Incomplete Marx

rakesh bhandari djones at
Thu Aug 22 12:12:05 MDT 1996

Will wrote:

"Rakesh and Aufheben both mentioned a book called
'The Incomplete Marx' published in 1995 by Averbury
and written by Felton Shortall. I understand it to be
about Capital and the areas that Marx failed to complete.

I've tried to get hold pf it through the library without success.
I'd appreciate some information about the book,
what its about, how much it costs, is it any good,
has anybody taken any notice of it, who Felton
Shortall is (peculiar name) that I can decide
whether to make the effort to get hold of it...."

Felton C. Shortall, 1994. *The Incomplete Marx*. Aldershot, UK/Brookfield,
USA/Hong Kong/Singapore/Sydney: Avebury Publishers.

I had to request this book through the inter-library loan service here at
UC Berkeley. It saddens me that it is, last I checked, only available in
harback from the publisher for $80 (US), so I, as usual, photocopied the
whole thing and returned it to the library.  While I have only read little
more than half of this 500 page book, I do feel confident that it is among
the most important critical exegeses I have yet come across.  Here are the

1. Introduction
2. The formation of the Marxian project
3. The development of the Marxian project
4. Totality and dialectic in Hegel and in Marx
5. The dialectic of capital and the counter-dialectic of class struggle
6. The context of closure
7. The enactment of closure: from the *Grundrisse* to *Capital*
8. The enactment of closure from within *Capital*: vol I
9. The enactment of closure within *Capital*: vol II
10. The enactment of closure within *Capital*: vol III
11. The structure of closure in Hegel's *Logic* and in Marx's *Capital*
12. The closure within Marx and the closure within Marxism.

The following is from Chris Arthur's review in *capital and class* 55:

"According to Shortall, when Marx got down to work on his theme of
'capitalism and its overthrow' he was forced to enter the terrain of the
enemy in order to examime its dispositions. Invevitably then in his
critique of political economy, Marx came to operate within a 'provisional
two fold closure': a)Firstly, Marx was obliged to close off class
subjectivity in order to grasp the logic of capital as an objective and
positive system of 'economic laws'; 'Secondly,, in making his general
analysis of what capital *is* Marx was, obliged to emphasise the unity of
capital'; as a result the question of crisis and rupture becomes repeatedly
deferred throughout the three volumes.

"The closure is only provisional because the dialectic of capital's
self-positing is opposed by the 'counter-dialectic of class struggle'; but
in focussing on the problematic of political economy the latter dialectic
for the most part 'falls below the horizon' of Marx's immediate analyses.

"Shortall concludes that if he is right that '*Capital is in a fundamental
sense incomplete; that *Capital* is merely provisionally closed; that the
Marxian project points through and beyond *Capital*'; we can then pose a
'Marx inwhich human praxis and class subjectivity emerge in their full
force on the objective foundations set forth in *Capital*'.  In passing
Shortall makes interesting comments on the way Marx appropriated Hegel's
dialectic." (165)

Shortall's discussion of Hegel's dialectic is actually rather sustained and
quite illuminating. Some time back I quoted a very important passage from
the eleventh chapter on how Marx proceeds from the analysis of an
abstracted capital unit in the first volume to an analysis of the various
differentially placed concrete capital units as they really appear in the
realm of competition.  While an Althusserian may for example raise
questions about the abstract analysis of volume I as a positing of an
essence to Capital, Shortall demonstrates how it is that Marx actually
moves in an explanatory manner from essence to appearance, without reducing
the latter to the former.

I believe that there is much which is controversial in Shortall's
interpretation; however it cannot be emphasized enough that Shortall is
such a learned and lucid interpreter that he has provided us with one of
the most important exegetical works which I have read.

Here are some questions:

1. what for example is the role of class struggle in Marx's *Capital*; vol
I is obviously replete with references and detailed accounts of the civil
war in production, as well as the use of the state for the purposes of
robbing the capital and creating the labor force required in the primitive
stages of accumulation.  Vol I does not read to me like Richard Lipsey's
*Positive Economics* or any economics textbook I have ever seen.
2. Shortall argues that Marx attentuates his understanding of human
alienation in for example the *Grundrisse* to a purely quantative analysis
of exploitation in the first volume of *Capital*. First, I don't things are
so simple. Marx clarifies that because capital is pure quantity (M-C-M'),
it must attempt to restructure the labor process continuously in order to
increase itself as quantity, the result for the worker being analagous to
the butcher of an entire animal simply for its hide. That is, Marx is
obviously not only concerned with how much time in the abstract the worker
gives up to the capitalist but also with what this labor process means for
the worker as a human being. Perhaps the analysis of human alienation has
become more class specific, but it has not become a simple analysis of
numbers.  Second, since capital is nothing but the pursuit of exchange
value, there has to be certain attempt to study it as quantity, its growth
and its possible insufficiency given the *objective* requirements for the
reproduction of the system.
3. was Marx at any time attempting to present a postive account of the very
laws which I would argue he was attempting to defetishize. In Marx at the
Millennium (London: Pluto, 1996), Cyril Smith discusses this idea of a
defetishizing critique. It is also not clear to me that Marx ever takes up
the perspective of the bourgeoisie except in in most ironical way, as has
been analyzed by Robert Paul Wolff in Money-Bags Must be So Lucky
(University of MA, 1988). For example, while the political economists
simply attempted to make sense of how commodities exchange in certain
ratios for a given sum of money, Marx could only find madness, craziness in
this practice.
4 that it was Marx's confused maintainence of an embodied theory of
value--instead of a simplfying analytical device, self-consciously
deployed, at one stage in the approximation to reality--which led him at
times to abstract from the value revolutions which do indeed engender
crises and rupture.


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