Monday, 13 April 2015

Capital III, Introduction - Part 1

Volumes II and III of Capital were edited and published by Engels, after Marx' death, in 1883. Marx had left a mass of notebooks and manuscripts, in various stages of completion. Marx had himself revised his own initial plans, set out in the Grundrisse, of the economic works he planned. Capital was just a part of that overall work.

More so than with Volume II, Volume III of Capital should probably really be described as having joint authorship, by Marx and Engels, because Engels had to revise, re-write and indeed, in places, provide entirely the material contained within it. Even then, large sections of the work in Volume III remain unfinished, and like the chapter on classes, barely even started.

Given Marx’s method of developing and explicating his analysis, both historically and logically, this has to be kept at the forefront of one's mind, in considering that the ideas presented here are far from what would have been their completed form, had Marx lived to complete, or even extend, his work. In fact, after publication, Engels was criticised for not publishing the book as a more completed and polished piece of work. Engels later wrote,

“In publishing it, what I was chiefly concerned with was to produce as authentic a text as possible, to demonstrate the new results obtained by Marx in Marx’s own words as far as possible, to intervene myself only where absolutely unavoidable, and even then to leave the reader in no doubt as to who was talking to him. This has been deprecated. It has been said that I should have converted the material available to me into a systematically written book, en faire un livre, as the French say; in other words, sacrifice the authenticity of the text to the reader’s convenience. But this was not how I conceived my task. I lacked all justification for such a revision, a man like Marx has the right to be heard himself, to pass on his scientific discoveries to posterity in the full genuineness of his own presentation. Moreover, I had no desire thus to infringe — as it must seem to me — upon the legacy of so pre-eminent a man; it would have meant to me a breach of faith. And third, it would have been quite useless. For the people who cannot or do not want to read, who, even in Volume I, took more trouble to understand it wrongly than was necessary to understand it correctly — for such people it is altogether useless to put oneself out in any way.

Such controversies are a matter of course in a work that contains so much that is new, and in a hastily sketched and partly incomplete first draft to boot. And here my intervention, of course, can be of use: to eliminate difficulties in understanding, to bring more to the fore important aspects whose significance is not strikingly enough evident in the text, and to make some important additions to the text written in 1865 to fit the state of affairs in 1895. Indeed, there are already two points which seem to me to require a brief discussion.” (Supplement p 889-90)

Engels has encompassed his own contributions to this work in initialled square brackets. Where I have quoted from any of these contributions, I have followed the same practice to discern it from a quote by Marx himself.

Forward To Part 2

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