[OPE-L:326] Bill's thoughts

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Tue, 24 Oct 1995 18:44:39 -0700

[ show plain text ]

I'm rather surprised that no one has chosen to respond to Bill yet. Let
me make a few comments:

First, I have rarely read such an honest and forthcoming post. I feel as
if I know Bill better now (although, I don't understand why he thinks
he's so old when he's only 43). I especially liked the bit about how he
feels he is "among friends here" and the "different feeling" on OPE-L
rather than PEN-L or PKT. During the course of this project, we are all
going to know more about each other and will, consequently, realize that
we are all flesh and blood rather than impersonal authors of articles and
books. That's important.

Second, Bill wondered aloud about the difference between OPE-L and PEN-L.
There are a couple of important differences:

a) Anyone can join PEN-L, this is not the case with OPE-L. We purposely
want to keep the list size relatively small due to the next reason.
Bill is aware of the craziness that sometimes happens on PEN-L and PKT
due to the heterogeneous composition of those lists. On OPE-L we are
all serious people who want to discuss serious issues and are small
enough to have meaningful exchanges. On PEN-L or marxism, I have no
doubt that Bill's post would have caused massive flames. There have
been no flames on OPE-L. This does not at all mean that we share the
same perspectives -- we do not. But, we can and must work together in
good faith and really listen to each other's perspectives and concerns.

b) We want to specify some list goals, i.e. we want to get something
*done*. The debates on PEN-L and marxism, for instance, are
unfocused and anarchic by design. Michael P. on PEN-L and Lisa R. on
marxism, consequently, take a mostly "hands-off" approach to
moderating. I am more of an "interventionist" precisely because of this

So, I would say that there are *big* differences between OPE-L and the
other mailing lists. OPE-L, I believe, is just the first attempt at what
will surely become more common among Marxist economists -- an attempt to
use a Net list for *collaborative work and research* rather than just
informal exchanges.

Third, Bill says:
"Do we want to understand capitalism any further? Hands up anyone on the
list who would say that they haven't more or less worked out how
capitalism operated [?]"

Well, I'll raise my hand partly. Yes, I know _"more or less"_ how
capitalism operates. That's not enough, though. There are many aspects of
capitalist reality that we don't understand adequately. We need to
develop a theory that allows us to understand capitalist reality better
and the interrelationships between different aspects of theory and reality.

I wish that Bill was right and that we did really understand capitalism.
Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to that point yet. There are *so many*
important theoretical and practical issues left for us to understand.

Fourth, why theory? Let's go back to Marx: what's the problem with
"philosophers"? We need to understand the world better for us to change
the world. Practice is necessary, but so is theory -- both are required.
I didn't spend years and years (my whole adult life) studying and reading
thousands of books and articles entirely for "academic" reasons. We need
to develop our understanding of capitalism as a _requirement_ for change.

Fifth, Bill would like us to discuss practical political and economic
issues, like the environment. I definately believe that this should be a
topic that we should discuss at some point. We have, IMO, a
responsibility to develop theory, but we also have a responsibility as
Marxists to be concerned with praxis. In a previous post ("Marx's Goals
and Ours") I discussed the possibility of using the list occasionally for
such purposes. For instance, why couldn't we (at some point) write a
joint statement on the environment? We may not agree on all theoretical
and political issues, but I bet we could develop a joint statement that
summarized many important concerns that we share regarding this issue.
It's worth considering since it is _obviously_ an urgent question. Maybe
such a task would pull us together as a group, i.e. if we worked on
something practical, we might find _how much_ we have in common in some
areas. That would help us, then, when we discuss more controversial
theoretical questions. I don't think this should be the *major* focus of
our work together, but I think it has a place.

So, Bill: you *are* among friends are. Just keep giving us the same kind
of forthright and honest posts as the last one. If people have concerns,
then they should be voiced rather than hidden.

In OPE-L Solidarity,