Learn about Marxist economic theory

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Learn about Marxist economic theory

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

David Harvey has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume I for nearly 40 years, and his lectures are [url=http://davidharvey.org/]now available free online[/url] for the first time.

This open course consists of 13 two-hour video lectures of Professor Harvey’s close chapter by chapter reading of Capital, Volume I.

David Harvey is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York (CUNY).

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

There are only 3 of the 13 lectures posted so far. However, at 2 hours a pop, that's still 6 hours of free lectures. You can't beat that with a stick.

Incidently, I've already posted a link to Harvey's lectures on the [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=21&t=001934]S..., Marxist, and Radical Educational resources thread. [/url]

lagatta

I really should re-read Capital - I read it when I was very young and am not sure I fully understood everything, moreover it is essential as grounding while working on ecosocialist concepts.

I've been studying German, and have re-read some of the easier and shorter Marxian texts in the original (the Manifesto, Utopian and Scientific Socialism, etc) but I don't think I'd be up to Das Kapital yet.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I started watching those videos from Beltov's earlier links. The first chapter of [i]Capital[/i] is the most important, in my opinion, and the most important part is eminently readable:

[url=http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4]Chapter 1, Section 4: The Fetishism of Commodities[/url]

quote:

[b]A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.[/b] So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point that those properties are the product of human labour. It is as clear as noon-day, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. [b]It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head,[/b] and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was. [26a]

The mystical character of commodities does not originate, therefore, in their use value. Just as little does it proceed from the nature of the determining factors of value. For, in the first place, however varied the useful kinds of labour, or productive activities, may be, it is a physiological fact, that they are functions of the human organism, and that each such function, whatever may be its nature or form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, &c. Secondly, with regard to that which forms the ground-work for the quantitative determination of value, namely, the duration of that expenditure, or the quantity of labour, it is quite clear that there is a palpable difference between its quantity and quality. In all states of society, the labour time that it costs to produce the means of subsistence, must necessarily be an object of interest to mankind, though not of equal interest in different stages of development.[27] And lastly, from the moment that men in any way work for one another, [b]their labour assumes a social form.[/b]

Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? [b]Clearly from this form itself.[/b] The equality of all sorts of human labour is expressed objectively by their products all being equally values; the measure of the expenditure of labour power by the duration of that expenditure, takes the form of the quantity of value of the products of labour; and finally the mutual relations of the producers, within which the social character of their labour affirms itself, take the form of a social relation between the products.

[b]A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour.[/b] This is the reason why the products of labour become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses. In the same way the light from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself. But, in the act of seeing, there is at all events, an actual passage of light from one thing to another, from the external object to the eye. There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things quв commodities, and the value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. [b]There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things.[/b] In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This [b]I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.[/b]


[ 23 June 2008: Message edited by: Catchfire ]

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

This fetish can also be expressed, more briefly, as "the mistaken idea that the value of a commodity is an intrinsic property of the commodity as an object." Behind things (exchanged) are people (working).

Fox & Johnson, [i]Understanding Capital[/i], 1978, p. 100.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

That sounds like a criminal reduction to me. Marx is not simply pointing out that people make the things we use, nor that to think otherwise is simply a 'mistake'. Rather, the 'exchange-value' is the only thing connecting a commodity to its social value (i.e., to the labour required to produce it, which is the definitive attribute of humanity) but the exchange value has nothing to do with the commodity's material value, or use value. But this is not a mistake--the fetishistic character of the commodity comes in because exchange value appears [i]as if[/i] it were objective, or socio-natural. So social relations, no longer based on existential labour, or, "relations between men (sic)" but between things.

This leads to all sorts of great analysis, like Georg Lukбcs on reification, Guy Debord on the Spectacle, among others.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

In addition to Capital volume 1 (complete), David Harvey has video presentations on Volume 2 up to Chapter 20 or thereabouts. It looks like he is planning to cover the whole of Capital, bless his socialist heart. lol.

 

Also, since 2008 when this thread was started, David Harvey has had published A Companion to Marx's Capital. I was able to download the pdf file for free on May 19, 2013 at the following site ...

 

A Companion to Marx's Capital.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I own that book. It's basically a text version of the iTunes lecture. Which is to say, it's awesome.

Fidel

I believe Marx thought that banking and finance would remain subordinated to the needs of industrial capitalism. This obviously has not been the case since the period of neoliberal counter-enlightenment. Industrial capitalists were overthrown by the mid 1980's. As a result the foundations of capitalism are weaker than Marx predicted.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Fidel wrote:

I believe Marx thought that banking and finance would remain subordinated to the needs of industrial capitalism. This obviously has not been the case since the period of neoliberal counter-enlightenment. Industrial capitalists were overthrown by the mid 1980's. As a result the foundations of capitalism are weaker than Marx predicted.

Do you have a written quote to back this up?

 

knownothing knownothing's picture

I just finished this little compilation on Marx and Marxism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFw6kVBuHjU

 

Fidel

knownothing wrote:

Fidel wrote:

I believe Marx thought that banking and finance would remain subordinated to the needs of industrial capitalism. This obviously has not been the case since the period of neoliberal counter-enlightenment. Industrial capitalists were overthrown by the mid 1980's. As a result the foundations of capitalism are weaker than Marx predicted.

Do you have a written quote to back this up?

 

Paraphrasing economic historian Michael Hudson. And it's true that de-industrialization of western economies has taken place over the last 30 years. Manufacturing in Canada is more than 50% foreign owned and controlled and mostly by rich, absentee corporate landlords in America. No other rich country allows one-third as much majority foreign ownership of manufacturing as what Canada does. Manufacturing will always be an important sector in every rich modern economy, like it was in Marx' time. Few sectors have the same multiplier effect within an economy.

Husdon says that the new economic formula is not M-C-M anymore, or money invested in labour and commodities to produce profit. The new liberal business model is this: M-M or money makes money. Marx would have considered neoliberalism to be an abomination of capitalism doomed to fail.

In Hudson's country, most of the bank lending rose fo over the last two decades due to inter-bank lending for real estate speculation, bank gambling on currency values, stocks and bonds. But lending for purposes of creating new businesses and the real economy was essentially flat. Workers have been removed from the traditional equation, "M-C-M."

It is doomed to fail because we all know that money does not create wealth, people do. Anyone knows that wealth is created within the human mind and by workers hands. Money, by itself, does not create wealth. The new unwritten business model is this:

debt = wealth creation

And if that sounds Orwellian, it's because it is.

Michael Hudson wrote:
Bankers and other creditors produce interest-bearing debt. That is their commodity as it “appear[s] in the eyes of the banker,” Marx wrote. Little labor is involved. Calling money lent out at interest an “imaginary” or “void form of capital,” [16] Marx characterized high finance as based on “fictitious” claims for payment in the first place because it consists not of the means of production, but of bonds, mortgages, bank loans and other claims on the means of production. Instead of consisting of the tangible means of production on the asset side of the balance sheet, financial securities and bank loans are claims on output, appearing on the liabilities side. So instead of creating value, bank credit absorbs value produced outside of the rentier FIRE sector.

New liberal capitalism is about de-industrializing, offshoring, and creating an economy based on banking, insurance and financial services. It was tried in various experiments around the world including General Pinochet's Chile. It lasted 16 years or about twice as long as both U.S. experiments in laissez-faire capitalism, from 1900-1929 and again from 1980-2008. Marx likely would have predicted as much had he been asked how successful bankers and financiers would be given if handed the reins of central planning.

Classical econmic theory since the enlightenment has sought to rid economies of rentier incomes and usury. Neoliberalism has reversed the trend according to Hudson. There was a gradual trend for courts and the law favouring debtors rights over those of creditors. Again, this is being reversed under the new liberal capitalism, or at least this is the case here in the western world where banking and financiers, essentially, have stolen powers of  resource allocation traditionally associated with democratically elected governments. Not only are workers stymied as to how carry on the struggle against absentee corporate landlords, our corrupt governments are pointing to odious debts incurred to private bankers foreign and domestic to justify austerity, reduced public services, downsizing etc. None of us ordinary people votes for bankers, and so why should the people even begin to entertain such a ridiculous notion that bankers and private creditors have any claim on our country and millions of peoples lives?

knownothing knownothing's picture

Sweet response

Isn't M-M the old "moneylender" formula?

It is still a form of capitalism just not industrial capitalism

Capital is simply money that makes money, I don't think it matters how it makes money

Richard Wolff describes types of capitalists like merchants, money lenders, and industrial capitalists

Fidel

Industrial capitalism was overthrown by 1987. We don't make anything here in Canada. Nothing next to nil.  Laid off Electromotive Diesel workers in London, for example, are out of work and owners of the means long gone to the newly created northern "right to work"(anti-union) state of Indiana. How does that grab you for breaking with the old relationship between workers and parasites? They've been attacking labour union power for years. We've been hobbled by neoliberalism orchestrated from the top-down in Ottawa, Washington, Mexico City and so on repeated around the rich and formerly industrialist western world where unions have taken a terrible beating since the 1980's.

knownothing wrote:
Capital is simply money that makes money, I don't think it matters how it makes money.

Marx was an optimist and stood in awe of capitalism. And he was also capitalism's greatest critic. This, what we have now, is not M-C-M capitalism in the Marxian sense. Capitalists tend not to want to pour concrete for foundations of new factories and employ labour here in the western world. Now they make money with money. Money begets money today. The superrich are not by living off surplus value created by labour here in the western hemisphere. The rich today are living off compound interest, usury and rents or unearned income, like in feudal times. What is the same today is class war. In just the USA, Canada and Mexico it's been vicious and straightup class warfare. Class divisions have never been greater according to Hudson. The superrich one percent are in full control like never before. Democracy itself is overthrown. The people have far less representation in the halls of power than we had at one time. Election turnouts in the U.S. are a laughing stock, and Canada's own electoral democracy has become a sham.

knownothing knownothing's picture

That is not quite how I see it. M-C-M is the formula for industrial capitalism, not all capitalism. Industrial capitalism is mostly dead in Canada, as you say. However, the rich are still living off of the surplus value appropriated from the workers in other countries. Everyone else, including me, in our western world is living off of that surplus. Most Canadians live off the redistribution of the surplus appropriated from the workers of other countries. We get paid off to keep our mouths shut. M-C-M still exists, just on a larger scale, transcending borders.

Fidel

I suppose if you think of it that way, then yes it is still capitalism for sure. Absentee corporate landlords and globalization of capitalism is a key difference from Marxian times. As you said about transcending borders, this is what Marx said about it. Let capitalism expand and globalize, because someday all of it should be democratized and owned by the workers. I just think that we or our children should have something more than a few monopoly banks and holding companies to take possession of. :)

6079_Smith_W

How about we use the term financier or finance capitalist instead of the antiquated and loaded term money lender?

Fidel

Marx writing optimistically on banking and finance(quoted in Hudson, 2010):

Quote:
The commercial and interest-bearing forms of capital are older than industrial capital, but … [i]n the course of its evolution, industrial capital must therefore subjugate these forms and transform them into derived or special functions of itself. It encounters these older forms in the epoch of its formation and development. It encounters them as antecedents … not as forms of its own life-process. … Where capitalist production has developed all its manifold forms and has become the dominant mode of production, interest-bearing capital is dominated by industrial capital, and commercial capital becomes merely a form of industrial capital, derived from the circulation process.

Marx was optimistic that industrial capitalism would work to direct finance and investment to productive forces in the economy. And that was true up to, I think, the mid-1970's. Since then, though, investment in real and productive aspects of economies has been flat while capital for currency and real estate speculation has soared. Capitalists are no longer so interested in employing labour nor living off the surplus value of labour here in the western hemisphere.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Fidel wrote:

Marx writing optimistically on banking and finance(quoted in Hudson, 2010):

Quote:
The commercial and interest-bearing forms of capital are older than industrial capital, but … [i]n the course of its evolution, industrial capital must therefore subjugate these forms and transform them into derived or special functions of itself. It encounters these older forms in the epoch of its formation and development. It encounters them as antecedents … not as forms of its own life-process. … Where capitalist production has developed all its manifold forms and has become the dominant mode of production, interest-bearing capital is dominated by industrial capital, and commercial capital becomes merely a form of industrial capital, derived from the circulation process.

Marx was optimistic that industrial capitalism would work to direct finance and investment to productive forces in the economy. And that was true up to, I think, the mid-1970's. Since then, though, investment in real and productive aspects of economies has been flat while capital for currency and real estate speculation has soared. Capitalists are no longer so interested in employing labour nor living off the surplus value of labour here in the western hemisphere.

Great quote. Do you really think there has been a decline in worldwide investment and production? Aren't there more people in the middle class than ever before in history? I think that labour is still in demand. It is simply the competition from 3rd world reserve armies is far too great, unbeatable really.

So yes I think we essentially agree that capitalism is done with the west (except as a costly expense) and is still expanding but in search of ever-cheaper labour markets. I think eventually that will hit a wall when enough of the proletariat in Bangledesh, China, etc, progress to better labour conditions be it through reform or revolution. Eventually the world should even out and there will be no margin from which to gain from labour. That will be the end of capitalism. Labour is the key.

knownothing knownothing's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

How about we use the term financier or finance capitalist instead of the antiquated and loaded term money lender?

I got it from this new book by Richard Wolff: Contending Economic Theories: Neo-Classical, Keynesian, and Marxian
http://www.amazon.ca/Contending-Economic-Theories-Neoclassical-Keynesian...

In its defense it ties into the historical aspect of Marx's theory of capitalism. Certain types of capitalists predate the industrial capitalist and their methods of appropriating the surplus are antiquated.

But I can use financier if you like


6079_Smith_W

@ knownothing

It's probably more accurate. I'm not getting my nose out of joint over the anti-semitic tinge of money lender (and I'm not saying that you or the author are doing that, but it is always going to be there).

Given that modern finance capitalism ris more concerned with small stuff like currency speculation all the way to controlling central banks

(and in fact, being a money lender is nowadays more and more an act of progressive social change)

http://www.kiva.org/

Using that antique and inaccurate term to describe predatory capitalism is kind of like equating a cruise missile with pouring lead shot.

 

Fidel

knownothing wrote:

Great quote. Do you really think there has been a decline in worldwide investment and production? Aren't there more people in the middle class than ever before in history? I think that labour is still in demand. It is simply the competition from 3rd world reserve armies is far too great, unbeatable really.

Hudson has a graph somewhere on his site revealing how most bank lending  in N. America over the last 2 decades was directed toward what's known as the FIRE sectors while lending in the physical economy has been flat. The U.S. economy has produced very few net new jobs over the last 10 or 20 years. And coincidentally most all of the bad debts accumulated in North America are private debts and holding back growth in the physical-productive economy. And Canada's economy is riding the coattails of resource extraction and exporting fossil fuels, which most experts will say produces fewer jobs than a more balanced economy. Our economy in Canada more resembles a developing world economy than that of a true "G8."

Labour is increasingly in demand, naturally,  just not in countries following neoliberalism. If you look at the patheticaly low growth grates in North America and compare them to Asian countries, it looks as though North America is stuck in the mud by comparison.

China is an example of an economy not following neoliberalism. And yes, their's is the largest middle class in the world. More middle class in China than the USA has people for sure.Middle class in China actually have positive net savings rates while personal savings rates in North America are nil next to non-existent. And the CPC still plays a significant roll in public sector economy in China while the U.S. is the most privatized economy and  the most indebted nation. The middle class in America has taken a beating along with trade unions since Reagan's time.

But China's central planners have been following a growth model and investing in China's infrastructure expansions. They build a new city the size of San Francisco about every three or four weeks while cities like Detroit are falling apart and actualy shrinking. U.S. car companies have probably made more money expanding into the investment funds business than by employing labour to make cars for the physical economy.

Western financiers and mainly Wall Street bankers are waging economic warfare against China as well as Europe with the help of the Obama administration working to surround China and Russia militarily. Washington consensus for globalizing neoliberal ideology is currently challenged by the 'Beijing consensus' or China's state-owned contruction and investment banks lending to third world capitalist countries for purposes of scooping up raw materials in exchange for investments in infrastructure and developing world physical-productive economies in various  South American and African countries. As a result our western capitalists are not pleased with China.