Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 1: An Aside on the Category of Capital
October 3, 2007
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One very quick comment, as I have a very long teaching day today, and don’t have much time to write: just in case it has escaped attention, the first chapter of Capital – although I obviously think it deserves great attention – does not actually deploy the category of capital (which, in the scheme of things, one would imagine would be a fairly important category to analyse…). Instead, the phenomenological perspective it analyses remains within commodity production and exchange, which means, among other things, that the concept of the fetish as discussed here is therefore primarily directed at certain “Cartesian” forms of perception that are expressed in this dimension of collective experience.
Marx will gradually work his way “up” (down?) to the category of capital, over the course of several subsequent chapters, unfolding an analysis of an array of additional immanent phenomenological perspectives as he goes, linking each to an aspect of collective practice. Each of these phenomenological perspectives remains available as a moment within capitalism, understood as an overarching social context: though these forms of experience or thought may “contradict” one another in various respects, they share the common quality of expressing specific dimensions of their shared context, and they do not reflect “historical” forms of thought that have been “superseded” in the course of capitalist development (although particular phenomenological experiences may come more to the fore in particular places and times).
In emphasising the argument about the fetish is such detail, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this section of Marx’s argument is still a sort of preliminary gesture. I’m dwelling on this section at such length because I find it a useful way to explore Marx’s presentational strategy and tacit theoretical commitments: a close analysis of this first chapter pays off, when moving forward through the text. Nevertheless, the particular forms of subjectivity being analysed directly in this section are only the beginning moves in an elaborate reflexive theory.
Previous posts in the series:
Fragment on Textual Strategy in Capital
Reflections on the “Greatest Difficulty”
Nature and Society
Value and Abstract Labour as Real Abstractions
An Aside on the Fetish
Human Labour in the Abstract
Next post in this series:
Value and Its Form – From Deduction to Dialectics