[OPE-L:3076] Re: Jerry, Don't be Aghast!!!

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Tue May 09 2000 - 16:54:47 EDT

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Once again on Patrick's [OPE-L:3069]:

Let us consider Patrick's more detailed one-sentence summary of

> Capitalism is an irrational, alienating, exploitive, and
> oppressive economic system, but it is also a system that
> can produce tremendous economic growth and technological change.

(1) Yes, capitalism is irrational. However, Marx went to great
    pains to explain the logic (or rationality) of the irrational.
(2) Yes, alienation is an essential feature of capitalism.
    However, if you do not identify the relationship of
    alienation to *class erxploitation*, then one is using
    the term in the contemporary sense rather than the specific
    sense in which Marx used that term.

(3) Yes, exploitation is central to the character of capitalism.
    But, your summary does not relate the subject of exploitation
    to the relationship of the capitalist class to [productive]

    wage-workers. Thus, it does not convey the concept that Marx
    wanted to convey when presenting the specific nature of
    exploitation under capitalism.

(4) Oppressive? I agree that capitalism IS oppressive, but where
    and how is this subject developed in _Capital_? For example,
    one could claim that the state is oppressive. Yet, is that a
    subject developed in _Capital_? No. Marx, no doubt, wanted
    to develop this aspect of the state in Book 4 which, as we
    all know, was never written. One could argue that there is
    oppression within the family under capitalism. Yet, this
    subject was not developed in _Capital_ either. Of course,
    there is national oppression and the oppression of
    national minorities (including racial oppression). Yet,
    this subject is not developed at any length in _Capital_
    either. Indeed, there is precious little about oppression
    in _Capital_. One *could* argue that some of these forms
    of oppression are not systematically required for the
    reproduction of capitalist social relations, but are
    instead subjects that lie outside of "basic theory".
    Or, one could argue that they are subjects that need to be
    developed at a more concrete level of abstraction than
    that of _Capital_. BUT, I find it a stretch to claim that
    this was such a major aspect of Marx's _Capital_ that it needs
    to be included in a one-sentence summary. Perhaps we could
    discuss the issue of the relationship of different forms
    of oppression to capitalism at greater length?

(5) Your summary suggests that Marx viewed capitalism, a *mode
    of production*, as being identical to capitalism, an
    "economic system". Do you think that he believed that these
    two expressions (mode of production; economic system) can
    be used inter-changeably?

(6) Yes, it was a system that can provide tremendous economic
    growth and technological change, but he also viewed it as
     a *crises-prone* system. Moreover, the same process that
    facilitates growth also brings about crises and instability.

I could go on and on .... But, the bottom line is that your
summnary does too much of an injestic to Marx's theory. This is
not because you set out with this intention, but rather the
attempt to simplify Marx's theory with such brevity
must, of necessity, be over-simplistic.

Yes, there is a lot to be said for popularizing Marx's (and
Marxist) theory (and theories). Yet, what starts out as
popularization can become vulgarization. Moreover, we have to
take Marx's "Preface to the French Edition" of Volume 1
seriously and tell those who want to understand Marx's _Capital_
that there is no royal road to science ....

In solidarity, Jerry

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