(OPE-L) RE: logical order and historical order

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Feb 13 2004 - 08:54:10 EST

Re: (OPE-L) logical order and historical orderHi Howard:

"Method of Political Economy" in the Grundrisse 'Introduction' does not counterpose logic to history.  The contrast is between the surface appearance of phenomena and the inner structure or connection of determination uncovered by abstraction.  Certainly abstraction is a tool of thought, but what is abstracted to is not a logical starting point but something about the real object of inquiry that constitutes its most fundamental, its most decisive, determinations.   I take it these determinations are real and causal and it is good if the logic corresponds, not the other way around.  The commodity, for example, is a starting point because it is a real thing that offers the key to understanding the social relations of the capitalist mode of production, it is not the starting point because it is a logical anything -- that is not the way Marx operated. <<<

The commodity is a starting point which is real enough (which
is important from Marx's materialist perspective, as evidenced by his 
comments in the "Marginal Notes on Wagner"), but that's not the issue I
thought we were discussing which concerns the *ordering* of
determinations in a (dare I say, systematic dialectical?) reconstruction
of the subject matter in thought.  

>>> So to say that "if the logical and historical unfolding of the subject matter coincide, that's ok, but it's not essential," is peculiar.  I understand you have in mind here the relation of small commodity production to capitalist production, but step back from that to, more generally, the investigation of the things of the world that are a product of evolution and process.  How could you say broadly that it's ok, but not essential, if the way a thing works now corresponds to the way it evolved historically?  Huh? <<<

Two replies:

1) (Secondary response): the historical development of a social subject is often 
affected by historical contingencies (a point you made, in a sense, in reply to
Jairus) and it would be a odd concept of history which attempted to show that the 
historical progression follows a logical/dialectical  progression of determinations.  

2) (Primary response): it is in the nature of abstraction that essential aspects
of a subject matter are presented in a different order than the historical
unfolding.  E.g. in _Capital_, the state-form is abstracted from.  Yet, the
state-form and the capital-form are both themselves products of history.
The issue, again, concerns the *order* in which a subject matter is
reconstructed in thought.  That process is in a sense like putting together
a puzzle in the (metaphorical) sense that until the last piece of the puzzle 
is put in place  we have an incomplete view of the subject (the puzzle).  
Unlike, a simple puzzle, though, if one doesn't choose the first piece correctly 
then one  may never be able to properly reconstruct in thought the subject matter
(note Marx's comments in the Grundrisse  on why the population can't be the
proper starting point for the reconstruction in thought of the CMP) _and_
the last piece (the ending of the subject of the "World Market and Crisis")
is also essential.  "The State", "Foreign Trade" and "The World Market 
and Crisis" are essential aspects of the subject matter but in a theory of
capitalism they should not be presented in the order in which they
historically emerged.

In solidarity, Jerry

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