Unibg International

Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods

Reading the Grundrisse

Area bacheca: 820&

a) Howard Engelskirchen (Iowa State University, USA)
The Grundrisse's Grundbestimmung: Capital in General's Fundamental Determination

Early in the Grundrisse's 'Chapter on Capital' we read that the "movement of buying in order to sell ... is the first movement in which exchange value as such forms the content of the exchange, is not only form but its own content". The theme of content formed by form, so important to the Grundrisse's analysis of capital in general, continues to serve as an important thread for Marxist analysis. I pursue this theme by showing how Marx's attention to science, reaching as far back as his doctoral dissertation and informed by his study of Aristotle, shaped his approach to the problem of definition in a way that foreshadowed today's "sophisticated scientific realism". In effect, the form of things "studied by all true and real science" must "rule within the nature of things themselves" (Doctoral Dissertation). As applied to the study of society, we locate historically specific social structures instantiated in the forces of production. That is, the key to understanding social life is always the particular form in which laboring individuals are related to nature and to others in the process of production; content 'receives' form. Such structures, like the structures of nature for which we offer real definitions, are causal. Following Charles Bettelheim, I offer two such: the separation of enterprises the one from the other and the separation of direct producers from their conditions of production.

One result is a distinction between the real definitions of commodity producing labor and capital as social kinds implicitly rejected by many contemporary approaches to value and its forms. For capital in general, the formula M-C-M', buying in order to sell, must form the content, not now of exchange, but, as others have recognized, of production itself. The real definition of the resulting structure may be given not only by labor's separation from the means of production but also by its subordination to these as values; its fundamental determination may be understood as living labor appropriated by objectified labor for the sake of increasing objectified labor. Significantly, precision with respect to this points beyond capital to its transformation: capital's appropriation of the social form of labor responds poorly to labor's form. Labor is purposeful activity. A content more fully adequate to this would not "receive" living labor as quantity merely, but would instead give material expression to labor's purposeful accommodation to our conditions of life - to associated labor's self-determined unfolding of human needs and abilities as such.