[OPE-L:7174] Re: fundamentalism

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Wed May 15 2002 - 11:50:06 EDT

Re Riccardo's [7l7l]:

> In any case, we 
> must have some term to label those who think that, to quote Andrew 
> Kliman, since Marx was right, don't 'correct' him. just apply, or 
> 'test' it.

This needs qualification.  Andrew K didn't say that *in general* Marx
was 'right', we don't need to 'correct'  him, etc.:

a)   to the extent that Andrew (and Ted and Alan, etc.) wrote that Marx 
was 'right', etc. it was in reference to the *quantitative* side of Marx's
theory.  They haven't claimed -- as far as I know -- that Marx's theory
*overall*  was correct and just needs to be applied.  

b) actually Andrew -- as far as I can remember  -- didn't claim that 
Marx's quantitative theory was 'right' or 'correct' --  *only* that it
was *internally consistent*  and therefore that claims by Bortkiewicz
regarding Marx's internal inconsistency are not right and incorrect.

c)  Andrew repeatedly emphasized that TSS is an _interpretation_
of Marx.  Thus, the issue that he (and others who advocate the TSS
interpretation of Marx) have focused on is one that concerns 

For the above reasons, I think it would be misleading to refer to 
Kliman  (or other advocates of the TSS  interpretation of Marx) as
a "fundamentalist" in the sense in which I think you  understand the 
meaning of that term.

I think one of the problems with our communication is that the *focus* 
of our concerns has been different: for Kliman, his _primary 
research focus_ has, to date, been hermeneutic; for many others,
their primary research focus has been capitalism.  In other words,
Kliman has been mainly focused on what is essentially a *history of
political economy question* (i.e. what is the interpretation of Marx's
quantitative theory that is the most consistent and has the best textual
evidence when placed in the context of Marx's overall theory?),
whereas many other Marxists are focused on comprehending and 
struggling against the dynamics of  capitalism.

My dictionary defines hermeneutics as: " l.  the science of interpretation,
esp. of the Scriptures. 2. the branch of theology which treats of the 
principles of Biblical exegesis"{The Random House Dictionary of the
English Language). This is perhaps not a very good definition.  

Is there a place for hermeneutics in Marxism?   If we are going to 
say that it is "the science of interpretation", I  would say that it has a
place. For example, Marx's critique of  Smith and Ricardo 
*presupposed*  an  understanding -- an interpretation -- of those
authors.  On the other hand,  *Marx was not engaged in 
hermeneutic debates*  --  even his _Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy
of Right'_ was not an exercise in hermeneutic debate (although
there have been many debates among Hegelians and others about
interpreting Hegel.)   His focus was on _larger_ questions than 
on history of thought questions. And when Marx was focused on 
history of thought questions, it was _never_ an end in itself --
it was _just_  a component of a larger study of his.  In a similar
sense, his study of  empirical and historical sources was not an 
end in itself -- rather it constituted a necessary stage in his 
research that was required for the later reconstruction of the subject
matter (capitalism) in thought.  

I think we should follow Marx's example and *not* be primarily
focused on hermeneutics.  While what Marx wrote and whether
his quantitative theory is consistent or inconsistent is of interest, 
it has I think *very limited* interest -- to me at least -- from what
I view as the larger question of comprehending and struggling 
against capitalism (which presupposes that we comprehend not
only 'capital in general' but capitalism as a totality *and*
contemporary capitalism; thus our knowledge must extend beyond
_Capital_ not only because that work only attempts to explain
capital at a relatively high level of abstraction and  therefore is
necessarily and intentionally  "incomplete" but also because we
must grasp the ways in which capitalism has changed since Marx's
time.)   Moreover, I would claim that from a Marxist perspective
-- which should be *anti-authoritarian* and critical towards *all* --
the task of interpreting Marx should not be a goal in itself but
*only* has meaning in a  critique *OF*  Marx

Yet, even if I don't agree that hermeneutics should be a major
research focus of Marxists today, I -- of course -- support the
right of others to focus on hermeneutics, animal husbandry, 
meteorology,  gardening or whatever.   I do think, though, that
there are more important subjects in the world that need 
addressing than gardening.

In solidarity, Jerry

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