[OPE-L:2748] (2) Althusser on the Grundrisse and reading *Capital*

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 14:07:36 EDT

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    On the *Grundrisse*, Althusser is unaffected:

"In many places in the *Grundrisse* ... a strong Hegelian influence can be
detected, combined with whiffs of Feuerbachian humanism. It can be
predicted with some certainty that, along with *The German Ideology*, the
*Grundrisse* will provide all the dubious quotations needed by idealist
interpretations of Marxist theory". ("Preface to *Capital*, *Lenin and
Philosophy and Other Essays*, 1969, p. 97).

My comment: There is no reason to presume that Marx at age 39 had "the
answer" (*Grundrisse*) when he had 25 more years to live, that Marx was
just "polishing things up" (or whatever language one prefers) after 1858!
At a very human level it is important to remember that Marx's youth was in
a Hegelian environment in Berlin and he was not spontaneously "an
economist" of any sort. As Marx matures and moves toward spending day
after day with the so-called classical economists, Hegel -- in my
judgement --
diminishes in importance, even as Marx never feels a need to explicitly
reject his Hegelian youth. (If I could draw an analogy for myself, I
remain indebted to Joan Robinson and the Cambridge critique of
neo-classical economics even as I find myself now far from its direct

    In any case, Althusser is NOT saying that Marx was not influenced by
Hegel. For example and only one example:

"If philosophy is, in the last instance, class struggle at the level of
theory, as I have recently argued, then this struggle takes the form,
proper to philosophy, of theoretical demarcation, detour and production of
a distinctive position. To prove it, I need only refer, aside from the
whole of philosophical history to Marx himself, who was only able to
define himself by reference to Hegel and by marking himself off from
Hegel. And I think that, from afar, I have followed his example, by
allowing myself to refer back to Spinoza in order to understand why Marx
had to refer back to Hegel." (Althusser, "Is it simple to be Marxist in
Philosophy?", *Essay in Self-Criticism*, 1975, p.166).

    On reading *Capital*,

"[S]ome day it is essential to read *Capital* to the letter. To read the
text itself, complete, all four volumes, line by line, to return ten times
to the first chapters, or to the schemes of simple reproduction and
reproduction on an enlarged scale [etc.]. And it is essential to read
*Capital* not only in its French translation (even Volume One in Roy's
translation, which Marx revised, or rather rewrote), but also in the
German original, at least for the fundamental theoretical chapters and all
the passages where Marx's key concepts come to the surface." (*Reading
Capital*, pp. 13-14)

It is very important to note that Althusser, elsewhere, emphasizes not
ONLY what Marx wrote, but what he DIDN'T write -- his silences. Silences
can be very telling.

Paul Z.

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