Grundrisse translation question

Einde O'Callaghan einde.ocallaghan at
Sun Feb 18 12:12:55 MST 2001

> Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2001 17:01:26 -0500
> From: Steven Matthews <steve at>
> Subject: Grundrisse translation question
> I am a member of a reading group that is currently reading "The
> Grundrisse". In a discussion last night of the following passage (Penguin
> edition,
> p. 140-1):
>      Value is at the same time the exponent of the relation
>      in which the commodity is exchanged with other commodities,
>      as well as the exponent of the relation in which it has
>      already been exchanged with other commodities (materialized
>      labour time) in production; it is their quantitatively
>      determined exchangeability.
> a disagreement arose over the word "exponent".
> What is the German word Marx uses that is translated into "exponent"? If
> the German word is "exponent" also, is Marx using this word as: 1) a person
> who favors or promotes an idea etc., or; 2) a raised symbol or expression
> beside a numeral indicating how many times it is to be multiplied by itself?
The German word is "Exponent". The passage is as follows:

     Er [der Wert] ist zugleich der Exponent des Vedrhältnisses, worin
     sie sich austauscht mit andren Waren, und der Exponent  des
     Verhältnisses, worin sie sich bereits in der Produktion mit andren
     Waren (materialisierter Arbeitszeit) ausgetauscht hat; er ist ihre
     quantitativ bestimmte Austauschbarkeit.

The German word "Exponent" has two meanings similar to the English word
exponent. However, when used to refer to a person it means, I translate
from the main German dictionary Duden, "published representative of a
tendency, party etc." This is a more restricted meaning than the English

Having read the passage and the surrounding text several times in both
German and English my strong impression is that Marx is speaking of a
mathematical, or at least quasi-mathematical, relationship between
quantities of  measureable things, in this case exchange value and
labour time.

However, I'm not a native German speaker. Perhaps Johannes Schneider or
one of the other German-speaking subscribers would disagree with me.

Einde O'Callaghan

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