Re: [OPE-L] The unfinished work

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Sep 12 2006 - 00:27:03 EDT

> Rakesh,
> Brief comment as I am running out of time -

That was a brief comment, Jurriaan?! There is just to much to respond to,
and I am not sure how it all hangs together.

So to take just the first point: Not sure why you say that material
pressures forced Marx to
abandon the six book for the four book plan as the latter may well have
been more difficult to write given its theoretical, tightly integrated
nature. And yet the four books still do not seem to be obviously shorter
than six separate books would have been!  Indeed it seems to me that the
four book plan "scaled up the ambition", to use your expression to make
the opposite point.
But yes I agree that Capital is not comprehensive; and I agree with you
that Althusserian theoreticism can become a pernicious weapon against
empirical historical investigation.

Yours truly, Rakesh

 as I see it, the younger Marx
> in
> his late 30s originally conceived a very ambitious project - it would start
> with the production and circulation of capital and surplus-value, and
> laws emerging out of their intertwining, and then go on to analyse
wage-labour in depth, the position of social classes, joint-stock
> and capital finance, the state and civil society, and the world market. But
> when he actually got down to writing - under terribly impoverished
circumstances with constant distractions where he was continually
> for money to survive - he realized at a certain point that realistically
> humanly he would not be able to complete any six large books in terms of
writing and researching.
> In a sense, he was under pressure to write and publish - after all, if
> publish Vol. 1 then people - especially the publisher - expect further
volumes. But as Francis Wheen notes, not only was Marx's writing method
often messy and laborious (he often drafted the same type of thing
painstakingly over and over by hand, from a slightly different point of
view, or re-edited it, or fretted about the composition of the text) but
eventually he also grew weary of what he called one time the "economic
> [oekonomische Scheisse]. Once you've reached your scientific
> writing all that up and flaunting your erudition can seem terribly
> and a bore, you'd rather get on with the next thing. And while he was alive
> he did not get a very enthusiastic reception of Vol. 1, anymore than
> the "Contribution", - Das Kapital became influential in Russia, of all
> That being the case, he probably scaled down his ambition, sometimes
suggesting that with the four books he had drafted, the work would be
complete. Probably he was well aware that there were problems with the
details of the argument of Vol. 3, but he was content to sketch out the
basic storyline - possibly also he thought that making the basic
> about the origin of economic value and the meaning of capital was
> and radical enough, and that other scholars would be easily able to
> the argument, or develop the analysis further, once they understood it.
Indeed Engels suggested a scholarly competition to iron out some
> in
> Cap. Vol. 3. It is quite likely that, seeking to grasp the totality of
> new society emerging at the highest summits of abstraction, Marx as a
creative thinker wasn't even fully aware of the full implications of his
> thought and method, and strained to keep any reasonable relationship
> means and goals. He left the manuscripts of various parts of Vol. 2 and
> 3 without any precise order, thinking that Engels would be able to
> them together into a coherent whole, which Engels heroically tried to
> adding a chapter himself where necessary.
> The substantive point however is that, whatever interpretation one
> Marx did not analyse the whole of bourgeois society in his magnum opus,
> important aspects of its "deep structure". In that sense, the work was
necessarily incomplete, more a sort of "Streitschrift", and it was
> to develop it further. Specifically, a complication was the dialectical
method of presentation adopted - you couldn't simply do chapter one,
> two etc. with different themes as Adam Smith did, rather the whole story
> to develop integrally out of successively resolved dialectical
> contradictions (what Geert Reuten calls "systematic dialectic"), constantly
> incorporating new material - and even there Marx did not fully succeed, you
> don't have to be Kozo Uno to see that. He chose a particularly difficult
> intellectually challenging method to tell a story, no doubt to impress
> persuade with his rigour of argument. The presentation of it as a
> system" however was more a latter-day phenomenon that had to do with the
birth of "Marxism" as a distinctive doctrine, in which men like Kautsky
> Lenin played an influential role.
> I think it is often difficult to appreciate nowadays how far ahead Marx was
> in the subtlety and breadth of his critique of the classics. The reality
> that even in the 1920s, the majority of self-proclaimed "Marxists" based
their beliefs on popularisations of Marx's thought by Engels, Bernstein,
Kautsky and Bukharin etc., and had at most read Vol. 1. (never mind
> the classics to which Marx himself referred). Marx certainly succeeded
> vesting his authority as an intellectual giant, but ironically this was not
> very conducive to a critical and self-critical development of his theories.
> By the end of the 1920s, of course, Marxism had become a veritable new
religion, promulgated officially by a new government. People were
> a "Marxist approach" to all manner of things, often without rhyme or
> i.e. without much profound thought about the meaning of social progress and
> human development. In their desire to be orthodox or fear of being
unorthodox, they made new thinking impossible.
> I think that Marx considered that his analysis of the capitalist mode of
production already implied what the role of the state would be, in the
> of securing the general conditions for the accumulation of private
> and the reproduction of society as a whole, which competing capitalists and
> the commercial process itself could not produce, Arrow-Debreu equations
notwithstanding. I think Hal Draper has sketched out fairly well the
> Marx himself had about the state, in his "State and Bureaucracy".
> comments are also helpful. Most probably Marx would have written about
> essence of the state (referring to the origins of the bourgeois state
> its class nature), its operations, and its forms, both in terms of
> the rule of law, democratic procedure or the lack of it, and
> social/economic
> policy.
> An important consideration in this, as Mandel emphasized and Marx well
> is that capitalism did not originally produce the state, rather the
> bourgeoisies took over and modified an existing state power through lengthy
> struggles against the appropriation of taxes, social and religious
oppression, strictures on trade and confiscations of capital - a highly
contradictory development, since the bourgeoisie both sought to free its
> activity from state interference and yet needed the state power to
> private property relations, regulate competition, and ward off foreign
> domestic threats.
> As Engels already noted, the essential polarity that runs like a red thread
> through the whole history of the bourgeoisie is the polarity of free
> and protectionism (or what we now call deregulation and regulation,
> is
> becoming a veritable bipolar disorder): at once the desire to trade and
behave freely, and the need to constrain/mediate/control that freedom
(mainly for the benefit of the bourgeois classes of course). The attempt
> deduce the essence and forms of the state directly from the logic of the
accumulation process (or to derive the rule of law directly from the
relations of commodity trade) is therefore unlikely to generate a
> analysis. If there is a "logic", it is that the evolution of state forms
> the accumulation process were bound up with each other, so that not just
anything could happen, and some things were more likely to happen than
others: the state mediated social conflicts under given economic
> and was changed in its form by those conflicts, yet in essence it
> the same, in that it continued to perform the same kinds of social
> "Essence" can be specified in terms of a relationship (or interaction)
between the real-general and the real-particular (the boundaries
> what something really is positively, and what it cannot be) - there are the
> general conditions for the reproduction of human society as such, the
general conditions of maintaining a society divided into social classes
> conflicting interests, the general conditions of maintaining capitalist
society, and finally the specific conditions applying to a specific
> with its own unique historical origins and biological/geographic
> Most likely, Marx would have based his critique on a discussion of the
English state and possibly the German state, the French state or the
American state, because those were the ones he had experience of or read
> The American state of course originated in very different conditions
> Europe, in part from a conflict between rival bourgeois forces, which
strongly shaped its identity - e.g. the fact that the American state
> its imperialism is rooted in its own origins in a revolution against
> and French colonial rule. Yet in essential respects the English state
> the American state have been much the same in their operation, and that has
> to do with the "general conditions for the existence of capitalist
> of class society and human society as such. The American state did not
abandon English law altogether, but modified it, and added new norms to
> I think that if we see Marx not as deity but as a fallible human being
> pioneered new vistas of thought, and if we are less concerned with problems
> of metaphysical orthodoxy, we will arrive at better analyses. A pioneer
> not necessarily always correct - rather he creates a breach through
> others can follow, using their own brains. Thus the most fruitful
> have come from thinkers who actually did study the known facts and
> real historical experience (or tried to "make history" themselves) using
theory as a guide to inquiry, rather than as an ideological
> outside of which lay only hell and sin.
> The advantage you have, if you do an empirical inquiry is that you have
> real object to explain which provides theory with a real use, and can
improve and develop the theory - whereas with an Althusserian
> object" or a "Marxist philosophy" we just end up rearranging or
> things that we knew already! I read a great article as a student once by
David Selbourne - I think in the journal Critique - who convinced me of
that. As far as I know, he's still writing great stuff.
> Jurriaan

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