Keston Sutherland | The poetics of ‘Capital’

Gustav Klutsis | Electrification of the Entire Country, c. 1920


A year before the first English edition of Capital was published under his supervision in 1886, Engels issued a brief polemic against the pretensions of anyone reckless enough to think that this great work could be translated into English by a mere amateur man of letters. The target of the polemic is Henry Mayers Hyndman, identified in the essay by his pseudonym John Broadhouse. After reading the French translation of Capital in 1880, Hyndman had published in 1881 a short book, England for All, two chapters of which were so thoroughly plagiarized from Marx’s work that they in effect represented piratical abridgements of it. Hyndman had ventured to translate Marx.1 Engels’s response, titled ‘How Not to Translate Marx’, is brutal and unsparing in its assessment of Hyndman’s bungled, conservative, devitalizing and mushily approximate prose:

Marx is one of the most vigorous and concise writers of the age. To render him adequately, a man must be a master, not only of German, but of English too. Mr. Broadhouse, however, though evidently a man of respectable journalistic accomplishments, commands but that limited range of English used by and for conventional literary respectability. Here he moves with ease; but this sort of English is not a language into which ‘Das Kapital’ can ever be translated. Powerful German requires powerful English to render it; the best resources of the language have to be drawn upon; new-coined German terms require the coining of corresponding new terms in English. But as soon as Mr. Broadhouse is faced by such a difficulty, not only his resources fail him, but also his courage. The slightest extension of his limited stock-in-trade, the slightest innovation upon the conventional English of everyday literature frightens him, and rather than risk such a heresy, he renders the difficult German word by a more or less indefinite term which does not grate upon his ear but obscures the meaning of the author; or, worse still, he translates it, as it recurs, by a whole series of different terms, forgetting that a technical term has to be rendered always by one and the same equivalent.2

The powerful language of Capital could only grate upon so delicate a device as Hyndman’s ear, whose sensitivity to verbal dissonance and other kinds of loud noise justified recourse to a more mellifluous, essentially more commodious, idiom, where ‘more or less indefinite’ equivalents of Marx’s words sound nicer than literal, definite equivalents. So it can be for the sake of harmony that in England for All Hyndman writes that ‘Capital is the produce of past labour devoted to present production. Capital is in fact the saving of past labour, for the special purpose of increasing the future store.’3 What do these very words do for the ear, what world do they signify, how delicate are they with the auditory canals that are the destination of their concepts? The process of the devotion of what is saved sounds notably less perforating to the Christian ear than Marx’s emphatic, brutal, disfigurative description of the pumping out and sucking empty of what is dead. Capital, says Marx, is an Auspumper, literally a pumper-out, that performs the Aussaugung of the worker, literally the sucking out, or sucking hollow, of a ‘stunted, short-lived and rapidly replaced human being’.4 Not, then, the saving of what was devoted, but a hideous dredging into vacuousness. Hyndman might reasonably object that, after all, the idea is the same, that what matters is not the particular words or syntax selected to represent the categories, but only that the logic of categories be properly understood. After all, he too is in perfectly good faith in urging on his readers to fight capitalism. He may differ from Marx in his sincere belief that for ‘every Englishman’ the aim should be to bring about the ‘coming mobilization, political and social, without troublous dangerous conflict’; but this difference over tactics can have no bearing on the fundamental logic of the critique of capital or the definition of its basic categories.5 ‘You, then,’ writes the English more or less indefinite equivalent of a revolutionary, now addressing English workers directly, ‘who produce the wealth in every country, consider where you stand; you, men who have seen your homes broken up, your health destroyed, and have beheld your wives and children fade away under the tyranny of capitalism, stop and think.’6 The exhortation is a direct paraphrase of the single most furiously condemnatory and comprehensively disgusted passage in Capital, the great bombardment of a paragraph where Marx catalogues the disasters of capital for working people and says that the wives and children of male workers are ‘dragged beneath the wheels of the juggernaut’.7 Marx assaults his reader with the image of beloved limbs ripped up and darling heads crushed flat. Hyndman softens the mental lighting so that these same beloved bodies instead more agreeably just ‘fade away’, ephemeral as an enchanted fairy in a forest dim by Keats. ‘Stop and think’, says Hyndman, and ‘take heed’. The workers who in Marx are crushed, sucked out, laid waste, desertified, elasticated, tortured and distorted into human specks, stumps and fractions, are by Hyndman regenerated in the language of literary respectability as lyric poets, ‘who now rejoice in the gleam of a transient prosperity, only to be cast into deeper despair on the next stagnation’.8

‘This sort of English is not a language into which “Das Kapital” can ever be translated’, writes Engels: not the particular sequence of images or the general climate of representation, merely – not only what might peremptorily be called its ‘aesthetics’ – but the critique itself, the logic of categories and all, cannot be made to exist in English unless its translator finds the ‘courage’ to ‘innovate upon the conventional English of everyday literature’. As for readers afflicted with a case of Hyndman’s ear, the point is precisely that these people should be hurt by the critique. Their comfort is the obscuring of the meaning of Capital, its subjectivation as anaesthetized logical thinking. Not just Marx’s verbal skill but the work of the critique itself is effectually obscured by the easy breathing of these readers, the safety of their ears from violence, and their every painless step through the logic of categories. The language in which Hyndman (in Engels’s phrase) ‘moves with ease’ is in effect the anti-poetic preservation of that complacency and a barrier against the truth of Capital. Cured of its specific poetry, the truth of Capital is dissipated in anaesthetized logical thinking.

Engels could not really mean this if he did not think that Capital has a poetics, or if he thought that the poetics of Capital could safely be treated as nothing but the excesses of Marx’s materialism, just a kind of getting carried away with figuration. In his ‘Comments on James Mill’, Marx describes the form of credit that the goodly rich man extends to the honest poor man who has given proof of his industriousness and is therefore worthy of philanthropic encouragement: ‘This kind of credit belongs to the romantic, sentimental part of political economy, to its aberrations, excesses, exceptions, not to the rule.’9 The poetics of Capital is not its ‘sentimental part’, but its troublous instigation; it is not excess to ‘the rule’ of the logic of categories and value forms to say that capital sucks the worker empty, but the resounding truth of that rule. The truth that Engels spells out in his polemic is that the poetics of Capital goes far deeper than whatever images, figurations or verbal decorations of thought anyone who is content with the ‘limited range of English used by and for conventional literary respectability’ might agree to call ‘poetic’. Capital is poetic throughout and fundamentally. Its truth is not only logical and historical but at the same time and inexorably also poetic; and ‘critique’, in Marx’s sense, is not, like so-called ‘political economy’, an essentially unruffled process of exposition only superficially studded with images and illustrations that do nothing but simply help make sense of the real work done with logical categories. Critique in Marx’s sense is the opposite of Hyndman’s ‘moving with ease’. It is an obstructed movement; that is, both an unsettling and setting in turbulent and agitated motion not merely of fixed or stalled ideas but of the whole experience of thinking and ultimately of the whole experience of being alive, a running up against and slamming into impassable contradictions and getting stuck in hateful corners of cognitively intractable paradox, and also a kind of moving by being obstructed, a working out of life in thought and in logic where the movement of the concept is identical to its paralysis, for the simple and infinitely incomprehensible reason that the world hasn’t changed yet and we are still stuck in the capital-relation, where thinking by itself is intrinsic to paralysis.10

‘Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself’, Marx and Engels wrote in The German Ideology. ‘We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.’ Critique by itself is not yet this ‘real movement’; neither is it the  fake movement or going nowhere of ‘speculative-idealistic, i.e. fantastic’ philosophy and its ‘theoretical bubble-blowing’; critique is the obstructed movement that is the logical sound of the present state of things not being abolished.11 Capital itself, according to Marx, ‘can only be grasped as a movement’. The poetics of Capital is the obstructed movement of thought that cannot by magic or fiat simply be realized into life, but must exert all its pressure of dissonance and every power of conception against the block of the present state of things, to grasp the catastrophically unobstructed movement of capital, the ‘unceasing movement of profit-making’.12

Engels said that political economy is ‘science’ conceived and developed by men who ‘could not afford to see the truth’.13 Truth in Capital’s critique of political economy comes at a cost that is more than simply financial, and more than just a crisis of ethical conscience. The truth of Capital makes life harder to live. Reading the critique and grasping its truth and its necessity mean being turned against the world. It is a critique of reality that confirms in logic the feeling that reality is fundamentally inimical to life, and that gives massively pressurized substance to that feeling, not just by articulating it in the logic of categories, but by tangling up that logic with another logic, harder to read but nonetheless unmistakably present to anyone who was ever actually fucked up by reading the book. The logic of categories is everywhere tangled up with the logic of passion. I borrow this phrase from the French psychoanalyst André Green, who briefly describes it as the logic of ‘oneness, duality, trinity, conjunctions, disjunctions, fusion, separations, etc.’14 The manifest proximity of this logic and its only semi-categorical categories to the logic of Hegel and the concept is not merely coincidental, but a kind of constitutive blurring and wavering. Marx says in Capital that surplus-labour and necessary-labour cannot be distinguished during the working day because they verschwimmen in einander: literally, they blur into each other as objects of sight or colours do in perception when the eyes are swimming.15 The two logics in Capital are ‘intermingled’ like this. The analysis of the value-forms blurs into visions of nightmarish voided destiny, in which the individual worker is ‘nothing but’ a perfectly inhuman abstraction, ‘labour-power’, ‘for the whole of his life’. The analysis of the ‘separation’ of workers from each other that Marx says is intrinsic in the capitalist process of production blurs into an infernal fantasia of ‘dot-like’ human specks adrift in alien infinity. In the drafts of the Grundrisse, capital is experimentally described using a variety of predicates, including ‘stored-up’, ‘past’, ‘objectified’, ‘materialized’, accumulated’ and ‘defined’ labour.16 The free variation of predicates is the record of Marx’s uncertainty regarding how to name not only this form of value but the whole fact of its domination, in the fullest sense: what associations should be clustered about it, how should it make anyone feel, to what end must it be named. Antonio Negri describes the Grundrisse as ‘an essentially open work’ and the time of its composition as ‘a moment of total happiness’ for Marx as a writer, when ‘the categories are not flattened out, the imagination does not stagnate’.17 Capital is the result of this speculative opening up and experimental free variation of categorical predicates, the critical terminus of the itinerant imagination. Henceforth there is only one predicate: capital is ‘dead’ labour once and for all. The logic of passion poetically crushes flat the categories whose convex and freely interchangeable character in the Grundrisse Negri calls ‘happiness’. The pleasurable experimenting with a variety of ways of representing the problem ends here, with this dead end.

What might be called ‘oneness’ in the logic of passion is not the same as ‘unity’ in the Science of Logic, a work Hegel says he composed in the hope of keeping alive ‘the dispassionate calm of a knowledge dedicated to thought alone’. Hegel’s unity, ‘an unrest of simultaneous incompatibles, a movement’, is actual for thought: it is an experience of the thinking subject.18 Oneness, however, is completely denied the worker in Capital. Oneness in the logic of passion is the future communing in the actually lived fulfilment of individual potentials that in the present state of things is not felt, not known and not enjoyed, and whose blocked intimation must nevertheless somehow be made to resound in the obstructed movement of critique towards what critique by itself categorically cannot reach. Marx’s word for this state of existence is Trennung, which Fowkes translates as ‘separation’. The worker is separated: from other workers, from the product of his labour, from his future development, ultimately from life itself. His only contact with other workers is at the point of exchange. Marx says that workers ‘do not come into social contact with each other until they exchange their products’, that they ‘exist for one another merely as representatives of commodities’, and that they are ‘related to each other in their social process of produc- tion in a purely atomistic way’.19 How can any of this possibly be true, when in reality workers have always socialized outside of working hours as friends, lovers and enemies, and have formed innumerable groups and enjoyed innumerable activities together?

In his first published book, The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy, Hegel writes: ‘totality at the highest pitch of living energy is only possible through its own re-establishment out of the deepest fission.’ The antithesis in the English here obscures Hegel’s explicit pairing of extremes: ‘in der höchsten Lebendigkeit … aus der höchsten Trennung’ is not ‘highest’ and ‘deepest’ but, literally, ‘the highest or uttermost livingness’ and ‘the highest or uttermost separation’.20 The extremes of livingness and separation really exist, for Hegel, but their reality cannot simply be noticed or assumed. The reality of these extremes must be conceived ardently, or else not really known at all. Marx makes a similar demand on the power of conception with his definition of Trennung, the extreme of separation, in Capital, where life in the form of ‘labour-power’ is boxed up in a set of logical restrictions that in effect amount to the transcendental impossibility of social contact between workers outside or beyond the transaction of exchange. Workers are the commodity ‘labour-power’ and like other commodities they are realized at the point of exchange. Whatever else they might also be or do is not expressible in forms of value and therefore has no meaning within ‘the capital-relation’ and might as well not exist.

Oneness in the logic of passion is the extreme of Trennung ‘not merely contradicted, or held in the unrest of the movement of propositional incompatibility, but wiped out in the future. Only the complete destruction of wage-labour and capital could ever do this; right now, every blocked advance towards that end must be made to resound in concepts as the specific pain of cancelled intimation and separation going nowhere. Separation must be articulated in categories in such a way that it can only be conceived in the logic of passion as obscene impossibility and pain. You never touch another human being but you only ever intersect as labour-power at the instant of exchange; or, if you do touch, life at that moment is without meaning in the only logic that matters. Neither is this banishment from the touch of others reducible to a question of desire or of some other capacity of the subject that is strictly speaking disposable from the logic of the critique or supplementary to it. It is the tangling up and blurring of these ways of saying what you are, each one never fully resolvable without loss of truth into the logic of the other, that generates the extreme passion of the critique which is its poetics. ‘Passion is the essential power of the human being energetically bent on its object.’21

Trying to grasp everything that Capital means for being alive is itself already a resistance to being crushed: cognitive, imaginative, poetic, fantastical, desiring, anxious resistance. It means being subject to new kinds of pain and new loud noises, and it means figuring out how to take that pain for the truth and the knowledge that it really is. The structure of domination that the logic of categories makes explicit really hurts. Making explicit in this case means making more intolerable, more unbearable, more absolute: things don’t get easier once they are explained; they get paralysing. Adorno wrote that it is a condition of all truth to make suffering eloquent, and Capital too has been deeply conditioned by this essentially poetic imperative.22 The logical explicitation that makes life unbearable is essential to the work that Capital still has to do, its living task in the world that we will all die in. Readers of Marx who want actually to live the life that Marx dreamed will be possible, who want a world of ‘free individuality based on the universal development of individuals’ instead of compulsory stultification, mass poverty and the systematic conversion of productive activity into boredom and torture, cannot avoid or hedge about with the dusty abstractions and supererogatory theoretical refinements of the salaried thinker, the pure horror of the reality that this critique drills into the head. The condition of hearing its truth is first of all this command, everywhere intrinsic to Marx’s thought: do not obscure the violence and the horror of reality. The truth of Capital hurts and reading it needs to hurt too.

This is profoundly a question about poetics. Marx writes that ‘capitalist production has seized the power of the people at the very root of life.’23 Capital makes the paralysis of that seized power and the strangulation of that root resound in logically volatile concepts. The logic of categories is an explicit logic that specifies the material, social limits at which ‘free individuality based on the universal development of individuals’ is blocked and made impossible under the domination of capital. We under- stand why individuals are not free and why they cannot develop when we grasp the meaning of categories like ‘labour-power’, ‘surplus value’, ‘the wage form’, ‘subsistence’. Intermingled with this explicit logic, violently blurring in and out of it, cutting into it, is the logic of passion, an inexplicit logic, poetic and deranged, the logic of the ‘dotlike’ life, fucked up and distorted, adrift in the infinity of valorization that is a grotesque parody of the human subject’s own still putatively natural capacity for ‘universal development’.24 This second logic is not for specifying the social and material blocks on development, but for making the truth of blocked and paralysed life resound. The passion of this logic is an intense mix of pain and optimism. It really hurts to follow the exposition from category to category and comprehend the blocks on the universal development of life, to let that knowledge actually sink in and pronounce its true inexorability. It is the pain of never living, yet forever straining to live, the life of universal development that (to lift a phrase from Hegel) ‘simply must be, and must not remain a task’, but that (as Capital makes unbearably clear) simply is not, and is the perpetually urgent task right now, as always.25 But the pain of this logic is at the same time its optimism. The pain of living with Capital always points beyond itself towards an explosion of the block, the repulsion of present impossibility and the radical enlargement of life. That repulsion of impossibility must actually be experienced. Marx writes in the Grundrisse that ‘if we did not find concealed in society as it is the material conditions of production and the corresponding relations of exchange prerequisite for a classless society, then all attempts to explode it would be quixotic [wären alle Sprengversuche Donquichoterie].’26 What is it like, what experience is it, how does it sound to us, when, through the power of critique, we do actually find these concealed conditions?

‘Capitalist production has seized the power of the people at the very root of life.’ The poetics of the critique of capital has to be as hyperactive as that seizure: it has to go as deep, reach as far, stretch to everything, detect in every paralysis of the subject its potential explosion, tune into every signal of the catastrophe, and find a way to make the very logic of categories itself resound with the pain of devastated life laid waste in a wilderness of infinite violence. This reaching far into everything and finding everywhere the carnage of crushed life and binding logic up with madness and paradox to pinpoint the potential for eruption out of the world as capital has made it is the poetics of Capital, its resounding with paralysed thought and obstructed life and the future necessity of their explosion. Resounding: ‘It is now entirely possible’, writes Marx in the Grundrisse, ‘that consonance may be reached only by passing through the most extreme dissonance.’27

‘Every new aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms of that science’, writes Engels in the ‘Preface’ to the English edition of Capital of 1886.28 Marx had performed this revolution, and the tendency of Hyndman’s softening of painful and dissonant critical thought into ‘the conventional English of everyday literature’ was essentially counterrevolutionary, trading euphemisms in hell. But worse even than this hideous amelioration of individual words, according to Engels, was the freedom with which it had been exercised. This freedom of expression all but amounts to a counterrevolutionary methodology, an anti- poetics. Faced with a compound noun or a grating neologism, in Das Kapital, whose latent or premonitory conceptual power needs ingeniously specifying and amplifying, Hyndman ‘translates it, as it recurs, by a whole series of different terms, forgetting that a technical term has to be rendered always by one and the same equivalent’. For Engels this was outright treachery, a cover-up of the critique and the neutralization of its poetic power to specify the definite unbearableness of the life that the logic of categories exists to magnify. And yet the only translations that we now have of Capital in English, including the one that Engels himself oversaw, are not faithful to this principle that he says is paramount.

Many latent or potential concepts in Das Kapital are at best only flickeringly detectable in the English text. Where Marx repeats the same word (often a neologism he invented specifically to capture the twisted truth of an idea or fucked up fact that ordinary speech had simply not yet tried to deal with and that the language of conventional literary respectability had bent over backwards to obscure and trivialize), so that through repetition the word would begin to acquire what would at least look like, or promise, a definite conceptual profile, his English translators have tended to paraphrase the word in a variety of ways at different points of their versions. They have in effect not only occluded the latent, potential or already definite conceptual profile of the individual word, but at the same time have annulled the specific power of the word to hurt and unpicked or softened the binding of the logic whose strangulation of life it helps to articulate. For example, Marx’s neologism i, literally ‘value-objectivity’, is paraphrased by Ben Fowkes in the standard Penguin edition first as ‘the objectivity of commodities as values’, then as ‘objective character as values’, then as ‘objectivity as a value’, then as ‘objectivity of the products of labour as values’. The paraphrases may mean roughly the same thing, but they are not evidently the repetition of a single concept or the tightening of a single bind; they are not the hammering home or droning in the ear of that very neologism in all its grossness as both a technical term and the parody of a technical term at once; neither are they overtly tangled up in lateral lexical rigging of the kind that Marx threw over the heads of his German readers, to catch them in inexorable nets of association, when for example in the space of a single page of the chapter on ‘The Commodity’ he floods the logic of categories with a torrent of overtly genetically related neologisms to make the already grated Hyndman’s ear ring until it spins: Wertgegenständlichkeit brings Wertding, Wertspiegel, Wertkörper, Wertausdruck, Wertform and Wertgröße tumbling after it in its wake. The power of these grotesque words caught in the obstructed act of being incompletely or parodically conceptualized to proliferate new lexical fields in a pastiche of logical complexity is part of the essential movement of the poetics of Capital. The mad dilation of the concept not only – as if by a kind of viral eruption – articulates a spontaneous, semi-parodic logic of categories, so that the ‘value-expression’ of the ‘value-thing’ can suddenly be read in its reflection in the ‘value-mirror’; the same dilation is asphyxiating, hateful, crazy, like being drowned in balloon animals while trying to knit your way out of a blizzard. This, too, is the truth about ‘value-objectivity’, not just its style of presentation or its rhetoric. Wertgegenständlichkeit is the inexorable logical regime of the object without object relations, or, in other words, the thing you are, gaping at itself in the value-mirror and shouting its angry value-expressions in the contorted postures of an abstract value-expressionist. To exist in the capital-relation is to exist value-objectively as a value-thing with a value-body represented in value-expression gaping into the value-mirror, or not at all.

If we take seriously not only Engels’s apparently deadly serious demand that technical terms in Capital must ‘be rendered always by one and the same equivalent’ and his conviction that only ‘powerful English’, ‘the best resources of the language’ and ‘new- coined terms in English’ will do, but also the unavoidable implication that Capital is both critique and poetics at once, and that the power of the poetics is the power of the critique deadlocked in the tangle of inseparable but irresolvable logics, then it surely becomes absolutely imperative to the future effect and destiny of Marx’s great work, its task in life, to get its poetics right. This has to mean: to make its whole logical power resound, both the logic of categories and the logic of passion, to get its energies of conception and disfiguration ramped up to the furthest extreme of dissonance, to make its explication of the unbearableness and infinite indignity of life under capital actually feel acutely unbearable, right now and at every moment, whatever it takes and in whatever language not only gets the categories to make sense but also pressurizes the experience of making sense of them enough for their social, psychic and individual truth to erupt out of their bare content of brutal logical consistency.



  1. A note at the end of the ‘Preface’ of England for All reads: ‘For the ideas and much of the matter contained in Chapters II and III, I am indebted to the work of a great thinker and original writer, which will, I trust, shortly be made accessible to the majority of my countrymen.’ H.M. Hyndman, England for All, London: Gilbert & Rivington, 1881, p. vi. Marx was incensed by the plagiarism and by Hyndman’s mealy-mouthed justification for not identifying him as the author of the critique that he had pilfered. Francis Wheen, in Karl Marx (London: Fourth Estate, 1999, p. 372), comments: ‘Why could Hyndman not acknowledge Capital and its author by name? His lame explanation was that the English had “a horror of socialism” and a “dread of being taught by a foreigner”.’ For the history of this episode, see Chuschichi Tsuzuki, H.M. Hyndman and British Socialism, ed. Henry Pelling, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961, pp. 32–4, 41–4; see also Gareth Stedman Jones, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion, London: Allen Lane, 2016, p. 550.
  2. ‘How Not to Translate Marx’, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 26, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990, p. 336.
  3. Hyndman, England for All, p. 65.
  4. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, MEGA, vol. 6, Berlin: Dietz, 1987, pp. 309, 245; Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, trans. Ben Fowkes, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990, p. 380. These explicitly horrific visions are toned down in the standard English translation by Ben Fowkes: Auspumper becomes the more abstract ‘extractor’ and Aussaugung becomes ‘draining away’, a process that might occur without any intent or violence. Marx, Capital, Volume 1, pp. 425, 348.
  5. Hyndman to Marx, 25 February 1880, cited in Tsuzuki, H.M. Hyndman and British Socialism, pp. 33–4.
  6. Hyndman, England for All, p. 63.
  7. Marx, Capital, Volume 1, p. 799.
  8. Hyndman, England for All, p. 64.
  9. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975, p. 215.
  10. ‘[Beckett] feels, he said, “like someone on his knees, his head against a wall, more like a cliff, with someone saying ‘go on’”.’ Later he said, ‘The wall will have to move
    a little, that’s all.’ ‘Lawrence E. Harvey on Beckett, 1961–2’, in Beckett Remembering Remembering Beckett, ed. James Knowlson and Elizabeth Knowlson, London: Bloomsbury, 2006, p. 137.
  11. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 5, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1976, pp. 49, 52, 56.
  12. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 2, trans. David Fernbach, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992, p. 185; Marx, Capital, Volume 1, p. 254.
  13. Frederick Engels, Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, in Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 3, p. 436.
  14. André Green, ‘Psychoanalysis and Ordinary Modes of Thought’, On Private Madness, London: Karnac, 2005, p. 28. Green has described the common project of psychoanalysis and Hegel’s philosophy in ‘Hegel and Freud: Elements for an Improbable Comparison’, in The Work of the Negative, London: Free Association Books, 1999, 26–49.
  15. ‘Mehrarbeit und nothwendige Arbeit verschwimmen in einander.’ Das Kapital, MEGA, vol. 6, p. 243. As ever with Marx’s writing, it matters for our understanding not only of the style but of the substance of the argument where else in literature this phrase could be found and what particular associations Marx may have expected it would prompt in the ear of his reader. Verschwimmen would have been familiar to literate German readers as a choice item of poetic diction from the idiom of German Romantic poetry and prose. Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm cites examples of usage from Friedrich Rückert, Jean Paul, Schiller and Goethe. Marx’s satirical innuendo is that capital renders the brain incapable of distinguishing work done for oneself from work done for the capitalist in much the same way that the spiritual fatigue of the Romantic poet produces an obnubilation in the perceptual apparatus of that more refined labourer on the human heart. A fair English equivalent for verschwimmen in einander would be ‘intermingle’ or ‘interfuse’, words that bear the stamp of Wordsworth. Fowkes mutes the specifically Romantic resonance with the more prosaic ‘mingles together’. Marx, Capital, Volume 1, p. 346.
  16. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicolaus, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, pp. 85, 86, 134, 143.
  17. Antonio Negri, Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons on the Grundrisse, trans. Harry Cleaver, Michael Ryan and Maurizio Viano, ed. Jim Fleming, New York: Autonomedia, 1991, p. 12.
  18. G.W.F. Hegel, The Science of Logic, trans. and ed. George Di Giovanni, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 22, 67.
  19. Capital, Volume 1, pp. 165, 178–9, 187.
  20. G.W.F. Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy, trans. H.S. Harris and Walter Cerf, Albany NY: SUNY Press, 1977, p. 91; G.W.F. Hegel, Werke, 2, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986, pp. 21–2.
  21. Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3, p. 337.
  22. Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E.B. Ashton, New York: Continuum, 2005, pp. 17–18.
  23. Capital, Volume 1, p. 380; translation revised. Fowkes has ‘capitalist production has seized the vital forces of the people at their very roots.’ The original is ‘die kapitalistische Produktion … die Volkskraft an der Lebenswurzel ergriffen hat.’ Marx, MEGA, vol. 6, p. 272.
  24. On being adrift as a speck in infinity, see Keston Sutherland, ‘Infinite Exhaustion’, Brittle Land, ed. Rachel O’Reilly, Amsterdam: Roma, 2016.
  25. G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977, p. 368. On ‘pain’ cf. Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, trans. William Wallace, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988, pp. 15–16: ‘What belongs to external Nature is destroyed by contradiction; if, for example, gold were given a different specific gravity from what
    it has, it would cease to be gold. But mind has power to preserve itself in contradiction, and, therefore, in pain; power over evil, as well as over misfortune.’ The power of mind not only to preserve itself but to grow more deeply attached to the world and to the revolutionary project of overthrowing capitalist relations in pain is a poetic power.
  26. Marx, Grundrisse, pp. 159, 77.
  27. Ibid., p. 148.
  28. Marx, Capital, Volume 1, p. 111.



Originally published by
Capitalism: concept, idea, image
Aspects of Marx’s Capital today
edited by Peter Osborne, Éric Alliez, Eric-John Russell
CRMEP Books 2019




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