[OPE-L:362] Comments on OPE-L [Reply to Steve K]

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Sun, 29 Oct 1995 13:10:37 -0800

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List members are probably familiar with the fact that I often ask them
privately for feedback. Steve's response was an answer to such a
invitation for comment.

Before commenting on some specifics in Steve's post, let me note the

1) We only got started last month.

2) We have been discussing procedure and adding new list members

3) We decided collectively to start with a critical discussion of
Marx's plans for _Capital_ which we finished *on schedule*.

4) We decided next to have a "brainstorming" session. While that did
not take place exactly as planned, we actually discussed, at
length, other important questions such as list goals and procedure.

5) We decided to begin the listing by examining the "Prefaces" and
Part 1 of _Capital_ tomorrow. If anything, we are a little
*ahead* of schedule.

Consequently, we have come a *long* way in a *very short* time. This has
to be remembered to put recent discussions in perspective.

In deciding how to proceed, we have to keep two things in mind:

1) Our *subject*, which is, as Alan and I both pointed out yesterday,
understanding capitalism (and, in particular as Alan put it,
"modern capitalism").

2) *who* we are and *why* we are here. We all want to discuss the
above. The question that has been posed recently is *how*. We
could have divided into two groups. If we did that then many of us
would be unhappy. Had we done that, then issues that Steve and
Alan want us to discuss would, most probably, have been postponed
indefinitely. Or, we can proceed as scheduled with the
understanding that the *needs* of others who want to discuss more
concrete subjects must somehow be addressed.

We *must* remember that this is a *collaborative* undertaking. Although
Steve might like the idea of a leisurely stroll through Marx's works,
others do *not*. Without a purpose to bind us together and an agreement
to work together in good faith, this project can not work.

Consequently, I would say that:

a) we should begin the next stage tomorrow as planned (there
was, as even Alan admits, wide agreement for such a procedure).

b) we should allow those who want to address more concrete issues
the freedom to do so and be *clear* that we do *not* want to
spend an indefinite amount of time (e.g. years!) on _Capital_. If we
find that such a undertaking will take "too long" then we will
have to reaccess procedure.

> So I think OPE-L may become a de-facto academic marxism list,
> which on balance--compared to marxism having that function
> within the mass of activist posts, or PEN-L (from which I
> long ago de-subscribed) having it within other semi-academic
> threads--may be a good thing. It is more focused.

We are more focused, but I do *not* believe that we should allow ourselves
to "become a de-facto academic marxism list." I do not think that even
*I* would join such a list.

> Alan recently posted an observation
> to Mike, which he forwarded to me, that there are multiple
> insights into Marxism which flare and are ignored, while the
> remainder of the "discipline" goes on regardless.

I would have to see that "observation" before I could comment more. In
general, I believe that the list has been *very* responsive to each
others posts (as can be seen by examining the "archives" for our
discussion on Marx's plans).

> So perhaps identifying WHY our visions are so disparate is the best
> "step forward" we can make.

We should explain *what* our differences in understanding *capitalism*
are. I don't know that we can answer *why*. That is a subject for
historians of Marxism and economic thought.

> In this light, I think OPE-L becoming an informed "reading
> group" on Capital may be the best way to proceed, because in
> so doing our reasons for divergence will become apparent.

This is what I, and I suspect others will, disagree with the *most*. This
can not and should not be a study group on Marx in cyberspace. We have
all been part of "reading groups on _Capital_ before. We have all read
_Capital_ -- several times over -- before. We do not need this list to
do it all over again.

> What is then needed is a moderator who takes a taxonomic approach:
> "OK, Gil's brought up a marginalist perspective on value theory
> here, Steve has put forward a dialectic one, Paul's is
> empirical, Alan's dynamic non-equilibrium... Let's explore each
> of those in turn, starting with ... and being led by ...".

I think the above would be a case of *over*-moderation. BTW, I can just
imagine the reaction if I were to formulate the questions in the way that
Steve has above.

In summary I would say that the *only* procedure which is fair to
both groups of list members is to proceed as scheduled. If the pace turns
out to be too "leisurely" (Steve's word), we will have to reaccess our
procedure. If we did that, I'm not sure that anyone would be entirely
happy with the results (e.g. dividing the list into sub-groups).

In OPE-L Solidarity,