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A Companion to Marx's Capital A Companion to Marx's Capital by David Harvey
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“One of the curious things about our educational system, I would note, is that the better trained you are in a discipline, the less used to dialectical method you're likely to be. In fact, young children are very dialectical; they see everything in motion, in contradictions and transformations. We have to put an immense effort into training kids out of being good dialecticians. Marx wants to recover the intuitive power of the dialectical method and put it to work in understanding how everything is in process, everything is in motion. He doesn't simply talk about labor; he talks about the labor process. Capital is not a thing, but rather a process that exists only in motion. When circulation stops, value disappears and the whole system comes tumbling down.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“This is what the bourgeois political economists have done: they have treated value as a fact of nature, not a social construction arising out of a particular mode of production. What Marx is interested in is a revolutionary transformation of society, and that means an overthrow of the capitalist value-form, the construction of an alternative value-structure, an alternative value-system that does not have the specific character of that achieved under capitalism. I cannot overemphasize this point, because the value theory in Marx is frequently interpreted as a universal norm with which we should comply. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people complain that the problem with Marx is that he believes the only valid notion of value derives from labor inputs. It is not that at all; it is a historical social product. The problem, therefore, for socialist, communist, revolutionary, anarchist or whatever, is to find an alternative value-form that will work in terms of the social reproduction of society in a different image. By introducing the concept of fetishism, Marx shows how the naturalized value of classical political economy dictates a norm; we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism. Our task is to question it.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Failure to recognize the historical specificity of the bourgeois conception of rights and duties leads to serious errors. It is for this reason that Marx registers...a vigorous indictment of the anarchist Proudhon... Proudhon in effect took the specifics of bourgeois legal and economic relations and treated them as universal and foundational for the development of an alternative, socially just economic system. From Marx's standpoint, this is no alternative at all since it merely re-inscribes bourgeois conceptions of value in a supposedly new form of society. This problem is still with us, not only because of the contemporary anarchist revival of interest in Proudhon's ideas but also because of the rise of a more broad-based liberal human rights politics as a supposed antidote to the social and political ills of contemporary capitalism. Marx's critique of Proudhon is directly applicable to this contemporary politics. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a foundational document for a bourgeois, market-based individualism and as such cannot provide a basis for a thoroughgoing critique of liberal or neoliberal capitalism. Whether it is politically useful to insist that the capitalist political order live up to its own foundational principles is one thing, but to imagine that this politics can lead to a radical displacement of a capitalist mode of production is, in Marx's view, a serious error.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Thus Marx begins his attack on the liberal concept of freedom. The freedom of the market is not freedom at all. It is a fetishistic illusion. Under capitalism, individuals surrender to the discipline of abstract forces (such as the hidden hand of the market made much of by Adam Smith) that effectively govern their relations and choices. I can make something beautiful and take it to market, but if I don’t manage to exchange it then it has no value. Furthermore, I won’t have enough money to buy commodities to live. Market forces, which none of us individually control, regulate us. And part of what Marx wants to do in Capital is talk about this regulatory power that occurs even “in the midst of the accidental and ever-fluctuating exchange relations between the products.” Supply and demand fluctuations generate price fluctuations around some norm but cannot explain why a pair of shoes on average trades for four shirts. Within all the confusions of the marketplace, “the labour-time socially necessary to produce [commodities] asserts itself as a regulative law of nature. In the same way, the law of gravity asserts itself when a person’s house collapses on top of him” (168). This parallel between gravity and value is interesting: both are relations and not things, and both have to be conceptualized as immaterial but objective.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“The accumulation of money as unlimited social power is an essential feature of a capitalist mode of production. When people seek to accumulate that social power, they start to behave in a very different way. Once the universal equivalent becomes a representation of all socially necessary labor-time, the potentialities for further accumulation are limitless.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“It is therefore only at the money moment—the moment of capitalist universality—that we can tell where we are in relation to value and surplus-value.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Capital is process, and that is that.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Marx inverted Hegel’s dialectics and stood it right side up, on its feet.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a foundational document for a bourgeois, market-based individualism and as such cannot provide a basis for a thoroughgoing critique of liberal or neoliberal capitalism. Whether it is politically useful to insist that the capitalist political order live up to its own foundational principles is one thing, but to imagine that this politics can lead to a radical displacement of a capitalist mode of production is, in Marx’s view, a serious error.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“For Marx, capital is not a thing, but a process—a process, specifically, of the circulation of values.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“But now, in the circulation M-C-M, value suddenly presents itself as a self-moving substance which passes through a process of its own, and for which commodities and money are both mere forms. But there is more to come: instead of simply representing the relations of commodities, it now enters into a private relationship with itself, as it were. It differentiates itself as original value from itself as surplus-value, just as God the Father differentiates himself from himself as God the Son…Value therefore now becomes value in process, money in process, and, as such, capital. (256)”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“This is an absolutely vital point that cannot be overemphasized: value is immaterial but objective. Given Marx’s supposed adherence to a rigorous materialism, this is, on the face of it, a surprising argument, and we have to wrestle a bit with what it means. Value is a social relation, and you cannot actually see, touch or feel social relations directly; yet they have an objective presence. We therefore have to carefully examine this social relation and its expression.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Once you can hang a price tag on something, you can in principle put a price tag on anything, including conscience and honor, to say nothing of body parts and children.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“the labour-time necessary for the production of labour-power is the same as that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence; in other words, the value of labour-power is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of its owner.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“As Marx amusingly put it elsewhere, in boom economies everybody acts like a Protestant—they act on pure faith. When the crash comes, though, everyone dives for cover in the “Catholicism” of the monetary base, real gold.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“But the ability to hold the means of exchange (in defiance of Say’s law) also awakens a passion, a “lust for gold.” “The hoarding drive,” he says, “is boundless in its nature.” Witness Christopher Columbus: “Gold is a wonderful thing! Its owner is master of all he desires. Gold can even enable souls to enter Paradise” (229–30). Here Marx, quoting Columbus, returns to the idea that once you can hang a price tag on something, you can hang it on anything—even a person’s soul, as his allusion to the Catholic Church’s infamous medieval practice of selling indulgences (i.e., papal pardons that promised entry into heaven) suggests: Circulation becomes the great social retort into which everything is thrown, to come out again as the money crystal. Nothing is immune from this alchemy, the bones of the saints cannot withstand it. (229)”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“This translates into a hypothesis about actually existing capitalism: that the more it is structured and organized according to this utopian liberal or neoliberal vision, the greater the class inequalities. And there is, it goes without saying, plenty of evidence to support the view that the rhetoric of free markets and free trade and their supposed universal benefits to which we have been subjected these past thirty years have produced exactly the result that Marx would expect:”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“These data actually construct the fiction of a national economy when really there is no such thing; in Marx’s terms, it is a fetish construct.”
David Harvey, Companion To Marx's Capital (Vol 1 and 2), A: The Complete Edition: 1-2
“Marx’s critique of free markets and free trade can shed as much devastating light on our own actually existing capitalism as it did for the capitalism of Marx’s own time and place.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“The facts of the Great Depression made a dominant economic theory that denied the possibility of generalized crisis untenable.”
David Harvey, Companion To Marx's Capital (Vol 1 and 2), A: The Complete Edition: 1-2
“This leaves us with the logical rationale, which I find much more persuasive. It focuses on the methodology at work as the argument unfolds: the dialectical and relational opposition between use-value and exchange-value as embodied in the commodity; the externalization of that opposition in the money-form as a way to represent value and facilitate commodity exchange; the internalization of this contradiction by the money-form as both a medium of circulation and a measure of value; and the resolution of that contradiction through the emergence of relations between debtors and creditors in the use of money as a means of payment.”
David Harvey, Companion To Marx's Capital (Vol 1 and 2), A: The Complete Edition: 1-2
“If we were to consult the archaeological and historical records, many would now probably hold that the money-form didn’t arise the way that Marx proposes at all. I am inclined to accept that argument, but then on top of it say the following—and this comes back to Marx’s interest in understanding a capitalist mode of production. Under capitalism, the money-form has to be disciplined to and brought into line with the logical position that Marx describes, such that the money-form reflects the needs of a system of proliferating exchange relations. But by the same token (forgive the pun), it is the proliferation of commodity-exchange relations that disciplines any and all preceding symbolic forms to the money-form required to facilitate commodity-market exchange. The precursors of the money-form, which can indeed be found in the archaeological and historical record of coinage, have to conform to this logic to the degree that they get absorbed within capitalism and perform the function of money. At the same time, it should be clear that the market could not have evolved without that disciplining taking place. Though the historical argument is weak, the logical argument is powerful.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Marx wrote his dissertation on Epicurus, and he was familiar with Greek thought. Aristotle, as you will see, provides a frequent anchor for his arguments.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“As was shown in the so-called capital controversy of the early 1970s, the whole of contemporary economic theory is dangerously close to being founded on a tautology: the monetary value of K in physical asset-form is determined by what it is supposed to explain, viz. the value of the commodities produced3 (208–9).”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“This boundless drive for enrichment, this passionate chase after value, is common to the capitalist and the miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“There is a big difference between the circulation of money as a mediator of commodity exchange and money used as capital. Not all money is capital. A monetized society is not necessarily a capitalist society. If everything revolved around the C-M-C circulation process, then money would be merely a mediator, nothing more. Capital emerges when money is put into circulation in order to get more money.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“The British imperialist logic that led to the Opium Wars reflected this: there was a lot of silver in China, so the idea was to sell Indian opium to the Chinese, get all that silver out in that lucrative sale, and thereby pay for all the goods that were being produced in Manchester and sent to India. When the Chinese resisted opening their doors to the opium trade, the British response was to knock them down with military force.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“These passages on effective demand are problematic in certain respects, and Rosa Luxemburg provides a compelling challenge to Marx on this point, arguing that imperialism directed against noncapitalist social formations provided a partial answer to the effective demand problem.4 There has been debate over these issues ever since.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“Yes, indeed, individual laborers will have rights over their own body and individual legal rights in the labor market. In principle they have the right to sell their labor-power to whomsoever they choose and the right to buy whatever they want in the marketplace with the wages they receive. Creating such a world is what the capitalist form of imperial politics has been about for the past two hundred years.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital
“The rise of monetary exchange leads to socially necessary labor-time becoming the guiding force within a capitalistic mode of production. Therefore, value as socially necessary labor-time is historically specific to the capitalist mode of production. It arises only in a situation where market exchange is doing the requisite job.”
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's Capital

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