[OPE-L:4380] the end of *Capital*

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 13 Mar 1997 11:57:47 -0800 (PST)

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The last chapter of Volume III is, as we know, on "Classes." The
manuscript for Ch. 52 breaks off after about 1 1/2 pages.

After stating that the "owners of mere labour-power, the owners of capital
and the landowners, whose respective sources of income are wages, profit
and ground-rent -- in other words wage-labourers, capitalists and
landowners -- form the three great classes of modern society based on the
capitalist mode of production", Marx goes on to write that "it is
undeniably in England that this modern society and its economic
articulation is most widely and most classically developed" (Penguin ed.,
p. 1025).

Of course, it is more questionable today whether 19th century England
represented the "most widely and classically developed" instance of modern
society based on the capitalist mode of production. Should this continue
to be the main historical example of capitalism that is referred to for us
to conceptualize the operation of this mode of production?

As Marx himself notes beginning with the next sentence:

"Even here, though, this class articulation does not emerge in pure
form. Here, too, middle and transitional levels always conceal the
boundaries (although incomparably less so in the countryside than
in the towns).

The question of how capitalism develops in its "impure" form outside of
England seems to have been a major focus of his later writings (for
different perspectives on this topic see the "Late Marx" book by Teodor
Shanin). The stimulus for Marx's increased interest in Russia in his later
life seems to be both the popularity and influence of Volume I in
revolutionary circles there as well as an intense curiosity about the
peasant communes in Russia. The extent to which Marx focused on this
question can be gauged by his decision to learn Russian in order to read
the primary works related to this subject. Perhaps Marx also realized that
he needed to evaluate the historical experience of less developed
capitalist countries outside of England for him to further concretize
subjects such as foreign trade and the world market?

Marx goes on:

"We have seen how it is the constant tendency and law of development
of the capitalist mode of production to divorce the means of
production ever more from labour and to concentrate the fragmented
means of production more and more into large groups, i.e. to
transform labour into wage-labour and the means of production into
capital. And this tendency also corresponds to the independent
divorce of all landed property from capital and labour, or the
transformation of all landed property into the form of landed
property corresponding to the capitalist mode of production."

He THEN writes:

this arises automatically from answering another question: 'WHAT
lots of emphasis added).

Yet, he does not attempt to answer these questions here! Instead, the
manuscript ENDS with his suggesting "the *INFINITE FRAGMENTATION OF
INTERESTS AND POSITIONS* into which the social labour splits not only
workers but also capitalists and land-owners -- the latter for instance
into vineyard owners, field-owners, forest-owners, mine-owners,
fishery-owners, etc." (Ibid, emphasis added).

So ... Vol 3 ends at the moment where he suggests the "infinite
fragmentation of interests and positions" among the three major classes.
More specifically, it ends where he alludes to divisions among

Can't the above be read as the very clear suggestion that these questions
have to be answered "next"? Doesn't this suggest that at the time that
Marx wrote the VIII drafts he thought that the next topics which should be
addressed were "Landed Property" and "Wage-Labour" (the subjects of Books
2-3 in the 6-book-plan)? Doesn't this, in turn, cast doubt on the
Rosdolsky interpretation that these subjects were incorporated into
_Capital_ (and support Mike L's interpretation). Indeed, if one planned to
write about "landed-property" and "wage-labour" next, what better way
would there have been to introduce these topics than the way in which he
ended _Capital_?

In solidarity, Jerry


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

Teodor Shanin ed. _Late Marx and the Russian Road: Marx and 'The
Peripheries of Capitalism'_, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1983