Re: [OPE] The English sub-titling of 'Capital'?

From: christopher arthur <>
Date: Wed May 27 2009 - 07:16:35 EDT

I agree the omission in the French of 'Critique" is embarrassing for
those of us who interpret Marx that way. Here is an extended passage
from my paper already cited.
The key thing here is the existence of the French edition, virtually
written by Marx himself, since he went over every word as Roy
submitted it to him, section by section, correcting it, freely
editing his own text, and inserting many new passages to the point
where he felt able to add a note at the end informing the reader that
the French edition ‘possessed a scientific value independent of the
original and must be consulted even by readers familiar with German’.
[1] Given this, the strategy of comparing the English edition
supervised by Engels with the German original, in order to detect
interference by him, is defective. The fact is that changes made by
Engels generally follow changes Marx had already made in the French.

Of great importance in this connection are Marx’s letters to N.
Danielson, his Russian translator. —For example: ‘In regard to the
second edition of Capital … I wish that the division into chapters -
and the same goes for the subdivisions - be made according to the
French edition.’[2] No doubt he gave Engels the same instructions.

Given this, it is odd that Ben Fowkes in his modern translation
published by Penguin should attribute the English chapter divisions
to ‘Engels’s arrangement’[3] without mentioning why this was done.
Also A. Oakley, following Fowkes, complains that ‘Engels chose to
rearrange’ the chapter and part divisions of Capital; for the English
ones do not follow the German.[4] Quite so. They do not. They follow
the French![5] From the second edition on, the German has 25 chapters
in 7 parts. The French, and later the English, has 33 chapters in 8

Still more astonishing, given his erudition, is that Hal Draper
failed to say this in his monumental Marx-Engels Cyclopedia. In
Volume Two, The Marx-Engels Register, he says that Engels renumbered
the chapters for the English edition, but he does not say why; nor
does he mention the matter of renumbering when dealing with the
French edition.[6]

Raya Dunayevskaya, in spite of calling attention to the importance of
the French edition, became confused herself when (probably misled by
Fowkes) she charged Engels with creating ‘a new Part Eight’ for the
section on ‘so-called Primitive Accumulation’; this was a mistake in
her view ‘for that section … should have been inseparable from [that
on] the Accumulation of Capital’.[7] But — alas! — the culprit was
Marx, who himself introduced ‘Huitiéme section. L’accumulation
primitive’! Engels was simply copying his master in preparing the
English with the same divisions.

More alarming to students than the chapter renumbering may be the
fact that the very title was changed in Engels’s English edition. The
German book was Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Oekonomie and the
first volume was Der Produktionsprocess des Kapitals. The English
version put out by Engels in 1887 was called Capital: A Critical
Analysis of Capitalist Production with the first part called
Capitalist Production.[8]

It seems to me that these are very different in that the emphasis in
the German seems to be on how capital produces itself as a value form
(with a promise of how it circulates to come), whereas the English
sounds rather more pedestrian: there is production in general but
here we look specifically at its capitalist form. However, whether
there is anything in such reflections or not, Engels was not the
originator of a deviation from the German. For Marx’s French edition
was called simply Le Capital with the first volume called
Développement de la Production Capitaliste. The English version was a
cross between the two earlier ones.[9]

In general the lesson is that no assessment of Engels’s work as
editor of Marx’s Volume One can be made without close examination of
the French edition. It seems certain that Marx instructed him to use
this as a guide for other translations; for he wrote to Danielson: ‘I
was obliged to rewrite whole passages in French to make them
accessible for the French public. Later it will be so much easier to
translate from the French into English.’[10] But then he had doubts
about the French, complaining to Danielson in 1878 that he was
‘sometimes obliged - principally in the first chapter - to “aplatir”
the matter in its French version’.[11] (t might be thought the same
‘flattening’ happened to the 1887 English version.) A few days later,
probably with this in mind, he decided that ‘the first two sections
(“Commodities and Money” and “The Transformation of Money into
Capital”) are to be translated exclusively from the German text’.[12]

The French is a great help in other matters too: for instance, when
translating from the German, the French can be consulted for guidance.

  At all events, it should be noted that Engels did not feel it
incumbent on him to annotate his editions as carefully as we might
demand today. For example, the explicit reference to Hegel in note 21
of his English edition does not occur in any German or French
edition, and was therefore inserted by Engels without particular

An omission, which has acquired importance because of the central
place given to the term ‘Träger’ in structuralist interpretations of
Capital [15], occurs in chapter 2. After Marx said that ‘the
characters who appear on the economic stage are but the
personifications of the economical relations that exist between
them’[16], he added: ‘it is as bearers [Träger] of these economic
relations that they come into contact with each other’[17]. Engels
missed this out; but in doing so he was simply following the French.
[18] (What is odd, however, is that in neither of the respective
Apparat volumes to the French and English MEGA editions is the
omission noted![19])

But sometimes the Engels edition unaccountably omits something. For
example, the sentence ‘What is the case with the forces of nature,
holds for science too.’ is left out of the chapter on machinery after
the reference to ‘the elasticity of steam’.[20] (Oddly, the Fowkes
translation which claims to restore ‘whole sentences omitted by
Engels’[21] does not restore this one[22] even though it is there in
the Werke edition from which the translation was made.[23])

Engels’s Prefaces to the Third and Fourth German editions indicate
his reliance on notes left by Marx on what was to be incorporated
from the French. Engels’s additions were not consistent, however. The
sentence ‘The religious world is but the reflex of the real world.’
added to the English from the French[24] he failed to put in these
German editions.

An example where a mere word may make all the difference to the
reading of a passage occurs in the case of the controversial topic of
skilled labour. Bernstein claimed to have found a passage in Capital
in which it appeared that Marx had directly derived the higher value
produced in a given time by skilled labour from the higher value of
that sort of labour power. The sentence quoted was: ‘Ist der Wert
dieser Kraft höher, so äussert sie sich aber auch in höherer Arbeit
und vergegenständlicht sich daher, in denselben Zeiträumen, in
verhältnissmässig höheren Werten.’[25]

Hilferding, in his polemic of 1904 against Böhm-Bawerk, digressed
from his main theme in order to point out that the sentence does not
say what Bernstein claimed it does. (It is in truth compatible with
the Marxian axiom that the value of a product cannot come from the
‘value of labour’.) He argued further that, for it to do so, ‘aber’
would have to be changed to ‘daher’.[26] Bernstein was using the
second edition, Hilferding the third; but, as Hilferding’s
translators point out in a note, in the fourth edition, edited by
Engels, ‘aber’ is replaced by ‘daher’![27]

As Hilferding pointed out, the issue under discussion is
valorisation, so Marx’s purpose in raising the topic of skilled
labour is to argue that it makes no difference to the basic process.
Even if the skilled labourer receives a higher wage, surplus value is
still obtained because he produces more value in a given time. Given
this, it is clear that ‘aber’ is needed to emphasise this point. I
would translate: ‘Albeit of higher value, this power manifests
itself, however [aber], in labour of a higher sort, [which]
objectifies itself therefore … in proportionately higher values.’
Substituting ‘daher’ (‘therefore’) considerably weakens the force of
the sentence, and could indeed lead to a Bernsteinian reading, as
Hilferding thought. In fact, Engels is doubly at fault; for he let
pass a sloppy translation of this sentence in the English edition:
‘This power being of a higher value, its consumption is labour of a
higher class, labour that creates in equal times proportionately
higher values....’[28] – ‘aber’ has simply disappeared!

[1] Le Capital Paris 1872-75 tr. M. J. Roy; MEGA II 7 p.690

[2] Letter to Danielson 15 Nov. 1878; Letters on Capital p.190.

[3] Capital I (Fowkes Trans.) p.110.

[4] Allen Oakley The Making of Marx’s Critical Theory (1983) p.98.

[5] The Pauls when translating (1928) from the fourth (1890) German
edition deal with the different chapter numberings from the earlier
translation by falsely informing the reader that earlier German
editions of Capital had more chapters.(Everyman edition p.xliv)

[6] Op. cit.: p.28, p.27, p.188.

[7] Talk of 5 Aug 1986 published in News & Letters November 1990, p.
4. Also see her Rosa Luxemburg and Women's Liberation (1982) p.139n.,
and her Women’s Liberation and the Dialectic of Revolution (1985) p.
254, p.200, and p.59.

[8] Translated from the third German edition by Samuel Moore and
Edward Aveling: see MEGA II 9.

[9] A 1954 edition, originating from Foreign Languages Publishing
House of Moscow, continued with Engels’s title. But in 1965, without
notice, the same translation (now from Progress Publishers) had its
title changed to correspond with the German: Capital: A Critique of
Political Economy, Volume I, Book One, The Process of Production of
Capital. The 1983 publication by Lawrence & Wishart, London, of this
edition, printed in the USSR, is so titled; and in accordance with
the above-mentioned reflections, I complied with the new format in
preparing my Student Edition (Lawrence & Wishart 1992) on the basis
of this edition.

[10] Letter to Danielson 28 May 1872. See also Marx to Sorge 27
Sept. 1877, CW45 pp.276-77. But note that Engels did not like the
French. (Letter to Marx 29 Nov. 1873.)

[11] Letter to Danielson 15 Nov. 1878, CW45 p. 343.

[12] 28 Nov. 1878, CW45 p.346.

[13] See my note in Science and Society (Summer 1990), using the
French, for an important case where the Engels edition is to be
preferred to the modern translation by Fowkes.

[14] Capital I (1983 ed.) p.63; MEGA II 9 p.49. The Apparat volume
to the MEGA edition of the first English translation of 1887 has an
inventory of deviations of the translation from the third German
edition on which it was based.

[15] This debate was initiated by Althusser and Balibar in their
Reading Capital (English trans. 1970). See the Index and Glossary
under ‘support’.

[16] Capital I (1983 ed.) p.89; MEGA II 9 p.74.

[17] Op. cit. (3rd German Edition) MEGA II 8 p. 112: ‘als deren
Träger sie sich gegenübertreten’. Capital I (Fowkes trans.) p.179.

[18] MEGA II 7 p.64; MEGA II 9 p.74. In view of its interest, I
restored the sentence in my Student Edition: p.41, otherwise based on
the 1983 edition published by Lawrence & Wishart.

[19] MEGA II 7 p.790; MEGA II 9 p. 739.

[20] Capital I (1983 ed.) p.365; MEGA II 9 p.337; Apparat p. 754. It
is in the French: MEGA II 7 p.331.

[21] Capital I (Fowkes Trans.) Translator’s Preface p.87.

[22] Capital I (Fowkes Trans.) p.508.

[23] Das Kapital, Erster Band; Marx-Engels Werke, vol. 23 Berlin
(1962) 1983 p.407. M. Postone has already pointed out the omission in
Fowkes (Time, labor, and social domination, 1993, p.338).

[24] Capital I (1983 ed.) p.83; MEGA II 9 p.69; MEGA II 7 p.59.
Another example is the note on Necker (Capital I, 1983 ed., p. 552;
MEGA II 9 p.510) which is not in any German edition. See for Engels’s
editorial principles Capital I (1983 ed.), Pref. to English ed. p.14.

[25] MEGA II 5 Capital 1867 p.147. In the French edition (MEGA II 7
p. 162) the sentence is omitted, and replaced by other matter.

[26] Rudolf Hilferding Böhm-Bawerk’s criticism of Marx, [trans. by
E. & C. Paul] ed. P. Sweezy, London, Merlin Press, 1975, pp.141-43.

[27] Ibid 143n. It isn’t clear why Hilferding did not use the fourth

[28] Capital I (1983 ed.) p.192; MEGA II 9 Capital 1887, p. 171-2.
Fowkes, translating from the fourth edition, is faced with ‘daher’ of
course (Das Kapital, MEW 23 p.212), and gives: ‘This power being of a
higher value, it expresses itself in labour of a higher
sort...etc.’Capital I (Fowkes Trans.) p.305.

christopher j. arthur

On 26 May 2009, at 20:24, Paul Zarembka wrote:

> Another major issue in marxist economics, Anders, regards the role,
> or lack thereof, of Hegel. Progressive German editions of Vol. 1
> reflect
> a reduced role of Hegelian language, and the French edition, the
> most so. Thus, a simpler titling may be reflective of Marx's
> decreasing
> interest in Hegelian thought as being important for understanding
> the capitalist mode of production. Such a trend downward can be
> claimed to
> start for Marx in the 1840s, but never fully completed (which is a
> reason we still discuss the significance of Hegel).
> In any case, I think Jerry makes a good point in asking us to think
> about any other major scientific advance defined significantly by
> a 'critique' - in this case, of classical political economy. I
> could ask whether 'critiquing' (which is, in fact, thinking about
> thinking)
> is not a form of idealism.
> Paul Z.
>> But on any major issues "haunting" Marxist economics
>> (transformation problem, productive and unproductive labour,
>> commodity vs. fiat money
>> etc.) - the editions are equal, the solution to the problem must be
>> sought in creative reflection/confrontation on various theories -
>> and not the least - the stylized facts of economic reality.
>> Just my 2 cents
>> Anders E
> _______________________________________________
> ope mailing list

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Received on Wed May 27 07:21:49 2009

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