Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse.Help

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Aug 04 2006 - 19:28:07 EDT

Jurriaan ,
You make many points, not all related to each other.

So let's just take the nastiest criticism you have not so subtly made of me:

>In this respect, the biggest enemies K. Marx ever had were Marxist
>doctrinaires who tried to turn his interpretations and hypotheses into a
>fixed, completed neat-and-tidy theoretical system (a 'doctrine' as Kautsky
>called it) which only the 'orthodox' Marxist high-priests are allowed to

Marx did say that his magnum opus was an artistic whole. What did he
mean by that? How could
it be an artistic whole if it breaks off arbitrarily as you are saying?

  Marx conducts a mental experiment through the creation of a pure capitalism.
With this pure capitalism to work on,  he explains the integration of
production, circulation and
reproduction AS A WHOLE as he moves from an abstracted study of
production to circulation to dynamics to the misleading surface
appearances of this idealized mode of production. He also finds
within it a self generated tendency towards collapse. That is, he
integrates the constituent elements of this mode of production, and
he theorizes its dynamics and limits.

The theory does have the beauty of an artistic whole. The theory
integrates and dramatizes. It tells the story of the birth, growth
and senility of its subject. But it is a fictional subject.

Capital is not a complete theory of any actually existing capitalism,
but that was not Marx set out to do after he abandoned the six book
plan. . He did not set out to tell the history of capital in all its
forms or landed property or wage labour or international trade.

Marx tried to show the relations between what he took to be
the essential features of the capitalist mode of production and to
lay bare the dynamic tendencies
of an idealized capitalist mode of production. And in this regard he
completed his theory. I think Howard and I are agreed on this point
(and I accept Howard's point of difference between Weber and Marx.)

One could say that Marx should not have kept to an isolated and pure
capitalism but theorized
the social formation as a necessary articulation of capitalism and
non-capitalist modes of production. One could say that Marx should
have built state taxation and expenditures into his pure capitalism.
Or one could say that Marx should  have studied not a pure capitalism
in isolation but  a social formation made up of interdependent and
competing national capitalisms.

In other words, one could say that Marx was too abstract, too removed
from real history. But who says that Newton's laws of motion are
dogmatic because they do not consider air pressure or viscosity?  Of
course we do not have a complete explanation of observable motion,
only the theoretical basis for understanding it. That is what Marx
provided--a theoretical basis for understanding the internal relations
of the constituent elements of the system and its observable movement.

  After all, the above criticisms are not really charges of
incompleteness but of error in the construction of the mental object
on which Marx does his experiment.   But if Marx had not constructed
this object of a pure capitalism and complete his theory of it, then
there would have been no basis for understanding both the modifying
effects of pre capitalist modes, state intervention and world trade
and (just as importantly) the limits of those modifications on the
observable motion of actually existing capitalism.

So no one is saying that there is nothing to do. Least of all Grossman.

After all, he added to Marx's theories of counter-tendencies and
seeks empirical information on the tendencies and counter-tendencies.


>you wrote:
>"Marx did however complete the study of the very object his study
>created--an "ideal-typical" capitalist mode of production.
>But what is the nature of this ideal type? Weberian or not? What do
>we think of the Unonist interpretation? Or Leswak Nowak's?"
>I remember studying this problem once, in MA class in 1982. A Weberian ideal
>type is a 'useful fiction' (an analogy, metaphor or model) accentuating
>certain salient features of a social phenomenon, and one compares that
>picture with a complex social reality, to illuminate and interpret it. An
>ideal type is however not 'true or false', and one cannot say that one ideal
>type is better than another, only that one is 'more useful' than another in
>interpreting the social phenomenon to which it refers. That is, Weber was
>basically a neo-Kantian. He did not believe you can know social reality 'as
>it really is' through an investigative procedure. In effect, for Weber
>nobody can have any epistemically privileged vantage point with regard to
>any social reality, and for him a social 'science' referring to law-like
>regularities (necessities) in social behaviour was impossible. This was
>commented on critically e.g. by John Lewis and Goran Therborn.
>Thus, there are very big differences between K. Marx and Weber qua
>(1) ontological assumptions about social reality,
>(2) epistemology (how and why we know, truth claims etc.),
>(3) abstractive procedures (how we arrive at our generalisations and
>I think both L. Nowak and K. Uno/T. Sekine make many important valid points
>in this regard, but they also subscribe to viewpoints I think are seriously
>mistaken. For example,
>- Nowak implied that idealization as such has a necessary (logical)
>'structure', quite independently from the object to which it refers, whereas
>in fact at best you can say in this regard that some forms of idealisation
>are more appropriate/useful/ reasonable with regard to an object of study
>than others.
>- Uno equates the 'capitalist mode of production' with 'capitalist society',
>and completely ignores the sphere of consumption; he implies that his three
>'doctrines' of circulation, production and distribution are sufficient to
>define the essence of capitalist society, which is an gigantic error. For
>example, joint-stock capital is historically part of the very essence of the
>capitalist mode of production 'from its birth', although K. Marx did not
>discuss that in any detail.
>There exists definite evidence that Marx did not even leave us even with a
>'completed story' about the capitalist way of producing, never mind
>capitalist society as a whole:
>(1) The Grundrisse manuscript and other preparatory manuscripts refer to
>many more topics in this regard than he published on.
>(2) His own changing research and writing plans, and his own comments, show
>that he envisaged much more about it, than he wrote down or published.
>(3) By F. Engels's testimony, the manuscripts for Cap. 2 & 3 were often
>incomplete, k. Marx intended to write more, and many 'gaps' had to be filled
>in (for example, chapter 4 of Cap. 3 was completely written by F. Engels).
>(4) Theoretically and historically, the capitalist way of producing could
>not emerge and exist without share-capital, the state, foreign trade and the
>world market.
>In this respect, the biggest enemies K. Marx ever had were Marxist
>doctrinaires who tried to turn his interpretations and hypotheses into a
>fixed, completed neat-and-tidy theoretical system (a 'doctrine' as Kautsky
>called it) which only the 'orthodox' Marxist high-priests are allowed to
>I think K. Marx himself probably believed that it was sufficient for him
>even just to publish only Cap. Vol. 1, since anybody capable of thinking
>through the argument would be able to complete, or fill out, his analysis of
>the source of value and capital accumulation.
>Paradoxically, often the "Weberian" Marxists are more progressive than the
>"orthodox" Marxists, because at least Weber emphasizes the importance of
>substantive independent creative thinking, which is annihilated by the
>orthodox Marxists, for the sake of doctrinal purity.

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