Damn - in an earlier version of this, I didn't notice that the stuff I wrote didn't copy to the blog. Sorry sorry sorry! The only thing that copied was the translation I made from Marx. Damn. Anyway, this is what the post is supposed to look like.
In the section of the Grundrisse that Marx’s editors – I believe entitled, The Method of Political Economics, Marx asks what it means to look at a nation from the political economic viewpoint.
It seems to be correct to begin with the real and the concrete, thus, for example, to begin, in economics, with the population, which is the foundation and the subject of the entire social act of production. Yet by a nearer observation this appears to be false. The population is an abstraction if I leave aside the classes of which it consists. These classes are an empty phrase when I don’t know the elements out of which they are made, for instance, wage labor, capital, etc. … For example, capital is nothing without wage labour, without value, money, price etc. Therefore, If I begin with the population, it would be a chaotic representation of the whole; and thus I through nearer analysis come upon ever simpler concepts; from this conceptualized concretum towards ever thinner abstractions, until I arrive at the simplest determinations. From there I commence the trip backwards until I finally final arrived at the population again, this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and connections. The first way is that which the economists took historically in the beginning… As soon as these individual moments [R: of value, division of labor, money] were more or less fixed and abstracted, the economic systems began, climbing up from the simple, such as labour, division of labour, need, exchange value, to the state, the exchange between nations and the world market. The latter is obviously the scientifically correct method. The concrete is concrete because it is the weaving together [Zusammenfassung] of many determinations, hence the unity of the manifold. In thought it appears as the process of the weaving together, as a result, not as a starting point, although it is really a starting point and thus also the starting point for intuition [Anschauung] and idea. In the first way, the full idea volatilizes into abstract determination; in the second, the abstract determinations lead towards a reproduction of the concrete by way of thought.”
The path down and the path back up, the way of pins and the way of needs, the negative identity between forwards and backwards – LI has hammered on these ideas until we are afraid that, like a bad carpenter, we have crooked our nail. But it is a pattern we meet all too often among the nineteenth century aliens, who, looking back, have noted with horror that universal history somehow took a wrong turn. The method of political economy, here, looks – not accidentally – not only like an alchemical process a la Faust, but like exploration - and here, again, the epistemic operator that Foucault, strangely, passes over in silence, ‘discovery’, throws around its historical weight. To the source of tears, to the vital liquids, to the volatilized moment – such is the great work. What I’m calling weaving together might be better called, following this metaphoric, concentration as in the standard translation of the Grundrisse.
In a sense, what Marx did was follow Faust’s path of reversal – in the late thirties, writing his articles on windfallen wood, he started out – much like the beginning in this passage – with the state. The great abstraction of the state. Law and philosophy had taught him to regard the state as the fulcrum of society. What he learns, in the forties, is that the path he is on leads him to levels below the state – which no longer, logically, can be the fulcrum. He sinks down to the underworld of daily activity, of production and reproduction, in which the categories of the surface – for instance, of individuality – have no hold. And then he turns – realizing that this is the turn taken by political economists – and makes his way back to the surface. The philosophical mistake was to confuse the way this unrolls in one’s head – for it can unroll in no other social space – for the force that drives the whole. Invention is the tricky doeppelgaenger of discovery.