“The Concept of Capital” According to Marx.
Marx’s Grundrisse manuscript in particular is peppered with passages such as the following [emphases added], referring to “the concept of capital” --
“The exact development of the concept of capital [is] necessary, since it [is] the fundamental concept of modern economics, just as capital itself, whose abstract, reflected image [is] its concept [dessen abstraktes Gegenbild sein Begriff], [is] the foundation of bourgeois society. The sharp formulation of the basic presuppositions of the relation must bring out all the contradictions of bourgeois production, as well as the boundary where it drives beyond itself.” [p. 331].
“... (3) Looked at precisely, that is, the realization process of capital -- and money becomes capital only through the realization process -- appears at the same time as its devaluation process [Entwertungs-prozess], its demonetization. And this in two respects. First, to the extent that capital does not increase absolute labor-time but rather decreases the relative, necessary labor time, by increasing the force of production, to that extent does it reduce the costs of its own production -- in so far as it was presupposed as a certain sum of commodities, reduces its exchange value: one part of the capital on hand is constantly devalued owing to a decrease in the costs of production at which it can be reproduced; not because of a decrease in the amount of labor objectified in it, but because of a decease in the amount of living labor which it is henceforth necessary to objectify in this specific product. This constant devaluation of the existing capital does not belong here, since it already presupposes capital as completed. It is merely to be noted here in order to indicate how later developments are already contained in the general concept of capital. Belongs in the doctrine of the concentration and competition of capitals.” [p. 402-403].
“The tendency to create the world market is directly given in the concept of capital itself.” [p. 408].
“( ... Conceptually, competition is nothing other than the inner nature of capital, its essential character, appearing in and realized as the reciprocal interaction of many capitals with one another, the inner tendency as external necessity.) Capital exists and can only exist as many capitals, and its self-determination therefore appears as their reciprocal interaction with one another).” [p. 413-414].
“It belongs to the concept of capital that the increased productive force of labor is posited rather as the increase of a force [Kraft] outside itself, and as labor’s own debilitation [Entkräftung]. The hand tool makes the worker independent -- posits him as proprietor. Machinery -- as fixed capital -- posits him as dependent, posits him as appropriated. This effect of machinery holds only in so far as it is cast into the role of fixed capital, and this it is only because the worker relates to it as wage-worker, and [Ed.: as] the active individual generally, as mere worker.” [p. 702].
Some of these assertions -- particularly those like the fourth quote above -- may ring with tones reminiscent of Platonian idealism, as if an “immaterial” «eidos» controls the manifestations of physical and sensuous phenomena, from “behind”, “within”, and/or “above” them, from some “transcendental” realm of eternal, immutable, intangible, Parmenidean «eide».
But we hold that Marx’s “concept of capital” is neither a Platonian «eidos» nor a Hegelian-mystical, reified, subject-object inverted «Begriff».
Yes, Marx was coming to the study of the world-market capitalist system, and to the immanent critique of the ideology-compromised science of classical political economy, from the background of his earlier immanent critique of Hegelian/capitalist philosophical ideology.
But the positive fruition of that immanent critique of Hegelian/capitalist ideology was what Seldon calls a ‘psychohistorical-materialist dialectical theory’ of human concepts in general, and of “the concept of capital” in particular, via a view which dialectically synthesized the scientifically-serviceable portions of the ideologies of French mechanical materialism [abstract ‘matter-ism’], and German classical idealism [denial of objective materiality].
Per that view, a “concept” such as Marx’s “concept of capital” must be a scientific one, embracing and unifying the totality of the empirical appearances of its object -- including even the obscure, little-known, or seldom-experienced of such appearances. Such a Marxian, dialectical “concept” is no arbitrary construct. To be “correct”, it must comprehensively explain, in a unifying way, all of the known empirical manifestations of the reality that it conceptualizes. Regarding the case in point, human beings actively construct, produce, and reproduce the capital social-relation of societal self-reproduction, even if not with full consciousness or intent, and they are beings which have the genomic potentiality to form ideas, potential “concepts”, e.g., about their own praxis in so constructing, producing, and reproducing. The “correct” concept of capital, at least for a given historical moment, is that unique conceptualization of the capitalist experience of humanity that comprehends the totality of that experience.
Such a “concept” can only be arrived at via relentless scientific criticism of the vast variety of deficient ideas of the global capitals-system that initially arise, and that continue to arise, some reflecting the “inverted” experience, and the ‘concrete mystification’, that the capital-praxis entails, and some reflecting deliberate attempted mystifications by the intellectual prostitutes and con-men of the capitalist ruling classes.
The formation of this “concept” of Marxian, dialectical “concepts” may be facilitated by recourse to an example from the “natural” sciences: the example of the “concept” of “gravity”.
Newton’s breakthrough theory of “gravitational force” has been, and continues to be, enormously serviceable in calculations and predictions of the gravitational dynamics of massive bodies.
However, there are “appearances” of “gravitational force” which contradict the Newtonian expectations and calculations.
Such is the “appearance” of the shift of the perihelion of the planet Mercury in its orbitings of our Sun, that is unexplained by Newton’s model of gravity. Einstein’s General Relativity theory of gravity was able to explain almost all of that discrepancy.
Another such is the measurable gravitational bending of the trajectories of light-rays as they pass in sufficient proximity to sufficiently-massive objects, such as stars. Again, Einstein’s General Relativity ‘non-force’ theory of the gravitational field predicts accurately such bending. Newton’s theory of gravity-force does not.
So, it might seem, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity constructs the valid scientific “concept of gravity”, whereas Newton’s concept of gravitational force is deficient.
However, Einstein’s model of gravity goes into division-by-zero-“singularity” failure-mode when attempting to explain the appearances/phenomena of the “total gravitational collapse” of sufficiently massive objects, e.g., of stars. Scientists who cling to General relativity Theory at this point of its breakdown, start ‘mysticizing’ about physical ‘actual infinities’, e.g., of mass-density and of “infinitesimal” volume, supposedly existing at the core of such collapsed stars -- “black holes”.
The F.E.D. hypothesis is that “black holes” contain a thoroughly finite form of mass-energy substance, beyond the “degenerate” matter of “white dwarf” stars, and beyond even the ‘‘‘neutronium’’’ of “neutron stars”, which we call ‘holonium’.
If the Einstein General Relativity equations are mapped into the Seldonian seventh, or ‘Mu’, dialectical calculus, and thus ‘re-qualified’ by arithmetical ontological qualifier ‘meta-numeral’ factors/coefficients, and also by metrical qualifier ‘meta-numeral’ factors/coefficients, then their “infinite” collapse division-by-zero “singularity” yields, instead of any aphysical value of “infinity”, the Mu ‘meta-numerical’ value of ‘full zero’, which signifies that the -- quite finite -- outcome of such “gravitational collapse”, involves an ontological category of “mass-energy” which cannot be described in the mathematical language of Einstein’s General Relativity theory, e.g., given the restricted “ontological commitments”, and relatively abstract ‘descriptivity’ of that language.
Moreover, Einstein’s General Relativity theory fails to jibe with Quantum Mechanics, which is a huge problem for which both General Relativity Theory and the ideology of Quantum Mechanics are likely both to blame, even though the gravitational interactions of quantum mechanical “particles”, due to their minimal masses, are “negligible” in magnitude.
Thus, still, despite many centuries of effort, it appears that humanity has yet to arrive at the “concept of gravity” in the Marxian, scientific, dialectical meaning of the term “concept”, or “category”.
Moreover, we see that the Marxian “concept of capital” -- even given its unprecedentedly advanced character -- is in need of improvement, especially in the light of certain phenomena of capitalism that Marx did not live long enough to experience.
For more information regarding, and for [further] instantiations of, these Seldonian insights, please see --
For ‘poster-izations’ of many of these insights -- as specimens of ‘dialectical art’ -- see:
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