[OPE-L:3149] Re: Re: Marx's starting point

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Fri May 12 2000 - 12:30:42 EDT

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On Tue, 9 May 2000, Ajit Sinha wrote:

> I'm generally opposed to the practice of quoting from *Grundrisse* or
> even *A
> Contribution to the Critique* in interpreting *Capital*. I think
> during 1861-63,
> Marx's thinking about the problem went through a subtle but
> significant
> change--this could have been because of a close reading of
> Ricardo, which Marx
> did during this period. A lot of problem which we face now in
> interpreting
> *Capital* appears to be due to Marx's attempt to maintain a
> continuity with his
> earlier book, *A Contribution*. The first part of *Capital* vol.1
> is largely an
> abridged version of *A Contribution*. The new book *Capital*
> actually begins from
> part 2.

Ajit, I don't see any evidence of a shift in Marx's "problematic" between
1859 and 1867. What evidence do you have?

The *Critique* was clearly intended as Part 1 of his book on *Capital*.
*Capital* was the long-planned continuation of the *Critique*. Marx's
problematic remained the same throughout: to explain surplus-value,
i.e. how money is transformed into more money. Part 1 is the necessary
logical starting-point of Marx's theory of surplus-value. In order to
explain how money is transformed into more money, Marx first explained
what money is. This was the logical structure of Marx's theory from the
Grundrisse on.

> As far as your first three quotations are concerned. I think they
> are just not
> important. In all those quotations 'commodity' is defined as
> elementary unit or
> form of "bourgeois wealth". But nowhere in *Capital* we are told,
> nor I think you
> hold the opinion, that the subject matter of *Capital* is
> "bourgeois wealth". Do
> you think that the subject matter of *Capital* is an analysis of
> "wealth"?

"Bourgeois wealth" means CAPITAL. So, I would say, yes, *Capital* is
about capital! But capital consists of money and commodities; so one must
first explain money and commodities. The starting-point of understanding
capital is the commodity, the "cell-form" of capital.

> For the last quotation, I think you
> will find Althusser's lengthy commentary interesting.

Where is Althusser's commentary on this passage (the passage in the
Preface to the First Edition about "beginnings are difficult in all
sciences" and the "commodity is the economic cell-form of capitalist
production")? What would I find interesting about it?

Althusser's recommendation is of course to skip over Part 1.
Is this purely pedagogical, or does Althusser think that Part 1 is in some
sense logically unnecessary?

> Now, it is obvious that Marx must
> have thought that to begin with commodity makes sense, since
> that's how the book
> begins. Thus any quotation in favor of such a presentation from
> Marx will not
> solve any problem for people who think that there is some problem
> with such a
> beginning. Cheers, ajit sinha

Are you not switching the question here, from how Marx started Capital to
how he SHOULD HAVE started? The passages quoted were addressed to the
first question, and not just whether or not Marx started with the
commodity (he obviously did), but whether or not Marx's commodity is the
product of capitalist production. If you don't like the
(capitalist) commodity as the starting-point, that is another
matter. What would you start with instead?


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