In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious artistic or philosophic–in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out — K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, “Preface.”
- So 19th century, Karl, to be swept up in the “precision” of natural science, when natural science itself is a calculus, an approximation, a quantum of history, not the history itself; when “precision” is a function of the instruments used to make the measure and not the objects or relations being measured; when technical proficiency is conflated with, and mistaken for progress.
- But so much for the philosophy of science.
- In any case just forget the creeping positivism for the moment. It’s tough to argue with the rest of the “Preface.” That conflict between forces and relations of production really is the linch-pin of class struggle, the motor of revolution, and the basis for the theory of historical materialism.
- The “economic conditions of production” are made manifest in periods of overproduction. Values embedded in the forces of production maintain their viability, their usefulness only to the extent that they engage with wage labor and provide a return of expanded value. The container ship, the oil platform, the solar array, the semiconductor fabrication plant, the dairy farm cost, are costs with a purpose. The purposes are to return a profit, an expansion of value large enough and quickly enough through an expanding mass of commodities– oil, milk, container transport, semiconductors. Those growing commodity values alone sustain the accumulation of ever greater forces of production.
- Overproduction is always the overproduction of capital as capital, as value embedded in accumulation of the means of production. The accumulation results in a diminished the rate of return, the slowing of the rate of reproduction. The cyclical condition becomes chronic.
- Capital marches itself down two diverging roads at once, straddling with one leg value production, and with the other leg, devaluation.
- Then we move from “reproduction,” from “economics,” to class struggle; appearing, as it must, as the struggle of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, with their own system. This necessarily destabilizes the system that the bourgeoisie built to reconcile, adjust, mediate, mitigate, and suppress conflict among the property holders, and would-be property holders. Those “systems,” parliamentary, administrative, palliative too are costs. Any money being spent better find its way into somebody’s pocket, and fast.
- Capitalism continues to reproduce, but through and in the pettiest, meanest, of forms. It reproduces the “claw back;” by depreciating smaller capitals, smaller properties; by lowering wages, by bankrupting pensions, by liquidating the value embedded in the living standards of the society as a whole; by the general depletion of social resources; by the transfer of wealth up the social ladder.
- Small, medium and not-large-enough farms and farmers are driven into bankruptcy. Small, medium, and not-large-enough towns are stripped of the value of their property, of the value embedded in merchandising outlets, schools, hospitals, even water supplies.
- Meanwhile large enough corporations, and wealthy enough individuals cast-off the human beings depending on those networks as redundant, non-essential, as surplus.
- The virus has not created the dis-integration of capital, but it has made the chronic condition more than acute. The virus makes the conditions global, intractable, and transparent.
- Capital has not created the virus. Capital has demonstrated that its own “economic conditions of production” are incapable of sustaining the general welfare. Those conditions of production are downright hostile to the general welfare. “Work at home” is the theory; homelessness is the practice.
- What’s left for capital in its depreciation, destabilization, devaluation? What’s left is what has always been integral to the maintenance of value–force.
- Capital has always relied on the small property holder to do its wet work, to be that force.
September 28, 2020