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Thursday, November 20, 2014

FINISHED!

Well, I finally completed my re-reading of Capital Volume One today.  Here is an odd fact.  Marx wraps up his long discourse with a dramatic, powerful five page Chapter XXXII entitled "Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation."  The mists have dispelled, the veils have parted, and the raw story of the development of modern capitalism is laid before us as clearly as one could desire.  The chapter concludes with this marvelous paragraph:

"The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labour, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process incomparably more protracted, violent, and difficult, than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already resting on socialised production, into socialised property.  In the former case, we had the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers;  in the latter, we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people."

That ought to be the end of the book, right?  But then, unaccountably, Marx adds one more chapter, "The Modern Theory of Colonisation."  It is in every way an anticlimax, engendered, so far as I can tell, by Marx's desire to beat up on a wretch named E. G. Wakefield. 

When I teach the book next semester, I plan to end with Chapter XXXII. 

6 comments:

Veronique Perrin said...

Dear Robert,

I think you're wrong to not discuss the last chapter. It brings out beautifully the necessary structural features on which capitalism is predicated: without the availability of a free, propertyless class of wage-workers there can be no capitalist system. Anyway, who are the capitalists going to exploit if there are no wage-workers? Just out of interest, I live in Adelaide, Australia, and at a local seaside museum (Glenelg)Wakefield's theory of colonisation is a major exhibit. Also, one of the main streets in the city is called Wakefield Street. It looks like our State Forefathers of South Australia were pretty proud of Mr. Wakefield, even though (or perhaps because of the fact) he spent sometime in one of the old colonial jails (in Sydney, I think).

Regards,
Stephen Darling

(This is my wife's email address. She's French!)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Hi, Stephen. Good to hear from Flinders University. OK, OK, I yield. I shall say a bit about the last chapter, with full honors to Wakefield. What are you doing your dissertation on?

Chris said...

i always thought the wakefield story was a perfect vindication of marx's theory of reification, and the social relation (ontology) of the value.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It is great stuff, but placed where it is, it is an anti-climax.

Chris said...

Right, it has a very odd position. If only he had used that chapter to OPEN vol II (the most boring book ever written).

Veronique Perrin said...

Dear Robert,

I'm doing my PhD on a methodological comparison between Marx's account of capitalism and accounts in neoclassical economics, with the aim of showing what's wrong with the positivist/instrumentalist approach of neoclassical economics in contrast to Marx's scientific realism. The first part of the thesis deals with questions about the true source of positivism (is it Locke or Hume?) Ian Hunt is my supervisor. Ian's just retired, and he was the last of the department's five original Marxists. I really enjoy reading your blog and have, of course, read some of your published work. Your commentary on Piketty was fantastic. A great synopsis of his book, which I'm still trying to get through in my spare time.

Regards,
Stephen