[OPE-L:108] The Logic of the 6 Book Plan

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Fri, 22 Sep 1995 01:20:20 -0700

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I don't recall Marx ever specifying the logic behind the 6 book plan. So,
I'm going to engage in a little bit of speculation and ask what, if any,
logic lies behind the divisions.

Actually, I don't think this is a very hard question to answer in outline

Book 1 [Capital]:
Why begin with capital? The key to understanding the nature of social
relations and production particular to capitalism lies in the analysis of
capital. The logic of capitalism itself demands that this be the first
major subject studied.

Book 2: [Landed Property]
A somewhat harder question to answer. On the one hand, rent and landed
property should be studied after analysing capital since rent/landed
property are not as fundamental to the logic of capitalism as it was to
the logic of feudalism. Yet, it is an important topic that affects
material reality and therefore needs to be accounted for. Since this
subject relates to the market part of the economy, it should be studied
before non-market topics like the state. Why should it be placed before
the Book on Wage-Labour? [continue reading]

Book 3 [Wage-Labor]
The "last" book that deals with the market part of an economy
[abstracting from the international capitalist economy]. Here we have a
question not merely of logic, but of praxis. I think that Marx wanted to
place this topic after Books 1-2 for political reasons, i.e. to not only
explain wage labor but also to suggest the capacity of the working class
(through self-organization and class consciousness, for example) to bring
about change.

[After writing the above, I noticed the following explanation in
Rosdolsky (p.39): "... the category of capital, as the decisive,
all-prevailing and ruling relation of bourgeois society must be
elaborated before everything else. This means capital in its pure form,
leaving out of consideration all the forms to be derived from the
relation of capital itself. Only then can landed property be developed
insofar as it is a creation of capital, a product of its effect on
pre-capitalist economic forms. However wage-labour, although it
represents both conceptually and historically the fundamental condition
for capital and the capitalist mode of production, requires for its full
development the precondition that this mode of production has taken hold
of the totality of social relations and transformed even the rural
producers into wage-labourers. Consequently, we can only study this
category after we have studied capital and landed property."]

Book 4 [The State]
Before one can study the role of the state, one must first logically
study [in capitalism] the role of value, surplus value, markets,
competition, etc., etc. In other words, since the basis of capitalism is
the "private sector", one must examine that subject before studying the
state. Note how this is basically the same sequence and logic in most
introductory economics textbooks, i.e. you must study the private sector
before you study the public sector.
On the one hand, then, this is an abstraction. On the other hand, there
is a historical logic behind this abstraction. While the state, in
actuality, has always played a role in capitalist development, the extent
of that role has increased alongside the process of capitalist accumulation.

Book 5 [International Trade]
Again, there is a parallel to introductory economics texts. Before one
can study a "open economy", one must first analyse a "closed economy."
The idea of a "closed economy" {like the idea of a capitalist economy
without state intervention} is also a abstraction that mirrors a
historical process. That is, with the development of capitalism the role
of foreign trade grows proportionally. This could be seen, in part, as a
logical consequence of the ongoing process of concentration and

Book 6 [World Market and Crises]
After one understands the basics of international trade, then one goes
on next to consider the development of world markets, internationalization
of capital, and world crisis.

Books 7?... 8?... 9?... 10?, etc. What other topics are not covered by
the logical structure above? Can all of the determinations that affect
material reality be pidgeon-holed into the logical scheme above?

In OPE-L solidarity,