[OPE-L:3089] Re: Re: Re: Jerry, Don't be Aghast!!!

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 06:57:47 EDT

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Re Patrick's [OPE-L:3078]:

You remark that you are "happy to note" that in [3076] I "agreed with
my more complex summary (in [3069], JL), with suitable modifications
of your own".

I hope that I will not make you too unhappy, though, when I remark
now that what I sought to demonstrate in [3076] was the extent to
which your summary was inadequate and, in some instances, misleading.
Thus, I did _not_ agree to your more complex summary with suitable

You claim that it is beneficial to be able to present a "useful
summary" of a work. I agree. The question, though, concerns what is
a "useful summary".

In addition to the advantages you cite, writing a summary or an
abstract is a useful exercise for the *writer*: i.e. it compels
the writer to exercise a certain degree of discipline and

In principle, it should be possible for a writer to summarize any
article or book. *However*, the length required for a "useful
summary" depends on the *complexity of the subject matter itself*.
And Marx's theory in _Capital_ is by *no* means so elementary
that it can be usefully summarized with any one sentence.

Even longer summaries run the risk of over-simplification. E.g.
consider the lengthy passage from the "Preface" to _A Contribution
to the Critique of Political Economy_ where Marx attempted to
summarize the "general conclusion" which became the "guiding
principle" of his studies. Perhaps you will agree that this
summary has led others to over-simplify much of Marx's
perspectives on historical materialism? In that sense, the
legacy of this passage (e.g. as it was later interpreted by
"diamat" authors) is somewhat less than "useful". In any
event, when summarizing a perspective, the inherent complexity
of that perspective itself must be taken into account.
Furthermore, "summaries" which are OVER-simple (simplistic)
can do a great injustice to the perspective that one is
attempting to summarize.

In solidarity, Jerry

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