Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour

From: Paul Adler (padler@USC.EDU)
Date: Sat Nov 18 2006 - 01:52:55 EST

I'd be very interested to see your paper, Howard. I like your reasoning here!

At 6:23 PM -0500 11/17/06, Howard Engelskirchen wrote:
>Hi Paul and Dogen,
>Paul, I don't think anything about the 'building 
>the house in the head' story compromises the 
>dialectic of theory and practice that you 
>suggest in the way you suggest.  First, Dogen is 
>quite right that the whole purpose of the 
>introduction Marx provides is to discuss the 
>labor process at a level of abstraction common 
>to all forms of labor.  Second, what 
>characterizes the causal structures of nature we 
>are is intentional activity.  That's Marx's 
>point.  Intentionality is a projection into the 
>future.  About the same time Marx was working 
>out this analysis, the American philosopher 
>Charles Pearce was beginning to think 
>systematically about how we use signs.  The 
>representations we make of the house in our head 
>are signs of what it will be.  They guide and 
>discipline the labor process and our thinking 
>about it.  But there is nothing in Marx's 
>analysis to suggest that the sign we form to 
>guide practice functions as a mechanical 
>template imposed on a person's labor the way a 
>robot might be programmed or without regard to 
>class relations and the other points you mention.
>A couple of points on the broader questions 
>raised by this thread.  All things in process, 
>including social relations, reflect a trajectory 
>of movement and change.  They therefore point 
>forward to an end or a goal.  If we want to 
>refer to the process taken as a whole, then we 
>are going to have to use signs that capture its 
>telos.  But this is a simple matter of reference 
>to a process, an essential feature of science, 
>not of some inevitable Hegelian or other 
>idealist unfolding of spirit.  Causal 
>explanation in social life (and no doubt of many 
>natural phenomena as well) requires a broader 
>conception of cause than we've become familiar 
>with in science since the Renaissance 
>-- traditional science has tended to narrow the 
>conception of cause to efficient cause only. 
>That was not Marx's 'come from' and to 
>understand explanation it's worth having a look 
>again at Aristotle.
>The same point holds for the question of form, 
>which relates to the ontological question Dogen 
>raised.  I've argued that Marx's analysis of 
>social forms can be thought of much the way 
>Aristotle thought that the things of the world 
>were composites of matter and form.  For Marx 
>the social relations of labor can be thought of 
>as composites of labor and form.  Recognizing 
>this not only puts an important emphasis on the 
>forms of the labor process, but also makes it 
>possible to see the way Marx's analyses 
>foreshadowed today's sophisticated scientific 
>realism.   Scientists search for the causal 
>structures of the world and Marx identifies 
>causal structures of labor and form.  I've 
>discussed these issues in "Why Is This Labor 
>Value:  The Commodity Form of Labor as a Social 
>Kind."  'Social Kind' here is used the way we 
>think of water as a natural kind.  The essay 
>will be published in Pearce and Frauley, eds., 
>Critical Realism and the Social Sciences: 
>Heterodox Elaborations, by the University of 
>Toronto Press.  If anyone is interested in the 
>argument, I can send a copy.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK>Paul Cockshott
>Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 4:47 PM
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour
>I think, Dogan, that the possibility of our 
>building a house in our head before we build it 
>in reality is an idealist hangover in Marx. His 
>section on the architect and the bee has for 30 
>years struck me as one of the least satisfactory 
>in the whole of Das Kapital.
>One can have a general intention to build a 
>house, but nobody builds it in their head, least 
>of all an architect. An architect builds it on 
>paper before building labourers build it out of 
>bricks. The whole of marx’s analysis there 
>abstracts from class relations, from the 
>division of mental and manual labour, and from 
>the interaction between mental processes and the 
>material tools of mental labour – in the 
>architects case, rulers pencils, paper etc.
>For a detailed elaboration of this critique see
>By the way I have been reading Dogan’s book on 
>Smith, have only got through first third so far, 
>but it opens up an entire new window on Smith 
>for me. I had never paid much attention to his 
>Theory of Moral Sentiments before.
>From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Dogan Goecmen
>Sent: 16 November 2006 15:05
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour
>It refers to the projected aims of the concret 
>work to be done. To build a house it must have 
>been built in our heads and so on.
>In einer eMail vom 16.11.2006 15:00:36 
>Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt 
>  >  I present first the general aspects of Marx’s concept of labour:
>>  ontological, teleological and sociological.
>What is the teleological aspect of Marx's concept of labour?
>In solidarity, Jerry


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Prof. Paul S. Adler,
Management and Organization Dept,
Marshall School of Business,
University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808
Tel: (818) 981-0115
Fax: (818) 981-0116
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