[OPE-L:3716] Re: transFORMation

Gerald Lev (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 01:41:29 -0800 (PST)

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Chai-on wrote in [OPE-L:3714]:

> Maybe, for Marx, the English word, "transformation" might have have been
> more adequate to his idea than the German word, "Verwandlung". Why not?

This seems highly unlikely, IMHO.

To begin with, Marx was familiar with English and sometimes used English
expressions where those expressions had a particular meaning that he
wanted to convey. This was particularly the case in his correspondence
(e.g. he seemed to like the expression "in a nutshell").

Had Marx thought that "transformation" captured the process that he was
describing better than "verwandlung", one might think that he would have
mentioned this since "verwandlung" appears at crucial stages in the
developmental presentation of _Capital_.

We are all aware, moreover, that certain words and expressions in German
don't have an identical counterpart in English. This is the case for
expressions in philosophy in general and Hegelianism in particular. I
don't have the original German versions of Hegel's writings, but I suspect
that: a) Hegel, at various ponts, used "verwandlung"; and b) in English
translations of Hegel's writings "verwandlung" has not been rendered into
English as "transformation" (including the newer, more accurate
translations by A.V. Miller).

None of the above, of course, can be inferred to mean that the
subject that Marx is describing does not imply a transition in forms.
However, it suggests that a too literal concentration on "transformation"
may be reading more into the text than is actually there.

Anyway ... is there anyone out there who can shed more light on this
question than myself (since I am, by no means, an expert on the German

In solidarity,


PS: I'll be leaving NYC (and Net access) later today for the long
Thanksgiving weekend. You'll hear from me again either on Sunday or Monday
(btw, the "monthly review" will be a little late). You can anticipate that
a number of other familiar voices from the US may not be heard as well for
a few days. I hope to get back to Fred on "It's a Given" when I return
(others are, of course, encouraged to respond in my absence). Regarding
the Hegelian interpretation of magnitude and measure, one might
want to examine Section 2 "Magnitude (Quantity)" and Section Three
"Measure" of "Book One: The Doctrine of Being" in Hegel's _Science of