[OPE-L:144] Artistic whole?

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Tue, 26 Sep 1995 10:25:14 -0700

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In Mike L's long post, he quoted a letter from Marx to Engels (7/31/1865)
which referred to Marx's view that his published writings represent a
"artistic whole, and this can only be achieved through my practice of
never having things printed until I have them before me in their entirety."

There was certainly artistry in Marx's work, but the idea that CAPITAL
represents a "fully elaborated system" is not credible given the
analytical gaps in the work and the incomplete nature of the manuscripts
pieced together by Engels.

How does one go about developing a "fully elaborated system"? That
enterprise is not merely a logical exercise but one which attempts to
understand the totality of the capitalist system. Consequently, it
requires that we develop the theory with reference to *all* aspects of
capitalist reality and ground our understanding in historical and
empirical work as well.

The question that I find most interesting is not the 6 book vs. 3(4)
volumes issue, but is rather the following:

What is the best logical structure that will allow us to consider all of
the aspects of capitalist totality from the most abstract to the most

I am not suggesting that all of the most concrete determinations (such as
the dialectic of individuals, including psychology, and the role of
educational institutions, the media, gender, family, etc. in the
development of human praxis and consciousness) need to be incorporated
within the theory. However, the theory must at least *leave room* for
those concrete determinations.

For instance, one could argue that fascism would have developed in
Germany without Hitler. Yet, the fact that Hitler (an individual) was
part of history, affected the history itself. Similarly (an example I
gave on the marxism list against an overly simplistic view of historical
materialism), the 1941 strike between the UAW and Ford was affected by
Ford's wife telling Henry that if he didn't settle the strike and
recognize the UAW, she would leave him.

In other words, if we are to have a theory which explains capitalism
concretely, we must ultimately consider *all* of the variables that affect
that reality and not hold *any* [in the *last* instance] exogenous.

Since many [or most] of the debates among Marxists have involved a
confusion concerning levels of abstraction, I consider this to be a key
task before us. We have to consider, in developing an outline, the parts,
the whole, and the dialectical relationship between the parts and the
whole [no easy task!]. We do not have to complete this task ourselves,
but, if we were able to simply identify the unresolved questions and
logically connect and sequence them, that would be a *major* accomplishment.

In OPE-L solidarity,