H*lp: Roy Bhaskars Critical Realism (fwd)

Hans Ehrbar ehrbar at keynes
Sat Apr 8 17:30:10 MDT 1995


Here is the first sentence in Marx's famous passage in the preface in
German:

 In der gesellschaftlichen Produktion ihres Lebens gehen die Menschen
 bestimmte, notwendige, von ihrem Willen unabhaengige Verhaeltnisse
 ein, Produktionsverhaeltnisse, die einer bestimmten Entwicklungsstufe
 ihrer materiellen Produktivkraefte entsprechen.

I proposed to translate it as follows:

 In the social production of their lives, people enter into
 determinate relations that are necessary and independent of their
 wills---relations of production, which correspond to a determinate
 stage of development of their material productive forces.

Why did I use "determinate" as translation for "bestimmt" instead of
the usual "definite"?  I think Chris suggested already one very good
argument in favor of it: because in German it is the same word as in
the later sentence:

 Es ist nicht das Bewusstsein der Menschen, das ihr Sein, sondern
 umgekehrt ihr gesellschaftliches Sein, das ihr Bewusstsein bestimmt.

 It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but,
 on the contrary, it is their social being that determines their
 consciousness.

But let us go back to the first sentence.  Here it is again:

 In the social production of their lives, people enter into
 determinate relations that are necessary and independent of their
 wills---relations of production, which correspond to a determinate
 stage of development of their material productive forces.

My hypothesis here is: Marx uses "determinate relations" because these
relations are not historical or accidental results but they are in a
certain sense lawful---yet in the same sentence he rules out the first
candidate for the source of this lawfulness, namely, he rules out that
they are determined by people's wills, and introduces the productive
forces as something to which they correspond---which is not the same
as something by which they are determined, but which suggests some
lawful relationship there.

Marx uses the word "bestimmt" a lot, and I always thought that
"definite" was a lousy translation.  But, to be honest, this is the
first time that it occurred to me that Marx might have meant that it
is subject to some law as opposed to being an accidental or
constellational product.  I still have to check if this interpretation
holds up for other occurences of the word "bestimmt" in Marx.

BTW, Chris, I feel honored by your careful reading of my submission.

--
Hans G. Ehrbar                                    ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Economics Department, 308 BuC                     (801) 581 7797
University of Utah                                (801) 581 7481
Salt Lake City    UT 84112-1107                   (801) 585 5649 (FAX)
For Info about our Graduate Program Contact  program at econ.sbs.utah.edu


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