(OPE-L) Re: "Marx, Markets and Meatgrinders: An Interview with Bertell Ollman" from Political Affairs

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Mar 06 2004 - 10:28:53 EST

Paolo and others:  Here's a bit more to think over this

1)  "how Marx would proceed in integrating the state in
his overall theory of capitalism" is an interesting thought-
experiment, but:

a) we'll never know the answer to that question except in
a *very* general way (discussed briefly below).  So,  it is
a *speculative* question.

b) while it is one of the many background questions that
could be asked, should it form the starting-point for an
investigation of the state?  I don't think that's the best idea.
One has to focus on the *subject itself* (i.e. capitalism)
if one wishes to reconstruct the state in thought in a form that
allows us to grasp the essential, real character of the state and
its inter-connection to the CMP.  This is a research task of
a different order than interpreting and speculating on Marx's

2) Paradoxically perhaps, some insights could be gained by
*asking* whether the very broad statements that Marx wrote
would be the contents of the Book on The State can serve as a
suitable frame of reference for us today.  That is, we could
*critically* interrogate those sketchy plans by asking to what
extent they are INadequate and INcomplete and INcapable of
grasping the essential character of the state in bourgeois society.

In  what Oakley [1983] describes as the "First *Grundrisse* plan,
Marx wrote:

     "(3) The State as the epitome of bourgeois society.
           Analysed in relation to itself.
           The 'unproductive' classes.
           National debt.
           Public credit.
           (M&E, _Collected Works_, Volume 28, p. 45; spacing altered
           for visual clarity;  for the  slightly different wording in the
           Penguin ed. of the _Grundrisse_, see p. 108.)

Note that the above plan in the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58,
includes what the  Third *Grundrisse* plan" refers to as  "The State
in its external relations."

       "Then the *State*.
         (State and bourgeois society. --
         Taxation, or the existence of the unproductive classes. --
         The national debt. --
          The State in its external relations:
          Foreign trade.
          Rate of exchange.
          Money as international coin."
          (Ibid, p. 195; altered as above; Penguin ed. version is on p.

Later, in the '6-book-plan', "The State in its external relations" becomes
simply  "foreign trade" (_A Contribution to the Critique of Political
Economy_ in  __CW_, Volume 29, p. 261).

The question that I think should be asked, though, is not speculative or
Marxological: namely, is the above broad outline a satisfactory first step
in the reconstruction in thought of the subject matter?  For example, what
is the logic behind the ordering?  Are there essential aspects of the
subject that don't have a place in that ordering?  Having the benefit of
being able to examine capitalism in a more mature form than Marx
witnessed, are there essential aspects of the State that weren't apparent to
Marx or are in need of modification?

In other words, by *critically* interrogating what Marx wrote -- keeping in
mind first and foremost the subject matter itself  (a slogan from the civil
rights movement -- "Keep your eyes on the prize" -- comes to mind)
some insights can be gained. (1)

In solidarity, Jerry


(1) "Keep your eyes on the prize" could also be extended to mean that we
should keep in mind the "prize" of a new society.  That is,  the 'END'
should not be forgotten.  Certainly Marx didn't forget it: e.g. in outlining
the "Second *Grundrisse* plan", he describes

   "the conclusion, the world market, in which production  is posited as a
     totality and all its movements also, but in which simultaneously all
     contradictions are set in motion.  Hence the world market is likewise
     both the presupposition of the totality and its bearer.  Crises are
     then the general pointer to beyond the presupposition, and the urge to
     adopt a new historical form." (_CW_, Volume 28, p. 160; for Penguin
     ed., see p. 227).

[NB: if in the world market "all contradictions are set in motion"  and if
there are contradictions that arise from the state-form it follows that,
according to Marx,  the contradictions of the state-form come to the
fore during crises.  Thus, crises -- and their causes -- are not narrowly
economic alone.]

This point can be seen again in the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58 in the
when Marx again refers to the world market:

     "Finally the world market.
      Encroachment of bourgeois society on the State. [>>>/////what do you
      think *THAT* means?, JL/////<<<]
      Dissolution of the mode of production and form of society based upon
          exchange value.
      The real positing of individual labour as social and vice versa.)"
      (Ibid, p. 195; spacing altered again for visual clarity.)


Oakley, A. (1983) _The Making of Marx's Critical Theory: A Bibliographical
     Analysis_. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

> Thank you Jerry. IŽll think it over during the week-end.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Mar 10 2004 - 00:00:01 EST