Re: [OPE-L] Subjects, Objects and Starting Points

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Dec 03 2005 - 09:47:08 EST

> Here is a question presented by your first quote:  if neither value nor
> exchange value are subjects, what does that do to the idea that value
> which
> increases itself is the animating subject of capitalist production?  Also,
> we would not want to say, surely, that, well, since the commodity is the
> subject of the first part, then some concrete social thing like 'means of
> production' must be the subject of the rest.

Hi Howard:

There is, I think, more than one subject in Marx's critique.  The _overall_
subject is the bourgeois mode of production.  I think it's his claim,
though, that capitalism as subject can be reconstructed in thought
_beginning_ with the subject of the commodity.  What Marx wrote in
the "Marginal Notes on Wagner", I believe, is consistent with what he
wrote in "The Method of Political Economy" section of the "Introduction"
to  the _Grundrisse_.   E.g. the sharp criticism that he makes of Wagner
and Rodbertus was anticipated in a criticism of Hegel: "In this way Hegel
fell into the illusion of conceiving the real as the product of thought
concentrating itself, probing its own depths, and unfolding out of itself,
by itself, whereas the method of rising from the abstract to the concrete
is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces
it as the concrete in the mind."

He wrote a few sentences before that:

 "the concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many
determinations, hence unity of the diverse.  It appears in the process of
thinking, therefore, as a process of concentration, as a result, not as a
point of departure, even though it is the point of departure in reality and
hence also the point of departure for observation [Anschauung] and
conception.  Along the first path the full conception was evaporated
to yield an abstract determination; along the second, the abstract
determinations lead towards a reproduction of the concrete by way
of thought." (Penguin ed., p. 101).

As I suggested earlier, I don't see these passages as inconsistent.  I
certainly don't see a contrast between "Hegelianisms" here in the
_Grundrisse_ and what he wrote on this topic in the "Marginal Notes
on Wagner": I can see no evidence here of an "epistemological
break."   Do you agree?

 It could also be claimed that there are other subjects at different levels
of abstraction:  e.g. the working-class is a subject within the
6-book-plan.   In a sense, the movement of the exposition -- beginning
with a subject (the commodity) and ending with a subject of the world
market ["the conclusion, in which production is posited as a totality
together with all its moments, but within which, at the same time, all
contradictions come into play", Ibid, p. 227)  represents a movement
from subject to subject and, _after_ the starting point, a movement from
concept to concept.  I think it's also the case that what is conceived of
as an _object_ at one level of the presentation can be seen also as a
_subject_ at another level of abstraction.  Thus, the working class
could be seen as _object_ from the standpoint of the political economy
of capital and as _subject_ from the political economy of the

In solidarity, Jerry

> >     *    "Herr Wagner also forgets that for me neither 'value' nor
> >           'exchange-value' are subjects, but the _commodity_"
> >           ("Marginal Notes on  Adolph Wagner's 'Lehrbuch der
> >            politischen Okonomie'" _Theoretical Practice_, Issue 5,
> >            Spring, 1972, p. 42)

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