Lefebvre on Concrete Abstraction and the Method of Capital.

Another day, another section on another book by Lefebvre containing another summary of Capital:

The plan of Capital, as it has emerged from the many commentaries on and rereadings of the book (the most literal-minded of which seem, incidentally, to be the best), itself constitutes a strong argument in favour of proceeding in this way. In his work preparatory to Capital, Marx was able to develop such essential concepts as that of (social) labour. Labour has existed in all societies, as have representations of it (pain, punishment, etc.), but only in the eighteenth century did the concept itself emerge. Marx shows how and why this was so, and then, having dealt with these preliminaries, he proceeds to the essential, which is neither a substance nor a ‘reality’, but rather a form. Initially, and centrally, Marx uncovers an (almost) pure form, that of the circulation of material goods, or exchange. This is a quasi-logical form similar to, and indeed bound up with, other ‘pure’ forms (identity and difference, equivalence, consistency, reciprocity, recurrence, and repetition). The circulation and exchange of material goods are distinct but not separate from the circulation and exchange of signs (language, discourse). The ‘pure’ form here has a bipolar structure (use value versus exchange value), and it has functions which Capital sets forth. As a concrete abstraction, it is developed by thought – just as it developed in time and space – until it reaches the level of social practice: via money, and via labour and its determinants (i.e. its dialectic: individual versus social, divided versus global, particular versus mean, qualitative versus quantitative). This kind of development is more fruitful conceptually than classical deduction, and suppler than induction or construction. In this case, of course, it culminates in the notion of surplus value. The pivot, however, remains unchanged: by virtue of a dialectical paradox, that pivot is a quasi-void, a near-absence – namely the form of exchange, which governs social practice. (The Production of Space 100)

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