Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse. Help

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sat Aug 05 2006 - 09:46:20 EDT

On Fri, 4 Aug 2006, Howard Engelskirchen wrote:

> Fred, I have a question, perhaps a quibble, about your
> statement that the money circuit provides the general analytical framework
> for Marx's theory of value and surplus value.  You say also that volume I is
> mainly about the production of surplus value.  Wouldn't the analytical
> framework in this sense be the one that showed how a surplus product is
> pumped out of the direct producers?  This is what differentiates capital
> from other forms of social production.  In this respect the analytical
> framework seems better expressed as the form in which living labor in the
> process of production is joined to the conditions of labor.  This is the
> causal structure that must be explained.  Doing so requires understanding
> living labor as the use value of capital, that is as a source of value, so
> the money circuit is presupposed.  Also, this underlying causal structure
> must be reproduced, and it is reproduced through the money circuit, for
> sure.  Still, it seems that the underlying analytical framework, and the one
> consistent with Marx's study of other modes of production, is the way in
> which the subjective and objective conditions of production are joined in
> the process of production.

Hi Howard,

My (quick) answer to your question is an emphatic NO!
And this is not just a "quibble".
This is a fundamental issue of the nature of Marx's logical method.

The basic analytical framework of Marx's theory is not in term of physical
quantities.  The main point of Marx's theory is to explain dM, not the
quantity of surplus goods.  dM is the most important feature of capitalism
(its "overriding determining purpose"), and is the main phenomenon that
Marx's theory is intended to explain.  The concepts in Marx's theory are
historically specific (exchange-value, abstract labor, money, capital,
etc.) which apply specifically to the capitalist mode of production.  They
are not universal concepts (e.g. use-value) that apply to all modes of
production, like inputs and outputs and net products.  The production of a
surplus product is not unique to capitalism.  All class societies have a
surplus product.  What distinguishes capitalism is that the surplus
product takes the historically specific form of surplus money (dM), and
that is what Marx's theory is intended to explain.

Marx posed the main question of his theory in Chapter 4 of Volume 1 - the
"general formula for capital", which is of course in terms of M and dM,
not in terms of physical quantities ("all use-values are extinguished").
Chapter 4 is not just an interesting way to characterize capitalism, along
with other interesting ways.  Chapter 4 describes the essence of
capitalism ("making money"), and provides the (abbreviated) analytical
framework for Marx's explanation of this essence.

The analytical framework that you suggest is not Marx's framework, but
Sraffa's framework - the "production of commodities by means of
commodities" (which really should be the production of commodities by
means of use-values, since the inputs are assumed to enter production as
mere physical quantities, without prices, rather than as commodities, with
already existing prices).

I would by happy to discuss further when you return from your trip.


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