Re: [OPE-L] "Levels of abstraction"

From: Jerry Levy (jerry_levy@VERIZON.NET)
Date: Thu Jan 24 2008 - 10:03:59 EST

Hi Jurriaan:

I just wrote a fairly lengthy (for me, but not for you) reply,
but then (not for the first or last time) "lost it". I don't have the time to re-write it now. Sorry.

Basically, I agree with much of what you wrote - especially your concern about how 'high theory' and assumptions can be mis-used. I agree that Marxians are often the worst offenders in terms of sloganeering and theoretical reductionism. By 'theoretical reductionism' I mean the presumption, without empirical analysis or with a bias in that analysis, that the propositions which are believed to be true at a very abstract level also apply in each concrete instance. This kind of slogannering and phrase-mongering substituting for concrete analysis is, imo,  especially apparent among those who have become obsessed in recent years (in some cases, since 2001) with predicting a "meltdown".

I certainly don't think that "foundational" questions should be evaded.  But, they (along with all other questions) must be placed in *context*. This is what abstraction allows one to do. It is especially important because what appears to be the case from the standpoint of individual capitalists often turns out not to be the case from an aggregate perspective and vice versa. In relation to the topic of unproductive labor and the rate of profit, my concern is not to show that Marx's formulations are either correct or incorrect. My concern is how unproductive labor is accounted for on a firm level, on an aggregate level without considering the role of the state, on a level where the inter-relation between capital and the state is conceived, and on an international level. All of these topics require empirical analysis but the issues on one level can not be reduced to the same issues on the other levels. As for the "Fred fallacy" (or whatever you called it), I've been waiting to hear his response.

In solidarity, Jerry

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