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Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods

Re-reading Marx - New Perspectives after the Critical Edition

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Christopher J. Arthur, University of Sussex - The possessive spirit of capital

In the manuscripts Marx wrote prior to the appearance of his masterwork Capital Volume I (1867), the category of 'subsumption' is much more prominent than it is in the published edition. Now the 1861-63 Ms. (the so-called '2nd draft' of capital) is available to us in a critical edition (MEGA II/3) it confirms what was already known of this fact from the discovery of the chapter 'Results of the Immediate Process of Production' from the 1863-64 Ms. (the so-called '3rd draft', MEGA II/4.1). This was to be the culminating chapter of Volume I but it was omitted in its eventual publication (save for a single paragraph tacked on to the end (MEGA II/5 p. 619), itself suppressed in later editions). The consequence of the omission of Results... is that the published edition contains only a single reference to the distinction between 'formal' and 'real' subsumption in the chapter dealing with the unity of absolute and relative surplus value (MEGA II/5 p. 415).

The first section of the present paper examines the evidence found in the 1861-63 Ms. for the thesis that 'subsumption' is a category that should be given more attention than heretofore in the evolution of Marx's thought. An important aspect of this issue, treated in the subsequent sections of the paper, is the light it throws on the claim that Marx's system was influenced by Hegel's dialectical logic. When the Grundrisse Ms. (the so-called '1st draft' of Capital) became available to us (MEGA II/1) it aroused interest precisely because this influence was pretty obvious. The view that Marx had borrowed his method from Hegel was the burden of Roman Rosdolsky's pioneering study The Making of Marx's 'Capital' (1968). (A revival of this tradition of interpretation is evident in the recent collection Sulle Tracce di un Fantasma (ed. M. Musto 2005); see chapters by C. J. Arthur, R. Finelli, E, Dussel, G. Reuten, R. Bellofiore). The thesis of the present paper is that this view must be qualified in the light of the prominence of the category of 'subsumption' in the 1861-63 MS. In conclusion, Marx's concept of the capital/labor relation is examined a new.