In production this equality and freedom and self regarding self interest, is revealed as cover for the ‘secret’ of value creation from labour power, and the appropriations thereof, in which the labourers receive a tanning. The skin metaphor here should not be erased – it will be important when we come to discuss slavery.
And since Hülle at the start of the section was the ‘envelope’ form of value expressed in money, it is extremely interesting to find ‘at last force the secret of profit’ – to force or reveal (enthüllen) – peel off one’s clothes – to unveil – from a poem of Schiller – the secret of production and capital’s creativity is ‘forced’ (Deutsch 188 Penguin 280 LawrenceWishart 176). Hülle will become very important at the end when the husk – hülle become the strange word integument in the english trans – but as a husk, furry shell of a seed, the coat of revolt again put on the proletarian – the integument is burst asunder and the expropriators are expropriated (see Penguin p 929, L&W 763, D.791).
Marx tells these tales for a reason, reporting the reportage of the Commissioners and carefully collecting evidence. Already thus far in the book he has set out some key concepts but not all, he has dealt with the trick of fair exchange of wages at market, and ‘forced’ open the envelope (Hülle), the secret of the labour theory of value
At a Goldsmiths conference called Black Skins White Marx, Fred Moten referred to Marx’s blackness, that he was swarthy, and nicknamed by his family ‘the Moor’. I read this as not only a gesture. I have been making the case that Marx writing during the American civil war, and continually referencing India, and Indonesia, as he does here, these gestures have some role to play in our reading.
But the story here is of the workers, expelled from land, left with only their skins to sell.
The thing is that Marx has had this skin, of worker being flayed alive, in mind throughout. By the end – and it is ok to anticipate this – P929 D791 – the integument will burst asunder. The inner contradictions of capital may rip it apart.
Integument is like skin – Hülle – hull, enthüllen (unveil, Marx most likely picks this up from from Schiller) but Hülle is something like a shell of a seed that protects the inner flesh, as in a covering of a seed, or a fur – or a COAT perhaps??. Another possible translation is inhuman shell.
All through Capital Marx has been worried about the worker getting a hiding, comments on slavery, ‘Labour in the white skin will not be free while in the Black it is in chains’, writing to Abe Lincoln to encourage him to go further, but now we see this, that Schiller metaphor of the enthüllen – forcing – of the secret of value has its consequence in the bursting of the shell – hülle – of capitalism itself.
Adorno also concerned here, with skin, and the blistering effects of the sun in tanning (see p170-171 of Critical Models, the essay ‘Free time’) –
‘those who let themselves roast in the sun merely for the sake of a tan, even though dozing in the blazing sun is by no means enjoyable, even possibly physically unpleasant, and certainly makes people intellectually inactive [the very reasons we might enjoy sunbaking]. With the brown hue of the skin, which of course in other respects can be quite pretty, the fetish character of commodities seizes people themselves; they become fetish to themselves. The thought that a girl is especially attractive because of her brown skin is probably only a rationalization. The tan has become an end in itself, more important than the flirtation it perhaps once was supposed to entice. If employees return from vacation without having acquired the obligatory skin tone, they can be sure that their colleagues will ask pointedly, “but didn’t you go on vacation?”. The fact that the cosmetics industry contributes its share through its overwhelming and inescapable advertising is just as obvious as is the ability of complaisant people to repress it. The state of dozing in the sun represents the culmination of a decisive element of free time under the present conditions: boredom.’ (Adorno 1998:170-1)
Today, this is not even to mention sun beds, cancer and spray on orange TV glow.
In the very last year of his life Marx travels, full of pneumonia, to Algeria via Marseilles. Did he visit the Isle d’If for The Count of Monte Christo, just outside Marseilles harbour, and there see Durer’s drawing of the Gujurati rhino that was there, until it drowned in a wreck en route as gift to the Pope in Rome, circa 1514? In his correspondence, Marx refers to his great coat as an old rhinoceros hide while in Algiers.