[OPE] Fwd: [Pen-l] Knowing capital today, Using Capital critically

From: michael perelman <michael.perelman3@gmail.com>
Date: Sun Jan 02 2011 - 12:41:04 EST

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Leonardo Kosloff <holmoff10@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Jan 2, 2011 at 9:31 AM
Subject: [Pen-l] Knowing capital today, Using Capital critically
To: pen-l@lists.csuchico.edu

Hi, I rarely post on this list but I wanted to let you know about a
book I’m (very slowly) translating by Juan Iñigo Carrera. Juan worked
as a public accountant for many years, and teaches in the University
of Buenos Aires.

Below is the first part of the Preface (which I have yet to finish).

Perhaps you’ve heard of Guido Starosta who is one of the editors of
Historical Materialism (the journal), who closely works with Juan. I
think the book is a great -with no authoritarian underpinnings-
pedagogical tool. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts
about it, and I’d appreciate in particular any corrections in grammar
or diction. It’s very hard to sum up Juan’s work in a few lines but I
added some comments below.

Lastly, it'd be great if you could share this as well, I know about
the list OPE-L but I don't have reach to it. Thanks.

The aim of the book, as I see it, is to delve into the question of
what the role of Capital (which Marx intended to be “the first
scientific victory of the working class”) is as a tool to produce a
scientific consciousness wherein lies the revolutionary subjectivity
of the working class.

For now, only the first three chapters are finished. Here you will
find a very direct argument which exposes the ideological character of
the empty abstractions of neoclassical economics and classical
political economy, among others; some of which have been and are still
being adopted uncritically by many Marxists, no less than to
dogmatically dismiss the real determinations of the value-form of the
material product of labor. More generally, it is a very
straightforward yet lucid illustration of how economic theory has to
eliminate any trace of human consciousness as grounded in its social
being, and this in order to impose the ideological inversion of an
abstract consciousness with no other determinations than the
naturalized whims of a free will, which lacking an objective knowledge
of the conditions from which its freedom arises is condemned to remain
an illusory chimera.

Personally, what I found most valuable is that Juan does not lecture
the reader on Capital, or the various interpretations of it. As Juan
explains further in the book, the point is not to take any of Marx’s
assertions as postulates or assumptions, not to interpret Marx, but
rather to *use* Capital as a tool to develop one’s own critical
appropriation of their general social relation, capital. The fact is
that one needs to know what capital is, a necessity which capital
begets by itself, and this is the starting point of the investigation,
as was also the starting point when Marx set out his investigation of
the commodity in the outlines of the Paris Manuscripts of 1844. In
this sense, Juan’s book is not a reading of Capital, but his own
critical investigation in order to account for this necessity, which,
of course, uses Capital to help his and hopefully one’s own

Capital is thus a key political tool in the development of the
organization of the working class, for only an action which can
account for its own necessity can be a truly scientific basis upon
which individuals may build a society of freely, that is, consciously,
associated producers.

With no further ado, here is the link to the webpage where you can
download the chapters in .pdf format:


You can also find other essays in English in the website, for example,
this is Juan’s take on what happened during the political crisis in
Argentina in 2001 which appeared in the journal Historical


Any corrections or suggestions to my English will be appreciated.



The question

To read Capital? The mere question evokes difficulty, complexity,
contradiction. Was there not someone who began writing a book “to read
Capital”, boasting that he had not read it wholly, and closed the
vicious circle writing the prologue for an edition of Capital where he
imperatively recommended to begin by skipping the whole first section
of the work?

Proposals of abridged readings rain down on us before the complexity
of the question. There is the author who proposes that we “read
Capital politically”. The one who considers his reading a
“philosopher’s reading”.  The one who proposes to leave out anything
that does not concern “ethical foundations”. Of course, there is no
scarcity of authors who read it as a text of “political economy”.
There is even the author who proposes to read it with the
indiscreetness implied by not having a concrete question other than
“seeing what is in there”. But, are not politics, economics, ethics,
philosophy, all of them social forms, social relations, which unity
cannot be split without mutilating the content of each one of them?

Is it then a question of interpreting the text in its unity? Will the
solution perhaps be to face the reading with the intention of
interpreting the world by interpreting Marx? This does not seem to be
a clear way out of the problem. In the first place, there are those
who threaten us with inevitably falling into “the most vulgar
interpretation of the theory of value, which directly contradicts
Marx’s theory” if we literally abide by the text written by him. But,
above all, how do we overlook the absolute contradiction set out by
Marx between interpreting the world and changing it?

If we refuse to interpret the text, how are we to confront it? Will we
attain an objective perspective of it if we follow the recognized
precept of looking in it for its “Logic (in capitals)”? But then, what
will we do with Marx’s explicit rejection to operate through the
development of logical contradictions, since logic is “alienated
thinking, and therefore thinking which abstracts from nature and from
real man”?

Would it not be better to listen to those who say that it is not very
useful to read it because it is “a model” which corresponds to
nineteenth century England but that it is not “applicable” to, for
example, modern Argentina? Further, does not the scientific community
consider démodé and obsolete any text after a handful of years of its
publication against the speed with which reality changes?

But then what? Are we to leave out the text and begin an independent
development from zero on our own? We would hardly progress beyond
re-discovering gunpowder this way. Although, it would doubtless be
worse to follow those who propose that we read Capital in order to
“believe with Marx” in the existence of this or that social relation.

To come out of all these convolutions we do not have at this stage any
recourse other than going back to the beginning. And what if stop
looking at Capital as an object for us to read and rather establish
our necessity to read it, up to this moment simply present from the
beginning as an immediate condition, as the object which Capital is to
account for? But, in that case, it would not be a question of reading
it anymore but of using it to answer for our own necessity. Thus, our
starting point cannot be other than confronting the determinations
that our necessity to use Capital immediately presents us with in the
process of producing our own consciousness. And in this way the first
question which is at stake is the very form of our process of
production of knowledge. It is there then, where we will begin.

Cognition and Recognition…

This is the second part which I should finish in a few days. Here Juan
deals with the form of the process of knowledge mentioned above and
talks about what the role of the dialectical method in Marx is in it.
There is also an essay by Guido Starosta -who works closely with Juan-
published by the journal Science and Society, ‘The Commodity-Form and
the Dialectical Method’, which also deals with this question
particularly regarding Marx’s presentation in the beginning of

pen-l mailing list

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA
530 898 5321
fax 530 898 5901
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Received on Sun Jan 2 12:42:42 2011

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