The Economics of Kapital and the Capital of Economics

I am preparing a talk to give in China in a few months.  I have an initial draft & would very much appreciate feedback.

Warning: it is a first draft.

The Economics of Kapital and the Capital of Economics


3 comments so far

  1. Eleanor on

    Michael — I printed out the essay and line edited it. (I’m a writer and in a writing workshop. If you give me any manuscript, I will line edit it.) Most of the edits are pretty small.

    Two general comments however — you use “for example” too much. I noticed this in one of your books, and it made me crazy. In most cases, “for example” can simply be cut. The flow of your argument is just fine without it.

    I found the section on the Grundrisse a bit hard to follow, and I think there’s an important insight there, which I’d like to understand better.

    In general, this is a neat essay. I am going to have to reread to assimilate the ideas, because — as you say about Marx — there is great intellectual richness here.

  2. John A Imani on


    Like the writer above (Eleanor)I too found small edits that needed to be done (e.g. bottom of first page “with the assistance (of) computers; etc.).

    What I am curious about are exactly those passages from the Grundrisse which Eleanor cites. These struck me as familiar as they seem to imply that some form of value can be added (and not merely transferred) by the constant capital inputs:

    “… to the degree that large industry develops, the creation of real wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion during labour time, whose ‘powerful effectiveness’ is itself in turn out of all proportion to the direct labour time spent on their production, but depends rather on the general state of science and on the progress of technology, or the application of this science to production.” [Marx 1973, pp. 704-5;


    “… steps to the side of the production process instead of being its chief actor. In this transformation, it is neither the direct human labour he himself performs, nor the time during which he works, but rather the appropriation of his own general productive power, his understanding of nature and his mastery over it by virtue of his presence as a social body it is, in a word, the development of the social individual which appears as the great foundation stone of production and of wealth. The theft of alien labour time, on which the present wealth is based, appears a miserable foundation in face of this new one, created by large scale industry itself. As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great wellspring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value. [Marx 1973, p. 705]

    The quotes were similar to another from the Grundrisse I had previously chanced upon:

    “It also has to be postulated (which was not done above) that the use-value of the machine (is) significantly greater than its value; i.e. that its devaluation in the service of production is not proportional to its increasing effect on production.”*Grundrisse*, op. cit., p. 381.

    The above quote was used by (among others) Steven Keen in his “Debunking Economics” as an attack upon the LTofV. I make note that I do not agree with that interpretation.

    Is that a fair assessment? That is, could the cited quotes be viewed as suggesting that value is a by-product of the use of constant capital in production?



  3. mperelman on

    John, technology does not invalidate the “labor theory of value,” a term that Marx never used. Technology only amplifies the productivity of labor.

    At the same time, the capitalist system, which emphasizes the reduction of labor time, becomes dysfunctional, in the sense that just driving labor harder does not make sense.

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