[OPE-L:4288] RE: [FRED] Volume 3 of Capital

Michael_A._Lebowit (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 03:31:41 -0800 (PST)

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I always find Fred's contributions learned and enlightening, so I am
quite pleased that he has responded to my questions. I'll divide my reply
into two parts, linking up to his two posts. Here, I'll mainly deal with
questions where Heinrich's argument is relevant.

> However, what I wish to emphasize here is that, whatever differences in
> detail there are between the two texts, what Engels did NOT change was the
> OVERALL STRUCTURE of Volume 3. The overall structure - the order of the
> seven parts and the chapters within each part - of Engel's Volume 3 is
> exactly as in Marx's manuscript, or as Marx himself indicated they should
> be structured.

I see no reason to disagree with this. The letter of 4/30/68 shows this.

> Nor is this structure of Volume 3 "incomplete and tentative," as Mike
> suggests that Heinrich suggests.

It is not the "structure" but the formulations that Heinrich points to in
this respect, and the issue is more than "differences in detail", it
appears. Eg.,in ch 15.3, when there is a discussion of overaccumulation of
capital, Engels' text reads (Vintage edition, 359),"To understand what this
overaccumulation is (we shall study it in more detail below), we have only
to take it as an absolute." According to Heinrich (and I hope I've
identified the right section), Marx's text reads: "the closer analysis of
this issue belongs to the study of the *appearing movement of capital*,
where interest-bearing capital etc credit etc will be presented." This
statement does not appear in Engels' text, and Heinrich proposes that their
positions are quite opposite here---the fact that Marx "thought the subject
cannot be negotiated on the given level of abstraction, was turned into its
opposite by Engels' textual alteration." Similarly, later Marx wrote "an
analysis of the credit-system and of the instruments which it creates for
its own use (credit-money, etc) lies beyond our plan", and Engels inserted
"comprehensive" (as in comprehensive analysis). Similarly, in Ch. 6.2,
Engels text reads that the phenomena in question require for their full
development the credit system and competition on the world market... "These
concrete forms of capitalist production, however, can be comprehensively
depicted only after the general nature of capital is understood; it is
therefore outside the scope of this work to present them--- they belong to a
possible continuation"(Vintage,205). Heinrich notes that Engels inserted the
"comprehensively". What for Marx is a statement that he is dealing with
issues that he cannot yet logically explore (which is the kind of statement
that runs through his notebooks--especially the Grundrisse-- is lost by the
introduction of "comprehensively, etc" because we are led to believe that
Marx thinks this is the appropriate place for a bit of this discussion.
Heinrich's comment is: "the *qualitative* distinction between what can be
treated on the level of presentation attained and what cannot, is obstructed
and reduced to a mere *quantitative* problem: a 'comprehensive,'
'exhaustive' presentation, which lies beyond the plan, is confronted with
the available less comprehensive presentation" (462) (Incidentally, the
Marx's MEGA2 text doesn't talk about a "possible continuation" above but "its
eventual continuation".) Are these questions of detail or does the matter
revolve around the understanding of dialectics?

> Marx clearly refined and developed this structure somewhat while writing
> the 1864-65 manuscript, but, aside from the location of rent, the order
> of the parts remained the same. Thus it appears that the overall
> structure of Marx's 1864-65 manuscript was a fairly finished product and
> was followed faithfully by Engels.
> This structure of Volume 3 follows from Marx's the fact that the main
> subject of Volume 3 is the DISTRIBUTION OF SURPLUS-VALUE into individual
> parts, first into individual branches of production (Part 2) and then the
> further division of surplus-value into industrial profit, merchant profit,
> interest, and rent (Parts 4, 5, and 6). Part 1 on cost price and the rate
> of profit is a necessary preliminary to Part 2 on prices of production and
> the equalization of profit rates.

Yes, I agree with Fred's description of the essential subject of Vol 3, and
it is clear why cost-price must precede the others. However, this doesn't
explain why cost-price starts the volume.

> The analysis of the distribution of
> surplus-value in Volume 3 is based on the fundamental methodological
> premise that the total amount of surplus-value is determined prior to its
> division into individual parts.

Yes, and this is what Marx stressed was one of the most important
of his contributions.

> In other words, the total amount of
> surplus-value has already been determined by the analysis of capital in
> general in Volume 1.

No, this is NOT true. The analysis of capital in general cannot be complete
(as Marx stresses in the Grundrisse) until we have considered capital in
circulation--- ie., have grasped capital as this particular unity of
production and circulation. That discussion in Capital does not occur until
Vol. II, and indeed, it is only in the section on reproduction that we
finally have completed our understanding of capital (and simultaneously
determined how much real surplus value there is to divide up). That's the
point Marx makes in the opening of Vol. III, when he says we saw (at least
I hope it was him who said this),particularly in Part 3 of Vol II, "that the
capitalist process of production, taken as a whole, is a unity of the
production and circulation processes" (Vintage, 117).
Now, a question that can be asked is--- does this point make a difference
to Fred's argument (and to the question at hand--- the logical starting
point of Vol. III)?

> Therefore, Mike's concluding suggestion is much too drastic - that Marx's
> text is so unfinished and Engel's version is so misleading that we should
> ignore these two texts and contruct our own Volume 3 "on the basis of our
> understanding of Marx's methodology." Although this effort would no doubt
> be interesting, I think it would be a mistake, at least in terms of the
> development of Marx's theory, to ignore Marx's own fairly finished
> construction of Volume 3 based on his own methodology (the determination
> of the total amount of surplus-value prior to its division into individual
> parts and the explanation of the surface forms of appearance of
> surplus-value).

But, until we have a reason to accept cost-price as the appropriate starting
point, don't we have to wonder about that "fairly finished construction"? As
for my suggestion that we "construct our own volume", that was a strong
version of my question about the logical starting point of III and
implications if any (there's the thought-experiment) if it is not
cost-price. And, I certainly don't mean to ignore Marx's text! I can't wait
to get my hands on it... in English.

> P.S. I have written two papers recently on Volume 3 and Marx's theory of
> the distribution of surplus-value, which I would be happy to send anyone.
> The two papers are:
> "The Development of Marx's Theory of the Distribution of Surplus-value"
> with emphasis on the 1861-63 manuscript
> forthcoming soon in Moseley and M. Campbell (eds.), New Investigations
> of Marx's Method, Humanities Press.
> "Hostile Brothers: Marx's Theory of the Distribution of Surplus-value in
> Volume 3 of Capital."

I'd love to see those, Fred!

in solidarity,

PS. Fred referred to Alejandro's discussion of the "missing paragraph" in
Ch. 9, which I recall (as it flashed by me) as being quite significant. I
know I've saved it, but does anyone remember its number?
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C. Canada V5A 1S6
Office (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 872-0494; Home fax (with warning): (604) 872-0485
Lasqueti Island (250) 333-8810