[OPE-L:3004] RE: Developing Marx

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 11 Sep 1996 14:21:09 -0700 (PDT)

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Ted asked in [OPE-L:3003]:

> What is critical theory? Why is it more general than Marx's philosophy
> of revolution in permanence? Can method, critical or some other type, be
> separated from the body of ideas the method generates? (If method can be
> said to have positive results and not nihilism, or scepticism).

Critical theory, in the very limited sense that I intended in #3002,
refers to theories which as part of the process of investigation
critically examine and access prior theories and whose practitioners are
self-critical in the sense that they critically access the thought of
those who have been influential in the development of that stream of
thought that the critical theorist was influenced by and identifies with.
>From that standpoint, Marxism is critical theory to the extent that
Marxists must critically access lives and works of non-Marxists,
Marxists, and *Marx himself*.

Expressing the above somewhat differently, non-critical "theory" accepts
postulates on faith. Postulates are often accepted uncritically when the
"followers" accept *as dogma* whatever the "leader" (usually the
developer) of that theory has written or said. I would say that religion
is the most frequent example of acritical theory. Yet, unfortunately, such
beliefs are not limited to religious followers. Many Marxists have tended
to treat Marx as if he were a prophet whose quotes can be used to settle
all theoretical debates. This practice runs counter to what I understand
Marx's own method of investigation to have been.

Having said the above, any theorist has the intellectual responsibility of
directly accessing and confronting what other theorists (Marx included)
actually said and not attributing perspectives to others that they did not
hold. This, of course, can be a difficult task as it relates to Marx since
Marx's thought is not homogeneous and he did not in all instances spell out
his meaning in unambiguous ways. This, along with other factors, gives
rise to alternative interpretations of what Marx said and meant.

Can method be separated from the ideas the method generates? Well ... it
shouldn't be. Yet, some Marxists historically have accepted the "results"
but not employed "the" method.

In OPE-L Solidarity,