[OPE-L:629] Re: Order of enquiry and critique

Paul Zarembka (ECOPAULZ@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)
Sat, 2 Dec 1995 20:16:15 -0800

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On Sat, 2 Dec 1995 akliman@acl.nyit.edu wrote:

> 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?

Andrew I don't know what you are asking. If "relations" means
capital--wage-labor, lord-serf, citizen-slave relations, then these are
relations of modes of production (a theoretical category). Applied to
social formations, there is even elements of feudalism and slavery in the
world today but they are no where near dominant anywhere. Or do I do
misunderstand your question?

> 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.

OK, no problem. BUT nobody I know of is arguing to simply drop or omit
Part I completely, but some are arguing that Part I contains Hegelianisms
and otherwise contains weaknesses partly reflecting that it is drawn from
the 1858-9 "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy". Yes,
he did publish Part I in 1867, but one can argue that Marx needed it yet
hadn't really polished it off.

> 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.

Some day we'll have a CD-ROM version and will be able to Hypersearch
citations. For now, thanks and I'm looking in my yellowed, broken-binding
copy of the Vintage edition. [7 minutes later.] I've found the reference to
socially valid on p. 169, lines 12-13, but not the reference to absurd unless
you mean the prior paragraph (in which case the absurdity is in asserting
linen to be a universal incarnation of abstract human labor--for me an
unexpectional statement). Given what you write below I guess I just
don't understand what you're getting at.

> 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.

I think we are pretty close, though.

Paul Zarembka