Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse. Help

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Fri Aug 04 2006 - 10:32:15 EDT

On Tue, 1 Aug 2006, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> Hi Fred,
> Another way of looking at this argument is provided by Allen Oakley. In his
> Making of Marx's Critical Theory he lays out three ways to relate Marx's
> six book plan to the four volumes of Capital. I think the last way is correct.
> That is, there was an important theoretical break and that Marx
> did realize a complete theory of his object.  I know this is very
> controversial.
> I remember Michael Lebowitz's debate with Kenneth Lapides.
> Yours, Rakesh

Hi Rakesh,

Marx certainly did not "realize a complete theory of his object".
Dussel argues that Marx finished only 1/16 of his overall plan!

But this is different from "an important theoretical break".  I have
argued before that Marx's theory in Capital is mainly about the production
and distribution of surplus-value.  Marx developed his theory of the
production of surplus-value (determined by surplus labor) in the
Grundrisse, and this theory remained essentially the same in all the later
drafts.  Similarly, Marx developed his theory of the distribution of
surplus-value (equal rates of profit, rent, interest, and commercial
profit) in the Manuscript of 1861-63, and this theory also remained
essentially the same in all the later drafts.  There is no "important
theoretical break" in either of these core theories after the Grundrisse.

The six book plan is another issue, about which there is much less to go

It appears from Oakley and Tribe that Grossman put a lot of weight to
support his interpretation (of an important theoretical break after the
Grundrisse) on one letter that Marx wrote to Engels on 15 August 1863
(soon after finishing the Manuscript of 1861-63).  In this letter, Marx
said (according to the recent Marx-Engels Collected Works translation):

"In one respect, my work (preparing the manuscript for the press) is going
well  On the other hand, despite the fact that I write all day long, it's
not getting on as fast as my own impatience, long subjected to a trial of
patience, might demand.  At all events, it will be 100 p.c. more
comprehensible than No. 1 [the 1859 Critique].  When, by the way, I
consider my handiwork and realize how I've had to DEMOLISH EVERYTHING and
even build up the historical section out of what was in part quite unknown
material, I can't help finding Izzy [LaSalle] a bit of a joke; for he has
already got 'his' political economy in hand and yet everything he has
peddled around hitherto has shown him to be a callow schoolboy who
trumpets abroad as his very latest discovery "
(MECW. 41. 488; emphasis and brackets added)

Oakley translates the phrase "had to demolish everything" as "had to TURN
EVERYTHING UPSIDE DOWN".  (p. 110; emphasis added).  I don't know what the
German phrase is.  Maybe someone can help us

According to Tribe, Grossman stated that Marx stated in this letter that
he had to "completely reorganize his work".  (p. 201).

This is all Marx says in this letter about his work.  The letter goes on
to complain some more about LaSalle.

It seems to me that this letter provides no evidence whatsoever of a
"complete reorganization of his work".  Marx is talking about preparing
his book for the press and the work "is going well."  In the context of
Marx's complaints of LaSalle's plagiarism of other people's work
(including his own), I think the comment about his having to "demolish
everything" means his critique of all hitherto political economy
(especially the translation "demolish").  Oakley concludes that "the most
obvious assessment of this piece is that it was a passing remark with no
significance beyond its immediate context."

More substantially, WHAT EXACTLY in his own work is Marx supposed to have
"turned upside down" or "demolished"?  Certainly not Marx's theory of the
production of surplus-value, which was developed in the Grundrisse, and
drafted in close to final form in the Manuscript of 1861-63, and which
remained essentially the same in the final published editions of Volume 1,
and which Marx was preparing for the press as he wrote this letter.  Also
not Marx's theory of the distribution of surplus-value, which Marx
developed in the Manuscript of 1861-63, and which remained essentially the
same in the final draft of Volume 3 in the Manuscript of 1864-65.  Nor
also the falling rate of profit, which was discovered in the Grundrisse,
and developed in later manuscripts.

What else is there of significance to be "demolished"?

This letter was written six weeks after the letter of 6 July 1863 that I
mentioned in my message two days ago.  As I said, in this letter, Marx
sketched out for the first time his two-department "reproduction tables"
(that he had worked on in the Manuscript of 1861-63), and he explained to
Engels how the analysis of these tables works, and clearly emphasized that
the main purpose of these tables is to refute "Smith's dogma".  This was
an important new development, but it certainly did not mean "overthrowing"
anything fundamental about the logical structure of Marx's theory.
Rather, it simply meant adding a third part to the second section of
capital in general on the circulation of capital (in addition to the
circuits of capital and the turnover of capital).  This was pretty much
the extent of the changes wrought by "Marx's encounter with Quesnay",
which was also Marx's encounter with Smith.


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