Notes on A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy


- Marx notes that as a newspaper editor he had to develop views on political and economic events, which made him have to learn about economic matters. Given that that’s the case, it’d be interesting to really thoroughly read Marx’s journalistic/editorial work from that period
And here’s the 1843 work by Engels that Marx praised: which sets up his work on English working class life, work which Marx continued to praise as well (
Marx also mentions this work of 1848

This is just one of “the scattered works in which at that time [he and Engels] presented one or another aspect of our views to the public.” He says that the Poverty of Philosophy and Wage Labour and Capital covers “the salient points” of their perspective at the time.

- the importance of political economy for making sense of law and state political developments (critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right)
- foundation and superstructure, forces vs relations of production, this determines that and so on. ugh. Among other things… “distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.” So there’s a conflict between forces and relations of production and there’s the (ideological) stuff through which people are aware of that conflict. If people become aware of forces vs relations via ideological forms then in saying that forces vs relations can be approached scientifically only makes sense if we drop the science vs ideology distinction by admitting that science can be ideological. (Also ‘science’ as in ‘stuff I like intellectually’ is sooo played out.) Also, “No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.” Marx can’t possibly substantiate the first claim, it’s just an assertion. The second claim basically just means “stuff happens when stuff is ready to happen” – trivially true, but dressed up in profound garb.


“The publication of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 1848 and 1849 and subsequent events cut short my economic studies, which I could only resume in London in 1850. The enormous amount of material relating to the history of political economy assembled in the British Museum, the fact that London is a convenient vantage point for the observation of bourgeois society, and finally the new stage of development which this society seemed to have entered with the discovery of gold in California and Australia, induced me to start again from the very beginning and to work carefully through the new material. These studies led partly of their own accord to apparently quite remote subjects on which I had to spend a certain amount of time. But it was in particular the imperative necessity of earning my living which reduced the time at my disposal. My collaboration, continued now for eight years, with the New York Tribune, the leading Anglo-American newspaper, necessitated an excessive fragmentation of my studies, for I wrote only exceptionally newspaper correspondence in the strict sense. Since a considerable part of my contributions consisted of articles dealing with important economic events in Britain and on the continent, I was compelled to become conversant with practical detail which, strictly speaking, lie outside the sphere of political economy.”

The bit that says that “dealing with important economic events in Britain and on the continent” required Marx “to become conversant with practical detail which, strictly speaking, lie outside the sphere of political economy” is interesting for the distinction between “practical detail” and political economy. I read this as saying that political economy involves more abstraction and perhaps a different scope/scale of claims – longer time frame, or more generalized claims maybe.

Note to self: When this is all done, compare w/ the intro to v1 of Capital in initial form and in later form (after the revisions done w/ the french translation)

Next up.

About these ads