Re: [OPE-L] Derrida's ghosts

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sun Oct 30 2005 - 09:50:49 EST

Steve C:

I'm not sure what to say but I feel as if I should say something.  
It's difficult to know how to respond since this is obviously an 
issue that you are feel strongly and personally about.

To begin with,  even if there are some bruised feelings, I think
it's better for all to have the attitudes that Allin and Ian expressed 
made openly on the list where we can discuss them critically
and candidly than for them to remain unspoken and unsaid.
Do you agree?

The comments made by Ian were in response to what I took as
a good-humored aside by Rakesh in a 10/28 post ["Perhaps even
Anders and Ian W will find something of interest here? 
Probably not!"].  Yet, we can see with your post that the thread 
took a  severe detour away from the playful  discussion that we have 
been having this month on vampires and ghosts.  From the intensity
of your response to Allin,  I infer that your comments need to be
contextualized in relation to other struggles that you have been 
a part of.  I'm not sure of the specifics of those struggles, but I
have no doubt that you and others from a similar perspective have
had to overcome attitudes by others in the academy which were
dismissive of  your work and the intellectual tradition that you 
are a part of.  It might help others to better comprehend  that
reality if you were to explain some of that context further.

Of course, no one wants to be "dissed": i.e. see their perspectives 
dismissed.  If you feel that you have been dissed, though, you are
not alone.  Others have also adopted dismissive attitudes: e.g. 
Steedman in _Marx After Sraffa_.  You might recall, in that
connection, references to "obituaries."   [You might even recall 
some dismissive language in Althusser -- "whiffs of Feurbachianism" --
and some references by contemporary Althusserians that others have
found dismissive: e.g. at the 1988 IWGVT our friend Antonio 
suggested that, according to a synopsis by Doug Henwood,
that "value theory can be used as a substitute for politics:
instead of organizing and agitating, you study abstract concepts 
and await the FROP to bring capitalism to an end"  (this is
despite the fact that, as both Antonio and you know well, most
of those who work on value theory are also politically active)].

This is part of a long-standing polemical tradition in radicalism that 
goes back even before Marx.  The same could be said to Marxists 
about Marxists that was said to Cool Hand Luke:  "What we have 
here is a problem to communicate."    _Learning_ near forms of 
communication with each other is surely a _process_ that takes 
time and proceeds unevenly:  after 10 years on OPE-L we've made 
great progress but we're _still_ learning how best to communicate 
with each other.

The process of communication is however made more difficult when 
we are communicating using different vocabularies.  We, of course,
have different languages (as could be expected with a list with members
in 22 countries) and different intellectual traditions, many of which 
in the course of their development adopted specialized terminology.
'Open Marxism' (especially in the writings of Antonio Negri), 
Hegelians (including Marxist-Hegelians),  Althusserians, etc. all
have their own vocabularies.  There's nothing wrong with that;
it's what is to be expected (especially from intellectual traditions
which emerged in the context of  XXth Century continental European 
philosophical discourse) but surely you must recognize that it's 
often frustrating for readers who are not part of those traditions.
Perhaps you can appreciate that?

For all the talk about the need for about pluralism and heterodoxy, I don't 
think  that the pluralists and the heterodox economists have been the best
in practice at supporting the right of other pluralists and heterodoxies
to advance their own perspectives.  I guess it's easier for most Marxians
to support these principles in theory than in practice.   This is reflected
in the practice of many professional institutions (e.g. scholarly journals)
and departments within universities.

I agree that postmodern materialism should be taken seriously 
and intellectually engaged in good faith -- as should all contemporary 
Marxian traditions.  But, _how_ more concretely, should that be done?
Do you have any suggestions?

In solidarity, Jerry

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