A Sesquicentennial of Capital: Marx, Mandel and Methodological Musings
This article is a celebration of the sesquicentennial of Capital, Volume I, and of the model that Marx proposed in it and elucidated in his posthumous publications, edited by Engels. The model: a labour theory of value wherein surplus value is created in production and this amount (sometimes less, never more) is distributed through the sale of commodities (which embed the surplus value / socially necessary labour time) but not necessarily at their value because of the operation of rents and interest. This modelling does not give a clear prognosis for capitalism. For a prognosis, I turn to Mandel. Mandel’s Late Capitalism describes imperialism as the search for super-profits. Part of this is the penetration of firms with higher levels of productivity into new sectors (thereby raising the organic composition of capital in the sector and reducing the rate of profit), and part of it is rent-seeking around minerals and land. This suggests that primitive accumulation is an ongoing process. It is certainly not a finished process as perhaps Marx suggested in his circuit of money-capital. Indeed, to what extent does M — C ... P ... C' — M' capture all the forms of revenue creation and distribution in general, and the creation and generation of surplus value in particular? What is the extent to which the events of the Great Financial Crisis necessitate a rethinking of Marxism, in terms of constitutinga challenge to the model and methodology in Capital, for example: (1) financialization, (2) primitive accumulation, and (3) class and consciousness. What is missing is an empirical engagement, and the intellectual activity that make that possible in the form of methodology. I layout some aspects of empirical engagement and methodology. In conclusion, to further the revolutionary imperative of Capital, Marxists need to turn away from philosophising and toward social science.
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