(OPE-L) Historical Explanation and Systematic Dialectics

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Thu Mar 25 2004 - 11:23:33 EST

Hi Andy.

Rather than repeat again what has already been said, I'll move
on to related issues.

In explaining Fine's theory, you wrote:

> The theory has the same core as it always did, viz. LTV, emphasis on
> levels of  abstraction, importance of VCC/OCC/TCC distinctions,
> emphasis on need to  incorporate concrete, empirical, historical and
> contingent material.

A systematic dialectical perspective also recognizes the need to
incorporate concrete, empirical, historical and contingent material.
Where the perspectives differ is _how_  historical contingency
should be explained and _where_ in the exposition these materials
are presented (not just in terms of logical order but also in terms of
status: e.g. whether in the most abstract part of the theory, the
historical examples, etc. are "essential" or can be treated as
Vorstellung).  Thus,  a historically contingent phenomena would be
addressed at a different -- far more concrete -- level of abstraction.
Within Uno-theory, there is a dichotomy  between "basic theory"
and "stages theory."  In the latter, historically contingent
phenomena can be explained.  This is not conceived in quite the
same way by Geert and Tony S, for instance.

> Well, take a look at the exchange between Fine et al and Tony Smith re
> Brenner and world crisis, for example.

OK, let's.

Patrick Murray summarizes an important point made by Tony in
the exchange on Brenner in the following paragraph:

  "A fourth mix-up has been pointed out by Tony Smith.  The error
   here is to confuse primacy in systematic dialectical presentation
   with explanatory primacy in historical explanation. Against this
   misstep, Smith offers the proposition, 'There is an unbridgeable
   gulf between systematic dialectics and historical theorizing
   such that explanatory primacy in the former does not imply
   explanatory power in the latter.' Applying this in the context
   of the debate over Robert Brenner's 'The Economics of Global
   Turbulance', Smith argues that the primacy of the class
   relationship between capital and wage labour in Marx's systematic
   dialectical theory in _Capital_ in no way assures that class
   conflict, and not inter-class competition, is the primary cause of
   the global downturn after the 'Golden Age' that followed
   the Second World War." ("Things Fall Apart: Historical and
   Systematic Dialectics and the Critique of Political Economy"
   in Albritton, R. and Simoulidis, J. [eds.] _New Dialectics
   and Political Economy_, p. 162)

I believe this is an *excellent* point made by Tony since, in my
view, so much of what passes as Marxian history is *reductionist*
for the reason Tony gives.  This *simplistic* reduction of historical
explanation from theory is bad history and bad theory.  Yet, this
privilaging of class conflict over other factors, including
competition within a class, happens so often.  Historical
phenomena are too complex, though, to be explained by way of a simple
reduction and deduction from basic theoretical propositions.

What did Ben write in this exchange by way of criticism of Tony's

> different  respective versions of crisis theory and the role of
> finance therein, in these particular literatures. Geert's stuff on
> this is very interesting and would be great  to compare  with other
> stuff. There *are* some close parellel's. E.g. both Geert and
> Fine see the  LTRPF as  essentially cyclical,
> and to do with stratification of fixed capital of different vintages.

I think there is somewhat of a convergence in perspective as one moves
to a consideration of more concrete levels of abstraction.  I find this
to be interesting, if true, since the two perspectives begin with
different insights yet theorize some concrete phenomena related to
contemporary capitalism in some, but not all, ways that are similar.

Have you read Geert's contribution to the Albritton and Simoulis eds.
volume?  I believe it is particularly relevant to this exchange since it
concerns the theorization of the contingent, using the instance of
inflation, from a systematic dialectical perspective.

You made the point previously that you thought there is much to be
learned from systematic dialectics.  I think they would make the
same point about Fine's writings.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Mar 30 2004 - 00:00:02 EST