[OPE-L] Grundrisse. Help

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Jul 29 2006 - 17:15:34 EDT

A social surplus product can be appropriated in many different ways,
although unfortunately this is very little analyzed by Marxists, who often
assume there is only one modality of exploitation (at the point of
production), while in reality there are many.

Broadly speaking, you can have claims:

- to products and natural resources,
- to financial or non-financial assets,
- to labour,
- to persons (e.g. slaves, chattels)

which can be exchanged or transferred according to many different systems of
property rights governing their allocation and use.

If a surplus product is "appropriated through labour" as Marx says, this
means that somebody works for somebody else who gets the benefit of that
labour, through some kind of direct unilateral transfer (e.g. a tribute or
tax or corvee) or some kind of exchange (e.g. a labour or tenure contract or
trade-off of some sort).

"The surplus product - which, by the way, becomes legally defined owing to
the real appropriation through labour - therewith spontaneously
belongs to this highest unity."

What is the link with a legal framework? We could think of it in terms of
the enforcement or enforcability of a rule or norm. A social rule is only as
good as the real capacity to enforce it. Exploitation can be directly
coercive, i.e. "you work for me (or you hand over your product), or else I
kill you" (e.g. Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan). However it is quite easy to
show, both historically-empirically, psychologically and game-theoretically,
that such strongly coercive systems of direct labour regulation are neither
very efficient, nor very effective. Thus, legal norms come to mediate
between rulers and subjects, so that you have a mixture of coercion and
consent  ("live and let live"), within the limits of the given power
relationship, and this generates much more productivity and social
efficiency. The coercion is still there, but it is more a question of
regulating the appropriation of wealth, within certain boundaries of
acceptability from the point of view of the owning/ruling classes or the
power elite.

The way I read it, is that first you have this power or coercive
relationship (power is ultimately the ability to impose one's own will on
others), which could be mystified in some way, and then you have the legal
mediation of this power relationship, simply because it is known in civil
society that brute coercion is - at the very least in the long run - neither
very efficient nor very effective, and the legal mediation limits the
exercise of force to those transgressions which are thought to be of
critical importance for the position of the rulers.

The German verb "bestimmen" can mean a lot of different things in different
contexts, e.g.

- to determine
- to define
- to destine
- to assign
- to govern
- to locate
- to identify

and so on. The basic abstract idea of it is that you have a thing or
relation (whatever it is) and it can exist only within certain (necessary)
limits nor boundaries, and these limits might in fact define the identity of
the thing or relation, constrain its variability, or provide it with its
purpose, dynamic or function. So if I "bestimm" something then in a sense I
"fix it into place" or I "establish where it has to go", or at the very
least I define where it does not belong.

This is just to illustrate why Nicolaus's project of a very literal
translation cannot be very successful - you have all these philosophical
words with multiple meanings.
Nevertheless a good English translation is possible, and is shown by
successful translations of Hegel's writings.


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