Re: [OPE-L] The unfinished work

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Sep 12 2006 - 21:35:41 EDT

>If e.g. somebody would have donated to him 100,000
> pounds, he would have cranked out a lot more, most probably.

I think the metaphor of cranking out is misplaced. Marx most found it
difficult to write theory and resorted to "cranking out" empirical
material as he got weary.
Perceived distance from necessity may actually free one from writing as if
he is cranking it out. Concision could even result. Marx had a remarkable
way of focusing his mind in conditions which would crush almost everyone.

> 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).

A story can be complete without being the whole story. I think the story
Marx wanted to tell is complete. Gramsci for example provided other
stories. And there are more to tell.

  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

I don't read Marx as either creative visionary or 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
> now).
> 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?

No I think understanding what Marx accomplished can help to organize and
guide empirical research. Do remember that Grossman was an accomplished
statistican and packed his magnum opus with historical and contemporary


Can a critique of 19th century capitalism substitut
e 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?
> Cheers
> Jurriaan

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