Exploring Marx’s Capital

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Published Nov 2016
ISBN: 9789004149373

Philosophical, Economic and Political Dimensions

Jacques Bidet, Paris-X. Translated by David Fernbach. Preface to the English Edition by Alex Callinicos

This volume, originally published in French under the title Que faire du Capital?, offers a new interpretation of Marx’s great work. It shows how the novelty and lasting interest of Marx’s theory arises from the fact that, as against the project of a ‘pure’ economics, it is formulated in concepts that have simultaneously an economic and a political aspect, neither of these being separable from the other.
Jacques Bidet conducts an unprecedented investigation of Marx’s work in the spirit of the history of science, exploring it as a process of theoretical development. Traditional exegesis reads the successive drafts of Capital as if they were complementary and mutually illuminated one another. In actual fact, like any scientist, Marx only wrote a new version in order to correct the previous one. He started from ideas borrowed from Ricardo and Hegel, and between one draft and the next it is possible to see these being eliminated and restructured. This labour, moreover, was never fully completed.
The author thus re-assesses Marx’s entire system in its set of constitutive categories: value, market, labour-power, classes, working class, exploitation, production, fetishism, ideology. He seeks to pin down the difficulties that these encountered, and the analytical and critical value they still have today.
Bidet attaches the greatest importance to Marx’s order of exposition, which assigns each concept its place in the overall system, and makes the validity of the construction depend on the pertinence of its initial presuppositions. This is particularly the case with the relationship between market mechanism and capitalism – and thus also between the market and socialism.

This books an English translation of Jacques Bidet, Que faire du capital? Philosophie, economie et politique dans “La Capital” de Marx, published y Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 2000.

Biographical note

Jacques Bidet is Professor at the University of Paris-X, holding the chair of Political Philosophy and Theories of Society. His other publications include Théorie de la modernité(1990), John Rawls et la théorie de la justice (1995), Théorie générale, Théorie du droit, de l’économie et de la politique (1999) and Explication et reconstruction du ‘Capital’ (2004).


Students, specialists or those interested in reading on Marx’s Capital; his philosophical, economic or sociological interpretation; and his political system.

Table of contents

Foreword to the English Translation of Jacques Bidet’s Que faire du ‘Capital’? by Alex Callinicos
Author’s Preface to the English Edition

Chapter 1. Preliminary Methodological Remarks
1. Pathways: 1857 to 1875
2. The history of science perspective
3. The perspective of reconstruction of the system

Chapter 2. Value as Quantity
1. Constructing a homogeneous economic space: a Marxian project that breaks with political economy
2. Paralogisms of Marx the measurer
3. Capital: the categories of measurement undermine the theorisation of the substance to be measured
4. In what sense does more productive labour produce more value? The articulation of structure and dynamic
5. Skilled labour as a zone of paralogism
6. Intensity: closure and fracture of the quantitative space

Chapter 3. Value as Socio-Political Concept
1. Value as expenditure
2. ‘Transformation of expenditure into consumption of labour-power’
3. Money and labour-value constitute one and the same point of rupture between Marx and Ricardo
4. Value and capital as semi-concepts
5. Value and socialisation of labour: Marx’s inconsistent socialism
6. Labour-value and the state

Chapter 4. Value and price of labour-power
1. A non-normative problematic of the norm
2. Movements of value and movements of price
3. The non-functionalist character of the system: its ‘openness’
4. A hierarchy of values of labour-power?

Chapter 5. Relations of production and class relations
1. Productive and unproductive labour
2. Production and social classes

Chapter 6. The Start of the Exposition and its Development
1. The question of the initial moment of Capital
2. The ‘transition to capital’

Chapter 7. The Method of Exposition and the Hegelian Heritage
1. On the method of exposition of Capital
2. Hegel, an epistemological support/obstacle

Chapter 8. The Theorisation of the Ideological in Capital
1. The place of everyday consciousness: Volume 3
2. The uncertainties in Marx’s exposition
3. The ‘raisons d’être’ of the form of appearance (in Volume One)

Chapter 9. The Theory of the Value-Form
1. Why the historical or logico-historical interpretation cannot be relevant
2. The notion of form or expression of value, as distinct from the notion of relative value
3. Epistemological history of Chapter 1, section 3
4. What dialectic of the form of value?
5. The expression of value ‘in use-value’
6. Fetishism, a structural category of the ideology of commodity production

Chapter 10. The Economy in General and Historical Materialism
1. The various generalities that Capital presupposes
2. Labour value in pure economics and in historical materialism

General Conclusions