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

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Mar 23 2004 - 13:33:42 EST

Hi again,

> Hi Andy.
> A quick question and comment before I rush off to teach.
> > Historical data is clearly in Marx's *presentation*, not just his
> > *inquiry*. All but Hegel- inspired dialecticians conclude that it is
> > essential to that presentation.
> What is the *evidence* that the in-depth presentation of historical
> data was *necessary* or *essential* for Marx's presentaion in
> _Capital_?
> So far, all I have heard amounts to -- it is there so Marx must have
> thought that it was necessary and essential to the exposition. Excuse
> me if I don't find that reasoning very convincing.

Well, amongst other things, I am pointing to the crude fact that two letters is a much
smaller quantity than all the sections on the working day in 'Capital'. Crude
evidence, admittedly.

You may have missed, on first reading, one of my other points. Your attempt to
argue that a few of Marx's letters are the 'only' relevant evidence seems to be
invalid. It is invalid because the letters themselves need to be interpreted and
therefore they cannot be held up as better indicators of Marx's intentions than Marx's
text itself.

Let me, now, elaborate a little bit. Of course, the letters do directly address the issue
of length of the relevant sections on the working day. They are not the 'only'
evidence but they are relevant evidence, that needs to be accounted for, if possible.

My overall argument is then the following:

(1) My interpretation accounts for the aforementioned letters and for the wealth of
main text of 'Capital'

(2) Your interpretation tries to account for the letters, to an extent. However, it
seems to miss the fact that the letters do not suggest Marx *introduced* the
historical sections on the working day, they merely indicate that he *enlarged* them.
Furthermore, they do not justify the section on primitive accumulation. Nor do they
justify the wealth of other historical material in 'Capital' and elsewhere (the

(3) I would not dismiss out of hand your interpretation just because of the above
points. Everything depends upon our respective 'interpretations'. And neither of us
has given much away regarding these, still less provided detailed cites etc. to back
up our points. That is, if I haven't provided much evidence then nor have you! But
the key here is the grasp of capitalism rather than detailed cites from Marx. Our
grasp of capitalism is a key influence on our interpretation of Marx. In any case it is
the grasp of capitalism that we really care about.

> (As for your argument that to be able to present the essential
> nature of capitalism as an 'organic system' we need to include
> a lengthy historical exposition on its birth, and by inference, its
> relation historically to feudalism, I believe that argument will fall
> prey to an "infinite regression critique.")

It seems pretty straightforward that to explain, say, fully developed biological
organisms we need to explain cells and cell-development. This explanation includes
necessary historical stages, from cell to fully developed organism, specific to any
organism type. No infinite regression here as far as I can see. Important to recall
Marx's 'cell-form' metaphor. In any case, I look forward to an elaboration of your

Many thanks,


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