Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Happy 155th Birthday to volume one of Capital!

In his 1965 farewell lecture at Brandeis University, Herbert Marcuse read a long passage from the Grundrisse's "fragment on machines" and then observed: “But Marx himself has repressed this vision, which now appears as his most realistic, his most amazing insight!"

In Time, Labor and Social Domination, published 28 years later, Moishe Postone addressed the same section from the Grundrisse and commented:

These passages do not represent utopian visions that later were excluded from Marx's more "sober" analysis in Capital but are a key to understanding that analysis; they provide the point of departure for a reinterpretation of the basic categories of Marx' s mature critique that can overcome the limits of the traditional Marxist paradigm.

Who was right? Did Marx repress his most amazing insight or is that insight from the Grundrisse a key to interpreting Marx's analysis in Capital? I would argue that both Marcuse and Postone are partly right and partly wrong. Marx didn't so much repress his realistic, amazing insight from the Grundrisse in Capital as hide it under bushels of supplementary illustrative material. You can find it there if you are patient and know what to look for. 

In that respect, passages from the Grundrisse are indeed a key to understanding and reinterpreting Capital. But what is the key to understanding and reinterpreting the Grundrisse? It is the 1821 pamphlet, The Source and Remedy of the Natural Difficulties, that Marx cited and quoted from repeatedly in the Grundrisse, that Engels claimed Marx had "rescued from its oblivion," that Marx was fascinated by in the notebooks published as Theories of Surplus Value, and that Postone, Marcuse and almost every other interpreter of Marx's thought has ignored.

I discussed this peculiar omission in an article published last year, "The Ambivalence of Disposable Time: The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties at two hundred." In the last few weeks, I have completed a 21,000 word manuscript, "A shadow of things to come" that probes further into the backstory of the pamphlet and forward into the fate of disposable time in today's world. I'm sure it's not the sort of thing academic publishers would be interested in and thus am uncertain about how I will present my arguments to the public. 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2021/01/rescuing-disposable-time-from-oblivion.html

January 16, 2021

Rescuing Disposable Time from Oblivion

For Marx, disposable time referred not only to time off work for rest and recreation but more crucially to an explosive contradiction at the heart of the capital accumulation process. Continued accumulation required both the continuous creation and appropriation by capital of ever more disposable time. Marx's fragment on machines was received as prophetic when the translations appeared. It was as if Marx had been anticipating precisely this time -- when automation, computerization, and robotization seemed to either herald "the end of work" or threaten universal precarity.

-- Tom Walker

Anonymous said...

Along with your manuscript, which I am sure will be exciting to read, I would suggest reading the ongoing translations of the writings on socialism with Chinese characteristics by Xi Jinping. President Xi is explaining what socialism is and is becoming for a 5,000 year old civilization covering 1.4 billion people that is rejuvenating and renewing.

These lessons in socialism with Chinese characteristics are profound and as valuable as the astonishing growth through China of these last 45 years. Xi refers to and explains Marx continually and essentially for Chinese application.

This is only a respectful suggestion, since I repeatedly think to your writing when I read on China.

Anonymous said...

I really do hope that you will be printing excerpts of this work, here. You are a superb teacher and I want to understand this subject better for my own teaching.

Djk said...

Interesting. Let’s run with the psychoanalytic theme for a minute just for fun.

For Marcuse, the Fragment is knowledge that Marx consciously held even though he later repressed it. It was and is real, we just have to pick it up, incorporate it into what we already know of Marx’s “vision” and we are good to go. For Marcuse, the Fragment is a prediction.

For Postone, the Fragment forms part of the unconscious of Marx (or perhaps his “mature critique”.) It requires excavation and the interrogation and reinterpretation of what was assumed to be known. The work of the analyst, often against the resistance of the analysand, rather than an archivist. For Postone, the Fragment is a dream.

Perhaps it is ironic the Postone’s approach seems the more psychoanalytic of the two. It also seems to this reader the more fruitful.

Sandwichman said...

Darren,

Wow! That was brilliant. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

For Postone, the Fragment forms part of the unconscious of Marx (or perhaps his “mature critique”.) It requires excavation and the interrogation and reinterpretation of what was assumed to be known. The work of the analyst, often against the resistance of the analysand, rather than an archivist. For Postone, the Fragment is a dream....

[ Could this passage be further explained? What is the meaning here in understanding the work of Marx? I do not understand.

Thank you. ]

Anonymous said...

Let’s run with the psychoanalytic theme for a minute just for fun.

For Marcuse, the Fragment is knowledge that Marx consciously held even though he later repressed it. It was and is real, we just have to pick it up, incorporate it into what we already know of Marx’s “vision” and we are good to go. For Marcuse, the Fragment is a prediction.

For Postone, the Fragment forms part of the unconscious of Marx (or perhaps his “mature critique”.) It requires excavation and the interrogation and reinterpretation of what was assumed to be known. The work of the analyst, often against the resistance of the analysand, rather than an archivist. For Postone, the Fragment is a dream.

Perhaps it is ironic the Postone’s approach seems the more psychoanalytic of the two. It also seems to this reader the more fruitful.

[ Having read this comment a number of times, I am still unable to understand what is written but would like to. I have read a considerable amount of Freud's work, but I am still lost here. ]

Anonymous said...

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-09-26/-Trinity-Two-Wings-Construct-Socialist-Market-Economics-in-New-Era-1dyQJ429Gbm/index.html

September 26, 2022

"Trinity + Two Wings": Construct Socialist Market Economics in New Era
By Zhang Junsen and Zhang Chuanchuan

Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China's economy has been growing at a rapid pace. The people's life has achieved a historic leap from insufficient food and clothing to a well-off society in an all-round way. This has propelled the Chinese nation from standing on its feet to becoming rich. It is an "economic miracle" in human history.

How did this miracle happen? Western mainstream economic theories cannot provide satisfactory answers. We believe that China's success lies in its independent exploration of a path of socialist development with Chinese characteristics....

Zhang Junsen is a senior professor of liberal arts at Zhejiang University, and Zhang Chuanchuan is a researcher of the School of Economics at Zhejiang University.

Anonymous said...

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch14.htm

1857

Grundrisse
By Karl Marx
________________________________

Notebook – On Capital

The creation of a large quantity of disposable time apart from necessary labour time for society generally and each of its members (i.e. room for the development of the individuals’ full productive forces, hence those of society also), this creation of not-labour time appears in the stage of capital, as of all earlier ones, as not-labour time, free time, for a few. What capital adds is that it increases the surplus labour time of the mass by all the means of art and science, because its wealth consists directly in the appropriation of surplus labour time; since value directly its purpose, not use value. It is thus, despite itself, instrumental in creating the means of social disposable time, in order to reduce labour time for the whole society to a diminishing minimum, and thus to free everyone’s time for their own development. But its tendency always, on the one side, to create disposable time, on the other, to convert it into surplus labour....

[ This entire passage makes complete sense to me, and is a splendid insight by Marx. I will use this and of course credit you. ]

Anonymous said...

Also, I think I get Moishe Postone now and can read him with what, at least for me, is necessary simplicity. This should all be important now that I can simplify the ideas.

Excellent, thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Reference sent along a copy of the work of Postone you referenced, which I will go through. Also, there is work by Postone on anti-Semitism that interests me for the discussion on "abstraction."

Again, this is interesting.

Anonymous said...

Also, there are a number of new writings * on socialism with Chinese characteristics that I at least find decidedly helpful in understanding Marx and applications of ideas of Marx. Ultimately, successfully applied Marx is necessary or there is no actual socialism.

* Already translated.