[OPE-L:3017] Re: The "Scorecard"

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 14 Sep 1996 07:33:00 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

Some comments related to Andrew's [OPE-L:3012]:

(1) Interpreting Marx

If the *object* is to evaluate the relative merits of different
interpretations of Marx, then the following (while not a
"scorecard") is relevant:

"The reading of _Capital_ as a dialectical theory of categories
is the only one that fulfills a basic canon for any
interpretation of the work. The canon is quite obvious. And yet
other interpretations, however illuminating they are in many
respects, fail to meet it. It is simply this: an interpretation
of _Capital_ must be able to account for the main features of
the work as a whole, all three volumes" (Tony Smith, _The
logic of Marx's Capital: Replies to Hegelian criticisms, Albany,
State University of New York Press, pp. 26-27).

Do others agree with Tony's "canon"?

In the above work, Tony does not present a "scorecard" which
compares Marx's "results" to different interpretations re
"equalities and inequalities" and "relations of determination."
Instead, Tony confronts both the "direct" and "indirect arguments"
(for reading _Capital_ in terms of Hegelian dialectical logic) and
then discusses in a systematic way the "ordering" of categories in
the three volumes of _Capital_. In other words (my words), there is
a critical evaluation of the existing interpretations (secondary
literature) followed by -- in terms of the order of presentation --
a review of _Capital_ taken as a whole, followed, of course, by

A question: is the above a reasonable procedure for the
critical evaluation of different interpretations of _Capital_?


(a) Of course, it is necessary to not only critically confront the
literature at the time a work is written but to then re-evaluate
one's interpretation in the light of new interpretations. For
instance, Tony's book does not confront the following works
which were published after Tony's book:

-- Rob Beamish _Marx, Method, and the Division of Labor_,
Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1992

-- Makoto Itoh _The Basic Theory of Capitalism: The Forms and
Substance of the Capitalist Economy_, Totowa, NJ, Barnes &
Noble Books, 1988 (actually published 2 years before Tony's

-- Michael A. Lebowitz _Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy
of the Working Class_, New York, St. Martin's Press, 1992

-- Felton C. Shortall _The Incomplete Marx_, Aldershot, Avebury,

Moreover, as I'm sure Tony would be the first to admit, some
other existing interpretations aren't confronted at all (e.g.
Althusser, Negri, Cleever, Dunayevskaya).

(b) There is much in Chapter 2 ("Dialectical Logic in Marx's Work")
that is of relevance to recent OPE-L discussions on method (Andrew
and Ted, for example, take note).

(2) Understanding Capitalism

Understanding and critically evaluating different interpretations of
Marx is *only* one part of the process of critique and critically
understanding CAPITALISM (rather than _Capital_). *Even if* one
interpretation of _Capital_ can be said to be a more accurate
interpretation, that does not *by itself* necessarily advance our
understanding of capitalism.

Do others agree?

While critically evaluating and interpreting Marx is obviously
important, I believe that it is similarly important for Marxists
today to avoid *hermenutics*.

Do others agree?

What, then, are the major areas related to *understanding capitalism*
that need further research and theorization?

In OPE-L Solidarity,