Capital


It would be interestintg to study what parts of Marx are taught in each discipline and come up with a comparison of the historian’s Marx, the Theorist’s Marx, the philosopher’s Marx, the political-economist’s Marx etc. etc. They’re bound to be different. (Personal experience has taught me that the political science Marx is the hopelessly vulgarized Marx of teleology and laws, whereas of course , the philosophical and theoretical sophisticated Marx abounds with Hegelian sublties.) As I’m categorized as a theorist, I can’t muddy my hands with empirical work, so somebody get to it!

This research idea crossed my mind today when I was reading up on fetishism in Capital. Now, I’d read the Fetish Character of Commodities and its Secrets, countless times, but, I’d never read the sections on the fetish charcter of Capital, which is a shame because they’re brilliant distallations of the Hegelian influenced idea of Capital. They are also staggeringly relevant descriptions of the financial crisis/ depression cluster fuck going on now;

The appearance;

Relations of capital assume their most external and most fetish-like form in interest bearing capital…. [They] Appear[s] as  a mysterious and self-creating source of interest- the source of its own increase. The thing ( money, commodity, value) is now capital even as a mere thing, and capital appears as a mere thing. The result of the entire process of reproduction appears as a property inherent in the thing itself. …in interest-bearing capital, therefore, this automatic fetish, self-expanding value, money generating money, is brought out in its pure state and in this form no longer bears the birthmark of its origin. The social relation is consummated in the relation of a thing, of money, to itself. Instead of the actual transformation of money into capital, we see here only form without content.

The appearance and the social essence behind the appearance;

This 2 becomes distorted. While interest is only a portion of the profit, i.e. of surplus value, which the functioning capital squeezes out of the labourer, it appears now, on the contrary, as though interest were a typical prod of capital, the primary matter, and profit, in the shape of profit of enterprise, were a mere accessory and by-product of the process of reproduction. Thus, we get the fetish form of capital and the conception of fetish capital…it is the capacity of money, or of a commodity, to expand its own value independently of reproduction—which is a mystification of capital in its most flagrant form

The repercussions;

In its capacity of interest-bearing capital, capital claims the ownership of wealth which can ever be produced, and everything it has received so far is but an instalment for its all-engrossing appetite. By its innate laws, all surplus labour which the human race can ever perform belongs to it. moloch

As long as the social character of labour appears as the money existence of commodities, and thus as a thing external to actual production, money crises- independent of or as an intensification of actual crises—are inevitable.

Came across this shortly after the Badiou post. The online version is a different translation, but it conveys the same eloquence;

Modern Industry never looks upon and treats the existing form of a process as final. The technical basis of that industry is therefore revolutionary, while all earlier modes of production were essentially conservative. [225] By means of machinery, chemical processes and other methods, it is continually causing changes not only in the technical basis of production, but also in the functions of the labourer, and in the social combinations of the labour-process. At the same time, it thereby also revolutionises the division of labour within the society, and incessantly launches masses of capital and of workpeople from one branch of production to another. But if Modern Industry, by its very nature, therefore necessitates variation of labour, fluency of function, universal mobility of the labourer, on the other hand, in its capitalistic form, it reproduces the old division of labour with its ossified particularisations. We have seen how this absolute contradiction between the technical necessities of Modern Industry, and the social character inherent in its capitalistic form, dispels all fixity and security in the situation of the labourer; how it constantly threatens, by taking away the instruments of labour, to snatch from his hands his means of subsistence, [226] and, by suppressing his detail-function, to make him superfluous, We have seen, too, how this antagonism vents its rage in the creation of that monstrosity, an industrial reserve army, kept in misery in order to be always at the disposal of capital; in the incessant human sacrifices from among the working-class, in the most reckless squandering of labour-power and in the devastation caused by a social anarchy which turns every economic progress into a social calamity. This is the negative side. But if, on the one hand, variation of work at present imposes itself after the manner of an overpowering natural law, and with the blindly destructive action of a natural law that meets with resistance [227] at all points, Modern Industry, on the other hand, through its catastrophes imposes the necessity of recognising, as a fundamental law of production, variation of work, consequently fitness of the labourer for varied work, consequently the greatest possible development of his varied aptitudes. It becomes a question of life and death for society to adapt the mode of production to the normal functioning of this law. Modern Industry, indeed, compels society, under penalty of death, to replace the detail-worker of to-day, grappled by life-long repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus reduced to the mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers.”

Marx Das Kapital pg. 617-618

I am  currently making my way through Capital in independent reading course on Marx I am auditing this semester. I will blog more about the key concepts of use-value, exchange-value, surplus-value and how these relate to Marx’s epistemological notions of totality, his use of dialectics and the underlying normative basis of his critique of political economy at some future point.

Right now I just want to provide an quote where Marx unveils the historical nature of the length of the working day. Here he is a social historian;

“In the history of capitalist production, the establishment of a norm for the working day presents itself as a struggle over the limits of that day, a struggle between collective capital, i.e. the class of capitalists, and collective labor, i.e. the working class.”

But I also want to show that he is also a literary author of some merit, when he displays the action of the capitalist in an almost tragic light. Like the worker the capitalist is turned into an object and dehumanized by the operation of the capitalist system, like Nosefaratu he is a gothic and souless object who lives off of others;

“The capitalist has his own views of the working day. As a capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital…Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.”

I hope these two examples display that Capital is a rich diverse text and hint why Francis Wheen argues it should be read as a gothic novel, with Marx as the greatest satirist since Jonathan Swift.