[OPE-L:460] RE: Comments from Riccardo-1

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Thu, 9 Nov 1995 10:50:21 -0800

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In message Sat, 4 Nov 1995 04:12:20 -0800,
Riccardo Bellofiore <bellofio@cisi.unito.it> writes:

> It was asked to Mr K. what he was doing. He replied: I'm working hard
> preparing my next error.
> Bertolt Brecht

Riccardo gives me an opportunity to offer my favourite Brecht, which seems
especially appropriate in the light of one of the things we tried to
explore earlier:

"I've noticed, said Herr K, that a lot of people are put off from our
teaching because we know the answer to everything. Couldn't we in the
interests of propaganda draw up a list of questions which appear to us
completely unresolved?"

> Comrades, if we look at Marx's order of enquiry, as Alan
> reconstructed it, it started with TSV. Then, Marx studied the politicla
> economy of his time *before* starting to write (another) version of what
> will become in due course Capital, vol. I. I t hink Michael L. is right,
> we must take into account the Grundrisse, but that does not change much:
> it was written in a great hurry *after* years of studying Smith and
> Ricardo, Malthus and Sismondi, Tooke and Fullarton.

I believe that this argument greatly understates the significance
of the Grundrisse in general and with respect to Marx's enquiry and,
further, that it has a significant effect upon our understanding of Marx's
methodolody and our own order of enquiry. It is, of course, true that Marx
spent many years studying Smith, et al before writing the Grundrisse. It is
also true that in the years preceding the Grundrisse he was intensely
involved in concrete analysis of monetary developments, trade patterns,
government budgets, labour struggles and cyclical movements and wrote about
these in his Tribune articles. All of this, however, was merely the first
step in his enquiry, its "point of departure". But what followed?
Consider Marx's statement in the Postface to the Second Edition (Vintage,
102). "Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of
inquiry. The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyse
its different forms of development and to track down their inner
connection." I suggest that this is *precisely* what occurs in the
Grundrisse--- in particular, the tracking down of the inner connection. We
watch this unfold before our very eyes--- Marx saying, at what point do I
bring this in, not yet, not yet, we must establish the inner connection. I
don't know why Riccardo dismisses this as written in a hurry--- the
connections established are at the core of what is presented in CAPITAL.
(It's true, he said he was "working like mad all night" at one point, but
haven't we all!)
This is why I challenged in 377 Alan's argument that the method of
enquiry begins with Vol. IV (ie., TSV). Rather, it was only *after* Marx had
developed those absolutely essential insights I noted in the Grundrisse that
he was able to proceed to go back to interrogate those earlier texts on the
basis of this new understanding, an activity in the course of which he was
able to develop further his understanding of capitalism as an organic
system. Ie., Marx's critique of the "economic categories", his discovery of
that hidden inner, precedes his ability to offer a critique and history of
political economy.
In this respect, to elevate Vol IV to the position of the start of Marx's
order of enquiry is incorrect; and, it creates the presumption that we
should go thou and do likewise. I believe that, while that may correspond to
the current project of some members of this list in their outside activity,
for us to extend Marx we have to be very clear on precisely what Marx did,
on his methodology. Rather than picking modern economists to critique and
eclectically adding to Marx, we need to develop a way to know--- at what
point do we, can we, introduce these elements into the argument in an
organic manner.
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