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1.The unity of knowledge. An Interdisciplinary Project. The Unity of Natural and Sociocultural History as a Base for the Unity of All Sciences and Humanities. Keywords: Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, Biological and sociocultural Evolution, societal labour, Self-Organisation in natural and social systems, capitalist society as Multi-Agent -System. Download>>[as PDF]

Dieter Wolf, Kritische Theorie und Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie in: Zur Konfusion des Wertbegriffs Beiträge zur »Kapital«-Diskussion Wissenschaftliche Mitteilungen.
Heft 3 Argument Verlag, Hamburg, 2004
Dieter Wolf
Critical Theory and Critique of Political Economy

Within the framework of dealing with Marx’s scientific presentation of the first three chapters ofCapital, the author attempts to answer the question to what extent the methodical procedure of Capital corresponds to the various methodological explanations Marx gave in the Grundrisse.
The comparisons between Grundrisse and Capital are an occasion for refuting the persistently proclaimed assumption that Marx would have reduced and disguised the dialectical method more and more in the course of his scientific career. The prejudiced opinion that, in contrast to the Grundrisse, the dialectical method descended in Capital to a miserable level is based on taking a few statements from the Grundrisse and the Urtext, which are made to serve as a model for what dialectical method should be.

The essential features of the scientific procedures Marx figured out by identifying and analysing capital as a socio-economic process possessing a contemporary history, producing and reproducing itself under certain already generated historical conditions. These essential features, which are of great importance for the scientific character of Capital, are consequences of the fundamental methodological insight that the particular properties of the socio-economic world are expressed in certain particular properties of the dialectical method. Consequently its essence derives not from a general philosophical position but from the peculiar character of its object. Considering how this insight is constitutive for the scientific presentation of Capital, and especially for its first three chapters, attention should be drawn to some features presented exemplarily as follows.

The presentation in Capital starts with the sphere of circulation of commodities and money regarded under the aspect of a precondition of capitalist production by abstracting away (disregarding) that this sphere is at the same time the result of the capitalist production. Marx recognized this procedure during his work on the Grundrisse based on the knowledge that this is the only way to capture social labour in its historically specific social forms. As precondition and result commodity circulation is produced and reproduced. It must be explained by analysing what happens specifically within its contemporary history and not what happened in a certain way in its historical past. Therefore the scientific mode of presentation realized in Capital is characterized as logic-systematic and not as historical. The logic-systematic character of the dialectical method is demonstrated by examining the relations between the first three chapters of the Capital, especially by examining the particular role which the second chapter plays in comparison to the first.

Emphasizing the force of abstraction, Marx crystallized by means of abstractions the first three chapters of Capital as three steps of the logically systematic presentation in order to explain money and with it the circulation of commodities. To think change and interaction in an adequate way requires the process of abstraction. To explain money and commodities bearing a price Marx disregards price and money to find invisibly included in them less concrete forms, i. e. simpler forms consisting of commodities being units of use value and value. This can be described as moving from one structure to another structure, taking into consideration that the second one is invisibly included in the first one. The first structure is determined by the double-sided polar contrast of price-bearing commodities and money, and the second one by the simple contrast of commodities as units of use value and value. The second structure is disguised in the first one as well as the value of commodities is disguised in the price-bearing commodities and in money.

The simplest and most abstract socio-economic situation of capitalist society is included in the sphere of commodity circulation and preconditioned as already historically generated. This situation, only accessible by means of abstraction, consists of products entered into relation with each other as commodities and the social actors who place themselves as owners of the commodities in relation to one another. The structure of this socio-economic situation is characterized by simple commodities as simple units of use values and values. Taking into account that the socio-economic reality is created and shaped by humans, one has to consider this situation as the starting point of further development carried out by the social actors. This situation, analysed by Marx in the second chapter of Capital, is the starting point from which humans create and shape in the simplest way the first practical functioning part of socio-economic reality in the form of money-mediated exchange of commodities.It is crucial to figure out what human beings do know about this specially structured situation and what they do not know. The result of their action is determined by the structure insofar as it lies beyond the scope of their consciousness. After having generated money in an unconscious way by a real action, they refer to money consciously, knowing that money is immediately exchangeable, that commodities must have a price expressed in the form of money. While aware of all this as the condition for carrying out exchange, they are not aware of what money and price really are, i. e. that price and money are developed forms of value appearing on the surface in forms which are the results of an invisible disguised mediation process. Prices of commodities, and money, are given to the human beings as somewhat different from what they are as the results of the mediation process.

The action of the social actors consists of the mediation process between both the already characterized structures. The individuals are making a step from one structure to the other, a step from the less concrete structure to the much more concrete structure, not knowing what happens within their action concerning the development of value, not knowing that they are creating money as a more developed form of value. The structure unknown to the social actors arises from the fact that the social actors are mediating their relations among themselves by social relations between the products of their different labours i. e. by social relations between things. The following particularities are important to understand why it is necessary to explain money by means of three chapters in Capital instead of only two chapters in Zur Kritik. The first particularity consists of the fact that the social actors do not know what happens inside the social relations between the commodities concerning the creation and developing of the different forms of values as historically specific forms of social labour. The socio-economic structure determined by the contrast of use value and value lies beyond the reach of the consciousness of the human beings. The second particularity consists of the fact that the socio-economic process, which is responsible for the creation and the developing of the socio-economic forms, exists in some respects separately and independently of human beings.

Although products are, for the sake of their exchange, brought into social relations by the human beings, these social relations between things are different from the social relations between human beings. They have their own kind of existence, which depends in one respect upon the existence of things.
These considerations justify beginning with a chapter in which the scientist considers a structure given only to him, or, in the words of Marx, considering the relations of commodities as theoretical, being only in the mind of the scientist i. e. in one’s mind’s eye. In the first chapter Marx is analysing all that happens unknown to the social actors in the social relations between products concerning the creation and developing of the different forms of values as historically specific forms of social labour. The first three chapters Marx brought together as three steps of abstraction in a certain sequence necessary for grasping the connection between structure and practical social action. Marx explains that this connection is determined by the connection between the socio-economic forms of labour, the social relations and the forms of thinking. Marx further explains that this connection possesses, because of the unconsciously given structure and the social action unconsciously carried out, a character similar to organic deterministic processes in nature. At long last Marx explains what is conscious, and what is unconscious, for the people creating and shaping their own socio-economic reality.

One crucial result of the investigation made in this treatise is that the sequence of the first three chapters of Capital mirrors the highest level of a scientific method which has solved the fundamental problem of how to reconstruct mentally in a certain sequence of different steps of abstraction a socio-economic reality characterized by a certain relationship of structure and practical social action, and which possesses a systematic structure, determined by interacting
processes mutually dependent on, and influencing, each other.

(1) The methodological procedure Marx pursued through the first three chapters of Capital runs totally contrary to such an assumption as that the methodological level of Capital would be the miserable result of a scientific development in which Marx had continually reduced and disguised the dialectical method.
The methodological reflections outlined in the above explanation are the subject of the first part of this treatise. This part provides the methodological framework of both the other parts, dealing with ways in which the theorists Helmut Reichelt and Hans-Georg Backhaus interpret Capital. It not only argues against typical interpretations of Capital but discusses in a rigorous, reliable way, and in terms of content, the essential features of the socio-economic reality primarily consisting of money-mediated circulation of commodities as the above specified abstract sphere of capitalist society.

There will be treated, for example, the importance of the twofold character of labour for comprehending social labour as the fundamental mediating process between nature and human beings, by explaining in great detail what abstract labour is as the historically particular social form of all the different single labours creating useful things, i.e. use values.

Many theorists interpret abstract labour by dissolving it into its opposite, namely use-value producing labour, i.e. concrete useful labour, so that one changes abstract labour into concrete useful labour, or generates a mixture of abstract labour and concrete useful labour at the cost of the first.

The consequence of nearly all misinterpretations of Capital is to destroy the twofold character of social labour, to destroy the socio-economic dimension of value, to dissolve value in a result of mental movements separated from labour, to conflate the different levels of the chapters of Capital as methodological required steps of abstraction, to confuse everyday mental processes with scientific mental processes, to mix up both mental processes with happenings in the socioeconomic reality etc. Because of these procedures the theorists are more or les consciously forced to construct a poor substitute for social labour, i. e. a poor substitute for all that happens within social labour as a socio-economic process which is the basis of the mediation process between nature and human beings. This?? substitute for social labour takes the form of philosophical speculations mixing Kantian and Hegelian philosophical reflections characterized by the contrasts of “nature” and “spirit”, of “matter” and “reason”, of “body” and “soul” etc.


(1)„One important theoretical issue that would have to be examined is the relationship of structure and action.” Moishe Postone: Time, labor, and social domination. A reinterpretation of Marx’ s critical theory, Cambridge 2003, p. 395