[Marxism] question re distinction b/w manufacture and large-scale industry in Capital Vol 1

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at cqu.edu.au
Thu Jan 19 20:12:09 MST 2012

Hi Andy

I have just re-read 'Capital' after many years - and it's a great read - and not at all what I really remembered. There is a lot of literary references - and a great deal of sarcasm - its amazing how the old excuses put forward to justify exploitation continue in slightly different forms after 140 years.

I went thru it under the guidance of David Harvey's lectures (and his 'Companion to Marx's "Capital"'). Of course he's not neutral but as a guide to the text he'd be hard to beat. He brings his own ideas of course (geography in particular) but he's pretty undogmatic and engaged with current struggles (and he spoke at OWS so his politics is pretty good).

I think you have pretty much got it - and not much to add to Angelus. I like to use Han's Ehbar's material (http://www.econ.utah.edu/~ehrbar/akmc.htm) where he has retranslated and annotated the text which is worth looking over. In relation to your question there is this  comment from his annotated edition:

"While the English word "manufacture" refers to any site of mass production, the German "Manufaktur" denotes a very specific kind of mass production which does not use heavy machinery but which achieves efficiency by division of labor and specialization of the operatives. Chapter Fourteen explains the origin of this kind of production, why it was the characteristic form of capitalistic production for over 200 years, but why it then gave way to a different form of the production process (production using machines, discussed in chapter Fifteen)."

I think you are right in seeing this as one of the key markers in the development of Marx's argument. I'd prefer to say he is picking out 'moments' in a process (rather than stages). He begins looking at the issue at the level of the factory (which is the level he needs to make the point) but its around here that he begins to open it up to more 'systematic' dynamics so it's no longer just technology in the firm but technology across society and by chapter 25 he's talking about 'total social capital'. Harvey hedges a bit here seeing it as happening on both levels but I thought the shift was marked.

I think it's important too to remain focused on the social relations in all this - the interest in technology is about how it subordinates real people. It's easy to get caught up in the economics or the technicalities of it all - and because the way its presented is as an immanent critique of the dominant ideas about economics in his day - and forget that Marx is not, in the last instance, trying to correct the errors of his bourgeois contemporaries but to understand the system in order to change it. I think Harry Cleaver does a good job of drawing this side of things out in the intro to his 'Reading Capital Politically' (http://libcom.org/library/reading-capital-politically-cleaver) and his 'Study Guide to 'Capital' (https://webspace.utexas.edu/hcleaver/www/357k/357ksg.html).

I will follow up those refs of Angelus (Rubin's essays are on-line at MIA http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubin/value/index.htm). There is an enormous amount on-line even from people's reading groups. But one other I'd mention is the work of Nicole Pepperell 'Rough Theory'. Her PhD will be published soon by Historical Materialism and I think brings out the importance of 'how' we read the text.


More information about the Marxism mailing list