Capital Conclusions

8 Nov 2013: Capital (Appendix: Results of the Immediate Process of Production, 1867, Karl Marx)

This is a bulky and somewhat protean “chapter” (more like a bonus feature, really, it seems) that recapitulates and restresses many points already made in the text above. Perhaps the part that feels the freshest, regardless of the extent to which it has already been discussed, is Marx’s lengthy emphasis on the substance of capital as profoundly greater and broader than the machinery and raw materials with which it is superficially associated: the entire social relations of production must be taken into account, for it is these (i.e. the selling of wage-labour and the reproduction of the worker-capitalist interdependence) that truly distinguish capital from other economic modes and themselves generate the enormous instruments and myriad materials which so mystify this proper understanding. There’s an important acknowledgment of the linguistic and conceptual ways that truth is hidden by a political economy that takes simple explanations at face value rather than contextualize them within history (e.g. people have produced commodities in the past, people have used tools in the past, people have held property in the past, all without these things being capital, though they are commonly identified as such now even in undergraduate textbooks). One can see the applicability of this thinking across other disciplines as well, and better understand how deep Marx’s influence – albeit now largely uncredited – is upon philosophy and social science on the whole. Can cinema, for instance, really be isolated as film or digital tape and cameras, and lighting and editing equipment and projectors and screens, etc., or is it rather an entire social relation reproducing a duality between passive consumption (with relatively inactive, routine, banal life circumstances for the viewing populace) and stylishly packaged ideological manufacture? Can you or I, for example, really be defined as that which resides within the biological limits to anatomy, or are these living conceptions mere illusions perpetuated by an economic individualism that denies an interdependence not only of human upon human but also of body upon air and environment and sensory input and freedom? These wonderings obviously diverge a bit from the specific point about economic categories that Marx is making, but they illustrate just how fecund his text can be. Among other things, Marx brings up again points about piece-wages as illusion for time wages, differences in national wages, Malthusian population myths and the idiocy – as he would have you believe – of Proudhon. This work is monumental.

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