Date: Fri Mar 24 2006 - 11:07:59 EST
In the following review of _The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital_, Robbie Albritton writes that this book is a "real gift", an important book which is "masterfully" presented. He also cites a number of examples of what he views as "incoherence" by the author. Is Chris's perspective "incoherent" as charged? In solidarity, Jerry Christopher J. Arthur, The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital. Source: Labour/Le Travail: Fall, 2004 issue Author(s): Albritton, Robert »Christopher J. Arthur, The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital (Leiden: Brill 2002) CHRISTOPHER ARTHUR has devoted much of his scholarly life to studying the relation between Marx's Capital and Hegel's Logic. This is a collection of essays, all of which (except the introductory and concluding chapters) have been published elsewhere, but are here revised to varying extents. For those interested in Capital, this is an important book to read, for it concentrates the mind on the meaning and sequence of the categories in Marx's great work. It suggests a rigorously dialectical way of reading the interconnection of categories in Capital volume one, chapters 1-6, a way that parallels Hegel's Logic. He makes the important claim that these chapters should be read strictly as a theory of the commodity, money, and capital as circulation forms. It follows that the content of these forms, which requires a labour theory of value, can only be well grounded dialectically after the logics of the value forms have been grounded. Arthur masterfully presents the basic elements of dialectical reasoning and its appropriateness in studying an object which is self-abstracting in the sense that it is self-expanding value (capital) itself that, through its own motions, homogenizes the actuality that the theory aims to grasp. To an extent, then, in its historical unfolding, capital helps the theorist by developing a commodity-economic logic that attempts to subsume all fundamental economic categories to its self-expanding motion. It becomes possible for the theorist to complete the abstracting precisely because capital has already taken the lead in history, such that the theorist must simply learn to follow it. This means that while "the systematic dialectic of capital" is rooted in history, its completion occurs only in thought. It follows that the logic of capital and the history of capitalism are distinct, forcing upon us the necessity of always thinking the ways in which and the degree to which capital's logic impacts on particular historical contexts. As Arthur points out, actual historical prices are always "hugely overdetermined" relative to the abstract law of value. (14) According to Arthur, the fruitfulness of the starting point of a dialectic is demonstrated by its ability to absorb more and more concrete moments of a totality until it comes full circle. It is this circle that makes capital a self-subsistent subject or a totality able to reproduce and expand itself from within itself. But this means that all inputs and outputs of production must be securely commodified, so that capital can achieve the indifference to use-value that is required by its single-minded focus on profit expansion. While there is much more in Arthur's collection of essays that I agree with, I think that it will be of interest to the reader, if I briefly mention some of my disagreements. I will condense this discussion down to two fundamental points. First, I think his understanding of the dialectic of capital is flawed by an inadequate understanding of the relation between value and use-value. Second, while Arthur distinguishes systematic dialectics from historical dialectics, by not theorizing both their separateness and connectedness, he sometimes inadequately distinguishes them. Arthur claims that Capital volume one, chapters 1-6, is strictly a theory of forms without content, and that use-value is strictly absent. (150) Thus, it follows that the dialectic unfolds from value as presence relating to itself as value as absence. The resulting value form theory is "the prime determinant of the capitalist economy," (11) or, in other words, the "form of capital is the overriding moment" (88) in the entire system. The dialectic of circulation comes to an end when it is confronted by the use-value obstacles of production, or when form is confronted by content. If the remainder of the theory of capital's inner logic does not parallel Hegel's Logic, then it is unclear just how it is to be theorized. The basic problem is that in Capital the basic contradiction is between value and use-value from the beginning. By pushing use-value into the background, Arthur makes capital into pure form, which in turn leads him to overemphasize the role of pure form determination in the entire theory.
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