[OPE-L:7187] Re: fundamentalism

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Thu May 16 2002 - 09:15:59 EDT

Re Riccardo's [7l85]:

I love you as well. :-) And I have to agree that there have been
posts in this exchange which also demonstrate a bad way of
debating -- which is obviously ironic given the fact that it was
the main substance of what this thread and the thread it
developed out of  primarily concerned.

It is possible, of course, that my representation of Andrew's
position has been "unfair" in the sense it it is "wrong".  In what
follows we will *re-visit [7l74]* and read again what I wrote *in
its entirety*  to see not what others think I said or what they
think I intended, but what I *actually* wrote:

----- Original Message -----
From: "gerald_a_levy" <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>
Subject: [OPE-L:7174] Re: fundamentalism

> 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
> *hermeneutics*.
> 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.

As can be seen above, *the first part*  of my post was intended to
qualify your statement that Andrew K believed that "Marx was right",
etc.   It explains _why_  I think it is misleading to refer to Andrew K
and other supporters of the TSS interpretation of Marx's quantitative
theory as "fundamentalists".    Thus -- by *any* standard -- the first part
of my post was a *defense* of Kliman.  Moreover, there is not a
single word of criticism directed at Kliman's perspectives.  Hardly
what you would expect from somebody who is being "unfair" to
Kliman, no?

> 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.

In the first sentence in the paragraph above I did not assert that
Kliman's "only" focus has been on hermeneutics -- what I wrote is that
his  "_primary research focus_"  has been on hermeneutics.  Is this a
fair representation?   I think it is.

A)  others on the list will recall Andrew K's past defense of hermeneutics
on-list. In fact, we once had a exchange on OPE-L about just that topic.

B) I did not say that his "primary focus" is on hermeneutics. What I wrote
was that his "primary research focus is hermeneutic".   If  anyone thinks
that is an unfair representation of Andrew's primary research focus, then
I can suggest a couple of  empirical  "tests" for that proposition:

i) count all of the published works by Andrew K and divided them into
two groups:   a) writings that focus on interpreting Marx issues, and
                     b) writings that concern other (non-hermeneutic)
Divide the one into the other and you have a percent of his works
that focus on a).

ii) [more time required] go to our archives,  add up all of the OPE-L
posts written by Andrew K over the 5  l/2 year period that he was a
listmember.  Identify, as in i), the posts that concern interpreting Marx
from the posts that deal with other issues.  The result can then be read to
at least determine whether Andrew's primary research focus _on OPE-L_
has been on  discussing hermeneutic questions.

C. To place this issue in focus one must recall that Andrew K himself
*repeatedly emphasized* that "TSS" concerned _interpreting Marx's
quantitative theory_.   Thus, he himself has emphasized that the debate
over TSS has been hermeneutic.

In the *next part* of my post I do not mention Andrew K at all. The
reason for this is that I have passed over to another --* larger* --
question,  i.e. the role of hermeneutics from a Marxist perspective.
Nothing in what follows can legitimately be inferred to be directed at
Andrew K.  Again -- read what I *write*, not what you think I

> My dictionary defines hermeneutics as: " l.  the science of
> 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

Of course, others might not agree with this section of my post. That
is their right. But is there anybody who will say that the positions I
advance above are incorrect?  If so, confront what I wrote rather
what you think I meant.   Note above that I did not dismiss
hermeneutics. Quite the contrary.  What I tried to do was identify
from my perspective the proper place of hermeneutics from a Marxian
perspective and what was the role of  hermeneutics for Marx (which is,
btw, a hermeneutic topic.)

> 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.

What does the above say?  It says _only_ that I support the
right of Marxists to focus on "whatever".

> I do think, though, that
> there are more important subjects in the world that need
> addressing than gardening.

Admittedly, this was a throw-away line. Indeed, in retrospect
it should have been omitted because it was redundant and added
nothing to what I already wrote in the post.   However, if we
read the sentence literally (and especially if we compare it to
the previous sentence) there is nothing that I consider to be
objectionable -- except to gardeners, of course.  Moreover,
I could have just as easily substituted "hermeneutics", "animal
husbandry", "meteorology" (or thousands of other words) for
"gardening".   The point was simply that the most important
subjects that need addressing are those directly concerned with
understanding and changing the world.  Of course, one could
mount a defense of hermeneutics as a vital component for
understanding and changing the world (and, indeed, I very
*explicitly*  identified what I think the proper role for hermeneutics
is from that standpoint), but is it a illegitimate position for me to
take? I think not.

In conclusion, if you read what I actually wrote I find nothing
objectionable.  If others do, then it is because they have not
reacted to what I _actually_ wrote.  And that is a sure fire way
to have a  bad debate.

As before,

> In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sun Jun 02 2002 - 00:00:07 EDT