Okay. Here’s my current favourite passage in Capital:
“It is the extraction of this surplus-value that forms the immediate process of production, and this faces no other barriers than those just mentioned. As soon as the amount of surplus labour it has proved possible to extort has been objectified in commodities, the surplus-value has been produced. But this production of surplus-value is only the first act in the capitalist production process, and its completion only brings to an end the immediate production process itself. Capital has absorbed a given amount of unpaid labour. With the development of this process as expressed in the fall in the profit rate, the mass of surplus-value thus produced swells to monstrous proportions. Now comes the second act in the process. The total mass of commodities, the total product, must be sold, both that portion which replaces constant and variable capital and that which represents surplus-value. If this does not happen, or happens only partly, or only at prices that are less than the price of production, then although the worker is certainly exploited, his exploitation is not realized as such for the capitalist and may even not involve any realization of the surplus-value extracted, or only a partial realization; indeed, it may even mean a partial or complete loss of his capital. The conditions for immediate exploitation and for realization of that exploitation are not identical. Not only are they separate in time and space, they are also separate in theory.” (Vol. III, p. 352)
I’m not sure I’m in a position to expand on this adequately now – but this passage strikes me as articulating the central equivocation in Capital. The issue is – what is the relation between the “immediate production” and the “realization” of value? According to this schema, value can be ‘produced’ that is never realized – and, indeed, the ‘production’ of non-realized value is central to the capitalist system. Does not this lack of ‘realization’ of value that’s been (immediately) ‘produced’ reflect back on, expand, and in a sense transform the concept of ‘production’? Indeed, isn’t this the heart of Marx’s argument – not just his argument about the systemic contradictions that produce crises, but also his argument about the coercive power of capitalist social relations to enforce the exploitations of capitalist production? And doesn’t this stand in marked tension with the ‘standard’ labour theory of value, which I was complaining about in my last post? If I were going to offer an interpretation of Capital – which I’m not, any time soon, because I’ve still got a whole lot of Marx still to ingest – I think I’d probably take my bearings from this passage, and others like it.