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

From: Anders Ekeland <>
Date: Wed May 27 2009 - 08:07:43 EDT

Chris has some very good points here, regarding
the French/English/German edition(s). But, since
he points to the "aber" versus "daher"
controversy regarding simple and complex labour,
one might ask why Engels in the subsequent (3rd
and 4th) editions of the German Kapital did not
use the French solution - I have not studied that "problem".

I presented a paper on heterogeneous labour at
the 2007 Ass. of Hetero. Ec. conf. - the relevant
passage quoted below. But I really want to as
Chris, does he think that any of the major
problems of Marxian economics stems from bad
translations, modifications made by Engels etc.

I am of course in favour of scholarly editions,
the MEGA is a great tool when studying the
process of the formation of Marx&Engels economic
thought, but I really think we need to think
ourselves, to solve the *real*
theoretical/political problems of Marxian
economics. Textual exegesis will be of limited
value. Blaming Engles or Progress will have negative value.


---------------- on the difference of the French
and the German editions regarding heterogeneous labour ----

"The second German edition was published in 1873
– two years before – so not all revisions could
have been transferred to the original and the
change made in the “education cost” passage was
not. Why Engels did not include it in the third
and fourth German edition is a question I have not studied.

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.[1]

There are several minor differences for example
that the passage does not start with “on a
previous page” and that Marx warns those
economists that cry out against this arbitrary
assertion that they do not see the wood for the
trees, but the core of the passage is almost
identical to the German “education cost” passage.
Marx uses the now well-known spinner (fileur) as
an example of simple labour and the jeweller
(bijoutier) as an example of complex labour. There are two main differences: ‘

a) that the "whose production has cost more time
and labour" is replaced by the much more general
"une force plus difficile the former" = “a power
more difficult to form/educate/make
competent”. In French the word "formation” often
has the meaning "education". But it is not the
meaning of the word “former” in this context
which is really important. It is the absence of
“production” and all the problems that this word
produces, since labour power is not produced
under the same profit seeking logic as ordinary
commodities. One could ask if the bijoutier
really needs more years to be “formed” than
Braverman's farm worker, but probably more than a
“mere spinner”. But the “education cost” solution
favoured by Marxists like Hilferding and
Rosdolsky do get significantly less support in
this last and most authoritative version of Marx Capital.

b) The most important difference comes in the
final sentence where Marx makes the labour
producing gold or money to a kind of numeraire:
"Par cela meme 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." One possible translation to English
is: “In the same way these different types of
labour, represented by their values, have been
reduced, in different proportions by one sole
kind of simple labour, the labour that produces gold or silver[2]".

Whatever the correct translation of this ”French"
solution is, there is in my opinion no doubt that
that nowhere in the German/English editions is
the gold producing labour given any particular
role. One interpretation might be that the
gold/money producing labour here is the
“particular kind of labour” that Marx quotes from
Cazenove. But in my opinion it would be more in
the spirit of Capital to se the gold producing
labour as the labour that directly produces the
monetary expression of labour time (MELT). It is
beyond the scope of this article to discuss the
role of money, commodity money versus “symbolic”
money, but there is no doubt that for Marx, the
gold producing labour was special as have been
argued for example by Ernest Mandel (1984).

[1] Quoted from
The two footnotes, including the "the long
footnote" are just translated from the German version.
[2] Argent can be mean both silver or money, but
in this context my feeling is that silver is the most accurate translation.

At 13:16 27.05.2009, you wrote:
>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 parts.
>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.[13]
> 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 notice.[14]
>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 edition.
>[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
>ope mailing list

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Received on Wed May 27 08:11:57 2009

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