Re: [OPE-L] The difficulties of translating Marx: report on an excursus in Marxology

From: Christopher Arthur (arthurcj@WAITROSE.COM)
Date: Fri Aug 03 2007 - 11:04:01 EDT

It must be in new MEGA, probably vol IV.4 but I know of no translation
Chris A

> From: Michael Perelman <michael@ECST.CSUCHICO.EDU>
> Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2007 17:38:41 -0700
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L] The difficulties of translating Marx: report on an
> excursus in Marxology
> First of all, I appreciate Jurriaan's help.  I looked through the
> English translation of the Collected Works -- the early volumes for the
> period, 1843-5.
> I wonder if it has been translated into English.  Any suggestions?
> Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
>> Prof. Perelman wondered about the source of a Marx quote given by Michio
>> Morishima and George Catephores in their influential "Value, exploitation
>> and growth: Marx in Light of Modern Economic Theory" (1978). The problem
>> quote has Marx saying:
>> "Political Economy, in order to give its laws greater constancy and
>> determinacy, must present truth as accidental and the abstraction as true."
>> Intrigued by this,  I thought I would investigate - if Prof. Perelman could
>> "never find" the source for this, something is really going wrong.
>> The source turns out to be: Karl Marx [und] Friedrich Engels, Die Heilige
>> Familie und Schriften von Marx von Anfang 1844 bis anfang 1845. Marx-Engels
>> Gesamtausgabe, Erste Abteilung Band 3. Berlin: Marx-Engels Verlag Gmbh,
>> 1932. p. 502  (This first attempt at a Marx-Engels collected works
>> edited by
>> Riazanov/Adoratskii was reprinted in 1970, and Morishima/Catephores cited
>> the reprint).
>> With the kind cooperation of the staff at the IISH who trucked out the
>> Gesamtausgabe, I could establish that specific quote occurs in an 1844 or
>> 1845 conspectus (notes and excerpts) of  David Ricardo's Principles of
>> Political Economy and Taxation, which Marx probably read for the first time
>> in his Paris days, as he was beginning to study economics then (Marx used a
>> 1835 French edition with annotations by Jean Baptiste Say).
>> The literal German original of the quote reads as follows:
>> "Die Nationaloekonomie, um ihren Gesetzen eine Grossere Konsistenz und
>> Bestimmtheit zu geben, muss die Wirklichkeit als akzidentell und die
>> Abstraktion als wirklich unterstellen"
>> Morishima & Catephores's  English version is thus inaccurate. "Konsistenz"
>> does not mean constancy, but consistency. "Wirklichkeit" does not mean
>> truth, but reality. "Unterstellen" does not mean "present" but "assume" or
>> "suppose".  "Akzidentell" in this case is Marx's German rendering of the
>> French "accidentelle" used in Ricardo's translated text, but what is really
>> meant is "incidental".
>> The translation should thus be as follows:
>> "To give its laws a greater consistency and determinacy, Political Economy
>> must assume the reality as incidental, and the abstraction as real". Not
>> altogether the same thing as that which Morishima/Catephores claim Marx
>> said.
>> To understand the significance of the quote, you really need the context of
>> the whole paragraph, which is a comment on the distinction between natural
>> prices and current prices. In my own translation:
>> "On p. 111 Ricardo says, that when he speaks of exchange-value, he always
>> means the natural price, disregarding the accidents of competition due to
>> what he calls any momentary or incidental cause. To give its laws a greater
>> consistency and determinacy, Political Economy must assume the reality as
>> incidental, and the abstraction as real. Say remarks in this regard in note
>> 1, p. 111-112 that "the natural price... would appear to be... chimerical.
>> There are only current prices in political economy." This he proves by
>> saying that labour, capital and land are not determined by any fixed
>> rate of
>> exchange [lit. festen Taxe, probably Marx germanified the French "taux" and
>> did not mean "tax"], but according to the relationship between the quantity
>> supplied and the quantity demanded. When Smith assumed the natural price,
>> there existed at least the question "What role in production-costs do
>> labour, capital and land have?". That is a question which, leaving aside
>> private ownership, makes sense; the natural price consists in the
>> production-costs. Thus e.g. in the community the question might be, will
>> the
>> land produce this or that product? Is the business worth the labour and
>> capital invested? Through the fact that in Political Economy it becomes
>> only
>> more of an issue about the current price, matters are not considered
>> anymore
>> in relation to their production costs, and production-costs in relation to
>> people, but as the total production in relation to the haggling over it."
>> I did not think to consult the L&W MECW to see if it includes an English
>> translation of these notes by Marx on Ricardo's Principles, I ran out of
>> time.
>> When you consider the relations of communication involved in all this, it's
>> remarkable. First, the manuscripts were acquired from the estate and Marx's
>> notoriously terrible handwriting mixing German and French terms had to be
>> deciphered in the late 1920s. Then missing words had to be interpolated.
>> Then the text was published, 88 years later, yet a scholar who read it 133
>> years or so later, used it in another context while mistranslating it in
>> English, and possibly did not adequately reference it. Then another scholar
>> wonders 163 years later where the quote really came from, or if Marx really
>> said it. Then through the cooperation of three people plus Internet
>> facilities maintained by other people, we find the quote again in August
>> 2007, but we have to retranslate it, so it makes sense in the context it
>> was
>> originally stated. If Marx had known all this would happen, he'd be amazed.
>> Jurriaan
> --
> Michael Perelman
> Economics Department
> California State University
> michael at
> Chico, CA 95929
> 530-898-5321
> fax 530-898-5901

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