[OPE-L:292] RE: the order of enquiry

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Thu, 19 Oct 1995 16:09:41 -0700

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I'm far behind in getting around to my own list or brainstorm or in
responding to some of the contributions made so far; however, I have been
meaning to comment upon Alan's argument about Marx's order of enquiry.
In 242, Alan argues that it is important that we understand that Volume IV
(Theories of Surplus Value) was written first--- ie., that the order of
enquiry differed from the order of presentation. Looking at the 1861-3
Economic Manuscripts, he finds that, in the course of his second draft of
CAPITAL, Marx explored the questions of machinery and relative surplus value
and this led him into the next steps in his enquiry.

In message Wed, 11 Oct 1995 09:58:16 -0700,
Alan Freeman <100042.617@compuserve.com> writes:

> Marx wrote Volume IV first. It was during his second draft of
> Capital, when he came to address the question of Machinery
> and Relative Surplus Value....

> With Relative Surplus Value we necessarily have, side by
> side, both Accumulation and Technical Progress. This brings
> is to the heart and life-force of Capital, namely self-
> expanding value; value which not only recreates itself but
> adds to itself. This is the process which Marx wished to
> addresss.
> At this *precise* point he launched into the Theories of
> Surplus Value. And in this process he created all the
> fundamental concepts and constructs which formed the basis of
> Volume III, namely the tendency of the rate of profit to
> equalise, its tendency to fall, crisis, rent, the division of
> surplus value into profit of enterprise and profit of
> supervision, commercial profit, banking profits and interest,
> the formation of revenues and hence of money capital, and so
> on.
> Roughly speaking, Volume III in its rough form was written
> next, and Volume I next. Volume II took him the rest of his
> life, and was never finished. You only have to look at the
> chronology and Engels' introduction to Volume II to see this.
> The manuscripts for Volume II were taken from all over the
> place, and the key fragments date from as late as 1878,
> *three years before Marx's death*!
> Thus the order of *writing*, as opposed to the order of
> *presentation*, was this:
> IV -> III->I-> (break)->II(unfinished)
> -very far from the order of the Plan in any variant. Moreover
> the central unfinished kernel of the work is not at all, as
> is commonly supposed, Marx's theory of price, but his theory
> of *reproduction*.
> My simple contention is that we confront this work as
> enquirers not as presenters. Gerry's suggested approach would
> be appropriate if we were in the position of possessors of
> knowledge who are merely discussing how best to inform the
> world of this knowledge. This directly contradicts the idea
> that we want to discover, to learn, to investigate and to
> enquire which, I take it, is the real goal of the enterprise.

I certainly agree that we should be functioning as enquirers here. From
my perspective, exploring the "plans" was a way for us to talk about Marx's
methodology, a way to avoid trying to extend Marx in an eclectic manner.
However, I don't think I agree with the sequence that Alan has set out.
For me, any discussion of Marx's order of enquiry needs to begin with
the Grundrisse. This is where the essential concepts of Vol I and Vol II
were developed: value, surplus labour and surplus value, the effect of
increases in productivity upon increases in surplus labour, machinery and
the automatic factory, the falling rate of profit argument, the sphere of
production vs the sphere of circulation, the relation between time of
circulation, turnover of capital and capital in the sphere of circulation---
not to mention the determination of the commodity as the appropriate
starting point and, of course, the 6-book meta-plan. Further, the Grundrisse
is clearest about the methodological necessity to analyse capital in general
first before trying to understand many capitals in competition.
I do not deny that Marx went further in some of these areas in 1861-3 (as
he did in the 1859 Contribution, which also includes a history of thought
which I would think Marx would have included in Vol. IV). In particular, I
would add to Alan's list the discovery of the reproduction schema, the basis
for the latter part of the unfinished Vol. II.
Would Alan deny this central place, however, for the Grundrisse, which
would suggest an altered sequence of:

I -> II -> I -> IV ... ?

Further, I worry about Alan's sequence in which II is described as
unfinished and III not. I certainly agree about the latter part of II.
However, what we have for III are just fragments! Eg., why does III start
with cost-price? Shouldn't the ending of II flow logically into III?
In any event, I'm not entirely certain about the significance of all
this. When I look at the suggested order of discussion Alan proposed in
242, it looks a lot like the Vol I sequence. So, I have a feeling that I may
be missing something.
in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 255-0382
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e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca