“The exact development of the concept of capital is necessary, since it is the fundamental concept of modern economics, just as capital itself, whose abstract counterpart (Gegenbild) is its concept, is the foundation of bourgeois society. The sharp formulation of the basic, presuppositions of the relation must bring out all the contradictions of bourgeois production, as well as the limit (Grenze) where it drives beyond, itself.” (Grundrisse p.331)
The importance of the definition of capital and that of the mode of grasping its becoming are determinant for understanding communism, ‘the mode of production that will follow the one where capital dominates, and to establish an activity negating the society of capital. In may seem that, in this respect, our work is engaged in a philosophical deformation having nothing in common with Marx’s method of theoretical understanding. This travesty would be all the clearer as we use the Grundrisse, the “rough draft of Capital” which some consider does not provide Marx’s finished thought, to back-up our argument. So let us quote this fundamental section from Capital Volume I where Marx defined capital according to its appearance inside the sphere of circulation,; Volume I being considered as the mature work par excellence by everyone. Let us also state that we have had to retranslate it in order to present Marx’s thought, and not that of Marx as corrected by Roy.
“The independent forms, the money forms, which the value of commodities assumes in simple circulation, do nothing but mediate the exchange of commodities, and they vanish in the final result of the movement. On the other hand, in the circulation M – C – M both the commodity and money function only as different modes of existence of value itself, the money as its general mode of existence, the commodity as its particular or, so to speak, disguised mode. It is constantly changing from one form into the other, without becoming lost in this movement; it thus becomes transforned into an automatic subject. If we pin dawn the specific forms of appearance assumed in turn by self-valorizing value in the course of its life, we reach the following elucidation: capital is money, capital is commodity. In fact, however, here value becomes the subject of a process in which, while constantly assuming the forms in turn of money and commodity, it changes its own magnitude, and as surplus-value, unloads from itself as original value, valorizes itself. For the movement in the course of which it adds surplus-value is its own movement, its valorization, therefore its self-valorization. By the virtue of being value, it has acquired the occult ability to posit value. It brings forth living offspring, or at least lays golden eggs.
“As the dominant subject of such a process, in which it alternately assumes and loses the money form and the commodity form, but conserves and expands itself through all these changes, value requires above all an independent form by means of which its identity with itself may be asserted. Only in money does it possess this form. Money therefore constitutes the starting-point and the conclusion to every valorization process. It was £100 and now it is £110, etc. But the money itself is only one of the two forms of value. Unless it takes on the commodity form, it does not become capital. There is no antagonism here, as in the case of hoarding, between the money and the commodity. The capitalist knows that all commodities, however tattered they may look, or however badly they may smell, are in faith and in truth money, are by nature circumcised Jews, and, what is more, a wonderful means of making still more money out of money.
“If the value of commodities in simple circulation maintains its use-value vis-à-vis at best the independent form of money, then here it takes its position suddenly as a selfmoving substance in process, for which commodity and money are simply forms. But there is more to come. Instead of simply representing the relations of commodities, it now enters into a private relationship with itself, as it were. It differentiates itself as original value from itself as surplus-value, just as God the father differentiates himself from himself as God the Son, although both are of the same age and form, in fact one single person; for only by the surplus-value of £10 does the £100 originally advanced become capital, and as soon as this has happened, as soon as the son has been created and, through the son, the father, their difference vanishes again; and both become one, £110.
“Value therefore now becomes value in process, and, as such, capital. It comes out of circulation, enters into it again, conserves and multiplies itself within circulation, emerges from it with an increased size, and starts the same cycle again and again. M – M’ – money which begets money – such is the description of capital given by its first interpreters, the Mercantilists.
“Buying in order to sell, or, more accurately, buying in order to sell more dearly, M – C M’ seems admittedly to be a form peculiar to one kind, of capital alone, merchants’ capital. But industrial capital too is money that has been changed into commodities, and reconverted into more money by the sale of these commodities. Events which take place outside the sphere of circulation, in the interval between buying and selling, do not affect the form of this movement. Lastly, in the case of interest-bearing capital, the circulation M – C – M’ presents itself in abridged form, in its final result and without any intermediate stage, in a concise style, so to speak, as M – M’, i.e. money which is worth more money, value which is greater than itself.
“M – C – M’ is in fact therefore the general formula for capital as it appearsimmediately in the sphere of circulation.” (Capital 1 pp. 25.5-7)
The chain of the discourse and the concepts used clearly evoke Hegel. It was in Capital Volume I that Marx finally supersedes him. In other works, such as in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts and, in The German Ideology, there is a critique allowing one to situate all that is wrong in Hegel’s work, but it did not really establish a theory other than a polemic with that work because it was unable to leave it out of consideration, Here Hegel is integrated. Marx shows that the movement of capital itself realizes Hegel’s project,
“In my view, which can be justified only by the exposition of the system itself, everything turns on grasping and expressing the True, not only as Substance, but equally as Subject.” (Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford 1977 pp. 9-10)
Capital cannot be grasped only as substance, as value, as crystallized, accumulated labour time, but as subject. Herein lies the difference between value and capital. Money alone, especially in its-third definition, money as money, can compare itself with capital. But really it is not a dominant subject because it negates itself in circulation, or else it wishes to preserve its being, it must withdraw from it – hoarding.
The concept of value also presupposes the confluence of different contributions for its production: that of classical political economy (value = a quantum of social labour); of politics, since, as Marx showed in the first section of Capital Volume I, ‘Commodities and Money’, there could only be a movement of exchange between equivalents from the time when liberty and equality became popular prejudices, implying a considerable number of revolutionary struggles to arrive at this point; from classical German philosophy, which provided the conceptual development of what preceded (self-consciousness is the philosophical statement of equality and liberty). The concept of value sums up in itself the whole of human activity from the dissolution of the natural communist communities because it is the product of that activity.
Hegel began his system there and autonomized human activity, which he conceived of as abstract labour. So doing, he described somehow the development of capital’s form without its content.
Marx stated that capital originated as the result of the simple circulation of commodities: “This last product of commodity circulation is the first form of appearance of capital.” (Capital I p.247), and he indicates the formula defining the appearance. One should note on this that Marx no longer used the expression genera]. concept of capital as he did in the Grundrisse when he was researching the concept richest in determinations, the most apt to include all the manifestations of the capital being. The reason for this substitution was imposed by the very mode of appearance of capital in the two periods furthest apart in its becoming, its appearance and its complete flourishing, interest-bearing capital. It is a K (originally M) engendering a K + ΔK, Thus it is not the rejection of philosophical language that made him write formula instead of concept, since he entitled Capital Volume I, Part Four, Chapter 12 ‘The Concept of Relative SurplusValue’.
Later Marx shows that capital assumed a body, incarnated itself (einverleiben) and really realizes what is contained in the general formula: becoming the dominant subject of the production process. It creates its production process due to large-scale industry, thus due to the incorporation of science in production. Hence one passes from the extortion of absolute surplus-value to the extorsion of relative surplus-value. Capital no longer dominates formally, but really, inside the immediate process of production.
Also, this general formula contains the fact that capital must dominate circulation, if not, it would have the same fate as money, it would be negated in it. This is dealt with in Capital Volumes II & III, where Marx shows that capital becomes capital in process, unity of the immediate process of production and the circulation process. Henceforth its valorization process no longer simply opposes itself to the labour process, since the latter has become the production process of capital and production is simultaneously production and circulation, as the latter, as the real expression of capital, contains production within itself. Hence the life process of capital includes all social and economic phenomena: it has attained real domination over society which it founds, since society is the ensemble of production relations. It constitutes itself as material community, presupposing all human manifestations.
Finally, value become capital requires an autonomous form to represent itself. Here we find, the nodal point of the autonomization movement of the representationmediation. Marx shows in previous chapters that there could be no circulation of commodities without representation and mediation. Commodities had to be represented by prices so as to be exchanged: they are so firstly ideally, then materially. Price creates the possibility of exchange. Thanks to it, a given commodity indicates its presence to others as a quantum of value, and it is this quantum that is to be determinant for the acquisition of use-value which is its support. Representation thus permits a projection of the value being beyond the use-value of the commodity; the externalization of this quantum of value is what the price represents. However, the movement of the identification of commodities, thus as values, this mutual recognition as values, this reciprocal measure, is possible only with a mediating general equivalent element, a mirror of every value. The exchange movement becomes possible because ideally the commodity is money (price) and materially money is a commodity (gold, money etc.).
Capital is thus the supersession of value, thus of the commodity and of money, of the particular and of the universal it includes the representation-symbol of itself, and. becomes its own general equivalent.
The representations could be equivalents during the period of simple commodity circulation. With the domination of capital, it is a representation which holds sway and which founds the others. The mode of grasping reality can no longer be democratic; it must be dictatorial. Besides, empiricism has been totally rejected following the fading of the content, the substrate. Now the autonomized form of capital is interposed between the knowing human subject and reality; this form has absorbed all representations and schemes of knowledge: science, art, ideology. Man is completely divested. The various representations can certainly oppose each other, as do particular capitals within the community of capital which tend. even to pose themselves as material communities, but they need a mediating representation ( a kind of general equivalent). It is that of the indefinite immeasureable movement of capital that poses what Hegel would call the bad infinity, this quantitative increase which it tries to extend to other planets by escaping the Earth (charlatan conquest of space – Bordiga).
By dominating the law of value, capital dominates men; more precisely, it pumps all the force and. materiality out of men to the extent that it incarnates and anthropomorphoses itself. Men are reduced to pure spirits who now receive their substance from capital, which, as the material community, has also become nature .
This is paralleled by the separation of the form from the content of capital, the form as symbol-representation-mediation and. the content as value. But this content is devalorized with scientific development leading to automation; directly, because it decreasingly contains living labour time, indirectly, because it undergoes moral wear.- Henceforth capital tends merely to be a form with an increasingly faded content. Interest bearing capital and credit are the bearers of this transformation. The determination of interest bearing capital is present since the genera]. formula for capital.
The development of fictitious capital is accompanied by the triumph of speculation. In Hegel, the speculative moment is that when there is the reconstitution of what was dissociated, the moment when the concept itself creates the positive. It is the production of reality by the concept when there is no longer anything outside it as a presupposition, except the concept itself.
Men are capitalized and ripened by capital after the interiorization of the relation of constraint: work to earn money (earn a living), considering all activity with profit in view (Erwerbstätigkeit). Man is certainly dead. Human beings contemplate the figures of capital which pass before their eyes just as the men in Plato’s cave contemplated shadows.
Capital resulting from the activity between men becomes a dominating power providing them with life; man is reified and simultaneously, fetishism, which was still feeble in. the case of the commodity, attains its apogee with the achievement of mystification.
These few remarks are adequate to establish the validity of our mode of comprehending capital and our statement that it is all reified human activity, separated from men, autonomized and become a power oppressing them. Later on we shall develop all the consequences implied in this statement.
(INVARIANCE II/1, November 1971)
1. Engels’s formulation of socialism as the point of confluence of English political economy, French politics and German philosophy seems superficial to us as, on the one hand, it does not show the internal movement, and, on the other, insufficient: socialism appears there as a direct descendant and, not as a supersession implying a certain discontinuity.
2. This takes place during the transition from value to production price. See above pp.??
3. See above pp 4-158 and Theses sur le capitalisme (Invariance Série I, no.6)
taken from here
Foto: Sylvia John