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Introduction - Synopsis

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DJP
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Introduction - Synopsis

As Hilferding pointed out, the labour theory of value and the materialist conception of history have the same starting point; that labour is the basic starting point of human society and ultimately determines it's development.

The process of labour activity change involves two types of change; changes in the productive forces (the technical methods of production) and changes in production relations (social relations between producers).

Types of societies (modes of production) can be differentiated according to differences in production relations.

In order to understand the the totality of social relations in a society it is necessary to separate by abstraction the technical and socio-economic aspects. Marx's theory attempts to understand commodity-capitalist society by using this method. “This theory analyses the production relations of capitalist society, the process of their change as caused by changes of productive forces, and the growth of contradictions which are generally expressed in crises”

The 'vulgar economists' undertake economics as though it is a study of relations of things to things, the proponents of marginal utility (Austrians etc.) as though it is a study of relations of people to things. Political-economy correctly perceived should be the study of relations of people to people.

Marx's political economy grounds production relations within a specific historically developed type of society. The theory of the fetishism of commodities is the general theory of production relations in a commodity-capitalist society.

[Note: Unattributed quotes are directly taken from the text]

twc
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My preliminary thoughts

The guiding principle of Marx's studies is "social being determines consciousness".

Almost no theoretician now runs with this insight since Leninism "demolished" it. They generally fail to see how, if social being determines consciousness, we can ever distinguish anything from anything — reality from appearance, science from ideology, fact from fiction.

Rubin takes Marx at his word, and studies a very important problem for social being determining consciousness.

It's not going to be easy because, for this problem, the formation of our consciousness happens without our being aware of it happening. Rubin wants to demonstrate that our consciousness is here determined unconsciously.

That's precisely why we need a social science to unravel it — the materialist conception of history.

[Apology.  Although I was instrumental in requesting a reading group, I have been detained by other matters that have temporarily prevented me from actually reading the book. I should see my time free later this week, and will contribute to the discussion then. Thanks to DJP for his excellent overviews.]

twc
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Just finished Chapter 3, and will post my specific thoughts there.  Here are some general thoughts on it [from the Intro up to Chapter 3]

What an Excellent Book!

Marx solved a deep theoretical crisis in classical economics by changing its foundation [just as Einstein and Planck did for classical physics]. The crisis that wrecked classical economics was: where does surplus value come from when equals exchange for equals.

Marx's new foundation for classical economics is the materialist conception of history. Marxian economics is normally taught as the refutation of classical economics, but it is really its rebirth on a new foundation. [Otherwise it has no meaningful existence at all.]

When a student asks David Harvey how Marx was able to see further than his contemporaries [let alone see further than we, who are trying to catch up with Marx, can], David is visibly non-plussed. The answer, of course, is that Marx derives everything from political economy's new foundation — the materialist conception of history — of which David is openly skeptical. To that extent David's insights are inspired, not consciously Marxian.

Well, Rubin is a Marxian scholar, who consciously derives everything — as a scientist must — from his scientific foundation: the materialist conception of history. That sets his book apart from those that offer inspired interpretations based on something else.

In Rubin's book, as in Marx's Capital, the materialist conception of history is continually on the line. It is everywhere vulnerable. That's science — deterministic from the foundation up.

[Karl Popper, who mistakenly imagined only a crucial experiment tested science, forgot that in deterministic science, the foundation — and so the science raised upon it — is tested on every occasion the science is applied. The crisis that wrecked classical political economy was theoretical — the experimental phenomenon of profit was known even to street urchins from time immemorial.]

JoanOfArc
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blimey. you lot have been busy!

i think that a state of conciousness is already apparent via social media, in the people of today.  people are more informed than ever that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

i do not think that conciousness is an issue these days.

most now realise that the captialist beast has it's short comings.

however, many are comfortable financially with a roof over their heads and food on the table with some left for luxuries.

people don't trust lefties or socialists. because they only know what they know. they can only be sure that presently they're not in worn torn syria or starving and dying in famine africa or bereft of medication to save their children's lives.  people think they must feel grateful and trust is a big big issue. it's the have's and have nots as in the have's have too much to risk and the have nots have nothing to lose...  for utter sudden revolution is not trusted.

who would lead the revolution? a few. most probably. most socialists seem to think that a socialist party would just take over the corporates and give them all to the people, however that works.  revolution is flipping scary thing. you only have to look back to the Russian Revolution to see the havoc revolution can reap, and for what?? blood and murder. famine and war.

change takes time........... you start off small.  sow the seeds then give people the power of how far we go. we are ALL responsible.  people need to take the responsibility on their own shoulders.  if by starting off with small governement localised enterprise people choose to spend with you, then they are making that decision if they are to see the profits driven back into their communities.  it is utterly dependent on spending power of the people.  so you start off small to minimis risk and to minimise the threat. and to spread the responsibility.

now of all times should be a time where people would agree that they want student fees paid for by the state.

so clearly the state needs to get richer.

however to be fool proof, plenty of scope for discussion there i think.

 

people are more concious than socialists seem to give them credit for. 

'Let the state compete with big business, let the people vote with the money in their pockets. Spend your money on state produced goods and/or services and see the profits be churned back into the peoples pockets via free further education, improve

Bijou Drains
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JoanOfArc wrote:

blimey. you lot have been busy!

i think that a state of conciousness is already apparent via social media, in the people of today.  people are more informed than ever that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

i do not think that conciousness is an issue these days.

most now realise that the captialist beast has it's short comings.

however, many are comfortable financially with a roof over their heads and food on the table with some left for luxuries.

people don't trust lefties or socialists. because they only know what they know. they can only be sure that presently they're not in worn torn syria or starving and dying in famine africa or bereft of medication to save their children's lives.  people think they must feel grateful and trust is a big big issue. it's the have's and have nots as in the have's have too much to risk and the have nots have nothing to lose...  for utter sudden revolution is not trusted.

who would lead the revolution? a few. most probably. most socialists seem to think that a socialist party would just take over the corporates and give them all to the people, however that works.  revolution is flipping scary thing. you only have to look back to the Russian Revolution to see the havoc revolution can reap, and for what?? blood and murder. famine and war.

change takes time........... you start off small.  sow the seeds then give people the power of how far we go. we are ALL responsible.  people need to take the responsibility on their own shoulders.  if by starting off with small governement localised enterprise people choose to spend with you, then they are making that decision if they are to see the profits driven back into their communities.  it is utterly dependent on spending power of the people.  so you start off small to minimis risk and to minimise the threat. and to spread the responsibility.

now of all times should be a time where people would agree that they want student fees paid for by the state.

so clearly the state needs to get richer.

however to be fool proof, plenty of scope for discussion there i think.

 

people are more concious than socialists seem to give them credit for. 

First of all, welcome, it seems that you are pleased to happen upon what has been called for over 100 years "The University of the SPGB". We have indeed been busy.

I'm sure that the information on our site will help you develop an understanding of our "case". It often strikes me that although those who we would describe as being on the left use similar langauge to us, the meaning we attach to that language is very dffferent. We do propose revolution, however our proposition is a revolution in the sense of a complete change in the social order of society, not some violent overthrow of the current leaders of capitalism and their replacement with a more left facing bunch of crooks and charletans.

You say that change takes time, we agree, it takes time for workers to develop and understand the need for a fundamental reorganisation of society. And I agree with you that it will take time for people to understand the need to take democratic responsibility. That is why we do not place our faith in leaders, vanguards if you like, to deliver a social revolution. Our party is, and has been since 1904, a model of a how a democratic, responsible society could operate. We have no positions of leadership, no party member has any elevated status within our party. We do not have any intention of leading any revolution, never have, never will. We will leave the romantic posturing of leadership to the posers of the Trotskyist and Leninist left.

You have obviously thought about the contradictions that emerge from the current capitalist society, however we must disagree with your solution. The replacement of one system of buying and selling labour power, with another, state run system of doing exactly the same thing, does not fundamentally change the nature of that society. As Vin has pointed out, those of us who worked in sate enterprises were no less subject to the same process of exploitation for profit than those who worked in private enterprise.

To achieve fundamental change in the way society operates, what we would describe as a social revolution, we need to fundamentally change the ownership of the means of production, the factories, the mines, the transport systems, etc. we need to remove these human resources, developed and built by workers, from the hands of the robber barons of capitalism and place them in common ownership, not in the hands of a new bunch of state led profiteers.

You may find the book Nomenklatura: The Soviet Ruling Class, by Michael Voslenski a very good explanation of why state capitalism creates exactly the same difficulties as private capitalism.


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