[OPE-L:4132] extending [completing, developing, deepening] Marx

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 3 Feb 1997 15:53:10 -0800 (PST)

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Andrew K wrote in [OPE-L:4075]:

> Jerry and now Duncan (in
> his review of _Marx and Non-equilibrium Economics_) also call this into
> question, but on empirical grounds, principally the early projection of
> additional books and the fact that much of _Capital_ was not reworked for
> publication. (Of course, they're not the first to do so.) I think this
> question is a crucial one, since how one answers it colors how one
> reads the text.

I, of course, agree that this is a crucial question. Yet, I don't think
this is primarily an "empirical question" that can be resolved by a close
examination of Marx's "plans". Alan Oakley investigated this topic pretty
closely (in _The Making of Marx's Critical Theory: A Bibliographical
Analysis_, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983) and found textual
evidence for several competing interpretations re the plans (although,
he writes re Rubel: "... Rubel's endeavours do serve to re-emphasize the
very important point that _Capital_ must be read as an incomplete work of
uncertain bibliographical status", p. 126). In any event, there is no
conclusive evidence that Marx ever abandoned the 6-book-plan (a point that
the late Ernest Mandel made, as well, in his "Introduction" to the Penguin
ed. of VIII, pp. 10-11 -- how I wish he had lived long enough to be part
of this project!).

[NB: Marx, near the end of his life, was well aware of the need to
"revise" the drafts of the remaining (unpublished} parts of _Capital_.
Thus, _in his last letter to Engels_, dated January 10, 1883, he
concluded his letter by writing: "Since the beginning of my long and only
occasionally interrupted 'house arrest,' in consequence of my continuing
sickness -- or to use a South German *aesthetic* expression, a la Madame
Karl Blind, formerly Cohen, as a result of my daily 'puking' (from the
coughing) -- I have been little able to make any progress with the
revision. Still I believe that with patience and pedantic self-control I
shall be able to get on the track again." (Saul K. Padover ed. _The
Letters of Karl Marx_, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1979,
p. 406). Sadly, it was not to be.].

The real issue, though, is not primarily an empirical one, but a logical

* If, for example, we consider Marx's theory of crisis, where is his
theory of the trade cycle? Not a small question -- I think you would
agree. We know that Marx considered the turnover time of fixed capital
to be "one of the material foundations for the periodic cycle" (V2,
Penguin ed., p. 264), but the only part of V3, Ch. 4 on "The Effect of
the Turnover on the Rate of Profit" that Marx wrote was the title of
the chapter! Furthermore, where is his explanation of the relation of
the LTGRPD, credit, and the turnover of fixed capital to the trade
cycle? These are very significant "gaps" indeed. [NB: In our
discussions of "moral depreciation", no one has yet attempted to
connect this issue -- as Marx suggested -- to the "periodic cycle"].

* Where is the more concrete analysis of competition rather than capital
in general? By Marx's own reckoning, this subject relates
significantly to other issues raised in V3 such as the LTGRPD (e.g.
see Ch. 14, #2).

* There is also the question of subjectivity that authors as diverse as
Negri, Cleever, Mike L, and Geert-Mike W have raised (each from a
different perspective, of course).

* Furthermore, how can we more concretely comprehend the capitalist
mode of production without a systematic investigation of the

* How are we to understand the fact that capital exists not as
international unity alone but as unity-in-diversity without a
systematic investigation of international trade and the world market?

What all of these topics have in common is that they are all aspects of
the capitalist totality that need to be conceptualized in thought. Whether
Marx was "complete" or not should be a secondary question -- the primary
question is whether we have a theory that explains systematically the
"law of motion" of capital.

Whether one wishes to call this "extending Marx" or "completing Marx" or
"developing Marx" (a phase used in the past by Andrew K) or "deepening
Marx" (a phrase that Alan once used to describe Mike L's work), is not
the issue. I would say it is more important for us to understand
capitalism than to be concerned primarily with textual --
Marxological -- questions [NB: that doesn't mean that debates on textual
questions in Marx aren't important or relevant].

In solidarity, Jerry