Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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Dave B
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Oct 24 2012 20:24

Gabriel Deville's 1883 Intro to Capital tanslated into English by Robert Rives La Monte is now online at;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/deville/1883/peoples-marx/index.htm

there is a typo error of "1893" that will hopefully be corrected soon.

Engels commentated on it thus in 1884

Quote:
Deville’s [5] summary of Capital is good so far as the theoretical part is concerned but the descriptive part was done too cursorily and is almost unintelligible for anyone who does not know the original.

The book as a whole moreover is too bulky for a summary. Still I believe that if worked over a good thing could be made of it; and a summary of Capital is always useful in a country where it is difficult even to obtain the book.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/letters/84_03_06.htm

I suspect the opening part of Devilles summary covering the first chapters of das capital may be the most valuable part of the book.

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Railyon
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Oct 24 2012 21:39

Having a look at chapter 1, and it seems Deville either did not adequately grasp what Marx was trying to say or it's diluted to the point that it's inaccurate.

For example his analysis of the commodity is a bit shallow. He says:

Quote:
Destined by him who manufactures it to satisfy the needs or the convenience of others, any object whatsoever is turned over by the producer to him to whom it is useful, to the one who wishes to use it, in exchange for another object, and by that act it becomes a commodity.

That's not quite the social reality of the commodity in simple commodity circulation, let alone capitalism. By this definition two communes exchanging stuff would exchange commodities. In that regard it's quite shallow because the commodity as a socially specific medium of exchange rests upon concrete labor assuming the form of abstract labor as its social-general form, meaning that there is no direct social control of the distribution of labor across branches of production but that this social reproduction occurs by producing use-values for others that need to be alienated from oneself in order to acquire one's own means of subsistence through commodity exchange, and it is by this social practice that value comes into being as an objectified social relation manifest in the commodity as the contradiction between use-value and value (and failing to grasp this is exactly the reason so many wannabe-marxists dismiss the 'labor' theory of value).

Then again there are a few paragraphs where he seems to know what he's talking about, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt but still, people would do much better by reading Rubin's Essays. He's still the king of value theory, and his book is nearly 90 years old.

Sorry if that doesn't quite make that much sense after all since it goes a lot deeper than that (for example it is not yet adequately explained what the contradiction is all about) but my english marxist lingo is pretty poor, I'd do better if I wrote in German and were sober...

Zeronowhere
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Oct 25 2012 17:51
Railyon wrote:
That's not quite the social reality of the commodity in simple commodity circulation, let alone capitalism.

It's not entirely clear how your explanation contradicts what is quoted, care to clarify somewhat?

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Railyon
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Oct 25 2012 20:19
Zeronowhere wrote:
Railyon wrote:
That's not quite the social reality of the commodity in simple commodity circulation, let alone capitalism.

It's not entirely clear how your explanation contradicts what is quoted, care to clarify somewhat?

Well, when Marx examined the commodity in chapter 1 he did so with a specific social background in mind, at least that's how I perceived it; he implicitly assumes a simple commodity circulation in which products of labor generally assume the form of commodities.

Now Deville doesn't seem to make this assumption and thus his characterization of what makes a commodity seems a bit superficial to me. Commodity production has existed for a long time, but for most of its history as a niche filler (Heinrich himself used the example of the Ancient Greek and cheap vases for the masses). When we take a commodity as a non-general form of exchange existing besides a predominant mode (like feudalism or ancient slavery), Deville's description is trivial because it also abstracts from a specific context (and by the way, Marx didn't characterize the commodity like Deville did, he started right away with use value), but there's more strings attached when one considers simple commodity circulation. His first sentence is:

Quote:
The commodity, that is to say, an object that, instead of being consumed by the producer, is destined to be exchanged, to be sold, is the elementary form of the wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production reigns.

which does put it into perspective a bit but this explanation is still taking the cart-before-the-horse approach IMO. Being 'destined to be exchanged' is part of the commodity's nature, but that's in my opinion still over-simplified. I guess my main point of critique is that there is no explanation given of why products of labor generally (must) assume the commodity form in simple commodity circulation and its more concrete forms.

My explanation is not meant to contradict his, just attempting to show that his account lacks a certain depth and thus I'd prefer other introductions.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive to certain 'trigger words' so if you think that's the case here, dismiss my criticism.

Dave B
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Oct 26 2012 19:19

Deville is describing the 20 yards of linen—2 louis—1 coat ie from the beginning of Das Capital as ‘simple commodity production’; he just calls it the simple or ordinary circulation of commodities.

Here, as he clearly describes it I think, the simple commodity producer takes his product, a commodity eg linen, literally to market to sell in order to buy what he requires to consume.

Or in other words something;

‘destined to serve as a use-value, as a useful thing’

Or in other words he sells his Linen, obtains gold, and uses it to purchase a coat to consume.

And goes home, literally, satisfied.

He sells his own 'privately produced' product in order buy what he needs.

So it is, if you like C-M-C.

It is well covered in fact in contemporary 19th century literature including Gaskell, George Elliot and Thomas Hardy.

[Just as incidentally a worker like me takes his labour power to market to sell for gold in order to buy consumables to recharge his labour power.]

Neither are capitalists.

The capitalist goes to market with money to buy in order to sell later for more money than he originally turned up market with.

Or in other words generally;

M-C-M

Or in fact;

M-C-M`

M` being an incremental increase and greater than M, more money.

Thus the original (merchant) capitalist merely buys commodities cheap and sells dear, according to its own mechanisms.

The ‘modern’ capitalist proper ‘discovers’ in the commodity labour power, its magical potential self expanding property of it being able to generate, overall, more value in terms of commodities than what it ‘costs’.

And thus, as I interpret it, the merchant capitalists (commerce?) operating within a ‘framework’ of ‘simple commodity production” or ‘circulation’ transfers the learned and successful propensity to accumulate money (capital), by that mechanism, to the newly acquired revolutionary opportunity and mechanism , from their perspective, to buy a ‘new’ commodity labour power ‘cheap’ in order to sell what results from it ‘dear’, or for them, more.

Without obviously troubling themselves too much about exactly how it works.

Actually when I first read Capital, despite the fact that the M-C-M and C-M-C is much bandied about; I thought it was trivial and in a way as an ‘ordinary concatenation’, as Deville puts it .

But from a philosophical and logical perspective it is more subtle than I appreciated at the time.

But simple nevertheless, as all good ideas and ‘predicates’ are.

Anyway from Deville;

Quote:
The Simple Circulation of Commodities, and the Circulation of Money as Capital.

The circulation of commodities is the starting-point of capital. It appears only when the production of commodities and commerce have already attained a certain degree of development. The modern history of capital dates from the creation, in the 16th century, of a worldwide commerce and a world-wide market.

We have seen that the simplest form of the circulation of commodities is (20 yards of linen—2 louis—1 coat) or (commodity-money-commodity), the transformation of the commodity into money, and the re-transformation of the money into a commodity, or selling in order to buy.

But, by the side of this form, we find another altogether distinct from it (money-commodity-money), the transformation of money into a commodity, and the re-transformation of the commodity into money, or buying in order to sell. Every sum of money that goes through this circuit becomes capital.

It is well to remark here that this movement, buying to sell, is distinct from the ordinary form of the circulation of commodities only from the point of view of the person who conducts this movement, beginning and ending in money, i.e., the capitalist. In fact it is composed of two phases of the ordinary circulation, a purchase and a sale, separated from the phases that, usually, precede and follow them, and considered as constituting a complete operation. The first act or phase, the purchase, is a sale from the point of view of the person from whom the capitalist buys; the second phase, the sale, is a purchase from the point of view of the person to whom the capitalist sells. There is there nothing but the ordinary concatenation of the usual phases of circulation. Buying to sell, considered as a finished operation, differentiated from ordinary circulation, exists only from the point of view of the capitalist.

In each of these two circuits—(commodity-money-commodity) and (money-commodity-money) the same two material elements, commodity and money, confront each other. But, while the first circuit, the simple circulation of commodities, begins with a sale and ends with a purchase, the second, the circulation of money as capital, begins with a purchase and ends with a sale.

In the first form the money is in the end transformed into a commodity destined to serve as a use-value, as a useful thing. From the time of the purchase it moves always away from its starting-Point. It is spent once and for all. In the second, the money that the buyer throws into circulation, he means in the end to withdraw by acting as a seller. This money returning, as it does, to its starting-point, is, when it is in the first place thrown into circulation, simply advanced.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/deville/1883/peoples-marx/ch04.htm

Actually the simple commodity producer is quite capable of accumulating money (but perhaps not to be used as self expanding capital) by merely producing and taking to market more than what he requires.

And thus he returns from the market with his consumables and a little bit of money but not necessarily ‘working’ capital.

Thus Silas Marner acquires his little hoard of gold.

But only to look at he never used it to employ or exploit people or lend at interest.

S. Artesian
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Oct 26 2012 19:43

Marx is not, in chapter 1 (or any other chapter) describing simple commodity production. He is exploring the commodity as the vehicle, the mechanism, for capitalist wealth, that is to say capital accumulation, that is to say the accumulation of the means of production as values for the purposes of the further accumulation of value.

Whatever my other criticism's of Heinrich may be, in this aspect of Capital, Heinrich is absolutely clear and precise... and accurate.

The whole point, and I mean the whole point is that the "private produced" commodity is not privately produced, but is the result of a specific social organization of labor. It is privately owned, but socially produced.

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Railyon
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Oct 27 2012 15:02
S. Artesian wrote:
Marx is not, in chapter 1 (or any other chapter) describing simple commodity production.

Well, the essential relations described in chapter 1 would also work in simple commodity production, so I'm actually not sure it makes such a big difference. Value, commodity fetishism, alienation, all there. I think a point could be made that if one puts chapter 1 in the context of simple commodity production, the idea of market socialism or any such shenanigans also falls apart quite quickly (you'd be astonished to hear that some proponents of market socialism actually think of value as springing forth from capital, and not the other way around).

I think the important point though is that even if chapter 1 was about SCP, it's not because it existed historically but because of the level of abstraction he works on, a theoretical supposition as an important moment in capitalist reproduction from whence he starts to map out his broader categories like surplus value.

I'm not quite sure what the importance would be though. SCP is nonsense and will always be.

Dave B
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Oct 27 2012 20:43
Railyon wrote:
........... but still, people would do much better by reading Rubin's Essays. He's still the king of value theory, and his book is nearly 90 years old.

...

I. I. Rubin's Essays on Marx's Theory of Value Chapter Eight BASIC CHARACTERISTICS OF MARX'S THEORY OF VALUE

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For the time being we are concerned only with one basic type of production relation among people in a commodity economy, namely the relation among people as commodity producers who are separate and formally independent from each other. We know only that the cloth is produced by the commodity producers and is taken to the market to be exchanged or sold to other commodity producers. We are dealing with a society of commodity producers, with a so-called "simple commodity economy" as opposed to a more complex capitalist economy.

In conditions of a simple commodity economy the average prices of products are proportional to their labor value. In other words, value represents that average level around which market prices fluctuate and with which the prices would coincide if social labor were proportionally distributed among the various branches of production. Thus a state of equilibrium would be established among the branches of production.

The exchange of two different commodities according to their values corresponds to the state of equilibrium among two given branches of production. In this equilibrium, all transfer of labor from one branch to another comes to an end. But if this happens, then it is obvious that the exchange of two commodities according to their values equalizes the advantages for the commodity producers in both branches of production, and removes the motives for transfer from one branch to another. In the simple commodity economy, such an equalization of conditions of production in the various branches means that a determined quantity of labor used up by commodity producers in different spheres of the national economy furnishes each with a product of equal value. The value of commodities is directly proportional to the quantity of labor necessary for their production.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubin/value/ch08a.htm

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However, S. Frank does not ask what the content of the production expenditure is for the simple commodity producer, if it is not the labor spent on the production. For the simple commodity producer, the difference in the conditions of production in two different branches appear as different conditions for the engagement of labor in them. In a simple commodity economy, the exchange of 10 hours of labor in one branch of production, for example shoemaking, for the product of 8 hours of labor in another branch, for example clothing production, necessarily leads (if the shoemaker and clothesmaker are equally qualified) to different advantages of production in the two branches, and to the transfer of labor from shoemaking to clothing production.

Assuming complete mobility of labor in the commodity economy, every more or less significant difference in the advantage of production generates a tendency for the transfer of labor from the less advantageous branch of production to the more advantageous. This tendency remains until the less advantageous branch is confronted by a direct threat of economic collapse and finds it impossible to continue production because of unfavorable conditions for the sale of its products on the market.

In conditions of simple commodity production, equal advantage of production in different branches presupposes an exchange of commodities which is proportional to the quantities of labor expended on their production.

this whole chain of phenomena, which was not adequately examined by Marx's critics and was elucidated by Marx's theory of value, refers equally to a simple commodity economy and to a capitalist economy. But the quantitative side of value also interested Marx, if it was related to the function of value as regulator of the distribution of labor. The quantitative proportions in which things exchange are expressions of the law of proportional distribution of social labor. Labor value and price of production are different manifestations of the same law of distribution of labor in conditions of simple commodity production and in the capitalist society. [9] The equilibrium and the allocation of labor are the basis of value and its changes both in the simple commodity economy and in the capitalist economy. This is the meaning of Marx's theory of "labor" value

.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubin/value/ch11.htm

Quote:
However, Marx's analytical path was just the opposite. In the theory of value, when he explains the value of commodities produced by qualified labor, Marx analyzes the relations among people as commodity producers, or the simple commodity economy;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubin/value/ch15.htm

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Khawaga
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Oct 27 2012 20:51

simple = abstract; thus anything with the qualifier simple (such as commodity production) should be understood as a logical abstraction, not an actually existing economy (which would be qualified with 'complex', i.e. concrete).

Dave B
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Oct 27 2012 21:23
Quote:
This was also the case under simple commodity production, where we already find the guild policy, the separate policies of the different guilds, their mutual jealousies, their individual strivings for special advantages and a position superior to all the others.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1924/labour/ch03_a.htm

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, combined to transform the whole of production more and more into commodity production, and simple commodity production into capitalist production. The scattered small businesses of the peasants and handicraftsmen were henceforth gradually destroyed and supplanted by large scale capitalist concerns.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1903/economic/ch19.htm

Engels transhistorical theory of the law of value preface to volume III

Quote:
This makes clear, of course, why in the beginning of his first book Marx proceeds from simple commodity production (the ‘private labour’ of individual producers where the economic category of the wages or value that the labourer gets for a given labour time as yet, has no existence) as the historical premise, ultimately to arrive from this basis to capital — why he proceeds from the simple commodity (produced by the private labour of individual producers) instead of a logically and historically secondary form — from an already capitalistically modified commodity. To be sure, Fireman positively fails to see this.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/pref.htm

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That production for exchange and simple commodity production are evolving into capitalism is another phenomenon con firmed by millions and millions of daily economic observations in every village, in every trade, and in every handicraft.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/may/14.htm

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But Marx’s assumption is only a theoretical premise in order to simplify investigation. In reality, capitalist production is not the sole and completely dominant form of production, as everyone knows, and as Marx himself stresses in Capital. In reality, there are in all capitalist countries, even in those with the most developed large-scale industry, numerous artisan and peasant enterprises which are engaged in simple commodity production. In reality, alongside the old capitalist countries there are still those even in Europe where peasant and artisan production is still strongly predominant, like Russia, the Balkans, Scandinavia and Spain. And finally, there are huge continents besides capitalist Europe and North America, where capitalist production has only scattered roots, and apart from that the people of these continents have all sorts of economic systems, from the primitive Communist to the feudal, peasantry and artisan.

Not only do all these social and productive forms co-exist, and co-exist locally with capitalism, but there is a lively intercourse of a specific kind. Capitalist production as proper mass production depends on consumers from peasant and artisan strata in the old countries, and consumers from all countries; but for technical reasons, it cannot exist without the products of these strata and countries. So there must develop right from the start an exchange relationship between capitalist production and the non-capitalist milieu, where capital not only finds the possibility of realizing surplus value in hard cash for further capitalization, but also receives various commodities to extend production, and finally wins new proletarianized labour forces by disintegrating the non-capitalist forms of production.

This is only the bare economic content of the relationship. Its concrete design in reality forms the historic process of the development of capitalism on the world stage in all its colourful and moving variety.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1915/anti-critique/ch01.htm

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So far we have been presupposing simple commodity production and simple commodity exchange, and labour-power as a commodity does not yet exist for us.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1903/economic/ch01.htm

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these were the preliminary conditions which, after the fifteenth century in Western Europe, combined to transform the whole of production more and more into commodity production, and simple commodity production into capitalist production. The scattered small businesses of the peasants and handicraftsmen were henceforth gradually destroyed and supplanted by large scale capitalist concerns.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1903/economic/ch19.htm

Quote:
But if we find already under simple commodity production a whole series of wares, which ‘must pass through a series of economic factors, before reaching consumption’, then it is plainly erroneous to make this property the distinguishing feature of the next stage, the ‘political economy’, which Bücher himself once called ‘capitalist economy’. But indeed which other distinguishing feature can one devise in order to distinguish it from simple commodity production if, like Bücher, one refers for the characterization of the different modes of production, not to the totality of the process of production, but only to a small aspect of it, namely the circulation of the finished products?

The social role of the worker in the production process, his social claim to the means of production and products, appear unimportant in Bücher’s characterization of the different modes of production. He is only interested in this question: how do the finished products reach the hands of the consumers? It is characteristic that the contemporary bourgeois theory of economic development, like the bourgeois theory of value, the marginal utility theory [Grenznutzentheorie], avoids dealing with the process of production and by ‘economy’ understands only the circulation of finished goods.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1912/03/cap-ancient.html

Quote:
On the other hand, the same conditions which give rise to the basic condition of capitalist production, the existence of a class of wage-workers, facilitate the transition of all commodity production to capitalist commodity production. As capitalist production develops, it has a disintegrating, resolvent effect on all older forms of production, which, designed mostly to meet the direct needs of the producer, transform only the excess produced into commodities. …………….. But, secondly, wherever it takes root capitalist production destroys all forms of commodity production which are based either on the self-employment of the producers, or merely on the sale of the excess product as commodities. Capitalist production first makes the production of commodities general and then, by degrees, transforms all commodity production into capitalist commodity production

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885-c2/ch01.htm

7 Monopolization of the means of production by the capitalist class

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The mere existence of a commodity economy does not alone suffice to constitute capitalism. A commodity economy can exist although there are no capitalists; for instance, the economy in which the only producers are independent artisans. They produce for the market, they sell their products; thus these products are undoubtedly commodities, and the whole production is commodity production.

Nevertheless, this is not capitalist production; it is nothing more than simple commodity production. In order that a simple commodity economy can be transformed into capitalist production, it is necessary, on the one hand, that the means of production (tools, machinery, buildings, land, etc.) should become the private property of a comparatively limited class of wealthy capitalists; and, on the other, that there should ensue the ruin of most of the independent artisans and peasants and their conversion into wage workers

We have already seen that a simple commodity economy contains within itself the germs that will lead to the impoverishment of some and the enrichment of others. This is what has actually occurred. In all countries alike, most of the independent artisans and small masters have been ruined. The poorest were forced in the end to sell their tools; from 'masters' they became 'men' whose sole possession was a pair of hands. Those on the other hand who were richer, grew more wealthy still; they rebuilt their workshops on a more extensive scale, installed new machinery, began to employ more workpeople, became factory owners.

Little by little there passed into the hands of these wealthy persons all that was necessary for production: factory buildings, machinery, raw materials, warehouses and shops, dwelling houses, workshops, mines, railways, steamships, the land - in a word, all the means of production. All these means of production became the exclusive property of the capitalist class; they became, as the phrase runs, a 'monopoly' of the capitalist class.

THE SMALL GROUP OF THE WEALTHY OWNS EVERYTHING; THE HUGE MASSES OF THE POOR OWN NOTHING BUT THE HANDS WITH WHICH THEY WORK. THIS MONOPOLY OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION BY THE CAPITALIST CLASS IS THE SECOND LEADING CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM.

WE SEE, THEN, THAT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CAPITALIST ECONOMY AND THE SIMPLE COMMODITY ECONOMY CONSISTS IN THIS, THAT IN THE CAPITALIST ECONOMY LABOUR POWER ITSELF BECOMES A COMMODITY. THUS, THE THIRD CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM IS THE EXISTENCE OF WAGE LABOUR.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1920/abc/01.htm

Quote:
In simple commodity-economy price fluctuates around value as its centre. If too much of a given commodity is produced the price falls, a redistribution of labour power takes place in this production. If a small amount is produced the opposite takes place. Prices rise, labour power pours in and thus another redistribution of joint labour time takes place. In capitalist society the mechanism of fluctuation is more complex. Here prices fluctuate around the "cost of production", and not directly around value. The social interdependence of the different fractional parts of the socially divided labour, the objective connection between the subjectively independent commodity producers is fixed behind their back.

In simple commodity economy value is a "law of movement" directly apparent in prices. In capitalist society fluctuations of prices occur around "production prices", and from this point of view the law of value is converted into the law of the prices of production, which appears as the historical development of the law of value and can only be understood on the basis of the latter.

Marx showed that, as a result of this, prices in those sections of industry with a high composition of capital diverge above, and those with a low composition, below the value, and that prices do not fluctuate directly around value but around so-called production prices (the costs of production plus the average profit). Thus the law is here much more complex than in simple commodity economy. The superficial and directly empirical fact of the market price is explained by the prices of production, the latter by the average profit and the average profit by the organic composition of capital, which, in its turn, is explained by the whole sum of surplus value and the whole sum of capital.14)

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1933/teaching/3.htm

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The process of the production of capital is clearly nothing other than the process of capitalist production; in other words, of the production of commodities under conditions of capitalist production, not under conditions of simple commodity production. The production of capital is, therefore, a production of capitalistically produced commodities.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1924/impacck/ch03.htm

blah blah is mountains more

Although simple commodity circulation/economy/production was generally taken to mean artisan peasant production etc etc

It can be taken to mean, as a set, all non capitalist commodity production which did have diverse forms.

Ranging from the surplus labour and product of serf/slave labour to commodities produced to be sold by primitive communist societies.

Artisans like linen weavers and tailors just being a subset.

Angelus Novus
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Oct 27 2012 23:29

Quoting Engels and Kautsky to prove the existence of the concept of simple commodity production in the work of Marx.

Dave, you're almost a parody of an Orthodox Marxist. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were self-consciously trolling us, but no, that's really how you do!

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 01:02

We've been around this block a hundred times simply because Dave B. hasn't yet figured out how to cross the street.

Marx says:

Quote:
The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities," its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore being with the analysis of the commodity.

See? "capitalist mode of production" "an immense accumulation of commodities"? In this made up, non-existing world of 'simple commodity production' there is NO ACCUMULATION OF COMMODITIES AS CAPITAL. Get it? Marx analyzes the commodity not simple commodity production, because A) no such society organized around "simple" commodity production exists, or can exist since commodity production is production for exchange and b) because in the analysis of the commodities facets of existence, the facets of value, we will find the 'secret' to capitalist ACCUMULATION, and......the intrinsic limits to that accumulation.

It does not matter what Engels said, what Kautsky said, what Rubin said, what Rosa, Bukharin, Preobrazhensky said. Al that mattesr is what Marx said and what he demonstrated. He quite clearly draws the distinction between simple reproduction and expanded reproduction, but that is already based on capitalist ACCUMULATION.

Or as Casey Stengel said to the 1962 New York Mets....."Does anybody here know how to play this game?"

Dave B
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Oct 28 2012 07:56

There is no accumulation of capital in the first three chapters of capital where;

Quote:
Wages is a category that, as yet, has no existence at the present stage of our investigation

.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm

It begins with or 'proceeds from' an analysis of;

“simple circulation, C-M-C,”

The general formula of simple commodity circulation/production/economy.

Or in other words

Linen [C] –Money[M] – Linen [C]

And goes to capitalism in chapter IV to ;

M-C-M'

Which ;

Quote:
………is therefore in reality the general formula of capital as it appears prima facie within the sphere of circulation.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch04.htm

What we are being asked to believe is that the entire Marxist community from the late 19th century to the first halve of the twentieth fundamentally misunderstood the meaning of Das Capita, [with the possible exception of Stalin].

Only to have our eyes opened in the 1970’s by some bourgeois German professors.

And for those that believe simple commodity production never existed at all.

That those Marxists associated historically and geographically with backward economic systems in eastern Europe, like Rosa and Lenin for instance, observed ‘millions an millions of times’ an economic system ‘co-existing’ with capitalism that never was.

That in itself would be something worthy of analysis you would think.

Who are these German professors anyway; I really don’t know.

Some of them wouldn’t be ex Stasi state capitalist nomenclatura by any chance would they?

Dave B
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Oct 28 2012 08:31

Linen [C] –Money[M] –coat [C]

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Railyon
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Oct 28 2012 10:42
Khawaga wrote:
simple = abstract; thus anything with the qualifier simple (such as commodity production) should be understood as a logical abstraction, not an actually existing economy (which would be qualified with 'complex', i.e. concrete).

Yeah, I'd agree with that (so I'm not even sure what the relevance of an actually existing SCP would have to chapter 1's level of abstraction beyond an implication that SCP would lead to capitalism)

I think a distinction can be made between simple commodity production and simple commodity circulation, however; the latter makes no underlying statement as to how these commodities get produced, just that the commodity is the historically specific social mediator of production and distribution (very loosely spoken).

Edit: It seems there are two schools of thought represented here - the 'historical' and the 'logical' reading I remember them being called, that's quite interesting insofar as there is apparently quite a bit of hostility between them. Is that still the case outside the libcom microcosm?

Re Stalin and value; when he said the Law of Value still operated in the USSR, did he actually not know what value was all about or did he make the mistake of thinking value is compatible with socialism (since value is not the same as simple 'labor remuneration')? I think that's actually an interesting question but one that would make tankies flip tables because it implies flaws in their grand leader's thinking.

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Noa Rodman
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Oct 28 2012 12:39

Marx speaks of petty mode of production in the first volume, ch 32:

Quote:
... The private property of the labourer in his means of production is the foundation of petty industry, whether agricultural, manufacturing, or both; petty industry, again, is an essential condition for the development of social production and of the free individuality of the labourer himself. Of course, this petty mode of production exists also under slavery, serfdom, and other states of dependence. But it flourishes, it lets loose its whole energy, it attains its adequate classical form, only where the labourer is the private owner of his own means of labour set in action by himself: the peasant of the land which he cultivates, the artisan of the tool which he handles as a virtuoso. ...

So I reckon simple means small, or petty...

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 15:28

Marx talks of simple circulation; it is most definitely a demonstration, as Khawaga has correctly identified, an abstraction based on the nature of the commodity. It is most definitely not a definition, evaluation, positing of an historical epoch, a mode of production.

Petty industry existed; commodity production existed prior to capitalism; but the mode of production was not determined by commodity production.

We may reckon "petty production" means any thing we want it to mean... but that's not what Marx said, he said "petty industry." And more than that, in those conditions where petty industry does exist, it, by its very existence as petty industry, does not dominate, does not organize, the mode of production. Marx points this out exactly in the paragraph Noa produces to satisfy his own "reckoning":

Quote:
Of course, this petty mode of production exists also under slavery, serfdom, and other states of dependence. But it flourishes, it lets loose its whole energy, it attains its adequate classical form, only where the labourer is the private owner of his own means of labour set in action by himself: the peasant of the land which he cultivates, the artisan of the tool which he handles as a virtuoso. ...

At its best, it flourishes. But where does it dominate social production? Pre-conquest Mexico, you think? I don't. The Incas? Nope. Feudal France, Germany, Poland.... wait those are "states of dependence" . England? Not hardly. Where do the petty producers dominate the economy; dominate the society as an organized force? Where is this utopian of petty commodity producers? The Amana colonies in Iowa?

The city-states of Renaissance Italy? Catalonia? Egypt, pre-Ottoman? Egypt, Ottoman? Egypt under Muhammad 'Ali?

I just love Dave B.'s appeal to authority--- "are we to believe that the entire Marxist community from the late 19th century to the first half of the 20th misunderstood Capital?" And then, Dave B. cites Lenin, the guy who famously wrote in his notebooks that none of the Marxists have understood Marx. You cannot make this stuff up.

Well, as history made painfully clear to the most casual observer, indeed the overwhelming portion of that"Marxist community"-- most of whom subscribed to the "simple commodity production" theory or variations that claim capitalism developed "organically" from simple commodity production; who argued that value as the determining principle and law of pre-capitalist production-- did not in fact understand Marx.

This is not a battle of professors, where Dave B.'s instructors with their Ph.Ds; JDs, whateverDs are in combat with "German professors" and their whateverDs. It is in fact the conflict between the "historicist" interpretation of Capital-- one that, because it holds that the laws of capital somehow function detached from the class relations that define capital, inevitably lead to "misapprehension" of labor, the labor process, and the conflict between the labor process and the valorization process-- and the "logical" critique of capitalism which Marx presents as the immanent critique in Capital

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Khawaga
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Oct 28 2012 16:25
Noa Rodman wrote:
So I reckon simple means small, or petty...

Not at all. What Artesian said above. But in any case, Marx was pretty deliberate with the terms he chose. Simple and complex are Hegelian code words, just like how substance is an Aristotelean code word (meaning: Marx is never referring to actual matter, such as blood, sweat and tears when he writes 'the substance of labour'; he is dealing in metaphysics). So whenever the category simple is introduced Marx is signaling that he is dealing with an abstraction. Marx is very deliberate when he refers to petty production. I am pretty sure he would have connected the two if they were synonymous; remember that Marx almost always refer back to earlier parts of the text to remind the reader what he is dealing with so why not link petty production to where he refers to simple circulation or production?

If I remember correctly, in the part where Marx refers to petty production he is also arguing that a someone becomes a capitalist only when s/he advances money as capital over a certain quantitative threshold, so petty in this context could just mean that petty capitalists are too small to actually be capitalists. Still, I think S. Artesian's argument that

Quote:
in those conditions where petty industry does exist, it, by its very existence as petty industry, does not dominate, does not organize, the mode of production.

is the 'correct' understanding of petty.

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Oct 28 2012 16:41
Dave B wrote:
Who are these German professors anyway; I really don’t know.

Some of them wouldn’t be ex Stasi state capitalist nomenclatura by any chance would they?

Logical fallacy, but pretty funny. And in any case, the "german professor' I read is Karl Marx. You know, do an actual close reading of him (e.g. realizing that the value form is pretty important in the first chapter) rather than relying on 2nd International dogma.

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 16:51
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You know, do an actual close reading of him (e.g. realizing that the value form is pretty important in the first chapter) rather than relying on 2nd International dogma.

Word. Or as my good friend and comrade says: Read Capital. Then read it again. And then? Read it again.

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 17:00

Not to pull this thread into another direction, but this might be worth starting another thread:\

From Rosa's Anti-Critique:

Quote:
Capitalist production as proper mass production depends on consumers from peasant and artisan strata in the old countries, and consumers from all countries;

This, IMO, is so concise, condensed, and wrong-headed that it stands as its own critique [immanent critique of the Anti-Critique?]. Indeed, it shows that Rosa locates the conflict, the contradiction in capital not in the the organization of labor as wage-labor, but in the separation between production and consumption.

I've always that Rosa's analysis really is the first [at least the first I read] stab at disproportionality theory, and that disproportionality theory is nothing but underconsumption theory all dressed up in its left robes...

The best exposition of "disproportionality theory" that I've read is Maksakovsky's The Capitalist Cycle which is so good, I mean so good, you almost overlook the fact that what he is arguing is really underconsumptionism.

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Oct 28 2012 17:11
S. Artesian wrote:
Word. Or as my good friend and comrade says: Read Capital. Then read it again. And then? Read it again.

Not trying to derail the convo but I was thinking about taking on the great adventure that is Marx's Capital again. I've read the 3 volumes before, but felt little actually sank in and just wanted to finish it. So I wanted to read it again but do it right this time. Lately, I've been banging out the Grundrisse and was thinking about afterwards starting Hegel's Science of Logic (as recommended by the Grundrisse intro). Then move on to Capital while simutameously reading Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically/Heinrich's intro to Capital and following along with the D. Harvey lectures. Or is this all complete overkill? Any quick suggestions?

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Oct 28 2012 17:39

Seems a bit overkill. Grundrisse is a lot of "fun" to read, though I'd just start over on Capital Vol. 1 again and go from there. Read the Grundrisse afterwards.

Angelus Novus
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Oct 28 2012 18:05
sabot wrote:
and was thinking about afterwards starting Hegel's Science of Logic

Definitely overkill.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with reading Hegel if you're interested in Hegel, but it is emphatically not a prerequisite to reading Capital.

The notion that you have to read Hegel (and keep in mind, we're talking about a major philosopher who published works on everything from epistemology to legal theory to aesthetics, so the very term "reading Hegel" is kind of lacking in content) before reading Capital is a bad legacy of 1970s Marxism, based upon a passage in Lenin's Notebooks.

Honestly, if you follow this specious logic to its conclusion, you'll never get around to reading Capital, because before reading Hegel, you'll have to read Kant, but to really understand Kant, you should probably read the Rationalist philosophers (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), but then you should also read the empiricists like Hume that the Rationalists were responding to, and pretty soon you end up all the way back with the Pre-Socratics.

I mean, as an aspect of a good general humanities education, there's nothing wrong with aspiring to reading all that stuff, but if you're pursuing it just because you think it's obligatory to understanding Capital, you probably won't enjoy it.

P.S. agree with Khawaga on the Grundrisse. It's a preliminary notebook, never published in Marx's lifetime. Enjoyable to dip into, sheds light on some interesting aspects, but flawed in essential respects -- for example, no distinction between labor and labor-power -- and has been inflated by fanatics into some kind of "key" to understanding Capital.

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 18:20

Agree with previous comments on Grundrisse, although I think in general, Marx's Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864 are his most lyrical, incisive, even "poetic" presentations of the critique of capital.

Personally, I suggest reading A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy if somebody wants an "intro" to Capital. But it all boils down to reading Capital, then reading it again.

Re Hegel-- I recommend everybody and anybody read Marx, all of Marx before attempting the Science of Logic. Otherwise.....you might be reduced to tears. I know I sure was.

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Oct 28 2012 18:46
S. Artesian wrote:
Re Hegel-- I recommend everybody and anybody read Marx, all of Marx before attempting the Science of Logic. Otherwise.....you might be reduced to tears. I know I sure was.

Question. Is there anything we could take from Hegel's Logic that is not covered by Marx already (assuming one has concerned themselves with 'Marx's method' and all that a bit)?

Reading Dieter Wolf (who wrote a massively awesome book on value theory and the dialectic contradiction contained therein and thinks that contrary to the materialist dialectic employed in Capital, Hegel's dialectic is mystifying and irrational) got me interested in Hegel but when I see people pounding out stuff about the absolute spirit I'm having doubts about whether it would be any good. Kinda like looking for a needle in a haystack, massive amounts of words with little actual content.

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 20:25

Railyon--

All I can say is that I didn't read any Hegel, including the Phenomenology until I had read Capital, Grundrisse, A Contribution..., and think I'm better off for it. I didn't read Science of Logic until years after rereading Marx. And SOL [not to be confused with that other SOL, "shit out of luck"] brought me to tears, literally.

Do I think there's "value" to reading Hegel, after reading Marx? Yes. But the "value" is only "realized" through the critique of capitalism, so whereas I recommend unreservedly rereading Marx, I make no such recommendation re Hegel. Sorry to provide such an ambiguous answer, although maybe that's appropriate.

andy g
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Oct 28 2012 22:12

have always found Lenin's "as a consequence of the neglect of Hegel" remark thoroughly objectionable. mostly because it would imply I could never understand Marx!!!

Ditto to comments on there being no substitute for reading Marx when trying to understand him (doh!). Others I know have found Harvey's companion to Capital vol 1 helpful as they have the lectures on which the book is based.

No royal route to science though.... wink

S. Artesian
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Oct 28 2012 23:48

Well, there is no substitute for reading Marx.... as reading, or listening to, Harvey proves. Or as reading Lenin proves. Or as reading Rosa Luxemburg proves. Or as reading Lukacs proves. Or as reading Engels proves.

Certainly you can read introductions, explanations, etc etc from any number of sources, but how is one ever going to apprehend Marx's "immanent critique" without reading the immanent critique?

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Oct 29 2012 13:54

Thanks S. Artesian and others. I'll hold off on the grundrisse for now and just start from the beginning again of Capital and go from there. Although I'll still follow along with the Harvey lectures and possibly Reading Capital Politically.