Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Nov 17 2006 - 05:41:40 EST

D ogan
Abstraction as a methodological device is not a idealist hangover  Don't you prepare your lectures before you go out and actually lecture and don't you plan your lectures step by step before you put it into practice? It is essential to dialectic approach. It is from cognitive and epistemological point of view an absoluetly necessary criterion. It enables us to find out the distortion between essence and appearance or, if you like, general and particular aspects of the issue in question. It enables us to find out where to start and anticipate (oversee) the whole process and build (work) consciously.  Without this abstraction we cannot find out that it can be otherwise than as it exists.  
My objection is not to the idea that there exist material information structures prior to production which themselves shape the process of production. These are necessary to all production, my objection is, in Althusserian terms,  to the idealist closure that Marx caries out when he says that the building is 'in the head' and at the same time conflates in the person of the architect, the social division of labour necessary for the construction of large buildings. In doing this he is giving a philosophical rather than a scientific answer to the question - in this area he had still not broken from the speculative method. One says this partly with the benefit of hindsight, however much Marx borrowed from Babbage's 'Economy of Machinery' he does not seem to have paid much attention to Babbage's analysis of the division of mental labour, still less his work on the Analytical Engine. It took the work of Turing for one to see that what passes for creative mental work, is almost always an interactive process in which the means of intellectual production - paper, pencils, paint etc play an indispensable role.
In a classless society we have to build a houe in our heads (and building on a paper means not more than that) before we can put it into practice. 
No architect ever builds in the head. The profession of architect is as much a form of manual labour as that of the bricklayer, the architect is just using different tools.
If one is to understand contemporary economies in which the production and distribution of materialised information structures is an ever growing part of all activity, one has to break with this 'in the head' illusion.
In einer eMail vom 16.11.2006 22:48:12 Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK:


        I think, Dogan, that the possibility of our building a house in our head before we build it in reality is an idealist hangover in Marx. His section on the architect and the bee has for 30 years struck me as one of the least satisfactory in the whole of Das Kapital.



        One can have a general intention to build a house, but nobody builds it in their head, least of all an architect. An architect builds it on paper before building labourers build it out of bricks. The whole of marx's analysis there abstracts from class relations, from the division of mental and manual labour, and from the interaction between mental processes and the material tools of mental labour - in the architects case, rulers pencils, paper etc.


        For a detailed elaboration of this critique see




        By the way I have been reading Dogan's book on Smith, have only got through first third so far, but it opens up an entire new window on Smith for me. I had never paid much attention to his Theory of Moral Sentiments before.





        From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Dogan Goecmen
        Sent: 16 November 2006 15:05
        Subject: Re: [OPE-L] marx's conception of labour


        It refers to the projected aims of the concret work to be done. To build a house it must have been built in our heads and so on.






        In einer eMail vom 16.11.2006 15:00:36 Westeuropäische Normalzeit schreibt Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM:

                >  I present first the general aspects of Marx's concept of labour:
                > ontological, teleological and sociological. 





                What is the teleological aspect of Marx's concept of labour?


                In solidarity, Jerry



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