[OPE-L] Tendency for Capital to Become One?

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Feb 18 2006 - 07:52:01 EST

> In my 'Theoretical Status of Monopoly Capital', which appeared in the
> Resnick and Wolff book, 'Rethinking Marxism' (about 20 years ago) and
> coming out again in my "Following Marx: the method of political
> economy' (Brill Publishing later this year), I argued that the inner
> tendency of capital was its tendency to become One (and that
> discussions of centralisation focusing upon horizontal integration
> were one-sided since there were as well the inner tendencies of
> vertical and conglomerate integration). By this reasoning (textually
> supported), the appropriate measure of centralisation is the
> proportion of total capital held by a given number of firms.

Hi Mike L:

Good reference.  It's funny I didn't think of it myself as I have the
book and read your essay years ago.  In my last post, in the section
where I mentioned different forms of mergers and capital integration,
I was referring more to historical changes since Marx rather than
only a textual reading (your essay is very much focused on Marx's
texts as can be readily seen from the Notes).

In any event, I question whether there is a "Inner Tendency to Become
One" in Marx or in capitalism.

On the textual question:  while Marx emphasizes the "attraction of
capitals"  in the section from Volume 1 we have been referring to,
he also emphasizes the "repulsion of many individual capitals
from one another" and that these two tendencies repulsion/attraction
*counteract* each other ("The fragmentation of the total social
capital into many individual capitals, or the repulsion of its fractions
from each other, is counteracted by their attraction", 777).

Although its form may change alongside its development,  competition
is a necessary characteristic of capitalism.  The tendency which
Marx notes is not for Capital to Become One but for (my  expression
chosen to contrast to your own) Capital to Become Few.  The former
is a mere abstract possibility which is inferred only parenthetically in a
few remarks.  The merely formal character of this possibility seems
to be recognized when he refers to it  in terms of it being a  "extreme
limit" (779).   The _continuation_ of competition, though,  stems from his
way of looking at capital not only as simple unity _or- as diversity but as
unity-in-diversity.  There can be no unity-in-diversity if  a Tendency to
Become One is fully realized, can there be?

I think there is a parallel to current debates on globalization.  Does
globalization express a tendency for Capital to Become One and for
Nation-States and Capitalist Rivalry to be surpassed?   I think not
-- even though that seems to be the perspectives of many
pro-globalizationists about the future of capitalism.  I would say instead
that globalization represents a new form of international competition and
rivalry among nation-states:  rather than capital moving toward One, I
think capital is increasingly confronting each other as *blocs* (such as
regional trade associations and customs unions such as the EU).
I.e. the concentration and  centralization of capital have (once again)
caused a division of the world among a few powerful capitalist blocs
(or, more precisely, a re-division).    This is not to say that there aren't
 some distinct features of globalization (there are, and I also recognize
that the anti-globalization movement of the External Other[s] confronts
and sometimes confounds this drive) but the fantasy of an alleged
movement towards One under Capitalism was blown asunder already in
the early 1990's with the collapse of the plan for a "New World Order".
To recognize that there is a tendency to become few rather than a
 tendency to become one suggests that enormous and epochal battles
among capitalists internationally remain to be fought: capitalists will
continue to confront both workers and each other so long as there is
capitalism and the danger to humankind from imperialist wars and
international capitalist rivalry will not be overcome until capitalism
itself is overcome.

Now I'll have to go off-line for a while to participate in a meeting of
Bolivarian Circles in the US and Canada.

In solidarity, Jerry

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