Re: (OPE-L) Historical Explanation and Systematic Dialectics

From: Michael Williams (michaelj.williams@TISCALI.CO.UK)
Date: Mon Mar 29 2004 - 06:27:55 EST

I have zero time, but ...

Andrew: "the 
> analogy with a cell seems apt enough. It has stages of 
> development through time - to grasp the system is to have 
> some idea of the stages, and vice versa."
It is not any part of my (not I am pretty sure, Geert's) position to deny
the heuristic usefulness of concrete history. The point is only that it is
the moments of the system as it is at any point that are the necessary
determinants of that systems current dynamics. In a CJE article I once used
a metaphor that might appeal to Cap'n Jerry: History is like dead-reckoning
in ocean navigation: jolly useful in telling you how you got to where you
THINK you are. But to grasp where you are going it is necessary to get a fix
on where you are by reference to geographical or heavenly features: the
'fixed point of the system just so it still is THE system. Then we
dead-reckon again as we are buffeted by the storms of contingency. ("Events
dear boy, events", as conservative PM Harold Macmillan - I think - was
alleged to have said in response to aquestion about why the conservative
government's policy wasn't where they thought it was.)

Must run...


> -----Original Message-----
> From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Andrew Brown
> Sent: Monday, March 29, 2004 11:50 AM
> Subject: Re: (OPE-L) Historical Explanation and Systematic Dialectics
> Hi Jerry,
> >
> > 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 
> > explanation?
> The article was by Fine, Lapavitsas and Milonakis. They did 
> not agree that system and history were so far apart. Nor do 
> I. There *is* a distinction and systematic dialectics very 
> useful, amongts other things, for stressing this. But the 
> analogy with a cell seems apt enough. It has stages of 
> development through time - to grasp the system is to have 
> some idea of the stages, and vice versa.
> >
> > > 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.
> I'm not sure that there is such a convergence, in general - 
> interesting issue to explore further, time permiting
> >
> > 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.
> Yes - very useful, esp. on methodological points. Shows how 
> the oft repeated criticism of systematic dialectics that it 
> cannot find room for contingency is very wrong. I think the 
> respective theories of inflation of say Geert and Alfredo are 
> different due to different theories of value. I'll say no 
> more because they are both on the this list and inflation is 
> not a topic I have worked on -- I'd like to when I get the chance.
> >
> > 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.
> Yes.
> Many thanks,
> Andy

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