Re: [OPE-L] Fred's argument about the deduction (retro)

From: Jerry Levy (jerry_levy@VERIZON.NET)
Date: Fri Jan 18 2008 - 07:04:16 EST

> I can understand it if Marxists do not want to discuss this.

Hi Jurriaan:

It (the relation of the the issue you raised to levels of abstraction) was discussed (biefly).  You asked for someone to identify the relevant levels of abstraction and this was done.  
The analysis of political economy through abstraction is hardly anything novel but some authors are more systematic and explicit concerning the application of the method of abstraction  than others. Virtually all schools of economics (except old-style anti-theorist institutionalism) use "levels of abstraction" - they just don't all or mostly use that expression. For instance, when they first explain the operation of a "closed economy" before considering an "open economy" they are employing the method of abstraction.  Hardly anyone, therefore, would consider Marx's original plan to consider capital in general in abstraction from foreign trade and the world market to be controversial. Similarly, it is commonplace in economics/political economy to treat what some refer to as the "private sector" before going on to analyse the "public sector". The recognition that capital in general is a different level of abstraction  than one which includes the state should be equally uncontroversial.  It is important to proceed in this way for many methodological reasons, some of which (e.g. the fallacies of division and composition) are generally recognized by all.  Hence, it is in no way an "evasion" to suggest that the subject of unproductive labour must be considered in terms of different levels of abstraction. That is because there is unproductive labour directly employed by capital which can be analysed in abstraction from the state and unproductive labour employed by the state itself which needs to be theorized in regards to the relation between capital and the state. If there is a problem here, it is the _incomplete_ and _non-systematic_ examination of the subject matter _without_ reference to levels of abstraction. Instead, many simply try to extrapolate a perspective from what Marx wrote in  the drafts for what became Volumes II and III rather than to think through the subject themselves. 

In solidarity, Jerry

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