RE: [OPE] Question to Marxologists: Mode of production

Date: Wed Sep 03 2008 - 08:28:13 EDT

Hi Jurriaan;
What is important isn't Althusser's concept of a social formation.
What is important is to distinguish between a general theory
and individual societies such that one does not merely 'deduce' and
reduce the properties of the latter from the former. This was a danger
that Marx warned others against: see his letter to the Editorial Board
of 'Otechestvennye Zapiski'. Although that letter concerned the
topic of primitive accumulation, his warnings could be extended to
this topic as well (and, indirectly, to Althusser: e.g. when he opposes
a "historical-philosophical theory of the general course fatally
imposed on all peoples, whatever the historical circumstances in
which they find themselves placed....").> The concept of "social formation" is crucially vague. It could mean just "a society", or it could mean "a
> nation" or "nation state", or it could mean "a community of people in a given area", or it could mean
> "world society", or it could mean "any aggregation of associated individuals". Vague concepts of course
> provide no real orientation for analysis.
To some extent, one _has_ to be vague. This 'vagueness' is caused by
regional (etc.) disparities. Most sociologists would agree that the concept of
'society' is vague. What one has to look at are regional, cultural, ethic,
etc. variations and struggles which shape that society. Similarly, the concept of
'culture' is vague. For that reason, one needs to conceive of counter-
cultures, cultural struggles, etc. Thus, a typical sociology text which might
be titled "Society" would have sections on social institutions (religious, political,
family, economic, educational), social patterns (rural/urban patterns,
communities, demography), social processes (including culture, social change,
social control, groups and organizations, etc.), social stratification (class,
race, gender, ethnicity, age, skill, mobility, etc.). So, yes, the concept of a
'society' or 'culture' (or even 'economy') is vague: the point is that it should
be enriched by looking at historical and statistical, etc. patterns and evidence
rather than simply abandoned.
In solidarity, Jerry

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Received on Wed Sep 3 08:30:24 2008

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