George Pennyfarthing vents wind:
>Below is a brief response to the many responses to my very brief piece on
>"In the opening paragraph of Capital Marx proclaims:
>The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production
>presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities," its unit
>being a single
>commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a
>So the capitalist mode of production can prevail in more than one society.
>To say that the "wealth of those societies presents itself as an immense
>commodities" is not true. Much of the existing wealth is in the form of
>not capital in the form of the commodity. This mistaken premise renders
>the validity of
>making the commodity a starting point questionable on that basis."
>It is clear from many of the responses made in relation to my above
>posting that there is
>a lot of ignorance, confusion and down right refusal to face facts.
>To elaborate: The point is that the wealth of capitalist society does not
>"as an immense accumulation of commodities." Much of the wealth of
>capitalist society is
>in the form of factories. Factories are forms of capital but not
>factories are a form of fixed capital. Fixed capital is not a commodity
>form. Much wealth
>too assumes the form of use values. Capital assumes different forms. It
>assumes the form
>of money, of circulating capital, of fixed capital. of variable capital.
>assumes the form of the commodity.
>The thousands of cars on the roads and televisions and computers in homes
>commodities. They are use values. Concerning the consumer market once the
>has been completed the commodities in question cease to be commodities and
>are at most
>simple use values.
>In short the wealth of capitalist society does not present itself as an
>accumulation of commodities. That wealth presents itself as commodities;
>as use values
>that are not commodities; as forms of capital that are not commodity
>forms. The plain fact
>is that Marx in his opening statement was plain wrong.
To which Jerry Levy replies by repeating even more clearly what he and I
said earlier putting straight Georgie-Porgie's monstrous and terribly
>George Pennefather wrote:
>> Much of the wealth of capitalist society is
>> in the form of factories. Factories are forms of capital but not
>> commodities. The factories are a form of fixed capital.
>(Constant) fixed capital takes the commodity-form. Do you think it just
>drops from the sky?
>> It assumes the form
>> of money,
>Marx referred to gold as the "money commodity" (of course, a separate
>discussion is whether "commodity money" still has a role in understanding
>> of circulating capital,
>(Constant) circulating capital also takes the commodity-form. How do you
>think that capitalists obtain the elements of constant circulating
>capital? Thus must go into the market and buy those commodities from other
>> of variable capital.
>Labour-power is a (unique) commodity in Marx's theory.
>> The thousands of cars on the roads and televisions and computers in
>> homes are not
>> commodities. They are use values.
>They are commodities which are in the process of being consumed (and
>thereby lose their use-value and exchange-value over time).
>> The plain fact
>> is that Marx in his opening statement was plain wrong.
>Someone is "plain wrong" on this subject ... but it's not Marx.
Let's look at the method Moneypenny uses a bit more closely:
For starters, the first paragraph in Capital reads as follows:
The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of
presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities," its
unit being a single
commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis
of a commodity.
To it, as if part of the same paragraph, Pence-not-Sense has added a
sentence of his own quite out of the blue:
So the capitalist mode of production can prevail in more than one
No indication that it's not Marx, no comment on it, and no conclusions
about it. It's just there like a cuckoo in the nest. It makes you wonder if
this bit's supposed to be wrong, too. Or maybe he was just testing us?
You'd think that what Jerry and I said about the commodity-in-use,
"commodity-losing-use-and-exchange-value-over-time" would make it clear
what angle the "presentation" of wealth is being seen from here. But no. So
take Marx's references to everything under capitalism having a price-tag --
doesn't this hold for post-sale commodities too? Don't they have
second-hand value (the exchange-value of the rest of the use-value bearing
entity that hasn't been consumed yet?). What else is depreciation in Marx's
work? Now if Pennyfarthing would bother to look at the world presented by
any of today's mass media, he would see a huge jumble of price tags. Pamela
Andersson's tits are worth so many millions each, etc. Nokia and Microsoft
are worth this or that. Bill Gates is worth a penny or a farthing. This
building is valued at so much, and that road at so much else.
This is the *apparent* wealth of society, presenting itself to us all, and
it's labelled "Money" and "Buy Me!"
And it's a vast confusion of different kinds of goods and uses, with very
different histories behind their price tags -- except for the one thing
they all share, which is, as everybody has been at pains to point out but
Pudding-n-Pie has not bothered to notice, that they are all a combination
of use-value and exchange-value, ie commodities. And obviously they're not
all just stuck on the shelf for ever -- the capitalist system is not
interested in constipated metabolisms, no, the stuff must flow. And flow it
does, from one "moment" of the process to the next. A raw material
commodity is bought and flung into the production process, where it is
temporarily off market, being processed by other post-purchase commodities
which are also off market during the process of actual production, although
always price-labelled and always in principle up for sale. Marx's goal in
Capital is to understand and explain this flow from one transient form to
the next, from C' to C'' and M' to M'', and to get behind the fetishization
of surface forms like money, wages, profit, interest and rent and to
explain them all as manifestations of labour value. He is able to do this
most comprehensively (and for the scientifically inclined, most
convincingly) by getting down to first principles and axioms. Having done
this by dint of immense preparatory toil, he starts with the simplest form
he could find, which was the commodity (the "cell" of the capitalist mode
of production) and begins, Hegel-fashion, to develop this and derive the
various nodal points and interconnections of the capitalist process of
production and circulation, first in general terms in Books I (production)
and II (circulation), and then getting down to particulars of surface
appearance (profit, interest and wages in particular, along with credit and
rent) in Book III.
"What's it worth?" and "How much do you earn?" (even the sublime "How much
are you worth?") are all central questions under capitalism. The Market
Moment, the Commodity Con, pervade our lives.
Marx makes this very surface, very apparent and in-your-face
commoditization into a main theme of the opening chapters on money and
exchange. Why? Because they're so damned equal before the law. Everything
exchanges for what it's worth -- and for this reason the capitalists
constantly wonder what all the socialist fuss is about.
Pettyfeather hasn't the foggiest inkling of any of this. He doesn't realize
why Marx was so insistent on the distinction between surface appearance and
underlying reality (as any German scholar worth their salt will tell you,
Sein und Schein (Being and Appearance) is where it's at in ze Cherman
Kultur, Ja!). Why in fact the commodity is the key to understanding both
the surface appearance of wealth as a promiscuous agglomeration of
price-tags and the underlying reality of capitalist exploitation of the
worker by the mechanism of wage-slavery.
For this reason he commits the methodological idiocy of first sweeping
aside Marx's dialectical deduction of the commodity as the key concept for
providing the starting axioms in his scientific/philosophical investigation
into the fundamental workings of capitalist society, and then, with total
insouciance and complete disregard for the incongruity and plain daftness
of the contradiction he gets himself into, he uses Marx's own terminology
(fixed and variable capital, for example) to describe what in his eyes is a
grotesque blunder on Marx's part! Of course, since Georgie Boy never ever
draws any conclusions of his own (except the hair-raising "Capital is
wrong") we can't know whether this blunder vitiates all of Marx's theory
that builds on this as a foundation, or whether everything else is more or
less OK anyways and the opening statement is just a slip twixt cup and lip
we can ignore without much bother. Perhaps Penny-for-your-thoughts just
meant to hint to us that even Homer nods. As Joe E Brown beams at the end
of Some Like It Hot -- "Nobody's perfect!" Well shame on us then for making
such a fuss about something so inconsequential!
The Think-Tanker's method is very dialectical. Having your cake and eating
it. He puts in his thumb and pulls out a plum and says what a good boy am I!
Now a plum has a very short life as part of the apparent wealth of society.
>From shelf to pie to oven to thumb to stomach to gut to sewer in no time at
And if we look at service commodities that are consumed as they are being
produced, like transport or the equally classic prostitution, well, who is
to say where the surface stops and the deeper digging starts? But that
would take us to Theories of Surplus Value. I wonder what blunder Marx made
in his opening "proclamation" there?
And so to bed.
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