Banaji on the Dialectic and the laws of moition in Capital.

For Marx, as his approval of Kaufman’s review indicates, the dialectic was, more specifically, a science of the laws of motion of the ‘social process’, profoundly historical by its very nature, not only in that it guided only the investigation of social (or historical) phenomena, but insofar as it denied that such phenomena could be understood according to abstract or historically indeterminate (social or historical) laws: ‘in Marx’s opinion’, Kaufman wrote, ‘every historical period has laws of its own’.60 The dialectic in Capital was thus nothing else than the rigorous, systematic investigation of the laws of motion of capitalist production, in the course of which a series of simple abstractions (‘wage-labour’, money, etc.) were historically concretised as bourgeois relations of production, or abstractions determinate to capitalism as a mode of production; that is, reconstituted as ‘concrete categories’, as historically determinate social forms. It follows that modes of production are impenetrable at the level of simple abstractions. The process of ‘true abstraction’ is simultaneously a process of ‘concretisation’, of the definition of specific historical laws of motion. Isolating the enterprise of production under capitalism, Marx analysed these laws at two levels: at the level of each enterprise (or ‘economic unit’: Lenin) and at the level of the social totality of enterprises. If we generalise from this analysis, at its first level, the enterprise, an isolated entity, figures as a unit of production governed by specific laws which impose on it a determinate mode of economic behaviour, converting the given inherited forms of the labour-process into the form posited by their own motion. It follows that the different types of enterprise which form the basic cell of production in a given social form of economy are determined, in the first instance, as units of production, and only crystallise (that is, acquire their classical developed structure) in the determinate form of historically specific modes of organisation of the labour-process which posit a particular level of technique and specific historical forms of the appropriation of the objective conditions of labour. At the level of the economy of enterprises, the process of investigation traces those tendencies which derive from the behaviour of each enterprise at the level of all enterprises. In Marx, Capital, Volume I comprises the analysis of the enterprise (of capitalist production) as an isolated entity, as individual capital – of the production and accumulation of surplus-value and of the labour-process as a value-producing process, which Marx characterises as the ‘direct process of the production of capital’ or the ‘immediate produc- tive process’. The laws of the rising organic composition of capital and of the concentration and centralisation of capital are already implied in the motion of individual capital (of capital as an isolated enterprise). Volumes II and III derive the laws of motion of capital at higher levels of integration (social capital, many capitals) from the laws of motion of capital as an iso- lated entity, arriving finally at the transformation of surplus-value into profit and the law of the falling rate of profit. The first three parts of Volume III complete the definition of capitalism as a mode of production. Taken as a whole, across its various stages, the substance of Marx’s analysis lies in its definition of the laws of motion of capitalist production: the production and accumulation of surplus-value, the revolutionisation of the labour-process, the production of relative surplus-value on the basis of a capitalistically- constituted labour-process, the compulsion to increase the productivity of labour, etc. The ‘relations of capitalist production’ are the relations which express and realise these laws of motion at different levels of the social process of production. (59-60 in Theory and History)


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