White and Luxemburg. Was: (OPE-L) New Dialectics and Critical Realism

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 17 2004 - 15:14:03 EST


Thanks for your review of White's work and I have obtained James White's
reply; it is attached.  Did both appear in *Studies in Marxism*?

I share White's understanding of what Luxemburg was trying to accomplish,
against your dismissal of her work on accumulation of capital.  In fact,
I'll up the stakes.

Marx started *Capital* with "Commodities" and goes forward as we all well
know, never really getting to history until the end of *Volume 1*.  Yet,
around the time that the first edition of *Capital* was published, he
became more and more deeply drawn into the historical question and the
question of the penetration (or lack thereof) of capitalism into
pre-capitalist society.  As White says,

   "It emerged [from White's investigations] that what Marx was interested
in at that time was the action of capital on non-capitalist societies,
traditional agrarian communities. He began this line of inquiry not with
Russia, but with his native Germany, using mainly the works of Maurer. But
the country where the peasant agrarian commune was most in evidence was
Russia, and it was to that country that he naturally turned his

Compare Luxemburg's *Introduction to Political Economy*.  She doesn't get
to "Commodity Production" until her six chapter!  Her long third chapter
is "Elements of Economic History: Primitive Communism" and used some of
the exact same source materials as Marx was reading.  (Marx, Luxemburg and
White all read Russian.  Incidentally, half of Luxemburg's third chapter
is now translated into English in *The Rosa Luxemburg Reader*, edited by
Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, Monthly Review, 2004, pp. 71-110.)
Luxemburg goes on to feudalism and the guilds.

In other words, Luxemburg's project became in fact what White says Marx
was moving toward in his late years!  Pretty amazing, no?  I think
Luxemburg came to this on her own, although apparently she did have access
to some of Marx's unpublished materials.

Where I might depart from White is that I think the problem with
accumulation of capital as the extension of capitalism is already a
problem in *Volume 1* of *Capital*, while White thinks it arises from the
interface of *Volume 1* with *Volume 2*.  My argument appears in
"Accumulation of Capital, Its Definition, A Century after Lenin and
Luxemburg", *R.P.E.*, Vol. 18, pp. 183-241, and is also mentioned in my
comment on Sayer's review of White.

Another comment.  In my view, you over-estimate the cogency of Lenin's
economics.  For my own evaluation, see my article last year in *Science
and Society*, "Lenin, Economist of Production: A Ricardian Step
Backwards".  The more carefully I read Lenin's economics, the less
'marxist' it became and I wouldn't use it as a standard anymore.

In any case, I prefer your review of White's *Karl Marx and the Origins of
Dialectical Materialism* because you clearly respect the work, in spite of
disagreements.  I hadn't known of it before and am glad that White is
receiving increasing attention.


P.S. I notice some typos in White:

a. "Manuscript I of the second draft written in 1865": actually refers to
Manuscript I of Volume 2.

b. The first edition of Capital was 1867, not 1868.

Vol.21: Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds., Elsevier Science
*********************** http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PZarembka

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