24 November 2010

The Holy Trinity

Revenues and their Sources

Capital Volume 3, Part 7, Revenues and their Sources

The last part of the last book of Capital begins as Volume 1 ended, with a reminder that capital is not a thing, but a relationship. In Part 1 of our chosen text, Chapter 48, The Trinity Formula (download linked below) Marx says:

Capital, land, labour! However, capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society, which is manifested in a thing and lends this thing a specific social character. Capital is not the sum of the material and produced means of production. Capital is rather the means of production transformed into capital, which in themselves are no more capital than gold or silver in itself is money. It is the means of production monopolised by a certain section of society, confronting living labour-power as products and working conditions rendered independent of this very labour-power, which are personified through this antithesis in capital…”

Shortly afterwards, Marx turns to a summary of the illusory and impossible conception of the same relationship as seen by self-serving “vulgar” bourgeois economists, starting like this:

Vulgar economy actually does no more than interpret, systematise and defend in doctrinaire fashion the conceptions of the agents of bourgeois production who are entrapped in bourgeois production relations. It should not astonish us, then, that vulgar economy feels particularly at home in the estranged outward appearances of economic relations in which these prima facie absurd and perfect contradictions appear and that these relations seem the more self-evident the more their internal relationships are concealed from it, although they are understandable to the popular mind. But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided. Thus, vulgar economy has not the slightest suspicion that the trinity which it takes as its point of departure, namely, land — rent, capital — interest, labour — wages or the price of labour, are prima facie three impossible combinations.”

Later in this paragraph (section III of the chapter), Marx refers to Volume 1 (“Book 1”) and contrasts the irrational bourgeois concept of value with the true understanding of surplus value.

To finish by returning to Engels’ introductory remarks: Yes, Capital Volume 3 is important. It is not superfluous. Volume 3 is directly helpful in the current circumstances of “Global Economic Meltdown” and “Debt Crisis”. But Volume 3 does not render Volume 1 redundant. On the contrary, Volume 3 relies upon and leans upon Volume 1 and constantly confirms Volume 1, throughout.

The last Chapter of Capital Volume 3 is Chapter 52, “Classes”, and it ends: “[Here the manuscript breaks off.]

Engels provided a supplement to Volume 3 which can be found on MIA, here.

Picture: A representation of the “Holy Trinity”.

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