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Title: A study of Marx's methodology with special reference to the Grundrisse
Author: Carver, Terrell
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1974
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In this thesis I give an account of Marx's methodology in his critique of political economy. By methodology I mean methods of investigation and presentation (a distinction made by Marx himself), and ideas on method andndash; the methods of other writers, his own, and scientific method in general. I have tried to explain why Marx devoted so much of his time to this critique, what methods he employed in criticizing political economy, how he was able to make the Grundrisse a significant advance over his previous efforts, and where, in the 'final' version of this critique, some of his fundamental arguments can be refuted. The ideal commentary on Marx's social and political thought (and here I part company with many commentators) presupposes athorough understanding of the economic work on which, according to Marx, it rests. In these economic studies, the commentator is confronted with Marx at work on the theory of political economy, using methods drawn from the philosophy, logic, historical research, and political economy of his time. His methods and ideas on method are of paramount importance in grasping the nature and content of his critique, since the material to which he addressed himself, and the substance of his work, differ very greatly from what we recognize today as economics. The originality of my thesis lies in the distinction drawn between political economy and modern economics with reference to the elucidation of Marx's work, the detailed consideration of his use of terms from nineteenth-century logical science of both the Hegelian and traditional pre-Hegelian types, the claim that important methodological innovations were recorded in the Introduction (1857) to the Grundrisse, and the specific criticisms offered of the fundamental arguments of Capital. Since Marx's critique of political economy, begun in 1844, was never finished, and since its scope and form were altered many times, I discuss his numerous plans for this work in chronological order, in conjunction with an account of his economic studies, in so far as they have been preserved in published form. I also consider his methods and ideas on method in selected works written between 1842 and mid-1857. This material supports my contention that three methodological innovations are recorded in the Introduction (1857) to the Grundrisse andndash; innovations in his method of investigation, in his ideas on a scientific method for presenting his critique, and in his plan for the critique as a whole. The first innovation is that he undertook a thorough investigation of the meanings and logical interrelations of the fundamental concepts of political economy; the second, that he identified a version of logical synthesis as the 'scientifically correct method' to be followed in his presentation; the third, that he decided to open the substantial part of his critique with a discussion of the economic category 'capital'. These innovations are elucidated, in the central chapter of my thesis, by examining their place in Marx's arguments in this text. In considering the remainder of the Grundrisse notebooks, I contend that in his methods and studies Marx did not reject the content of the Introduction, but developed his ideas further in the same direction. I also argue that his use of certain logical methods of investigation and his reasoning behind certain conclusions about the nature and future of capitalist society can be seen with exceptional clarity in the Grundrisse. These methods include his efforts to formulate correct questions and clear distinctions, to analyse the conceptual counterparts of economic phenomena as they appear, to produce conceptual counterparts of economic phenomena as they really are, and to use 'idealist' expressions and 'ideal' formulations without introducing errors. I consider his work in the Grundrisse on value, capital, labour, and profit, and the relationship of these investigations to his critique of political economy the published volumes, and the finished product, in so far as its outlines can be discerned. I discuss the plans and publications which followed the writing of the Introduction to the Grundrisse in August/September 1857, so as to establish the context of volume one of Capital, the only volume of the critique which Marx himself prepared for the publishers and corrected for further editions and translations. In my consideration of Marx's fundamental contentions in this work andndash; contentions about the commodity, labour, and value andndash; I criticize his version of an objective view of value, his claim that labour is the sole 'property' (apart from the property of being material things) common to the 'material bodies of commodities', and his acceptance of the view held by Adam Smith and David Ricardo (among others) that skilled labour is an arithmetic multiple of something called 'simple labour'. I consider a criticism previously made of Marx's work in Capital andndash; the criticism that his propositions are unfalsifiable andndash; and conclude that it is mistaken, since his claims can be refuted, though not with statistical data. Marx's last recorded comments on methodology in connection with the critique of political economy appear in his Notes (1879-80) on Adolph Wagner. My consideration of this little-used text reveals that there is a striking continuity in the problems considered and methods employed between the Notes of 1879-80 and the Manuscripts of 1844. In a final chapter I discuss the scientific status of some of Marx's claims about capitalist society, and the general relation of his economic critique to his political thought. I conclude that attempts to deduce a Marxian view of reality, from which his theories are thought logically to follow, are at best misleading, and that his methodology was a highly eclectic mixture of procedures, rather than something distinct and abstractable from his writings, as certain commentators have claimed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economics ; Methodology