[OPE-L:2753] (5 end) Partial Reply to Fred's on Althusser, concluding with CLASS STRUGGLE

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 18:02:06 EDT

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"Fred B. Moseley" <fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu> said, on 04/06/00 at 08:23 AM:
>In particular, some of the questions I am interested in with respect to
>the logic of Marx's economic theory are the following:

>1. Why is the commodity the starting point of Marx's economic theory? Is
>this commodity a produce of capitalism or simple commodity production?

>2. What are the initial presuppositions of Marx's theory?

>3. What is Marx's logic in his derivation of the "necessity of money"?

>4. What is the logical relation between the three volumes of Capital?
>Are volumes 1 and 2 about capital in general (the production of
>surplus-value) and volume 3 about competition (the distribution of

>5. What is Marx's logic in the determination of prices of production in
>Part 2 of Vol. 3?

>6. What is Marx's logic in the derivation of the falling rate of profit
>in Part 3 of Vol. 3?

>7. How evaluate the emprical validity of Marx's theory?

>Did Althusser ever discuss these questions? Did he discuss how Marx's
>epistemological break with Hegel changed Marx's answer to these

    Question 1 relates the reason why Part I is basically "Contribution to
a Critique of Political Economy" and therefore contains Hegelian elements
-- e.g., why "value" in both "use value" and "exchange value", why not
"usefulness" or "utility" (not neoclassical of course) for the former?
Question 2 is a bit too vague for me to understand. Question 4 should be
related. Don't know about 3, 5, and 6.

    Regarding Question 7 Althusser does make some comments in "The Crisis
of Marxism" that the arithematical presentation of surplus value by Marx
may have contributed to the unfortunate division of revolutionary tasks
into economic struggle and political struggle and therefore "to a
restrictive conception of each form of struggle, which began to hinder,
and is today still hindering the broadening of the forms of the whole
working class and people's struggle".

>My memory of Althusser's "epistemological break" is that it is about
>Marx's philosophy and his theory of history, not his economic theory.
>Did it have anything to do with Marx's economic theory? Did it have an
>effect on the logic of his economic theory? Does Althusser discuss these
>questions somewhere (any references would be appreciated)? I don't have
>a copy of Reading Capital. Are these questions discussed there?

    Yes, I think it did, and I gave references to some chapters in
*Reading Capital*. Since my current interests are on accumulation of
capital, I'll not have the time to try to answer directly your questions.

>As I remember Althusser, Marx's "epistemological break" started in 1845,
>while writing the German Ideology. But this was long before Marx began
>to develop his economic theory. And the final definitive break came in
>1875 with the Critique of the Gotha Program. But this work is not
>economic theory. It does not involve a reworking any part of Marx's
>economic theory (e.g. Chapter 1).

    See my (3) in which I noted that Marx moved the break to a later date.
In any case, I do think that the Gotha Program Critique, Notes on Wagner,
and Drafts of the Letter to Zasulich can be related to our questions.

>So what does Marx's "epistemological break" have to do with his economic
>theory (and especially its logical structure)?

    I've tried to provide a partial answer, but my own work relating to
this is still incomplete.

>Paul, I wasn't expecting a full answer to these big questions, but I was
>hoping that you could give us at least some idea (an example or two) of
>what you have in mind, because I do not know what you mean by "Marx
>distanced himself from Hegel". In particular, what difference did this
>"distancing" make in the logic of Marx's economic theory, especially with
>respect to my questions above?

    This is the toughest question and very deep. Rather than quote
Althusser I'd note that his supposed structuralism (he doesn't accept that
chacterization), his emphasis on theory as itself a practice, his
criticism of "historicism" and "humanism", his work on ideology, all
relate to a very vigorous opposition to the bourgeois class ruling our
society, to an scientific effort never to underestimate its strength, and
to understand that history does not "evolve" for us, but rather we must

I might note that his late work downgrades "dialectical materialism" as a
concept, as well as "philosophy".

Paul Z.


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