CHAPTER TWO

Minds and meaning:
Marx's concepts

Reading Capital

What kind of book is Capital? What is it actually about? Or rather, is there more than one way of answering these questions? And in particular, is there a reading alternative to the one handed down through tradition? If so, what makes it plausible? My aim in this chapter is to explore the textual 'surface' in Marx in a way that leads beyond metaphor. Initially I examine how presuppositions about genre and narrative frame the understandings of method and content that readers construct as they work through 'the words on the page'. As this discussion develops, I arrive at rather surprising conclusions as to what Marx's text might be saying and then consider the political implications.

Capital is commonly taken to be a 'positive' work, in one sense or another. This could be positive in the sense of consistent with, and following on from, a positive foundation in 'dialectics', as outlined by Engels in published form in Anti-Dühring and Socialism Utopian and Scientific, and in manuscript form, in notes that were posthumously published as The Dialectics of Nature. 1 While dialectical materialism was explored and expounded by Georgii Plekhanov and numerous later 'orthodox' philosophers, the relationship of dialectics to Capital was always more of a claim than a well-defended argument. 2 Besides the difficulties raised by Engels' ambitions for a theory of 'nature, history and thought' based on 'matter in motion', there was in any case a good

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