Elements for a Theory
Let us return to the question posed above: the question of the transition from one mode of production to another. The analysis of reproduction seems merely to have erected a number of obstacles to its theoretical solution. Really, it enables us to pose the problem in its true terms, for it subjects the theory of transition to two conditions.
First, all social production is a re-production, i.e., a production of social relations in the sense suggested. All social production is subject to structural social relations. The 'transition' from one mode of production to another can therefore never appear in our understanding as an irrational hiatus between two 'periods' which are subject to the functioning of a structure, i.e., which have their specified concept. The transition cannot be a moment of destructuration, however brief. It is itself a movement subject to a structure which has to be discovered. We can give a strong sense to these comments of Marx's (reproduction expresses the continuity of production because it can never stop) which he often presented as 'obvious', as things 'every child knows' (that the labourer can never have lived on 'the air of time', that 'a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish' -- Letter to Kugelmann, 11 July 1868). They mean that the invariant structure of production can never disappear, although it may take a particular form in each mode of production (the existence of a fund for the maintenance of labour, i.e., the distinction between necessary labour and surplus-labour; the division of the product into means of production and means of consumption, a distinction that Marx calls original, or again the expression of a natural law, etc.). They therefore mean that the forms of transition themselves are particular 'forms of manifestation' (Erscheinungsformen ) of this general structure: they are therefore themselves modes of production. They therefore imply the same conditions as every mode of production, and notably a certain form of complexity of the relations of production, of correspondence between the different levels of social practice (I shall try to suggest what form). The analysis of reproduction shows that if we can formulate the concept of the modes of production which belong to periods of transition between two modes of production, at the same stroke the modes of production are no longer suspended in an indeterminate time (or site): the problem of their location has been resolved once we can
explain theoretically how they follow one another, i.e., once we know the moments of their succession in their concepts.
But on the other hand (second consequence), the transition from one mode of production to another, e.g., from capitalism to socialism, cannot consist of the transformation of the structure by its functioning itself, i.e., of any transition of quantity into quality. This conclusion follows from what I have said about the double sense in which the term 'production' has to be understood in the analysis of reproduction (the production of things, and the 'production' of social relations). To say that the structure can be transformed in its functioning itself is to identify two movements which manifestly cannot be analysed in the same way with respect to it: on the one hand, the very functioning of the structure which, in the capitalist mode of production, takes the particular form of the law of accumulation; this movement is subject to the structure, it is only possible on condition that the latter is permanent ; in the capitalist mode of production it coincides with the 'eternal' reproduction of capitalist social relations. On the contrary, the movement of dissolution is not subject in its concept to the same 'presuppositions', it is apparently a movement of a completely different kind, since it takes the structure as the object of transformation. This conceptual difference shows us that where a 'dialectical logic' would quickly solve the problem, Marx holds firmly to non-dialectical logical principles (obviously, non-Hegelian-dialectical principles): what we have recognized as distinct in essence shall not become a single process. And more generally, the concept of the transition (from one mode of production to another) can never be the transition of the concept (to one other-than-itself by internal differentiation).
And yet we do have a text where Marx presents the transformation of the relations of production as a dialectical process of the negation of the negation. This is the passage on the 'Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation' (Capital, Vol. I, Chapter XXXII). It groups into a single schema those of Marx's analyses which deal with the origin of the capitalist mode of production ('primitive accumulation'), those which deal with its peculiar movement of accumulation, and those which deal with its end, which Marx here calls its 'tendency', using this term in the way he does in Volume Three. I shall be obliged to take each of these three moments separately, according to the aggregate of the analyses that Marx devotes to them in Capital. But first of all, I should like to demonstrate the remarkable form of this passage, which already determines certain conclusions.
In principle, Marx's reasoning in this text implies that the two transitions are of the same nature. First transition: from the individual private ownership of the means of production, based on personal labour ('the pygmy property of the many') to capitalist private ownership of the means of production, based on the exploitation of the labour of others ('the huge property of the few'). First transition, first expropriation. Second transition: from capitalist ownership to individual ownership, based on the acquisitions of the
capitalist era, on co-operation and the common possession of all the means of production, including the land. Second transition, second expropriation.
These two successive negations are of the same form, which implies that all the analyses Marx devoted to primitive accumulation on the one hand (origin), to the tendency of the capitalist mode of production on the other, i.e., to its historical future, are similar in principle. But as we shall see, in Capital these analyses in fact present a remarkable disparity: the analysis of primitive accumulation seems to be relatively independent of the analysis of the mode of production strictly speaking, or even to be an enclave of 'descriptive' history in a work of economic theory (on this opposition I refer the reader to the preceding paper by Louis Althusser); on the contrary, the analysis of the historical tendency of the capitalist mode of production seems to be one moment of the analysis of the capitalist mode of production, a development of the intrinsic effects of the structure. It is this last analysis which suggests that the (capitalist) mode of production is transformed 'by itself', through the play of its own peculiar 'contradiction', i.e., through its structure.
In the passage on the 'Historical Tendency of the Capitalist Mode of Production', the two transformations are reduced to the second type, which is all the more surprising in that the text constitutes the conclusion to the analysis of the forms of primitive accumulation. The capitalist mode of production, too, appears in these formulations to be the result of the spontaneous evolution of the structure:
This industrial regime of small independent producers . . . engenders by itself the material agents for its dissolution which are contained in its peculiar contradiction (it prevents the advance of production) (Capital, T.III, pp. 203-4; Vol. I, pp. 761-2).
The second movement, 'This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalist production itself, which lead to the concentration of capitals . . . The socialization of labour and the concentration of the means of production at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument (Hülle ) . . . Capitalist production begets its own negation with the fatality that presides over the metamorphoses of nature' (T.III, pp. 204-5; Vol. I, p. 763).
Thus, while summing up the analyses that Marx devoted to the formation and dissolution of the capitalist mode of production, these formulations claim to give the very concept of the transition that we are looking for. They must therefore be compared with these analyses themselves. But the apparent disparity between these analyses must not be allowed to prevail over the unity postulated by the text on the 'Historical Tendency' via the forms of the 'negation of the negation': on the contrary, it must be reduced if it is to be possible to formulate the concept of the transition. (Obviously, there can be no question of maintaining that all transitions from one mode
of production to another have the same concept: the concept is specified: each time, like that of the mode of production itself. But just as all historical modes of production have appeared as forms of a combination of the same nature, historical transitions must have concepts of the same theoretical nature. This is what is strictly implied by the preceding quotations, even if they do go on to suggest that this nature is that of an external dialectical supersession.) Let us look at these 'transitions' again, one by one.
(1) P R I M I T I V E A C C U M U L A T I O N : A P R E - H I S T O R Y
The chapters which Marx devotes to 'so-called primitive accumulation' (die sogennante ursprüngliche Akkumulation ) are presented as the solution to a problem which arose in the study of reproduction (capitalist accumulation) and which was provisionally left on one side. The movement of accumulation of capital is only possible because a surplus-value susceptible to capitalization exists. This surplus-value itself can only be the result of a previous production process, and so on, apparently indefinitely. But in given technical conditions the minimum sum of value capable of functioning as capital and its division into constant and variable capital are also given, and condition every extraction of surplus-value. The production of this original capital therefore constitutes a threshold and crossing this threshold cannot be explained by the action of the law of capitalist accumulation alone.
But it is not really just a question of measuring a sum of value. The movement of reproduction is not only continually the origin of a capitalizable surplus-value, it implies the permanence of capitalist social relations, and it is only possible on condition that they exist. The question of primitive accumulation therefore simultaneously involves the formation of capitalist social relations.
What characterizes the myth of primitive accumulation in classical economics is the retrospective projection of the forms of capitalist production, and of the forms of exchange and law which correspond to it: by pretending that the original minimum capital was saved by the future capitalist out of the product of his labour before being advanced in the form of wages and means of production, classical economics gave some retroactive validity to the laws of exchange between equivalents and of the ownership of the product based on the legitimate disposal of the set of factors of production. This retrospective projection does not lie in the distinction between a necessary labour and a surplus-labour, and hence between a wage and a profit, with respect to a hypothetical individual production (for these distinctions can serve conventionally to distinguish between various portions of the product even in non-capitalist modes of production, even in modes of production without exploitation where these portions do not constitute the revenues of different classes: Marx himself uses this convention, for example, in the chapter on the 'Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent' in Volume
Three); the retrospective projection lies precisely in the idea that the formation of capital and its development are part of a single movement subject to common general laws. The basis for the bourgeois myth of primitive accumulation is therefore, in a reading of absolute reversibility, the formation of capital by the movement of an already potentially capitalist private production, and the self-generation of capital. But it would be even more accurate to say that the entire movement of capital (the movement of accumulation) thus appears as a memory : the memory of an initial period in which, by his personal labour and saving, the capitalist acquired the possibility of indefinitely appropriating the product of others' surplus-labour. This memory is inscribed in the form of the bourgeois rights of property which base the appropriation of the product of labour indefinitely on the previous ownership of the means of production:
At first the rights of property seemed to us to be based on a man's own labour. At least, some such assumption was necessary since only commodity-owners with equal rights confronted each other, and the sole means by which a man could become possessed of the commodities of others, was by alienating his own commodities; and these could be replaced by labour alone. Now, however, property turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product, and to be the impossibility, on the part of the labourer, of appropriating his own product. The separation of property from labour has become the necessary consequence of a law that apparently originated in their identity (Capital, Vol. I, pp. 583-4).
If we adopt the view-point of classical economics we must retain both faces of this 'law of appropriation' at once, the universally equal commodity right (and the hypothetical personal labour which it presupposes and induces through its own consistency) on the one hand, and on the other the exchange without equivalence which is an expression of the essence of the process of capitalist accumulation. It is in the constantly present space of these two forms that the memory of the mode of production is inscribed, the continuing present of an origin homogeneous with the current process.
As we know, this is a myth. Marx sets himself the task of proving that, historically, things did not happen like that. At the same stroke, what he calls the 'apologetic' function of the myth is exposed, expressed in the perenneal nature of the economic categories of capitalism. I shall presume that the reader has this study in mind and draw attention to its very remarkable form.
Both a history and a pre-history are involved in the study of 'primitive accumulation' (the name has been retained, but it now designates a quite different process). A history : we have discovered that the bourgeois theory of primitive capital is no more than a myth, a retrospective construction, very precisely the projection of a current structure which is expressed in
the 'law of appropriation' and depends on the capitalist structure of production. It has therefore become clear that the 'memory' inscribed in this law of appropriation is a purely fictive one: it expresses a current situation in the form of a past whereas this situation's real past had another form, a completely different one, demanding an analysis. The study of primitive accumulation is this replacement of memory by history. A pre-history : this study reveals to us a different world at the origin of capital. Knowledge of the laws of the development of capitalism is useless to us here because this is a completely different process, not subject to the same conditions. Thus a complete rupture appears, a rupture reflected in theory, between the history of the formation of capital (of capitalist social relations) and the history of capital itself. Thus the real history of the origins of capitalism is not just different from the myth of origins; by the same token it is different in its conditions and principles of explanation from what has appeared to us to be the history of capital; it is a pre-history, i.e., a history of a different age.
But in their turn, these determinations are in no sense vague or mysterious to us, for we know that a different age is precisely a different mode of production. Let us call it the feudal mode of production, following Marx's historical analysis, but without asserting any law of necessary and unique succession of these modes of production, an assertion which nothing in the concept of a 'mode of production' allows us to make immediately, if the nature of the latter really is that of a varied combination. We see that to recognize the history of the origins of capital as a real pre-history is at the same time to pose the problem of the relationship between this pre-history and the history of the feudal mode of production, which, just like the history of the capitalist mode of production, can be known by the concept of its structure. In other words, we must ask ourselves whether this pre-history is identical with the history of the feudal mode of production, simply dependent on it or distinct from it. The set of conditions for this problem is summed up by Marx as follows:
The capitalist system is based on the radical separation of the producer from the means of production. As soon as capitalist production is once established, it reproduces this separation on a continually extending scale; but as the latter is the basis of the former, it could not have been established without it. In order that the capitalist system should come into existence it is therefore necessary that the means of production have already, at least in part, been seized absolutely from the producers who had been using them to realize their own labour, and that they are already held by commodity producers who use them to speculate on the labour of others. 'primitive' accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical movement which divorces labour from its external conditions, and it is called 'primitive' because it forms the prehistoric stage of the bourgeois world.
The capitalist economic order emerged from the entrails of the feudal economic order. The dissolution of the latter set free the constitutive elements of the former (Capital, T.III, pp. 154-5; Vol. I, pp. 714-15).
Marx returned to this problem several times, using the same method on each occasion, and the texts in which he did so should be assembled for an analysis of their content: in Capital, besides Part 8 of Volume One ('The So-called Primitive Accumulation'), the chapters in Volume Three devoted to the 'Historical Facts about Merchant's Capital', to 'Pre-Capitalist Relationships', and to the 'Genesis of Capitalist Ground Rent'. We shall find that this dispersion is not accidental. Marx himself calls Part 8, on so-called primitive accumulation, a 'sketch' (T. III, p. 156; Vol. I, p. 716, but we have various preparatory manuscripts on the same subject to which to refer, above all the already cited text on Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations.
All these studies have a common retrospective form, but in a sense which we have to specify, since we have just been criticizing the form of retrospective projection of the bourgeois myth of primitive accumulation. It is very clear from the preceding text that the study of primitive accumulation takes as its guiding thread precisely the elements which were distinguished by the analysis of the capitalist structure: these elements are grouped together here under the heading of the 'radical separation of the labourer from the means of production'. The analysis is therefore retrospective, not insofar as it projects backwards the capitalist structure itself, presupposing precisely what had to be explained, but insofar as it depends on knowledge of the result of the movement. On this condition it escapes empiricism, the listing of the events which merely precede the development of capitalism: it escapes vulgar description by starting from the connexions essential to a structure, but this structure is the 'current' structure (I mean that of the capitalist system insofar as it has currently come into its own). The analysis of primitive accumulation is therefore, strictly speaking, merely the genealogy of the elements which constitute the structure of the capitalist mode of production. This movement is particularly clear in the construction of the text on Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, which depends on the action of two concepts: that of the presuppositions (Voraussetzungen ) of the capitalist mode of production, thought on the basis of its structure, and that of the historical conditions (historische Bedingungen ) in which these presuppositions happen to be fulfilled. The outline history of the different modes of production in this text, rather than being a true history of their succession and transformation, is a historical survey (sondage ) of the routes by which the separation of the labourer from his means of production and the constitution of capital as a sum of disposable value were achieved.
For this reason, the analysis of primitive accumulation is a fragmentary analysis: the genealogy is not traced on the basis of a global result, but distributively, element by element. And notably, it envisages separately
the formation of the two main elements which enter into the capitalist structure: the 'free' labourer (the history of the separation of the producer from the means of production) and capital (the history of usury, of merchant capital, etc.). In these conditions, the analysis of primitive accumulation does not and never can coincide with the history of the previous mode or modes of production as known from their structures. The indissoluble unity possessed by the two elements in the capitalist structure is suppressed in the analysis, and it is not replaced by a comparable unity in the previous mode of production. That is why Marx writes: 'The capitalist economic order emerged from the entrails of the feudal economic order. The dissolution of the latter set free the constitutive elements of the former. ' The dissolution of the latter, i.e., the necessary evolution of its structure, is not identical to the constitution of the former in its concept: instead of being thought at the level of the structures, the transition is thought at the level of the elements. This form explains why we are not dealing with a true history in the theoretical sense (since, as we know, such a history can only be produced by thinking the dependence of the elements with respect to a structure), but it is also the condition on which we can discover a very important fact: the relative independence of the formation of the different elements of the capitalist structure, and the diversity of the historical roads to this formation.
The two elements necessary for the constitution of the structure of capitalist production each have their relatively independent history. In the text of Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, after running through the history of the separation of the labourer from the means of production, Marx writes:
These, then, on the one hand, are the historical presuppositions for the labourer to be found as a free labourer, as objectiveless, purely subjective labour-power, confronting the objective conditions of production as his non-property, as someone else's property, as value existing for itself, as capital. On the other hand, we must now ask what conditions are necessary for him to find a capital confronting him (Grundrisse, pp. 397-8;
We ought to be even more precise, and say: for him to find a capital confronting him in the form of money-capital. Marx then goes on to the history of the constitution of the second element: capital in the form of money-capital, and he returns to this second genealogy in Capital after the chapters devoted respectively to merchant's capital and interest-bearing capital, i.e., once the elements necessary to the constitution of the capitalist structure have been analysed within that structure. The history of the separation of the labourer from the means of production does not give us money-capital ('the question remains: whence came the capitalists originally? For it is clear that the expropriation of the agricultural population creates, directly, none but great landed proprietors', Capital, T.III, p. 184; Vol. I, p. 742); for its part, the history of money-capital does not give the 'free'
labourer (Marx notes this twice in Capital, vis-à-vis merchant's capital -- Vol. III, pp. 321-3 -- and vis-à-vis finance capital -- Vol. III, p. 582 -- and in Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations he writes:
The mere existence of monetary wealth, even its conquest of a sort of supremacy, is not sufficient for this dissolution to result in capital. If it were, then ancient Rome, Byzantium, etc., would have concluded their history with free labour and capital, or rather, they would have begun a new history. There the dissolution of the old relations of property was also tied to the development of monetary wealth -- of commerce, etc. However, in fact the result of this dissolution was not industry, but the domination of the countryside over the city . . . Its [capital's] original formation occurs simply because the historical process of the dissolution of an old mode of production allows value existing in the form of monetary wealth to buy the objective conditions of labour on the one hand, and to exchange the living labour of the now free workers for money on the other. All these moments are already in existence. What separates them out is a historical process, a process of dissolution, and it is this which enables money to turn into capital -- Grundrisse, pp. 405-6; PCEF, pp. 109-10).
In other words, the elements combined by the capitalist structure have different and independent origins. It is not one and the same movement which makes free labourers and transferable wealth. On the contrary, in the examples analysed by Marx, the formation of free labourers appears mainly in the form of transformations of agrarian structures, while the constitution of wealth is the result of merchant's capital and finance capital, whose movements take place outside those structures, 'marginally', or 'in the pores of society'.
Thus the unity possessed by the capitalist structure once it has been constituted is not found in its rear. Even when the study of the pre-history of the mode of production takes the form of a genealogy, i.e., when it aims to be explicitly and strictly dependent, in the question that it poses, on the elements of the constituted structure, and on their identification, which requires that the structure is known as such in its complex unity -- even then the pre-history can never be the mere retrospective projection of the structure. All it requires is that the meeting should have been produced and rigorously thought, between those elements, which are identified on the basis of the result of their conjunction, and the historical field within which their peculiar histories are to be thought. In their concepts, the latter have nothing to do with that result, since they are defined by the structure of a different mode of production. In this historical field (constituted by the previous mode of production), the elements whose genealogy is being traced have precisely only a 'marginal' situation, i.e., a non-determinant one. To say that the modes of production are constituted as combination variants is also to say that they transpose the order of dependence, that they make certain elements move
in the structure (which is the object of the theory) from a place of historical domination to a place of historical subjection. I am not saying that the problematic is complete in this form, that it leads us to the threshold of a solution: but at any rate, this is how we can disengage it from the way in which Marx practices the analysis of primitive accumulation, explicitly closing all the roads ideology might take.
But already at this point, we can introduce a different consequence: it is the fact that the analysis of primitive accumulation, in its genealogical form, is adequate for one basic characteristic of the process of formation of the structure: the diversity of the historical roads by which the elements of the structure are constituted, by which they lead to the point at which they can join together and constitute that structure (the structure of a mode of production) by coming under its jurisdiction, becoming its effects (thus the forms of merchant's capital and finance capital only become forms of capital in the strict sense on the 'new bases' of the capitalist mode of production -- see Capital, Vol. III, pp. 322-3 and 583-4). Or again, to return to the terms mentioned above: the same set of presuppositions corresponds to several series of historical conditions. Here we are touching on a point which is all the more important in that Marx's analyses in Volume One of Capital have led to misunderstandings, despite all his precautions: these analyses are explicitly the analyses of certain forms, certain 'methods' among others, of primitive accumulation, found in the history of Western Europe and mainly in that of England. Marx explained his position on this very point very clearly in his letter to Vera Zasulich of 8 March 1881 (the different drafts of which need to be read). There are therefore a plurality of processes of constitution of the structure which all reach the same result : their particularity depends on each occasion on the structure of the historical field in which they are situated, i.e., on the structure of the existing mode of production. The 'methods' of primitive accumulation which Marx describes in the English example must be related to the specific characteristics of the mode of production which is dominant in that particular case (the feudal mode of production), and notably to the systematic utilization of extra-economic (legal, political and military) power, which, as I recalled briefly above, was founded in the specific nature of the feudal mode of production. More generally, the result of the transformation process depends on the nature of the historical environment, of the existing mode of production: Marx shows this for merchant's capital (Capital, Vol. III, pp. 326-7). In a text such as Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, Marx describes three distinct forms of constitution of the free labourer (of the separation of the producer from his means of production), which constitute different historical processes, correspond to specific earlier forms of property, and are designated as so many different forms of 'negation' (Grundrisse, pp. 398-9, PCEF, pp. 99-101). Further on, and this list is referred to again in Capital, he similarly describes three distinct forms of the constitution of money-capital (which obviously
have no one-to-one correspondence with the three forms of constitution of the free labourer):
There is, consequently, a three-fold transition: First, the merchant becomes directly an industrial capitalist. This is true in crafts based on trade, especially crafts producing luxuries and imported by merchants, together with raw materials and labourers from foreign lands, as in Italy from Constantinople in the fifteenth century. Second, the merchant turns the small masters into his middlemen, or buys directly from the independent producer, leaving him nominally independent and his mode of production unchanged. Third, the industrialist becomes a merchant and produces directly for the wholesale market (Capital, Vol. III, p. 330).
(We should also add the forms of usury which constitute the pre-history of interest-bearing capital and one of the processes of constitution of capital.)
The relative independence and historical variety of the constitution processes of capital are gathered together by Marx into a single word: the constitution of the structure is a 'find' (trouvaille ); the capitalist mode of production is constituted by 'finding already there' (vorfinden ) the elements which its structure combines (Grundrisse, p. 407; PCEF, p. 111). This find obviously does not imply chance: it means that the formation of the capitalist mode of production is completely indifferent to the origin and genesis of the elements which it needs, 'finds' and 'combines'. Thus it is impossible for the reasoning whose movement I have retraced to be looped into a circle: the genealogy is not the other side of a genesis. Instead of re-uniting the structure and the history of its formation, the genealogy separates the result from its pre-history. It is not the old structure which itself has transformed itself, on the contrary, it has really 'died out' as such ('All in all, the entire guild system -- both master and journeyman -- dies out, where the capitalist and the labourer emerge', Grundrisse, p. 405; PCEF, p. 109). The analysis of primitive accumulation thus brings us into the presence of the radical absence of memory which characterizes history (memory being only the reflection of history in certain pre-determined sites -- ideology or even law -- and as such, anything but a faithful reflection).
(2) T E N D E N C Y A N D C O N T R A D I C T I O N
O F T H E M O D E O F P R O D U C T I O N
Here I shall set aside this analysis of primitive accumulation, although I have not drawn every consequence from it, and turn to the study of the second movement, that of the dissolution of the capitalist mode of production (which I am using here as a paradigm). This second analysis deals with everything Marx tells us about the historical tendency of the capitalist mode of production, the peculiar movement of its contradiction, the development of the antagonisms implied by the necessity of its structure, and all that can
be revealed in that structure of the exigency of a new organization of social production. If, as I have said, it is true that these two analyses have, by right, an object of the same nature (the transition from one mode of production to another) -- which identity of object is perfectly clear in the text on the 'Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation' (Capital, T.III, pp. 203-5; Vol. I, pp. 761-5) -- it is no less clear that Marx treats them differently. The difference lies not just in the literary realization (on the one hand -- for primitive accumulation -- a historical analysis which is fairly extensive and detailed, but dissociated from the body of the exposition and apparently less systematic; on the other -- the dissolution of capitalism -- insights only, but formulated in general terms and organically linked to the analysis of the capitalist mode of production), it is the expression of two complementary theoretical situations: on the one hand, we have identified the elements whose genealogy has to be retraced, but we do not have in concept the knowledge of the historical field which is the theatre of this genealogy (the structure of the previous mode of production); on the other, we do have the knowledge of this historical field (the capitalist mode of production itself) and nothing else. Before formulating a complete problematic, we must therefore carry out a second preliminary reading.
In the first place, we can establish the strict theoretical equivalence of a number of 'movements' analysed by Marx at the level of the aggregate social capital: the concentration of capital (of the ownership of the means of production), the socialization of the productive forces (by the application of science and the development of co-operation), the extension of capitalist social relations to all branches of production and the formation of one world market, the constitution of an industrial reserve army (relative over-population), and the progressive decline in the average rate of profit. The 'historical tendency' of capitalist accumulation is identical in principle with the 'tendential law' analysed in Volume Three, which Marx calls the 'real tendency of capitalist production', and of which he writes:
The progressive tendency of the general rate of profit to fall is, therefore, just an expression peculiar to the capitalist mode of production of the progressive development of the social productivity of labour . . . It is thereby proved a logical necessity proceeding from the nature of the capitalist mode of production, that in its development the general average rate of surplus-value must express itself in a falling general rate of profit (Capital, Vol. III, p. 209 -- modified).
In fact, the tendency for the average rate of profit to fall is merely the immediate effect of the rise in the average organic composition of capital, of the constant capital expended as means of production compared with the variable capital expended as labour-power, which is the expression of the peculiar movement of accumulation. To say that all these movements are theoretically equivalent is therefore to say that they are different expressions
in a single tendency, dissociated and expounded separately merely in the interests of the order of exposition (proof) of Capital. But their separation expresses no succession: from the view-point of the system of concepts, we are dealing with the same movement of analysis of the structure.
This movement is none other than the movement that Marx calls the development of the contradiction peculiar to the capitalist mode of production. Defined first in a very general way as the 'contradiction' between the socialization of the productive forces (which defines their development in the capitalist mode of production) and the character of the relations of production (private ownership of the means of production), it is then specified in the forms peculiar to the capitalist mode of production as the contradiction between an increase in the mass of value produced, and hence of profit, and a decrease in the rate of profit. But the search for profit is the sole motor of the development of production in the capitalist mode of production.
But what kind of movement is this? It seems that we could define it as a dynamics of the system, whereas the analysis of the complex combination which constitutes the structure of the mode of production fulfils the function of a statics, This pair of concepts does enable us to account for the movement insofar as it depends solely on the internal connexions of the structure, insofar as it is the effect of that structure, i.e., its existence in time. Knowledge of this movement implies no other concepts than those of production and reproduction, in the form peculiar to the historical mode of production considered. Thus the 'contradiction' is not something different from the structure itself, it is indeed 'immanent' to it, as Marx says: but inversely, the contradiction by itself includes a dynamics: it is only given as a contradiction, i.e., it only produces contradictory effects in the temporal existence of the structure. It is therefore perfectly accurate to say, as Marx also does, that the contradiction 'develops' in the historical movement of capitalism.
The question we must examine can then be formulated as follows: is the dynamics of the structure at the same time -- in the same 'time' -- its history ? In other words, is this movement at the same time a movement towards the historical future of capitalism? (and more generally towards the future of the mode of production considered, since each mode has its own specific 'contradiction', i.e., 'an expression peculiar to' it 'of the progressive development of the social productivity of labour'). And since the relationship between the statics and the dynamics allows us to make the development of the contradiction the very movement which produces the effects of the structure, can we also say that it constitutes the 'motor' of its supersession? The identity -- or difference -- which we are looking for between this dynamics and this history is obviously the unity of the concepts, and cannot be satisfied by the coincidence provided ipso facto by a merely empirical temporality: if the development of the contradiction is inscribed in the chronology of a succession, it is quite simply that history. Since, on the contrary, we want to construct the relationship between these two concepts, Marx's text
forces us here to start from the most explicit concept (the dynamics of the development of the structure) in order to go on to, or attempt to go on to, the other (its historical future).
If we try to define more accurately what Marx meant by the 'contradictory' nature and 'tendency' of the mode of production, his repeated formulations confront us with the problem of the relationship between the structure and its effects. The 'tendency' is defined by a restriction, a diminution, a postponement or a travesty of effectivity. Tendency is a law 'whose absolute action is checked, retarded and weakened, by counteracting causes (entgegenwirkende Ursachen )' (Capital, Vol. III, p. 229 -- modified), or even one whose effects (Wirkung, Verwirklichung, Durchführung ) are annulled (aufheben ) (p. 227) by these opposed causes. The tendency character thus appears first of all as a failure of the law, but an extrinsic failure, caused by the obstacle of external circumstances which do not depend on it, and whose origins are not explained (for the time being). The exteriority of the opposed causes is enough to justify the fact that their effectivity is purely negative: the result of their intervention is not to alter the result of the law itself, the nature of its effects, but merely the chronology of their production; we are thus led to define a tendency as something which is only realized in the long run, and the retarding causes as a set of empirical circumstances which merely mask the essence of the process of development. 'Thus', writes Marx, 'the law acts only as a tendency. And it is only under certain circumstances and only after long periods that its effects become strikingly pronounced' (Capital, Vol. III, p. 233).
But this definition is unsatisfactory, because, in its empiricist and mechanistic character, it is a return precisely to what Marx criticized in the economists, particularly Ricardo: the study of 'factors' called 'independent' because of an inability to find their common origin in the unity of a structure, a study which belongs to the 'exoteric' or 'vulgar' side of political economy. It also ignores Marx's systematic use of the term tendency to designate the laws of production themselves, or else the laws of the movement of production insofar as this movement depends on its structure. In the Preface to the first German edition of Capital, Marx wrote:
It is not a question of the more or less complete development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production, but of these laws themselves, of these tendencies manifesting and realizing themselves with iron necessity (Capital, T.I, p. 18; Vol. I, p. 8).
And also in Volume One, to formulate the law of the production of relative surplus-value:
The general result is treated, here, as if it were the immediate result directly aimed at. When a capitalist cheapens shirts by increasing the productivity of labour, he does not necessarily aim thereby to reduce
the value of labour-power and shorten the portion of the day in which the worker works for himself. But it is only insofar as he ultimately contributes to this result, that he contributes to raising the general rate of surplus-value. The general and necessary tendencies (Tendenzen ) of capital must be distinguished from the forms in which they appear (Erscheinungsformen ).
It is not our intention to consider here the way in which the immanent laws of capitalist production (immanente Gesetze ) appear in the external movements of capitals, assert themselves as coercive laws of competition, and thereby impose themselves on the capitalist as the motives of their operations (Capital, T.II, p. 10; Vol. I, p. 316).
Here it seems that Marx's term 'tendency' designates not a restriction on the law due to external circumstances, which necessarily belong to the sphere of 'appearances', of 'surface' phenomena, but the law itself, independently of any extrinsic circumstance. If Marx's vocabulary is rigorous here, we may think that it is only as a first appearance that the law of the development of production (expressed in the fall in the rate of profit, etc.) is externally limited.
But if we examine the 'causes' hindering the realization of the tendency one by one, we find that they are all either the immediate effects of the structure or determined by the structure which sets limits (Grenzen ) on the variation of their effects. Under the first heading we can list the increasing intensity of exploitation, the depreciation of existing capital, relative over-population and its restriction to less developed branches of production, the increase in the scale of production (and the creation of an external market); under the second, the depression of wages below the value of labour-power. Now, it is peculiar to all causes which are immediate effects of the structure that they are ambivalent : so much so that all the causes that counteract the action of the law are at the same time the causes which produce its effects:
But since the same causes which raise the rate of surplus-value (even a lengthening of the working-time is a result of large-scale industry) tend to decrease the labour-power employed by a certain capital, it follows that they also tend to reduce the rate of profit and to retard this reduction (Capital, Vol. III, p. 229 -- modified).
Similarly, the depreciation of the existing capital is linked to the increase in the productivity of labour, which cheapens the elements of constant capital, and thus prevents the value of constant capital from increasing in the same proportion as is material volume, etc. In a general way, if the aggregate social capital is considered, 'the same causes which produce a tendency in the general rate of profit to fall, also call forth counter-effects' (Capital, Vol. III, p. 233 -- modified). This is a crucial point, for it enables us to establish the fact that the reduction of the law of development to the status of a tendency is not a determination external to that law, influencing
only the chronology of its effects, but an intrinsic determination of the production of its effects. The effect of the opposed causes, i.e., of the law itself, is not to delay the historical effects of capitalist production, but to determine a specific rhythm for the production of those effects, a determination which only appears negatively (as a 'restriction', etc.) with reference to the ahistorical absolute of a 'free', 'unlimited' growth of the productivity of labour (leading to an increase in the organic composition of capital and a fall in the rate of profit). Moreover, the definition of the mode of action peculiar to the structure, which includes the reduction of the apparent exteriority of the opposing causes, is once again linked to the consideration of the social capital (or what comes to the same thing, of the 'individual capital as an aliquot part of the total capital' -- Vol. III, p. 216), which is the theoretical support for Volume One and the first half of Volume Two, i.e., the consideration of a capital in the theoretical 'synchrony' which I discussed with respect to reproduction. All the reasoning that enables Marx to establish the existence and level of a general average rate of profit depends on such a synchrony (Marx calls it a simultaneity) in which the addition together of the capitals portion by portion is possible by definition; if we were obliged to ask to what extent does the cheapening of the means of production one by one hinder the value of constant capital from increasing with respect to that of the corresponding variable capital, it would become impossible to establish such a law. The impure theoretical status of the 'causes' which 'counteract' the fall in the general rate of profit merely reveals, in a number of formulations (which I have cited), Marx's difficulty in thinking this 'synchrony' explicitly, insofar as it was a matter of a law of development of the structure. But in fact he closes the circle nevertheless, since it is the tendential fall in the rate of profit which arouses the competition of capitals, i.e., the mechanism by which the equalization of profits and the formation of the general rate of profit are actually achieved (Capital, Vol. III, p. 250). (At the same stroke, this clarifies and limits the place of competition, for Marx excludes the analysis of its mechanism from the analysis of capital in general, since it merely ensures this equalization without determining the level at which it is established, just as it did for the market price of a particular commodity.) The development of the structure according to a tendency, i.e., a law which does not only (mechanically) include the production of effects, but also the production of effects according to a specific rhythm, therefore means that the definition of the specific internal temporality of the structure is part of the analysis of that structure itself.
It is now clear what is 'contradictory' about tendency, which enables us to illuminate the true status of contradiction in Marx. Marx defines the terms between which there is a contradiction as the contradictory effects of a single cause :
Thus, the same development of the social productiveness of labour expresses itself with the progress of capitalist production on the one
hand in a tendency of the rate of profit to fall progressively and, on the other, in a progressive growth of the absolute mass of the appropriated surplus-value, or profit; so that on the whole a relative decrease of variable capital and profit is accompanied by an absolute increase of both. This two-fold effect (doppelseitige Wirkung ), as we have seen, can express itself only in a growth of the total capital at a pace more rapid than that at which the rate of profit falls . . . To say that the mass of profit is determined by two factors -- first, the rate of profit, and, secondly, the mass of capital invested at this rate, is mere tautology. It is therefore but a corollary of this tautology to say that there is a possibility for the mass of profit to grow even though the rate of profit may fall at the same time. It does not help us one step further . . . But if the same causes which make the rate of profit fall, entail the accumulation, i.e., the formation of additional capital, and if each additional capital employs additional labour and produces additional surplus-value; if, on the other hand, the mere fall in the rate of profit implies that the constant capital and with it the total old capital, have increased, then this process ceases to be mysterious (Capital, Vol. III, pp. 219-21).
(Obviously, it is one and the same thing to say that the fall in the rate of profit is slowed down by the growth in the scale of production, as above, or to say, as here, that the mass of accumulation is relatively diminished by the fall in the rate of profit.) This very important definition includes both the refutation of an empirical notion of contradiction (which Marx links to Ricardo's name -- Capital, Vol. III, p. 243), and the limitation of its role. The empiricism of classical economics could only reveal contradictory terms as in 'peaceful coexistence', i.e., in the relative autonomy of distinct phenomena, e.g., successive 'phases' of development dominated inversely by one or other of the contradictory tendencies. . . . Marx, on the contrary, produced the theoretical concept of the unity of the two contradictory terms (which he calls a 'combination' here too: 'the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is combined with -- ist verbunden mit -- a tendency of the rate of surplus-value to rise, hence with a tendency for the rate of labour exploitation to rise' -- Capital, Vol. III, p. 234 -- modified), i.e., he produces the knowledge of the contradiction's foundation in the nature of the structure (of capitalist production). Classical economics reasons from independent 'factors' whose interaction 'may' induce such and such a result: the whole problem is therefore to measure these variations and relate them empirically to other variations (the same is true of prices, and of the values of commodities, which are supposed to depend on the variation of certain factors: wages, average profit, etc.). Marx does not regard the law (or tendency) as a law of variation in the size of the effects, but as a law of production of the effects themselves: it determines these effects on the basis of the limits within which they can vary, and which do not depend on this variation (the same is true of wages,
the working day, prices, and the different fractions into which surplus-value is divided); it is these limits alone which are determined as effects of the structure, and in consequence they precede the variation instead of being its average resultant. It is by the law of its production from a single cause that contradiction is given us here, and not in the variation of its result (the level of accumulation).
But this definition also includes the limitation of the role of contradiction, i.e., its situation of dependence with respect to the cause (the structure): there is only a contradiction between the effects, the cause is not divided in itself, it cannot be analysed in antagonistic terms. Contradiction is therefore not original, but derivative. The effects are organized in a series of particular contradictions, but the process of production of these effects is in no way contradictory: the increase in the mass of profit (and hence the scale of accumulation) and the decrease in its rate (hence the peculiar speed of accumulation) are the expression of one and the same increasing movement of the quantity of means of production set to work by capital. That is why only an appearance of contradiction is found in the knowledge of the cause: 'this law', says Marx, 'this inner and necessary connexion between two seeming contradictions' (Vol. III, p. 220); the inner and necessary connexion which defines the law of production of the effects of the structure excludes logical contradiction. From this point of view, the 'two-fold effect' is thus merely the 'double-edged' (zwieschlächtig -- Vol. III, p. 215) nature of the law. It is particularly noteworthy that here, in order to express the derivative and dependent character of the contradiction between certain effects of the structure, we find Marx returning to the same term that he used at the beginning of Capital to designate the false contradiction 'in adjecto ' of the commodity (on this point see Pierre Macherey's paper). For their part, the effects present a simple contradiction (a term-by-term contradiction: relative over-population and relative over-production, etc.) and one distributed into several contradictory aspects or component contradictions which, for all that, do not constitute an overdetermination, but simply have inverse effects on the scale of accumulation.
Just as the cause which produces the contradiction is not itself contradictory, so the result of the contradiction is always a certain equilibrium, even when this equilibrium is attained by way of a crisis. Thus it seems that contradiction has a status analogous to that of competition in the movement of the structure: it determines neither its tendency nor its limits, rather it is a local, derivative phenomenon, whose effects are pre-determined in the structure itself:
These different influences may at one time operate predominantly side by side in space, and at another succeed one another in time. From time to time the conflict of antagonistic agencies finds vent in crisis. The crises
Lire le Capital, first edition, Vol. I.
are always but momentary and forcible solutions of the existing contradictions. They are violent eruptions which for a time restore the disturbed equilibrium. . . . The periodical depreciation of existing capital -- one of the means immanent in the capitalist mode of production to check the fall of the rate of profit and hasten accumulations of capital-value through formation of new capital -- disturbs the given conditions, within which the process of circulation and reproduction of capital takes place, and is therefore accompanied by sudden stoppages and crises in the production process. . .
The ensuring stagnation of production would have prepared -- within capitalistic limits -- a subsequent expansion of production. And thus the cycle would run its course anew (Capital, Vol. III, pp. 244 and 250 -- modified).
Thus the only intrinsic result of the contradiction, which is completely immanent to the economic structure, does not tend towards the supersession of the contradiction, but to the perpetuation of its conditions. The only result is the cycle of the capitalist mode of production (the crisis is cyclical because the reproduction of the aggregate capital depends on the turnover of fixed capital -- see Capital, Vol. II, p. 186 -- but it is possible to say metaphorically that the crisis manifests the circle in which the whole mode of production moves with an immobile movement).
Marx also says that the crisis reveals the barriers (Schranken ) of the mode of production:
Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers (immanenten Schranken ), but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale.
The real barrier (die wahre Schranke ) of capitalist production is capital itself (Capital, Vol. III, p. 245).
The 'limits' towards which the movement of the mode of production tends (its dynamics) are not therefore a question of a ladder, of a threshold to attain. If the tendency cannot pass these limits, it is because they are inside it, and as such never reached : in its movement it carries them with it, they coincide with the causes which make it a 'mere' tendency, i.e., they are simultaneously its actual conditions of possibility. To say that the capitalist mode of production has internal limits is quite simply to say that the mode of production is not a 'mode of production in general', but a delimited, determinate mode of production:
The capitalist mode of production meets in the development of its productive forces a barrier which has nothing to do with the production
These limits must not be confused with the limits of variation (Grenzen) which we discussed above.
of wealth as such: and this peculiar barrier testifies to (bezeugt ) the limitations (Beschränktheit ) and to the merely historical, transitory character of the capitalist mode of production; testifies that for the production of wealth, it is not an absolute mode, moreover, that at a certain stage (auf gewisser Stufe ) it rather conflicts with its further development (Capital, Vol. III, p. 237).
(The term wealth should always be regarded as strictly synonymous with use-value.)
These limits are therefore the same as those whose effects we have already met in the determination of the tendency: a mode of production of wealth in itself does not exist, i.e., there only exists a determinate type of development of the productive forces, depending on the nature of the mode of production. The rise in the productivity of labour is limited by the nature of the relations of production which make it into a means of formation of relative surplus-value. For its part, the extorsion of surplus-value is limited by the productivity of labour (within the limits of variation of the working day, the relationship between necessary labour and surplus-labour is given by this productivity at each moment). What we see here therefore is not the contradiction, but the complexity of the mode of production, which was defined at the beginning of this exposition as a double articulation of the mode of production ('productive forces', relations of ownership of the means of production): the internal limits of the mode of production are none other than the limitation of each of these two connexions by the other, i.e., the form of their 'correspondence' or of the 'real subsumption' of the productive forces beneath the relations of production.
But if the limits of the mode of production are internal ones, they only determine what they affirm and not what they deny (i.e., via the idea of an 'absolute mode of production', a mode of production 'of wealth in itself', the possibility of all the other modes of production which have their own peculiar internal limitations). Only in this sense do they imply the transition to a different mode of production (the historical, transitional character of the existing mode of production): they designate the necessity for a way out and a different mode of production whose delimitation is absolutely absent from them; and since the limits consist of the 'correspondence' which articulates the two connexions within the complex structure of the mode of production, the movement suppressing these limits implies the suppression of the correspondence.
But it is also clear that the transformation of these limits does not simply belong to the time of the dynamics. Indeed, if the effects within the structure of production do not by themselves constitute any challenge to the limits (e.g., the crisis, which is 'the mechanism [with which] capitalist production spontaneously gets rid of the obstacles that it happens on occasion to create' -- Capital ) there may be one of the conditions (the 'material basis') of a different
result, outside the structure of production: it is this other result which Marx suggests marginally in his exposition when he shows that the movement of production produces, by the concentration of production and the growth of the proletariat, one of the conditions of the particular form which the class struggle takes in capitalist society. But the analysis of this struggle and of the political social relations which it implies is not part of the study of the structure of production. The analysis of the transformation of the limits therefore requires a theory of the different times of the economic structure and of the class struggle, and of their articulation in the social structure. To understand how they can join together in the unity of a conjuncture (e.g., how, if other conditions are fulfilled, the crisis can be the occasion for a -- revolutionary -- transformation of the structure of production) depends on this, as Althusser has shown in an earlier study ('Contradiction and Overdetermination', in For Marx ).
(3) D Y N A M I C S A N D H I S T O R Y
The preceding analyses constitute a number of still disjointed moments of the problematic within which it is possible to think theoretically the transition from one mode of production to another. It will not be possible to articulate this problematic effectively, i.e., to produce the unity of the questions which have to be answered, until we succeed in situating with respect to one another the concepts that we have proposed up to this point (history, genealogy, synchrony -- diachrony, dynamics, tendency) and in defining differentially their peculiar objects.
All these concepts, which are still largely descriptive and will remain so precisely so long as they are not articulated, seem to be so many conceptualizations of historical time. In an earlier paper, Althusser showed that, in any theory of history (whether scientific or ideological), there was a rigorous and necessary correlation between the structure of the concept of history peculiar to that theory (a structure itself dependent on the structure of the concept of the social totality peculiar to that theory), on the one hand, and the concept of temporality in which that theory of history thinks the 'changes', 'movements', 'events', or, more generally, the phenomena which appertain to its object, on the other. The fact that this theory is usually absent as such, that it is reflected in the form of a non-theory, i.e., of empiricism, does not contradict such a demonstration. The structure of temporality is then quite simply that provided by the ruling ideology, and it is never reflected in its function as a presupposition. We have even found that in Hegel the structure of historical temporality, being dependent, from the point of view of the articulation of the system, on the structure of the simple Hegelian totality, i.e. of the expressive totality, merely took up on its own accord the very form of the empiricist ideological conception of time, providing it with its concept and theoretical foundation.
At the same time, we have found that the form of this time was not only the continuous linearity, but also, by way of consequence, the uniqueness of time. Because time is unique, its present has the structure of contemporaneity, and all the moments whose chronological simultaneity can be established must also necessarily be determined as the moments of one and the same current whole, they must necessarily belong to the same history. Here we should note that, in this ideological conception, the peculiar form of time precedes the determination of historical objects in relation to it: the order and duration of this time always precede any determination of a phenomenon as 'unfolding over time' and thereby as a historical phenomenon. Of course, the effective estimation of order or duration always presupposes a connexion with or reference to the temporality of certain objects, but the form of their possibility is always already given. In reality, this is to move in a circle, since it is to admit the structure of a time which is merely the effect, either of a perception, or of an ideological conception of the social totality. But this movement of real dependence, before the location of 'historical' phenomena in time, is not thought as such in the representation of time which serves as its premiss, and it is possible to take the short cut of discovering (in reality, rediscovering) in the determinations of history the presupposed structure of this time. From this movement we get the determination of the historical object as an event, present even when it is doubted, i.e., in the idea that there are not only events, i.e., not only 'short'-term phenomena, but also non-events, i.e., long events, long-term permanences (which are wrongly christened 'structures').
If we then remember the problematic within which Marx originally thought his theoretical undertaking, but which was not peculiarly his problematic, the problematic of periodization, we can draw several conclusions. If we pose the problem of the transition from one mode of production to another solely in the framework of this problematic, it is impossible for us to escape the form of unique linear time: we must think the effects of the structure of each mode of production on an equal footing with the phenomena of transition, situating them in the unique time which serves as a framework or common support for every possible historical determination. We have no right to establish differences in principle or method between analyses of the effects of a mode of production and analyses of the transition between two modes of production which succeed one another or coincide with one another in the framework of this time, and we can only distinguish the movements by determinations of the 'structure' of this time: long-term, short-term, continuity, intermittency, etc. The time of periodization is therefore a time for which any true diversity is impossible: the supplementary determinations which are inserted in the course of a historical sequence, e.g., during transitions from one mode of production to another, are part of the same time as them, and have the movement of their production in common with them.
Moreover, a superficial reading of Marx is more than likely not to dissipate the forms of this illusion, if it is content to take the different 'times' implied by the analysis in Capital as so many descriptive aspects or subordinate determinations of time in general. It would then be possible to try practising the fundamental operation implied by the ideological theory of time: the insertion of the different times one within another. It would be possible to inscribe the segmented times (labour times, production times, circulation times) in cycles (the cyclical process of capital); these cycles themselves would necessarily be complex cycles, cycles of cycles, because of the different turnover speeds of the different elements of capital, but as a whole they in their turn could be inserted in the general movement of capitalist reproduction (accumulation), which Marx, following Sismondi, describes as a spiral ; and finally this 'spiral' would manifest a general tendency, an orientation -- precisely that of the transition from one mode of production to another, of the succession of the modes of production and of periodization. In such a reading the harmonization of the different 'times' and the imbrication of their forms would obviously raise no difficulties in principle, for their possibility would already be inscribed in the uniqueness of time in general which serves as a support for all these movements. The only difficulties would be difficulties of application, difficulties in identifying the phases and in forecasting the transitions.
What is most noteworthy in such a reading -- which is, as we shall see, not just a purely polemical expository device on my part -- is that it necessarily implies that each 'moment' of time is thought simultaneously as a determination of all the intermediate times which have been inserted into one another in this way -- whether this determination is immediate, or, on the contrary, merely mediated. And to draw the most extreme consequence straightaway, it is absolutely consistent with this conception to determine a given time during which the worker expends his labour-power as a certain quantity of social labour, as a moment of the cycle of the production process (in which capital exists in the form of productive capital), as a moment of the reproduction of social capital (of capitalist accumulation) and finally as a moment of the history of the capitalist mode of production (which tends towards its transformation, however distant the latter may be).
Such an ideological reading provides the base from which it is possible to characterize the whole Marxist theory of the economic structure as a dynamics. The concept has been re-introduced in this way in order to oppose Marx to classical and modern political economy, while situating both on the same terrain, and assigning them the same 'economic' object: Marx thus becomes one of the innovators, perhaps the main one, who have introduced 'dynamic' theory into political economy (see for example Granger's Méthodologie économique ). This has made it possible to present classical and neo- classical economics as theories of economic equilibrium, i.e., of a 'statics' of the connexions of the economic structure; while Marx, on the contrary, is
supposed never to have seen the study of equilibrium as anything more than a provisional moment, operational in scope, an expository simplification; the essential object of Marx's analysis is the time of the evolution of the economic structure, analysed in its successive components, the different 'times' of Capital :
As for the particular object of Marx's study, capitalist production, it is necessarily presented as a dynamic process. Capitalist accumulation is the object of Volume One of Capital. The notion of a static equilibrium is obviously a priori incorrect as a description of this phenomenon. The 'simple reproduction' of capital is already a temporal process ; but it is little more than a first abstraction. The system is characterized precisely by 'reproduction on an extended scale', the growth and continuous qualitative metamorphosis of capital through the accumulation of surplus-value. The various forms of crisis appear as a chronic disorder of the system, not as accidents. The general picture of economic reality is thus made totally dynamic (G. G. Granger: Méthodologie économique, p. 98).
Such an interpretation, in which the dynamics of the capitalist system is itself a moment, a local aspect of the 'claim that the laws of the economy are relative and evolutionary in character', is really an example of the structure of temporal insertion that I outlined above. The concepts of history and dynamics then become twins, one popular history), the other learned (dynamics), since the second expresses very accurately the determination of the historical movement on the basis of a structure. This makes it possible to add a third term to these two: diachrony, which does not produce any new knowledge here, since it simply expresses the form of unique linear temporality which is implied by the identification of the first two concepts.
But in reality, such a reading of Marx completely ignores the mode of constitution of the concepts of temporality and history in the theory of Capital. It may have been possible to adopt (or interpret) these concepts in their normal sense, i.e., in their ideological use, in a text such as the Preface to A Contribution, from which we started: there they merely have the function of registering and designating a theoretical field which has not yet been thought in its structure. But in the analysis of Capital, as our studies of primitive accumulation and of the tendency of the mode of production have shown, they are produced separately and differentially: their unity, instead of being presupposed in an always already given conception of time in general, must be constructed out of an initial diversity which reflects the complexity of the whole which is analysed. On this point it is possible to generalize from the way Marx posed the problem of the unity of the different cycles of the individual capitals in a complex cycle of the social capital: this unity must be constructed as an 'intertwining' whose nature is initially problematic. On this, Marx writes:
Therefore, the manner in which the various component parts of the aggregate social capital, of which the individual capitals are but constituents functioning independently, mutually replace one another in the process of circulation -- in regard to capital as well as surplus-value -- is not ascertained from the simple intertwinings of the metamorphoses in the circulation of commodities -- intertwinings which the acts of capital circulation have in common with all other circulation of commodities. That requires a different method of investigation. Hitherto one has been satisfied with uttering phrases which upon closer analysis are found to contain nothing but indefinite ideas borrowed from the intertwining of metamorphoses common to all commodity circulation (Capital, Vol. II, p. 115).
We know that this 'different method of investigation ' which peculiarly constitutes the analysis of the reproduction of the total social capital, leads to a paradoxical result: a synchronic structure of the relation between the different sectors of social production, in which the peculiar form of a cycle has completely disappeared. But this method alone allows us to think the intertwining of the different individual production cycles. In the same way, the complex unity of the different 'times' of historical analysis, those which depend on the permanence of the social relations and those in which is inscribed the transformation of the social relations, is initially problematic: it must be constructed by a 'different method of investigation '.
The relationship of theoretical dependence between the concepts of time and history is thus inverted with respect to the preceding form, which belongs to empiricist or Hegelian history, or to a reading of Capital which implicitly reintroduces empiricism or Hegelianism. Instead of the structures of history depending on those of time, it is the structures of temporality which depend on those of history. The structures of temporality and their specific differences are produced in the process of constitution of the concept of history, as so many necessary determinations of its object. Thus the definition of temporality and its various forms becomes explicitly necessary; similarly, the necessity of thinking the relationship (the harmony) between the different movements and the different times becomes a basic necessity for theory.
In Marx's theory, therefore, a synthetic concept of time can never be a pre-given, but only a result. The preceding analysis in this paper allows us to anticipate this result to a certain extent, and to propose a differential definition of concepts which have been confused until now. We have seen that the analysis of the relations which appertain to a determinate mode of production and constitute its structure must be thought as the constitution of a theoretical 'synchrony': this is reflected with respect to the mode of production by Marx in the concept of reproduction. The analysis of all the peculiar effects of the structure of the mode of production is necessarily part of this synchrony. The concept of diachrony will therefore be reserved for the time of the transition from one mode of production to another, i.e.,
for the time determined by the replacement and transformation of the relations of production which constitute the double articulation of the structure. Thus it appears that the 'genealogies' contained in the analyses of primitive accumulation are elements of diachronic analysis : and thus the difference in problematic and methods between the chapters of Capital devoted to primitive accumulation and all the others, irrespectively of their degree of theoretical perfection, has been established as more than a mere difference in style or literary form. This difference is a consequence of the strict distinction between 'synchrony' and 'diachrony', and we have met; another example of this in what goes before, an example to which I shall return: when I analysed the forms of the two connexions (property, 'real appropriation') peculiar to the capitalist mode of production and the relationship between them, we observed a 'chronological dislocation' in the constitution of these two forms, the capitalist form of property ('capitalist relations of production') chronologically preceding the capitalist form of real appropriation ('capitalism's productive forces'); this dislocation was reflected by Marx in his distinction between the 'formal subsumption' of labour to capital and its 'real subsumption'. At the time, I remarked that this chronological dislocation was suppressed as such in the synchronic analysis of the structure of the mode of production, that it was then indifferent to the theory. In fact, this dislocation, which then purely and simply disappears, can only be thought in a theory of the diachrony; it constitutes a relevant problem for diachronic analysis. (Here we should note that the expressions 'diachronic analysis' and 'diachronic theory' are not absolutely rigorous; it would be better to say 'analysis -- or theory -- of the diachrony '. For if the terms 'synchrony' and 'diachrony' are taken in the sense which I have proposed here, the expression 'diachronic theory' has no meaning, strictly speaking: all theory is synchronic insofar as it ex- pounds a systematic set of conceptual determinations. In an earlier essay, Althusser has criticized the synchrony-diachrony distinction insofar as it implies a correlation between objects or aspects of a single object, showing how it was, in fact, a version of the empiricist -- and Hegelian -- structure of time, in which the diachronic is merely the development (devenir ) of the present -- the 'synchronic'. It is clear straightaway that this cannot be the case in the usage which I have proposed here, since the synchrony is not a real self-contemporaneous present, but the present of the theoretical analysis in which all its determinations are given. This definition therefore excludes any correlation between the two concepts, one of which designates the structure of the thought process, while the other designates a particular relatively autonomous object of analysis, and only by extension the knowledge of it.)
For its part, the synchronic analysis of the mode of production implies that we stress several concepts of 'time' which differ in function. All these times are not directly, immediately historical : they are not in fact constructed
out of the general historical movement, but quite independently of it, and independently of one another. Thus, the time of social labour (which measures the value produced) is constructed on the basis of the distinction between socially necessary labour and socially unnecessary labour, which depends at each moment on the productivity of labour and the proportions in which social labour is divided among the different branches of production (see Capital, T.I, pp. 59ff.; Vol. I, pp. 44ff.: Theories of Surplus Value, Vol. I, pp. 225-6). Thus it does not coincide at all with the empirically observable time during which a labourer works. In the same way, the cyclical time of the turnover of capital, with its different moments (production time, circulation time) and its peculiar effects (regular disengagement of money-capital, change in the rate of profit), is constructed on the basis of the metamorphoses of capital and the distinction between fixed and circulating capital.
In the same way, finally, the analysis of the tendency of the capitalist mode of production produces the concept of the dependence of the advance of the productive forces in relation to the accumulation of capital, and therefore the concept of the peculiar temporality of the productive forces in the capitalist mode of production. Only this movement can be called a dynamics as I have proposed, i.e., a movement of development inside the structure and sufficiently determined by it (the movement of accumulation), proceeding according to a peculiar rhythm and speed determined by the structure, with a necessary and irreversible orientation, and indefinitely retaining (reproducing ) the properties of the structure on a different scale. The peculiar rhythm of capitalist accumulation is inscribed in the cycle of crises, while its peculiar speed expresses the 'limitation' of the development of the productive forces, as Marx says, simultaneously accelerated and decelerated, i.e., the reciprocal limitation of the two connexions articulated in the structure (capitalist 'productive forces', relations of production). The necessary orientation of the movement consists of the increase in constant capital with respect to variable capital (in the production of means of production with respect to the production of means of consumption). The retention of the properties of the structure is particularly clear in the expansion of the market: one of the means employed by the capitalist or by an ensemble of capitalists to counter-act the fall in the rate of profit being to expand the field of his or their market (by 'external' trade):
This internal contradiction [between production and consumption] seeks to resolve itself through expansion of the out-lying fields of production. But the more productiveness develops, the more it finds itself at variance with the narrow basis on which the conditions of its consumption rest (Capital, Vol. III, p. 240).
In this 'out-lying ' adventure, therefore, capitalist production always meets its own peculiar internal limitation, i.e., it never escapes being determined by its own peculiar structure.
Only in the 'time' of this dynamics can the 'age' of capitalist production, of one of its branches, or of a set of branches of production, be determined: this age is measured precisely by the level of the relation between constant capital and variable capital, i.e., by the internal organic composition of capital:
It goes without saying that the more advanced the age of capitalist production, the more money is accumulated in all hands, and therefore the smaller the quantity annually added to this hoard by the production of new gold, etc. (Capital, Vol. II, p. 473 -- modified).
This is a very important point, for it shows that only in the 'time' of the dynamics -- which, as I have said, is not immediately the time of history -- is it possible to determine and assess the forwardnesses or backwardnesses of development ; indeed, only in this internal orientated time can historical unevennesses of development be thought simply as temporal dislocations:
What is true of different successive stages of development in one country, is also true of different coexisting stages of development in different countries. In an undeveloped (unentwickelt ) country, in which the former composition of capital is the average, the general rate of profit would = 66 2/3 per cent, while in a country with the latter composition and a much higher stage of development it would = 20 per cent. The difference between the two national rates of profit might disappear, or even be reversed, if labour were less productive in the less developed country . . . The labourer would then spend more of his time in reproducing his own means of subsistence, or their value, and less time in producing surplus-value (Capital, Vol. III,
The consequences of this differential determination of time, and of the distinction between the time of the dynamics and the time of history in
Not even the time of economic history, of course, if by that is meant the relatively autonomous history of the economic base of the mode of production. This is for two main reasons: firstly, such a history, dealing as it does with concrete-real social formations, always studies economic structures dominated by several modes of production. It therefore has nothing to do with the 'tendencies' determined by the theoretical analysis of isolated modes of production, but with the compounded effects of several tendencies. This considerable problem lies outside the field of the present analysis, and it is only touched on incompletely in the next section (on the 'phases of transition'). Secondly, the 'age' of production which we are discussing here is not, clearly, a chronological feature, it does not indicate how old capitalist production is: for it is an age compared between several economic zones (or 'markets') subject to the capitalist mode of production, which is important because of the effects which lead to an unevenness in the organic composition of capital from one region to another or from one department to another. According to the closeness of the analysis, it will be a matter of an average organic composition or of a differentiated analysis of the organic composition of capital from branch of production to branch of production: this is the beginning of a study of the effects of domination and uneven development implied by the unevenness of the organic composition between competing capitals. Obviously, this is not our object here. I am only suggesting it as a possibility.
general for the contemporary problem of 'under-development' (which is a favourite haunt for every theoretical confusion) cannot be expounded here; at least what we have said gives us a foretaste of its critical importance.
Like the preceding ones, this 'time' of the dynamics (of the tendency) is determined in the synchronic analysis of the mode of production. The distinction between dynamics and diachrony is therefore a strict one, and the former cannot appear as one determination in the field of the latter, in which it is not relevant in the form in which Marx analyses it. It is easy to cast light on this distinction by borrowing a paradox from the analysis of the societies 'without a history' (strictly speaking a meaningless expression, for it designates social structures in which the dynamics appears in the peculiar guise of a non-development, as in the Indian communities which Marx discusses in Capital, T.II, pp. 46-8; Vol. I, pp. 356-9): the event constituted by the meeting between these societies and 'Western' societies in transition to capitalism (in conquest, colonization, or the various forms of commercial connexion) is obviously part of the diachrony of those societies, since it determines -- more or less brutally -- a transformation of their modes of production: but it is no part of these societies' dynamics. This event in their history is produced in the time of their diachrony without being produced in the time of their dynamics : a limit-case which brings out the conceptual difference between the two times, and the necessity of thinking their articulation.
We must therefore finally situate the concept of history with respect to these different concepts: should we for example assimilate it to the concept of diachrony, remembering the old problematic of periodization? Can we say that 'history' is this diachrony, the basic theoretical problem of which is the analysis of the modes of transition from one structure of production to another ? No, obviously, for this old problematic has now been transformed. It is no longer defined by the necessity of 'cutting up' linear time, which would presuppose this reference time as an a priori. The question now is to think theoretically the essence of the transition periods in their specific forms and the variations of these forms. The problem of periodization in the strict sense has therefore been suppressed, or rather it has ceased to be part of the moment of scientific proof, of what Marx called the order of exposition (only exposition is science): periodization as such is at most a moment of the investigation, i.e., a moment of the preliminary critique of the theoretical materials and their interpretations. Here the concept of history is therefore not identical with any of the particular moments produced in theory in order to think the differential forms of time. The concept of history in general, unspecified, is simply the designation of a constitutive problem of the 'theory of history' (of historical materialism): it designates that theory as a whole as the site of the problem of the articulation of the different historical times and the variants of this articulation. This articulation no longer has anything to do with the simple model of the insertion of one time into another; it accepts coincidences not as obviousnesses, but as problems: for instance, the transition
from one mode of production to another may seem to be the moment of a collision, or collusion, between the times of the economic structure, of the political class struggle, of ideology, etc. The question is to discover how each of these times, e.g., the time of the 'tendency' of the mode of production, becomes a historical time.
But if the general concept of history has the peculiar function of designating a constitutive problem of the theory of history, then, as opposed to the preceding concepts, it does not belong to that theory of history. And indeed, the concept of history is no more a concept of the theory of history than the concept of 'life ' is a concept of biology. These concepts belong to the epistemologies of these two sciences, and, as 'practical' concepts, to the practice of the scientists, locating and staking out the field of that practice.
(4) C H A R A C T E R I S T I C S O F T H E P H A S E S O F T R A N S I T I O N
Here I can only outline a number of the concepts that belong to the theory of the 'diachrony' and enable us to think the nature of periods of transition from one mode of production to another. Indeed, as we have seen, Marx devoted far less theoretical effort to this second moment of the theory of history than he did to the first. On this point, I have no other aim here than to draw up a balance-sheet of results.
The analysis of Primitive Accumulation is part of the field of diachronic study, but not in itself part of the definition of the periods of transition (to capitalism). In fact, the analysis of primitive accumulation, of the origin of the capitalist mode of production, gives an element by element genealogy which passes through the transition period, but which in the same movement ascends to the heart of the previous mode of production. The outline definitions which can be borrowed from it must therefore be related to a different analysis which is not an analysis of the origins but one of the beginnings of the capitalist mode of production, and which in consequence does not proceed element by element, but from the point of view of the whole structure. In the study of manufacture we have a notable example of this analysis of the beginnings. The forms of transition are in fact necessarily modes of production in themselves.
In the first part of this paper, when I examined manufacture as a certain form of the connexion of real appropriation, a certain form of the 'productive forces', I set aside the problem posed by the chronological dislocation in the constitution of the structure of capitalist production between the formation of its specific property relations and that of its specific 'productive forces'. As I showed, this was not part of the examination of the structure of the mode of production. In contrast, this dislocation constitutes the essence of manufacture as a form of transition. The concepts which Marx uses to designate this dislocation are those of 'real subsumption' and 'formal subsumption' (of labour to capital). The 'formal subsumption' which begins with the form of out-
work on behalf of a merchant capitalist and ends with the industrial revolution includes the whole history of what Marx calls 'manufacture'.
In the 'real subsumption' of modern industry, the labourer's belonging to capital is doubly determined: on the one hand he does not possess the material means to work on his own behalf (the ownership of the means of production); on the other, the form of the 'productive forces' takes away his ability to set the social means of production to work on his own, outside an organized and inspected process of co-operative labour. This double determination reveals a homology in the form of the two connexions constituting the complex structure of the mode of production: they can both be characterized as the 'separation' of the labourer from his means of production. Which amounts to saying that they divide up their 'supports' in the same way, that they determine coincident forms of individuality for the labourer, the means of production and the non-labourer. The labourers who are in a relationship of absolute non-ownership with the means of production, constitute a collective in the production process which coincides with the 'collective labourer' who can set to work the 'socialized' means of production of modern industry, and thereby really appropriate nature (the objects of labour). What is here called 'real subsumption' is what Marx introduced in the Preface to A Contribution as a 'correspondence ' between the relations of production and the level of the productive forces. We can therefore specify the sense in which the term 'correspondence' is to be understood. Since the two connexions between which there is a homology both belong to the same level, constituting the complexity of the structure of production, this 'correspondence ' cannot be a relation of translation or reproduction of one by the other (of the form of the productive forces by that of the relations of production): it is not one of the two which is 'subsumed' beneath the other, it is labour which is 'subsumed' beneath capital, and this subsumption is 'real' when it is thus doubly determined. The correspondence therefore lies completely in the unique division of the 'supports' of the structure of production and in what I called above the reciprocal limitation of one connexion by the other. At the same time, it is clear that this correspondence is in its essence completely different from any 'correspondence' between different levels of the social structure : it is established in the structure of one particular level (production) and depends completely on it.
In 'formal subsumption', on the other hand, the labourer's belonging to capital is only determined by his absolute non-ownership of the means of production, but not at all by the form of the productive forces, which are still organized according to craft principles. It seems not impossible that each labourer might return to handicrafts. That is why Marx says that the labourers' belonging to capital is still 'accidental' here:
In the early stages of capital, its command over labour has a purely formal and almost accidental character. The worker at this time only
works under capital's orders because he has sold it his labour-power: he only works for it because he does not have the material means to work on his behalf (Capital, T.II, p. 23; Vol. I, p. 330).
However, this absence of ownership of the means of production for the direct labourer is by no means 'accidental': it is the result of the historical process of primitive accumulation. In these conditions, there is not strictly speaking any homology between the forms of the two connexions: in manufacture the means of production continue to be set to work by individuals in the strict sense, even if their component products have to be assembled to constitute a useful object on the market. We can therefore say that the form of 'complexity' of the mode of production may be either the correspondence or the non-correspondence of the two connexions, of the productive forces and the relations of production. In the form of non-correspondence, which is that of the phases of transition such as manufacture, the relationship between the two connexions no longer takes the form of a reciprocal limitation, but becomes the transformation of the one by the effect of the other : this is shown by the whole analysis of manufacture and the industrial revolution, in which the capitalist nature of the relations of production (the necessity of creating surplus-value in the form of relative surplus-value) determines and governs the transition of the productive forces to their specifically capitalist form (the industrial revolution arises as a method of formation of relative surplus-value beyond any predetermined quantitative limit). The 'reproduction' of this specific complexity is the reproduction of this effect of the one connexion on the other.
It thus seems that, neither in the case of correspondence, nor in that of non-correspondence, can the relationship between the two connexions ever be analysed in terms of a transposition or translation (even a distorted one) of one into the other, but only in terms of an effectivity and a mode of effectivity. In one case we are dealing with the reciprocal limitation of the effectivities of the two connexions, in the other with the transformation of one by the effectivity of the other:
We now see that a certain minimum amount of capital in the hands of individuals is the concentration of wealth necessitated for the transformation of individual labour into combined, social labour; it becomes the material base for the changes which the mode of production will undergo' [here 'mode of production' should be understood in the restricted sense of 'form of the productive forces'] (Capital, T.II, p. 23; Vol. I, p. 330)
What has occasionally been called the 'law of correspondence' between the productive forces and the relations of production should therefore rather be named, as Charles Bettelheim has proposed, 'the law of necessary correspondence or non-correspondence between the relations of production and the character of the productive forces' ('Les cadres socio-économiques et
l'organization de la planification sociale', Problèmes de Planification, V, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris 1965).[*] This would express the fact that the 'law of correspondence' has as its peculiar object the determination of effects within the structure of production and the varying mode of this determination, and not a connexion of expression which would merely be the inverse of a mechanical causality.
The mode of 'correspondence' between the different levels of the social structure, which has more strictly been called the mode of articulation of these levels, depends in turn on the form of the internal correspondence of the structure of production. We have already encountered this articulation above in two forms: on the one hand, in the determination of the determinant 'last instance' in the social structure, which depends on the combination peculiar to the mode of production considered; on the other, with respect to the form of the productive forces peculiar to capital and to the mode of intervention of science in their history, as the determination of the limits within which the effect of one practice can modify another practice from which it is relatively autonomous. Thus the mode of intervention of science in the practice of economic production is determined by the peculiar new form of the 'productive forces' (unity of means and object of labour). The particular form of correspondence depends on the structure of the two practices (practice of production, theoretical practice): here it takes the form of the application of the science, in conditions determined by the economic structure.
We can generalize this kind of relationship between two relatively autonomous instances; it recurs, for example, in the relationship between economic practice and political practice, in the forms of class struggle, law and the State. Marx's indications here are much more precise, although Capital does not contain any theory of the class struggle as such, or of law or the State. Here, too, the correspondence is analysed as the mode of intervention of one practice within limits determined by another. This is the case with the intervention of the class struggle within limits determined by the economic structure: in the chapters on the working day and on wages, Marx shows us that the sizes of these are subject to a variation which is not determined in the structure and depends purely and simply on the balance of forces. But the variation only takes place between certain limits (Grenzen ) which are set by the structure: it thus possesses only a relative autonomy. The same is true of the intervention of law and of the State in economic practice, which Marx analyses in the example of factory legislation : the State intervention is doubly determined, by its generalized form, which depends on the particular structure of the law, and by its effects, which are dictated by the necessities of economic practice itself (family and education laws govern child labour, etc.).
In this case, too, there is therefore no relationship of simple transposition, translation or expression between the various instances of the social structure.
* [Transcriber's Note: The English translation of Bettelheim's paper, "The Socio-Economic Framework and the Organisation of Social Planning", appears in a collection of his essays entitled The Transition to Socialist Economy. -- DJR]
Their 'correspondence' can only be thought on the basis of their relative autonomy, of their peculiar structure, as the system of interventions of this type, of one practice in another (here, obviously, I am only locating a theoretical problem, not producing a knowledge). These interventions are of the same type as those we have just recalled, and in consequence, they are in principle non-reversible : the forms of intervention of law in economic practice are not the same as the forms of intervention of economic practice in legal practice, i.e., as the effects which a transformation dictated by economic practice may have on the legal system, precisely by virtue of its systemacity (which also constitutes a system of internal 'limits'). And in the same way, it is clear that the class struggle cannot be reduced to the struggle for wages and a shorter working day, which only constitute one moment of it (the autonomization and exclusive consideration of this moment, within the political practice of the working class is peculiar to 'economism', which claims precisely to reduce all the non-economic instances of the social structure purely and simply to reflections, transpositions of phenomena of the economic base). The 'correspondence' of the levels is thus not a simple connexion, but a complex set of interventions.
We can now return to the problems of the transition from one mode of production to another, on the basis of the differential analysis of the interventions of the State, law and political power in the constituted mode of production, and in the phase of transition. Marx's analysis of factory legislation (Capital, T.II, pp. 159-78; Vol. I, pp. 480-503) and of the 'bloody legislation ' which is a part of primitive accumulation (Capital, T.III, pp. 175-83; Vol. I, pp. 734-41) contains this differential analysis implicitly. Instead of an intervention governed by the limits of the mode of production primitive accumulation shows us an intervention of political practice, in its different forms, whose result is to transform and fix the limits of the mode of production:
The bourgeoisie, at its rise, cannot do without the constant intervention of the State; it uses it to 'regulate' wages, i.e., to depress them to the suitable level, to lengthen the working day and to keep the labourer himself in the desired degree of dependence. This is an essential moment of primitive accumulation (Capital, T.III, p. 179; Vol. I, p. 737).
Some of the methods [of primitive accumulation, introduced by the capitalist epoch] depend on the use of brute force, but without exception they all exploit the power of the State, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten violently the transition from the feudal economic order to the capitalist economic order, and to shorten the transition phase Indeed, force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. Force is an economic agent' (T.III, p. 193; Vol. I, p. 751).
In the transition period, the forms of law and of State policy are not, as hitherto, adapted to the economic structure (articulated with the peculiar
limits of the structure of production) but dislocated with respect to it: as well as showing force as an economic agent, the analyses of primitive accumulation also reveal the precession of law and of the forms of the State with respect to the forms of the capitalist economic structure. This dislocation can be translated by saying that the correspondence appears here, too, in the form of a non-correspondence between the different levels. In a transition period, there is a 'non-correspondence' because the mode of intervention of political practice, instead of conserving the limits and producing its effects within their determination, displaces them and transforms them. There is therefore no general form of correspondence between the levels, but a variation of the forms, which depend on the degree of autonomy of one instance with respect to another (and to the economic instance) and on the mode of their mutual intervention.
I shall close these very schematic suggestions with the comment that the theory of dislocations (within the economic structure, between the instances) and of the forms of non-correspondence is only ever possible by a double reference to the structure of two modes of production, in the sense which I defined at the beginning of this paper. In the case of manufacture, for example, the definition of non-correspondence depends on definitions of the forms of individuality as determined in handicrafts on the one hand, and in the capitalist ownership of the means of production on the other. Similarly, an understanding of the precession of law requires a knowledge of the structures of political practice in the previous mode of production as well as of the elements of the capitalist structure. The use of violence and its accommodated forms (accommodated by the intervention of State and law) depends on the form and function of the political instance in feudal society.
Periods of transition are therefore characterized by the coexistence of several modes of production, as well as by these forms of non-correspondence. Thus manufacture is not only a continuation of handicrafts from the point of view of the nature of its productive forces, it also presupposes the persistence of handicrafts in certain branches of production (T.II, p. 56; Vol. I, p. 367) and even causes handicrafts to develop alongside itself (T.II, pp. 43, 56; Vol. I, pp. 353, 368). Manufacture is therefore never one mode of production, its unity is the coexistence and hierarchy of two modes of production. Modern industry, on the contrary, is rapidly propagated from one branch of production to all the others (T.II, p. 69; Vol. I, p. 383). Thus it seems that the dislocation between the connexions and instances in transition periods merely reflects the coexistence of two (or more) modes of production in a single 'simultaneity ', and the dominance of one of them over the other. This confirms the fact that the problems of diachrony, too, must be thought within the problematic of a theoretical 'synchrony': the problems of the transition and of the forms of the transition from one mode of production to another are problems of a more general synchrony than that of the mode of production itself, englobing several systems and their relations (according
to Lenin, at the beginning of the period of the transition to socialism in
Russia, there were up to five coexisting modes of production, unevenly
developed and organized in a hierarchy in dominance). The analysis of these
relations of domination is only outlined by Marx, and it constitutes one of the
main fields open for investigation by his successors.
As can be seen, this paper closes with a number of open problems, and it
cannot claim more than that it has indicated or produced open problems, for
which it is impossible to propose solutions without further and deeper
investigation. It cannot be otherwise, so long as we realize that Capital,
the object of our reflections, founds a new discipline: i.e., opens up a new field
for scientific investigation. As opposed to the closure which constitutes the
structure of an ideological domain, this openness is typical of a scientific
field. If we can claim anything for our exposition, it is only that it has defined,
as far as possible, the theoretical problematic which installed and opened this
field, it has recognized, identified and formulated the problems already
posed and resolved by Marx, and finally discovered in these acquisitions, in
Marx's concepts and forms of analysis, all that may enable us to identify and
pose the new problems which are inscribed in the analysis of the problems
already solved, or which are outlined on the horizons of the field already
explored by Marx. The openness of this field is the existence of these problems to be solved.
I add that it is no accident that even today some of these problems, which
I have posed solely on the basis of a reading of Capital, a book which is a
hundred years old, concern directly certain questions of contemporary
economic and political practice. In the problems of theoretical practice,
all that is ever at issue, beneath their peculiar form as theoretical problems,
i.e., beneath the form of the production of concepts which can give their
knowledge are the tasks and problems of the other practices.