RE: [OPE] Sraffa's and others' writing style

Date: Mon Dec 07 2009 - 08:33:04 EST

> Sraffa does not. Like MH he does not place himself in the
> theoretical landscape and writes a book that has a very limited use,
> but without making those limitations - as he saw them - clear to the
> readers. (Read Ajit Sinha's article in CEJ recently - did Sraffa
> think that the notion of "centers of gravitation" was untenable, did
> Smith go for const. ret. to scale - or increasing, cfr. Sraffa's
> 1926 article). A ten page intro, an afterword woth an outline of
> theoretical consequences would have reduced the amount of discussion
> about what Sraffa meant, what the PCBMC implies. Not that Sraffa's
> words would decide the issues, but it would have created a better
> framework for the debate. Clarity not introvert obscurity should be
> an objective in scientific prose.

Hi Anders:
Well, then, if it has such a limited use why has it been (and
continues to this day) to be widely discussed? What you call
obscurity might be thought of as a distinct advantage of the
format of the book. I think it's pretty clear that he could
have (I suspect, rather easily) written a longer book, but he
purposely chose not to.
You seem, in another post, to assert that lacking the detail
which is of great importance to a subject infers something
negative about an author's grasp of historical, empirical, and
theoretical knowledge. If that is truly your belief, I think
it is mistaken in that in confuses the form of research with
the form of exposition. One can be acutely aware of _all_ of the
historical questions you raised and to have a critique of all
of the underlying issues and still decide NOT to incorporate
that explicitly state that knowledge in an article or book.
That is a _stylistic_ decision on the part of an author or
The old scholarly way of writing has its merits but it is not
intrinsically a progressive style nor is it necessarily the
best for the communication of scientific perspectives. The
whole basis for progressive education is a desire to create
a learning environment where the students and readers aren't simply
told what the answers are. I.e. an environment is created in
which they can learn for themselves and from each other without
an authority (author, teacher) imposing her/his perspectives on
them. This also has merits as a matter of political praxis
and is consistent with the principle of self-determination and
respect for the knowledge of others. Sadly, many Marxists are
still employing a regressive style of interacting and this is
reflected in the ways they write and participate. So, once again, I
say that Harnecker should be commended for her _style_ because
it reflects a respect for readers and a desire to stimulate
discussion rather than just present ready-made answers. Of
course, it would be eminently naive to think that she doesn't
have positions on (arrived at through struggle and research)
on questions such as Leninism, social democracy, authoritarian
structures, popular fronts, et al. Of course she has! Thank
goodness she didn't try to write an article (or multi-volume)
work which dealt with every issue at once and left no room for
the reader to think through the questions for her/himself.
In solidarity, Jerry
ope mailing list
Received on Mon Dec 7 08:36:11 2009

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