Marx's Capital - Second Violin's Dissonant Notes - Part Two

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By FRANCISCO TEIXEIRA & RODRIGO CAVALCANTE DE ALMEIDA*

Considerations on the three editions that make up The capital

Amendments introduced by Engels to the manuscripts left by Marx

Among the modifications made by Engels, it is worth mentioning (1) the replacement of the concept of work capacity by workforce; (2) functional capitalists by active capitalists. However, adds Roth, “there are cases in which Engels even introduced a term, if those concepts used by Marx were ambiguous or inconsistent, for example, “circulation capital” [Circulationskapital], which plays an important role in the second book, but which does not appear in Marx” (Roth, 2015).

Another issue that deserved great attention from Engels was the problematic of “the relationship between value and surplus value with profit, rate of profit, average profit, as well as price categories, such as cost price, production price and market price”, as it appears in the main manuscript of 1864-5. “Marx dedicated himself very diligently to the study of the relationships between such categories without reaching a satisfactory presentation” (Roth, 2015), as the MEGA II research, which appears as the Introduction of Book II, reveals. According to Roth, “Engels condensed this multiplicity of observations, developed over more than 200 pages, in the third chapter of his edition, which is about 20 pages long. He gathered the factors, called principal factors, and unified the numerical examples. Not least, he dealt very cautiously with the concept of “law”, which is very frequent in Marx's manuscripts; he spoke only in his introductory passage of addressing all cases “from which laws about the rate of profit can be deduced” and eventually left it to the reader to interpret what could or should be considered “law” (Roth, 2015).

Another example of Engels' intervention in Marx's manuscripts is found in Book II. Engels, says Roth, “eliminated the miscounts in Marx's schemes on extended reproduction. Marx stopped his argumentation after the results of his numerical examples did not correspond to his hypotheses. With his corrections to Marx's considerations, Engels reconciled his hypotheses and examples and thus made it possible for these schemes to be considered evidence of balanced growth” (Roth, 2015).

Of the alterations made by Engels, two draw much attention: the idea of ​​collapse and the inexorable fall in the rate of profit. Roth emphasizes the weight that Engels attributes to a theory of “the 'collapse' of capitalist production, through the reformulation and placement at the end of an intermediate sub-item, as if this statement were originally in Marx”. In the discussion about the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, “Marx registered in parentheses the reflection that, through the processes of centralization, capitalist production would reach the “decisive moment”, decentralizing forces would not act in it. This sentence is in the middle of the third chapter, which Marx did not subdivide further (…). Engels removed the parentheses, transformed the ideas into the conclusion of the subitem entitled “I. Generalities” and replaced “decisive moment” with “collapse”. In this way, Engels associated the concept of “collapse” with capitalist production, which is not found anywhere, in this form, in the Marxian manuscript” (Roth, 2015).

Finally, it is worth highlighting a similar effect linked to the elimination of differentiations that appears in the third part of the third book, on the tendency to fall in the rate of profit. “In the 1864-5 Manuscript, Marx made considerations about the rate of profit that not only remains constant, but can also grow – although only “abstractly considered” (Marx; Engels, 2012a, p. 319; 2004, p. 227). These are indications that Marx pondered and explored several possibilities without making a conclusive decision. Engels decided a clarification was in order and inserted the sentence: "However, as we have seen, in reality the rate of profit falls in the long run." (Roth, 2015).

Heinrich goes even further to conclude that the vast majority of the changes made by Engels to the manuscripts of Book III “are not merely formal or stylistic in nature; they mislead readers about the actual extent of the re-elaboration, they offer solutions to problems that the manuscript left open (with no acknowledgment that these are Engels' solutions!) and, in some passages that might obstruct Engels' interpretation, they even alter the arguments of the original text. Therefore, Engels' edition can no longer be regarded as Book 3 of Marx's Capital; it is not Marx's text “in the complete genuineness of its own exposition”, as Engels wrote in the Addendum (MARX, 1985, p.321), but a strong edition of that exposition, a kind of manual with a previous interpretation of Marx's manuscript” (Heinrich, 2016, p.41).

 

Engels reader of Marx: an anti-reading

Regardless of the alterations made by Engels to the manuscripts left by Marx, it cannot be denied that his editing work was fundamental, so that, today, the readers of The capital could have an idea, even if approximate, of the project that its author had in mind: capital and its different moments in an organically articulated whole. Without this editing work, The capital would be reduced to the theory of production. Now, Book I, which has production as its object, only shows how surplus value is produced. Metaphorically, when reading Book I, the reader spends all his time at the site of the production process, where the goods are produced there, all saturated with surplus value.

If the critique of political economy carried out by Marx ended with Book I, the reader could well ask himself: what does it matter to overcrowd the places of production of goods, if what interests the capitalist is to convert his production of values ​​into more money than he spent to produce them? Now, commodities are only supports for the surplus value produced by the working class. Without selling them, the capitalist would have no way of repaying his money back. Therefore, he needs to take them to the points of sale; accompanying them from the factory floor to the Stock Exchange.

Book II deals precisely with this process of realizing surplus value, or transforming it into money. It is there that Marx exposes the formal determinations of the realization of the surplus value created by production, since Book II presents the unity between production and circulation, but still in its formal aspect, that is, focusing on changes in the forms of monetary capital, productive capital and commodity capital. At this level of presentation, one is still not concerned with effective realization (profit), but only with the formal realization of surplus value and not profit (effective).

In this sense, the investigation undertaken by Marx in Book II is still not enough to show how the process of transforming surplus value into profit occurs; nor is it to demonstrate how the various rates of surplus value are converted into a general average profit and how fractions of capital appropriate this average profit. This is the subject of Book III. Only then does Marx enter the most effective sphere of reality and thus (dialectically) overcome the formalization of Book II. This is why the credit only appears in Book III. If one does not keep in mind the different levels of abstraction performed in The capital, and as they are articulated in a totality, one falls into a fragmented and mutilated reading of the work.

Book III investigates how the different fractions of the exploiting class, industrialists, merchants, bankers, etc., appropriate their share of the total surplus value created in production. Regardless of the branch in which these different class strata operate, all must value their capital according to a general average rate of profit, which is imposed on all capital units, regardless of their size and composition (relation between the amount of constant capital and that of variable capital).

Therefore, the capitalists of the different spheres of production “do not recover the surplus value – nor, consequently, the profit – produced in their own sphere during the production of these commodities, but only the amount of surplus value – and, therefore, profit – which corresponds to each aliquot of the total capital through the uniform distribution of the total surplus value or the total profit produced in a given interval of time by the total capital of society in the ensemble of all spheres of production. Every capital invested, whatever its composition, extracts from every 100, in one year or another period of time, the profit which in that period corresponds to 100 as an aliquot of the total capital. With regard to profit, the various capitalists behave here as mere shareholders in a joint-stock company, in which the dividends are distributed equally by 100, so that they are distinguished from each other only by the size of the capital invested by each one in the total enterprise, by the number of shares each one owns” (MARX, 2017c, p.193).

Things like this happen because commodities are not sold at their values, but at their production prices. These are equal to the sum of the cost price (sum of constant capital expenditures plus variable capital) plus the average rate of profit. Thus, the price of production differs from the value, for more or less than the value produced. However, “considering the totality of the branches of production –, the sum of the production prices of the goods produced is equivalent to the sum of their values” (Marx, 2017c, p. 194).

Upon reaching this level of exposition, the reader can now understand how Marx represents the process of capitalist production in its unity of the production process and the process of capital circulation, in order to discover “the concrete forms that spring from the process of movement of capital considered as a whole”. At this level of presentation, Marx’s concern is to expose the configurations of capital, as they approach “step by step the way in which they are presented on the surface of society, in the reciprocal action of different capitals, in competition and in the common sense of the agents of production themselves” (Marx, 2017c p.53).

Concisely, to get there, Marx, first, exposes, in Book I, the determinations of the production process, as a totality composed of two different moments: appearance (simple circulation) and essence (where the production of surplus value takes place). In Book II, he deals with the formal process whereby the purchases and sales of commodities take place, i.e., are transformed into the form of money. At this level of presentation, as seen in the first part of this text, Marx does not yet expose effective realization (profit), which is the subject of Book III, which has as its object of investigation the configurations of capital, such as they appear on the surface of capital society.

 

Engels and the incongruity between values ​​and prices: the end of value theory

To what extent did Engels, in his reading of Marx's work, notably The capital, took due care to apprehend, in an adequate way, the immanent movement of capital, according to the exposition that determines how the categories develop towards the hierarchical position they occupy within the capital valorization movement – ​​if you prefer, according to the relationship they “have with each other in bourgeois society”?

Everything indicates that Engels, who modestly claimed second violin alongside Marx's theoretical effort, disagreed, in his later considerations on the work, with Marx's own methodological orientation in The capital, when he saw himself urged to respond to the criticism directed at books II and III. His reply to Marx's critics is far from obeying the different levels of abstraction in which the categories are exposed in the work. As shown above, the categories are parts of a whole, and for this reason they can only be properly understood when one takes into account the place each one of them occupies in the order of the dialectical presentation (ascending-descending) of a dialectical discourse, such as that of The capital.

An indication of this dissonance, offers Engels, in his supplement to book III of The capital, published posthumously (1895-96), when he refutes the criticism directed at Marx, a criticism that points to a supposed contradiction between books I and III. The hard core of these criticisms revolves around the discrepancy between value and the prices at which goods are actually sold. In other words, what is at stake here is the fact that, in Book I, the law of value prevails, which dictates that commodities must be exchanged according to their values, that is, in proportion to the socially necessary labor time to produce them. Contrary to Book I, in Book III, Marx would, according to his critics, defend a new theory, in which goods are sold at their production prices, which no longer coincide with their values.

It is around this incongruity between values ​​and prices that the criticisms discussed and pointed out by Engels in his Supplement revolve. Among them, the one that most caught his attention was Mr. Loria. Referring to the problem of the transformation of values ​​into production prices, this author asserts that it is pointless for Marx to state that, “despite the divergence of individual prices in relation to individual values, the total price of the set of commodities always coincides with their total value, that is, with the amount of work contained in the totality of commodities. For, considering that value is nothing but the proportion in which one commodity is exchanged for another, the mere idea of ​​a total value is in itself an absurdity, a nonsense, […] contradiction in adjective” (ENGELS, 2017, p.952).

Despite mr. Loria Seeing there what he believes to be a contradiction between value and price of production does so from the confusion he establishes between value and exchange value. Indeed, he calls value the “proportion in which one commodity is exchanged for another”, when, in fact, such proportion is, for Marx, exchange value; form of expression of value. The lack of understanding of this mediation, among other things, prevented Mr. It is difficult to understand how Marx manages to articulate value, as a foundation, and the price of production, as an expression of this foundation. What is at stake there, therefore, is not, as Mr. Loria, a contradiction in terms; but rather a dialectical contradiction involving different levels of abstraction.

Despite the confusion that Mr. Loria introduces between value and exchange value, he was able to point out the center around which revolves the problematic of the transformation of values ​​into production prices. He did not understand, however, that these, the prices of production, are the form within which the contradiction between value and price develops; or, if you prefer, the phenomenal form through which its essence, values, is manifested.

In his addendum to Book III, Engels does not start from the theory that the process of transforming values ​​into production prices is resolved in the development of the dialectic between content and form; that is, between values ​​and prices. Hence, he was unable to respond appropriately to the criticisms leveled at Book III, notably that of Mr. Loria. What did Engels do then? He followed the argumentative path of reconstructing the theory of value, to demonstrate that this theory is a fact that can be confirmed historically and, thus, to prove that the commodities sell for their values. For that, he was forced to assume the idea of ​​an anachronistic historicization of this theory, which would have been born 6.000 BC. C and lasted until the 2017th century. Not even remotely does Engels realize how much his reading of value theory is at variance with Marx's. It is enough to follow this author to realize that he places the genesis of capitalism in the Mediterranean cities of the 787th century: “although the beginnings of capitalist production already appear sporadically, in the 2017th and 787th centuries, in some cities of the Mediterranean, the capitalist era only began in the XNUMXth century”. (MARX, XNUMXa, p.XNUMX). And he adds: “in the places where it appears, the abolition of serfdom has long since been consummated, and the brightest aspect of the Middle Ages, the existence of sovereign cities, has long since faded”. (MARX. XNUMXa, p.XNUMX).

Hence it can be concluded that Engels buries the theory of value in what would be its birthplace. It should be added that Marx marks the genesis[I] of capitalism in the sixteenth century, relating it to a series of processes such as the abolition of serfdom, the expropriation of communal lands and rural producers, the creation of a world market and, in this, the modern colonial system and the slave trade, is referring to the genesis of the beginning of this historical process and not to the apex of its development, is not yet referring to the moment in which the value and main categories of capitalism operate in a decisive way.

For Engels, therefore, the theory of value millennia precedes capitalist society, where the exchange of goods would be presented in a supposedly pure form, still unadulterated by the price category. The development of this millennial society would have led it towards a form of simple mercantile society, in which the producers would be the owners of their own means of production. Resorting to empirical illustrations, Engels argues that in this society of simple commodity production, “the peasant (…) was fully aware (…) of the labor time required to produce the objects he received in exchange”. Not only the peasant, but also, Engels continues, the “village blacksmith and sewer” were aware of the labor time they spent on producing their goods. After all, both the peasant and the people he bought from were workers, and the articles they exchanged with each other were the products of each other's labor. If so, asks Engels, “what did they spend on producing these products? Work, just work: to replace the tools, produce the raw material and elaborate it, they did not expend more than their own workforce; how would it be possible for them, then, to exchange their products for those of other direct producers, except in proportion to the labor expended on them? The working time spent on these products was not only the only adequate standard of measurement to quantitatively determine the magnitudes to be exchanged; more than that, there was no other besides him” (Engels, 2017, p.958).

The exchange was, therefore, a transparent relationship, where no one used arbitrary means to obtain undue advantages. Nor, then, could "who would believe," imagines Engels, "that the peasant and the craftsman would be so stupid as to exchange the product of ten hours' labor by the one for the product of a single hour's labor by the other? During the entire period of peasant natural economy, the only possible exchange was that in which the exchanged quantities of commodities tended to be measured more and more according to the quantities of work incorporated in them (Engels, 2013, p.958-959).

This is how Engels reads Section I of Book I of The capital, as if Marx had as his object a pre-capitalist society, in which the producers would be the owners of their means of production, and, therefore, the law of value would prevail. A form of society in which exchange was made according to the working time that each producer spent in the production of his goods.

The determination of values ​​by working time, which prevails in this supposed society of simple commodity production, would be drastically altered with the emergence of money. From then on, says Engels, “money became, from a practical point of view, the fundamental measure of value, and this all the more the more diverse the commodities traded became, the more distant were the countries from which they came, and therefore the less the labor time necessary for their production could be controlled”.

The appearance of money would eventually annul the law of value, according to which exchanged values ​​occur proportionally to the labor time incorporated in the production of commodities. Therefore, for Engels, the Marxian law of value would have general validity, provided that the “economic laws are valid for the entire period of simple commodity production, that is, until the time when this undergoes a modification through the introduction of the capitalist form of production (...). And now let us admire the integrity of Mr. Loria, who qualifies the value, generally and directly in force throughout that time, as a value at which commodities are not sold and can never be sold and which an economist who has a spark of common sense will never be able to deal with (Engels, 2017, p.961).

This purely empirical-historical reading of The capital it has its roots in Engels' review of Marx's 1859 text. A reading that is based on the following assumptions: 1) affiliation to a Hegelian philosophy of history; and, 2) generalization of the “laws of history” that does not find support in Marx.

For Engels, Hegel “was the first to try to highlight in history a process of development, an inner connection; And, however strange many things in his philosophy of history may seem to us today, the greatness of his fundamental conception remains, however, something admirable, both if we compare it with his predecessors, and if we look at those who, after him, allowed themselves to make generalized considerations about history [...] (Engels, 2013, p.281).

A careful reading of Engels' text reveals that, according to him, Marx would have derived his materialist conception from Hegel's history, as this was the first to highlight in history "a process of development, an internal connection". Contrary to what Engels supposes, Marx is not interested in elaborating a philosophy of history. Even when he makes some generalizations about the historical process in the preface to the For the critique of political economy, from 1859, does so with some trepidation, emphasizing that they are general and summary outlines. When talking about History, what Marx elaborates from the German Ideology (in partnership with Engels) to The capital, is more like a denial of Hegel's philosophy of history. Perhaps it is the conception of history that is the biggest point of discrepancy between the two authors, since History is the conceptual terrain where the difference between the idealism of one and the materialism of the other is made explicit. Against the Hegelian conception of a philosophy of history, Marx, for example, defends the idea that it only makes sense to speak of a universal history from the moment that capitalism is generalized. Us Grundrisse, he makes it even clearer that, in history, there is no single and necessary process, but several possible paths. And in relation to his conception of law, it will always be about trends and a need linked to the reproduction of the capitalist mode of production, and not about “general laws of history”.

Back to Engels' review of for the critique of political economy, he understands that one could criticize Political Economy in two ways: historically and logically. “As in history and its reflection in literature”, says Engels, “things also develop, roughly speaking, from the simplest to the complex, the historical development on the literature of Political Economy offered a natural link of connection with criticism, for, broadly speaking, the economic categories appeared here in the same order as in their logical development. This form apparently has the advantage of greater clarity, since the real development of things follows in it; however, in practice, at best, the only thing that would be achieved would be to popularize it. The story often develops in jumps and zigzags, and so it should be followed throughout its trajectory, in which not many materials of little importance would be collected, but also its logical connection would often have to be broken”. Furthermore, “the history of Political Economy could not be written without the history of bourgeois society, as the task would be interminable, as all preliminary studies are lacking. Therefore, the only method indicated was the logical one. (Engels, 2013, p.282).

At first sight, Engels understands that history often develops in jumps and zigzags and, in this sense, would assume a “general assumption of history” as non-linear. However, soon afterwards, this author contradicts himself when he says that “in history and its reflection in literature, things also develop, roughly speaking, from the simplest to the complex”. In this way, he ends up reproducing a linear conception of history. This is because, for him, logical method “is, in reality, nothing but the historical method stripped only of its historical form and disturbing causalities. There, where this story begins, the process of reflection must also begin; and the further development of this process will be no more than the reflected image, in an abstract and theoretically consistent way, of the trajectory, a corrected reflected image, but corrected according to the laws of the historical trajectory itself; and thus each factor can be studied at the point of development of its full maturity, in its classical form”. With this method, he continues, “we always start from the first and simplest relation that exists historically, in fact; therefore, here, from the first economic relationship with which we find ourselves. Then we proceed to its analysis”. (Engels, 2013, p.283).

It is fair to point out that, in order not to be accused of logicism, that is, of reducing history to a movement that takes place “in the purely abstract realm”, Engels clarifies that it is necessary “to rely on historical examples, to keep in constant contact with reality” (Engels, 2013, p.285).

The linear conception of history, present in the review that Engels elaborates For the critique of political economy, returns with full force in his criticism of mr. Dühring. In effect, in Anti-Duhring, Engels assumes the idea that everything that exists in the world is governed, necessarily, by the law of the negation of negation, which he considers as “extraordinarily general, and, for that very reason, extraordinarily effective and important, which presides over the development of nature, history and thought; a law that, as we have seen, is imposed in the animal and plant world, in geology, mathematics, history and philosophy (Engels, 1979, p.120).

Engels uses this generality of the law of negation of negation to analyze the evolution of human history. Civilized peoples, he says, “have in their origin the collective ownership of the soil. And, in all these peoples, when entering a certain primitive phase, the development of agriculture, collective property becomes an obstacle to production”. This leads to the first negation, which is the “moment when collective property is destroyed, negated, becoming, after more or less lengthy intermediate stages, private property”. As a result of this first denial of collective property, the “private property of the soil” appears. This, in turn, continues Engels, becomes “an obstacle to production, as is observed today with regard to large and small property. In these circumstances, out of necessity, the aspiration also arises to deny private property and to convert it back into collective property”. Here is the second denial. This does not restore “the primitive communal property of the soil, but implants it in a much higher and more complex form of collective property that, far from creating a barrier to the development of production, should accentuate it, allowing it to fully exploit the most modern chemical discoveries and mechanical inventions (Engels, 1979, p.118).

The entire development of humanity thus appears as the result of a mechanical and extremely schematic dialectic applied to a historical succession. This would be the logical method, purged of historical contingencies and corrected by the trajectory of the “laws of history”, as he exposes it, in his review, in For the critique of political economy. Starting from there, Engels feels free to transform the process of converting the laws of commodity production into laws of capitalist appropriation into a purely linear historical process. Without any constraint, he transforms the work of the negative, which, through the internal dialectic of the commodity, converts the exchange of equivalents into a non-exchange, as Marx puts it in Chapter XXII of Book I, into a mere linear process of the historical development of primitive forms of property until its development into private property. Giving him the floor, Engels feels free to assert that Marx had demonstrated, “with meridian clarity (…) that, upon reaching a certain degree of development, the production of commodities becomes capitalist production, and that, at this point, the law of appropriation, or the law of private property, based on the production and circulation of commodities, becomes, by virtue of its own internal and inevitable dialectic, into its opposite. The exchange of equivalents, which was the original operation, gradually transforms itself into an exchange that is only apparent, for two reasons: first, because the part of capital that is exchanged for labor power is, in itself, only a part of the product of someone else's labor appropriated, without having been given anything in exchange; secondly, because the producer, the worker, not only replaces it, but is forced to replace it by adding a new surplus... At first sight, property appears to be based on individual work... Hence, it can be concluded that the divorce between property and work became a necessary consequence of a law that seemed to belong to “its own identity” (Engels, 1979, p.140-141).

Even at the risk of being accused of pedantry, it was thought fit to quote the passage from The capital which Engels makes use of above, to explain how historical development, “on reaching a certain degree of development”, transforms commodity production into capitalist production”. Here is the excerpt from Chapter XXII, Book I, in which Marx presents the internal dialectic of the commodity, which converts the production of commodities into laws of capitalist appropriation. As the reader will be able to see, Marx does not use, as Engels does, a linear historical process, to explain the conversion of the laws of commodity production into capitalist appropriation laws. Indeed, the author of The capital demonstrates that the process of capital accumulation, when seen from the perspective of the isolated acts of buying and selling labor power, the exchange between capital and labor “continuously obeys the law of commodity exchange, according to which the capitalist always buys labor power and the worker always sells it – and, we assume here, at its real value”. However, when one observes the process of capital accumulation as a continuous and uninterrupted process, “it is evident that the law of appropriation or the law of private property, founded on the production and circulation of goods, transforms, obeying its own dialectic, internal and inevitable, into its direct opposite”. It is the work of the negative, which, through the internal dialectic of the commodity, converts the exchange of equivalents into its direct opposite: an exchange of non-equivalents. This conversion has nothing to do with the degree of historical development achieved by society, as Engels understands it.

This work of the negative shows how “The exchange of equivalents, which appeared to be the original operation, has been distorted to the point that exchange is now effected only in appearance, since, in the first place, the very part of capital exchanged for labor power is nothing more than a part of the product of alien labor, appropriated without equivalent; secondly, its producer, the worker, not only has to replace it, but has to do so with a new surplus. The exchange relationship between the capitalist and the worker thus becomes a mere appearance belonging to the circulation process, a mere form, foreign to the content itself and which only mystifies it. The continual buying and selling of labor power is the way. The content lies in the fact that the capitalist continually exchanges a portion of the already objectified alien labor, which he never ceases to appropriate without equivalent, for a larger quantity of alien living labor. Originally, the right of property appeared before us as founded on the work itself. At the very least, this assumption had to be accepted, since only commodity owners with equal rights could confront each other, but the means of appropriating someone else's merchandise was only the alienation [Veräußerung] of their own commodity, and this could only be produced through work. Now, on the contrary, property appears on the capitalist's side, as the right to appropriate other people's unpaid labor or its product; on the worker's side, as the impossibility of appropriating his own product. The split between property and work becomes a necessary consequence of a law that, apparently, had its origin in the identity of both (Marx, 2017a., p. 658/59).

Unlike Engels, Marx does not resort to a supposed historical development, to show that the split “between property and work becomes a necessary consequence of a law that, apparently, had its origin in the identity of both”. This split, albeit mystified, unfolds daily before society's eyes. Engels, taking advantage of a linear evolution of history, only hides the process of mystification of capital.

It is in this sense that the notes of the second violin become, to say the least, dissonant!

*Francisco Teixeira He is a professor at the Regional University of Cariri (URCA). Author, among other books, of Thinking with Marx: A critical-commented reading of Capital (Rehearsal).

*Rodrigo Cavalcante de Almeida is a professor at the Federal Institute of Ceará (IFCE).

To read the first part of the article click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/o-capital-de-marx-notas-dissonantes-do-segundo-violino/

Note


[I] Here a quick clarification on the concept of genesis in Marx is necessary. For the German thinker, correctly establishing the genesis of a category or a historical process is essential to demarcate the specific difference of each concrete reality. That is why in Capital he recurrently refers to the genesis of the main categories, such as commercial capital, interest-bearing capital, land rent, original accumulation, etc. However, the genesis is only a moment of the totality and, therefore, cannot be understood in isolation, as it is insufficient to explain the whole. For example, when Marx speaks of commercial capital as an antediluvian form, and well before capitalism, he does so to show that despite its historical appearance prior to capitalism, in this mode of production, it becomes subordinate to productive (industrial) capital, an original and determining category of the capitalist mode of production. Without the genetic precision of the categories, such subordination cannot be understood.


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