Re: [OPE-L] Anita's Chocolate Cake / Chance in History

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Nov 15 2005 - 08:23:33 EST

>  The quote being referred to is in a
> letter of Marx to Dr. Kugelmann, April 17, 1871,
> referring to the Paris Commune.  This letter is
> reprinted in most versions of The Civil War in France.
> "World history would indeed be very easy to make, if
> the struggle were taken up only on condition of
> infallibly favourable chances.  It would, on the other
> hand, be of a very mystical nature, if "accidents"
> played no part."

I think this quote fits in well with the discussion we have been
having recently.  E.g. I think it fits in well with a claim made by
Steve recently:

" But to really explain the (differential) effect of each of each of
the examples or conditions of existence of each that you mention
would require an empirical analysis,  ONE WHICH COULD LEAD
TO POTENTIAL SURPRISE,  and recognize the importance
of variation or difference." (emphasis added, JL)

Certainly (mainstream and radical)  historians should (and I think
generally do) leave themselves open to "potential surprise", chance
events, and "accidents" when researching a specific historical event.
I think the principle here should be that the more *concrete* the
issue the more *possibility* for chance and surprise.  That is, there
is a different role for chance and surprise depending on the level
of abstraction of the analysis, i.e. as we proceed to reconstruct a
subject matter in thought the role of chance which is often assumed
not to exist except as potential at a more abstract level of
abstraction,  must be considered when we analyze a phenomena
in its most concrete, specific form.  I would guess that Steve does
not agree with all of this paragraph, but  what I'm suggesting here is
that the way in which we analyze more concrete, contingent, conjunctural
developments may be similar despite difference in the way in which
we understand more abstract theory.

In solidarity, Jerry

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