Emerging from the depths of Volume One of Capital and into the world of circulation in Volume Two tends to leave one in a state of dizziness. What was presented in Volume One, the production of surplus value, is a relatively simple schematic, comprised of one social relation between two actors, capital and labor. For the most part, the production of surplus-value could be easily, if abstractly, mapped onto a relatively closed, narrow system-image. A particular factory would suffice as the site for mapping the universal process within total capitalist production. Volume Two, however, following the emergence of the commodity from the factory into circulation brings with it a much wider array of determinations and possible actors.
Marx grapples with this variegated, moving, total social realm by constructing three abstract schemas, each characterized by the particular form taken by capital that drives forward the process and delimits the qualifications for its normal functioning. It’s this latter subject-matter that will be the focal point for these rough notes. If the productive process reveals the highest contradiction within capital, that between the capitalist and the worker, the circuits capital must take in its valorization unearth a whole series of other possible latent contradictions, gaps, and barriers to the normal functioning of capital.
Marx in Capital is not merely re-presenting an image, a conceptualization of capitalism out of a purely objective, separate sense of analysis. Rather, the project of critiquing political economy is one that necessarily attempts to reproduce conceptually the real, concrete points of contention and struggle that are possible within capital. The scientific presentation of capital is an critical sense, a map for the immanent, conscious negation of it. When reading through the first chapters of Volume Two, we should approach the three circuits with an eye towards their possible decomposition. Reflecting the nature of reproduction as shaped and reconfigured by the contradictory-in-unity relations of capital, such decomposition can occur through two distinct, though interlocking mechanisms: money’s movement against humanity or humanity’s movement against money.