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You are probably right that many post-Ricardian socialists could be also be
summarized by my summary of Marx. Further, in some cases, an analytic
summary is preferable to a descriptive one.
My point was quite simple. Namely, if the average person on the street
wanted to know "Why should I read Karl Marx?" It would be quite useful to
be able to quickly summarized the major points Marx was trying to make. It
would be of no help at all to say to the person, "Well, Marx's work is too
complex to be adequately summarized. You'll have to read all his books, or
take a couple of semesters of college courses to fully understand what he
was trying to say."
Such a summary is designed to answer the individual's question (without
boring them to tears on the intracies of value theory, Hegelian origins,
etc) and, perhaps, inspired the questioner to do some additional reading.
Interestingly, Marx tried to summarize his economic beliefs in "Wages,
Prices, and Profit." This short piece is considerably easier to read than
the 3 volumes of capital and the other 3 volumes of Theories of Surplus Value.
I did not intend for either of my one sentence summaries to be taken as a
serious and detailed academic explanations of Marx's system of thought.
But, I do seriously believe that hostility to journalistic summaries is
peace, patrick l mason
At 08:43 PM 5/10/00 EST, you wrote:
>Summaries... I would prefer an analytic one, rather than a descriptive one.
>Many post-Ricardian socialists made claims which could be summarised as
>Patrick summarised Marx. What set Karl apart was the depth of his analytic
>Unfortunately, what also set Marx apart was the lack of a good editor, which
>is why we're still debating what his analytic system was 130 years later!
>>From: "Patrick L. Mason" <email@example.com>
>>Subject: [OPE-L:3078] Re: Re: Jerry, Don't be Aghast!!!
>>Date: Tue, 09 May 2000 20:40:31 -0400
>>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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