Introduction to Division III

In: The Spectre of Capital: Idea and Reality
Christopher J. Arthur
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In Division I, Capital in Its Notion, the dialectic of the value form is traced from the commodity, through money, to the general formula for capital. In Division II, the Capital Relation, the value form is shown to sink into production to ensure capital’s reproduction on its own basis. Both these parts deal with capital as such, although relations of capitals are implicit in such notions as ‘socially necessary labour time’. Now, in Division III, capital as a system is addressed, with a view to establishing that it is a unified self-reproducing totality of capitals.

The first Division dealt with the forms of generalised commodity exchange. In the second I grounded this on capitalist production in such a way that only commodities produced with waged labour count as proper ‘values’. Thus from here on I narrow the focus of attention to a system of generalised commodity production. But within that we attend only to capitalist production. We presuppose that petty commodity production by the self-employed is sufficiently marginal that it does not impede the expansion of capital.

Generalised commodity production is partly a manifestation of capital’s power but it is also a condition of existence required to make itself fully present, through providing a large enough arena of competition in order to develop itself. The hegemony of the capitalist mode of production in the economy is not simply a matter of it being more efficient than the modes it displaced, it is a matter of the perfection of this mode itself. Thus ‘generalised commodity production’, ‘waged labour’, and ‘capital’, are mutually implicative moments of the inner totality of capitalism.1 Nonetheless, capital depends not only on a supply of waged labour but also the existence of households to absorb the commodified output. Thus the main non-commodity production (addressed later) is that provided through domestic labour in the household.

The first section (§7) of this Division deals with the notion of this system in purely formal terms. Here is explained the unity of universal capital with individual capitals at a formal level. But only the unfolding of the material structure of the system shows how the Idea of capital is realised in a self-reproducing system.

So the second section (§8) deals with the system of capital proper, and it becomes an extended treatment of the objective dialectic of the moments of the concept. In this the system of industrial capital is articulated on the lines of the logic of the Idea. Beginning from the core notion of capital, I develop the triad universality/particularity/singularity in two perspectives: capital’s reflection into itself, and capital’s reflection against itself. Every form-determination here unites with the material metabolism in specific modes. They are expressed therefore in mixed categories. I propose my own take on the famous ‘transformation problem’, and I add some novel observations on the status of the falling rate of profit.

Then, finally, in the third section (§9) I show how the logic implicit in industry externalises itself in finance capital. The last section deals with how the spirit of capital achieves apparently autonomous existence in finance; but this has conditions of existence in industry, on which it grounds itself. I treat finance as the ‘spiritual’ centre of capital and discuss its relation to industry and commerce. Taken together, as one totality, this is implicitly now capital as Absolute Idea.


See Saad-Filho 2002, p. 41.

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