(OPE-L) RE: Systematic Dialectics and the Presentation of Historical Detail in Volume I of _Capital_

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Mar 23 2004 - 07:13:23 EST

Hi Andy.

> Your question is eloquently and challegingly put. All your points are well
> taken. But at the end of the day, you are relying on a few letters to
>  make a case, where you  have a finished text, viz. Capital Vol. 1,
> telling you the opposite story. That is, the  sections on the working day
> (and you don't mention primitive accumulation but this  is also important)
> are there and carry rather more weight than a letter or two of  Marx.

The finished text does not tell the story _why_ these sections were
presented  at great length. So, the text itself  basically presents no
"story" _at all_ for why  these sections were presented at length.  Indeed,
there is no "weight" at all that  can be legitimately inferred to the
presence  in the text unless we know from the author the reason(s)
why he chose to include at length the historical parts.

> An interpretation that makes sense of the intrinsic place of these aspects
> of  'Capital' is preferred to one that doesn't, don't you think?

No, since you are inferring reason without evidence to the mere presence
of material in the text.

> Marx's letters to which you
> refer indicate that some sections are longer than they would otherwise
> have been;
> they do not indicate the sections have no intrinsic place in the text.

Read again the letter to Engels dated February 10, 1866.  The section
which presented  historical  data on the working day  in depth "lay outside
the original plan" but was included _because of_  his poor health. I.e. he
didn't have  the energy for the theoretical part.  Note "Hence" in his

> They do not
> even indicate that lengthening the sections was not in accord was the
> intrinsic  structure (the 'underlying architechtonic') of 'Capital'.

Well, of course, any author can spend 10 times as many words making the
same points as can be made with 10 times less words.  The question at
issue is simply _why_ these topics were presented in great detail. For
this the _only_ evidence available is in his correspondence.

> Rather, Marx would surely
> lengthen sections which could *legitimately* be lengthened without doing
> injustice to that intrinsic structure? He would not add superfluous
> material, surely.

'Superfluous' is synonymous with 'unnecessary' in this context? Surely, it
can not be legitimately inferred that Marx would _not_ add unnecessary
materials.  Why can't he --like just about all other authors -- include
information which isn't strictly necessary for an exposition of the subject?
I think you idealize Marx by holding him to a higher standard than is
expected of mere mortals.  In any event, _for Marx_ it was necessary
-- given his dire financial situation and poor health.

> But the real point is not about the interpretation of Marx, of course, it
i> s about the  role of empirical and historical material in theorising
> capitalism. It seems to me that  systematic dialectics has, in arguing
> against the prevalent  'logical-historical'   interpretation, bent the
> stick  rather to far in the opposite direction, in seperating
> system and history. To grasp a system entails grasping how the system
> comes in to  being just as much as it entails grasping how, once it has
> come into being, it 'posits its own presuppositions', don't you think?

No. To grasp the functioning of an automobile does not require that one
grasp the evolution in transportation from the horse or  bicycles.

> Another thought: what of the masses of historical detail in the
> Contribution to the  Critique?

The "masses" of historical detail?

In any event, no one is saying that historical data has _no_ role.
It has a  role especially in the process of inquiry but can also have
a role within the exposition.  Within the context of a systematic
dialectical presentation it can play a role as *Vorstellung*.

In solidarity, Jerry

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