That Desrorieres book on statistics got me thinking about something related to things that have been on the back burner in my mind lately about Marx. There’s a really interesting discussion of prescriptive and descriptive aspects of statistics, which is relevant to parsing out those elements in Marx, and then there’s the matter of paying attention to the sources Marx used in writing his chapter on the working day. I don’t have the book in front of me and can’t find the bit I’m thinking of online, but someplace in the short book collecting Marx and Engels’ correspondence on the writing of Capital Marx refers to the chapter on the working day as a compliment or sequel to Engels’ early book on the conditions of the working class in england, and suggests that Engels might revise and update it drawing on new data. He councils Engels about which information is scientifically sound, recommending the state inspection and (if I remember right, not sure I do) statistical agencies. That information and the history through which it came to be compiled and available to Marx is an important part of how Marx wrote at least those passages of v1 of Capital. I think Marx’s treatment of this material could be a bit more self-reflexive, by which I mean that is analysis could explain a bit more of its own conditions of existence: why did the information he drew on come to exist and be accessible to him? what does that say about capitalism, if anything, or about British capitalism and the British state at the time the material was collected and when Marx made use of it?

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