Re: [OPE-L] Overdetermination

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sat Dec 31 2005 - 01:39:09 EST

In this post I resopnd to Antonio's points in his post of 12/25 about

Antonio offers a 'minimalist' definition of a commodity as something
produced by someone for exchange.  I recognize this is informal, but it
works for the point that there can be communist commodities, so perhaps it
is worth emphasizing that as stated it is too minimalist.  As Engels makes
clear in the last paragraph to section 1 of Capital (and Marx, e.g. in the
Kugelmann letter), a commodity must be offered for *private* exchange.  This
actually pushes the question of definition back a step, of course, but at
some point we're going to want to be precise about what kind of social
structures underly and give rise to exchange.  Anyway, if adding "private"
to the definition is not to defeat the idea of communism with commodities,
then this must be because communism is consistent with private exchange.  (I
haven't read Resnick and Wolff's book on the Soviet Union -- I hope I can do
so soon, but I can't turn to it now, so I will have to rely on your reports
of it, Antonio.)

Also problematic is what place definition ought to have in social theory.
Antonio writes:  "So it seems to me that your difficulty here is not with
the matter of a consistent definition of a commodity.  You have one and they
have another . . . ."

But how is this difference to be resolved?  Resnick and Wolff write in
Knowledge and Class (p.32), "It is not sensible in and for Marxist theory,
to imagine or seek after any absolute criteria of an absolute truth.  Truths
are intra-theoretic rather than intertheoretic; they are in a very
particular sense, relative to the theories in which they are constructed."

If I read this right this means there isn't any argument at all because
we're just talking past one another.  They have their truth and I have mine
and that's that.  But that can't be right.  I agree truth claims are
relative to the theories in which they are constructed, but their truth
depends on the way the world is, not the theories.  We want to use
definition in science not to decide how we shall use words, but in an effort
to pick out causally potent features of the world so that we can accommodate
our practice to them.  We try to give an account of how they persist as what
they are and how they behave so we can take the steps materially required to
transform them.  The fact that our interpretations are always a product of
our understandings and that these always reflect difference of standpoint,
etc., by no means makes the things understood standpoint malleable.

The neo-cons, I recall, had the idea that reality in Iraq was up to them to

Perhaps I have oversimplified.  I for one would welcome a much broader
discussion of postmodern materialism across the range of issues presented on
the list.



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