[OPE-L:2063] Re: Translator's lot is not a happy one

rakesh bhandari (djones@uclink.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 2 May 1996 13:40:21 -0700

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Riccardo's last post discussed errors in translation.

Hans Georg Backhaus has discussed the impossibility of translation, as
already raised by Alan; in particular Backhaus has discussed the
significance of Marx's analysis of 'sensuous, supersensuous things':

"Economic forms are deranged. Marx here intentionally makes use of the
ambiguity of this word, an ambiguity which is innate to the German language
alone. Thus, on the one hand, money is a 'deranged (verrueckte) form' in
the sense that it is the most 'nonsensical, most unintelligible form', that
is, it is 'pure madness (reine Verruecktheit)(G 928). On the other hand,
money is a deranged form also in the other, spatial sense of 'derangement'
(Verruecktheit), as an object which is de-ranged (Verruectes), dis-placed
out of its natural locus. It is not merely 'sensuous' but also a
'supersensuous thing', and as such it is a thing which has been transferred
and dis-placed into the external world which is independent from
consciousness. This displacement 'results from the economic process
itself' (G 934). Hence this displacement can be characterised as
'transposition': namely as the 'necessary process' by which labour 'posits
its own forces as alien to the worker' (G 216). Marx also used the tern
'projection' (K 1/634), synonymously with 'transposition'. Thus forms are
also 'deranged' (K1/90) in thes the sense that they are dis-placed,
transposed, and projected into a 'supersensuous' domain. This as it were
spatial dis-placement results in something equally deranged, namely a
sensuous ojbect which is at the same time a supersensuous object.

"That both meanings of Verruecktheit fuse together in this case, is
obviously an essential trait of economic forms. Of course, academic
economics only knows the result of this dis-placement--the ' finished' or a
priori formations, the inhuman elements, the 'things outside of the human
being'--provided that the human is in the first instance only hypothetical.
It is the task of economy as 'critical theory' to exhibit the 'genesis' of
these 'deranged' or 'alienated' forms, that is to show their human origin.
Marx makes explicit why he begins with the analysis of classical economy:
because 'the forms of alienation keeps classical and thus critical
economists busy and [because they] try to do away with these forms in their
analysis' (T3/493). The forms are alien to each other, but they are also
something 'immediate' for human beings. The price of production is an
aggregate of 'alienated forms'. For marx it is not its quantitative
determination, but the 'doing away with the alienated forms' which
constitutes the main task of critical economy., which sees itself to
diametrically opposed ot mathematical economics, which, indeed feels
'completetely at home in *alienation*, that is to say, in its element (bei

If Joan Robinson demands the 'translation' of marxian terminology, this
demand unwittingly betrays the fact that even left neo-Ricardianism
mistakes 'alienated forms' for 'natural ones' (K3/838), 'floats' in them as
in its 'natural element' (T3/493). What is at issue here is a way of
thingking that 'possesses the natural air of superficial 'rationalism'
(K2/96), which considers the produced forms to be 'natural,' to be
structures of naturre which are not produced by us." (61-4)

"Between Philosophy and Science: Marxian Social Econly as Critical Theory"
in Open Marxism, vol I: Dialectics and History. Ed. Werner Bonefeld, et al.
London: Pluto, 1992.


ps I am wondering whether Andrew and Ted would agree that their humanist
interpretation of Marx is similar to Backhaus's critical theory