Re: [OPE-L] Reply to Rakesh

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Oct 06 2006 - 20:08:49 EDT

Can't see how what you wrote was a reply to me. 
I just quoted Marx from Critique of Gotha Program 
on wage slavery--did you not read what I wrote?; 
part VII of Capital I dissipates appearance of 
variable capital as an advance from the 
perspective of reproduction to reveal the 
relation as one of defacto enslavement; Engels' 
Principles of Communism refers to wage slavery; 
Condition of the  Working Class in England also.

But you write

>I am not aware that Marx equated wage-labour with slavery, except perhaps


You have not challenged the idea that Marx's 
theory of reproduction is directly related to his 
theory of wage labor. You pointed to Makoto; 
Makoto says there is no relation. I counter and 
say that Marx theorizes wage labor in terms of 
reproduction to show that variable capital is not 
advanced and the wage relation is one of defacto 
slavery, though not of individuals but of one 
class by another. Don't see how you have 
countered my criticism of Makoto whom you cited 

And the question is not whether Marx knew of the 
Physiocrats on what day but at what point did his 
understanding of reproduction lead him abandon to 
the idea of organizing his studies in six 
different book and reorganize his materials to 
construct a theory of the reproduction of the 
whole of capitalist society, composed of three 
major classes . Because once he decided to study 
reproduction in this way of course wage labor and 
landed property could not be in different books. 
And it seems absurd to me to say that Marx did 
not have a theory of how that reproduction would 
tend to be shot through with disturbances and 
founder on general crises. I can see why one 
would argue that Marx did not theorize foreign 
trade in terms of the reproduction of the 
capitalist mode of production, but even here the 
basic principles were enunciated. To me the most 
obvious gap is the theory of the state, but there 
were obviously theoretical and political reasons 
for Marx to put the state in the shadows.

Most tellingly, you have not given me any 
indication of your sense of  how much of the 
original six book plan which you seem to think 
Marx never abandoned but to which he may have 
wanted to add  was in fact completed in the four 
volumes of Capital. You will notice that Makoto's 
answer is different from Fred's.

And no one denies that Marx stopped referring to 
a six book plan and assessing his progress in 
completing it. Oakley establishes that.

>So reading the Physiocrats was
>hardly a major *conceptual* breakthrough, that is more a "pomo" or poetic
reinterpretation, a "sexing-up" of Marx.

These are your tired terms of abuse--poetic or 
pomo, though my prose has hardly been poetic or 
my arguments manifestly pomo. At least you have 
not given me one indication of what I have said 
should be dismissed as pomo or why pomo should be 

And you will see that you have not in fact defended your earlier argument.


>Wage-labour can obviously be tantamount to de facto slavery,
>but need not be (e.g. the LATimes ran an article today on the Yellow Peril
>in Africa
>Marx indeed points out that wage-labour provides freedoms the slave didn't
>At various points after 1860, Marx referred to texts that he wanted to write
>but didn't actually get around to writing; at the end of his life he said,
>for example, he wanted to study the the ups and downs of the trade cycle
>mathematically, but Samuel Moore convinced him the economic data to do it,
>did not exist yet.
>I don't really see any evidence that Marx radically revised his earlier
>views in the light of his reading of the Physiocrats. The main reason is
>that all the concepts he used for his theory of capital reproduction in Cap.
>Vol. 2 already appear in the Grundrisse manuscript, written well *before*
>1860, i.e. in 1857-58 (see, for example, p. 726 in the Nicolaus edition for
>some striking passages in this regard). So reading the Physiocrats was
>hardly a major *conceptual* breakthrough, that is more a "pomo" or poetic
>reinterpretation, a "sexing-up" of Marx.
>In reality, Adam Smith (whom Marx had read well before that time) had
>already assimilated the main insights of the Physiocrats in his writing.
>Marx comments in TSV just that "Adam Smith in fact only took over the
>inheritance of the Physiocrats and classified and specified more precisely
>the separate items in the inventory.  But his exposition and interpretation
>of the movement as a whole was hardly as correct as its presentation in
>outline in the Tableau économique, in spite of Quesnay's false assumptions.
>When moreover Adam Smith says of the Physiocrats: "Their works have
>certainly been of some service to their country" ([Wealth of Nations, O.U.P.
>edition, Vol. II, p. 2991, [Garnier], l.c., p. 538), this is an immoderately
>moderate statement of the significance for example of Turgot, one of the
>immediate fathers of the French revolution "
>Grossman of course did not have access to the Grundrisse manuscript as I
>previously pointed out (nor many other manuscripts and letters) in 1929.
>There is simply no evidence that the Physiocratic doctrine caused Marx to
>overturn the perspective he had already developed previously, in any radical
>I also doubt whether Marx was ever seriously committed to historicism
>(beyond some sweeping rhetoric at times perhaps) or that he seriously broke
>with humanism beyond understanding its class-defined expressions better.
>Already in The Holy Family, Marx and Engels had written "History does
>nothing, it "possesses no immense wealth", it "wages no battles". It is
>people, real, living people who do all that, who possess and fight;
>"history" is not, as it were, a person apart, using people as a means to
>achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of people pursuing
>their aims."
>This is a clear ANTI-historicist view, whatever Popper or Althusser might
>have said. The only "historicist" position Marx took that I can find, is his
>personal belief that the class struggles of the modern era would culminate
>in the collapse of capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat (a
>workers' state - Hal Draper has carefully compiled the story in Vol. 3 of
>his magnum opus).
>But since Marx was also well aware that the outcome of class struggles is
>not predetermined by any law, this idea is probably more in the nature of a
>hope, belief, faith, prediction or program, than a serious argument about
>historical inevitability. What stands out in the real Marx is his great
>reluctance to pronounce "general verities" about the course of human
>history, *especially* in the absence of serious historical research.
>Socialist historicism was more a product of the era of the Socialist
>International, when, during a long wave of economic growth, the labour
>movement seemed to go from strength to strength, and when the first world
>war seemed to be a sign of impending capitalist collapse. This historicism
>reached its culmination when the Stalinist Central Committee claimed to be
>able to divine "the march of history" in advance. The ideological importance
>of this idea for bureaucratic despotism is clear: as Stephanie Coontz noted,
>if history moves according to inevitable laws, and if the communist party
>recognises and acts according to these laws,  it is pointless for anybody to
>rebel against the communist party which, precisely, has "history on its
>It could of course be argued that Marx's reference to the "law of motion"
>(Bewegungsgesetz) of the capitalist economy implies an historicism, i.e. a
>law-governed historical development with necessary outcomes. Yet the
>development of something can be constrained by law-like regularities,
>without this predisposing one particular outcome. All that a scientific
>approach to history requires, is that some courses of events are definitely
>ruled out by what came before, and that some courses of events are more
>likely than others, given what came before. With hindsight, we may be able
>to prove that a course of events occurred necessarily as it did, and not
>otherwise, but it would be foolish to project this into the future, given
>the permanent possibility of active human agency changing the course of
>history, within probable or possible limits.
>In this light, what stands out in Grossman's piece about the "law of
>breakdown" is precisely its abstract historicism - the idea, that he had
>exhaustively defined the parameters of capital accumulation, and therefore
>could predict its breakdown after the nth cycle of capital reproduction.
>Even if it was true, it would be a truth so abstract, as to be virtually
>useless. It does not help us understand why capitalism had its biggest
>economic boom period ever in 1947-1973. Nor does it enable us to analyse why
>the stock of capital accumulated external to production is larger than the
>stock of production capital, in the wealthiest countries.
>In our own time, Al Gore warns us about the inevitability of "global
>warming", and that something has to be done. Yet what will happen is as yet
>unknown; it depends obviously on what is done (or not done) about it.
>Althusser was in reality a very unreliable guide to Marx, and in his own
>confessions he more or less admits that. For the most part, Marx's thought
>just evolved, and being creative, he opened many more possible inquiries
>than he followed through to the end.

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