The MEGA Project and the end of Marxism as we knew it Michael R. Krätke Lancaster University
All that I know is that I am not aMarxist (Marx in 1881)
Editing the Classics – the unknownMarx and Engels MEGA – what’s in an acronym: Marx / Engels Complete Works A Mega-Project – the largest historical critical edition project in the social sciences more than a hundred scholars collaborating in 8 countries on 4 continents a long-lasting project: started in the 1960s, will continue (after the recent evaluation) for at least another 10 years output: 164 volumes according to the original plan, still 114 volumes according to the revised plan of 1992
The Marx papers – or why the MEGA isimportant when Marx died in March 1883 … Engels in charge of the Marx papers Engels as editor of Marx’ unpublished / unfinished work First priority: Volume II and III of Capital After Engels’ death in 1895: the Marx – Engels papers became part of the archives of the German Social Democratic party Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein were its guardians and published bits and pieces (one larger bit ‘Theories of Surplus Value’ in 1905 – 10) During the high times of ‘classical Marxism’ only a part (about a third) of Marx’ and Engels’ writings were actually published (only a handful of specialists knew them all)
A short History of the MEGA The first plan for a complete works editions: Vienna 1911 The first MEGA project: 1921 – 1940 ( 3 sections planned, only 13 volumes published) The first MEGA and its collaborators: victims of the Stalinist purges (including the most eminent Marx scholar of his time and director of the Marx-Engels-Institute, David Rjazanov) The second MEGA: 1964ff (Institutes of Marxism-Leninism in Moscow and Berlin) The crisis of the second MEGA 1989/90 The relaunch of the MEGA 1991 - 92 ( a different project in a different context) – new organization (IMES, BBAW, IISH, FES, funded by the EU, G, NL, Russian Federation), internationalization of the project
The Marx – Engels papers today A lot of manuscripts, many letters have been lost or were destroyed A lot has been found (until today we are able to retrieve by chance letters and papers in archives and collections) The bulk of the Marx – Engels papers (80%) is preserved at the IISH, Amsterdam The rest (20%) is preserved in Russian State Archives in Moscow
New rules and editorial principles Four basic rules of the edition (since the relaunch): Completeness – publish everything (everything that is preserved in the Marx / Engels papers or could/can be retrieved – with the exception of marginalia in books) Publish everything in the original version (fidelity to the original, also in terms of language) Show the evolution of the texts (all the variants, corrections, changes made by the authors) No political comments, strictly scholarly, scientific comments – in the notes and in the introductions
The Four Sections of the MEGA The MEGA is divided in four sections: Section I – all the writings by Marx and Engels (except capital) (32 volumes planned, 18 published) Section II – all the writings by Marx and Engels pertaining to “Capital” (15 volumes planned, all published) Section III – correspondence (35 volumes planned, 12 published) Section IV – the notebooks and excerpts (32 volumes planned, 14 published) We are now halfway – 58 volumes published, section II complete, working parties busy with the remaining volumes
Novelties in each section of the MEGA In section I: Many new articles, drafts, books by Marx and Engels plus articles edited by Marx or Engels, plus books and articles written by third persons in direct collaboration with Marx or Engels In section II: All the hitherto unpublished manuscripts pertaining to Capital In section III: The complete correspondence, including the letters written by third persons to either Marx or Engels In section IV: Invitation to the study of Marx and Engels (notebooks, excerpts, collections of material, short sketches)
Discoveries and rediscoveries: TheImpact of the first MEGA Unpublished manuscripts, notes and letters – the unknown Marx and Engels come to light Impact of the first MEGA: Major texts, hitherto unknown led to a ‘new lecture of Marx’ and heated debates about the core theories of ‘Marxism’ First publication of ‘Dialectics of Nature’ (1925) First publication of ‘German Ideology’ (1927) First publication of the ‘Economical – philosophical manuscripts’ (Paris manuscripts of 1844) (1932) First publication of bits of Marx’ original manuscripts for ‘Capital’(1933) First publication of the ‘Economic manuscript of 1857/58’ (Grundrisse) (1939/1941)
Discoveries and rediscoveries: theImpact of the second MEGA Republication of known texts in the original form: ‘German Ideology’ – a book that Marx and Engels never wrote ‘Dialectics of Nature’ – a book that Engels never wrote ‘Paris manuscripts’ – until the 1970s unknown in its original form and context ‘Grundrisse’ – until recently unknown in its real historical context (the manuscripts, the journal articles on the crisis of 1857/58, the ‘Books on crisis’, the correspondence)
Discoveries and rediscoveries: TheImpact of the second MEGA Big novelties: all the manuscripts / drafts pertaining to ‘Capital’ (from 1850 to 1882) published for the first time Engels’ editing manuscripts for volume II and III of ‘Capital’ published for the first time The journalists Marx and Engels rediscovered (Neue Rheinische Zeitung, New York Daily Tribune, Radical and Liberal British, Austrian and German papers) – new articles and unpublished parts of series of articles (f.i. on ‘Revolutionary Spain’) Many unfinished projects (by Marx and Engels) documented (historical, political, economic writings) Cooperation between Marx, Engels (and others) documented (f.i. ‘Anti-Dühring’, ‘Dialectics of Nature’, ‘Origin of the Family’)
More discoveries: you are invited to thestudy of Marx and Engels Marx’ notebooks – a hitherto unknown source (Kreuznach, Paris, Manchester, Brussels, London notebooks – 1843 to 1882) Marx’ notebooks on science and technology (since 1851, continued in the 1860s and 1870s) Marx’ notebooks on science (chemistry, geology, physiology, physics – 1861 – 63, 1869, 1877-79, 1880 – 82) Marx’ ethnological notebooks (1850s, 1877 – 79) Marx’ mathematical notebooks (1873, 1877 – 78) Marx’ studies and notebooks on world history (1840s, 1850s, 1878 – 1883) Marx’ empirical – statistical studies and notebooks on political economy (money, credit, crises, agriculture, world economy – 1846 – 1882)
Marx rewriting Marx / Engels editingMarx Marx’ preparations (notes and marginalia) for new (revised) editions / translations of his own works (Misère de la philosophie, 18th Brumaire) Marx’ many research manuscripts and drafts for ‘Capital’, volume I, II and III Marx rewriting Capital, volume I (1872 – 1875 and later) – last word in 1881: I have to rework / rewrite it completely! Engels editing Marx’ manuscripts for Capital, volume II and III Marx popularizing Marx (books by Johann Most, Gabriel Deville)
The various impacts of the secondMEGA Towards a new lecture of Marx – in particular: Re-reading and re- interpreting the ‘Critique of political economy’ Towards a new lecture of Marx – rediscovering the ‘Critique of politics’ Towards a new understanding of Engels as a polymath of the 19th century Putting Marx and Engels in their context (f.i. considering the correspondence networks) Debunking myths and resuming / resolving old debates (the Late Marx, the young Marx – old Marx problem, the Marx-Engels problem, the Marx-Hegel problem) Stating ‘Marxian problems’ and resolving ‘Marxian problems’ by ‘Marxian means’ (or others) Establishing the true legacy of Marx (and Engels): research programs (historical materialism, critique of political economy, critique of politics, critique of modernity, critique of socialism) and unsettled problems
Rereading Marx’ ‘Capital’ – theimportance of section II of the MEGA Section II provides all the material for new and critical lecture of Marx’ unfinished life-long project All the manuscripts pertaining to the project of a systematic ‘Critique of Political Economy’ (from 1843 – 1882 have been published) All the versions of Capital, volume I, written and edited by Marx himself and edited by Engels (including the translations) based upon Marx’ preparatory work have been published Some of Marx’ notebooks documenting his continous study of political economy, economic history, economic events (like major crises) and economic statistics have been published in section IV (much more to come)
The long road towards ‘Capital’ First economic studies and first drafts – 1843- 44 Continued economic studies and first programmatic texts (1845, 1847, 1849) Second period of intense economic studies, notebooks and small drafts (1850 – 56) First large research manuscript / draft of the critique of political economy (1857/58) – 6-Book plan First publication of the first part of the critique (1859) Second large research manuscript (1861 – 63) – changing plans First complete version of ‘Capital’, volume I, II and III (1864-65) First published version of ‘Capital’, volume I (1867) – Marx’ big compromise Reworking the manuscripts for Capital, volume II (1867 – 1881, 7 ms) Reworking the manuscripts for Capital, volume III (1868 – 1882, 15 ms) Revising Capital, volume I (second German and first French edition, 1872- 75) Preparing the third German and first English edition of Capital, volume I (1877 – 82) But: ‘Capital’ remained unfinished and incomplete!
Investigating the long road towards‘Capital’ - What does this tell us? ‘Capital’ was not one stroke of a genius, rather the outcome of a long, winded research process Against the prevailing myths – neither linear progress, nor regression Not one change of plans, but many (with good reasons – tackling unsolved problems) A series of experiments with the new form of presentation (discovering the limits and the possibilities of ‘dialectics’) A series of experiments with mathematical analysis A long learning process, theoretical experiments and empirical research are intertwined
Why did Marx want to rewrite / rework‘Capital’ (and continued to do it) ? Five different versions of ‘Capital’ (accordingly: changing views and ‘inconsistencies’) More than just problems with the ‘dialectical form of presentation’ (and its limits) Theoretical progress by means of ‘discoveries’ and ‘experiments’: From the antinomies of classical political economy via ‘new solutions’ to new (‘Marxian’) problems Major achievements / great findings (albeit left in an incomplete form): from the value theory (monetary, dynamized) to the theory of macrostructural change (great transformations of capitalism)
Some unsettled (‘Marxian’)problems of political economy dynamized, diachronic theory of value (combining the rationality of the form and the logic of markets): ‘Value revolutions’ and ‘price revolutions’ advanced theory of money: how do we explain the value of credit, fiat and ‘virtualized’ money? advanced theory of capital: the problem of ‘fictitious capital’ theory of exploitation: more than ‘surplus value’ (variety of exploitations via credit, unequal exchange) productive and unproductive labour: who creates ‘value’, when, how and why?
More unsettled problem of(Marxian) political economy Space – time ‘compression’: the logic of capitalist expansion and the logic of acceleration Capitalist development: ‘real’, ‘monetary’ and ‘fictitious’ accumulation Theory of the world market / world money Theory of crises – the highest level of complexity Self-destruction and self-preservation: the contradictions of modern capitalism dealing with labour, productivity, natural resources, the environment, social inequality, social (in)stability
Debunking myths: Late Marx Why did Marx not complete ‘Capital’? Manuscripts (7 for Capital, volume II, 15 for Capital, Volume III) Excerpts and notebooks: On technology, agriculture, on money, credit, banking and stock markets, on economic history, economic statistics Two new main regional focusses: The USA and Russia (developmental states) A minor new focus: Japan and Asia Marx’ renewed studies of science (basics of chemistry, physics, geology, physiology) – important for understanding technology, labour processes, agricultural change Marx’ studies of the calculus – looking for new ways of mathematical analysis Marx’ studies of ethnology and anthropology – important for understanding the impact of capitalism as a world system Marx’ studies of world history – important for understanding the history of modern capitalism All of these are linked to the continued work on ‘Capital’ (to specific problems of economic analysis Marx was trying to solve)
More myths Marx versus Marx, the young versus the old: there is no break, but several turns in Marx’ intellectual itinerary However, Marx turned away from philosophy towards social science (‘Marxist’ philosophy is an invention of some Marxists) What happened to original ideas / concepts ( like alienation, like human nature, nature – man relations)? Continued to pursue and develop the original research program of the 1840s (very few, very modest statements as main themes, threads for research) – ‘Historical materialism’ is a research programme in the making The Marx – Engels problems (two opposite myths – unity and falsification) The Marx – Hegel problem ( the continuity of Marx’ critique of Hegelianism and Hegelian dialectics, Marx’ ‘empiricism’ and ‘positivism’, Marx and Kantian criticism)
What does this mean for ‘Marxism’ aswe know it? Stalin was right: Marxology / Marx scholarship is dangerous for ‘Marxism’ Farewell to the myths of and about Marxism (there is no ‘orthodoxy’ – not even in terms of ‘method’) Classic encounters: Marx and Engels as very modern social scientists (inter- and transdisciplinary, combining empirical, historical and theoretical work) An advanced theory of modernity (capitalism, bourgeois society and the state), its rise and fall Pioneering work in terms of ‘theorizing history’, integrating micro – macro, combining structure and action
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