Moneybags Must Be So Lucky: On the Literary Structure of Capital
Robert Paul Wolff
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**PDF**: this is a retail pdf from EBSCO that has reflowed text, so it does not reproduce the actual book layout. Vector, fully searchable, bookmarked, and book pagination.
Karl Marx’s great work, Capital, has intrigued and puzzled readers for more than a century by its mystifyingly intricate arguments and dramatic literary embellishments. In this book, Robert Paul Wolff dispels much of the mystery surrounding Capital by providing a literary-philosophical analysis of the text and of Marx’s intentions. Writing in a lively, satirical, sometimes comical style that echoes Marx’s own use of language, Wolff shows that Marx was at the very same time and in the very same texts a brilliant theoretical economist and a powerfully imaginative writer and that he deliberately forged an ironic voice in Capital in order to better communicate his theoretical arguments.
expression to this ontologically, epistemologically, and psychologically complex situation. His answer is what we have come to know as Socratic irony. Irony is a mode of communication that employs an utterance with a double meaning, to which correspond two audiences. The first, or superficial, audience understands only the apparent or superficial meaning, and thinks, wrongly, that it has understood the communication entire. The second, or real, audience understands
contrary proposition never had any significant valence. If I were to say, for example, in a neutral, impersonal voice, "A part of me believes such and such, but the real me does not," then I would, by this locution, distance myself so completely from the part of me that still believes as implicitly to deny that it ever had been a part of me
The exchange value of a commodity—or, more precisely, the exchange value in virtue of which a commodity is a commodity, the exchange value that constitutes the commodityness of a commodity—is a crystal of abstract homogeneous social labor. The quantum of exchange value congealed or crystallized in each commodity can neither be seen nor felt nor smelt nor tasted. This homogeneous, infinitely divisible, nonsensory stuff, this value, is contained in the products of labor as a
The classical account of relative price is perfectly correct as an explanation of exchange ratios, and Marx endorses it in the course of his discussion. But it is a grave mistake, he believes, to suppose that there is nothing more to be said. In fact, there is everything more to be said, for the classical account is utterly unable to explain
participating in and theorizing about the particular social relations of production and exchange characteristic of capitalism. Let us see exactly what this means. Economic efficiency demands that both entrepreneurs and merchants abstract entirely from the natural properties of the commodities they produce and sell, attending only to their exchange value. The prudent capitalist cannot allow his economic decisions to be influenced by his normal human responses to the accidents of his wares.