In the half-arranged, half-spontaneous division of labour which presided over the organization of this collective study of Capital, it fell to me to discuss Marx's relation to his work. Under this title, I intended to deal with the following question: what image did Marx have and give of the nature of his undertaking? With what concepts did he think his innovations, and hence the distinctions between himself and the Classical Economists? In what system of concepts did he account for the conditions which gave rise to the discoveries of Classical Economics on the one hand, and his own discoveries on the other? With these questions, I intended to interrogate Marx himself, to see where and how he had theoretically reflected the relationship between his work and the theoretico-historical conditions of its production. In this way, I meant to pose him directly the fundamental epistemological question which constitutes the object of Marxist philosophy itself -- and to assess as accurately as possible the degree of explicit philosophical consciousness Marx had acquired during the elaboration of Capital. To make this assessment meant to compare the part Marx had illuminated in the new philosophical field that he had opened in the act of foundation of his science with the part that had remained in the shade. By assessing what Marx had done, I wanted to represent as far as possible what he himself called on us to do in order to situate this field, to estimate its extent, and to make it accessible to philosophical discovery -- in short, to define as accurately as possible the theoretical space open before Marxist philosophical investigation.

Such was my project: at first sight, it might seem simple, and require only to be carried out. Indeed, Marx left us in passing in the text and notes of Capital a whole series of judgements of his own work, critical comparisons with his predecessors (the Physiocrats, Smith, Ricardo, etc.) and lastly very precise methodological comments comparing his analytical procedures with the methods of e.g., the mathematical, physical and biological sciences, and with the dialectical method defined by Hegel. Since on the other hand we possess the 1857 Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy -- an extremely profound development of the earlier theoretical and methodological comments in Chapter Two of The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) -- it seems legitimate to believe that this set of texts really embraced the object of my reflection, and that a systematic arrangement of this already

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worked-out material was all that was required for the epistemological project I have mentioned to take on body and reality. Indeed, it seemed natural to think that when he spoke of his work and his discoveries, Marx was reflecting on the innovatory character, and therefore on the specific distinction of his object, in philosophically adequate terms -- and that this adequate philosophical reflection was itself devoted to a definition of the scientific object of Capital, defining its specific distinction in explicit terms.

But the protocols for a reading of Capital which we have inherited from the history of the interpretation of Marxism, as well as the experiments in reading Capital we can make ourselves, confront us with real difficulties inherent in Marx's text itself. I shall assemble them under two headings, and these two headings will constitute the object of my study.

(1) Contrary to certain appearances, or at any rate, to my expectations, Marx's methodological reflections in Capital do not give us a developed concept, nor even an explicit concept of the object of Marxist philosophy. They always provide the means with which to recognize, identify and focus on it, and finally to think it, but often at the end of a long investigation, and only after piercing the enigma contained in certain expressions. Our question therefore demands more than a mere literal reading, even an attentive one: it demands a truly critical reading, one which applies to Marx's text precisely the principles of the Marxist philosophy which is, however, what we are looking for in Capital. This critical reading seems to constitute a circle, since we appear to be expecting to obtain Marxist philosophy from its own application. We should therefore clarify: we expect from the theoretical work of the philosophical principles Marx has explicitly given us or which can be disengaged from his Works of the Break, and Transitional Works -- we expect from the theoretical work of these principles applied to Capital their development and enrichment as well as refinements in their rigour. This apparent circle should not surprise us: all 'production' of knowledge implies it in its process.

(2) But this philosophical investigation runs into another real difficulty, one which no longer involves the presence and distinction of the object of Marxist philosophy in Capital, but the presence and distinction of the scientific object of Capital itself. Restricting myself to a single, simple symptomatic question around which turn most of the interpretations and criticism of Capital, what, strictly speaking, is the nature of the object whose theory we get from Capital ? Is it Economics or History? And specifying this question, if the object of Capital is Economics, precisely what distinguishes this object in its concept from the object of classical Economics? If the object of Capital is History, what is this History, what place does Economics have in History, etc.? Here again, a merely literal reading of Marx's text, even an attentive one, will leave us unsatisfied or even make us miss the question altogether, dispensing us from the task of posing this question, even though it is essential to an understanding of Marx -- and depriving us

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of an exact consciousness of the theoretical revolution induced by Marx's discovery and of the scope of its consequences. Without doubt, in Capital Marx does give us, in an extremely explicit form, the means with which to identify and announce the concept of his object -- what am I saying? -- he announces it himself in perfectly clear terms. But if he did formulate the concept of his object without ambiguity, Marx did not always define with the same precision the concept of its distinction, i.e., the concept of the specific difference between it and the object of Classical Economics. There can be no doubt that Marx was acutely conscious of the existence of this distinction: his whole critique of Classical Economics proves it. But the formulae in which he gives us this distinction, this specific difference, are sometimes disconcerting, as we shall see. They do guide us onto the road to the concept of this distinction, but often only at the end of a long investigation and, once again, after piercing the enigma contained in some of his expressions. But how can we establish the differential specificity of the object of Capital with any precision without a critical and epistemological reading which assigns the site where Marx separates himself theoretically from his predecessors, and determines the meaning of this break. How can we aim to achieve this result without recourse precisely to a theory of the history of the production of knowledges, applied to the relations between Marx and his pre-history, i.e., without recourse to the principles of Marxist philosophy ? As we shall see, a second question must be added to this one: does not the difficulty Marx seems to have felt in thinking in (penser dans ) a rigorous concept the difference which distinguishes his object from the object of Classical Economics, lie in the nature of his discovery, in particular in its fantastically innovatory character ? in the fact that this discovery happened to be theoretically very much in advance of the philosophical concepts then available? And in this case, does not Marx's scientific discovery imperiously demand that we pose the new philosophical problems required by the disconcerting nature of its new object ? This last argument calls on philosophy to participate in any depth reading of Capital in order to answer the astonishing questions asked of philosophy in its pages: unprecedented questions which are decisive for the future of philosophy itself.

Such is the double object of this study, which is only possible given a constant and double reference: the identification and knowledge of the object of Marxist philosophy at work in Capital presupposes the identification and knowledge of the specific difference of the object of Capital itself -- which in turn presupposes the recourse to Marxist philosophy and demands Its development. It is not possible to read Capital properly without the help of Marxist philosophy, which must itself be read, and simultaneously, in Capital itself. If this double reading and constant reference from the scientific reading to the philosophical reading, and from the philosophical reading to the scientific reading, are necessary and fruitful, we shall surely be able to recognize in them the peculiarity of the philosophical revolution carried in

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Marx's scientific discovery: a revolution which inaugurates an authentically new mode of philosophical thought.

We can convince ourselves that this double reading is indispensable a contrario, too, by the difficulties and misconstructions that simple immediate readings of Capital have produced in the past: difficulties and misconstructions which all revolve around a more or less serious misunderstanding of the specific difference of the object of Capital. We are obliged to register this remarkable fact: until relatively recently, Capital was hardly read, among 'specialists', except by economists and historians, of whom the former often thought that Capital was an economic treatise in the immediate sense of their practice, and the latter that certain parts of Capital were works of history, in the immediate sense of their practice. This Book, which thousands and thousands of worker militants have studied -- has been read by economists and historians, but very rarely by philosophers,[1] i.e., 'specialists' capable of posing Capital the preliminary question of the differential nature of its object. With rare exceptions, all the more remarkable for that, economists and historians have not been equipped to pose it this kind of question, at least in a rigorous form, and hence they have not ultimately been equipped to identify conceptually what specifically distinguishes Marx's object from other apparently similar or related objects whether contemporaneous with him or earlier. Such an undertaking has generally only been accessible to philosophers, or to specialists with an adequate philosophical education -- because it corresponds precisely to the object of philosophy.

What philosophers who are able to pose Capital the question of its object and of the specific difference that distinguishes Marx's object from the object of Political Economy, classical or modern, have read Capital and posed it this question? Knowing that Capital was under a radical ideologico-political interdict imposed by bourgeois economists and historians for eighty years, we can imagine the fate reserved for it by academic philosophy! The only philosophers ready to take Capital for an object worthy of a
1 For very profound reasons, it was often in fact political militants and leaders who, without being professional philosophers, were best able to read and understand Capital as philosophers. Lenin is the most extraordinary example: his philosophical understanding of Capital gives his economic and political analysis an incomparable profundity, rigour and acuity. In our image of Lenin, the great political leader all too often masks the man who undertook the patient, detailed and profound study of Marx's great theoretical works. It is no accident that we owe to the first years of Lenin's public activity (the years preceding the 1905 Revolution) so many acute texts devoted to the most difficult questions of the theory of Capital. Ten years of study and meditation on Capital gave the man the incomparable theoretical formation which produced the prodigious political understanding of the leader of the Russian and international workers' movement. And this is also the reason why Lenin's political and economic works (not only the written works, but also the historical ones) are of such theoretical and philosophical value: we can study Marxist philosophy at work in them, in the 'practical' state, Marxist philosophy which has become politics, political action, analysis and decision. Lenin: an incomparable theoretical and philosophical formation turned political.

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philosopher's concern could long only be Marxist militants: only during the last two or three decades have a few non-Marxist philosophers crossed this forbidden frontier. But, whether Marxist or not, these philosophers could only pose Capital questions produced by their philosophy, which was not generally equipped to conceive a real epistemological treatment of its object, even if it did not obstinately reject it. Among Marxists, besides the remarkable case of Lenin, we can mention Labriola and Plekhanov, the 'Austro-Marxists', Gramsci, and more recently Rosenthal and Il'ienkov in the USSR, the School of Della Volpe in Italy (Della Volpe, Colletti, Pietranera, Rossi, etc.) and numerous scholars in the socialist countries. The 'Austro-Marxists' were merely neo-Kantians: they produced nothing that has survived their ideological project. The important work of Plekhanov and particularly that of Labriola, deserve a special study -- as also, and on a quite different level, do Gramsci's great theses on Marxist philosophy. I shall discuss Gramsci later. It is no slander on Rosenthal's work (Problèmes de la dialectique dans 'Le Capital ') to reckon it partly beside the point here, since it merely paraphrases the immediate language with which Marx designates his object and his theoretical operations, without supposing that Marx's very language might often be open to this question. As for the studies of Il'ienkov, Della Volpe, Colletti, Pietranera, etc., they are indeed the works of philosophers who have read Capital and pose it directly the essential question -- erudite, rigorous and profound works, conscious of the fundamental relation linking Marxist philosophy with the understanding of Capital. But, as we shall see, the conception they put forward of Marxist philosophy is often debatable. However, in every case, the same exigency is expressed everywhere in the investigations of contemporary Marxist theoreticians: a deeper understanding of the theoretical consequences of Capital requires a more rigorous and richer definition of Marxist philosophy. In other words, to return to classical terminology, the theoretical future of historical materialism depends today on deepening dialectical materialism, which itself depends on a rigorous critical study of Capital. History imposes this immense task on us. Insofar as our modest means will allow, we should like to make our contribution.

Let me return to the thesis I am going to attempt to expound and illustrate. This thesis, it is clear, is not just an epistemological thesis which only concerns the philosophers who take up the question of the difference between Marx and the Classical Economists: it is also a thesis which concerns economists and historians -- and, as an obvious consequence, political militants -- in short, all of Capital 's readers. Posing the question of the object of Capital, this thesis deals directly with the foundation of the economic and historical analyses contained in its text: it should therefore be able to resolve certain reading difficulties which have traditionally been opposed to Marx by his opponents as decisive objections. The question of the object of Capital is not therefore just a philosophical question. If what I have suggested about

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the relation between scientific reading and philosophical reading is well-founded, the elucidation of the specific difference of the object of Capital may provide the means towards a better understanding of Capital in its economic and historical content too.

I close this foreword with the conclusion that, if I have replaced the original project for this paper, which was intended to deal with Marx's relation to his work, with a second project dealing with the peculiar object of Capital, this was quite necessary. In order to understand all the profundity of the comments in which Marx expresses his relation to his work, it was necessary to go beyond their letter to the essential point which is present in all these comments and in all the concepts which imply that relation -- to the essential point of the specific difference of the object of Capital, a point which is both visible and hidden, present and absent, a point which is absent for reasons arising from the very nature of its presence, from the disconcerting novelty of Marx's revolutionary discovery. That these reasons may in certain cases be invisible to us at first glance surely derives in the last resort from the fact that, like all radical innovations, they are blinding.

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