[OPE-L:501] RE: Ric's reply to Mike L's

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Fri, 17 Nov 1995 03:02:40 -0800

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In message Sun, 12 Nov 1995 04:11:11 -0800,
Riccardo Bellofiore <bellofio@cisi.unito.it> writes:

> There has been a lot of misunderstandings between Mike L. and myself. In
> [OPE-L 460] Mike L. says:
>>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!)
> I'm not underrating the Grundrisse. I am - so to speak - a 'Capital vol.
> I' guy who thinks that we cannot understand nothing in the late Marx
> without the filter of the Grundrisse. I was only saying that Marx wrote
> that book in a hurry. It is a fact: nothing more, nothing less. He
> expected, if I remember well, social upheavals coming because of the
> crisis. And then wanted to be 'ready'. You confirm the hurry. Why do you
> 'deduce' in me a theoretical lack of respect from a simple fact you also
> know, and confirm? I have the *highest* esteem of the 1857-58
> Manuscripts.

As one who continues to marvel at the Grundrisse, this makes me very
happy. 8-) However, the reason you stressed the "hurry" originally was to
dismiss the relative importance of the Grundrisse compared to "Vol IV",
which I am contesting. You said "I think 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 said:

>>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.

You responded:

> The true order, starting from the 1861-63 Manuscript, in fact was I, IV,
> III, I, III.

But, why "starting from the 1861-63 Manuscript"? Why aren't you
recognising the Grundrisse as a starting point, as the place where Marx
moved from the simplest determinations and proceeded from there to a
conception of the whole as "a rich totality of many determinations and
relations", --- ie., as the place where we see "the scientifically correct
method"? Again, there appears to be a fundamental difference with respect to
our views of the order of enquiry.

> I agree that Marx's readings in the TSV are theoretically
> informed from what he already knew (but he made discoveries in the writing
> process! this explains the going back and forward). There is no
> disagreement on this. Before the Grundrisse there were the cahiers Marx
> accumulated since 1844, and the work at the British Museum in the early
> '50s. I fully AGREE that this was only the (necessary!) point of departure
> for Marx. And that only *after* having built his essential insights in the
> Grundrisse, Marx was able to go back to interrogate the earlier texts of
> the other economists. Thus, we are not so distant, after all.

Perhaps not, if we agree about the "essential insights in the
Grundrisse". However, I suspect that I am inclined to see in the Grundrisse
more of a *qualitative* break (even an epistemological break) than you.

> BTW, you are not fair, if you refer to me, in saying that I want to
> 'eclectically add' modern economists to Marx.
> The real disagreement between us may be is linked to the following
> question: is there a political economy after Marx? And *if* the reply is
> yes, could the Marxian political economy of today may be constructed
> without 'criticizing' it - in the Marxian sense, i. e. both looking at
> what contemporary political economy uncovers, and at its shortcomings (I
> fully accept Duncan's strictures on 'critique' in OPE-L 422)? But do we
> really disagree? You write: ' 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.' I agree. Simply, I do not exclude a priori that, if the
> object of the critique of the political economy changes, also the method
> *may be* must change. It is something which must be checked. Put in
> another way, the Marxian method is cut off from the content of the
> critique of the political economy? Is it possible that the object of the
> critique changes, and that the method stays there unscathed? This is a
> real question, I've not the answer (now) - but, again, I'm sympathetic
> with what Duncan's says of the connection between method and content in
> the critique of political economy in his OPE-L 422.
I accept that as an interesting question. Do you think that this would
lead to advances which application of the Marxian method as applied to the
real concrete (the real object of critique) would not? If so, why?

> That said, I agree that it is useful to start from Marx's method and
> texts. Before to change something, it is better to know that thing in the
> best way: the change could be for the worse.
Yes, Occam's Razor would suggest this.
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