Tuesday, March 30, 2021

My Understanding Of Marx Part Three - Robert Paul Wolff

Part Three: Classical Political Economy

Marx and Engels had a little private joke that they would use in their lengthy correspondence to one another. They would say: we got our philosophy from the Germans, our politics from the French, and our economics from the English. Marx began his revolutionary investigation of the nature of capitalism by studying everything he could lay his hands on in the new field of Political Economy. Before we can open to page one of Capital, therefore, we must remind ourselves of the elements of Marx’s predecessors, so that we understand how he understood the discipline as he began his great book....
The Philosopher's Stone
Robert Paul Wolff | Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

1 comment:

Ahmed Fares said...

Ricardo’s major contribution was the idea of “embodied labor.” The tools and raw materials used in any cycle of production, Ricardo argued, were the product of labor expended in previous cycles of production and so we could think of that prior labor as having become embodied in those products and carried along with them into the present cycle. When a farmer used a shovel that had been produced in some previous year, a portion of the labor expended in making the shovel and “embodied” in the shovel was yielded up and transferred to the crops being grown with its use.

While it's true that capital is stored labor, it's also true that labor is stored capital. Human capital that is. This from Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations):

Fourthly, of the acquired and useful abilities of all the inhabitants or members of the society. The acquisition of such talents, by the maintenance of the acquirer during his education, study, or apprenticeship, always costs a real expense, which is a capital fixed and realized, as it were, in his person. Those talents, as they make a part of his fortune, so do they likewise that of the society to which he belongs. The improved dexterity of a workman may be considered in the same light as a machine or instrument of trade which facilitates and abridges labor, and which, though it costs a certain expense, repays that expense with a profit.