[OPE-L] The unfinished work

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Tue Sep 12 2006 - 17:20:05 EDT

Hi Rakesh,

Yeah sometimes when I am writing I get surprised out how much comes out,
maybe I got a bit carried away this time. It seems rather obvious to me that
Marx scaled down his writing plans to what he could practically deliver, but
had hoped to write much more (on wage-labour, the position of social
classes, joint-stock companies and capital finance, the state and civil
society, the world market...) - illness and exhaustion, lack of money,
family concerns and political activity etc. got in the way. I don't see how
he could have "scaled up the ambition" since he had already drafted the
manuscripts for the three volumes he did not publish himself, and more (Cap.
2 & 3, TSV, and other manuscripts, not all of which were preserved). He had
those drafts, the question then was how he could realistically order the
stuff for publication. If e.g. somebody would have donated to him 100,000
pounds, he would have cranked out a lot more, most probably.

So anyway I don't regard the three or four volumes as the complete story,
and I think that Marx didn't either. For example he refers in all modesty to
"my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe"
(letter to Mikhailovsky in 1877).  At best these volumes define the
essentials of the capitalist mode of production "in its ideal average". But
that's okay, it suggests that there is plenty room for others to develop
various threads of the story further. The scientific or scholarly task is
really to go beyond Marx and do something new. Plenty of authors have tried
to do that, the only question is how consistent it is with Marx's argument,
but this is more a question of evidence and logic than "orthodoxy" or
fidelity to a jargon. As I indicated I am really more interested in Marx as
creative visionary than as quasi-religious authority who cannot be wrong
except in tiny places where his epigones dot the 'i's'. As far as I can see,
there's still a stack of analysis to do to bring the theory up to speed with
the realities of modern capitalism, though it is also true that a lot of
valid research has been done already (I cannot pursue this further right

Suppose you are correct, what then? What precisely hinges on this? Is that
all there is to it? Can we really understand what happens in capitalism in
our own time without studying those aspects mentioned that Marx did not get
around to? Can a critique of 19th century capitalism substitute for a
critique of 21st century capitalism? I don't think so.

It seems to me that those people preoccupied with "completing Marx" should
do us a favour and really write the "missing volumes" as they think Marx
would have done them, using all the materials that are now available for
this. But anyway why try to complete a book, written in the mid-19th
century, in the 21st century? Why not just see what Marx wrote as a line of
inquiry which could be validly developed in all kinds of directions?



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