[OPE-L:7250] Re: interpreting Marx's texts (was: hermeneutics)

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Fri May 24 2002 - 11:05:20 EDT

This is response to Geert's (7246).  Thanks Geert.

On Fri, 24 May 2002, Geert REUTEN wrote:

> Re Jerry [7245]; Fred [7243]
> I agree with all of Jerry's 7245 (including about Fred's important
> concern about applied empirical analysis).
> The question of exploitation is important. However, what always puzzles
> me about a Marx hermeneutics is Marx's own development. It is obvious
> that Marx in the course of his research life was prepared to change is
> views (this imo marks the scientist). Why then -- even from Marx's own
> perspective -- would we have to stick to _for example_ the value-price
> transformation of a manuscript written prior to Capital, Vol I, the
> latter being a text that Marx kept on revising especially also its
> value-theoretical parts? This does not prove anything about the Cap III
> manuscripts, but it is just implausible that Marx -- would he have
> returned to them -- would have left them untouched.

I am not saying that Marx would have left the Volume 3 manuscript
untouched.  But I am saying that Marx had already worked out the general
analytical framework of his theory of the distribution of surplus-value
(the division of surplus-value into individual parts) in the Manuscript of
1861-63 and then employed this framework in the Manuscript of 1864-65, and
I do not find it implausible that this basic framework would have remained
unchanged.  Certainly there is no indication in any of Marx's published
later writings that anything fundamental would have changed in Volume
3.  To the contrary, we have the very important letter of April 30, 1868
(i.e. after the publication of Volume 1) in which Marx summarized Volume 3
for Engels, part by part, and in which the overall logic follows exactly
the Manuscript of 1864-65.  Geert, you know this letter well, but you seem
to forget it.

> Speaking for myself, I think that we should approach Marx historically,
> because he -- like anybody else -- deserves that. On the other hand, any
> scientific endeavor is served by development of thought. If you take
> seriously Marx's method of internal critique (which, I think, is
> ultimately, the most succinct part of his method, and a part that all
> Marxians can agree upon), then internal critique should also be levelled
> at Marx and all important Marxian writings after Marx.
> Internal critique (of critical thought, and of the capitalist system --
> the current capitalist system) also serves best the emancipation of all).

I am willing to level an internal critique of Marx, if I see a good
reason to do so.  However, with respect to his theory of the distribution 
of surplus-value in Volume 3 (and especially his theory of prices of
production in Part 2), I do not see a good reason to do so.  I think the
general framework for the theory of the distribution of surplus-value is
fundamentally sound.  Of course, much more work needs to be done to
further develop Marx's theory toward more concrete phenomena.  But I
think this further work should be on the basis of Marx's general
framework, not an alteration of this framework.  

> I am an enormously great admirer of Marx's Grundrisse or of his Capital
> I  from a 1858 or a 1867 perspective -- or of his Capital III manuscripts
> from a 1863-65 perspective. Even from a 2002 perspective I think that
> Marx's methodological foundations (historical materialism, internal
> critique, and systematic dialectic -- however immature the latter) are
> very fruitful. Marxian thought (in contradistinction to Marx's thought)
> is served by a  conjoint further development (in contradistinction to a
> hermeneutic) of method and content.

I am an admirer of Marx's theory from a 2002 perspective.  And not just
his logical method (which I think is largely misunderstood) but also his
substantial conclusions.  I think Marx's theory still provides the best
theory of profit by far.  And it is the only theory that explains profit
as the result of the exploitation of workers.  


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