[OPE-L] the forest and trees and classes of capitalism

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Mon Mar 26 2007 - 11:56:15 EDT

[Diego replying to Ajit:]
> 1. This debate reminds me of the forest/tree question. You think we must
> study the tree before looking at the forest. By contrast, I think Fred,
> others and also I follow Marx in thinking that the correct procedure is
> studying the forest before analysing the tree.

Hi Diego:

If one were to "follow Marx", wouldn't the "correct
procedure" [sequentially]  be the following?

1) Firstly, you  identify the subject --  "The Forest".

2) Secondly, you  conduct extensive research into the history of
the Forest  and  Trees (and related topics) and read and subject to
critique what others had written about the Forest and the Trees.

3) Then, you organize your thoughts in outline form and begin to write
the drafts for your study of The Forest.  Marx, of course, makes revisions
as he proceeded with the writing -- which, as it turns out, did not follow
the order of his exposition.  Thus, the drafts for what was later published
as Volume 3 of Book 1 (in a planned 6-book study) were written before
the  drafts for Volume 1 of Book 1.   As we all know, he only lived long
enough to publish Book 1, Volume 1.    [Hopefully, you will _not_ follow
Marx in this way: i.e. you live a much longer and healthier life!]

4) When you begin your exposition (in Ch. 1 of Volume 1 of Book 1)
you write:

"Where The Forrest prevails, there is an 'immense collection of trees';
the individual tree appears as its most elementary form. Our
investigation begins with the analysis of the tree."

And, of course, you proceed from 4) to analyze in more concrete
form the character of The Forest.  The Tree, hence, that you analyze,
is part of the Forrest, rather than a tree in general.  However, it is not
any particular, concrete tree.  In that sense, it is an Abstract Tree. [It
is not an analysis initially of any particular tree or species of tree.]

In any event,  Marx did not begin his analysis in _Capital_  by saying
that first we must analyze the Forrest as a Whole.   He did not begin
his analysis by presenting a Macro Theory of The Forrest.  Quite the
contrary.  *He Began with the Tree!*

To call an analysis of  The Forrest that begins with an analysis of The
Tree a "macro" analysis is hence very misleading!

> In my opinion, it is not
> mainly a question of sequential versus simultaneous. It goes beyond: it is
> the question of the necessary rejection of methodological individualism.
> Those who believe necessary to start from the individual behavior in
> order to understand the system seem to forget that the individuals are
> or globally determined. Micro-agents must be understood in their
> macroeconomic circumstance. This is for instance why for Marx classes
> come before individuals.

And  his analysis of commodities and money came before the General Formula
for Capital.

Also, note well that the subject of classes is supposed to come AFTER
_Capital_.  Before one can analyze classes more concretely (I.e. as
and unity-in-diversity rather than merely simple unity), one has to answer
basic questions such as:

"The question to be answered next is: 'What makes a class?'; and this arises
automatically from answering another question: 'What makes wage-laborers,
capitalists and landowners the formative element of the three great social
classes?'" (Vol. 3, Ch. 52, Penguin ed. pp. 1025-1026).

In solidarity, Jerry

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