[OPE-L:677] abstract and concrete

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Fri, 8 Dec 1995 12:28:06 -0800

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In (608) I wrote:

I admit that I am unsure about the abstract/concrete terminology here. I
agree that the commodity is "concrete" in the sense that it is a given fact
that the product of capitalism is a commodity. Do you mean something else
by "concrete"?
But Marx's analysis of the commodity in Chapter 1 is not of an actual,
concrete (in this sense) commodity, but rather an analysis of what all
commodities have in common (their general equivalence). In this sense,
Marx's commodity in Chapter 1 is both abstract and universal. It is also
abstract in the sense that all other aspects of capitalism are not yet
incorporated into the analysis.

Chai-on Lee (653) replies:

Your understanding is exactly what other people usually so
far understood about the concepts of "the abstract" and "the concrete".
But I dissent from this. If you were right, then how would you explain
Marx's distinction between "empty abstraction" and "substantive
abstraction" in his Grundrisse Introduction? IMO, your concept of the
abstract is the very Marx's "empty abstraction".

My response:

I am glad that you agree that my understanding of the abstract and concrete
is what most other people have understood.

I cannot find the passage in the Grundrisse to which you refer. Please give
the page numbers. And also please explain your understanding of these two
types of abstractions and why you think my (and most other people's) sense
of abstraction is an "empty abstraction".


Fred Moseley