[OPE-L:2373] understanding pre- and post-capitalism

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Tue Feb 15 2000 - 12:36:34 EST

[ show plain text ]

In [OPE-L:2363] Paul C wrote:

> It is however my opinion that in Capital, Marx himself repeatedly
> explained features of capitalist economy with reference to the future
> socialist economy, using his principle that 'the key to the anatomy of
> the ape is the anatomy of man'. This may be bad Darwinism, but it is a
> sensible precept for the understanding of modes of production. You can
> only really understand capitalism if you look back on it from the
> standpoint of socialism, the Owl of Minerva flying at dusk etc.

It may indeed be bad Darwinism, but is it good *history* to argue that the
key to understanding the history of past modes of production lies in
understanding the mode of production of today (capitalism)?

Moreover, is the claim that the key to understanding the *past*
(pre-capitalism) is an understanding of capitalism consistent with the
dual claim that the key to understanding the *future* (post-capitalism) is
a comprehension of capitalism?

Note, that in the first case we explain the past with reference to the
present. *But, how can we comprehend the present unless we can comprehend
the past?* I.e. unless we can put the present in a historical context,
how can we comprehend either the present *or* the past?

As for the future, who knows what it will look like? To assume that
understanding post-capitalism lies in understanding capitalism suggests
that the key to understanding the future lies in comprehending the past.
There may be some truth to that claim, but it is inconsistent with the
prior claim that the key to understanding the past lies in understanding
the present.

Won't an examination of capitalism tell us to a large degree what
post-capitalist societies are *not*? To what extent, though, will it tell
us what those societies *are* (i.e. will be)? For instance, if the
commodity is the "economic cell-form" of bourgeois society, this suggests
that the commodity is *not* the "economic cell-form" of socialism. But, it
doesn't tell us what the "economic cell-form" of socialism will be either.

Lastly: if the ending of capitalism will symbolize the ending of the
"pre-history" of humanity, how can we (the apes) possibly know what the
characteristics of post-ape society will be?

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 21 2000 - 09:47:46 EDT