[OPE-L:622] Re: Order of enquiry and critique

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Sat, 2 Dec 1995 08:30:17 -0800

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Andrew here. I bow to Paul Zarembka's superior knowledge and understanding
of Althusser. So let's just say I'm not sure why Althusser wanted "the
workers" to skip over the first part of _Capital_. And let me ask a
question: did Althusser think that it was only these *categories* (commodity
abstract labor value) that were historical and characterisitcally
capitalist, or also the *relations* to which they refer? (Or perhaps the
difference is unthinkable in Althusserian terms?) Although I misspoke
and used the term "categories" in a slipshod way in my earlier posts, I
really had "relations in mind."

When I criticized Althusser's "recommendation" that the workers skip over
Part I by saying that Marx's text should be allowed to speak for itself,
i.e., "the workers" should come to their own conclusion, I certsinly was
*not* recommending anything so absurd as putting the issue to a vote.
I *was* saying that everyone needs to and should be permitted to make up
his/her own mind. They need to and should be permitted to come to their
own conclusions regarding the relation of Part I to the rest of _Capital_,
which simply becomes impossible if Part I is omitted, and which encourages
different conclusions than if the text as read as written. Theoretical
matters and perspectives are of course not something to be decided by votes,
but working people can think for themselves and don't need an intellectual
vanguard coming from outside to pre-judge the issues for them.

As to Marx's remarks that the categories of bourgeois economics are both
socially valid and absurd: I don't have the text in front of me, but it
is approximately in the middle of the fetsihism section (4) of Ch. 1 of
_Capital_, Vol. I. In the Vintage ed., it is on or somewhere around p.
167. Marx writes that to say that boots exchange with linen because
linen is the universal incarnation of abstract human labor is plainly
absurd. But when we bring boots into relation with linen, or with gold
or silver--and that makes no difference here--we engage in this absurdity
(this last phrase is a "freer," less well-remembered one, than the rest).
Then Marx immediately says, the categories of bourgeois economics consist
precisely of forms of this kind. They are forms of though which are
socially valid, and theefore objective, for this historically determined mode
of commodity production. He goes on to indicate that they are not valid
or objective for other modes of production.

Please do look it up for yourself--I'm just trying to give you enough to
locate the passage easily.