[OPE-L:5562] : Re: William of Ockam's Razor and Political Economy

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 16:34:43 EDT

Sorry to be so late catching up n thisintersting thread. In Howard's 5531
the following is stated:

>The other thing about the quote is that this is exactly what accounts for
>the peculiarities of the equivalent form . . . or almost does.  The first
>peculiarity is that use value becomes the phenomenal form of its opposite,
>value.  So far so good.  The second peculiarity is that concrete labor
>becomes the form under which abstract labor manifests itself -- again, the
>sensibly concrete can be considered the form of appearance of the
>abstractly general.  But then what of the third peculiarity?  Instead of
>saying *private labor becomes the form of expression of social labor,* the
>text reads that "the labour of private individuals takes the form of its
>opposite, labour directly social in its form."
>What accounts for this peculiarity of the third peculiarity?
>In other words, the third peculiarity does not show the inversion we might
>have expected.
What accounts for it is a mistranslation. I quote from a review article I

"A mistranslation
Now we come to an actual mistranslation which - astonishingly given its
importance - has remained undiscovered until Cyril Smith recently drew
attention to it in his paper 'Hegel, Economics, and Marx's Capital'' (in
History, Economic History and the Future of Marxism eds T. Brotherstone and
Geoff Pilling, Porcupine Press, London 1996, p. 245-46).
In the first chapter of Capital Marx undertook a study of the interchanges
of use value and value, concrete and abstract labour, private and social
labour. In the equivalent form of value there were said to be three
'peculiarities' (Collected Works  35, pp.66-69). The third one was that the
labour of private individuals 'becomes the form' of its opposite, labour
directly social in its form: 'daß Privatarbeit zur Form ihres Gegenteils
wird, zu Arbeit in unmittelbar gesellschaftlicher Form' (MEW 23 p.73). Yet
in Collected Works 35 this is mistranslated as 'takes the form' (p.69),
Smith rightly complains.
Unfortunately, having brought off this coup, Smith then 'blows it' in his
gloss by muddling the six categories in question; he writes: 'use-value,
concrete labour and social labour ... appear in the shape of value,
abstract labour and private labour, respectively' (p.246). But what Marx
says about the three peculiarities of the equivalent form is that
use-value, concrete labour and private labour become the form of value,
abstract labour and immediately social labour, respectively. One can find
this account buried in the 1859 Contribution... and the first chapter of
the first edition of Capital, but they first appear prominently as
'peculiarities' with separate headings in the Value-Form Appendix (Mohun
edition pp.17-21). Then they are repeated without headings in the final
version of chapter 1 (Collected Works 35, pp.66-69).
It is a remarkable fact that all three translations of Capital made this
same mistake; but both existing translations of the first edition Appendix
got it right. Interestingly, the Appendix lists a 'fourth peculiarity'
which turns out to be 'fetishism of the commodity-form'. Obviously Marx
realised it had a more general importance so he then wrote it up as an
independent section of the first chapter for the second edition."

The private labour concerned will inthe end be that in gold production.

Chris Arthur

17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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