiveness or in the intensity of the labour.

So I think I'm on not so shaky ground here, on both the issue of intensity of labor, and on the issue of productivity of labor power, in reducing the time of reproduction of the wage, being equivalent to augmenting increasing the relative surplus value

Regarding the criticism of Heinrich's notion of the value of the labor power being lowered-- I think it's quite possible to lower the value, the time of reproduction of value equivalent to that of labor power; I think Heinrich proposes a scenario that is self-contradictory... in that he talks about fully compensating the value of the labor power by, at the same time, reducing the living standard of the working class. You cannot fully compensate labor power, which means to provide for its full reproduction, and at the same time lower its standard of living, which means by definition not providing for its full reproduction, but providing only for a reduced reproduction. I think Heinrich sets up an oxymoron here. Maybe he means to say, to fully compensate labor power with a reduced wage, then the value of the means of subsistence has to decline. Reducing the quantity and quality of the means of subsistence is not full reproduction. Reducing the value of the means of reproduction can be full reproduction, again using the "long deflation" in the US, where nominal wages fell, but declines in the costs of reproduction of clothing, food, shelter declined even more rapidly.

And indeed, the core issue for me is Heinrich's claim that there is no intrinsic limitation to valorization, when in fact, all of Marx's work is exactly the exploration of those intrinsic limitations.

So all those criticisms made about my review? I think they are excellent, excellent points for exploration and development. I might even find myself being wrong.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

not sure if this is strictly consistent with all that Marx wrote but I have always take the distinction between relative and absolute surplus value as being about if an increase in the rate of exploitation is achieved through a transformation of the technical organisation of production or by wielding the supervisory whip for longer or more effectively. the former is a differentia specifica of the capitalist mode of production, the latter is common to all class societies. hence Marx sees the shift from the formal to real subordination of labour to capital as the shift towards the increasing importance of relative surplus value.

on this basis "speed up", in the absence of changes in productive technique is an increase in absolute rather than relative surplus value.

just a thought...

Yes, I think that's how many people regard the distinction, but the point I'm trying to make is, that's now how capital as capital organizes itself. Look at an example.

I run a railroad classification yard. I receive trains made up of thousands of cars. These cars come into the yard and get switched, sorted, "classified" based on their next or final destination. After being resorted, the cars are reassembled, and a new train is dispatched to the next sorting point, etc.etc.etc.

Now because trains were not always preceded to their intermediate sorting points, or destination, by a transmission of the classification of the cars being carried, there used to be a lot of "down time" in switching, sorting, and reclassifying the arriving trains. Maybe in 8 hours, a crew would actually spend 4 hours sorting cars, sorting a total 300 cars. Now without adding any new technology, simply using the existing telegraph wires, or telephone lines, I tell every yard dispatching a train to transmit the car numbers and destinations of those cars to the next yard-- and we do this system wide.

Now the downtime is eliminated. Guess what? The same crew can now more than double its output to say 800 cars in eight hours. I sure have intensified their labor process, have I not? But I have certainly not lengthened the working day. As every railroad manager will tell you, I've done nothing except what I always do-- pay people to work. I have to pay them 8 hours, I'm no longer paying for time spent not working. The crew is now reproducing the value equivalent to the necessary labor time in less time. That's relative surplus value being amplified.

Intensifying labor is not simply a matter of increasing the "speed of the line" something that has been done, and can be done, by the capitalists, and was and is, a big focus for point of production struggles.

But to increase the speed of the line requires a whole host of supplementary measures-- like increasing the mass of raw materials available, reducing the transit time between phases, sections of the productive process.... all of which amount to, really, increasing the "C" portion in the production of capital.

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In determining the difference between changes due to relative and absolute surplus value, the TCC is your friend, imo. Any speed-up that merely consists of eliminating break times, getting the workers to work quicker and harder, with the existing organisation of production, does not change the TCC. The ratio between the material amounts of raw material and other constant capital inputs, to the energy and intensity of labour does not change. More commodities and more value may be squeezed out in a compressed time (and if the daily wage remains the same, then there are effects on the value composition), but the TCC is unaffected. Hence this is the strategy of absolute surplus value, not relative.

The second example Artesian gives, is the use of technology (information & communications and re-organisation of the labour process) to increase the number of cars handled by a given amount of labour. It changes the TCC, therefore it is relative surplus value strategy of increased accumulation. I'm pretty sure Marx discusses (vol II maybe?) the role of production processes that have a certain amount of "waiting time" incorporated into them (e.g. growing food, etc), but that technological advances (even if only better management of information flow and labour organisation) that decrease this "dead time", are a decrease in the SNLT per commodity (units processed/serviced).

So I agree with Andy G basically. But by dispensing with the confusionist category of OCC and analysing the process from the perspective of the TCC as distinct from the VCC, as discussed on the OCC thread previously. The increase of the TCC is the increase of the force of production, something that did occur sporadically in pre-capitalist societies, but is centrally driven by the dynamic of capital to a hitherto unimaginable rate. And is, to take the argument (tenditiously) further, actually at the heart of the innate contradiction of capital, which is why all those who saw the primary task of the "transitional stage" to increase the rate of the development of the forces of production, could only ever build societies in transition towards capitalism, rather than away from it.

Khawaga

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

I'm pretty sure Marx discusses (vol II maybe?) the role of production processes that have a certain amount of "waiting time" incorporated into them (e.g. growing food, etc), but that technological advances (even if only better management of information flow and labour organisation) that decrease this "dead time", are a decrease in the SNLT per commodity (units processed/serviced).

Yes, it's in Vol 2. It's discussed as the difference between labour time and production time.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

I have always had reservations about commodity fetishism

Can you expand upon this? Do you mean you have reservations about the relative importance assigned to fetishism by the value-form tradition, or do you mean you have problems with the notion in general?

I ask because I know some comrades (really only one or two) from a kind of Deleuzian background who think fetishism presupposes a sort of dichotomy between a "false", mediated society, and some ideal notion of an "authentic", non-fetishistic, unmediated society. I don't agree with that, although I think that is kind of an unstated assumption of a lot of crude Frankfurt School-inspired readings.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus:

can confirm I am most definitely not of a Deleuzian background!

I guess my problem is with the notion in general. I get and accept the notion that the constitutive relations and processes of capitalism are "opaque" and not immediately apparent - the "essence vs appearance" thang. not that controversial really, as Marx observed if essence and appearance coincided science would be superfluous.

it's the idea that these relations necessarily misrepresent themselves in the consciousness of the agents instantiating them. if illusions are automatically induced in the consciousness of worker and capitalist alike how do we explain the emergence of oppositional ideologies? on a more abstract level is it legitimate to believe any reality permits of only one interpretation (the fallacy of immediate knowledge thingy)? at another level it doesn't fit with the concept of hegemony as an organised and active process that I find useful. The political consequences seem to me a denial of the effective agency of the working class and an orientation on "peripheral groups" supposedly outside of capitalist society and its entrapments.

best I can do at short notice ! what "spin" on the theory do you see the value-form theorists adding?

Malva

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

a sort of dichotomy between a "false", mediated society, and some ideal notion of an "authentic", non-fetishistic, unmediated society.

Surely a non-fetishistic society is the very meaning of communism? A society not mediated by abstract social forms but mediated by ever-changing, consciously created forms of social organisation that directly (i.e. not mediated by a hierarchy) realise changing human needs and desires? In that limited sense, yes, capitalist society is inauthentic and communist society would be authentic. I don't think this is in any way idealist when you consider it concretely.

I have never read Deleuze, but this seems to me a fundamental aspect of the general thrust of Situationist theory and value form theory.

Malva

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

it's the idea that these relations necessarily misrepresent themselves in the consciousness of the agents instantiating them. if illusions are automatically induced in the consciousness of worker and capitalist alike how do we explain the emergence of oppositional ideologies?

I don't think that any one here argues that social relations necessarily (i.e. always, totally and in all people's heads, at all time) do misrepresent themselves. Otherwise, how could we be bringing the totality of these social relations into question here? The point is that capitalist social relations are only ever provisional and often, everyday in people's lives, the fetishistic conditioning is under threat of exploding. The emergence of oppositional ideologies is easily explained by the fact that capitalism encourages a fragmentary perspective on itself (because it is by nature a fragmentary experience), so it can play off fetishisms (aspects of itself) against each other. Labour is played off against capital by social-democrats, Christianity and labour against capital by christian social democrates, art against commerce by artists etc. The point is that they are all ideologies, that is to say, they don't question capitalist social relations from the perspective of the totality, of history, of society, of the human subject etc.. They don't contain a self-critique. This is how you can have the emergence of opposing ideologies. Indeed, Debord argued that capitalism thrives off the emergence of opposing ideologies because it gives the illusion of choice and change. How could capitalism have gone on existing without the fetishisation of Labour by various parts of the workers' movement, for example? The point is that capitalism is often able to recuperate our grievances against it into support for it. Even fascism, as Postone argues, could be seen as a form of fetishstic anti-capitalism. In many ways I think the theory of fetishism reveals that we are actually struggling against capitalism everyday in every way all the time. We're just doing it wrong. Hence the need for critique.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Any speed-up that merely consists of eliminating break times, getting the workers to work quicker and harder, with the existing organisation of production, does not change the TCC.

Two things:

First, this certainly does change the TCC of capital, and the OCC of capital. The issue is value remember. The intrinsic limit to value production is.... the value components of that production, so I don't think OCC is confusionist, nor should be dispensed with.

If I improve the productivity of labor by refining the division of labor, I am doing what? Am I increasing the intensity of labor. Most definitely. That's what division of labor does. Am I increasing the technical component of production? I am. Greater masses of material are required; greater quantities of the means of production are going to be consumed in the production process in the same time.

Am I increasing the portion of absolute surplus value? No, I have not extended the working day. Marx, let me repeat, includes increasing the intensity of labor in his discussion of the processes affecting the "relative magnitude" of surplus value.

As a matter of fact, at a critical point in the development of capitalist production, this refinement of the division of labor is precisely how surplus value is augmented, and value expansion occurs, prior to the shift, a shift preconditioned on this very same process, to the introduction of machinery into production. The US in the 1840s conforms to this "intensity" model.

That shift to the application of machinery increases the proportion of labor-power expelled from the production of the commodity, and itself leads to a greater intensity of labor. Increasing the technical component of production is one of the best, if not the best, method of increasing the intensity of labor.

To argue that the lack of change in the TCC defines one mode of absolute surplus value extraction is quite problematic.

The problem, IMO, is that we know of no way, and Marx provides no way of measuring the intensity or the energy, of the labor process and......in fact his work contains an implicit argument that the intensity of the labor process becomes immaterial, when he argues that capital obliterates the distinctions not between one man's hour and another man's hour, but the distinction between one man during an hour, and another man during the same hour.

Marx's discussion in Chapter 13 "The Time of Production is to point out that the total time of production deviates from the working time as there are natural processes, chemical reactions, physical requirements, that consume time, without consuming labor time. When Marx writes that:

This change in the technical composition of capital, this growth in the mass of means of production, as compared with the mass of the labour power that vivifies them, is reflected again in its value composition, by the increase of the constant constituent of capital at the expense of its variable constituent. There may be, e.g., originally 50 per cent. of a capital laid out in means of production, and 50 per cent. in labour power; later on, with the development of the productivity of labour, 80 per cent. in means of production, 20 per cent. in labour power, and so on. This law of the progressive increase in constant capital, in proportion to the variable, is confirmed at every step (as already shown) by the comparative analysis of the prices of commodities, whether we compare different economic epochs or different nations in the same epoch. The relative magnitude of the element of price, which represents the value of the means of production only, or the constant part of capital consumed, is in direct, the relative magnitude of the other element of price that pays labour (the variable part of capital) is in inverse proportion to the advance of accumulation.

This diminution in the variable part of capital as compared with the constant, or the altered value-composition of the capital, however, only shows approximately the change in the composition of its material constituents. If, e.g., the capital-value employed today in spinning is 7/8 constant and 1/8 variable, whilst at the beginning of the 18th century it was ½ constant and ½ variable, on the other hand, the mass of raw material, instruments of labour, &c., that a certain quantity of spinning labour consumes productively today, is many hundred times greater than at the beginning of the 18th century. The reason is simply that, with the increasing productivity of labour, not only does the mass of the means of production consumed by it increase, but their value compared with their mass diminishes. Their value therefore rises absolutely, but not in proportion to their mass. The increase of the difference between constant and variable capital, is, therefore, much less than that of the difference between the mass of the means of production into which the constant, and the mass of the labour power into which the variable, capital is converted. The former difference increases with the latter, but in a smaller degree.

he is pointing out that a) you don't get one, change in the TCC, without the change in the OCC b) that in fact the intensity of labor increases with increased OCC, and dramatically as the value of the Pm consumed in production compared with their mass decline. "Labour consumes productively today... many hundred times greater" the instruments of production." That might be the only way to measure the intensity of the labor process. [And this in fact is simultaneously a basis for the tendency of the rate of profit to decline and an offset to the decline of the rate of profit].

In vol 2, Chapter 13, Marx's discussion of the difference between time of production and working time, he points out that the product is not "finished until the time of production is completed, only then it is mature and can be transformed into a commodity-capital." Reducing that time of production will invariably intensify the labor process as turnover time is reduced, more means of production can be worked up into more commodity capital in less time. Down time is eliminated. Production is accelerated. Reducing production time so that it approaches the working time is simply another mechanism for reproducing the value of the labor-power in relatively less time.

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Any speed-up that merely consists of eliminating break times, getting the workers to work quicker and harder, with the existing organisation of production, does not change the TCC.

Two things:

First, this certainly does change the TCC of capital, and the OCC of capital. The issue is value remember.

Exactly why it's important to distinguish between the value composition of capital and the technical composition of capital. Your habitual use of the OCC has blinded you to the point that you can state "this certainly does change the TCC of capital [...] the issue is value" without seeing that that is completely contrary to the definition of the TCC (in contradistinction to the VCC).

As for the rest of your post, you seem to be confusing the productivity of labour with its intensity - resulting in a hopeless tangle. For e.g.

If I improve the productivity of labor by refining the division of labor, I am doing what? Am I increasing the intensity of labor. Most definitely. That's what division of labor does

which does not follow.

You quote a couple of chunky paragraphs from Marx and then assert (inter alia):

b) that in fact the intensity of labor increases with increased OCC, and dramatically as the value of the Pm consumed in production compared with their mass decline.

Without noticing that nowhere in the passage you quoted does Marx mention intensity of labour, only it's productivity.

The increase in the technical composition means that the material mass of means of production increases relative to the labour power employed in its transformation into commodities. Nothing more. It does not speak to the intensity of labour, it's energy or speed. The ironsmith sweating over a hot forge and forging nails on an anvil with a hammer, as fast as his muscles will allow, is in no way labouring less intensively than the worker who pushes a button on a machine, resulting in another batch of 10,000 nails being ejected from it's maw.

Nate

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I've enjoyed reading this thread very much. I've not read the Heinrich yet but I plan to. Actually, this thread made me finally get around to buying the book from amazon. I want comment on a few points early in the thread. On interests and capitalists, I think there's an important difference between collective interests and individual interests. Often when groups act on collective interests some individuals get hurt. "One capitalist always kills many" is one way that Marx put this. All capitalists have an interest in capitalism continuing but often some some changes that may help continue capitalism/which may preserve the capitalist class as a whole will involve sacrificing individual capitalists or sectors of capitalism. This can happen in more or less conscious ways. Social policy reforms in the early 20th century U.S. are the examples I know the most about. Many of these were shaped heavily by monopolist/oligopolist manufacturers with large fixed capital costs. As such the policy reforms tended to be better for those actors.

Workmen's compensation is the one I'm thinking of most - it lowered costs for large companies, stabilized U.S. labor markets and reduced social conflict as a whole, and raised costs for smaller firms. So, individual capitalists individual interests may not line up with (or they may not trust that their interests line up with) larger collective interests of the capitalist class as capitalism changes over time. Or changes over time may be good for all or almost all capitalists but not equally good for them, and those disparities form the potential for serious advantages later which some capitalists can use to push others out of the capitalist class (either consciously or not).

So it seems to me that interests are complicated and vary within the capitalist class. Or to put it another way, there are a lot of different interests and they're relational - this capitalist's interest in relation to 'his' employees, in relation to other capitalists in the industry, in relation to other industries, in relation to the entire capitalist class, and so on. Some of those interests are constraints upon capitalists. I also think that, like the working class's interests, it's not guaranteed that capitalists will know their interests and act in line with them. Capitalist class consciousness, like workers class consciousness, has to be produced historically, and to some extent individuals have to be not only convinced but also actively disciplined to act in line with that collective interest, at least when the collective interest isn't immediately in their individual interest. There are lot of mechanisms in place to do all this, I think more so on the capitalist side, but it's not automatic just by being a capitalist. I think individual capitalists' interests as employers, in relation to their own employees, may be automatic or pretty close, I'm not sure, but beyond that, I don't think they are.

yourmum

[capitalists] want to sell commodities, they dont give a fuck if its a worker or capitalist who buys it, actually usually they dont even know the difference. ever seen a sign in front of walmart: "no capitalists allowed in here"! guess not!

This varies historically and probably in other ways too (by sector etc, as in, what commodities are capitalists actually selling and who is actually buying them). I would bet that few fortune 500 executives buy much at WalMart. In the 19th century U.S. most capitalists and state personnel tended to believe in a "market will work it out" perspective. As the large scale manufacturers of primary goods (production of of iron ore, say) developed, the companies tended to have a clear sense that they were selling to other capitalists. Ditto for railroad - railroads knew that their main customers were capitalists, and capitalists outside the transport industry fought to shape railway rates (which was one factor in a rash of bankruptcies in railroad in the late 19th century). As mass consumer goods manufacturing rose, and as life insurance rose, those companies tended to have a pretty clear idea who they were selling to. Canned food was not primarily sold to capitalists, for instance. Life insurance companies that targeted the working class sold very different policies (cheapish policies that covered funeral costs) and using very different practices (door-to-door sales by a network of agents working on commission) than other companies. That awareness of their own rather limited role often led capitalists toward more planning (fixed-capital intensive firms face particular pressures toward planning rather than competition as well) and less of a "we don't give a fuck who buys our product" approach.

And over the early 20th century there's a rise in economic theory that tries to argue two things, one that preserving labor markets by improving workers' conditions at work and welfare outside of work somewhat will improve labor market stability, reduce unrest (reducing work stoppages), and reduce inefficient work by sick/tired/injured workers. These arguments were especially important for/compelling for companies with a lot of fixed capital - idle machinery is more expensive than idle tools. And two, that ensuring workers' consumption (which means paying higher wages) produces similar outcomes plus improve demand for consumer goods (which will in turn improve demand for capital goods used to produce consumer goods). That kind of economic theory underlay a lot of politician and progressive business support of U.S. social policy in the 1930s. I'm not saying any of those economic theories are true. I'm saying they existed and that some capitalists believed them and so were attentive to who bought their products - as well as being attentive to what happened elsewhere in the economy beyond their own firm's behavior.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

1. What I stated was "First, this certainly does change the TCC of capital, and the OCC of capital. The issue is value remember." The "value" refers back to the OCC.

2. I'd be the last to deny expressing and exhibiting my fair share of confusion and blindspots. But there seems to be a big batch of each when you write:

"Any speed-up that merely consists of eliminating break times, getting the workers to work quicker and harder, with the existing organisation of production, does not change the TCC."

Where I come from, "speed-up" "quicker" and even "harder" in the production process are measured by time. When we "speed-up" the production line, as was done frequently in the auto plants around Detroit, we are changing a)quantities of means of production consumed in the production of commodity capital b)the unit time of consumption of the Pm, c) and the rate of reproduction of the L. You cannot change (b) without changing (a) and (c). Exactly how can speed-up be accomplished without increasing the mass of means of production and materials of production?

If I rearrange a production line, bringing it closer to the access points for supply of raw materials, necessary machinery, even maintenance bays, thus reducing down time, I speed up the production process, I reduce the production time, bringing it closer to the working time. The technical component grows. Speed-up has occurred. Have I extracted greater absolute surplus value? Of course not. Have I extracted greater relative surplus value? Yes. How? By reducing the labor time necessary for the workers to produce values equivalent to their wages.

3. The problem I see is in defining the "intensity of labor" How exactly do you define that? Marx mentions it, but hardly explores it, and the main thrust of his work speaks to "discounting" variations in intensity as determinations of value expansion.

4. This:

The ironsmith sweating over a hot forge and forging nails on an anvil with a hammer, as fast as his muscles will allow, is in no way labouring less intensively than the worker who pushes a button on a machine, resulting in another batch of 10,000 nails being ejected from it's maw.

is precisely not the issue. I think we can dispense with all examples of artisan production here. Injecting the "self-laborer" is not the issue. Nor do I make any claim about who is working more intensely. My argument is that the notion of "intensity" of labor is essentially immaterial.

5. This

The increase in the technical composition means that the material mass of means of production increases relative to the labour power employed in its transformation into commodities. Nothing more. It does not speak to the intensity of labour, it's energy or speed.

Maybe so, in which case the issue of the TCC has nothing to with the rate of valorization of capital and consequently nothing to do with the relation of the necessary labor time to the surplus labor time; and the reproduction of the value equivalent to the value of the labor-power consumed in production.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Malva wrote:

I don't think that any one here argues that social relations necessarily (i.e. always, totally and in all people's heads, at all time) do misrepresent themselves. Otherwise, how could we be bringing the totality of these social relations into question here? The point is that capitalist social relations are only ever provisional and often, everyday in people's lives, the fetishistic conditioning is under threat of exploding.

I think at several points Marx does suggest capitalist social relation necessarily misrepresent themselves. I could comb Capital vol 1 for evidence but can't be arsed at the mo. The contradiction you highlight is exactly that I was suggesting is intrinsic to the theory of commodity fetishism as I've commonly seen it rendered. Not sure what your use of "provisional" means here and you have assumed that which is to be proved when you talk about "fetishistic conditioning" being under threat of "exploding". What is it that produces this pressure - the direct experience of exploitation? well, yes, but that is a constant under capitalism so why explosions some times and not others? If direct experience of exploitation yields revolutionary class consciousness in what sense are capitalist relations of production obscured by their surface appearance? The commodity becomes a non-fetish.

RedHughs

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

1. Capital speeds up a given production-process.
2. This speed-up become the standard for the production process.
3.. In this given production process, the sped-up workers produce more goods using the raw materials provided.
4. For a similar quantity of time, a capitalist now most provide a larger quantity of raw materials, since the workers' time by itself doesn't product more goods.
5. Hence, the capitalists must purchase a larger ratio of raw goods to labor value. Hence the organic composition of capital "OCC" increases.

Thus Artesian is correct, the OCC is increases here, at least if it begins at a level greater than 0 in a production process that produces or distributes commodities.

On the other hand, actions like bringing a factory closer to another factory and otherwise reducing the supply line would tend to reduce the OCC since things like rail tracks and good in storage waiting to be consumed in production are also fixed capital.

Edit: Also, #2 is the key process here. The point isn't just that capital can speed up production but this speed-up become the "new normal" and thus sped-labor becomes what capital buys, at the same rate as previously it bought not-sped-up labor.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i don't see anything in what ocelot has posted that contradicts your post, Red, apart from the use of the term OCC. ocelot has already acknowledged that speed-up may impact on the value comp of capital...?

all capitalists seek to increase the portion of the working day devoted to the production of surplus value. this involves two strategies - making the worker work faster or longer within a given technical organisation of production, or, reorganising the productive process to raise productivity. the latter demands the existence of "free labour" and direct control of the productive process by the capitalist. at any given moment both strategies are probably in play but the relative vs absolute surplus value distinction is surely designed to capture the distinction between the two, isn't it?

not too sure of the usefulness of the debate - Marx acknowledged that the relative vs absolute distinction was itself "relative". the extraction of absolute surplus value presupposes a sufficient level of labour productivity and relative surplus value presupposes the prolongation of the working day.

RedHughs

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Where do I mention that name "Ocelot" in my post?

All I did was break down the quantities involved in the processes being discussed.

Malva

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think at several points Marx does suggest capitalist social relation necessarily misrepresent themselves

If that is the case then how can we even be talking about the phenomenon! If Marx did make such a weird statement, which I highly doubt, then he would be wrong. The point is that capitalism functions as long as fetishism continues to function most of the time.

Not sure what your use of "provisional" means here and you have assumed that which is to be proved when you talk about "fetishistic conditioning" being under threat of "exploding". What is it that produces this pressure - the direct experience of exploitation? well, yes, but that is a constant under capitalism so why explosions some times and not others?

Provisional means that fetishistic thinking is not a constant in all places and in all times because of the existence of critique or the creatively conscious dimension of human practice in general.

And it is the direct experience of alienating social forms that creates the suffering and unhappiness ("material" and existential) of capitalist society. People, all people high and low, experience this alienation most of the time. It is a sad state to be in. Some people deal with it by finding religion, others think things would be better if we only had a neo-liberal politics, or a Social-Democratic one, or if only people were nicer, or they vote for the Labour party, or the Conservative party, others think buying clothes at Abercrombie and Fitch will resolve their problems, or working hard, or owning a nice big house, or being president; some people think all of these things in their life at different times in their life (myself included); all of course as illusory as an eternity in heaven. The reason that sometimes there are explosions of revolutionary consciousness is because sometimes human beings and the movements they create develop a critique of the major fetishisms, or social forms, that dominate human life: the state, money, value, the family etc. This is because human beings, unlike animals, do have critical powers. We can imagine alternatives and consciously grasp relationships (that doesn't mean it is always easy to do so!).

There have always been social movements and everyone has some way they are trying to deal with capitalism. The point is that most of the time these are fetishistic and not radical. Again, hence the need for critique. If you don't have fetishism as a concept in your critical tool box then the "psychological", "existential", call it what you will, dimension of capitalism is completely lost, as is the essence of the totality of this noxious social relationship we all currently have with each other.

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Phew! The tangle gets tighter. Let me see if I can find some loose ends to unpick it and try and tease out the issues involved.

First, by way of setting the context, let me say that, imo, the issues involved are the contrasts between microdynamics vs macrodynamics, our old friend concrete versus abstract labour, and then the basic marxist problematic of materialist vs social, or, which is another way of putting it, what is historically specific versus what is invariant. All of these are implicated in this question of distinguishing intensity of labour versus the efficiency of the labour process. All the more so, because my base assertion is that what we understand as "efficiency" as regards the production process, is a relatively novel perspective, peculiar to capitalist relations of production, and that were far less in evidence in pre-capitalist modes of production.

S. Artesian

1. What I stated was "First, this certainly does change the TCC of capital, and the OCC of capital. The issue is value remember." The "value" refers back to the OCC.

Then the first clause of the sentence is entirely unconnected to what follows and, stripped of its spurious juxtaposition, stands as an unsupported assertion. The conjunction is thus - whether intentionally or not - misleading.

S. Artesian

2. I'd be the last to deny expressing and exhibiting my fair share of confusion and blindspots. But there seems to be a big batch of each when you write:

"Any speed-up that merely consists of eliminating break times, getting the workers to work quicker and harder, with the existing organisation of production, does not change the TCC."

Where I come from, "speed-up" "quicker" and even "harder" in the production process are measured by time. When we "speed-up" the production line, as was done frequently in the auto plants around Detroit, we are changing a)quantities of means of production consumed in the production of commodity capital b)the unit time of consumption of the Pm, c) and the rate of reproduction of the L. You cannot change (b) without changing (a) and (c). Exactly how can speed-up be accomplished without increasing the mass of means of production and materials of production?

By speed-up I mean quite simply the increase of the tempo of work, with no change in the organisation of work. It is perfectly possible for a given amount of raw materials to be transformed by a given amount of labour power, in a greater or shorter time, without changing the ratio between them. You are making the not uncommon mistake of confusing abstract labour (quantified in time) with concrete labour which is on the one hand a) socially incommensureable with other, different concrete labours; and on the other b) scientifically quantifiable in Joules/second or watts - a materialist measure which is non-historically specific.

In fact, there is a physiological limit to the possible increases in tempo due to the law of diminishing returns that it takes more energy to do things twice as fast, as would be used up doing them in a longer time period. Assuming competition within an industry, we can assume, for the sake of argument, that the average tempo of work is set near the average maximum sustainable rate. Above which the workforce can be stimulated to increase the tempo for short periods, but cannot be kept at that higher level for any sustained period of time without breaking down the reproduction of labour (and then all the associated disruption to production of having to replace the workforce with new, unpracticed workers, etc). So this is why a simple speed-up through "cracking the whip" to increase the tempo is, on average across society, not the kind of factor that's going to take up too much time in Marx's analysis. It can be discounted for the purposes of medium to long term social averages of production. However, this is not to say that for large periods of history, in pre-capitalist formations, the only understood method of increasing production was precisely to gather the peasants/peones/chattel slaves and crack the whip at them in order to make them work harder, until they dropped dead from exhaustion. The capitalist mantra of "work smarter, not harder" would be met with blank incomprehension by the Adelantados, Encomenderos and Hacendados of the 16th century Spanish colonies in the Americas.

However, parenthetically, there is also a second point here. Once the effects of the reorganisation of the labour process in increasing efficiency become generalised, then its effect on the value of labour is precisely nil (unless in the limit case that the commodity produced happens to be part of the basket of commodities involved in the reproduction of labour power). As a strategy to increase surplus value at the level of the individual enterprise in competition with others, its logic is compelling. At the social level, medium term, it does not necessarily increase the rate of exploitation. Marx insists on this distinction.

S. Artesian

If I rearrange a production line, bringing it closer to the access points for supply of raw materials, necessary machinery, even maintenance bays, thus reducing down time, I speed up the production process, I reduce the production time, bringing it closer to the working time. The technical component grows. Speed-up has occurred. Have I extracted greater absolute surplus value? Of course not. Have I extracted greater relative surplus value? Yes. How? By reducing the labor time necessary for the workers to produce values equivalent to their wages.

But this is not trying to increase output by increasing the tempo of work. This is increasing output by reorganising the labour process so as to make it more efficient. By prematurely reducing everything to time (by collapsing the concrete/abstract labour distinction, and assuming the law of value operating in the immediate process of production, distinct from the totality of the production and circulation cycle), you lose the distinction between what is specifically capitalist in this practice of efficiency, and how it comes about. This example is indeed an increase in the TCC (if not necessarily the VCC), but it is not brought about through an increase in intensity.

S. Artesian

3. The problem I see is in defining the "intensity of labor" How exactly do you define that? Marx mentions it, but hardly explores it, and the main thrust of his work speaks to "discounting" variations in intensity as determinations of value expansion.

Yes. For the reasons already discussed above. But when we are talking of the technical composition, we have to remember that while we are talking of a category of capital, yet this is also the one most closely tied to the scientific and material (and invariant) base of reality. In a post-capitalist society we will have dispensed with anything resembling the VCC, however, even though it will no longer be a technical composition of capital, there will still be a need to measure and manage the technical composition of the productive process, so as to manage the efficient use of natural resources (particularly those which are non-renewable, scarce or otherwise sustainable only within limits).

S. Artesian

4. This:

The ironsmith sweating over a hot forge and forging nails on an anvil with a hammer, as fast as his muscles will allow, is in no way labouring less intensively than the worker who pushes a button on a machine, resulting in another batch of 10,000 nails being ejected from it's maw.

is precisely not the issue. I think we can dispense with all examples of artisan production here. Injecting the "self-laborer" is not the issue. Nor do I make any claim about who is working more intensely. My argument is that the notion of "intensity" of labor is essentially immaterial.

And my argument is that we are material beings and work remains a material activity and must be grasped as such, both within the historically specific relations of capitalism, but also in the course of projecting a future, post-capitalist society. The intensity of labour has a material meaning - too much intensity, for too long is both injurious to health and unsustainable as a standard for social production. More to the point, if you deprive the TCC of its material base, you are left with no distinction between it and the VCC and you embark down a path of circularity that ultimately leads to idealism.

S. Artesian

5. This

The increase in the technical composition means that the material mass of means of production increases relative to the labour power employed in its transformation into commodities. Nothing more. It does not speak to the intensity of labour, it's energy or speed.

Maybe so, in which case the issue of the TCC has nothing to with the rate of valorization of capital and consequently nothing to do with the relation of the necessary labor time to the surplus labor time; and the reproduction of the value equivalent to the value of the labor-power consumed in production.

Does not follow. An increase in the TCC in the labour reproduction goods sector, for e.g., does effect the proportion of total social labour needed in this sector, and frees up labour to (potentially) be engaged in other sectors of expanding production.

But I think you have the question upside down, to a degree. The question is less what effect does the rise in the TCC have on the rate of the valorisation of capital, and more what does the drive to valorise capital have on the TCC - and what effect does this have on the long-term viability of capitalism as a mode of production governing the relationship between human needs and the natural resources available to us?

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RedHughs

1. Capital speeds up a given production-process.

Yes, but how is the question (and at the heart of the absolute verus relative distinction). If the speed up is by increasing the tempo, and the previous tempo was already at the averagely sustainable maximum for the workforce, then the speed-up can only last so long before it has to be reverted. If the increase in the rate of production is achieved by changing the technical composition of the production process, so as to make it more efficient, then, yes the TCC has changed locally - and when the same changes become generalised across the industry, the SNLT per output unit will have been lowered. In the interim period a transitional surplus profit can be obtained by the individual capitalist (enterprise).

RedHughs

2. This speed-up become the standard for the production process.
3.. In this given production process, the sped-up workers produce more goods using the raw materials provided.
4. For a similar quantity of time, a capitalist now most provide a larger quantity of raw materials, since the workers' time by itself doesn't product more goods.
5. Hence, the capitalists must purchase a larger ratio of raw goods to labor value. Hence the organic composition of capital "OCC" increases.

5. does not follow. Again these are the sort of mistakes you make by confusing the microdynamics (the level of the individual enterprise, with all external production remaining unchanged) and the macrodynamics along with blurring the boundary between technical composition and value composition - as that categorical chimera, the OCC does. The OCC only rises in the case that there is no change in the productivity in the production of the raw materials, relative to the productivity in the sector of the wage goods that determines the value of labour power. For e.g. if the TCC in the individual enterprise changes such that the same mass of labour power consumes twice as much raw materials and produces twice as much commodities as priorly, but the productivity in the raw materials producing industry has trebled, whereas that in the reproduction (wage) goods sector remains unchanged, then the value composition (the ratio of the value of the raw materials versus the value of the labour power) has in fact declined. In fact your first sentence indicates your categorical confusion as you state: "ratio of raw goods [quantity - technical] to labor value [value]", mixing the categories of analysis in the same sentence. Hopeless.

RedHughs

On the other hand, actions like bringing a factory closer to another factory and otherwise reducing the supply line would tend to reduce the OCC since things like rail tracks and good in storage waiting to be consumed in production are also fixed capital.

TCC, not OCC. If the price of fuel drops, or the price of long-distance shipping (as in fact has occured with containerisation - hence the material grounds for globalised supply chains), then the overall VCC might not be reduced by bring factories closer together. (but we need to add more levels of analysis into international value chains, to be fair).

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The best points in my book are: 1. (this is fundamental to all understanding of the facts) the two-fold character of labour according to whether it is expressed in use-value or exchange-value

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867/letters/67_08_24.htm

I think pointing out the necessity of maintaining this abstract/concrete labour distinction here is spot on. I might quibble the identification of the material with the invariant and the neat opposition of the social to the material but that would be me beign a pedantis ass.

Am at work Malva so my ability to scour texts to support my interpretation of commodity fetishism is limited (he says, hoping no-one will notice crap excuse). From memory vols 2 and 3 are full of references to how capitalist relations must necessarily present themselves to and be perceived by the capitalist in a distorted or mystified way. where's Dr Capital when you need a Marx quote, eh? My point is precisely that if we take this too literally we end up either making ourselves the "educators of educators", somehow outside or above society or get into the "privileged class position of the proletariat as identical subject-object" mess of the early Lukacs. neither way helps us develop a consistent materialist understanding of hegemony

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I wanted to say something with regard to the Malva-Andy sub-thread, because I think Malva defends the concept of fetishism using the sort of reading that I find problematic, while at the same time Andy seems to reduce fetishism to a false perception of reality.

But I have to go out the door now, so stay tuned.

P.S.

andy g

where's Dr Capital when you need a Marx quote, eh?

You have to turn out the lights in your bathroom, while saying "Jura" three times while looking straight into the mirror. Be careful when you summon him, though, he is not a force to be trifled with!

Malva

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I wanted to say something with regard to the Malva-Andy sub-thread, because I think Malva defends the concept of fetishism using the sort of reading that I find problematic, while at the same time Andy seems to reduce fetishism to a false perception of reality.

I'll be interested in that.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The issue originally was relative vs. absolute surplus value, and if speed-up, cutting break times was an expression of the absolute or the relative.

Speed-up is precisely an example of compelling labor-power to process values equivalent to itself in less time. That it can be damaging to the workers isn't an issue for the determination of the sub-category or "type" of surplus value.

You state:

If the speed up is by increasing the tempo, and the previous tempo was already at the averagely sustainable maximum for the workforce....

the previous tempo at the "average sustainable maximum for the workforce"? How is that average derived? Such a "norm" is a mutable figure. If the production line is running below the "average sustainable maximum for the workforce" and the capitalist proceeds to increase the pace of production to the "average" is he or she then aggrandizing absolute or relative surplus value?

Or.........one factory allows worker two twenty minute breaks; another, two fifteen minute breaks. Is the second capitalist aggrandizing ten minutes of additional absolute surplus value?

If the first capitalist increases his pace of the production line so that in a working day of X-40 minutes, the quantity of the means and materials of production equals that consumed by the second factory in X-30 minutes are the intensities of labor different or the same? Is the impact on the workers in the first factory mitigated by the extra 10 minutes of break? Maybe, and maybe not.

If the first capitalist keeps the pace of production the same, allows 40 minutes of breaks but extends his working day by 10 minutes, we have a situation where, in fact absolute surplus value is increased at your lower intensity of production, as the proportion between labor and the mass of materials remains the same.

If the second capitalist allows 30 minutes of breaks, but increases the pace of the production line, but shortens the overall working day.... etc. etc.

The point is simply that absolute surplus value is determined, and determined exclusively by length of the overall working day

Capital can only measure by time, the time of reproduction of the value of the labor power.

Once value production is overthrown, in the process of overthrowing value production, society definitely will look, seek to measure other inputs into the labor process-- pace and intensity, and since surplus value, the aggrandizement of time, will not be the governing principle, pace and intensity will no longer accrue to the power of value over the power of labor.

georgestapleton

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gah I didn't read the TCC thread and now I don't understand what people are talking about.

Can someone summarise what this disagreement is about for me?

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Speed-up is precisely an example of compelling labor-power to process values equivalent to itself in less time. That it can be damaging to the workers isn't an issue for the determination of the sub-category or "type" of surplus value.

Dear oh dear. Poor old Uncle Charlie would be spinning in his grave. Labour power can do no such thing as "process values equivalent to itself in less time". Labour power processes means of production and produces value in the resulting products. For a given rate of exploitation, the number of products produced in one portion of the working day embodies the SNLT equivalent to the value of the labour power. Should the SNLT change such that the same mass of labour power produces in the first part of the working day, a higher number of products, then each of these products will each embody a correspondingly lower aliquot part of the value embodied in it by said labour power. The change will not in any way reduce the portion of the working day equivalent to the value of labour power (i.e the cost of reproducing its use value). The only way a reduction in SNLT in a given branch of production will reduce the "necessary" portion of the working day, so as to increase the surplus-value time, is if the value of the consumer goods necessary for the reproduction of labour power is reduced. This is generally a social level dynamic, not one operating at the level of the individual enterprise.

If, on the other hand, an innovation in the technical process within a given individual enterprise, alters the local TCC, then the capitalist, for a transient time until the advance is generalised, makes a super-profit based on the difference between the local labour time necessary for the production of his/her goods, relative to the general SNLT value set for the other goods in the market place. For all of that, none of that reduces the proportion of the working day within which those workers are producing value equivalent to their own cost of reproduction.

S. Artesian

You state:

If the speed up is by increasing the tempo, and the previous tempo was already at the averagely sustainable maximum for the workforce....

the previous tempo at the "average sustainable maximum for the workforce"? How is that average derived?

Empirically, by trial and error and through the process of competition, just like the SNLT of which it is just a particular facet. The two terms are mutually implicit.

S. Artesian

Such a "norm" is a mutable figure. If the production line is running below the "average sustainable maximum for the workforce" and the capitalist proceeds to increase the pace of production to the "average" is he or she then aggrandizing absolute or relative surplus value?

No, they're simply returning the pace of production to the SNLT before the competition drive them out of business.

S. Artesian

Or.........one factory allows worker two twenty minute breaks; another, two fifteen minute breaks. Is the second capitalist aggrandizing ten minutes of additional absolute surplus value?

Assuming that both workforces are equally productive during their non-break time, then effectively the second capitalist has extended the working day of his workforce by 10 minutes, relative to the workforce of the first. That would be (a very minor) absolute extension of surplus labour time, yes.

S. Artesian

If the first capitalist increases his pace of the production line so that in a working day of X-40 minutes, the quantity of the means and materials of production equals that consumed by the second factory in X-30 minutes are the intensities of labor different or the same?

if, without changing the technical composition of the production process, the first capitalist increases the pace of work, then it follows that the intensity of the work is increased.

S. Artesian

Is the impact on the workers in the first factory mitigated by the extra 10 minutes of break? Maybe, and maybe not.

If the first capitalist keeps the pace of production the same, allows 40 minutes of breaks but extends his working day by 10 minutes, we have a situation where, in fact absolute surplus value is increased at your lower intensity of production, as the proportion between labor and the mass of materials remains the same.

If the second capitalist allows 30 minutes of breaks, but increases the pace of the production line, but shortens the overall working day.... etc. etc.

I'm really not sure what you're trying to demonstrate here.

S. Artesian

The point is simply that absolute surplus value is determined, and determined exclusively by length of the overall working day

The point is that trying to increase absolute surplus value beyond that produced by the average working day at the average intensity corresponding to the SNLT, by increasing the tempo of work, is self-defeating, and can therefore be discounted as a strategy for extending surplus value (and can, from another point of view, be understood to be already included within the formation of the SNLT itself).

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

georgestapleton

Gah I didn't read the TCC thread and now I don't understand what people are talking about.

Can someone summarise what this disagreement is about for me?

Well at a proximate level, it's about what it's about. At an ultimate level it probably has more to do with Artesian's declaration of "Viva el FROP!", which is my 3-word summary of the bulk of his Heinrich critique linked above. :D

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The only way a reduction in SNLT in a given branch of production will reduce the "necessary" portion of the working day, so as to increase the surplus-value time, is if the value of the consumer goods necessary for the reproduction of labour power is reduced.

.

Ocelots points are correct regarding the reduction of necessary labor time, and the determinant of relative surplus labor-time; relative surplus-value.

Have to step away for awhile, but wanted to acknowledge that first.

Felix Frost

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

So I think I'm on not so shaky ground here, on both the issue of intensity of labor, and on the issue of productivity of labor power, in reducing the time of reproduction of the wage, being equivalent to augmenting increasing the relative surplus value

Regarding the criticism of Heinrich's notion of the value of the labor power being lowered-- I think it's quite possible to lower the value, the time of reproduction of value equivalent to that of labor power; I think Heinrich proposes a scenario that is self-contradictory... in that he talks about fully compensating the value of the labor power by, at the same time, reducing the living standard of the working class. You cannot fully compensate labor power, which means to provide for its full reproduction, and at the same time lower its standard of living, which means by definition not providing for its full reproduction, but providing only for a reduced reproduction. I think Heinrich sets up an oxymoron here. Maybe he means to say, to fully compensate labor power with a reduced wage, then the value of the means of subsistence has to decline. Reducing the quantity and quality of the means of subsistence is not full reproduction. Reducing the value of the means of reproduction can be full reproduction, again using the "long deflation" in the US, where nominal wages fell, but declines in the costs of reproduction of clothing, food, shelter declined even more rapidly.

And indeed, the core issue for me is Heinrich's claim that there is no intrinsic limitation to valorization, when in fact, all of Marx's work is exactly the exploration of those intrinsic limitations.

So all those criticisms made about my review? I think they are excellent, excellent points for exploration and development. I might even find myself being wrong.

ocelot has done a good job here responding to the first issue regarding intensity of labour vs productivity of labour, so I'll leave that for now.

About the value of labour power, the point is that there is no absolute set value for when labour power is "fully compensated". The value of labour power depends on the "traditional standard of life" for workers in a given time and place, and Marx argues that the capitalists will constantly try to lower this, that is exactly to "reduce the quantity and quality of the means of subsistence". As Marx writes:

The English standard of life may be reduced to the Irish standard; the standard of life of a German peasant to that of a Livonian peasant.(...)
This historical or social element, entering into the value of labour, may be expanded, or contracted, or altogether extinguished, so that nothing remains but the physical limit.(...)
By comparing the standard wages or values of labour in different countries, and by comparing them in different historical epochs of the same country, you will find that the value of labour itself is not a fixed but a variable magnitude, even supposing the values of all other commodities to remain constant.

(from Value, Price and Profit)

I will have to get back to the more substantial question about intrinsic limits to capitalism when I have more time.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hold on a minute, I accept the accuracy of Ocelot's comments regarding the source of relative surplus value. That is how Marx defines it.

And certainly it is the case that capital can seek to lower the standard of living of the workers, and as a matter of fact that's exactly what capitalism has done in the US since, well beginning in 1970, but becoming more and more explicit after 1973.

Still driving the standard of living lower is not full compensation of the value of the labor power. By definition, the working class is no longer able to reproduce itself fully. It's "standard of living" is lower. Does anybody know of any method of reducing the standard of living that doesn't translate into more people dying sooner?

The results of lower rates of manufacturing employment, lower overall wages, expanded use of temporary labor, designating labor as "sub-contractors," elimination of health care benefits and even pensions means that working class is no longer fully reproducing itself socially. We see greater poverty, increasing rates of children born into poverty. We see greater unemployment, particularly among youth, and particularly among youth from the working class itself

What you might also get are declining life expectancies, flattening and even reversal of improvements in infant mortality, maternal mortality etc etc.

Does capital give a rat's ass? Absolutely not. But the decline in living standards, in which accumulation now is "supplemented" or made up of greater portions of simple transfers is not full reproduction of the working class.

If I reduce the quantities and qualities of the means of subsistence that the workers can exchange their labor-power for, rather than reduce the values of the means of subsistence, then I cannot possibly be providing for the full reproduction of the labor power.

Again, this from Marx is really the basis for discussion:

The prolongation of the working-day beyond the point at which the labourer would have produced just an equivalent for the value of his labour-power, and the appropriation of that surplus-labour by capital, this is production of absolute surplus-value. It forms the general groundwork of the capitalist system, and the starting-point for the production of relative surplus-value. The latter presupposes that the working-day is already divided into two parts, necessary labour, and surplus-labour. In order to prolong the surplus-labour, the necessary labour is shortened by methods whereby the equivalent for the wages is produced in less time. The production of absolute surplus-value turns exclusively upon the length of the working-day; the production of relative surplus-value, revolutionises 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 itself 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.

"In order to prolong the surplus-labour, the necessary labour is shortened by methods whereby the equivalent for the wages is produced in less time."

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK. I'm gonna jump in on the fetishism part of this thread.

I'll begin with two statements: (1) Like the distinction between use-value and exchange-value the idea of fetishism has been utilized as the basis for some pretty dubious shit. (2) As I think Heinrich's Introduction to Capital does a good job of pointing out: (a) Marx discusses a number of phenomena in the fetish character of commodities and its secret (b) some of these phenomena are often interpreted as equivalent to other ideas that proliferate through out Capital, like 'mystification.' Granted Marx does uses mystification somewhat loosely in relation to fetishism in the trinity formula and the contribution and elsewhere. However, for these reasons I think Marx's account of fetishism is often distorted by other readings and other phenomena.

Now in response to your interpretation, Andy G, I would say a few things. In the first place I think you might be putting fetishism and mystification together. I say this because in what you outline as follows its hard for me tell what sort of illusions and opaque relations you are discussing. Please correct me if im wrong or elucidate if you wish

guess my problem is with the notion in general. I get and accept the notion that the constitutive relations and processes of capitalism are "opaque" and not immediately apparent - the "essence vs appearance" thang. not that controversial really, as Marx observed if essence and appearance coincided science would be superfluous.

it's the idea that these relations necessarily misrepresent themselves in the consciousness of the agents instantiating them. if illusions are automatically induced in the consciousness of worker and capitalist alike how do we explain the emergence of oppositional ideologies? on a more abstract level is it legitimate to believe any reality permits of only one interpretation (the fallacy of immediate knowledge thingy)? at another level it doesn't fit with the concept of hegemony as an organised and active process that I find useful. The political consequences seem to me a denial of the effective agency of the working class and an orientation on "peripheral groups" supposedly outside of capitalist society and its entrapments.

In the second place I would say the specific concept of fetishism has two facets: one of which I argue is not a case of false appearance or false consciousness, the second of which I think Marx is somewhat ambiguous about.

The first one pertains to fetish characteristic properties commodities and money posses in capitalism. These characteristics are not false because they are constituted by the peculiar arrangement of the social character of capitalist production. Granted Marx does use terms like appear and distorted. However, I think if you: (1) interpret 'appearance', not as essence v appearance, but in terms of the notion that essence must appear and hide itself in appearance and (2) are made aware of there every value-form theorists favorite mistranslation in which 'distorted' replaces the German word Marx uses to signify the perverted and displaced character of this production than you can appreciate that Marx is trying to describe the constitution of socially specific phenomena. I think he does this rather cogently in the following bit from Capital where I take it he is describing how money is constituted and the constituent fetish characteristic properties it possesses by virtue of its role as the general equivalent:

The merely atomistic behaviour of men in their social process of production, and hence the fact that their own relations of production take on an objectified form independent of their conscious individual striving, manifests themselves at first in the fact that the products of labour generally take the form of commodities. The riddle of the money fetish is therefore merely the riddle of the commodity fetish, that has become visible and blinding the eyes.

In the second place I would argue that Marx is inconsistent about the naturalization aspect of fetishism. In my mind he is inconsistent about whether it is only political economists or political economists and everyday agents that perceive capitalism as natural. Even if this perception includes the later, however, I don't think he argues that this illusion is necessary. Unfortunately, I think it is this aspect of fetishism that has been utilized and extrapolated into theories of socially necessary false consciousness etc. when more work on the other type seems me to be more necessary.

So in my account I don't fetishism counteracts any explanation of counter ideologies or counter-hegemonies. I think its just that the naturalization aspect of fetishism was used by some people for bad explanation of the lack of counter-hegemonies and ideologies.

Anyhow that's my two cents on something I've spent far too much time thinking about.

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also, counter-ideology is one thing, but seeing through the fetish is quite another. One can well be "against capitalism" (in a "let's abolish the banks but keep the factories" or "markets good, monopoly bad" way) without really thinking through all of the implications of that.

I apologize for not taking part in this interesting discussion more frequently, I've been very busy lately.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

hey, it worked! I was in the bathroom this morning, turned the lights out, looked in the mirror and uttered the immortal words and, hey presto, he appeared!!! nice to hear from you, comrade!

take your point, Jura, but not sure where it takes us. If we therefore say partial and inconsistent criticisms of capital can be thrown up by experience but that the naturalisation of basic relations produced by fetishism prevents a "total critique" we are still stuck in the horns of the same dilemma, aren't we? either a truly counter-hegemonic ideolgy is impossible or it arises from outside the process of commodity circulation as "pure science"?

thanks for the comment, Hektor. I accept that Marx didn't equate fetishism with falsity - i.e. that he suggests that fetishism is a structural property of the capitalist mode of production, that commodities do dominate producers because of the underlying nature of capitalist social relations etc. I do think Marx at times goes further than this and suggests this necessarily induces "false consciousness" in the minds of both worker and capitalist but I have been too substantiate that feeling with quotes. Perhaps it's just me.

I think you are right that "commodity fetishism" has been used and abused as an excuse for shit politics or for the turning of political backs on the working class as politically neutred, deluded automata. Could be that I'm reacting to and have thrown the baby out with the bath water

the button

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm fucked if I'm going to wade into this argument, but just to say I finished Heinrich's book (remember that? :D ) on the train home last night. I thought it was really excellent, and particularly enjoyed the chapter on the State towards the end. Which is basically (very basically. Heh) an attempt by Heinrich to construct a theory of the State based on his account of the main themes of Capital, rather than on Marx & Engel's fairly minimal writings about the State.

That is all.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

haven't got to there yet! just got onto the chapter on crises, steady there S Artesian!! Keen to read the fuller account that Angelus is translating.

the button

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

haven't got to there yet! just got onto the chapter on crises, steady there S Artesian!! Keen to read the fuller account that Angelus is translating.

Yeah, that chapter on crisis is excellent, too. I won't spoil it for you by telling you whodunnit 8-) .

Joseph Kay

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This thread had me thinking 'where the fuck is my copy?', and sat in my spam folder is a week-old email cancelling the order. Fucksake. Third time lucky eh...

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Joseph Kay

This thread had me thinking 'where the fuck is my copy?', and sat in my spam folder is a week-old email cancelling the order. Fucksake. Third time lucky eh...

I feel your pain :( On the plus side, bookdepository finally came through where amazon repeatedly crapped out and I am now happily onto chapter 2. And just in time for my holiday in the Ionian sun, next week, huzzah! :D

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I am not a "crisis monger." I think crisis is exactly that, critical to capital's self-reconstitution. I also don't think there is such a thing as a "permanent crisis." I do think there are intrinsic, self-limitations to accumulation that, in the short-term, cause a crisis; that are overcome by the crisis only to be reproduced again; that the repeated cycle of decline and expansion produces a structural "deceleration" in accumulation.

I do also think that Marx argued, and attempted to demonstrate, the necessity, the inevitability of proletarian revolution based on the specific organization of labor as wage-labor.

It seems almost oxymoronic to me to think that Marx could locate, insist upon, the historical specificity of capitalism ; could explore the "immanent critique" of capital; would attempt in his critique to demonstrate that the determinant of capital is its negation; that the forces of production do come into conflict with the relations of capital; yet argue that Marx's work only illuminates the "possibility," the "potential" for proletarian revolution and does not predict the necessity, the inevitability of proletarian revolution (indeed since "potential" and "necessity" share an identity).

That is distinct, and IMO, opposed to, the notion that Marx predicts a "collapse" an apocalypse that will drown capital in the storms of its own making which I don't think is an element of Marx's critique. Apocalypse and salvation theories are like waiting around in LA, or New Orleans for the "big one" to hit, only to discover that in fact the big one has already hit, capitalism is its name, and capital is on higher ground, in its reinforced condo, and owning all the rescue vehicles.

As for the FROP, as real a tendency as I regard that to be, I do not think that alone is Marx's "comprehensive" notion of capital's intrinsic limits to valorization. I think it is an expression, a facet, of Marx's comprehensive notion of capital's limit which is overproduction; and overproduction is always the overproduction of the means of production as capital.

rhh1

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S.Artesian wrote:
"Still driving the standard of living lower is not full compensation of the value of the labor power. By definition, the working class is no longer able to reproduce itself fully. It's "standard of living" is lower."

I think this is quite wrong. Whether the worker has a Chevy at home, a colour TV or a microwave has nothing to do with the worker's ability to maintain a consistent standard of effort on the production line or in the shop or office - i.e. to be as productive a worker as s/he was before the pay cut.

The standard of living of 1850 British workers would be a nose dive from the standard of living of contemporary Western workers. 1850 British workers worked much harder that cwws. This issue has nothing to do with whether or not the OCC has changed. The workers’ standard of living is irrelevant to capital and the worker’s standard of living, except at threshold levels, does not prevent the working class reproducing itself fully i.e. working hard at work, having enough children etc.

The real term cost of hiring workers is what counts – what the firm has to pay in the local labour market for workers with particular skills and how those costs impact on the firms’ prices of production.

This is exactly the area of the 'moral' component of the wage about which the worker and the boss can struggle without their struggle overtly threatening the capitalist system. If the reduction in a worker's standard of living is so harsh that the worker could no longer get to work due to hunger, inability to afford transport etc - that would stop the working class reproducing itself as a working class. Given that there now seems to be a permanent surplus population, the inability of a worker to afford children, central heating, TV, foreign holiday isn’t obviously a short term or medium term problem for capital.

I think SA confuses the standard of living of the working class with the concept of the working class reproducing itself fully. The standard of living of the working class has collapsed on a number of occasions – Britain / Netherlands / Germany in WW2 and after – and that no way damaged the ability of capital in those countries to expand.

S. Artesian

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Long time, no hear, Richard. How's tricks?

I think you're confusing the "standard of living" with the purchase of flat-screen TVs and Iphones. That's not the "standard of living"-- I'm talking about the working class being able to maintain its access to medical care, to education, to sanitary conditions. Do you think the "big squeeze" in the US on workers over the past 38 years is about flat-screen TVs and smartphones, or is it about the actual social development? You know like, percentage of population in poverty; number of children suffering from inadequate nutrition; infant mortality rates?

I've never said the collapse of the living standard of the working class "or the working class not being able to reproduce itself fully" implies "damage [to] the ability of capital in [any] country to expand." On the contrary, it's very helpful for the expansion of capital in situations. I have asserted that reducing the quantity and quality , as opposed to the valueof the means of reproduction that the workers were able to purchase when "compensated fully" means the workers are no longer being compensated fully, that reproduction of the class will be impacted.

I find your example of Britain, Netherlands, Germany, in WW2 [and after] where you seek to use that to say, "oh the standard of living can decline, but the working class can reproduce itself fully," way off the mark. The working class was being destroyed, not reproduced; or reproduced, but only as cannon fodder.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

okay, so have finished book and have to say enjoyed it. Has the limits you would expect from a brief intro to a big subject but on the whole has to rate as one of better attempts I've read. As I said leaves me hunger for the more substantial work now in translation which is always a good sign!

TBH S Artesian, I'm not sure I get where you are coming from in your critique of the book. The passage on p 104 that seems to have got your goat, the one about their being no intrinsic limits of capital's valorization doesn't seem too objectionable to me when put in context. I think Heinrich is re-stating the idea that whilst the imperative driving exploitation in pre-capitalist societies is ruling class consumption and therefore the limit of exploitation is defined by the walls of the exploiters' stomachs no such constraint applies under capitalism. The whole "accumulate! accumulate! this is Moses and the prophets!" thing from vol 1.

TBF Heinrich does explicitly endorse the idea that there is an immanent tendency towards crisis elsewhere in the book and the idea of capital as a fetter on the development of the forces of production eg on page 104

even without this (the FROP thesis - AG) , the limitations of the capitalist mode of production are already manifest in the fact that the development of the forces of production and the production of wealth are subordinate to the valorisation of value, and this narrow goal unleashes a glut of destructive forces against humanity and nature

or on page 173

capitalist productiona nd capitalist consumption are not just differently determined ...their determining factors are also downright antagonistic : potentially unlimited production confronts limited consumption (limited not in terms of human needs and desires but by the logic of valorization

He does reject attempts to specify a "general theory of crisis" any more specific than that above. Don't think this is a "new" idea even if it does appear problematic.

The discussion of FROP is quite cursory but again doesn't seem to go much beyond what has been said by lots before - that Marx doesn't logically demonstrate the the tendency to displace living labour from the production process through revolutions in its technical organisation necessarily translates into long run shifts in the value composition of capital, for reasons ocelot has discussed above.* Again, uneasy with this one but it's not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.

Thought the bit on "state derivation" was good, as were the bits on credit and "fictitious capital". I didn't get my "hallelujah" moment in the sections on the general equivalent form of value and why a money commodity isn't logically entailed by the LTV but that might just have been me.

All in all I thought it well worth a read!

*edit - and the counter-veiling consequences of increases in the rate of surplus value

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm glad you liked the book, however:

andy g

I didn't get my "hallelujah" moment in the sections on the general equivalent form of value

Are you trying to make me cry angelic tears?! That's one of the parts of the book you're supposed to get the most out of!

Now I definitely have to say something about fetishism...although Hektor already anticipated much of it. If it weren't for all this damn work I have to do.

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

please fill in the rest Angelus. Got plenty of work on myself.

Although I will add that the following from The Contribution seems like a succinct definition of the elements of fetishism that might induce a 'hallelujah' moment at least in the sense that it signals the constitution and constituent properties of our friend the general equivalent:

"A social relation of production appears as something existing apart from individual human beings, and the determined relations into which they enter in the course of production in society appear as the specific properties of a thing - it is this perverted appearance, this prosaically real, and by no means imaginary, mystification that is characteristic of all forms of labour positing exchange-value."

If you got the time and the inkling Andy-- i'm curious to hear why there was no hallelujah moment and if you have dug up any of those passage where you think Marx is talking about socially necessary appearance.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I am a slacker and hence have nothing on - not literally obviously!

I am, however, slightly "tired and emotional" at the moment so perhaps best left until tomorrow! hic!

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Perhaps what Andy meant was this:

andy g

I didn't get my "hallelujah" moment in the sections on the general equivalent form of value and why a money commodity isn't logically entailed by the LTV but that might just have been me.

I remember thinking that the part on the form of value was very good hallelujah-wise (but an even better take on this is in his other book on the first two chapters of Capital). However, if the bit in bold is the crux of the issue, I have to say I agree with you, Andy. Heinrich's argument about the money commodity not being a necessary component of Marx's theory of value has been sharply criticized in the literature, e. g. by Dieter Wolf. And I have to say the critique got me convinced that Heinrich is wrong, even though it of course doesn't solve the empirical problem of the nature of contemporary money. (To avoid any misunderstandings: Heinrich may well be right that there is no money commodity around today, but what we are dealing with here is a theoretical problem of consistency of Marx's theory. And in this respect I don't find his arguments very persuasive.)

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Jura. I didn't express myself very well. My issue is with the sections on the money commodity rather that with the material on the form of value in the same chapter. Dry up your tears any Angelus? :)

I am a newbie when it comes to the German value-form tradition and repeatedly curse my inability to read German. Links to anything in English would be much appreciated if comrades can spare the time.

more on fetishism to follow when headache subsides a bit....

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ah, ok, yeah the money commodity observations take up about four paragraphs.

I thought you were talking about the whole chapter!

Never mind, then!

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

okay - hangover gone so back to commodity fetishism :kropotkin:

trawling through Marx a search of passages supporting my argument that his theory of commodity fetishism involves the idea that capitalist social relations necessarily / automatically induce "false consciousness" in the agents embodying them has had mixed results

there are a number of passages in vol 3 that sorta support what I was saying

If, as the reader will have realised to his great dismay, the analysis of the actual intrinsic relations of the capitalist process of production is a very complicated matter and very extensive; if it is a work of science to resolve the visible, merely external movement into the true intrinsic movement, it is self-evident that conceptions which arise about the laws of production in the minds of agents of capitalist production and circulation will diverge drastically from these real laws and will merely be the conscious expression of the visible movements. The conceptions of the merchant, stockbroker, and banker, are necessarily quite distorted. Those of the manufacturers are vitiated by the acts of circulation to which their capital is subject, and by the levelling of the general rate of profit. Competition likewise assumes a completely distorted role in their minds.. If the limits of value and surplus-value are given, it is easy to grasp how competition of capitals transforms values into prices of production and further into mercantile prices, and surplus-value into average profit.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch18.htm

and bits in the later sections

Vulgar economy actually does no more than interpret, systematise and defend in doctrinaire fashion the conceptions of the agents of bourgeois production who are entrapped in bourgeois production relations.

It is the great merit of classical economy to have destroyed this false appearance and illusion, this mutual independence and ossification of the various social elements of wealth, this personification of things and conversion of production relations into entities, this religion of everyday life. It did so by reducing interest to a portion of profit, and rent to the surplus above average profit, so that both of them converge in surplus-value; and by representing the process of circulation as a mere metamorphosis of forms, and finally reducing value and surplus-value of commodities to labour in the direct production process. Nevertheless even the best spokesmen of classical economy remain more or less in the grip of the world of illusion which their criticism had dissolved, as cannot be otherwise from a bourgeois standpoint, and thus they all fall more or less into inconsistencies, half-truths and unsolved contradictions. On the other hand, it is just as natural for the actual agents of production to feel completely at home in these estranged and irrational forms of capital — interest, land — rent, labour — wages, since these are precisely the forms of illusion in which they move about and find their daily occupation. It is therefore just as natural that vulgar economy, which is no more than a didactic, more or less dogmatic, translation of everyday conceptions of the actual agents of production

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch48.htm

might be pushing it slightly but I think there is a visibly tendency to treating capitalist relations as almost permitting of only one interpretation, of “false/fetishised consciousness” automatically arising in the minds of capitalist and worker.

Could be me reading Marx through the prism of Lukacs though – lots of people I know think he is the alpha and omega for some reason. I don’t and hence am almost pre-disposed to treating Lukacsian motifs with hostility.

There are similar passages in Heinrich too

Because value objectivity is a result of very specific behaviour by human beings, namely producing things privately and exchanging them, this correlation is not apparent to either spontaneous, everyday consciousness or to political economists…..in this respect both everyday consciousness and the science of economics remain imprisoned within this fetishism

(page 76)

In bourgeois society, people’s spontaneous consciousness succumbs to the fetishism of the commodity and money

(page 78)

Which, admittedly is closely followed by

one cannot make the claim that fetishism is in principle impenetrable

but there seems a contradiction here (?). and then there’s this

that means that when people in bourgeois society, be they workers or capitalists, attempt to become clear about their interests, they initially do so within the fetishistic forms of thought and perception that dominate everyday consciousness

(page 195)

although, again, this is immediately followed with an assertion that “fetishism is not impenetrable”.

I think Terry Eagleton put it well In his book on Ideology

“Capital” appears to argue that our perception (or misperception) of reality is somehow already immanent in reality itself; and this belief, that the real already contains the knowledge or mis-knowledge of itself, is arguably an empiricist doctrine. What it suppresses is precisely the business of what humans make, variably and conflictively, of these material mechanisms

(Ideology 1991, p 88)

Anyhow, that is more than enough from me!

ocelot

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The key quote in the above, imo, is:

"from a bourgeois standpoint"

i.e. that we are not in a universalist framework here, so there can be a fundamental asymmetry between the bourgeois and proletarian standpoints, as to the potential for de-fetishisation. In summary, the class interests of the bourgeois are not fundamentally at odds with fetishisation, so they are doomed to remain trapped within its horizon - even with the aid and support of science and study (which, incidentally gives the lie to the vulgar "consciousness from outside" model of the Kautsky quotes in WITBD - based as it is, on the positivist belief in power of science, in itself, to penetrate fetishism). Whereas proletarian consciousness may begin within the horizon of fetishism, but their fundamental class interests lead to conflicts and contradictions with it. Hence, through the practice and experience of class struggle, de-fetishisation (political recomposition) is a potential for the proletariat in a way it isn't for the bourgeoisie.

At least, that would be the immediately obvious interpretation. But then the "immediately obvious" interpretation may well be the fetishistic one? :hand:

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

blimey ocelot, don't bring WITBD into this! It's like in Ghostbusters - "never cross the streams!"

know where you are coming from but Marx does almost immediately go on to talk about "agents of production" in an unqualified way and details "labour" and "wages" as fetishised forms of appearance...?

I think the idea of perspectival knowledge is an interesting and important one but it is difficult to render a coherent version of it. Heinrich categorically denies an interpretation that gives the working class privileged access to the essential social relations underlying the fetishes - can't quote as don't have book to hand.

Eagleton's point remains, however - how can we say that agents' views or perceptions are somehow inscribed in the real? "spontaneous experience" surely always permits multiple interpretations?

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Marx

This phenomenal form, which makes the actual relation invisible, and, indeed, shows the direct opposite of that relation, forms the basis of all the juridical notions of both labourer and capitalist, of all the mystifications of the capitalistic mode of production, of all its illusions as to liberty, of all the apologetic shifts of the vulgar economists.

I think the key to dispelling the fetish is scientific analysis of the kind which Marx undertakes; political economy came close (LTV in itself is a great achievement), but due to class interests soon became unable to pursue the investigation honestly and degenerated into vulgar economy.

I don't think there is much about the proletarian experience that could "automatically" (without exposure to existing theory or without some theorizing on the part of the worker herself) lead one to question fetishism.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

thanks Jura - was sure there was a quote like that somewhere. where did you find it?

I think you are on the right lines but I would question what is left of the theory of fetishism. If it's just a question of class interest blinding the eyes of the capitalists the elaborate argument about the self mystifying nature of capitalist relations seems redundant...?

also, does this mean we accept a complete separation between ideology and commodity fetishism?

jura

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sorry, the quote is from the chapter on Wage in Volume 1.

It's not about the class interest, though. Class interest can prevent you from pursuing an anti-fetishistic line of thought (like the theory of surplus-value) if its consequences threaten your class position. That is, in my view (and very crudely), the explanation of why political economy as a science virtually ceased to exist sometimes in the 1830s-40s and gave way to vulgar economy. But class interest in itself does not, I think, give anyone a privileged or unprivileged access to reality.

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

I think you are on the right lines but I would question what is left of the theory of fetishism. If it's just a question of class interest blinding the eyes of the capitalists the elaborate argument about the self mystifying nature of capitalist relations seems redundant...?

I think you're still seeing "fetishism" too much in terms of "false consciousness" and not enough in terms of people's activity and consciousness conforming to a specific arrangement of society.

When you're young, in secondary school, if you come from the working class, your parents remind you that soon it's time for you to either find a job or prepare for higher education or vocational training. You don't question the the background of this necessity; you accept it intuitively. Not because your parents told you, but because it also makes intuitive sense on the basis of the social context you're born into.

Need to eat and pay rent, also like having a nice collection of records and books ---> I need to find a job. You accept the preexisting system of social relations without giving them any thought at all. And in doing so, you also reproduce the system, because you actually do get a job, thus doing your own little part in helping to knit the fetishized fabric of society.

Is this state of affairs fundamentally impenetrable? Of course not. For whatever reason, you might get nudged into thinking about why things the way they are -- cops shoot a kid in your neighborhood, someone in your family is involved in a strike, a reactionary political movement is on the rise that freaks you out, or you're just a crank who likes to read books and criticize things. In any case, the state of affairs isn't impenetrable, but it also isn't immediately transparent to your everyday consciousness.

Notice this has less to do with some kind of "false consciousness" or "incorrect way of living" (this is my reservation about a lot of essentialist currents of Marxism that see fetishism in terms of alienation from some "authentic" way of being), but rather with the fact that specific social arrangements generate specific ways of acting in accord with these arrangements, and specific forms of consciousness that naturalize these arrangements.

And while I'm admittedly not the world's biggest Gramsci expert, I find fetishism a far more necessary concept than "hegemony", because you need fetishism to explain the quasi-naturalistic way that social relationships and dominant ideas are reproduced, otherwise you end up with some kind of quasi-conspiracy theory of the ruling class consciously imposing its ideas upon society, which implies that they really know what's going on but are cynically trying to keep everyone in the dark.

"It is not enough that the conditions of labour are concentrated in a mass, in the shape of capital, at the one pole of society, while at the other are grouped masses of men, who have nothing to sell but their labour-power. Neither is it enough that they are compelled to sell it voluntarily. The advance of capitalist production develops a working class, which by education, tradition, habit, looks upon the conditions of that mode of production as self-evident laws of Nature. The organisation of the capitalist process of production, once fully developed, breaks down all resistance. The constant generation of a relative surplus-population keeps the law of supply and demand of labour, and therefore keeps wages, in a rut that corresponds with the wants of capital. The dull compulsion of economic relations completes the subjection of the labourer to the capitalist. Direct force, outside economic conditions, is of course still used, but only exceptionally. In the ordinary run of things, the labourer can be left to the “natural laws of production,” i.e., to his dependence on capital, a dependence springing from, and guaranteed in perpetuity by, the conditions of production themselves."

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hmmmmm....

Can't help but think you are shifting between two distinct arguments without quite acknowledging it.

Yes the "dull compulsion of economic relations" secures the reproduction of the capital relation. the choice is starvation (or reliance on the welfare state or criminality). this compulsion is active and effective whatever the consciousness of the worker by virtue of his structural separation from the means of subsistence.

Need to eat and pay rent, also like having a nice collection of records and books ---> I need to find a job.

doesn't logically or necessarily entail

You accept the preexisting system of social relations without giving them any thought at all

I don't think the concept of hegemony entails a conspiratorial view of ideology at all - it encourages us to actually analyse the way in which "the dominant ideas in any epoch" are actually formed, organised and institutionalised in a given context rather than treating them as an "automatic" effect. don't forget that also implies stujdying the way in which the capitalist class develops its self-conciousness. the whole "dominant ideology thesis" from a few years back actually questioned the extent to which the ruling class secures the active consent of the ruled

Angelus Novus

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

revol68

I think Zizek is pretty damn good on ideology

Yeah, my next response to Andy was going to include a quote from the first chapter of Sublime Object of Ideology. Gotta go dig it out of the stacks. Zizek was great before he became the Silvio Berlusconi of critical theory.

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dang! Thanks for the quotes Andy G. I'm afraid I I don't have the time to go into this the way that I want to so please tell me if i'm being incoherent, if something needs expanding etc or if i totally missed the point:

To recap I think there are two types of what Marx describes as fetishism. (there's a longer argument for this distinction here marxandphilosophy.org.uk/assets/files/society/.../schulz2011.pdf) The first which characterizes the value objectivity of the personified bearers of value are also described as the fetish character of these forms of value, relates to this aspect

Can't help but think you are shifting between two distinct arguments without quite acknowledging it.

Yes the "dull compulsion of economic relations" secures the reproduction of the capital relation. the choice is starvation (or reliance on the welfare state or criminality). this compulsion is active and effective whatever the consciousness of the worker by virtue of his structural separation from the means of subsistence.

because the structural separation, atomized production for exchange etc lead to money which possesses these fetish characteristics. (Sorry that's a terrible exposition). But i think we all more or less agree on that.

The second aspect is where people seem to have different interpretations. it is also more ambiguous and has some cross over with mystification. (This is especially true in the trinity formula which uses the terms mystified, mystical being and mystical character in what i argue are different ways--i think it was written prior to the 2nd edition of capital and thus the section of the fetish character of commodities-- but which i don't have time to substantiate here.) But i still don't think its a false consciousness or certainly not a necessary false consciousness per se.

The crux of why comes down to the part of the trinity formula Andy G quoted that discusses the agents of production in the religion of everyday life where I think a distinction is made between political economists who are prey to the naturalization fallacy their discipline is presupposed on and the agents of production who Marx only says it is natural for them to feel at home in the forms or revenue indicative of the trinity formula rent, wages, capital. I just take that to mean it seems like they are normal:

Nevertheless even the best spokesmen of classical economy remain more or less in the grip of the world of illusion which their criticism had dissolved, as cannot be otherwise from a bourgeois standpoint, and thus they all fall more or less into inconsistencies, half-truths and unsolved contradictions. On the other hand, it is just as natural for the actual agents of production to feel completely at home in these estranged and irrational forms of capital — interest, land — rent, labour — wages, since these are precisely the forms of illusion in which they move about and find their daily occupation.

I thought this notion of being at home is what Angelus was getting at with his exposition.

So I do think yr right Andy G that one doesn't necessarily entail the other. I guess I would also say i think the same is true of Marx and I don't take the types of statements that he is making to be necessary

Hope that made some sort of sense and wasn't just repeating what everyone else has said in a longer and more jumbled manner.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

cheers Hektor - have downloaded the paper you linked and will look over it at work. My boss is away this week so I'm managing to get through more reading than usual!

Angelus & revol68, curiosity has got the better of me and I've ordered "The Sublime Object of Ideology" off Amazon. may or may not have been tempted to "borrow" it from the local book store but they didn't have a copy :groucho:

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

My pleasure!

Must be nice having the boss away. Let me know if you want anymore reading material on the subject or anything else for that matter.

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

okay, so have read the Schulz paper. seems to distinguish more systematically than I did between the fetish-like powers of the commodity (a structural feature of capitalist relations of production) and fetishism i.e. the naturalisation of socio-historical features of capitalism into eternal features of the human condition (a feature of the consciousness of agents).

so far so good. what are the implications of drawing out this distinction though and what is the relationship between the two? IMHO it seems that the fetish like powers of the commodity aren't in dispute but more fetishism i.e the role of those powers and processes in the formation of ideologies.

found an interesting text by Milios that Angelus linked on a thread here yonks ago. more self-education in Marxist theory on the bosses time comin' right up!

Hektor Rotweiler

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

what are the implications of drawing out this distinction though and what is the relationship between the two? IMHO it seems that the fetish like powers of the commodity aren't in dispute but more fetishism i.e the role of those powers and processes in the formation of ideologies.

Great, were on the same page. As to your two questions, I think these are important, or at least interesting, topics for discussion. So let me throw some stuff out there:

In response to the first I would say the first implication in distinguishing the two is that there is not a necessary relation between the fetish like powers of the commodity and fetishism. In my view this diminishes the power of certain strands of ideology critique that interpret the two as integrated along the lines of something like socially necessary appearance or second nature or those who interpret this aspect of fetishism as false consciousness etc. I also think it points towards and draws out the characteristics of Marx's theory of value as a monetary theory of value and to the importance of relating subjectivity to this aspect of fetishism.

Now as to the second I think if we are making this distinction we need a firmer idea of what it entails and how it is generated and who falls prey to it. In my view most of the time Marx uses it in reference to political economy and political economists. He is more equivocal when it comes to other agents. I'd also say some of the arguments he offers for how this process of naturalization occurs are better than others and should be distinguished between theoretical beliefs that capitalism is natural and the impressions generated by being embedded in capitalism that it is normal and that we feel at home in it. but that ultimately as we discussed in reference to the Trinity Formula, these beliefs can be dispelled. I guess the question that raises is what does it mean to dispell these believes for it seems that something like ideology would entail that these beliefs are integral to capital reproducing itself. Whereas it seems to me that we are all aware that capitalism is not natural but that it reproduces itself anyway.

Hope that wasn't just repeating the obvious. Brain slightly fried.

Have you read this Milious users dot ntua.gr/jmilios/Milios-Marx-and-the-classics.pdf

andy g

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

just reading it now Hektor!

think we are on same page and thanks for the comments - always good to know my meanderings aren't completely bonkers!

ocelot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So I finished reading this on my hols. I have to say I enjoyed it immensely. It is short, succinct, to the point and hacks through the most rotten sacred cows of orthodox Marxism. I shall definitely recommend it as an introduction to Capital to any comrades who are interested in the topic. In general I think it will, over time, become the basis for a new orthodox reading of Capital that will replace the old orthodoxy as the numbers of the old men who cling to the faith of their youth are winnowed out by the attrition of time. Paleo-orthodoxy is dead! Long live neo-orthodoxy! Well... almost.

Let's start with the most obvious way in which Heinrich's neo-orthodoxy follows the same path of paleo-orthodoxy. If we can say that vulgar marxism is volume 1 marxism and orthodox marxism is volume 3 marxism (built on the foundations of volume 1), then Heinrich follows the old orthodoxy in dismissing volume 2, almost entirely, picking only the minimal bits necessary to make the "bridge" from volume 1 to volume 3. While I would mostly agree with Heinrich on dismissing the over-emphasis on Part III of vol 2 by the paleo-ortho obsession with finding the source for their Zusammenbruchstheorie (particularly Grossman - dear oh dear!), his skipping over most of Part I, by omitting entirely the consideration of the 2 cycles other than the M - C - M' one, is both problematic and possibly a symptom of a deeper issue with the whole "monetary value theory" shtick.

I do like the characterisation of the "substantialist" value theorists (and conventional political economists) as "pre-monetary value theory". I think that works well. However I'm not convinced that I have a symmetrical like for the converse "monetary theory of value". And I think his subsumption of the circuits of productive and commodity capital under that of the money capital circuit are a symptom of that. In fact I actually think its in direct contradiction to his treatment of volume 1 - i.e. taking the different form-determinations seriously. Marx takes the form-determinations of the three cycles equally seriously in vol 2 pt 1, and in fact, iirc, he actually indicates that the money capital circuit is the most fetishistic (and, en passant, I agree with andy g, the rigid emphasis on fetishism is also problematic) and that actually the circuit most conducive to demystifying the true nature of exploitation in the cycle of value-in-process is the productive capital cycle, and in fact, praises Quesnay's table economique precisely for that reason.

So, orthodox on the devalorisation of volume 2.

The next issue is, of course, the relative disappearance of class or class struggle as part of the dynamics of the system. In this sense, Heinrich still remains closer to the "objectivism" - to use Panzieri's term - of the old orthodoxy. Crises are still mainly due to the internal "objective" contradictions of the system itself, that appear independently of class struggle. The lack of any discussion around class formation, both technically and politically, with the over-emphasis on fetishisation (despite in one single location, the very grudging admission that maybe, just maybe, the class struggle might, somehow, have some relation to the possibilities of "penetrating"* the veil of fetishism), leave one with a complete lack of any possibility for strategy of "how to leave where we are and approach where we want to be", as the FARJ put it.

So yes, 2 cheers, or maybe even 2 & 1/2 cheers for the new orthodoxy. But I won't be relinquishing the tools and perspective of class composition and the associated processes of decomposition and recomposition, for the perspective outlined in this particular reading, any time soon.

I look forward to reading the translation of the Wissenschaft (presumably in a few years time) to inspect the "monetary theory of value" more closely, and see if my intuitions bear fruit.

But, overall, thank f*** for a marxism that is worthy of engaging with, even albeit critically, rather than the intellectual bankruptcy like the rotten old orthodoxy which is almost impossible to even find common ground to discuss anything with, so haunted is it by its religious obeisance to shibboleths like the FROP which have as much rationality as the mystery of the holy trinity.

* neo-orthodoxy is as manly as the old, apparently... ;)

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Good point on Volume 2, ocelot. It's quite surprising – given how tremendously important "form analysis" is to what Marx is doing in the first few chapters of the second volume – how little attention is paid to it from the perspective of the "neue Marx-Lektüre".

I agree about class composition as well. The trick seems to be to figure out how Marx's abstract categories of classes used in Capital can be used in empirical research. That seems to me to be one of the "loose ends" today.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

I agree about class composition as well. The trick seems to be to figure out how Marx's abstract categories of classes used in Capital can be used in empirical research. That seems to me to be one of the "loose ends" today.

I think the Open Marxism folks were promising on this score, but they seem to do very little empirical work these days.

The Political Marxism folks seemed to have picked up that slack.

I think it's roughly similar to the relationship between the Frankfurt School and Foucault: Foucault did all the empirical work on the constitution of modern subjectivity.

Nate

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

My copy still hasn't arrived so I still can't comment on the book. Just wanted to say that I think Marx's more empirical-ish chapters in v1 of Capital are under-rated.

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, and funnily enough, they're almost never discussed in the literature on "Marx's method".

Nate

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Agreed. I always find that really annoying. Likewise when people are like "Capital? It's all about this one theoretical category, that's the key. The rest is details." I think Marx does a fair few different things in that book, which is part of why it took him ages to write it.

Railyon

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

But, overall, thank f*** for a marxism that is worthy of engaging with, even albeit critically, rather than the intellectual bankruptcy like the rotten old orthodoxy which is almost impossible to even find common ground to discuss anything with, so haunted is it by its religious obeisance to shibboleths like the FROP which have as much rationality as the mystery of the holy trinity.

Are you referring to the Grossman-style breakdown theories or those using the FROP to develop theories of cyclical industrial crises in the vein of Mattick, Müller, Krüger etc? (Heinrich seems to be highly critical of the breakdown stuff as well)

I'd agree the former is not really worth thinking about, but the latter is, in my opinion, pretty solid and stands on empirical foundations (and usually firmly grounded in marxian value theory). At least they're faring a lot better than underconsumptionist or disproportionalist stuff.

Wouldn't call it old orthodoxy so I don't know if that was what you were thinking of, though of course it is an orthodoxy among the political economist marxist camp; unsurprisingly most of them have shit politics but I guess that's a different topic altogether...

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The "orthodoxy" of Grossman's account of crises would sure have been news to Grossman, who was outcast from the Marxist world largely because of that book. And I don't know why you (Ocelot) think he overfocused on Part III of Vol. 2. His whole argument comes from Vol. 3 of Capital. He did copy Bauer's reproduction tables, which indeed came from Vol. 2, but that wasn't really the focus of the argument. His focus was a reductio ad absurdum of of Bauer's claim that the capitalist system could reproduce itself indefinitely without crises.

ocelot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

ocelot

But, overall, thank f*** for a marxism that is worthy of engaging with, even albeit critically, rather than the intellectual bankruptcy like the rotten old orthodoxy which is almost impossible to even find common ground to discuss anything with, so haunted is it by its religious obeisance to shibboleths like the FROP which have as much rationality as the mystery of the holy trinity.

Are you referring to the Grossman-style breakdown theories or those using the FROP to develop theories of cyclical industrial crises in the vein of Mattick, Müller, Krüger etc? (Heinrich seems to be highly critical of the breakdown stuff as well)

Ah. No, I meant as the deus ex machina that's going to bring about the final [s]countdown[/s] breakdown. Of course all the true believers always insist that naturally they don't believe the TRPF really means that anything happens automatically and of course class struggle will be involved... usually just before they show you a big graph of the last 120/90/70 years with a downward sloping line just about to hit the x axis on the right-hand side, any day now... (I always have to suppress the urge to ask "are we nearly there yet?" in that little-kid-in-the-back-of-the-car voice).

But as a short or medium tendency contributing to periodic crises to re-establish profitability by forcing "market corrections" that write-down unsustainable capital, I don't have a particular problem with it. I think the epochal crises have more to do with the narrative of the development of the world market, but anyway...

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

you are right to question the idea that Grossman based his arguments on vol 2, mikus, but ocelot is surely only repeating a commonly held view on the under-appreciation of vol 2. I have been looking at Harvey's new seminars on vols 2 & 3 and he makes the same point. from personal experience before I actually read vol 2 I heard precious little about its content outside the Luxemburg v Bukharin spat on the economic basis of imperialism. but enough of that, wouldn't want to resurrect any rotting sacred cows...... ;)

S. Artesian

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Volume 1 as "vulgar Marxism" ? That's one I haven't heard before. It is the single volume that Marx did complete and see published in his lifetime. Would be interested in reading more about what constitutes the "vulgarity" in volume 1 itself, and how that vulgarity conflicts with a) what the versions of Vol 3 edited by others, present "non-vulgarly" and b) where the vulgarity conflicts with Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864.

And actually, the modern shibboleth these days is the tendency of calling the tendency of the ROP to fall a shibboleth.

So we have a version of Marxism that regards vol 1 as "vulgar," vol 2 as essentially of little value, and volume 3 as hamstrung by the "shibboleth" of the tendency of the ROP to decline. In its stead, we get a Marxism where there is no internal limit to valorization; no necessity, based on the organization of social production itself, for proletarian revolution, and a characterization of the international functioning of capital that is, to say the least, highly problematic.

Don't count too much on the rate of attrition aiding your "new orthodoxy." Sounds like a retread from the days of my youth, you know, when we had all those beatific spirits who were going to change the world just be living differently and outliving everyone else. Valorization took care of them, didn't it?

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

think you are misinterpreting ocelot's point, S Artesian. I think the idea is that each "marxism" rested on and emphasized a mis-reading of the respective volumes : "substantialist" theories of value based on a historical reading of vol 1 coupled with fatalism borne of the chapter on the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation; theories of collapse based on a naive reading of vol 3 etc. that's how I took it anyway....

am just in the process of reading Karl Marx and the Classics by John Milios (among others), someone regarded as a co-thinker of Heinrich, I think Angelus has said. Has the advantage of not being an intro so is more substantial in its presentation. Not made my mind up yet but an interesting read

Angelus linked Milios' website if anyone fancies a look

ocelot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Volume 1 as "vulgar Marxism" ? That's one I haven't heard before. It is the single volume that Marx did complete and see published in his lifetime. Would be interested in reading more about what constitutes the "vulgarity" in volume 1 itself, and how that vulgarity conflicts with a) what the versions of Vol 3 edited by others, present "non-vulgarly" and b) where the vulgarity conflicts with Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864.

No. The vulgarity is in the people who read volume1 and take it to be the whole of Marxism, in practice, if not in theory. That is, they argue as if commodities traded at their values, there was no prices of production or equalisation of the rate of profit, etc. The idea is hardly a new one (see David Harvey's lectures on Capital) so if you haven't heard it before it's not because it hasn't been part of the general discourse for a good while.

S. Artesian

And actually, the modern shibboleth these days is the tendency of calling the tendency of the ROP to fall a shibboleth.

Keep the faith! :D

S. Artesian

In its stead, we get a Marxism where there is no internal limit to valorization;

I waited to challenge this one until I had read the book completely. But as I suspected, your reading here is imo wrong, for the reasons already given by one of the posters above. The fact that capital accepts no limits to its boundless drive for self-valorisation is a feature that creates crisis, not one that averts it. Consider the original Bernsteinian heresy (against which all orthodox Krisentheorie was constructed) - his basic line was that Capital can contine to grow sustainably, delivering ever increasing material benefits to workers in the process (perhaps with the conditionality of organising a strong social-democratic party to assure w/c gains) - essentially the conventional, reformist and green programmes today. But what does "sustainability" actually mean? It means "within limits". That's precisely why recognising that the blind, impersonal drive of capital that takes on all limits as simply obstacles to be overcome (regardless of the non-monetary costs in human, envrionmental or social destruction), is to recognise the basic utopianism of any reformist programme for a "sustainable capitalism". You have it upside down.

S. Artesian

no necessity, based on the organization of social production itself, for proletarian revolution,

Depends how you understand "necessity". If you are referring to some realm of "objectivity" that trancends human need/desire, then for me your assertion makes no parseable sense. If OTOH you mean "necessary" relative to human desire for freedom, for life, etc, then we have no disagreement, other than the adviseability of using such ambigous language rather than relating revolution to human need explicitly.

S. Artesian

and a characterization of the international functioning of capital that is, to say the least, highly problematic.

Heinrich can only write an introduction to the 3 volumes of Capital that were actually produced. Given that Marx's work is essentially incomplete and the volumes on international trade and the world market and crisis were never written, then obviously any introduction to the first 3 volumes which don't deal properly with the international functioning of capital, is going to leave a certain lack in that department. Blame Marx for not finishing the job.

S. Artesian

Don't count too much on the rate of attrition aiding your "new orthodoxy." Sounds like a retread from the days of my youth, you know, when we had all those beatific spirits who were going to change the world just be living differently and outliving everyone else. Valorization took care of them, didn't it?

a) it's not "my" neo-orthodoxy - it's Heinrich's and his followers. I'm a libertarian communist, not a "Marxist" remember? b) I don't see the connection with utopianism, hippy or otherwise. Non sequiteur.

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

just to throw something out there....

I don't have a copy of the Intro in front of me but seem to remember that one of the areas I was bothered by was that on the "transformation problem". Accepting a monetary theory of value evidently impacts on how the value-price relationship is conceived. The two concepts operate on different levels of abstraction and any attempt to measure the difference between the two is mis-conceived since they are by definition incommensurable - if value can only ever be manifest and measurable as price there is no "distance" to measure. Milios argues that Marx's procedure in vol 3 where he introduces price of production and the general rate of profit is a regression from his disctinctive concept of value as a social relation of capitalist production to one of value as embodied labour. I understand there is a treatment of this in The Science of Value for all you German speakers!

Nowhere near through processing the implications of this - any thoughts?

Railyon

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

[...]

But as a short or medium tendency contributing to periodic crises to re-establish profitability by forcing "market corrections" that write-down unsustainable capital, I don't have a particular problem with it. I think the epochal crises have more to do with the narrative of the development of the world market, but anyway...

Well, I think it goes a bit deeper than that - essentially it's a manifestation of the 'fundamental contradictions between productive forces and production relations' (and thus the very crisis of the core determinations of capital - even if the FROP is not absolute, as in, irreversible, I think the cyclical crises are more than a mere tendency). Of course crises can also have other causes, wars for example (I think the cotton crisis in the states was an example of that, stemming from civil war?), but I think it's a vital tool in understanding the objective immanent limitations of capital, even if they 'resolve' themselves. Which in itself is an important point: that capitalism will not break down by itself. In that regard I'd go a bit further though and point to WWII and say, if capital can't (temporarily) self-correct itself through crises, it will do so through other means of devalorization - most infamously, war. Which of course does sound pretty messianic but I think it's not far off the mark...

But I digress. This is not about the FROP after all...

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

won't attempt to guess at what ocelot means by the "narrative of the development of the world market" but I share his misgivings about lots of presentations of the FROP.

I think FROP is attractive to many (including Marx) as it seems to tie the analysis of the capitalist mode of production to the theory of history. FROP is a uniquely capitalist expression of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production. Not necessarily problematic but a kind of self-confirming logic often kicks in : the general theory of historical materialism is correct; FROP is a particular instance of the dynamic HM posits; FROP is therefore true and denial of is tantamount to accepting capitalism in perpetuity. Critical scrutiny of the bases of FROP is somehow a sign of political opportunism of right deviation etc etc etc.

having said that FROP is hardly "mainstream" marxism any more as S Artesian points out

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

just to throw something out there....

I don't have a copy of the Intro in front of me but seem to remember that one of the areas I was bothered by was that on the "transformation problem". Accepting a monetary theory of value evidently impacts on how the value-price relationship is conceived. The two concepts operate on different levels of abstraction and any attempt to measure the difference between the two is mis-conceived since they are by definition incommensurable - if value can only ever be manifest and measurable as price there is no "distance" to measure.
[...]
Nowhere near through processing the implications of this - any thoughts?

That sounds about right. Why does it "bother" you? The idea of a transformation of value to production prices definitely implies that value can be measured independently of its phenomenal forms of manifestation.

BTW, one of the arguments of The Science of Value is that there are two discourses uneasily coexisting in Marx's mature economic work, a "classical" one and a "Marxian" one, and that Marx's break with classical political economy is incomplete and inconsistent. So the value-price transformation would be one of the Ricardian echoes according to this argument. There's a good talk by Heinrich kind of outlining this (not dealing specifically with the transformation problem though) available here.

Frankly I find this acknowledgment of inconsistencies in Marx's work far more honest than the patchwork attempts by the orthodoxy to hold onto the image of Marx The Infallible.

ocelot

In general I think it will, over time, become the basis for a new orthodox reading of Capital that will replace the old orthodoxy

Hah, well to be fair, the only place where it's managed to establish itself as something like an "orthodoxy" (I prefer "most commonly accepted consensus interpretation") is in Germany. Outside of Germany, value-form theory is still treated like a red-headed stepchild by Orthodox Marxists; pretty much the only people promoting an interest in value-form stuff, outside of a purely academic journal like Historical Materialism, are "libcommish" sort of journals like Endnotes and Aufheben, and guys like Bonefeld and Holloway. The book is selling very well, I'm told, but I'm not optimistic that any of the more orthodox Marxist journals will give it any kind of positive reception. I can recite in my sleep the litany of accusations that will appear in such outlets ("circulation theory of value", "rejection of the dialectic", "anti-Marxist", and, as S. Artesian has already given us a taste of, "denial of capitalism's instrinsic limits").

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, that is the line Milios takes. I suppose the "bother" is that I felt that in the Intro one of the persistent disputes with Marxism appeared to be cursorily dismissed.

I'm still reading Milios at the mo - TBH I only dipped into it to read the section on fetishism for our discussion earlier and then went back to the beginning - and my thoughts aren't settled on the issue. I have no problem with acknowledging inconsistencies in Marx I'm just uncertain of the knock-on implications of an unfamiliar interpretation. How does Heinrich conceptualise the formation of an average rate of profit then, without the usual "value redistributuion through the price mechanism" that us ortho's have always pointed to?

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

sorry - should have said am at work in open-plan office so can't really listen to the talk you linked!

Railyon

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

BTW, one of the arguments of The Science of Value is that there are two discourses uneasily coexisting in Marx's mature economic work, a "classical" one and a "Marxian" one, and that Marx's break with classical political economy is incomplete and inconsistent. So the value-price transformation would be one of the Ricardian echoes according to this argument. There's a good talk by Heinrich kind of outlining this (not dealing specifically with the transformation problem though) available here.

Frankly I find this acknowledgment of inconsistencies in Marx's work far more honest than the patchwork attempts by the orthodoxy to hold onto the image of Marx The Infallible.

Don't know whether I'd call that an inconsistency actually. I think Krüger makes the argument that the transformation problem is pretty much a non-problem, in the sense that it may not be a good tool for predicting the movements of capital, but that at the end of an industrial cycle these transformations and movements become empirically verifiable. I think this gels well with his conception of socially necessary labor time as being secondarily determined by actual valorization through the market (which means that socially necessary labor time is not only determined by competition by ways of increased productivity but also by an empirical post festum inquiry of actual sales: which objectified abstract labor actually counted as socially necessary - in short, only sold commodities count as socially necessary if I understood his point right)

He deals with the transformation problem in his Allgemeine Theorie but I haven't gotten to that part yet so I may be misrepresenting his argument.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Railyon

Don't know whether I'd call that an inconsistency actually. I think Krüger makes the argument that the transformation problem is pretty much a non-problem

I should emphasize, from Heinrich's perspective, the inconsistency does not arise from the fact that the "problem" is unsolved or that Marx does not succeed in solving it (this is basically the "inconsistency" argument that people like Kliman argue against); rather, the inconsistency consists in the fact that from the perspective of Marxian value theory, a quantitative "transformation" of value to price is meaningless. It presupposes there's a quantitatively measurable value "substance" that exists prior to its phenomenal manifestation in price. In other words, there is no transformation "problem" at all.

I think this gels well with his conception of socially necessary labor time as being secondarily determined by actual valorization through the market (which means that socially necessary labor time is not only determined by competition by ways of increased productivity but also by an empirical post festum inquiry of actual sales: which objectified abstract labor actually counted as socially necessary - in short, only sold commodities count as socially necessary if I understood his point right)

Heinrich argues the same thing. In fact, he emphasizes that this aspect of socially necessary labor (that the commodity actually meets a monetary demand) is key, yet neglected in traditional orthodoxy.

Felix Frost

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

How does Heinrich conceptualise the formation of an average rate of profit then, without the usual "value redistributuion through the price mechanism" that us ortho's have always pointed to?

I think you've got that backwards: It's the formation of an average rate of profit that explains the value redistribution, not the other way around.

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

hmmm.... (he says with a constipated expression on his face)

so, the argument goes like this, then (?):

as values are not determined independently of the actual process of exchange there can be no measurable "divergence" of price and value

there is therefore no need to argue about the redistribution of value between sectors of the economy as, by definition, commodities cannot exchange at anything other than their price, which is the form of appearance of their value

the transformation problem is then only a manifestation of the tension between monetary and pre-monetary theories of value that is found in Marx

the movement of capital between branches of production effects movements in price and results in the tendency towards a general rate of profit. the fall in prices in sectors from which capital has moved is itself a decrease in the value of the products of that sector, an increase that is not related to any change in productive technique. to equate decreased utilisation of concrete labour in a given production process with decreased commodity value is "substantialist" as their is no way of relating concrete to abstract labour except through price formation.

sorry to harp on - just trying to get things straight in my head....

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

cross of posts with Felix....... lightbulb may be flickering into life above my head...

or maybe not. accepted, wording of earlier post was dodgy. yes, it is formation of the ARP that effects the transformation of value into price of production in vol 3. from Heinrich's angle same objection surely applies - there can be no "transfer" of value from sector A where it is produced to sector B where it is realised as value has no existence other than through its expression as price..?

I suppose I find it counter-intuitive to talk about the value of a commodity varying when its technical conditions of production don't, simply by means of capital movement. as I'm writing this i can see how much of a dinosaur this makes me sound!

S. Artesian

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

No. The vulgarity is in the people who read volume1 and take it to be the whole of Marxism, in practice, if not in theory. That is, they argue as if commodities traded at their values, there was no prices of production or equalisation of the rate of profit, etc. The idea is hardly a new one (see David Harvey's lectures on Capital) so if you haven't heard it before it's not because it hasn't been part of the general discourse for a good while.

Fair enough.

Ocelot

Keep the faith! :D

Not a question of faith. It can be verified. It is a tendency. It explains why what occurs, occurs, and does it much better than underconsumption explanations, theories of disproportion, etc. TFROP is not a "death sentence" for capitalism. There is no rate of profit below which capital cannot survive, reconstitute itself. There is however no decline in the rate of profit that the bourgeoisie can afford to ignore.

S. Artesian

In its stead, we get a Marxism where there is no internal limit to valorization;

Ocelot

I waited to challenge this one until I had read the book completely. But as I suspected, your reading here is imo wrong, for the reasons already given by one of the posters above. The fact that capital accepts no limits to its boundless drive for self-valorisation is a feature that creates crisis, not one that averts it. Consider the original Bernsteinian heresy (against which all orthodox Krisentheorie was constructed) - his basic line was that Capital can contine to grow sustainably, delivering ever increasing material benefits to workers in the process (perhaps with the conditionality of organising a strong social-democratic party to assure w/c gains) - essentially the conventional, reformist and green programmes today. But what does "sustainability" actually mean? It means "within limits". That's precisely why recognising that the blind, impersonal drive of capital that takes on all limits as simply obstacles to be overcome (regardless of the non-monetary costs in human, envrionmental or social destruction), is to recognise the basic utopianism of any reformist programme for a "sustainable capitalism". You have it upside down.

Maybe, been wrong before. But I don't agree that I have it upside down. It is the fact that each completion of a circuit creates value, that value has no shelf-life without reengaging labor power yet again to accrete more value, means that the process of accumulation becomes the barrier to accumulation and drives capital ever onward in its need for.... accumulation. "Growing sustainably" "material benefits to workers" aren't the issues one way or the other. IMO, Heinrich uses an argument of specificity re Marx's analysis of crisis to discount the "general" theory of the intrinsic limits to valorization in Capital, and that general theory is overproduction.

Heinrich says [p 173]

So capitalist production and capitalist consumption are not just differently determined. Rather their determining factors are downright antagonistic: a potentially unlimited production confronts a limited consumption (limited not in terms of human needs and desires but by the logic of valorization). The consequence is a tendency toward the overproduction of commodities (overproduction relative to buying power) and the over-accumulation of capital (accumulated capital that either cannot be valorized at all, or only very poorly), which ultimately leads to crisis:...

The problem here is that Heinrich first distinguishes the overproduction of commodities from the overproduction of capital, which jarred my my memory enough to recall Lenin's similar, and equally specious, distinction between the export of commodities, and the export of capital in Imperialism. Think about it, Marx starts with the commodity as the "cell," the "soul," the embodiment of capital; he shows that the production of and for value requires the organization of the means of production as values, as elements absorbing unpaid labor, as commodities, and yet somehow we're supposed to derive a distinction, a separation, in the overproduction of of commodities and the overproduction of capital.

I think if there's any "unified field theory aspect" to Marx's analysis of capital, and to overproduction which is the sin qua non of the intrinsic limits to valorization, it's the fact, or the moment, where the analysis of commodities as individual vectors, elements, gives way, to the all commodities as the "representatives" of capital.

Ocelot

S. Artesian

no necessity, based on the organization of social production itself, for proletarian revolution,

Depends how you understand "necessity". If you are referring to some realm of "objectivity" that trancends human need/desire, then for me your assertion makes no parseable sense. If OTOH you mean "necessary" relative to human desire for freedom, for life, etc, then we have no disagreement, other than the adviseability of using such ambigous language rather than relating revolution to human need explicitly.

Nothing in Capital transcends human need. It's all about the social expression, organization, mediation of human need, that need being at root the need of and for the labor process. There is no telos to history, but there certainly is a telos to human labor. However, once the mediation, that social mechanism of appropriation, it takes on a life of its own, like my favorite line from Frankenstein's Monster: "You are my creator, but I am your master. You must obey!"

So regardless of the desire for freedom, for life, we have a social appropriation of labor that creates, inherently, and repeatedly, obstacles to its own aggrandizement of that social labor. That's what Marx refers to, and repeatedly, and never abandons IMO, the conflict between means and relations of production. At core, in capitalism, it is the conflict between the labor process and the valorization process. It is expressed as declining profitability, overproduction.

Ocelot

S. Artesian

and a characterization of the international functioning of capital that is, to say the least, highly problematic.

Heinrich can only write an introduction to the 3 volumes of Capital that were actually produced. Given that Marx's work is essentially incomplete and the volumes on international trade and the world market and crisis were never written, then obviously any introduction to the first 3 volumes which don't deal properly with the international functioning of capital, is going to leave a certain lack in that department. Blame Marx for not finishing the job.

Come on, Heinrich's providing his own interpretation to support his own position. Like I said, nobody ever writes just an introduction to Marx. Everybody's got a horse in this race. I think Heinrich's "position" is.......spotty.

Ocelot

[ not "my" neo-orthodoxy - it's Heinrich's and his followers. I'm a libertarian communist, not a "Marxist" remember? b) I don't see the connection with utopianism, hippy or otherwise. Non sequiteur.

[/quote]

OK, libertarian communist. But don't count on people dying as weakening any of those aspects of Marxism, or Marxists, that you find vulgar or orthodox. Dying does not change those aspects, at least not enough. Reminds me of a friend of mine who argued that the collapse of the fSU had a benefit to the working class in that it "cleared" the field of the mythology of Stalinism as socialism. Doesn't work that way. The defeat to the workers of the fSU, the decline in living standards, the destruction of productive potential is a material condition that far outweighs any "ideological benefit." People dying doesn't change much, because usually it's the "wrong" people dying.

ocelot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

andy g

so, the argument goes like this, then (?):

as values are not determined independently of the actual process of exchange there can be no measurable "divergence" of price and value

there is therefore no need to argue about the redistribution of value between sectors of the economy as, by definition, commodities cannot exchange at anything other than their price, which is the form of appearance of their value

the transformation problem is then only a manifestation of the tension between monetary and pre-monetary theories of value that is found in Marx

Well, that's how Heinrich makes it appear in this brief treatment. On a technical level you could say the transformation problem could be seen as either Marx's erroneous maths, or, as Heinrich asserts, as his category error in mixing pre-monetarist conception of pre-circulation value as socially necessary labour time. (In passing, I'm actually still not 100% sure about the contention that because socially necessary labour time is only established a postieri through exchange, therefore it can't conceptually exist distinct from the sale price value at all, at any stage).

But on a more general level, imo, the transformation problem reflects the general problem of how the labour theory of value is compatible with the empirical inversion of the relation between local value composition of capital and local profitability. So I don't think it goes away quite so easily without an understanding of the actual mechanisms of the establishment of the ARP.

My problem with Heinrich's account (of the establishment of the ARP) is that it is very similar to (or just is) a conventional economics account of price equilibrium via supply and demand. My problems are two-fold. First of all the account is presented in the manner of conventional economics (i.e. as a "just so story"). But secondly, because no account is taken of how equalisation through the price mechanism and supply and demand affects the proportions of goods produced. Further that the mechanism for commensuration different capitals is presupposed, and thus rendered invisible to the process.

I note the latter in contrast to Bryan & Rafferty's assertion (in "Capitalism with Derivatives") that in fact in the period between the Bubble Act of 1720 to the Joint Stock Companies Act of 1844 - a period that corresponds roughly with the relative eclipse of mercantilism by the rise of industrial capitalism - that in fact no mechanism exists for the commensuration of the profits of different capitals, so that the ARP is a purely statistical concept at this stage, and in fact different companies actually are making different rates of profit. It's only with the (re)introduction of the stock market that the rates of profit between different capitals can be commensurated and capital can flow freely between them. Heinrich does touch on this when he mentions the need for a credit system for the flow of capital and the establishment of the ARP, but he doesn't differentiate between bank credit available to sole trader industrialists (or partnerships) in the early period, and the mechanism of equity investment in the post-1844 period. Also he makes no note of the potential for the valorisation of titular capital (what he refers to, in the orthodox, imo misleading, terminology of "ficticious capital") to be part of the mechanism for the establishment of the ARP. This is a lack imo.

Further, I can't help a lurking feeling that Heinrich's account may leave value theory slightly more open to Joan Robinson's "what's the point?" critique.

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

Further, I can't help a lurking feeling that Heinrich's account may leave value theory slightly more open to Joan Robinson's "what's the point?" critique.

Exactly! My main problem with the particular line of the neue Marx-Lektüre represented by Heinrich is that it seems to completely omit the quantitative aspects of Marx's theory (strange, given that Heinrich is a trained mathematician). I think that it all boils down to the question: "Does (in theory) the sum of production prices equal the sum of values?" If the answer is "That is a meaningless question", then Marx's theory of value seems to be cut off from any empirical reference. Value becomes a purely instrumental concept at best, useful for analysis but without any objectivity.

I don't think it's true, as Angelus wrote above, that if you take Marx's brief account of the transformation seriously, you implicitly also say that values are measurable. Values of individual commodities are certainly not measurable, but that does not mean that value is without a quantitative dimension (albeit indeterminable in principle). And the "transformation" (which is not a mathematical operation but something which takes place in practice, just like the "transformation" of the value of labor power into wage) is the link between the quantitative dimension of value ("the magnitude of value", Wertgröße) and the production prices (which are, still, immeasurable and an abstraction used to explain market prices).

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

Further, I can't help a lurking feeling that Heinrich's account may leave value theory slightly more open to Joan Robinson's "what's the point?" critique.

I think there's only a "what's the point" effect if one approaches it primarily as a theory of price. Then I'd agree, it would be largely superfluous.

If it's a theory of historically specific social relationships and the allocation of social labor, then it's not superfluous at all, though it's admittedly outside of what most (all?) economists would consider the legitimate purview of economics.

I think Freddy Perlman's introduction to Rubin's Essays offers the best response to the economistic approach to value.

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ocelot

Further, I can't help a lurking feeling that Heinrich's account may leave value theory slightly more open to Joan Robinson's "what's the point?" critique.

Of course! If value can't be measured, or even discussed outside of its "appearance" as price, then why not just talk about price? The only reason seems to be so that we can return to some kind of vaguely Marx-influenced philosophy and gripe about how labor-time is "equalized" by prices, since prices differ only quantitatively. The fact that, say, the weights of commodities, the amount of carbon molecules contained therein, or how good of a mood the workers who produced the commodities in, are also "equalized" in this same way (since again, price distinguishes only quantitatively) seems to be lost on the "value is only measurable in price" people. The focus on labor being equalized is completely gratuitous.

ocelot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Jura, that's definitely part of it. Just because something is not quantifiable at the level of the particulate or component, does not follow that its quantifiability at the aggregate or emergent level is equally indeterminate, or non-operative.

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

If it's a theory of historically specific social relationships and the allocation of social labor, then it's not superfluous at all, though it's admittedly outside of what most (all?) economists would consider the legitimate purview of economics.

How in the world can a theory which denies that the actual labor performed in the process of production determines values (and ultimately prices) be a theory of the allocation of social labor! When you guys talk about "labor," you aren't talking at all about the labor that really exists when real people perform it, but some kind of pure phantom which is the result of commodities being exchanged.

It'd be better to call it a theory of the allocation of social non-labor. Or perhaps a theory of the allocation of... nothing at all.

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Again, the point is that though you use the word "labor", you're not talking about labor in the same sense as the rest of us at all. Assuming you're talking about anything at all (I'm still not convinced of this but that's another topic), you're talking about something that is completely different from, say, the actual activity that workers do (mining, producing t-shirts, sewing, waiting tables, whatever), and therefore has no actual relevance to the allocation of labor in that sense.

(And you do realize that the Fredy Perlman quote uses the dreaded "congealed" terminology, right?)

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mikus

but some kind of pure phantom which is the result of commodities being exchanged.

Nope. I know this "circulation theory of value" is the favored canard of the orthodox, but it's just not true, and Heinrich deals with it adequately:

"even the question as to whether value and the magnitude of value are determined in the sphere of production or in the sphere of circulation (the sphere of buying and selling) is the result of a fatal reduction. Value isn't just "there" after being "produced" someplace. In the case of a bread roll, one can at least pose the question (even if the answer is somewhat obvious) as to where it comes into existence -- in the bakery or in the act of purchase over the sales counter. But value isn't a thing like the bread roll, but rather a social relationship that appears as a tangible characteristic of a thing. The social relationship that is expressed in value and the magnitude of value is constituted in production and circulation, so that the "either/or" question is senseless."

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And that "social relationship" (fully) exists only after the product has been exchanged, correct?

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Great quote, but the problem (and I think Perlman was aware of this, as was Rubin whom he translated) is that you cannot conclusively show how social labor is regulated by socially necessary labor time unless you also show the link between individual (enterprise-level) agency and SNLT. That link is 1. the establishment of the average rate of profit through mechanisms of competition (the drive towards extra profit or whatever is the proper English translation) and credit etc., 2. production prices, 3. market prices. Without the link, value does not explain social labor at all, it can at best be a hypothesis.

But there is no practical measurement of value (approximations at best, if we are to trust Fred Moseley et al.), and, on top of that, you have to (or at least you should, according o Marx) manage to explain social labor from 1. - 3. without presupposing what you want to explain. I'm not sure if Marx entirely succeeded in that step. Perhaps it can't really be done and we either have to lower the methodological standards or content ourselves with not having a full, polished explanation. (But I guess even a 93% theory of value is better than Samuelson.)

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mikus

Again, the point is that though you use the word "labor", you're not talking about labor in the same sense as the rest of us at all. Assuming you're talking about anything at all (I'm still not convinced of this but that's another topic), you're talking about something that is completely different from, say, the actual activity that workers do (mining, producing t-shirts, sewing, waiting tables

In other words, you mean I'm making a distinction between "concrete" and "abstract" labor, like, say, Marx does?

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

mikus

Again, the point is that though you use the word "labor", you're not talking about labor in the same sense as the rest of us at all. Assuming you're talking about anything at all (I'm still not convinced of this but that's another topic), you're talking about something that is completely different from, say, the actual activity that workers do (mining, producing t-shirts, sewing, waiting tables

In other words, you mean I'm making a distinction between "concrete" and "abstract" labor, like, say, Marx does?

Marx says repeatedly that abstract and concrete labor are the same labor, so his "abstract labor" applies just as much to the actual concrete labor that people perform. He is just saying that it doesn't matter, in the determination of value, which labor they actually performed. (Hence, "human labor in the abstract.") So yes, his notion of social labor most certainly does have everything to do with the actual labor of actual people in an actual capitalist society.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mikus

And that "social relationship" (fully) exists only after the product has been exchanged, correct?

I'd say the social relationship exists since the expropriation of direct agricultural producers in England in the early modern period (and probably sporadically throughout history before then, but never as a dominant mode of production).

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ah, so the world "value" just refers to a historical social relationship, then, eh?

So there's no need for me to actually exchange the infamous coat for linen in order to actually have those commodities related to each other as values, I presume?

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mikus

Ah, so the world "value" just refers to a historical relationship, there's nothing quantitative to it at all then?

Of course there's a quantitative component to it, which is also dealt with by Heinrich, but since I've already had this very same argument with you 5 or 6 years ago, with neither of us changing the other's mind, I don't really see the point in re-hashing it a thousand times, having to dig up the same quotations from Marx, etc. That's boring.

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh Angelus, I'm sure we can make progress, I can save you yet! Help me help you, my friend!

All you need to do is give some straight answers instead of running all over the place to the beginning of the "early modern period" and back trying to avoid my inquiries.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mikus

Help me help you, my friend!

Find me some more translation work! :-D

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Unfortunately for you, there is nothing of value in German (besides Marx) to be translated into English. It's time to allocate your social labor to a new sphere.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mikus

Unfortunately for you, there is nothing of value

andy g

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

always nice to start off the weekend by re-igniting a shit storm!

I share ocelot's lingering feeling about the diminishing explanatory role of value as a concept in some of the arguments Heinrich uses - just wondered if it was me missing something.

sometimes with you guys these threads are a bit like an episode of the British TV show QI - a questions hangs in the air just waiting for someone to state the seemingly obvious only for a claxon to go off and them to be exposed as wrong!

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Someone should ask about the dictatorship of the proletariat and the transition period, there hasn't been a discussion on that for years!

mikus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

To be fair, that'd be better than the threads on nihilist communism, society of the spectacle, and insurrectionary anarchism.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Those threads could be potentially great if Noa would just show up to drop some Kautsky.

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

On the other hand, in a dictatorship of the proletariat thread, there's a great chance he'd do just that.

sabot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh God, please don't tempt anyone to do that.

Btw, looking forward to reviews from Nate/JK of Heinrich's book.

RedHughs

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jura

Great quote, but the problem (and I think Perlman was aware of this, as was Rubin whom he translated) is that you cannot conclusively show how social labor is regulated by socially necessary labor time unless you also show the link between individual (enterprise-level) agency and SNLT. That link is 1. the establishment of the average rate of profit through mechanisms of competition (the drive towards extra profit or whatever is the proper English translation) and credit etc., 2. production prices, 3. market prices. Without the link, value does not explain social labor at all, it can at best be a hypothesis.

But there is no practical measurement of value (approximations at best, if we are to trust Fred Moseley et al.), and, on top of that, you have to (or at least you should, according o Marx) manage to explain social labor from 1. - 3. without presupposing what you want to explain. I'm not sure if Marx entirely succeeded in that step. Perhaps it can't really be done and we either have to lower the methodological standards or content ourselves with not having a full, polished explanation. (But I guess even a 93% theory of value is better than Samuelson.)

I very much appreciate your first paragraph though I'm not sure that approximation is failure. Also, it seems like if one went through steps 1-3, one would be constructing a position which at least some conventional bourgeois economists would find interesting, "political economy" and "economics" would no longer have no points of intersection.

In your second paragraph, however, I don't how you can put this as "percentage of a correct theory". A line of reasoning where "most of the steps are correct" can result in complete nonsense.

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Red, the "93%" thing is an inside joke related to Ricardo's assertion that changes in the rate of profit (rise or fall in wages or profits) can influence relative prices by "at most" 7 %. Some historians thus refer to Ricardo as having a "93% labor theory of value".

Edit: What I meant is that even if Marxian theory cannot provide the full mechanism linking values and market prices (more precisely, cannot do so while staying true to the strict rules of what counts as an explanation that Marx subscribed to) it may still be a useful theory.

ocelot

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Shoulda known better than to mess with Dr. Capital. :D

RedHughs

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sure,

But it still seems like you're dismissing some serious problems with a joke...

Edit Obviously getting back to the theme that's already been tossed around for several pages; how is the theory useful if it doesn't link price and value.

Angelus Novus

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RedHughs

But it still seems like you're dismissing some serious problems with a joke...

Dude, land-grabbing is a serious problem. Climate change is a serious problem. What's happening to Greece right now is a serious problem. A potential defeat for the Chicago teachers strike would be a serious problem.

Questions concerning methodology in the critique of political economy: not a serious problem.

Kinda important, sure. "Serious" just sounds so portentous for something that will not directly impact the life of most people on this planet, not even the ones who eventually make a revolution.

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, I think Marx does provide the answer in Capital, it just isn't a completely worked out answer.

It also does not satisify some requirements other people may have (i.e. "magically compute value from this market price"), but, on the other hand, says why it can't be done. I also don't think Marx has fully followed his own prescriptions on what a theory should look like. Sometimes he has to invoke in an explanation something that has not been explained before, and stuff like that. Then again, maybe there is no other way to portray such a complex system in a linear text (most of which is largely a huge mess of manuscripts).

RedHughs

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Angelus Novus

RedHughs

But it still seems like you're dismissing some serious problems with a joke...

Dude, land-grabbing is a serious problem. Climate change is a serious problem. What's happening to Greece right now is a serious problem. A potential defeat for the Chicago teachers strike would be a serious problem.

Questions concerning methodology in the critique of political economy: not a serious problem.

Kinda important, sure. "Serious" just sounds so portentous for something that will not directly impact the life of most people on this planet, not even the ones who eventually make a revolution.

Yeah, and my use of the word "serious" was clearly the most serious problem of all, since required you to disengage from your important efforts on all these fronts. Why not polish your skill at snidely commenting on adjective choice on someone else. I'm certainly not serious enough for you.

S. Artesian

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's ok Red, don't get your knickers in a twist; the great Marxist commentator Doug Henwood will sort it all out for us.

Ogion

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RedHughs

But it still seems like you're dismissing some serious problems with a joke...

Aside from the question of them being "serious" or "important," you come across as implicitly saying we should be super-serious all of the time concerning theory and understanding how value functions. I think Marx made tons of inside jokes, sardonic comments, and whatnot throughout his works, and while, no, they're not essential, they at least show an element of fun which can be incredibly lacking in these discussions. I think it was the fantasy author Neil Gaiman (or maybe Terry Pratchett) who pointed out that the opposite of "funny" or "joking" novel isn't a "serious” novel, but just a "not funny” novel, and to some extent I think that can be true of theory as well.

Edit: Of course, I may just be misreading what you meant, and if I am, I apologize.

Dave B

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So there's no need for me to actually exchange the infamous coat for linen in order to actually have those commodities related to each other as values, I presume?

There is no need; in free access socialism 5 yards of Linen will contain the same amount of human effort (abstract labour), albeit of different ‘concrete’ types, as 1 coat.

The value of an artificial product, denominated in labour, is not dependent on exchange, it is a defined and predicated/premised intrinsic property of the material.

It becomes plain, that it is not the exchange of commodities which regulates the magnitude of their value; but, on the contrary, that it is the magnitude of their value which controls their exchange proportions.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm

In fact saying that its ‘value’, or the amount of effort required to make it, is an intrinsic property of ‘it’ is an under statement as;

products ARE labour

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch12.htm

Gabrielle Deville’s Das Capital for dummies which he wrote with the encouragement of Marx and completed in 1883 will soon be digitalised online in English.

It is a reasonable proposition I think to presume that it would have been a fair reflection of Karl’s ‘understanding’.

He goes off on his own tangent occasionally and puts his own ‘polictical’ spin on things, I think.

But it is fairly readable and includes ‘his’ take on various loose ends that inevitablely drop out of capital.

some of which are contained in the last few posts it seems, I have not been following this thread.

I quite liked Deville's book.

jura

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dave B

The value of an artificial product, denominated in labour, is not dependent on exchange, it is a defined and predicated/premised intrinsic property of the material.

Marx

The value of commodities is the very opposite of the coarse materiality of their substance, not an atom of matter enters into its composition. Turn and examine a single commodity, by itself, as we will, yet in so far as it remains an object of value, it seems impossible to grasp it.

Marx

So far no chemist has ever discovered exchange value either in a pearl or a diamond.

Worlds apart!

Nate

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

MARX POSTS ON LIBCOM?!?!

Railyon

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dave B

So there's no need for me to actually exchange the infamous coat for linen in order to actually have those commodities related to each other as values, I presume?

There is no need; in free access socialism 5 yards of Linen will contain the same amount of human effort (abstract labour), albeit of different ‘concrete’ types, as 1 coat.

The value of an artificial product, denominated in labour, is not dependent on exchange, it is a defined and predicated/premised intrinsic property of the material.

The general value form is the reduction of all kinds of actual labour to their common character of being human labour generally, of being the expenditure of human labour power.

The general value form, which represents all products of labour as mere congelations of undifferentiated human labour, shows by its very structure that it is the social resumé of the world of commodities. That form consequently makes it indisputably evident that in the world of commodities the character possessed by all labour of being human labour constitutes its specific social character.

Source: Also Capital Vol 1 Ch 1

Maybe Stalin was right and the law of value DOES operate under socialism. I thought to do away with it was the very point though?

Nate

9 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

My copy finally arrived today. Looking forward to reading it and will go back over this thread afterward.

petey

9 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

got mine yesterday.