[OPE-L:529] Re: Order of enquiry and critique

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Tue, 21 Nov 1995 17:08:23 -0800

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I found Jerry's post about philosophy and critique very interesting (ope-l:
509). One thing we know is that Marx's critique of political economy went
hand in hand with his philosophical work. A couple of months ago, I tried to
find out the answer to the following--why did Marx write _Capital_. I never
found out the answer because, it seems, he had the intention of doing so
(writing a major critique of political economy) almost from the time he founded
Marxism. That is, shortly after finishing the Economic and Philosophical
Manuscripts, he had already announced his intention of writing a major
published work on the question (i.e., not just an article). BTW, in the
very first extant letter of Engels to Marx, Engels was already urging him to
hurry up and finish it! This was October of 1844, I believe. By 1845, Marx
had a book contract.

Marcuse was the first to note that in the 1844 Manuscripts, Marx at first
proceeded along with the economists in treating wages, rent, and profit
separately--even dividing his pages in three. But when he comes to "Alienated
Labor," he suddenly begins writing across the page. Marx himself notes at the
beginning of the essay that he had been treating these categories separately,
and now realized that was insufficient, but the meaning of this isn't fully
realized until you know about the tripartite division of pages. Clearly,
the notion that property incomes all come from surplus-value as a single
source derives from that date--this was, according to Marx, one of the 2 best
points about _Capital_. So, too, I think, Marx's focus on the dependence of
property income on alienated labor in the process of production begins here.

Now, I'm certainly not claiming there were no changes in Marx's thinking
between 1844 and 1867 or 1872-75 (French ed. of _Capital_). I am sugesting
that the impulse behind the work was formed early on. (As to changes in
Marx's thinking, and the *character* of his critique, I think John Mepham's
response to Rosdolsky is brilliant. Mepham shows effectively, I think, the
severe problems in Rosdolsky's methodology of imputing categories and
analyses from the Grundrisse directly into _Capital_.)

With respect to Jerry's particular arguments/questions: I'm not sure we can
say that Marx's critique of political economy *presupposed* his critique of
philosophy, in the sense that he had to have one first, the other second.
Certainly the 1844 Mss. do not make that kind of division. Moreover,
much of Hegel's philosophy really incorporates Smith's political economy into
itself. This is especially apparent in Hegel's unpublished "First System,"
but the general problematic of bourgeois society's alienation and division
of labor runs throughout Hegel's thinking. And--maybe more importantly--
Marx took a lot from Hegel on labor as a negative, purposive, and transcendent
activity. And then there's Feuerbach's critique of religious alienation,
which Marx appreciated but transformed by recognizing that it isn't enough
to critique illusory appearances--such a critique must be tied to the real
essence that gives rise to such appearances. This element of his thinking
reappears continuously from his 1845 Theses on Feuerbach through the
discussion of fetishism in _Capital_.

So again, the idea of first a critique of philosophy, then a critique of
political economy doesn't sit quite right with me. I think it may be more
precise to say that philosophy and economics were inseparable for Marx,
that his critique of political economy was a philosophically grounded
critique--the very term "critique" is strongly suggestive, and I find it
very hard to understand Ch. 1 of _Capital_ in other terms. What other
"economist" has ever critiqued the categories of economics, in themselves
and as a critique of the society of which they are its forms of thought?
As Coletti noted, "scientists" critique others *views* of reality, by
appealing to reality itself. But for Marx, capitalist reality was a
counterfeit standard--his critique of political economy (especially of
the scientific kind, classical PE) was a critique not of "inaccurate
thinking" but of thinking that was "inverted" because it did correspond
to capitalist reality, which was itself "inverted." Now, actually, Colletti
at first said Marx only *appears* to be doing this, but a few years later
Colletti recognized (conceded?) that Marx was not the "scientific materialist"
he had earlier made Marx out to be, and so Colletti renounced Marxism in favor
of science and materialism. (Interestingly, Stalin ordered that the teaching
of _Capital_ not begin with chapter 1, and decades later, Althusser
"recommended" the same thing "for the workers.")

Accordingly, I don't think it would help much first to critique modern
philosophy, then modern economics. I do think it is important to understand
how economic relations appear nowadays to the capitalists and their
theoretical representatives (and state planners), and to understand the links
between these appearances and the essential relations--how they express but
also perhaps distort the essence. The other lesson seems to me to be that
MArx's work must be understood in terms of his own project, and not as
another "political economy." When read that way, or used that way, perhaps,
it is likely to get distorted.

But I fully agree with Jerry that Marx's work in philosophy is integral to
his critique of PE, as should be clear from the above.

Andrew Kliman