[OPE-L] Complex ... and the French edition of capital

From: Anders Ekeland (anders.ekeland@ONLINE.NO)
Date: Tue Jun 05 2007 - 20:59:24 EDT

Hi Jerry,

I think the relation of the 2nd German edition 
and the French edition is more complex. Because

- the second German is from 1873
- the French from 1975 - two years later

And from the Afterword - and the time lag - it is 
clear that Marx most probably did not get all the 
changes made in the French edition into the 2nd 
German - "on the basis of the changes in the 
French edition" is probably not accurate.

That is why Marx says in the Afterword that the 
French edtion has a scientific value of its own 
and should be read even by those who can read 
German. That would be a meaningless statement if 
all the changes made from the 1st German to the 
French version was incorporated into the 2 German 
edition - which - to repeat - came out two years 
before the French edtion - and new passages in 
the 2nd German is reproduced in the French version.

The differences between the German and French 
edition is discussed partly in I Rubins book - do 
anyone know of any other comparison of these 
editions - maybe by members of the MEGA team?

The substance of the matter:

The passage which I call the "education cost" 
passage is in the French edition like this:

En examinant la production de la plus value, nous 
avons supposé que le travail, approprié par le 
capital, est du travail simple moyen. La 
supposition contraire n'y changerait rien. 
Admettons, par exemple, que, comparé au travail 
du fileur, celui du bijoutier est du travail à 
une puissance supérieure, que l'un est du travail 
simple et l'autre du travail complexe où se 
manifeste une force plus difficile à former et 
qui rend dans le même temps plus de valeur. Mais 
quel que soit le degré de différence entre ces 
deux travaux, la portion de travail où le 
bijoutier produit de la plus-value pour son 
maître ne diffère en rien qualitativement de la 
portion de travail où il ne fait que remplacer la 
valeur de son propre salaire. Après comme avant, 
la plus-value ne provient que de la durée 
prolongée du travail, qu'il soit celui du fileur 
ou celui du bijoutier 

D'un autre côté, quand il s'agit de production de 
valeur, le travail supérieur doit toujours être 
réduit à la moyenne du travail social, une 
journée de travail complexe, par exemple, à deux 
journées de travail simple 
2]. Si des économistes comme il faut se sont 
récriés contre cette « assertion arbitraire », 
n'est ce pas le cas de dire, selon le proverbe 
allemand, que les arbres les empêchent de voir la 
forêt ! Ce qu'ils accusent d'être un artifice 
d'analyse, est tout bonnement un procédé qui se 
pratique tous les jours dans tous les coins du 
monde. Partout les valeurs des marchandises les 
plus diverses sont indistinctement exprimées en 
monnaie, c'est à dire dans une certaine masse 
d'or ou d'argent. Par cela même, les différents 
genres de travail, représentés par ces valeurs, 
ont été réduits, dans des proportions 
différentes, à des sommes déterminées d'une seule 
et même espèce de travail ordinaire, le travail qui produit l'or ou l'argent.

The similar, but far from identical passage in 
the English version (which is a rather - but not 
quite - straight forward translation of the 4th 
German Ed. (if I remember correctly)

"We stated, on a previous page, that in the 
creation of surplus-value it does not in the 
least matter, whether the labour appropriated by 
the capitalist be simple unskilled labour of 
average quality or more complicated skilled 
labour. All labour of a higher or more 
complicated character than average labour is 
expenditure of labour-power of a more costly 
kind, labour-power whose production has cost more 
time and labour, and which therefore has a higher 
value, than unskilled or simple labour-power. 
This power being higher-value, its consumption is 
labour of a higher class, labour that creates in 
equal times proportionally higher values than 
unskilled labour does. Whatever difference in 
skill there may be between the labour of a 
spinner and that of a jeweller, the portion of 
his labour by which the jeweller merely replaces 
the value of his own labour-power, does not in 
any way differ in quality from the additional 
portion by which he creates surplus-value. In the 
making of jewellery, just as in spinning, the 
surplus-value results only from a quantitative 
excess of labour, from a lengthening-out of one 
and the same labour-process, in the one case, of 
the process of making jewels, in the other of the process of making yarn. [18]

But on the other hand, in every process of 
creating value, the reduction of skilled labour 
to average social labour, e.g., one day of 
skilled to six days of unskilled labour, is 
unavoidable. [19] We therefore save ourselves a 
superfluous operation, and simplify our analysis, 
by the assumption, that the labour of the workman 
employed by the capitalist is unskilled average labour."

The two main differences are

a) that the "whose production has cost more time 
and labour"  is replaced by the much more 
general/vague "plus difficile the former" = more 
difficult to educate/make competent (in French 
"formation often have the meaning "education"

b) but the main difference is that in the French 
Capital, the labour producing gold or money is 
used as numeraire: "les différents genres de 
travail, représentés par ces valeurs, ont été 
réduits, dans des proportions différentes, à des 
sommes déterminées d'une seule et même espèce de 
travail ordinaire, le travail qui produit l'or ou 
l'argent." (... these different types of labour, 
represented by their corresponding values, have 
been reduced, in different proportions by one and 
only type of simple labour, the labour that produces gold or silver (money?)".

I do not have time to go into a more detailed and 
deeper analysis if the "French" solution, but it 
is clear that nowhere in the German/English 
editions is the gold producing labour given any particular role.

In my opinion this only shows that Marx never 
treated this problem systematically/seriously. 
The logic of the concept of "abstract labour" 
makes the dichotomy simple vs. complex labour 
redundant. All particularities are done away with 
if one accept the concept of "abstract labour" - as I do.

In my opinion the French version seriously 
weakens the textual support for the 
Hilferding/Okishio/Rowthorn "whose production has 
cost more labour" - that is the "education cost" 
solution to the labour reduction problem.


At 23:30 30.05.2007, you wrote:
>Hi Anders:
>I think the answer to your question is - no, there isn't a direct
>English translation from the French edition from Volume 1. However,
>Marx revised the 2nd German edition on the basis of the changes
>made in the French edition.  This topic was discussed briefly on the
>list many years ago, see the following post by Riccardo:
>btw, if you are not already familiar with it, 
>you should find the following item
>from our archives (by Alejandro Ramos) to be of interest:
>In solidarity, Jerry

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