Hi, I rarely post on this list but I
wanted to let you know about a book I’m (very slowly) translating by Juan Iñigo
Carrera. Juan worked as a public accountant for many years, and teaches in the
University of Buenos Aires.
Below is the first part of the
Preface (which I have yet to finish).
Perhaps you’ve heard of Guido
Starosta who is one of the editors of Historical Materialism (the journal), who
closely works with Juan. I think the book is a great -with no authoritarian
underpinnings- pedagogical tool. I’d be very interested in hearing your
thoughts about it, and I’d appreciate in particular any corrections in grammar or
diction. It’s very hard to sum up Juan’s work in a few lines but I added some
Lastly, it'd be great if you could
share this as well, I know about the list OPE-L but I don't have reach to it.
The aim of the book, as I see it, is to delve into the
question of what the role of Capital
(which Marx intended to be “the first scientific victory of the working class”)
is as a tool to produce a scientific consciousness wherein lies the
revolutionary subjectivity of the working class.
For now, only the first three chapters are finished. Here
you will find a very direct argument which exposes the ideological character of
the empty abstractions of neoclassical economics and classical political economy, among others; some of which
have been and are still being adopted uncritically by many Marxists, no less
than to dogmatically dismiss the real determinations of the value-form of the
material product of labor. More generally, it is a very straightforward yet
lucid illustration of how economic theory has to eliminate any trace of human
consciousness as grounded in its social being, and this in order to impose the
ideological inversion of an abstract consciousness with no other determinations
than the naturalized whims of a free will, which lacking an objective knowledge
of the conditions from which its freedom arises is condemned to remain an illusory
Personally, what I found most valuable is that Juan does not
lecture the reader on Capital, or the
various interpretations of it. As Juan explains further in the book, the point
is not to take any of Marx’s assertions as postulates or assumptions, not to
interpret Marx, but rather to *use* Capital as a tool to develop one’s own
critical appropriation of their general social relation, capital. The fact is that one needs to know
what capital is, a necessity which capital begets by itself, and this is the starting point of the investigation, as was also the starting point when Marx set out his investigation of the commodity in the outlines of the Paris Manuscripts of 1844. In this sense,
Juan’s book is not a reading of Capital,
but his own critical investigation in order to account for this necessity,
which, of course, uses Capital to
help his and hopefully one’s own investigation.
Capital is thus a
key political tool in the development of the organization of the working class,
for only an action which can account for its own necessity can be a truly
scientific basis upon which individuals may build a society of freely, that is,
consciously, associated producers.
With no further ado, here is the link to the webpage where
you can download the chapters in .pdf format:
You can also find other essays in English in the website,
for example, this is Juan’s take on what happened during the political crisis
in Argentina in 2001 which appeared in the journal Historical Materialism:
Any corrections or suggestions to my English will be appreciated.
To read Capital?
The mere question evokes difficulty, complexity, contradiction. Was there not
someone who began writing a book “to read Capital”,
boasting that he had not read it wholly, and closed the vicious circle writing
the prologue for an edition of Capital
where he imperatively recommended to begin by skipping the whole first section
of the work?
Proposals of abridged readings rain down on us before the
complexity of the question. There is the author who proposes that we “read
Capital politically”. The one who considers his reading a “philosopher’s
reading”. The one who proposes to leave
out anything that does not concern “ethical foundations”. Of course, there is
no scarcity of authors who read it as a text of “political economy”. There is
even the author who proposes to read it with the indiscreetness implied by not
having a concrete question other than “seeing what is in there”. But, are not
politics, economics, ethics, philosophy, all of them social forms, social
relations, which unity cannot be split without mutilating the content of each
one of them?
Is it then a question of interpreting
the text in its unity? Will the solution perhaps be to face the reading with
the intention of interpreting the world by interpreting Marx? This does not
seem to be a clear way out of the problem. In the first place, there are those
who threaten us with inevitably falling into “the most vulgar interpretation of
the theory of value, which directly contradicts Marx’s theory” if we literally
abide by the text written by him. But, above all, how do we overlook the
absolute contradiction set out by Marx between interpreting the world and changing
If we refuse to interpret the text, how are we to confront
it? Will we attain an objective perspective of it if we follow the recognized
precept of looking in it for its “Logic (in capitals)”? But then, what will we
do with Marx’s explicit rejection to operate through the development of logical
contradictions, since logic is “alienated
thinking, and therefore thinking which abstracts from nature and from real
Would it not be better to listen to those who say that it is
not very useful to read it because it is “a model” which corresponds to
nineteenth century England but that it is not “applicable” to, for example,
modern Argentina? Further, does not the scientific community consider démodé and obsolete any text after a
handful of years of its publication against the speed with which reality
But then what? Are we to leave out the text and begin an independent development from zero on our
own? We would hardly progress beyond re-discovering gunpowder this way.
Although, it would doubtless be worse to follow those who propose that we read Capital in order to “believe with Marx”
in the existence of this or that social relation.
To come out of all these convolutions we do not have at this
stage any recourse other than going back to the beginning. And what if stop
looking at Capital as an object for
us to read and rather establish our necessity to read it, up to this moment
simply present from the beginning as an immediate condition, as the object
which Capital is to account for? But,
in that case, it would not be a question of reading
it anymore but of using it to answer
for our own necessity. Thus, our starting point cannot be other than
confronting the determinations that our necessity to use Capital immediately presents us with in the process of producing
our own consciousness. And in this way the first question which is at stake is
the very form of our process of production of knowledge. It is there then,
where we will begin.
This is the second part which I should finish in a few days.
Here Juan deals with the form of the process of knowledge mentioned above and
talks about what the role of the dialectical method in Marx is in it. There is
also an essay by Guido Starosta -who works closely with Juan- published by the
journal Science and Society, ‘The Commodity-Form and the Dialectical Method’,
which also deals with this question particularly regarding Marx’s presentation
in the beginning of Capital.