Re: [OPE] capitalism as a * * * system

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Wed May 25 2011 - 19:43:51 EDT

Hi all,

Michael, I think your point is wrong. Capital, at least in Marx's sense, is value that increases itself. But there is no value, again in Marx's sense, without 2. Recall the analysis of section 3 of Chapter 1 of Capital. You cannot have a single producer and have value. This shows the importance of not conflating juridical forms with the underlying relations of economic life. Even were the state to own everything -- and Stalin himself claimed there were two separate sectors that had to exchange commodities with each other, state factories and state farms (as well as foreign trade which produced commodities for export) -- but even were the state to hold everything in a single juridical form, we would still have to determine whether in economic reality there were separate producers producing independently for exchange. And of course in the ussr and eastern europe there were. Overcoming the separation that characterizes value is no small thing. You don't decree it away.

As for the freedom to exploit labor Paula, yes -- Marx is clear in his discussion of the buying and selling of labor power that without the free worker, you don't have capitalism.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Michael Webber
  To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
  Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 7:17 PM
  Subject: Re: [OPE] capitalism as a * * * system

  well, paula, it seems that capital didn't always appear as many capitals. if we accept that stalinist ussr and eastern europe were state capitalist, then they had single capitals. [of course, there were different states...] so your question could be posed: what did state capitalism fail? i'd venture the view that many-capitals capitalism was technically more dynamic and became able to out-compete single-capital capitalism.

  On 26 May 2011 08:58, Paula <> wrote:

    Howard wrote:
    "actually Marx is pretty clear that the concept of 'capital in general' does
    not extend to any consideration of competition".

    We should also point out that, even at this level of abstraction, capital
    has certain freedoms - crucially, the freedom to exploit labor. This freedom
    is also not absolute, it has limits that are biological, cultural,
    political, etc. Nevertheless it's real and important.

    The really interesting and difficult question is whether the freedom to
    compete (also real and important, though limited) is already contained in
    germ within this more abstract concept of 'capital in general'. Or, to ask
    the question in a different form, why does capital always appear as 'many
    capitals', even in the era of imperialism, when monopolistic tendencies and
    state regulation are at their most developed?


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  Michael Webber
  Professorial Fellow
  Department of Resource Management and Geography
  The University of Melbourne

  Mail address: 221 Bouverie Street, Carlton, VIC 3010

  Phone: 0402 421 283


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