[OPE-L:2594] Re: Re: the evolution of the meaning of "critique"

From: C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Date: Wed Mar 22 2000 - 18:48:41 EST

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In OPEL 2580 Jerry wrote:

>In [OPE-L:2579], Chris wrote:
>> Incidentally Marx to Lasalle Feb 22 1858 is the key reference on Marx's
>> understanding of critique.
>OK, let's look at the key reference. It is a longish letter that deals with
>many other issues as well (e.g. Heraclitus, Palmerston, Marx's health
>problems, etc.), so I will excerpt what I think are the most relevant
>"The work to which I am referring is *Critique of Political Economy*, or,
>if you like, the system of bourgeois economy critically presented. It is
>at once a presentation, and, thereby, a critique of that system".
>"The presentation, I mean the style, is entirely scientific, hence not
>repugnant to the police in the ordinary sense. The whole is divided
>essentially into six booklets. 1. Capital (contains some introductory
>chapters), 2. Landed property. 3. Wage labor, 4. The State, 5.
>International Trade, 6. World market. I cannot help making OCCASIONALLY
>critical comments on other economists, specifically a polemic against
>Ricardo, is so far he *qua* citizen, is compelled to commit economic
>blunders *even from a strictly economic standpoint*. ALTOGETHER, HOWEVER,
>CONSTITUTE THE SUBJECT OF ANOTHER WORK. Lastly, the brief *historical
>sketch* of economic categories and relationships, to make a third book"
>(capitalization added for emphasis, JL).
>In this scheme of things, there are 3 works planned. The first work is to
>consist of 6 "pamphlets" (of which "Capital" is the 1st "pamphlet"). The
>SOCIALISM. The 3rd work would then be a "historical sketch" of economic
>categories and relationships.
>"Stormy movements" and Marx's poor health (also mentioned in this letter),
>evidently, got in the way of his ability to accomplish this highly
>ambitious plan.
>It seems to me that this letter raises far more questions than it solves
>re the role and *place* of critique in Marx's theory. Don't you agree?
>In solidarity, Jerry

It is indeed pretty enigmatic, especially how a presentation of the system
can at the same time be a critique of it. The answer is that if the system
is an ' upside-down reality' then characterising it so is to criticise it.
Incidentally where you have the 'work' as 'a critique of political economy'
both translations I hav to hand put 'critique of economic categories'.
In Capital Marx says the standpoint of his critique is that of the working
class (p.98) insofar as its destiny is to abolish calss! So two things
follow: to find a standpoint from which to criticise an inverted reality
one must think beyod it but for this to be a practical standpoint it must
be one produced within the system. This standpoint is that of the
critically adopted standpoint of labour (as a moment of capital) since it
does not look to making everyone a labourer but to the abolition of labour.
Marx's theoretical appropriatiopn and surpassing of capitalism is
paralleled by the self-transcending movement of the proletariat, as a class
for itself, aimed at abolishing, not just the rule of capital, but the
subsumption of its members under class determinants.
The paradox of capital is that the inverted reality gives 'autonomous
value' (Marx) pretty free rein, hence the possibility of a meaningful study
of its inherent logic.
Korsch pointed out long ago, by the way, that when the class shows little
inclination to take on capital, theory tends to lose its critical edge and
become simply 'economic theory'.
Chris A

P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
but the old one will also run until the summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)

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