Archive for February, 2011

A comment on law, tendency & crisis

In Chapter 14 Marx gives variations on the theme:

“The same factors that bring about a fall in the general rate of profit provoke counter effects that inhibit this fall, delay it and in part even paralyse it. These do not annul the law but they weaken its effect. […] The law operates therefore simply as a tendency, whose effect is decisive only under certain particular circumstances and over long periods” (346).

We can immediately note that there are not parallax lines determining the development of capitalism, but instead a single line that may either cause the profit rate to fall or to cause it to increase. This single line is labour productivity: how much of a given market can be held with the least investment in labour-power? The increase in labour productivity both leads to the decline n the rate of profit and the increase in the mass of profit. Given the interaction of different industries, labour productivity can increase the rate of profit by decreasing the value of constant capital, particularly, but also variable capital.

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Capital III. Chapter 15: Development of the Law’s Internal Contradictions

parts 1 and 2 (3 & 4 to follow)

Throughout this chapter we run up against the various manifestations of the limitations and barriers to the accumulation of capital and the ways in which, as capital overcomes the barriers it sets itself, the internal contradictions become more acute. The relations of production and distribution limit the production of wealth.

I General Considerations

The fall in the rate of profit and the acceleration of accumulation both express the increase in the productivity of social labour, and result from the formations of higher compositions of capital, a higher proportion of constant capital to variable capital, which as productivity grows manifests as a relative, or even absolute, reduction in the amount of variable to constant capital: a smaller (relatively or absolutely) amount of variable capital (amount of workers) is able to set in motion a larger total capital as productivity grows. This same process accelerates the concentration and centralization of capital, as smaller capitals are ‘dispossessed’.

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Capital III. Chapter 14: Counteracting factors

Marx stresses that the phenomena he describes here are tendencies, rather than a general law – as per the previous chapter. Here exploitation of labour, reduction of wages below their value, cheapening of the elements of constant capital, the function of unemployment, foreign trade, and the increase in share capital are all presented as trends which act to attenuate the declining rate of profit.

The core question Marx returns to in this chapter is how is relative surplus-value produced?

More on this to come…

Capital III. Chapter 13: The law itself

This chapter explores the “inner and necessary connection between two apparently contradictory phenomena” (331)

—> the falling rate of profit, and

—> the accelerated accumulation of capital.

The essence of the argument is that a progressively rising organic composition of the social capital as a whole (its total material volume) occurs at the same time as a relative decline in the rate of profit. The engine of capital’s need to expand is hence located within the tendency for profit rates to decline.

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