Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse. Help

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Aug 06 2006 - 12:10:49 EDT

>I would like to make a few general comments to try to put my recent
>messages in a clearer context.
>There are two questions which I think we have blurred in our recent
>discussion:  one is Marx's six book plan, and the other is the logical
>structure of Marx's theory of capital (the first of the six books).
>I am more interested in the latter question, and Rakesh may be more
>interested in the former question.  My comments here have to do with
>the latter.

Well, Fred, this is an excellent and clear message, so let me just
put forward one
more question because I don't  think these two questions can be separated.
In the six book plan what did Marx think the first book on capital
would be about
and how do the three volumes of Capital relate to that?

Or to put it another way:
why did topics that belonged to other books in the six book plan (wage
labour, competition, crises,  and even the world market)
become part of the book on capital that Marx did write?

Or the same question in yet another form: why were these topics that were
initially considered outside the book on capital become part of it?

I don't understand your answer to this crucial question.

The point here is that Marx never did write the first book on capital
in the six
book plan because he wrote an entirely different book on capital the
three volumes
of which are in fact a self- enclosed totality because they analyze
wage labour, landed property, competition, crisis and the world market
to the extent those moments or elements belong
in a theory of the reproduction process of an idealized or pure capitalism.

Oakley has Marx including these other topics in compromised form in
order to ensure
the self enclosed nature of the three volumes; I think they (for
example rent, credit,
share capital, etc.) are systematically and narrowly
introduced  to show their basic place and  function in the
reproduction process as a whole.

What Oakley takes to be compromise I take to be rigor and discipline
and beauty in theory construction.

Marx's Capital is most certainly not an exhaustive history of capital
or landed property
or trade because it is a work of theory, that is a complete and self
enclosed theory of
its idealized object.

Yours, Rakesh

>I argue that the overall logical structure of Marx's theory of capital is
>the following:
>I.  Capital in General
>      1.  Production of surplus-value            (Volume 1 of Capital)
>                 absolute surplus-value
>                 relative surplus-value
>                 accumulation
>      2.  Circulation of capital                 (Volume 2)
>                 circuits of capital
>                 turnover of capital
>                 reproduction of the social capital
>      3.  Capital and profit                     (Parts 1 and 3 of Vol. 3)
>                 cost price and profit
>                 the falling rate of profit
>II.  Competition, or the distribution of surplus-value
>      1.  Average profit                         (Part 2 of Volume 3)
>      2.  Commercial profit                      (Part 4 of Volume 3)
>      3.  Interest                               (Part 5 of Volume 3)
>      4.  Rent                                   (Part 6 of Volume 3)
>      5.  Revenue and its sources                (Part 7 of Volume 3)
>Marx was pretty clear about this overall logical structure of his theory
>of capital by the end of the Grundrisse.  He was most clear about the
>level of abstraction of capital in general.  The Grundrisse itself is
>divided into these three sections of capital in general.  He was less
>clear at that time about the level of abstraction of competition, because
>almost all of the Grundrisse is at the level of abstraction of capital in
>general.  But he did discuss the equalization of profit rates several
>times briefly in the Grundrisse, and he always emphasized that this
>subject belongs to the level of abstraction of competition.
>Then Marx developed his theory of the distribution of surplus-value in the
>Manuscript of 1861-63, and therefore expanded greatly his understanding of
>the individual forms of surplus-value at the level of abstraction of
>This structure remained essentially the same in all the later drafts of
>Capital.  The only changes in this overall logical structure over the
>years were the following:
>1.  "Reproduction" was added as a third part to the second section of
>capital in general on the "circulation of capital" after the Manuscript of
>1861-63, in which Marx developed for the first time his reproduction
>schemes, in order to criticize "Smith's dogma", drawing on the "circular
>flow" work of Q uesnay and other Physiocrats (there is no discussion of
>the reproduction schemes in the Grundrisse).
>2.  Interest was moved from the level of abstraction of capital in general
>to the level of abstraction of competition.  The reason for this change
>was that, in the Grundrisse, Marx was thinking about interest in a
>qualitative way, as an "illusionary form of appearance" of surplus-value,
>similar to profit, and in this qualitative sense interest could be
>considered at the level of abstraction of capital in general.  However, in
>his work in the Manuscript of 1861-63, Marx began to also consider
>interest as a quantity, as one part of the total surplus-value, along with
>other individual parts (industrial profit, commercial profit, and rent).
>And in this quantitative sense, interest belongs to the distribution of
>surplus-value at the level of abstraction of competition.  As a result, in
>the Manuscript of 1864-65 (the final draft of Volume 3), interest was
>relocated to the level of abstraction of competition, along with the other
>individual forms of surplus-value.
>These two were the extent of the changes in the overall logical structure
>of Marx's theory of capital after the Grundrisse.  I don't think these
>minor changes qualify as "an important theoretical break, as Rakesh
>suggests.  The basic distinction between the level of abstraction of
>capital in general (the production of surplus-value) and the level of
>abstraction of competition (the distribution of surplus-value) remained
>the same throughout.  And the theories of the production of surplus-value
>and the distribution of surplus-value remained essentially the same
>The other significant change in Marx's plans for his theory of capital was
>not a change of logical structure, but was rather a change in the plans
>for the publication of the different parts of his theory.  Marx originally
>planned one book on capital in general and one book on competition.
>However, after Marx's prolific development of the theory of the
>distribution of surplus-value in the Manuscript of 1861-63, he decided
>toward the end of this manuscript (in a new important plan of January
>1863) to bring these aspects of competition into his first book
>(eventually into the third volume of Capital), in order to publish these
>important parts of his theory sooner rather than later, i.e. rather than
>waiting for a later book on competition which Marx no doubt realized by
>this time in his life that he would probably never publish.
>I think that Quesnay's influence on Marx was significant, but it was
>limited to the inclusion of the reproduction schemes into Section 2 of
>capital in general (i.e. into Volume 2 of Capital) for the purpose of
>criticizing Smith's dogma.  Quesnay's influence did not cause an
>"important theoretical break" in the logical structure of Marx's theory of
>capital, which remained throughout in terms of these two basic levels of
>As for the six book plan, I said before that I don't think Marx abandoned
>this plan.  The first book just kept expanding and expanding, and he never
>got around to the other books.  I agree that some abstract elements that
>were originally planned for later books were incorporated into Capital
>(e.g. wages in Volume 1, rent in Volume 3, and the credit system in Volume
>3).  But Marx said in all these cases that much more on these topics would
>be discussed in later books.  Surely there is much more than is in Capital
>that needs to be said about labor (as Mike L. argues), and about landed
>property, and especially about the state and "world market and crises".
>In any case, I can't see how Quesnay would influence this decision, one
>way or the other.
>Rakesh, I look forward to your replies and to further discussion.

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