[OPE-L:3078] Re: Re: Jerry, Don't be Aghast!!!

From: Patrick L. Mason (pmason@garnet.acns.fsu.edu)
Date: Tue May 09 2000 - 20:40:31 EDT

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My only point is that most people (indeed, most academics) aren't going to
read 1 volume of capital, let alone all three. Any summary is incomplete.
Some are better/worst than others. If one is in a conversation with someone
who's interested in understanding capital, then it would be helpful to have
a usable summary. Summaries also help adherents of a particular perspective
understand what it is that they have in common. I am happy to note that you
agreed with my more complex summary, with suitable modifications of your
own. (Finally, in my summary irrational = crisis prone).

peace, patrick l mason

At 04:54 PM 5/9/00 -0400, you wrote:
>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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