I was looking this evening through the footnotes for Roman Rosdolsky’s The Making of Marx’s ‘Capital’. Among the gems Rosdolsky quotes is this exchange, written by Marx to Engels in April 1851 (ftnt. 11, p. 3):
I am so far advanced that I shall be finished with the whole of the economic shit in five weeks. And when that’s done I’ll draft the economics at home and throw myself into another science in the Museum. It’s beginning to bore me. At bottom this science has made no progress since A. Smith and D. Ricardo, however much may have happened in investigations into particular topics, which are often of extreme intricacy.
This must make Marx something like the patron saint of workload misestimation…
Trying to avoid the need for such a saint’s intercession, I have (obviously) been neglecting the blog these past few weeks. I’ve been ill – and working… a lot… And getting things done – but much more slowly than I would have liked, and so, in order not to have things drag on, the blog has been left idle… I hope to have something to write for public view again soon…
Which reminds me of another lovely little bit quoted in Rosdolsky – from the main text this time (p. 5) – Engels writing to Marx, who was under pressure to change the order in which he had proposed to write a three-volume series. Engels reassures Marx in this letter that the change in order, while not ideal, would have its compensations:
After this would come the socialists as the third volume, and as the fourth – (the Critique), that is what would remain from the whole – the renowned “positive”, what you “really” want. The matter does have problems in this form, but it has the advantage that the much sought after secret is not revealed until the end, only after the curiosity of the citizen has been pent up for three volumes, thus revealing to him that one is not dealing in patent medicines.
Yes. Precisely. Discipline that reader for three volumes first. (There’s something delightful in this, in terms of the faith it locates in the prospective reader – a reader who would react to three volumes of economics with… suspense, anticipation, and longing for more.)