Reading the first part of Capital III can be slow. You can of course skim read it to get the gist: capitalists believe that their profits derive from all parts of their capital investment, but they really only derive from the variable element of this investment.
But being faithful to Marx’s project in Capital means looking into to the investigations of variations in the different elements that constitute the profit rate and the rate of surplus value (p’ and s’), as well as the variations of the latter itself, as the explication of his central concept, value.
At the close of Capital II, we had the first detailed presentation of value as it is reproduced, and reproduces, the total social capital. We now move back and forward a few steps. Back to the question of mystification and the anatomy of profit taking; forward to a more concrete level of abstraction (the concrete always being a composite of abstractions for thought), we’re now looking at the direct concerns of capitalists, mystified or not, as they reproduce their capitals.
How does this investigation demonstrate something about the subject-character of value? How does it show something about how Marx argues we ought to think capitalism? These, I think, are the main things to try and draw out of capital. How is Marx telling us about the subject of capitalism, the properly bourgeois subject, value, and how is he telling us how we can think this subject?
If we can think the subject of this process (which remains a process without a Cartesian subject) we might have the resources to think the counter-subject of the process. This question is Alain Badiou’s: can we think a materialist subject, that black sheep of Western philosophy?
Perhaps the other question to put to this part of Capital is the status of use-values. In the third part of Capital Marx replaces ‘use-value’ with ‘natural form’, perhaps to highlight the trans-historical character of this naked form, stripped of social form.
In Capital III, Marx refers to the materiality of capital. Again this question is reduced, for the moment, to the need for capitals to replace a set of means of production over portions of time depending on if these means of production are fixed or fluid. It is also reduced to the important question of the value represented by a give set of means of production, and the possible variation in this value. The disjunction between the material and its social determination being really the motor of Marx’s exposition.