[OPE-L:2783] Re: (5 end) Partial Reply to Fred's on Althusser, concluding with CLASS STRUGGLE

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Sat Apr 08 2000 - 14:13:27 EDT

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"Fred B. Moseley" <fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu> said, on 04/08/00 at 11:02 AM:
>> I do not see a reason to oppose the ordering of the chapters, Althusserian
>> or Hegelian, i.e., I do not see a reason to oppose "the starting point",
>> but I could be persuaded otherwise. Regarding the substance of Chapter 1
>> specifically, I'm not knowledgeable enough on Marx's reworking of it, but
>> the very fact of it does suggest that Marx himself was struggling with a
>> problem.

>But the basic logic remained the same throughout the various revisions.
>So sign of an "epistemological break".


There are a lot of places Althusser discusses Part I of Vol. 1. His
recommended reading of Capital is to start with Part II and go through the
rest of Volume 1 and then return to read Part I "with infinite caution,
knowing that it will always be extremely difficult to understand, even
after several readings of the other Parts" (see his "Preface" to Capital,
p. 85.)

"If you begin Volume One at the beginning, i.e., with Part I, either you
do not understand it, and give up; or you think you understand it, but
that is even more serious, for there is every chance you will have
understood something quite different from what there was to be

Here are some Althusser's comments on the dangers of Part I:

    "Part I follows a method of presentation whose difficulty largely
derives from this Hegelian prejudice [for all sciences, every beginning is
difficult]. Moreover. Marx redrafted this beginning a dozen times..." (p.

    "Marx's 'labor theory of value'... is intelligible, but only as a
special case of a theory which Marx and Engels called the '*law of
value*'... (p. 87)

    Difficulties derive "from survivals in Marx's language and even in his
thought of the influence of Hegel's thought." (p. 89)

    Also, the repetition of value in use-value and exchange-value (p. 91)
which I have already noted.

    "A last trace of Hegelian influence, this time a flagrant and
extremely harmful one (since all the theoreticians fo 'reification' and
'alienation' have found in it the 'foundation' for their idealist
interpretations of Marx's thought): the theory of *fetishim*...." (p. 92)

Having said this (and more) Althusser also says "While remorselessly
abandoning all Hegel's influence, Marx continued to recognize an important
debt to him: the fact that he was the first to conceive of history as a
'process without a subject'." (p. 90)

>> >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.
>> A reduction of Marx's economic theory to "determination of prices of
>> production in Part 2 of Vol. 3", and "the derivation of the falling rate
>> of profit in Part 3 of Vol. 3?" (Questions 5 and 6) is not acceptable to
>> me. (In fact, it blows away any interest in accumulation of capital
>> except to the extent it could be pulled under the rubric of a falling
>> tendency of profits. It blows away any interest in production of relative
>> surplus value as determined by capitalist social relations of production
>> -- not excluding the green revolution, except to the extent... It blows
>> away any interest in the struggle between merchant capital and industrial
>> capital, in the role of banking capital, in absolute and relative ground
>> rent). In sum, I reject reduction of Marx's economic theory to those two
>> issues. Maybe you don't mean a such a reduction, but I don't think I'll
>> try an answer from this starting point.

>I was not trying to reduce Marx's theory to these two issues, but only to
>stress their importance and to ask what effect Marx's alleged
>"epistemological break" had on his logic with respect to these issues.

>I am also interested in the other issues you raise and wonder as well
>what effect Marx's "epistemological break" had on Marx's treatment of
>these issues.

I could not do the above now as I'm leaving tomorrow until Apr. 19. Even
thereafter I've got to give attention to Dunayevskaya on Luxemburg on
accumulation. Sorry.

In another posting today you ask "So does Althusser think that Part 1 is
about simple commodity production or capitalism?". If I understand the
question correctly, it is about the capitalist mode of production, not
about historical transition to capitalism via simple commodity production
(which is not to deny creation of simple commodity production as a fact).

Having said all this about Althusser in this posting and my prior
postings, I think my accumulation paper may imply certain weaknesses in
Althusser, i.e., if my paper is correct it will cause certain difficulties
for certain aspects of Althusser's work. That is way I am so intense on
"getting it right" and why I'm even going through Dunayevskaya's
Hegelian-humanist Marxism.

Paul Z.

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