[OPE-L:2576] Re: Critique

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 21 2000 - 08:47:43 EST

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John H wrote in [OPE-L:2572]:
> Since you hear me saying it, Jerry, I'd better say it: I think the Marxist
> method is exclusively critical.

* Well, I can hardly disagree with that statement since it is a tautology.
After all, if the Marxist method isn't exclusively critical, then it has a
non-critical form as, for example, religious "faith" has.

* More to the point, though, if we understand Marx's method (and Marxist
method) as "exclusively critical", then we have stated nothing about how
this method (and "the Marxist method) is different from the "exclusively
critical" method of "the philosophers" both prior to and following
classical political economy.

If, _all_ that distinguishes Marx's method is that it is "exclusively
critical", then wouldn't that mean e.g. Schumpeter employed Marx's

(as seen below, you go on to qualify your understanding of what "critical"
method means in Marx).

> And I do not think that the *subject* of Capital is capitalism. I think
> that we (a vague collectivity in which I include both Marx and ourselves)
> are the subject of Capital.

I think that this confuses how Marx wanted his work to influence his
*readership* with the *subject* of the work.

If, as you say, "we" are the subject of _Capital_, then what role is there
in _Capital_ for the *subject of the title of Book 1*?

( a separate, but related, question is how we view the subject of capital
in relationship to other subjects -- e.g. wage-labour, the state,
etc. -- in Marx's theory. Thus, the question is not merely whether there
is a place for working-class subjectivity in Marx's theory but *what* and
*WHERE* that place is).

btw, what you are suggesting above about how capitalism is not the subject
of capitalism seems to me to be different from what Andrew was asserting
in [2563] that "criticism is the *method* of comprehending capitalism"
(I'm just making an observation here rather than discussing at this
juncture the difference in interpretation between the two perspectives).

> (Bear with me, this is not intended as a
> facetious word-play). When we read any book or study any object, we are the
> subject.The object we study (capitalism, for example) presents itself to
> us a 'thing outside us', exactly as Marx says of the commodity. We can
> either accept that self-presentation of the object as a thing outside us
> and study it objectively, or we can try to understand how that 'thing' is
> the objectified extension of our own subjectivity. The former method
> confirms and reproduces our own powerlessness. The latter method, the
> critical or dialectical method or scientific method (Marx), tries to
> understand the world in terms of our own subjectivity and the negation or
> objectification of that subjectivity.

* I don't think that the claim that we try to "understand the world in
terms of our own subjectivity" fits in very nicely with Marx's
materialist conception of history or the format/presentation of _Capital_.
(this is *not* to assert that subjectivity has no role within Marx's
materialist conception).

* So, when you use say the Marxist method is "exclusively critical", you
are using "critical" and "dialectical" and "scientific" as synonyms?

> The method in
> itself is the theoretical recuperation of the power of work, which is
> surely central to the revolutionary process. Any account of 'capitalism'
> which does not have that at its centre reproduces the fetishised appearance
> of capital as a thing.

Didn't Andrew make the point that for Marx capital *is* a thing? Thus, it
not only *appears* as a thing but *is* a thing. (but I don't want to put
words in Andrew's mouth and he can correct me if I am wrong).

> Critique then is simply the understanding of an 'object' as the
> product of our own doing, ie. the critique of the fetishised
> self-presentation of the object as onject. This is sometimes referred to as
> the 'verum factum' principle, that the truth of our knowledge of an object
> lies in our understanding of its making, and can be traced back to Vico and
> Hobbes but really blossoms with Hegel and Marx.

Do you have any references that you can point me towards regarding the
genesis of the 'verum factum' principle?

> See above, Marx's method is indistinguishably
> critical-scientific-revolutionary.

So, "revolutionary" is now (in addition to critical, dialectical,
scientific) an aspect of Marx's method? Good -- at least it is no longer
"exclusively critical".

In solidarity, Jerry

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