[OPE-L:6461] N. Sieber

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Mon Jan 28 2002 - 16:48:06 EST

R E S E A R C H     I N     P O L I T I C A L     E C O N O M Y

     Volume 19 (2001)

Paul Zarembka, Editor

I have just received this and I underline that it has a translation of
Sieber's 1871 chapter on Marx and two excellent scholarly essays on Sieber.
On these grounds I think everyone should urge their college libraries to
get it in - it can be bought as a stand alone hardback from JAI Press,
Elsevier. Paul Z is to be congratulated on getting this stuff together. It
fills a real gap in our knowledge. So  was Marx right to praise S. in the
Afterword to Capital?
1) Marx only asked for the book in Dec 1872 and the Afterword is dated Jan
24th 1873. Bearing in mind Marx had only been studying Russian a short
while and the incredibly short time he must have had at his disposal, the
judgment in Capital is very much off the cuff. (Tho. not that in On Wagner
of course.)
2) Half the chapter is simply a summary of Marx's first edition chapter 1
so there is little space for comment.
3) In so far as Sieber's summary can be faulted it is because he replaces
concrete/abstract with useful/human. Not all the time; but this is
significant for my next point.
4) Sieber's first substantial 'interpretive' comment is that "Labour is
itself value, Marx says". But Marx does not!! Sieber then draws the logical
conclusion that value and abstract labour are ahistorical and asocial
categories; only exchange value is the specific form of their appearance in
commodity society. Unlike later Marxists Sieber had the excuse that he was
working from the first edition. Marx subsequently inserted the sentence
'Labour is not itself value". At first I got excited thinking this must
have been a direct riposte to Sieber but the proofs of the second edition
chapter 1 were done early in '72 hence before Marx got the book. (I have
not yet checked whether the sentence first appeared in the second eidtion
or the French edition tho'.) Some other misinterpretation must have
prompted this insertion by Marx.
I can only think that Marx must have overlooked Sieber's mistake in his
hurried survey of it.
5) So what did Marx like? The second, more substantial discussion, is on
money. Here Sieber really does deserve high marks for theoretical
perspicacity. he has grasped the value form and the essential role of money
in integrating the econmy.
6) Of course there may have been other good things in the book that we do
not have translated here that Marx liked.
Chris Arthur

17 Bristol Road, Brighton, BN2 1AP, England

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