[OPE-L:2760] Re: (5 end) Partial Reply to Fred's on Althusser, concluding with CLASS STRUGGLE

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Fri Apr 07 2000 - 01:11:02 EDT

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Please see comments below.

On Thu, 6 Apr 2000, Paul Zarembka wrote:

> "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
> >surplus-value)?
> >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
> >questions?
> 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?

Part 1 is not just the Contribution inserted into the beginning of Vol. 1.
Marx rewrote Chapter 1 extensively and several times (more times it
appears than any other chapter). So, if his alleged "epistemological
break" made any difference with respect to the logic of the starting-point
of his theory, then surely Marx would have made those revisions. But it
is remarkable how similar the overall logical structure of Chapter 1 in
its final oft-written version is to the first version in the
Contribution. This suggests to me that whatever "epistemological
break" there may have been between 1859 and 1872, this did not affect the
logic of the starting-point of Marx's economic theory in Capital.
If Marx's starting point in 1859 was Hegelian (and I think it was) then it
remained Hegelian in 1872, and not just as a "Hegelian residue", but as
Marx's best attempt and mature thought.

> Question 2 is a bit too vague for me to understand.

By Question 2 I mean:
   What are the initial presuppositions of Marx's theory:
   quantities of money-capital or physical quantities of inputs and outputs

According to my "macro-monetary" interpretation of Marx's theory, the
initial presuppositions are quantities of money-capital - the M in M-C-M'
(along with the quantity of abstract labor and the value of money).
According to the predominant Sraffian interpretation of Marx's theory, on
the other hand, the initial presuppositions are instead the quantities of
the physical inputs to production and the real wage, which I have argued
is a fundamental misinterpretation of the logic of Marx's theory.

> Question 4 should be related.

Related to what?

> Don't know about 3, 5, and 6.

Question 3 is very important. This is a key difference between Marx and
Ricardo. It is the issue that Marx mentioned in his comment on Sieber in
the Notes on Wagner, where he said that Wagner could have understood the
DIFFERENCE between Marx and Ricardo on the theory of money if he had read
Sieber. If one ignores Chapter 1 and this key derivation of money, then
this important difference between Marx and Ricardo is missing. Marx
becomes more like Ricardo. I also think that Marx's derivation of money
was "Hegelian" (at least to some extent) as Patrick Murray has argued.

Questions 5 and 6 are of course the long-standing main controversies
over Marx's theory. If Marx's "epistemological break" had no effect on
these two issues, then this "epistemological break" has very little
relevance to Marx's economic theory.

> >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
> engage in CLASS STRUGGLE.

I am sorry, but I do not see the relevance of this paragraph to the
question asked in the preceeding paragraph.

I will try to read Althusser's Reading Capital over the weekend. I am
looking forward to it very much. I am very curious to see how much
Althusser discusses the key questions listed above on Marx's economic

Paul, thanks again for this very productive and illuminating discussion.
I look forward very much to its continuation.


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