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

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sat Feb 18 2006 - 10:48:47 EST

Hi Jerry,
         I hope that meeting of the Bolivaran Circles went well.
         A quick response: in that essay I wasn't trying to make the
case for or against capital ever becoming 'One' but, rather,
exploring the distinction between inner and outer explanations. If
you argue (1) that it is only at the inner level that you can
demonstrate necessity and that arguments based upon competition as
such cannot be the basis of a necessary tendency and (2) recognise
that explicit arguments offered for the process of centralisation of
capital in CAPITAL occur at the level of the competition of capitals,
then the question emerges--- what is the basis for a necessary (as
opposed to contingent) tendency toward centralisation?
         I mentioned the article only because the answer I came up
with yields a specific definition for measurement of Marxian
centralisation which differs substantially for industry concentration measures.
         in solidarity,

At 08:52 18/02/2006, you wrote:
> > 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

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
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Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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