Production, Reproduction, and Key Ontological Terms in Marx's Oeuvre

Tue, 10 Mar 1998 17:51:04 -0500 (EST)
Rob Beamish (

At 11:56 AM 3/10/98 -0500, Charles Brown wrote:
> Production makes objects; reproduction creates subjects.

Is it really that simple? The production of commodities produces an object
of use-value, exchange-value, and value; it reproduces the capitalist social
relations of production, the fetishism of commodities, the worker as a
wage-labourer as well as reproducing existing realms of private life (among
the more important the family) and the existing material contradictions of
that historically located social system.

Hence, production produces an object (which contains both abstrace and
concrete labour), an ideological (mis)conception of the world, a set of
social/production relations, broader social relations, and a (potentially)
unstable dynamic.

The discussion on production/reproduction has been very interesting and it
involves issues that I would love to address in some detail but I couldn't
do them justice at the present time - that's not a cop-out but just a
reality of the present moment. I have participants' email addresses so when
I can formulate a lengthy response, I can either post it or send it. But in
making my response, I can give you some ideas of where I will be coming from.

First, I think that with every text by Marx, one has to be very precise
about its location in Marx's intellectual development (something that my
posted paper indicates about the *Manifesto* but I firmly believe is true of
all Marx's texts). In terms of the *Manifesto's* importance for Marx's
conception of production, I will be more specific than in my current paper
about some of Marx's specific, key concepts (in my paper, I treat the
*Manifesto* in a more general sense rather than with specific reference to
some of his key concepts).

As far as the production/reproduction (or simply the production concept
because I'm not sure that one can ever speak of production without
reproduction while recognizing that production as reproduction does not
mean, *cannot* mean an *exact, identical* reproduction) is concerned, I
think one has to begin with a consideration of the notion of "the dialectic
of negativity" which Marx began to develop in 1844 and which was *intimately
associated with* (a) his experiences living in Paris while also critically
drawing from (b) Feuerbach's "Provisional Theses on the Reform of
Philosophy" (hence, I would speculate, Marx's own "*Theses* on Feuerbach")
*as well as* (something too many pass over in a sentence or two - i.e. Marx
broke with the Left-Hegelians in 1845 with *The Holy Family* or 1846 with
*The German Ideology*) (c) his transcendence of the Left-Hegelian critique
of *Hegel* and (d) Marx's own earlier experiences with the text of the
*Phenomenology* itself.

In developing a conception of Marx's conception of production I would spend
some time addressing its early formulation in the Paris Manuscripts (and
here, one really has to go to the German to grasp Marx's ontological
premises as they are *developing* in 1844).

In 1844, Marx wrote the following (Marx/Engels Werke, Ergaenzungsband,
Schriften bis 1844, erster Teil, p 574; see translations in MECW, Vol. 3, p.
332-3, Bottomore's Karl Marx: Early Writings, McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, pp.
202-3, David McLellan's Karl Marx: Early Texts, Basil Blackwell, pp. 164,
Gregor Benton's translation in the Pelican Library series, Early Writings:
Karl Marx, pp. 385-6, Bottigelli's French translation in Editions Sociales,
p. 132):

Das Grozze an der Hegelschen *Phaenomenologie* und ihrem Endresultate - der
Dialektik der Negativitaet als dem bewegenden und erzeugenden Prinzip - ist
also einmal, dass Hegel die Selbsterzeugung [here is a key word that is lost
in translations; self- procreation, begetting, engendering, raising,
producing, manufacturing; isn't that provocative in view of the discussion!
- see note 1 below] des Menschen als ein Prozess fasst, die
Vergegenstaendlichung as Entgegenstaendlichung [another conception that is
lost in all translations that I've read because it is so hard to convey;
Vergegenstaendlichung is the *process* (i.e. Ver-) of creating an object or,
more literally, something that stands opposite one; it conveys a *concrete*
process. This is simultaneously an process of opposition - akin to
alienation as Marx notes in his next phrase - but the dynamic unity is more,
as the next phrases indicate; see note 2 below], als Entaeusserung und als
Aufhebung dieser Entaeusserung [no translation needed really - Entaeusserung
the making other and in opposition to most often translated as alienation;
and the transcendence (Aufhebung) of this oppositional externalization and
making other]; dass er also das Wesen der *Arbeit* fasst und den
gegenstaendlichen Menschen, wahren, weil wirklichen Menschen, als Resultat
seiner *eigen Arbeit* begreift. [Now this is a key transition from Hegel to
Marx; Marx has taken Hegel's *Phenomenology* which traces the *development*
of the human mind/spirit/culture and dropped in *Labour* as its dynamic
process! Now why labour when the greatness of Hegel's *Phanomenology* is
much more multifaceted? Because he has been reading political economy?
Because of Engels' Outlines published in the German-French Yearbook? That
needs to be examined in more detail.] [At this point Marx begins to
elaborate a bit from his own position] Das *wirkliche, taetige* Verhalten
des Menschen zu sich als Gattungswesen [a concept that we all know addresses
the conception of alienation *but* it also takes the text and its potential
back to more general terms than the political economy of labour (see Note 3
below) - we're talking the Nature of the Species; and that doesn't have to
be an idealistic concept to have far reaching importance; even if it just
means 'the essence of the species' as a creature of Nature which must
mediately - not immediately - interact with both Nature and other members of
the species then we're talking about something far more complex than the
labour process in terms of the political economy] oder die Bestaetigung
seiner als eines wirklichen Gattungswesens, d.h. als menschlichen Wesens,
ist nur moeglich dadurch, dass er wirklich alle seine *Gattungskraefte*
[species powers] - was wieder nur durch das Gesamtwirken der Menschen
moeglich ist, nur als Resultat der Geschichte - herausschafft, sich zu ihnen
als Gegenstaenden verhaelt, was zunaechst wieder nur in der Form der
Entfremdung moeglich ist."

Now this is simply a key summary paragraph from Marx's discussion of Hegel
in the Paris Manuscripts - and the rest of his discussion of Hegel puts many
of these ideas into a more complete context. But the main points I would
want to make are (a) Marx's transcendence of Hegel and his adoption of "der
Dialektik der Negativitaet als dem bewegenden und erzeugenden Prinzip [see
Note 4]" is a process that needs to be closely examined within (b) texts
that are understood within the historical context of the making (here the
German Entstehungsgeschichte is better than the standard translation as
simply "making") of Marx's understanding of the dynamics of capitalism. On
the basis of the discussion stimulated here, I'll undertake such an analysis
- problem is that to do it fully will take some time.


1. MECW, Vol. 3, has "self-creation"; Bottomore's Karl Marx: Early
Writings, McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, has "self-creation" ; David McLellan's
Karl Marx: Early Texts, Basil Blackwell, has "self-creation" ; Gregor
Benton in Early Writings: Karl Marx, has "self-creation", Bottigelli's in
Editions Sociales, has "la production de l'homme".

2. MECW, Vol. 3, has "conceives objectification as loss of the object";
Bottomore's Karl Marx: Early Writings, McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, has
"objectification as loss of the object"; David McLellan's Karl Marx: Early
Texts, Basil Blackwell, has "objectification as loss of the object"; Gregor
Benton in Early Writings: Karl Marx, has "objectification as loss of the
object [Entgegenstaendlichung]", Bottigelli's in Editions Sociales, has
"l'objectivation comme des objectivation."

3. There is an interesting irony here, because in his discussion of Hegel,
Marx argues that Hegel is too strongly influenced by the political
economists he has read (and the impact of political economy upon Hegel is
certain - see G.W.F. Hegel, *Jenaer Systementwuerfe II*; partially
translated as G.W.F. Hegel, *Early Theological Writings*).

4. MECW, Vol. 3, has "moving and generating principle"; Bottomore's Karl
Marx: Early Writings, McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, has "moving and creating
principle" ; David McLellan's Karl Marx: Early Texts, Basil Blackwell, has
"moving and creating principle"; Gregor Benton in Early Writings: Karl
Marx, has "moving and producing principle", Bottigelli's in Editions
Sociales, has "comme principe moteur et createur".