Debt, Money and Marx

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  • #89020

    DJP
    Member
    davidgraeber wrote:
     The Beginning of History where he notes among other things that thinking there even _could_ be a theory of prices based exclusively on the LTV means you’re ignoring the role of political struggle at every point in the process.

    The rate of surplus value is determined by the struggle between labour and capital; and how this is distributed amongst the various capitals is the result of a struggle between competing capitals. The form of the struggle can take many different guises. So yes it would seem I agree with that.I haven’t read any of the ‘autonomous’ Marxists and aside from a critique I read many years ago in the journal Aufheben don’t know that much about them.  Do you suggest something similar to Rosa Luxemburg, that without constant appropriation from outside the sphere of capitalism the system would collapse? 

    #89021

    ALB
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    With regards to Marx and ‘the labour theory of value’. I’m beginning to suspect that this was first used by the neo-classical economists so that they could lump Marx, Ricardo and Smith together then attempt to trash Marx by critiquing Ricardo.

    I think it is more likely that it was first used by Socialists to explain the exploitation of the working class. Although Marx’s theory of value is different from that of Adam Smith and Ricardo (I don’t think they used the term “labour theory of value” either), it clearly is a theory of value based on labour. So, to talk of Marx’s labour theory of value doesn’t seem out of place.

    DJP wrote:
    Just to be clear I’m not saying that Marx did not have a theory of value, but when it is (mis)understood as a theory of the prices of individual commodities (i.e price=value) it doesn’t add up properly.

    I agree that Marx’s theory of value was not a theory of price (as were Smith’s and Ricardo’s), as misunderstood by some of his supporters as well as by his opponents.

    #89022

    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    By the 17th century trade, mercantilism & money lending had grown and developed in Europe but these by themselves did not undermine the foundations of feudal society. The mere existence of commodity production, wage labour, merchants capital and money lenders capital are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the full development of capitalism. ‘Or else ancient Rome, Byzantium etc. would have ended their history with free labour and capital’ (Marx, Grundrisse p 506 )So it becomes a question of looking at what specific historical factors come together to create a rupture with the old social relations.

    ISTR the story goes: Plantagenet kings ran up war debts, and had to find cash to repay the Lombard money lenders.  their route to this became the export of Wool and Wool products.  This attracted persecuted Flemish weavers, and also drove an impetus to clear peasants from land to be replaced by sheep.  The value added character of this leads on (truncatedly) to capitalist mode of production, and provides part of the impetus for the revolutionary wars of the 17trh century (particularly the strains within craft guilds regarding the limitations on apprentices, later to become proletarians).

    #89023

    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    On the question of secondary exploitation, I had a half remembered quote, which I’ve managed to find.http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/housing-question/ch01.htm

    Engels’ On the Housing Question wrote:
    The distribution of this surplus value, produced by the working class and taken from it without payment, among the non-working classes proceeds amid extremely edifying squabblings and mutual swindling. In so far as this distribution takes place by means of buying and selling, one of its chief methods is the cheating of the buyer by the seller, and in retail trade, particularly in the big towns, this has become an absolute condition of existence for the sellers. When, however, the worker is cheated by his grocer or his baker, either in regard to the price or the quality of the commodity, this does not happen to him in his specific capacity as a worker. On the contrary, as soon as a certain average level of cheating has become the social rule in any place, it must in the long run be leveled out by a corresponding increase in wages. The worker appears before the small shopkeeper as a buyer, that is, as the owner of money or credit, and hence not at all in his capacity as a worker, that is, as a seller of labour power. The cheating may hit him, and the poorer class as a whole, harder than it hits the richer social classes, but it is not an evil which hits him exclusively or is peculiar to his class.

    Again, if generalised personal debt becomes the norm, in order to make up for falling wages, that is in a sense the employer outsourcing a part of their exploitation, a wage of £x becomes a means to servicing a debt of £y, and the employer need only lose the surplus value of the interest to the lender (which may, through share ownership, be the employer, themself again).

    #89005

    gnome
    Participant

    Here’s what that nice man Mr Graeber said about us and his experience of our website forum on Libcom recently:-    http://libcom.org/library/review-debt-first-5000-years-david-graeber Scroll down……….”It was nice to be able to have a polite conversation with Marxists for a change. They did the usual “he can’t have read Marx because he seems to disagree with my orthodoxy” schtick, but not in a dishonest or particularly offensive way, and when I clarified what my position actually was, unlike Wayne Price, who just kept on weirdly insisting that he knew my position better than I do (I am beginning to wonder now if that guy is completely sane) they actually engaged with it. Very refreshing.”     

    #89004

    ALB
    Participant
    gnome wrote:
    Here’s what that nice man Mr Graeber

    If we are going to be all formal about this, shouldn’t that be “Dr Graeber”. Let’s hope he’s not aware that in our circles to refer to somebody as “Mr” is an insult !   

    #89024

    gnome
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    gnome wrote:
    Here’s what that nice man Mr Graeber

    If we are going to be all formal about this, shouldn’t that be “Dr Graeber”. Let’s hope he’s not aware that in our circles to refer to somebody as “Mr” is an insult !

    If he wasn’t aware before he is now !        

    #89025

    Hud955
    Member

    For anyone who has read or is reading DG’s book:  Debt: the first 5,000 years, I think it’s also worth reading his reply to a review by Wayne Price on Libcom (below). I found that it clarifies a lot of points that I wasn’t sure of even though I’m reading the book now for the third time.  Points 1 and 5 and his comments about a post-capitalist society I found particularly interesting.   
    While I understand his frustration with hostile reviewers who publicly misrepresent his work, I think DG needs to cut his readers a little bit of slack if it takes them time to get a clear handle on his views, especially those that are only implied or lightly sketched in this work.  Although ‘Debt’ is very accessible, its central  argument is strung out over nearly 400 pages and is sometimes obscured by the sheer wealth of anthropological detail.  Like everyone else, too,  Marxian socialists are going to have a platform from which they view his work and that is inevitably going to colour their reading.
    Having said all that, I think this is just about the most interesting and enjoyable book I’ve read in years. 
    OK. Here are his comments.
    “oh god here we go again.here’s the response I wrote when this first appeared in anarkismo.net
    1) I do not make debt the main factor of social development. I merely make it the main topic of my book.2) that slavery and wage labor are forms of exploitation of labor is self-evident. It is absurd to say I don’t recognize it. This is like insisting that every time one mentions fascists one has to also clarify that they are right-wing.3) your claim that I don’t see capitalism as essentially a mode of exploitation of labor by holders of capital is false. If you read the book at all carefully it’s clear that’s exactly what I think. I merely pointed out that the assumption that this exploitation must necessarily occur through free wage labor is historically false. I offered this because I dreamed that Marxists analysts such as yourself might actually THINK about the implications, rather than spout doctrine about how for half of its 500 year history capitalists were somehow “preparing the way” for a system that they didn’t anticipate or couldn’t imagine at all.4) I do not say capitalism is equivalent to commercial society. I repeatedly say, as even you acknowledge, that it is not.5) I do not reject the labor theory of value. I simply note that neoclassical economists, with whom I clearly disagree on almost everything, reject it. In fact I’ve written an entire book on the labor theory of value. I simply don’t emphasize that body of my own theory here.6) I do not say that the current crisis is due to capitalism seeming eternal, I say it’s a crisis based on class struggle, following the argument of the Midnight Notes collective, a Marxist group. I state very explicitly in the footnote that you have read and cited (except only the second half) that this is the case7) I do not say that people in the ’60s thought capitalism was likely to collapse, I said that they thought the entire world was likely to blow up in a nuclear war8) I do not propose a vision for the future. I say quite specifically that I am not going to propose a vision for the future. In fact I say I am making no policy proscriptions at all other than the idea of a clean-slate. Your writing here is disgraceful and you owe me an apology. You’ve just made things up off the top of your head, based on your (almost entirely incorrect) assumptions about my politics and what you think I would envision Pure hostile extrapolations. When I say “there will always be hierarchies” I make it clear I mean that we’ll continue to stop small children from running in the street, or that there are likely to be forms of entertainment involving games and contests and some people will win. When I say “there will always be money” I say in the absolutely minimal sense that there will be some contexts in which we say “12 of those is equivalent to 1 of these.” I spell all this out pretty explicitly.9) I do not say anything, at any point, that might imply that private property in the means of production might endure in a free society. The fact that I note that in the Middle Ages, markets might have had popular appeal does not mean that I think in a revolutionary future there would be private property in the means of production, and extrapolating from one to another is nothing short of insane. Again, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you read the book, you must be aware that I have a long section where I spell out quite explicitly that the very idea of “private property” is founded on violence and slavery and that to imagine real freedom we’d have to get rid of the entire conception. This is one of the few places I do spell out what kind of future I would like to see. You pretend it isn’t there and then make up strange twisted reasons to assume I’d endorse the opposite. Again, you owe me, and more than that, the world, an apology for making such hostile misrepresentations of the book’s argument.”
    http://libcom.org/library/review-debt-first-5000-years-david-graeber

    #89026

    vegan
    Member

    David, I always like the part in a book that talks about the author’s vision for the future. I have not yet read your book, but one day I might. In the meantime, would you say here a bit more about your vision for our collective future, or at any rate how to bring about some kind of improved future? Cheers, Bob***

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