Heinrich's Intro to Capital

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rhh1
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Aug 30 2012 23:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

S. Artesian
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Aug 31 2012 03:07

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

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

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

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

andy g
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Aug 31 2012 12:01

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

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

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

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

or on page 173

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

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

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

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

All in all I thought it well worth a read!

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

Angelus Novus
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Aug 31 2012 20:08

I'm glad you liked the book, however:

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

Are you trying to make me cry angelic tears?! That's one of the parts of the book you're supposed to get the most out of!

Now I definitely have to say something about fetishism...although Hektor already anticipated much of it. If it weren't for all this damn work I have to do.

Hektor Rotweiler
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Aug 31 2012 21:02

please fill in the rest Angelus. Got plenty of work on myself.

Although I will add that the following from The Contribution seems like a succinct definition of the elements of fetishism that might induce a 'hallelujah' moment at least in the sense that it signals the constitution and constituent properties of our friend the general equivalent:

Quote:
"A social relation of production appears as something existing apart from individual human beings, and the determined relations into which they enter in the course of production in society appear as the specific properties of a thing - it is this perverted appearance, this prosaically real, and by no means imaginary, mystification that is characteristic of all forms of labour positing exchange-value."

If you got the time and the inkling Andy-- i'm curious to hear why there was no hallelujah moment and if you have dug up any of those passage where you think Marx is talking about socially necessary appearance.

andy g
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Aug 31 2012 21:06

I am a slacker and hence have nothing on - not literally obviously!

I am, however, slightly "tired and emotional" at the moment so perhaps best left until tomorrow! hic!

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jura
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Sep 1 2012 07:26

Perhaps what Andy meant was this:

andy g wrote:
I didn't get my "hallelujah" moment in the sections on the general equivalent form of value and why a money commodity isn't logically entailed by the LTV but that might just have been me.

I remember thinking that the part on the form of value was very good hallelujah-wise (but an even better take on this is in his other book on the first two chapters of Capital). However, if the bit in bold is the crux of the issue, I have to say I agree with you, Andy. Heinrich's argument about the money commodity not being a necessary component of Marx's theory of value has been sharply criticized in the literature, e. g. by Dieter Wolf. And I have to say the critique got me convinced that Heinrich is wrong, even though it of course doesn't solve the empirical problem of the nature of contemporary money. (To avoid any misunderstandings: Heinrich may well be right that there is no money commodity around today, but what we are dealing with here is a theoretical problem of consistency of Marx's theory. And in this respect I don't find his arguments very persuasive.)

andy g
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Sep 1 2012 08:33

Thanks Jura. I didn't express myself very well. My issue is with the sections on the money commodity rather that with the material on the form of value in the same chapter. Dry up your tears any Angelus? smile

I am a newbie when it comes to the German value-form tradition and repeatedly curse my inability to read German. Links to anything in English would be much appreciated if comrades can spare the time.

more on fetishism to follow when headache subsides a bit....

Angelus Novus
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Sep 1 2012 10:57

Ah, ok, yeah the money commodity observations take up about four paragraphs.

I thought you were talking about the whole chapter!

Never mind, then!

andy g
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Sep 2 2012 21:29

okay - hangover gone so back to commodity fetishism beardiest

trawling through Marx a search of passages supporting my argument that his theory of commodity fetishism involves the idea that capitalist social relations necessarily / automatically induce "false consciousness" in the agents embodying them has had mixed results

there are a number of passages in vol 3 that sorta support what I was saying

Quote:
If, as the reader will have realised to his great dismay, the analysis of the actual intrinsic relations of the capitalist process of production is a very complicated matter and very extensive; if it is a work of science to resolve the visible, merely external movement into the true intrinsic movement, it is self-evident that conceptions which arise about the laws of production in the minds of agents of capitalist production and circulation will diverge drastically from these real laws and will merely be the conscious expression of the visible movements. The conceptions of the merchant, stockbroker, and banker, are necessarily quite distorted. Those of the manufacturers are vitiated by the acts of circulation to which their capital is subject, and by the levelling of the general rate of profit. Competition likewise assumes a completely distorted role in their minds.. If the limits of value and surplus-value are given, it is easy to grasp how competition of capitals transforms values into prices of production and further into mercantile prices, and surplus-value into average profit.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch18.htm

and bits in the later sections

Quote:
Vulgar economy actually does no more than interpret, systematise and defend in doctrinaire fashion the conceptions of the agents of bourgeois production who are entrapped in bourgeois production relations.

It is the great merit of classical economy to have destroyed this false appearance and illusion, this mutual independence and ossification of the various social elements of wealth, this personification of things and conversion of production relations into entities, this religion of everyday life. It did so by reducing interest to a portion of profit, and rent to the surplus above average profit, so that both of them converge in surplus-value; and by representing the process of circulation as a mere metamorphosis of forms, and finally reducing value and surplus-value of commodities to labour in the direct production process. Nevertheless even the best spokesmen of classical economy remain more or less in the grip of the world of illusion which their criticism had dissolved, as cannot be otherwise from a bourgeois standpoint, and thus they all fall more or less into inconsistencies, half-truths and unsolved contradictions. On the other hand, it is just as natural for the actual agents of production to feel completely at home in these estranged and irrational forms of capital — interest, land — rent, labour — wages, since these are precisely the forms of illusion in which they move about and find their daily occupation. It is therefore just as natural that vulgar economy, which is no more than a didactic, more or less dogmatic, translation of everyday conceptions of the actual agents of production

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch48.htm

might be pushing it slightly but I think there is a visibly tendency to treating capitalist relations as almost permitting of only one interpretation, of “false/fetishised consciousness” automatically arising in the minds of capitalist and worker.

Could be me reading Marx through the prism of Lukacs though – lots of people I know think he is the alpha and omega for some reason. I don’t and hence am almost pre-disposed to treating Lukacsian motifs with hostility.

There are similar passages in Heinrich too

Quote:
Because value objectivity is a result of very specific behaviour by human beings, namely producing things privately and exchanging them, this correlation is not apparent to either spontaneous, everyday consciousness or to political economists…..in this respect both everyday consciousness and the science of economics remain imprisoned within this fetishism

(page 76)

Quote:
In bourgeois society, people’s spontaneous consciousness succumbs to the fetishism of the commodity and money

(page 78)

Which, admittedly is closely followed by

Quote:
one cannot make the claim that fetishism is in principle impenetrable

but there seems a contradiction here (?). and then there’s this

Quote:
that means that when people in bourgeois society, be they workers or capitalists, attempt to become clear about their interests, they initially do so within the fetishistic forms of thought and perception that dominate everyday consciousness

(page 195)

although, again, this is immediately followed with an assertion that “fetishism is not impenetrable”.

I think Terry Eagleton put it well In his book on Ideology

Quote:
“Capital” appears to argue that our perception (or misperception) of reality is somehow already immanent in reality itself; and this belief, that the real already contains the knowledge or mis-knowledge of itself, is arguably an empiricist doctrine. What it suppresses is precisely the business of what humans make, variably and conflictively, of these material mechanisms

(Ideology 1991, p 88)

Anyhow, that is more than enough from me!

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Sep 3 2012 08:56

The key quote in the above, imo, is:

"from a bourgeois standpoint"

i.e. that we are not in a universalist framework here, so there can be a fundamental asymmetry between the bourgeois and proletarian standpoints, as to the potential for de-fetishisation. In summary, the class interests of the bourgeois are not fundamentally at odds with fetishisation, so they are doomed to remain trapped within its horizon - even with the aid and support of science and study (which, incidentally gives the lie to the vulgar "consciousness from outside" model of the Kautsky quotes in WITBD - based as it is, on the positivist belief in power of science, in itself, to penetrate fetishism). Whereas proletarian consciousness may begin within the horizon of fetishism, but their fundamental class interests lead to conflicts and contradictions with it. Hence, through the practice and experience of class struggle, de-fetishisation (political recomposition) is a potential for the proletariat in a way it isn't for the bourgeoisie.

At least, that would be the immediately obvious interpretation. But then the "immediately obvious" interpretation may well be the fetishistic one? hand

andy g
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Sep 3 2012 09:31

blimey ocelot, don't bring WITBD into this! It's like in Ghostbusters - "never cross the streams!"

know where you are coming from but Marx does almost immediately go on to talk about "agents of production" in an unqualified way and details "labour" and "wages" as fetishised forms of appearance...?

I think the idea of perspectival knowledge is an interesting and important one but it is difficult to render a coherent version of it. Heinrich categorically denies an interpretation that gives the working class privileged access to the essential social relations underlying the fetishes - can't quote as don't have book to hand.

Eagleton's point remains, however - how can we say that agents' views or perceptions are somehow inscribed in the real? "spontaneous experience" surely always permits multiple interpretations?

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jura
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Sep 3 2012 12:31
Marx wrote:
This phenomenal form, which makes the actual relation invisible, and, indeed, shows the direct opposite of that relation, forms the basis of all the juridical notions of both labourer and capitalist, of all the mystifications of the capitalistic mode of production, of all its illusions as to liberty, of all the apologetic shifts of the vulgar economists.

I think the key to dispelling the fetish is scientific analysis of the kind which Marx undertakes; political economy came close (LTV in itself is a great achievement), but due to class interests soon became unable to pursue the investigation honestly and degenerated into vulgar economy.

I don't think there is much about the proletarian experience that could "automatically" (without exposure to existing theory or without some theorizing on the part of the worker herself) lead one to question fetishism.

andy g
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Sep 3 2012 12:52

thanks Jura - was sure there was a quote like that somewhere. where did you find it?

I think you are on the right lines but I would question what is left of the theory of fetishism. If it's just a question of class interest blinding the eyes of the capitalists the elaborate argument about the self mystifying nature of capitalist relations seems redundant...?

also, does this mean we accept a complete separation between ideology and commodity fetishism?

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jura
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Sep 3 2012 13:05

Sorry, the quote is from the chapter on Wage in Volume 1.

It's not about the class interest, though. Class interest can prevent you from pursuing an anti-fetishistic line of thought (like the theory of surplus-value) if its consequences threaten your class position. That is, in my view (and very crudely), the explanation of why political economy as a science virtually ceased to exist sometimes in the 1830s-40s and gave way to vulgar economy. But class interest in itself does not, I think, give anyone a privileged or unprivileged access to reality.

Angelus Novus
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Sep 3 2012 13:21
andy g wrote:
I think you are on the right lines but I would question what is left of the theory of fetishism. If it's just a question of class interest blinding the eyes of the capitalists the elaborate argument about the self mystifying nature of capitalist relations seems redundant...?

I think you're still seeing "fetishism" too much in terms of "false consciousness" and not enough in terms of people's activity and consciousness conforming to a specific arrangement of society.

When you're young, in secondary school, if you come from the working class, your parents remind you that soon it's time for you to either find a job or prepare for higher education or vocational training. You don't question the the background of this necessity; you accept it intuitively. Not because your parents told you, but because it also makes intuitive sense on the basis of the social context you're born into.

Need to eat and pay rent, also like having a nice collection of records and books ---> I need to find a job. You accept the preexisting system of social relations without giving them any thought at all. And in doing so, you also reproduce the system, because you actually do get a job, thus doing your own little part in helping to knit the fetishized fabric of society.

Is this state of affairs fundamentally impenetrable? Of course not. For whatever reason, you might get nudged into thinking about why things the way they are -- cops shoot a kid in your neighborhood, someone in your family is involved in a strike, a reactionary political movement is on the rise that freaks you out, or you're just a crank who likes to read books and criticize things. In any case, the state of affairs isn't impenetrable, but it also isn't immediately transparent to your everyday consciousness.

Notice this has less to do with some kind of "false consciousness" or "incorrect way of living" (this is my reservation about a lot of essentialist currents of Marxism that see fetishism in terms of alienation from some "authentic" way of being), but rather with the fact that specific social arrangements generate specific ways of acting in accord with these arrangements, and specific forms of consciousness that naturalize these arrangements.

And while I'm admittedly not the world's biggest Gramsci expert, I find fetishism a far more necessary concept than "hegemony", because you need fetishism to explain the quasi-naturalistic way that social relationships and dominant ideas are reproduced, otherwise you end up with some kind of quasi-conspiracy theory of the ruling class consciously imposing its ideas upon society, which implies that they really know what's going on but are cynically trying to keep everyone in the dark.

"It is not enough that the conditions of labour are concentrated in a mass, in the shape of capital, at the one pole of society, while at the other are grouped masses of men, who have nothing to sell but their labour-power. Neither is it enough that they are compelled to sell it voluntarily. The advance of capitalist production develops a working class, which by education, tradition, habit, looks upon the conditions of that mode of production as self-evident laws of Nature. The organisation of the capitalist process of production, once fully developed, breaks down all resistance. The constant generation of a relative surplus-population keeps the law of supply and demand of labour, and therefore keeps wages, in a rut that corresponds with the wants of capital. The dull compulsion of economic relations completes the subjection of the labourer to the capitalist. Direct force, outside economic conditions, is of course still used, but only exceptionally. In the ordinary run of things, the labourer can be left to the “natural laws of production,” i.e., to his dependence on capital, a dependence springing from, and guaranteed in perpetuity by, the conditions of production themselves."

andy g
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Sep 3 2012 13:51

Hmmmmm....

Can't help but think you are shifting between two distinct arguments without quite acknowledging it.

Yes the "dull compulsion of economic relations" secures the reproduction of the capital relation. the choice is starvation (or reliance on the welfare state or criminality). this compulsion is active and effective whatever the consciousness of the worker by virtue of his structural separation from the means of subsistence.

Quote:
Need to eat and pay rent, also like having a nice collection of records and books ---> I need to find a job.

doesn't logically or necessarily entail

Quote:
You accept the preexisting system of social relations without giving them any thought at all

I don't think the concept of hegemony entails a conspiratorial view of ideology at all - it encourages us to actually analyse the way in which "the dominant ideas in any epoch" are actually formed, organised and institutionalised in a given context rather than treating them as an "automatic" effect. don't forget that also implies stujdying the way in which the capitalist class develops its self-conciousness. the whole "dominant ideology thesis" from a few years back actually questioned the extent to which the ruling class secures the active consent of the ruled

Angelus Novus
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Sep 3 2012 15:02
revol68 wrote:
I think Zizek is pretty damn good on ideology

Yeah, my next response to Andy was going to include a quote from the first chapter of Sublime Object of Ideology. Gotta go dig it out of the stacks. Zizek was great before he became the Silvio Berlusconi of critical theory.

Hektor Rotweiler
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Sep 3 2012 20:57

Dang! Thanks for the quotes Andy G. I'm afraid I I don't have the time to go into this the way that I want to so please tell me if i'm being incoherent, if something needs expanding etc or if i totally missed the point:

To recap I think there are two types of what Marx describes as fetishism. (there's a longer argument for this distinction here marxandphilosophy.org.uk/assets/files/society/.../schulz2011.pdf) The first which characterizes the value objectivity of the personified bearers of value are also described as the fetish character of these forms of value, relates to this aspect

Quote:
Can't help but think you are shifting between two distinct arguments without quite acknowledging it.

Yes the "dull compulsion of economic relations" secures the reproduction of the capital relation. the choice is starvation (or reliance on the welfare state or criminality). this compulsion is active and effective whatever the consciousness of the worker by virtue of his structural separation from the means of subsistence.

because the structural separation, atomized production for exchange etc lead to money which possesses these fetish characteristics. (Sorry that's a terrible exposition). But i think we all more or less agree on that.

The second aspect is where people seem to have different interpretations. it is also more ambiguous and has some cross over with mystification. (This is especially true in the trinity formula which uses the terms mystified, mystical being and mystical character in what i argue are different ways--i think it was written prior to the 2nd edition of capital and thus the section of the fetish character of commodities-- but which i don't have time to substantiate here.) But i still don't think its a false consciousness or certainly not a necessary false consciousness per se.

The crux of why comes down to the part of the trinity formula Andy G quoted that discusses the agents of production in the religion of everyday life where I think a distinction is made between political economists who are prey to the naturalization fallacy their discipline is presupposed on and the agents of production who Marx only says it is natural for them to feel at home in the forms or revenue indicative of the trinity formula rent, wages, capital. I just take that to mean it seems like they are normal:

Quote:
Nevertheless even the best spokesmen of classical economy remain more or less in the grip of the world of illusion which their criticism had dissolved, as cannot be otherwise from a bourgeois standpoint, and thus they all fall more or less into inconsistencies, half-truths and unsolved contradictions. On the other hand, it is just as natural for the actual agents of production to feel completely at home in these estranged and irrational forms of capital — interest, land — rent, labour — wages, since these are precisely the forms of illusion in which they move about and find their daily occupation.

I thought this notion of being at home is what Angelus was getting at with his exposition.

So I do think yr right Andy G that one doesn't necessarily entail the other. I guess I would also say i think the same is true of Marx and I don't take the types of statements that he is making to be necessary

Hope that made some sort of sense and wasn't just repeating what everyone else has said in a longer and more jumbled manner.

andy g
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Sep 5 2012 18:10

cheers Hektor - have downloaded the paper you linked and will look over it at work. My boss is away this week so I'm managing to get through more reading than usual!

Angelus & revol68, curiosity has got the better of me and I've ordered "The Sublime Object of Ideology" off Amazon. may or may not have been tempted to "borrow" it from the local book store but they didn't have a copy groucho

Hektor Rotweiler
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Sep 5 2012 19:25

My pleasure!

Must be nice having the boss away. Let me know if you want anymore reading material on the subject or anything else for that matter.

andy g
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Sep 6 2012 13:17

okay, so have read the Schulz paper. seems to distinguish more systematically than I did between the fetish-like powers of the commodity (a structural feature of capitalist relations of production) and fetishism i.e. the naturalisation of socio-historical features of capitalism into eternal features of the human condition (a feature of the consciousness of agents).

so far so good. what are the implications of drawing out this distinction though and what is the relationship between the two? IMHO it seems that the fetish like powers of the commodity aren't in dispute but more fetishism i.e the role of those powers and processes in the formation of ideologies.

found an interesting text by Milios that Angelus linked on a thread here yonks ago. more self-education in Marxist theory on the bosses time comin' right up!

Hektor Rotweiler
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Sep 6 2012 15:56
Quote:
what are the implications of drawing out this distinction though and what is the relationship between the two? IMHO it seems that the fetish like powers of the commodity aren't in dispute but more fetishism i.e the role of those powers and processes in the formation of ideologies.

Great, were on the same page. As to your two questions, I think these are important, or at least interesting, topics for discussion. So let me throw some stuff out there:

In response to the first I would say the first implication in distinguishing the two is that there is not a necessary relation between the fetish like powers of the commodity and fetishism. In my view this diminishes the power of certain strands of ideology critique that interpret the two as integrated along the lines of something like socially necessary appearance or second nature or those who interpret this aspect of fetishism as false consciousness etc. I also think it points towards and draws out the characteristics of Marx's theory of value as a monetary theory of value and to the importance of relating subjectivity to this aspect of fetishism.

Now as to the second I think if we are making this distinction we need a firmer idea of what it entails and how it is generated and who falls prey to it. In my view most of the time Marx uses it in reference to political economy and political economists. He is more equivocal when it comes to other agents. I'd also say some of the arguments he offers for how this process of naturalization occurs are better than others and should be distinguished between theoretical beliefs that capitalism is natural and the impressions generated by being embedded in capitalism that it is normal and that we feel at home in it. but that ultimately as we discussed in reference to the Trinity Formula, these beliefs can be dispelled. I guess the question that raises is what does it mean to dispell these believes for it seems that something like ideology would entail that these beliefs are integral to capital reproducing itself. Whereas it seems to me that we are all aware that capitalism is not natural but that it reproduces itself anyway.

Hope that wasn't just repeating the obvious. Brain slightly fried.

Have you read this Milious users dot ntua.gr/jmilios/Milios-Marx-and-the-classics.pdf

andy g
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Sep 6 2012 19:44

just reading it now Hektor!

think we are on same page and thanks for the comments - always good to know my meanderings aren't completely bonkers!

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ocelot
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Sep 13 2012 16:54

So I finished reading this on my hols. I have to say I enjoyed it immensely. It is short, succinct, to the point and hacks through the most rotten sacred cows of orthodox Marxism. I shall definitely recommend it as an introduction to Capital to any comrades who are interested in the topic. In general I think it will, over time, become the basis for a new orthodox reading of Capital that will replace the old orthodoxy as the numbers of the old men who cling to the faith of their youth are winnowed out by the attrition of time. Paleo-orthodoxy is dead! Long live neo-orthodoxy! Well... almost.

Let's start with the most obvious way in which Heinrich's neo-orthodoxy follows the same path of paleo-orthodoxy. If we can say that vulgar marxism is volume 1 marxism and orthodox marxism is volume 3 marxism (built on the foundations of volume 1), then Heinrich follows the old orthodoxy in dismissing volume 2, almost entirely, picking only the minimal bits necessary to make the "bridge" from volume 1 to volume 3. While I would mostly agree with Heinrich on dismissing the over-emphasis on Part III of vol 2 by the paleo-ortho obsession with finding the source for their Zusammenbruchstheorie (particularly Grossman - dear oh dear!), his skipping over most of Part I, by omitting entirely the consideration of the 2 cycles other than the M - C - M' one, is both problematic and possibly a symptom of a deeper issue with the whole "monetary value theory" shtick.

I do like the characterisation of the "substantialist" value theorists (and conventional political economists) as "pre-monetary value theory". I think that works well. However I'm not convinced that I have a symmetrical like for the converse "monetary theory of value". And I think his subsumption of the circuits of productive and commodity capital under that of the money capital circuit are a symptom of that. In fact I actually think its in direct contradiction to his treatment of volume 1 - i.e. taking the different form-determinations seriously. Marx takes the form-determinations of the three cycles equally seriously in vol 2 pt 1, and in fact, iirc, he actually indicates that the money capital circuit is the most fetishistic (and, en passant, I agree with andy g, the rigid emphasis on fetishism is also problematic) and that actually the circuit most conducive to demystifying the true nature of exploitation in the cycle of value-in-process is the productive capital cycle, and in fact, praises Quesnay's table economique precisely for that reason.

So, orthodox on the devalorisation of volume 2.

The next issue is, of course, the relative disappearance of class or class struggle as part of the dynamics of the system. In this sense, Heinrich still remains closer to the "objectivism" - to use Panzieri's term - of the old orthodoxy. Crises are still mainly due to the internal "objective" contradictions of the system itself, that appear independently of class struggle. The lack of any discussion around class formation, both technically and politically, with the over-emphasis on fetishisation (despite in one single location, the very grudging admission that maybe, just maybe, the class struggle might, somehow, have some relation to the possibilities of "penetrating"* the veil of fetishism), leave one with a complete lack of any possibility for strategy of "how to leave where we are and approach where we want to be", as the FARJ put it.

So yes, 2 cheers, or maybe even 2 & 1/2 cheers for the new orthodoxy. But I won't be relinquishing the tools and perspective of class composition and the associated processes of decomposition and recomposition, for the perspective outlined in this particular reading, any time soon.

I look forward to reading the translation of the Wissenschaft (presumably in a few years time) to inspect the "monetary theory of value" more closely, and see if my intuitions bear fruit.

But, overall, thank f*** for a marxism that is worthy of engaging with, even albeit critically, rather than the intellectual bankruptcy like the rotten old orthodoxy which is almost impossible to even find common ground to discuss anything with, so haunted is it by its religious obeisance to shibboleths like the FROP which have as much rationality as the mystery of the holy trinity.

* neo-orthodoxy is as manly as the old, apparently... wink

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jura
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Sep 13 2012 17:13

Good point on Volume 2, ocelot. It's quite surprising – given how tremendously important "form analysis" is to what Marx is doing in the first few chapters of the second volume – how little attention is paid to it from the perspective of the "neue Marx-Lektüre".

I agree about class composition as well. The trick seems to be to figure out how Marx's abstract categories of classes used in Capital can be used in empirical research. That seems to me to be one of the "loose ends" today.

Angelus Novus
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Sep 13 2012 17:21
jura wrote:
I agree about class composition as well. The trick seems to be to figure out how Marx's abstract categories of classes used in Capital can be used in empirical research. That seems to me to be one of the "loose ends" today.

I think the Open Marxism folks were promising on this score, but they seem to do very little empirical work these days.

The Political Marxism folks seemed to have picked up that slack.

I think it's roughly similar to the relationship between the Frankfurt School and Foucault: Foucault did all the empirical work on the constitution of modern subjectivity.

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Nate
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Sep 13 2012 18:05

My copy still hasn't arrived so I still can't comment on the book. Just wanted to say that I think Marx's more empirical-ish chapters in v1 of Capital are under-rated.

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jura
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Sep 13 2012 19:41

Yeah, and funnily enough, they're almost never discussed in the literature on "Marx's method".

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Sep 13 2012 19:58

Agreed. I always find that really annoying. Likewise when people are like "Capital? It's all about this one theoretical category, that's the key. The rest is details." I think Marx does a fair few different things in that book, which is part of why it took him ages to write it.