[OPE-L] from Keith Tribe

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Thu Aug 10 2006 - 09:16:52 EDT

Dear Rakesh Bhandari,

Thanks very much for your response.  I have no 
objection to your circulating my comments to 
anyone you think might be interested.

Attached a couple of pieces which might help you 
understand where I am coming from - they are my 
introduction to a special issue of Max Weber 
Studies devoted to his Wirtschaftsgeschichte and 
his interest in economic history, from which my 
review of Takebayashi also comes.  This Beiheft 
is currently completing copy-editing and will be 
available electronically in the next month or so.

I appreciate that Marx's physical capacities were 
failing in the 1870s, but I would suggest that 
the problems I can see in the Zasulich drafts are 
continuous with those in the first edition of 
Capital and back to the Grundrisse, except they 
are much, much worse.  A great deal of discussion 
of Marx seeks to compensate for this rather than 
recognize it for the patchwork that it in fact 
is.  A brilliant patchwork, but a patchwork all 
the same.  And the failure of Marx scholars to 
properly situate Marx in his own context, to read 
him as his contemporaries would have read him, to 
read what Marx himself read and most importantly, 
did not read, has dogged discussion of Marx's 
work through the decades.

I can see what you mean with the letter you 
attach, but I find the entire setup laborious and 
limited.  Granted there are VII sections 
enumerated, but it looks more or less like two 
books to me.  Certainly Vols. II and III of 
Capital are bulky books, but that is because 
everything is included twice, more or less.  Vol. 
II goes round and around a simple problem, and 
Vol. III is certainly more interesting, but still 
woolly and wordy.  Since we have these big books 
I think there has been a tendency to think that 
several more of similar detail and extent could 
have been put together by Marx, if only he were 
able, but the kind of outline sketched in this 
1868 letter would all have fitted into another 
volume rather shorter than the one published in 
1867.  Marx wrote an extraordinary amount, but 
much of it was repetition and variation, since 
that was just the way he wrote and thought things 

In case you were wondering, I find modern 
neo-Ricardians just as blinkered, so far as I am 
concerned I am with Jevons - Smith's Wealth of 
Nations was a brilliant work (heavily dependent 
on French work, not simply the Physiocrats) which 
the English Classicals derailed into arcane 
arguments about value and distribution which lead 
nowhere.  Ricardo's own detailed arguments about 
value were superficially clear but internally 
muddled, as Malthus pointed out.  Nobody took 
them very seriously for very long.  My problem 
with Marx is that he picks up on the worst bits 
of Classical economics because it looks as though 
they provide the key to understanding "the laws 
of motion" of capitalism, a kind of internal 
mechanism of value creation.  But this is a 
mechanism which, to use Steuart's metaphor, is 
like a clock which constantly goes wrong. 
Capitalism is certainly a system which produces 
both wealth and paradox, but this is not the way 
to an understanding of it.  Max Weber was taught 
all the English stuff by Knies but he was chiefly 
influenced so far as economics goes by Menger's 
students, Böhm-Bawerk, Wieser at al.  Although he 
was critical of their construction of an abstract 
"economic man", the GdS kicked off in 1914  with 
Bücher on stages, Schumpeter on the history of 
economics, and Wieser on the "new economics". 
Coupled with a stunning capacity to conduct 
detailed studies of agrarian labour relations, 
property forms in the ancient economy, the forms 
and functions of contemporary stock and commodity 
markets, land tenure, labour relations, the 
contemporary media - quite apart from all the 
more well-known studies from which his 
"sociology" was later constructed by others - 
Weber's insights into modern politics, economics 
and culture turned on the "problems of 
capitalism" in a way that retains its originality 
(though often misunderstood and inadequately 

I agree that your summary of the Stedman Jones 
position is mistaken, although I have not yet 
read his newer work.  When I last talked to him 
we were discussing the Communist Manifesto and he 
seemed a little hazy on the provenance of the 
translation they used for the Penguin edition.

Anyway, it is a bit of a change for me to think about Marx, these days!

Best wishes,


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