Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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S. Artesian
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Aug 27 2012 15:15
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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:

Quote:

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.

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ocelot
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Aug 27 2012 16:34
S. Artesian wrote:
Quote:
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.

Quote:
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):

Quote:
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.

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Nate
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Aug 28 2012 21:20

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 wrote:
[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
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Aug 27 2012 17:39

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:

Quote:
"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:

Quote:
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

Quote:
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
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Aug 27 2012 17:55

Malva wrote:

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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
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Aug 27 2012 19:20

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
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Aug 27 2012 20:35

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
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Aug 28 2012 02:14

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

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

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Malva
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Aug 28 2012 06:34
Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.

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Aug 28 2012 10:39

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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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:
Quote:
"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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
4. This:
Quote:
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 wrote:
5. This
Quote:
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?

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ocelot
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Aug 28 2012 11:19
RedHughs wrote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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
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Aug 28 2012 12:21
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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
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Aug 28 2012 14:44

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 wrote:
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!

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Malva
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Aug 28 2012 14:50
Quote:
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
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Aug 28 2012 15:25

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:

Quote:
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.

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Aug 28 2012 16:20

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?

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Aug 28 2012 16:31
S. Artesian wrote:
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 wrote:
You state:

Quote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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 wrote:
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).

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Aug 28 2012 16:34
georgestapleton wrote:
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. grin

S. Artesian
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Aug 28 2012 17:38
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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.

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Felix Frost
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Aug 28 2012 21:38
S. Artesian wrote:
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:

Quote:
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
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Aug 28 2012 22:11

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:

Quote:
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
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Aug 28 2012 22:34

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

Quote:
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.

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Aug 29 2012 06:36

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
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Aug 29 2012 08:03

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

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Aug 29 2012 08:46

I'm fucked if I'm going to wade into this argument, but just to say I finished Heinrich's book (remember that? grin ) 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
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Aug 29 2012 09:01

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.

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the button
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Aug 29 2012 09:22
andy g wrote:
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 cool .

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 29 2012 09:49

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...

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Aug 29 2012 10:05
Joseph Kay wrote:
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 sad 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! grin

S. Artesian
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Aug 29 2012 14:27

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.