[OPE-L:8247] Re: the 'starting point'

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Dec 30 2002 - 11:44:25 EST

Re Michael E's [8243]:

> The prefix "Ge-" in "Gewinnst" signifies a gathering (e.g. as in Gesetz,
> which  signifies the gathering of all that which is posited, i.e. gesetzt,
> as lawful  regulation, i.e. law). Human being is essentially desirous,
> i.e. it  directs  itself toward and sets its heart on (Greek: _epithymia_)
> what it lacks. The  essential lack in human being shapes and leaves its
> mark on  human being's  relation to the world. The Gewinnst is the
> historical  consummation of desirous  human being in which the world
> presents  itself as the gathering of all that is  desirous and as offering
> opportunities  for acquisition (_ktaesis_). According  to Plato (Book
> IV of the Politeia),  human being itself (the _psychae_), i.e.  the
> relation  of human being to  being, in its major part is desirous and
> acquisitive.
> Such desire is not  merely gluttony and profligacy, but above all
> _philochraematon_, i.e. the  striving to acquire useful things, assets,
> wealth,  money. Today we call this self-interest. Human being is
> self-interested, i.e.  motivated, moved by  self-interest and at the same
> time, on the other hand, it  is subject to inertia,  i.e. it is
> habit-loving,  complacent as long its  self-interest is satisfied. I call
> this  the law of  social inertia, i.e. the  tendency of social life to
> persist without  change in its customs, habits,  routines and ruts unless
> disturbed by  intervening forces. In capitalist  society, groundlessly
> shifting value is  above  all _the_ intervening force that  removes the
> ground beneath  social habit,  custom, tradition and routine, thus
> forcing social change  for both better  and worse.

The 'starting point'  which is selected must be *specific* to the nature of
the subject that one is attempting to comprehend in thought.  So if we
wish to comprehend capitalism, we must select a starting point such as
the commodity that allows us to reconstruct in thought the essential
character and dynamic tendencies of  capitalism as a *specific* mode
of production.  Yet, your subject matter above is not limited to the
subject of capitalism but rather is broadened to what you consider to
be the "essential" character of human beings.  I think this runs the risk
of  transplanting concepts appropriate to comprehending capitalism
to a  'universal'  subject (i.e. the  trans-historical comprehension of
human beings)  and thereby making those concepts appear to be natural
and eternal.  In any event, I think we know *very* little about the
'essential' character of human  beings as it relates to such subjects as
culture, habits, customs,  routines, etc.   And the major reason we can
say so little about our  'essential'  social character of human beings is
precisely because our conceptions of  'who we are' are seen through
the kaleidoscope of value that alters our perceptions of all subjects
and tends by way of self-justification and rationalization to eternalize
and naturalize the specific forms of social relations that are
characteristic of capitalism.

Consider the concept of 'self-interest'.  While this is certainly a
concept that has importance for comprehending social behavior
under capitalism, there have been many pre-capitalist societies
for which _self_ interest was an alien and unrecognized and
undeveloped form of behavior.  To posit 'self interest' as being
essential to the character of human beings is tantamount to
eternalizing the concept of value itself by asserting that it is a
social relation that human beings are somehow essentially and
mystically driving willy-nilly towards.

In solidarity, Jerry

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