[OPE-L] Grundrisse. Help

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Aug 05 2006 - 08:04:38 EDT


You wrote:

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


I am not criticising you in particular, unless you, too, try to turn Marx's
interpretations and hypotheses into "a fixed, completed neat-and-tidy
theoretical system which only the 'orthodox' Marxist high-priests are
allowed to modify".

You asked:

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 wrote to Engels 31 July 1865: "For two months I have been living solely
on the pawnshop, which means that a queue of creditors has been hammering on
my door, becoming more and more unendurable every day... Now, regarding my
work, I will tell you the plain truth about it. There are 3 more chapters to
be written to complete the theoretical part (the first 3 books). Then there
is still the 4th book, the historical-literary one, to be written, which
will, comparatively speaking, be the easiest part for me, since all the
problems have been resolved in the first 3 books, so that this last one is
more by way of repetition in historical form. But I cannot bring myself to
send anything off until I have the whole thing in front of me. Whatever
shortcomings they may have, the advantage of my writings is that they are an
artistic whole, and this can only be achieved through my practice of never
having things printed until I have them in front of me in their entirety.
This is impossible with Jacob Grimm's method which is in general better with
writings that have no dialectical structure."

This is not an entirely satisfactory translation. Well, no matter. In this
letter, Marx is partly trying to persuade Engels to provide some cash, or
else justifying himself, in a situation where he had a relative to stay with
him. Marx is saying most of the hard work of preparing the manuscript has
been done. He is saying he is not letting things go to print, serially,
before he has the whole work in front of him. In fact, that is not quite
true, since he had already published "A Contribution to the Critique of
Political Economy" previously. His writings formed an artistic whole, in the
sense, that he reached all his main conclusions first, and then composed a
dialectical story about them, showing their necessity, in an artistically
satisfying way, i.e. in a sense providing an elegant solution. "Jacob Grimm"
presumably refers to the famous linguist/philologist who also collected and
wrote up classic German fairytales (see e.g.

Marx distinguished clearly, as he said, between the method of inquiry and
the method of presentation. The inquiry had initially to discover the
dialectics in the subjectmatter, and analyse it into its constituent parts.
Then, afterwards, this subjectmatter had to be reordered, to present
conclusions in such a way as to show their internal necessity. Marx aimed to
"bring a science, through critique, to the point where it can be
dialectically presented." In this way, the scientific conclusions would be
presented in an artistic unity, providing both a coherent story, and a
logically tight argumentation.

As regards the manuscript breaking off... well, obviously you can have a
work of art that is partly unfinished, but sufficiently definite in its
architecture to indicate what it would look like, if it was completed.

All the problems surrounding Marx's methods are solved, as soon as people
actually begin to study a real object, real history, or real facts, instead
of engaging in metaphysical disputation about "concepts". If people do not
know how to study a real object, real history, or real facts then that is
because they haven't reflected sufficiently and critically about how these
things have been studied before. But obviously endless disputes about
"method" without actually using the method for the purpose for which it was
intended are useless.



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Aug 31 2006 - 00:00:03 EDT