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I finished Capital V. 1....Huzza!

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yoda's walking stick
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Jun 26 2011 20:27
I finished Capital V. 1....Huzza!

I just finished listening to an unabridged, Libravox version of Das Kapital, in conjunction with explanatory podcasts by David Harvey. I certainly won't say I understood or retained all of it, but I did a great deal more than I thought I would. I feel like I just climbed a really tall intellectual mountain. I can't believe I made it.

Anyway, I just needed to share this with some people who might sympathize with the pride I'm walking around with today.

RedHughs
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Jun 26 2011 22:16

Can you give us a picture of the broad vistas you sighted, the powerful analytical tools you grasped, the depths of capitalist depravity you plumbed, the controversies which you resolved to your own lasting satisfaction.

Now, when you awake for that foggy five-am walk to your factory shift, what extra meaning do you glean from the tired glance of a fellow worker just going off shift? Do you-two perhaps high-five-it with a "yes, that was relative, not absolute surplus value, Sucka, Senior's last hour can go to hell!" while Bruce Springsteen's "Can't Start A Fire" plays in the background?

groucho

Edit: Also, Congratulations!

yoda's walking stick
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Jun 26 2011 23:46

The big thing for me was just hearing the basics, surplus value, etc., straight from the horse's mouth, as opposed to hearing it from a popularizer. Also, reading it all the way through and not once hearing Marx say, "Oh and by the way, I support military regalia and bad facial hair a la Stalin," went a long way to dispelling my nagging fears of Bolshevik totalitarianism that I inherited from my parents' liberal political consciousness.

I can't really even say anything smart about it yet. I feel like my brain is still processing a lot of it and it will take a bit for it all to seep down into my political perspective.

yoda's walking stick
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Jun 26 2011 23:53

I know my eating habits will piss you off. But I was also trying to incorporate the labor theory of value, which insists only human labor creates value, with my animal rights perspective. I don't know. I'm still thinking about it obviously, haha. Don't flame me to death. I don't even want to get in a debate. I'm just mentioning one of the things that came up in my reading of Capital.

Let me eat my veggies in peace!

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Arbeiten
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Jun 27 2011 00:21

Well done on finishing The Book.

Though I am a vegetarian, I do like flaming other ones wink . Under modern capitalism animals are not really used in he production process though right? I guess there might be small exceptions like a horse drawn cart for weddings may be. But labour power is the result of specifically human combination of muscles and brain power. Remember the section on the bees and the architect? Man is able to envision his [sic] product before commencing the labour process...... In fact half way through writing what I was going to write I changed my mind ..... the bees is a nice example to illustrate this problematic. Who's labour-power is being exploited under mass honey production, the bee keeper or the bee? Interesting questions, if slightly peripheral wink

yourmum
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Jun 27 2011 11:07

welcome to the brainwashed, lets marx up some idealists fools. how long did it take you?

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waslax
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Jun 27 2011 21:08
Arbeiten wrote:
Well done on finishing The Book.

Though I am a vegetarian, I do like flaming other ones wink . Under modern capitalism animals are not really used in he production process though right?

Ever heard of food production? Especially processed meat production? Animals (dead ones) are the raw material of such production.

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Arbeiten
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Jun 27 2011 21:13

yes of course i have, but how does that connect to the labour theory of value, i thought the question was not about animals as raw materials but animals as producers of value?

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888
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Jun 27 2011 21:46

If you can incorporate animals into LTV, you can probably show how machines are exploited as well. And I bet either theory would work, it just wouldn't be meaningful from the point of view of working class revolution.

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Jun 27 2011 21:56

Actually Piero Sraffa and his followers (Ian Steedman etc) actually did put forward a theory that machines were exploited. Or to be more precise, that constant capital was capable of contributing surplus value as well as living labour. Total pointlessness results.

yoda's walking stick
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Jun 27 2011 22:44

Ok, I didn't mean to open up a can of worms. I'm sure you'll piss me off on this topic as much as I would you.

Anyway, did I read Marx correctly toward the end of the book in that he didn't have a problem with the Lockean concept of private property, but only that private ownership which allowed for the accumulation of surplus value? Perhaps I'm revealing the utter shallowness of my reading. Oh well.

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Arbeiten
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Jun 28 2011 00:20

could you be a little more clear on what you mean 'toward the end of the book', do you have any specific chapters in mind?

yoda's walking stick
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Jun 28 2011 01:00

can't remember the exact chapter....

harvey is talking about what I'm talking about here though

http://p2pfoundation.net/Lockean_Theory_of_Property

"How that form of ownership might come into being is established by turning Locke’s argument on the production of value against itself. Suppose, says Marx, a capitalist begins production with $1,000 in capital and in the first year manages to gain $200 surplus value from laborers mixing their labor with the land, and the capitalist then uses that surplus in personal consumption. Then, after five years, the $1,000 should belong to the collective laborers, since they are the ones who have mixed their labor with the land. The capitalist has consumed away all of his or her original capital. Like the indigenous populations of North America, the capitalists deserve to lose their rights, since they themselves have produced no value."

Finding that website though, I feel like I've answered my own question. Harvey discussed it in one of his lectures, but still would like more clarity on it.

dave c
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Jun 28 2011 02:59

The passage Harvey is referring to is on page 714 of the Penguin edition, in chapter 23. I am not sure that the stuff about Locke really follows from the text. In any case, I think Marx has a problem with the Lockean concept of private property. I would say that his comments in footnote # 2 at the start of chapter 2 regarding Proudhon make this clear.

yoda's walking stick
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Jun 28 2011 11:31

I'm not really even sure what the Lockean concept of private property entails to be honest. Harvey was mentioning that Locke believes that an individual gains ownership of something when he mixes his labor with something from the natural world. Does this concept of private property just apply to something you personally have mixed your labor with, ie. "I personally clear cut this acre of land, it's now mine," or does it also apply to surplus value accumulation?

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Jun 28 2011 11:43

Locke was a slaver and a colonialist. So his concept of "mixing your own labour with the land" basically includes the work of any slaves as your own - on the grounds that its the same as the work of any cattle that you posses that you use to plough a field. Also his notion of possession by right of usage - i.e. that by mixing the labour of your slaves with "unenclosed" land, you gain rightful possession of it - has to be seen in the context of his role in the colonisation of the Carolinas - i.e. "unenclosed" in this context meaning land robbed from the native americans. All of which is normative rather than analytical criticism, but Locke's concept of property is laughably ideological and a great place to start deconstruction of classical liberalism.

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Jun 28 2011 12:09

Concerning Locke and classical liberal theories of property, Marx basically shows that the notion of "appropriation based on one's own labor" arises from a superficial view of the sphere of simple circulation, where (viewed abstractly) labor-time equivalents are exchanged. This is the sphere of "Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham". See the grand finale of Ch4 where Marx characterizes simple circulation as a sphere where "each disposes only of what is his own".

An analysis of simple circulation (chapters 1-3, and esp. chapter 4) shows that this sphere necessarily has its fundament elsewhere, outside of it – it is only a manifestation of the underlying process of capitalist production, a mere moment in this more general process. Simple circulation cannot reproduce itself on its own; it presupposes production.

So Marx moves on to analyzing the production process. As a process of capital production, it necessarily entails exploitaition. Therefore appropriation (or property) in capitalism is not only not based on one's own labor, but on someone else's unpaid labor – while not violating, from the point of view of individual transactions, the principle of equivalent exchange at all.1 See Ch24 of the English edition, section 1:

Marx wrote:
Now, however, property turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product, and to be the impossibility, on the part of the labourer, of appropriating his own product. The separation of property from labour has become the necessary consequence of a law that apparently originated in their identity.

Therefore, however much the capitalist mode of appropriation may seem to fly in the face of the original laws of commodity production, it nevertheless arises, not from a violation, but, on the contrary, from the application of these laws.

From the principle of equivalent exchange and "just" appropriation, one arrives at the opposite conclusion. Immanent critique at its best.

  • 1. (This, of course, leads to the question of how capital accumulation could have ever started at all if it always presupposes some appropriation – hence the ideology of "original accumulation", a sort of "free-for-all" process, which Marx demolishes as well.)
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Jun 28 2011 12:21

By the way, this is another reason why the "logico-historical" interpretation of the first three chapters as pre-capitalist "simple commodity production" is a load of shit. On that intepretation, the whole critical intention gets lost.

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Jun 28 2011 17:28
Ocelot wrote:
Actually Piero Sraffa and his followers (Ian Steedman etc) actually did put forward a theory that machines were exploited. Or to be more precise, that constant capital was capable of contributing surplus value as well as living labour. Total pointlessness results.

Can you please give me a link or reference to the text(s) where they argue this. It sounds like crap, but I would still like to read it.

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Jun 28 2011 22:00

Congrats on finishing it!

I need to read volumes 2 and three…

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Jun 28 2011 22:46
Khawaga wrote:
Ocelot wrote:
Actually Piero Sraffa and his followers (Ian Steedman etc) actually did put forward a theory that machines were exploited. Or to be more precise, that constant capital was capable of contributing surplus value as well as living labour. Total pointlessness results.

Can you please give me a link or reference to the text(s) where they argue this. It sounds like crap, but I would still like to read it.

I came on it through a secondary source which was Steve Keen's masters thesis on use & exchange value in Marx (here) which was interesting although I don't agree with his main ideas. Maybe a decent marxist critique of Sraffa's "Production of Commodities by means of Commodities" might be a more direct route, if you could find one. Surprised there isn't something by Bellofiore on it, but all I can find seems to be more interested in that old bugbear, the transformation problem. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of Sraffa, Steedman et al has some more direct references.

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Jun 29 2011 09:45

Hey All, there is a critique of Keen here
cheers
Dave

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Jun 29 2011 11:14

Problem with the above is that it's part 1 only.

Quote:
Part I goes over Keen’s reproduction of Ian Steedman’s account of the supposed transformation problem — which is supposed to demonstrate a logical flaw in Marx’s concept of value — in his Debunking Economics (2001).

Part II will deal with his claim that Marx’s concept of value implies that means of production create new value; or that human activity is not a necessary condition of value’s existence.

The interesting part (II), from the point of view of "the exploitation of machines" or value theory, has not been written. All we get is the standard droning and number crunching around the transformation problem that so obsesses the would-be "marxist economists". Dullsville. You may as well be reading Kliman or other TSSI nerds.

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Jun 29 2011 12:25
Quote:
Surprised there isn't something by Bellofiore on it,

Maybe this is of any help.

dave c
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Jun 29 2011 15:57
ocelot wrote:
All we get is the standard droning and number crunching around the transformation problem that so obsesses the would-be "marxist economists". Dullsville. You may as well be reading Kliman or other TSSI nerds.

You may as well, and should. wink

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ocelot
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Jun 29 2011 16:25

Jesus no. What next? Cockshott? roll eyes Positivist marxist economics? Nein danke...

dave c
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Jun 29 2011 17:21

This "Marx was no economist" perspective is a bunch of hot air. See the arguments put forward in particular by Mikus: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/theories-value-06022008

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Arbeiten
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Jun 29 2011 17:06

here comes the 'you can't read Marx properly' barrage roll eyes

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Jul 4 2011 19:58

well done. i found chapter 2 pretty straight forward to chapter one, although chapter one is pretty basic (well, apart from commodity fetishism section) if read slowly but its a lot to take in. never got beyond chap one so im doing better than before. is it really true that it gets a lot easier after chap 3??

paul r
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Jul 22 2011 13:15

Our Capital reading group has just commenced reading Capital, vol. 2. Is there a libcom forum for vol. 2?
Cheers,
Paul R.

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Jul 22 2011 15:26

I'd be up for discussing volume 2.