Inicio > Economía marxista, Filosofía marxista, Teoría crítica acumulada > “The Four Drafts of Capital: Toward a New Interpretation of the Dialectical Thought of Marx”: Enrique Dussel

“The Four Drafts of Capital: Toward a New Interpretation of the Dialectical Thought of Marx”: Enrique Dussel

Foto cortesía de Emma GinéThe first century following Marx’s death (1883–1983) began under Engels’s authority, then continued under the hegemony of the Second International (Kautsky, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, etc.). The Leninist period of the Second International was brief, and it quickly fell under the domination of Stalinism. The second century of Marx (l983–2083) has begun with “perestroika,” with the collapse of existing socialism in Eastern Europe, and with the massive publication of hitherto unknown manuscripts. Marx in his second century will be something very different from in his first century. He will be a Marx whose critical thought will be in the hands of humanity— critical of capitalism and, in a positive way (opening its democratic and creative era), of existing socialism. We are perhaps nearer to Marx than ever. Engels himself too often confused in his “we” (Marx and I) what belonged to Marx and what Engels had added. Moreover, due to an understandable defensiveness, he could not take a clear, archaeological vision of Marx’s theoretical discoveries as we can today, thanks to the discoveries we will discuss in this article. Kautsky, Lenin, and many other subsequent Marxists had even less access to the texts with which we are now acquainted.

It is a question, then, of a complete rereading of Marx, with new eyes: as a Latin American, from the growing poverty of the peripheral world, the underdeveloped and exploited of capitalism at the end of the twentieth century. Marx is, in the periphery, today, more pertinent than in the England of the mid-nineteenth century.


Marx was interpreted for five decades from the standpoint of Stalinism, itself a deformation so evident that it is not necessary even to discuss it. For its part, so-called Western Marxism (from Lukács and Korsch up to Kosík, Marcuse, Althusser, Colletti, or Habermas) philosophically explored especially the “young Marx” (though Lukács is the exception, especially in his mature work on The Ontology of Social Being). In any case, initially one depended on the materials published by Engels and Kautsky. When, in 1925, the Economic and Philosophie Manuscripts of 1844 were published, on which Marcuse so astutely commented, a rediscovery of Marx was begun. The Grundrisse, published in 1939 and in 1954, did not have the same effect. Roman Rosdolsky’s book (1967) was the first important discussion of that work. It somewhat modified the traditional vision of Marx, but not fundamentally; the “Hegelianism” of Marx, proposed already by Lukács, would be denied by Althusser or Colletti, against all the evidence.

For my part, exiled from Argentina (where the right-wing Peronist and military repression was beginning, as in Germany of 1933), in 1977 at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México I began a seminar which we reread chronologically, “archeologically,” Marx’s economic works: from the least to the most remote drafts from the viewpoint of the publication of Capital. The fruits of this seminar have been the three volumes that I have published on this subject in Spanish (Dussel 1985, 1988, 1990).

Having initiated a complete rereading, with the intention of diachronically discovering the construction of the categories in Marx’s theory, we began with his baccalaureate examinations in 1835, his doctoral thesis of 1841, his articles of l842–3, and the beginning of his exile. We studied at length the works of Paris and Brussels, given that at the end of 1843 Marx began his studies of economics, which continued until 1849. This part of his life has been sufficiently studied by contemporary philosophy, especially by the polemic of Aithusser’s “epistemological break.” To us, however, the subsequent period appeared more interesting.

Marx left for London in 1849. There, every day beginning in 1851, in the library of the British Museum, he undertook a huge task of reading, of which he left us testimony in the more than one hundred “Notebooks” that will represent more than forty volumes in section IV of the MEGA. Up until now, we have had only the first seven volumes (MEGA IV, 1–7). But this is not the section of the MEGA with which we are primarily interested.

Chronologically rereading these manuscripts of Marx we reached l857 and, promptly, we discovered (since it was a “team” reading with students trained in a strict reading of Marx) the massive presence of Hegel in the so-called Grundrisse (Marx 1857), the first draft of Capital. With the reading and debate thus completed, we learned of other manuscripts (Marx 1861) that had just been published in Berlin. We studied these manuscripts in teams, “archaeologically,” ohserving how Marx “developed the concept of capital” through the “construction of new categories.” In November and December 1857, Marx discovered the category of surplus value (see Dussel 1985, chap. 7). From November 1862 to January 1863 he finished constructing, in definitive fashion, the category of “price of production” (Marx 1861; Dussel 1988, chap. 12). We thus became aware that this was the second draft of Capital— that is, the Manuscripts of 1861–63. With this work finished, we set out to obtain the next materials. In the archives at Amsterdam and in the Marxist-Leninist Institute of Berlin (where we were received, and where the doors were opened for us to read the manuscripts), we discovered in 1987 the existence of the Manuscripts of 1863–65 (Marx 1863), the third draft of Capital.

We had thus closed the circle and could now consider the “fourth draft” of Capital (Marx 1867), which Marx took up in January 1866—the work with which the entire Marxian tradition has begun reading Marx. We had, for the first time, a complete vision of Marx’s manuscripts. We could, only then, attempt a proper interpretation: one that did not necessarily depend on the other existing European interpretations, and one that would respond to the concrete, historical “interests” of Latin American poverty, and to the necessity of a revolutionary process in the periphery of the capitalist world at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

I believe that this Marx will be not only the “Marx of perestroika,” but also the Marx of the entire second century (1983–2083), of the philosopher and economist, who critically deconstructs capitalist economics and reconstructs it anthropologically and ethically, in a democratic vision in which the responsible and participating individual is fully realized in the community and in solidarity. What is crucial is to describe the critical framework “from which” Marx criticized capitalism, since it is from that framework that one may criticize as well all possible future economic systems.

Artículo Completo

  1. Anjie Zheng
    18/01/2013 de 15:36

    Muchisimas gracias por esta actualizacion!

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