Re: [OPE-L] 3 crucial points?

From: Dogan Goecmen (dogangoecmen@AOL.COM)
Date: Tue Jan 30 2007 - 04:50:24 EST

Dear Friends,
these are very interesting questions. But at the moment I cannot reply to any mails from our list properly because to survive I had to take a job that separated me from my family and library. I hope you understand.
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Von: howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM
Verschickt: Di., 30.Jan.2007, 7:47
Thema: [OPE-L] 3 crucial points?

Here's puzzle of translation and understanding:

Capital's unpublished chapter, The Results of the Immediate Process of
Production, opens with a discussion of the commodity as the product of
capital.  Two and a half pages in Marx summarizes by making 3 points.  In
the Penguin translation "Drei Punkte" in italics followed by a full stop
gets translated as "These three points are crucial," but never mind -- they
are crucial.

But the last sentence of the third point is a puzzle.  Volume 34, p. 360
shows that the manuscript contains a colon and notes (infers?) that the
insertion (inferred?) to follow was left unfinished.  Here's the sentence in

"Der Austausch von Kapital und Arbeitskraft wird formell:

This gets translated in the Penguin edition as "The formal exchange of
capital and labour-power becomes general."

Volume 34 translates the sentence more literally as "The exchange between
capital and labour power becomes formal: [. . . ]

Now translation difficulties pose the problem, but in fact the question
posed can be evaluated without recourse to the German.

In what sense could Marx here have meant that the exchange between capital
and labour power becomes formal?  How is that in any sense a summing up of
what has gone before, as clearly the three points are?

Otherwise presented, assuming the assertion of the Ben Fowkes translation is
a point that is correct, what justifies interpreting "wird formell," ie
"becomes formal," as "becomes general"?

Also, since Marx followed the biblical injunction here insisting that the
first was meant to be last (the section on the commodity as a product of
capital was meant to be presented after the section on the production of
surplus value and the section on the production of the total relationship),
the summing up might include a more far reaching comparison or reference to
the first two sections.

But from what perspective is the exchange of capital and labor power formal?

One answer that occurs to me, and that would be consistent with the Fowkes
translation, is that Marx is making the point here that since both bondage
(slavery or serfdom) and the independent production of commodities by the
direct producer are destroyed, we get necessarily the sale and purchase of
labor power, ie the formal exchange of capital and labor -- that is as
opposed to the exchange of content or substance between capital and labor
that takes place in the process of production.  Thus where the the worker
has ceased to be a part of the conditions of production, labor power becomes
a commodity (point 2) and where the independent production of commodities by
the direct producer is destroyed (point 3), necessarily the formal exchange
of capital and labor must take place.  The end of bondage is necessary
before labor power can become a commodity and the end of independent
commodity production for the direct producer is necessary before the
purchase and sale of labor power -- the formal exchange of capital and
labor -- takes place.

Thoughts on this or other interpretations?


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