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«Capital in general and the structure of Marx’s Capital»: Michael Heinrich

ROMAN ROSDOLSKY’S The Making of Marx’s Capital (1977), originally published in 1968, exercised a considerable and lasting sway over the debate on Capital in West Germany which began in the wake of the student movement . Although interpretations based on Rosdolsky’s approach had the merit of undermining economistic and positive readings of Capital, this was frequently at the cost of a philosophical obfuscation of the social and economic substance of Marx’s critique of political economy . Capital, so it would seem had to be read through two sets of spectacles,’ the first consisting of certain understandings of the dialectical presentation from Hegel’s Logic, and the second of a number of methodological ideas from the Grundrisse, especially Rosdolsky’s elaboration of the concept ‘capital in general’ . Ironically, the ebbing away of debate about Capital with the break-up of the student left in the mid 1970s, coincided with the first publication of many of the manuscripts which formed the immediate preparatory work to Capital, as well as better edited versions of already familiar manuscripts, in the shape of the new complete Marx-Engels edition, the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) .

MEGA is divided into four main sections (works, articles, drafts (excluding Capital) ; Capital and its preceding texts ; letters, excerpts, synopses, notes, marginal comments) . Section II of MEGA is of particular interest for Marx’s developed economic theory . The first volume contained the Grundrisse (1857/58) . This represents the first draft of the economic theory of the ‘mature’ Marx . The second volume contains the 1859 text ‘Zur Kritik der politischen okonomie . Erstes Heft’ (A contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) which consists merely of two chapters : one on the commodity and one on money . This second volume also contains a fragment of what is termed the Urtext – the ‘original text’ – of the Contribution, which is particularly interesting because of its treatment of the law of appropriation under simple commodity circulation and the transition from money to capital, neither of which appear in the finished text . Although these texts are both already familiar from earlier editions (at least to German readers), the third volume (which itself consists of six sub-volumes) contains the first complete edition of the 1861- 63 manuscripts entitled ‘Zur Kritik der politischen oKonomie‘ . Prior to its publication in MEGA only the Theories of Surplus Value had been published from this text, which totals c . 2400 printed pages and is the largest of Marx’s manuscripts . Originally envisaged as the continuation of the 1859 text it soon turned into a typical working manuscript in which Marx wrestles with problems of both investigation and presentation .’ This manuscript is the second draft of Marx’s economic theory . It represents the vital link between the Grundrisse and Capital.

The complete edition of the second draft of Marx’s economic theory, written between 1861-63, is already certainly one of the most significant results of the labour that has gone into MEGA. The manuscript enables us to correct a number of Rosdolsky’s central theses . Firstly, it reveals how Rosdolsky’s interpretation of Capital in the light of the concept of ‘capital in general’, which dominates the Grundrisse, broke down in the face of a number of problems of content . And secondly, it permits answers to the problems of the change of the outline of Capital – that is the question of the relationship between the content of the three volumes of Capital and the original six books set out in Marx’s plan (capital, landed property, wagelabour, the state, foreign trade, the world market) .

Capital in general and the structure of Marx’s Capital

Capital & Class. Translated by Pete Burgess

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