This essay opens by outlining the ways Marx uses the idea of translation to explain his theoretical practice and its relationship to classical political economy. Recognizing the moment of science in the emergent field of political economy, Marx declares that the ideological distortions in the discourse arise because political economists are speaking “the language of commodities.” In this sense, Marx's “science” is the practice of translation. Building on the grounding insight that scientific knowledge descends into ideology by misrecognizing the correct terrain of its concepts, Marx's writings from Capital onward (and the history of their reception) exhibit a very real tension between political economy as a universal language of concepts called forth by capital (as a universalizing set of social processes) and political economy as a practice that vigilantly attends to the (im)possibility of translating its categories to address different social and historical contexts.

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