[OPE-L:607] Re: categories in historical time

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Thu, 30 Nov 1995 12:05:47 -0800

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Michael P. wrote [OPE-L:591]:

>The recent debate about abstract labor reinforces my belief that Marx had
>no choice but to revert to a historical development of his categories to
>break the gordian knot that we see repeated here.
>By setting the discussion in a historical perspective and building up
>from there, Marx can simplfy his explanation -- by trimming down the
>totality. For this reason, I suggested the importance of taking some
>of the historical approach to value seriously. Am I the only one to see
>[imagine?] this point?

How did Marx revert to a historical development of his categories?
What exactly do you mean by a "historical approach"?
To the point under recent discussion: does Part 1 refer to capitalism or
to a pre-capitalist "simple commodity production"?

In the discussion, I keep seeing references to the idea that when Marx
>discussed X, he had presumably already posited Y,X.... Yes, I agree, but
>then how do you explain that totality to the uninitiated reader in Vol. 1,
>Chapter 1?
>Maybe I am beating on a dead horse, but it seems to me that we have to look
>at Capital on 2 dimensions: How does a discussion fit in with Marx's vision
>of a totality of relations and How does he have to explain this to the
>uninitiated reader.

It is difficult. One important step is to discuss with uninitiated readers
Marx's logical method, so that they have at least an initial idea of how
Chapter 1 fits in with the overall logical structure of Capital. And
perhaps also to point out Marx's forewarning you mentioned about the
beginning of any science is the hardest and also another forewarning in the
Preface to the French edition:
There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread
the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining
its luminous summits. (C.I. 104)
I assure students that they will at times find the study of Capital
fatiguing, but also that I think the effort will be worth it because they
will learn a new perspective on the world (the "luminious summits").

But I want to keep separate two different issues: (1) Marx's logical method
in Chapter 1 and beyond; and (2) the pedagogical issue of how best to teach
Capital to others. The first issue is the main one I am interested in right

Fred Moseley