[OPE-L:25] start-up procedures

paul burkett (ECBURKE@indst.indstate.edu)
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 07:10:38 -0700

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John E.'s post raises the interesting and important question as to how
comprehensive we want/need to be in our consideration of Marx's outlines. My
own knowledge of these outlines is limited to the discussions in Rosdolsky and
Oakley, and I would find any more comprehensive treatment interesting.
However, the issue of how comprehensive we should be may be a function of the
underlying goals we are trying to achieve (and of how specific we want
to be about these goals at this stage). It could be argued, for example, that
a truly encompassing view of Marx's outlines is not essential if we are using
them as raw material to construct our own reconceptualization of capitalist
reality. On the other hand, if our goal is either an understanding of the
precise origins of any gaps or other problems in Marx's project, a more com-
prehensive and carefully ordered treatment of the outlines might be required.
The latter view could also apply in the related sense that we might be trying
to find out precisely what is involved in outlining and carrying out a critical
project of the kind Marx was engaged in, and for that purpose a comprehensive
view of the dynamic development of Marx's project (of the kind needed to draw
meaningful lessons for the development of our own project) may require a simi-
larly comprehensive discussion of the outlines. This last view is supported by
Rob Beamish's book MARX, METHOD, AND THE DIVISION OF LABOR (U. of Illinois
Press, 1992) in the sense that Beamish really emphasizes the textually
recursive character of Marx's project, i.e., the fact that the development of
Marx's work was often greatly affected by the sheer momentum of his prior
writing and conceptualizations---it was a very path-dependent process and this
path-dependency even affected (so Beamish argues) the goals of the inquiry
themselves. Part of the 'difficulty' in getting started (a difficulty which
could end up being fruitful in terms of how we deal with it) may be due to the
sense that our own considerations may become largely path dependent as well.
Well, I'm not sure if the above is very helpful since it was written pre-
coffee this morning! Any thoughts? Paul B.