From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Wed Nov 09 2005 - 13:26:38 EST
Rakesh > But then what are economic mechanisms? How must they be defined > so that they exist cross historically and cross culturally? Where does > Marx refer to economic mechanisms? Are relations of production > always economic mechanisms? Does not Marx give explanatory > primacy to the forms in which and the methods through which > surplus labor is appropriated by one class from another? But are > these forms and methods always 'economic'? And why is this Marx's > theory of historical materialism? Didn't Richard Jones (and less > so Steuart) say as much as Marx himself recognizes? > Why can't a class which does not directly appropriate surplus labor > become socially paramount--say a bureaucratic elite? Who mediates > how the even the direct appropriating class interprets and defines > its own economic class? Why can't such a mediating class dominate > civil society and politics? There are too many questions here Rakesh, many of which I'm sure you can answer yourself. I must admit I'm a bit surprised you ask what economic mechanisms are. Marx's 18th Brumaire clearly demonstrates both that he was no economic determinist and that he analysed events with an explanatory theory of classes and their economic interests. > >Economics constrains, but undertermines, social life. > > Why can't we say that about politics, religion, law and culture? We can: there's feedback between all the ontological "levels". But just because such phenomena are mutually constituitive doesn't imply that they are all equally important given specific aims to change social reality. Another interesting feature of Marx's theory of historical materialism is that "capitalism produces its own gravediggers", or more plainly, the economic structure of society spontaneously generates opposition to it, due to various internal contradictions. For example, trade unionism existed prior to Marx's theories. So the subjective aims to change social reality tend to be caused by pervasive and structural features of economic relations. The idea there is a "motor" to history, that there are overriding mechanisms that tend to give it an intelligible direction, is very Hegelian, and in sharp contrast to postmodernist views of history. > Does Marx say that class exploitation is always the cause of net social ills? > Then why can't it be overthrown at will? Is it automatically abolished once > it becomes the cause of net social ills (pretending that social > accounting is possible). I'm afraid I don't understand you here. But I understand Marx's scientific aims as an attempt to understand the objective, economic causes of social ills, in general abstracting away, that is initially controlling for, individual differences, geographical differences, temporary scarcities, varieties of state arrangements compatible with capitalist social relations of production etc. I'm sure he thought that the study of economics was the most important thing to do in the time he was living, and was more than happy to tell people about his scientific findings and its relation to political activity, such as in the Critique of the Gotha program. > Well postmodernists whoever they are are obviously saying that Marx's theory > is simply too abstract, that it gives us no bridge from abstract > theory to concrete society. Postmodernists do exist, although they may be jumping ship post-Sokal. So I wouldn't be too sceptical about the existence of a referent for this term. But anyhow, as you know, much of the history of the Marxist movement consists of the feedback between theory and political practice, i.e. it is social science with a deliberate attempt at social engineering. I use the loaded term "social engineering" on purpose because I prefer to call a spade a spade: politics of all kinds is social engineering with a mandate. It's about giving direction to society. So if that is a criticism of Marx's theory I think it completely misses the mark. > But perhaps the myth/science distinction is not always so clear. Darwin > for example. I take it as our job to make it clear, in all areas of knowledge. Darwin got lucky with an spontaneously constructed, controlled experiment: the Galapagos islands. Each island was a little laboratory to study evolution. The original finch species had adapted to the different niches, but the isolation of the islands controlled for new species immigration. -Ian.
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