[OPE-L:8051] Re: (Change the world!) magnitude and givens in philosophy and political economy

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Nov 25 2002 - 08:45:46 EST

Re Michael E's [8046]:

I'll pass over your reference to "sociation" and _Value-Form and the State_
now but would like to return at a later date to the controversial issue of
whether sociation (and hence dissociation and association) should form the
starting point for a systematic dialectical reconstruction of capitalism in
thought (as Mike  and Geert contend in _VFS_) or whether the starting point
should remain the commodity (as in Marx).  I will note only that within
_VFS_ the sociation/dissociation/association dialectic is crucial for the
later comprehension of the state-form.

Instead, I want to further discuss -- and connect -- the following sections
of your post.

>  It is still taken for granted today, in 2002, in the mainstream
> social sciences that if it ain't measurable, it don't exist.

> With respect to a theory of capitalist society, thinking aims at saying
>  what  capitalist society _is_. This is the form of question posed by
> philosophy since  its beginnings, the famous Socratic question _ti
> estin...;_ "what is...?". What  something is is the question as to its
> essence. Marx starts with an analysis of  commodity exchange in
> order to gain a first, preliminary, but all-decisive  answer to this
> question. He starts with a familiar phenomenon of sociation,
> namely, the exchange of goods between people. The practice of
> exchange sociates > (or, to use a more familiar word, associates)
> humans with one another. So the  question is: What is going on when
> people sociate through the exchange of  commodity goods?

Yet,  this constituted part of  Marx's *critique* of the philosophers: "The
philosophers have only *interpreted* the world, in various ways: the point,
however, is to *change* it" (of course, the celebrated and oft-quoted 11th
Thesis from the "Theses on Feuerbach.")  So, clearly Marx identified his
task as something more than just understanding 'what is'.

One could even argue, though, that a *consistent* application of the 11th
Thesis  -- wherein one interrogates its meaning rather than taking it as a
'given' --  would lead to a rejection of  Descartes' Rule 14.4.  How so?
Let me explain:

While it is the case that capital attempts to subordinate all aspects of
social life to its imperative and thereby attempts to commodidify all
social relations and hence express those relations quantitatively as
magnitude, this can never be entirely successful or complete.  Indeed,
it only expresses one side of a dynamic: namely, how capital attempts
to re-mold all  aspects of human relations in its own image.  That
side of the dynamic is not only expressed everyday in the marketplace
(e.g. with the attempted commodification of love) but in mainstream
(bourgeois) thought as well (e.g. "Human capital", a la Gary Becker,

Yet, the perspective that beings can only be comprehended in
terms of magnitude is one-sided and hence false.  There are many
*essential* aspects of social relations that *can not* be expressed as
magnitude.   In fact,  I would assert that a systematic comprehension
of  *CLASSES* and  *THE STATE* can not be developed merely
through an examination of magnitude.  Indeed,  *ONE CAN NOT
THE WORLD IN TERMS OF MAGNITUDE*.   Hence,  a rejection
of Descartes  Rule 14.4  is a REVOLUTIONARY IMPERATIVE.

Before you arrived (in the Spring, 2002) we had a discussion on-list that
was stimulated by the publication of John Holloway's book _Change
the World_.   While the three of us (John H, yourself and I) have a
number of theoretical and political disagreements (which, no doubt,
will unfold in due course) I think we all agree that we can not understand
_or_ change the world if we conceive of  social relations only as
quantitative relations which can be expressed as magnitude.  E.g. in that
discussion, John highlighted the connection between LOVE AND
STRUGGLE.   How can we, for instance, conceive of class subjectivity,
consciousness, sisterhood, and comradeship only as magnitude?  Of
course, it can't be done -- indeed, it is absurd.  Moreover, the working
class and the revolutionary movement can not be conceived adequately
in terms of magnitude.  It  is  thus part of the process of  the unfolding
of an emancipation movement that revolutionaries come to conceive
of themselves as more than just  numbers.

I look forward to further discussion.

In solidarity, Jerry

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