1. The Theory of Interest in Marx’s Capital
One of characteristic theoretical contributions in Marx’s Capital is its systematic attempt to focus upon money and finance as a social mechanism for both flexible growth and instability of capitalist market economies. This was rarely recognized by Anglo-Saxon political economists in the initial phase of the Renaissance of Western Marxian Economics until the 1980s, as Lapavitsas (2017) states. With the financialization of capitalism, a steady output of articles and books on money and finance is found among Western Marxian economists. In contrast, Japanese Marxian economics has long accumulated studies of money and finance, even forming the Academic Association for the Study of Credit Theory as early as the 1950s.
However, not a few interesting problems still remain about how to read and apply Marx’s theory of interest. They originate from the fact, among others, that Marx’s draft for Part V of Capital Ⅲ on Interest-Bearing Capital was mostly unfinished and difficult even for Engels to edit.
Otani (2016) carefully exerted a remarkable effort over many years to translate and interpret Marx’s original draft of Part V and he commented on every difference that he found in the existing version edited by Engels. We learn at least three main points from his effort, as follows.
First, Marx’s complete draft for Part V of Capital Ⅲ, which was edited to form 16 chapters (chapters 21–36) by Engels, was divided into three different segments. The first segment comprises the somewhat completed first four chapters on the abstract notion of interest-bearing capital. The second segment is an unfinished draft of the concrete forms of interest-bearing capital in the credit system. The title, “Credit and Fictitious Capital” represented this segment as a whole, not just the initial chapter 25. The third segment is titled “Pre-Capitalist Relations,” which was edited by Engels as chapter 36.
Second, in Engels’ edition, the distinction between Marx’s draft of the main text and the notes or collection of materials that required further editing is not clearly made. This confusion might have resulted from the fact that Engels did not use Marx’s original hand-written draft, but a copy made by someone after hearing Engels’ oral presentation of the draft.
Third, the draft pages from which Engels wrote chapters 30–32 on “Money Capital and Real Capital Ⅰ,Ⅱ,Ⅲ” are most important in the second segment. In the complete volumes of Capital, Marx treats here the capitalist mechanism of industrial cycles and crises to the greatest degree by stressing the roles of rises in wages and interest rates, along with the ongoing speculative trading of fictitious capital toward the end of prosperity.
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