Re: [OPE-L] exploitation and abstraction

From: Michael Schauerte (mikeschauerte@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Wed Jun 27 2007 - 22:13:17 EDT

I'm not exactly sure how to respond to Ajit's depiction of me, based on a
few posts, as a Marxist in a sort of religious sense as a true believer.
I'll just say that it seems unfair and sounds patronizing. My aim is to
better understand capitalism and I happen to think that a lot can be learned
from Marx. I don't think the fact Marx wrote in the 19th century
automatically renders it invalid. Shouldn't our standard be whether
something is true or false (or more true or less true) rather than if it is
new or old?

When I said that "I agreed" with you, I was responding to your one-sentence
comment about the importance of consideirng the wage in relation to
surplus-value. I agreed because the theory of the wage is related to the
concept of labor-power which is central to understanding surplus-value.
Perhaps you could elaborate on your idea and then I will be able to respond.

I will try to respond to some of the points Jurriaan made (my comments in

1) Their abstraction is not an abstraction from any real empirical object,
it's an abstraction from another abstraction, and that can go anywhere
within reason, since it is not disciplined by a real empirical object. At
least somebody like Paul Bairoch studied real history.

This may be true of Marxists, but the fact that Marx's starting point is
concrete reality is made clear in the very first sentence of Capital where
he notes that material wealth takes the form of commodities and then
proceeds to examine the commodity.

2) Exaggerated claims are made about the uniqueness and speciality of Marx's
abstractive procedures, even although nobody can agree on what exactly they
were, let alone replicate them convincingly.

I totally agree. Many Marxists seem to view Marx's "method" as some sort of
magic wand. They would be better advised to examine how he carries out his
analysis than discuss his method, and that is why I recognized that my own
description might sound scholastic because I was describing rather than
applying his method of abstraction (which is not the sole property of Marx,
by the way)

3) Many times Marx is simply sloppy, and he isn't even aware of the full
implications of his own creative thought. In part, this is because he never
published the full manuscript.
I agree.

4) The suggestion is we should apply Marx's method of abstraction, rather
than use our own brains and narratives, and the most advanced abstractive
techniques of today's science.

I don't follow. Any sort of analysis is abstraction in the sense I described
of setting aside some elements so as to pose questions in clear or "pure"
forms. We obviously have to use our own brains to do this. As for those who
merit the criticism you mentioned in 2), it is perhaps true that they try to
rely on Marx rather than using their own brains, but they misintepret him so
badly and his use of abstraction, that I don't think they could actually be
described as applying "Marx's method of abstraction."

5) The logic of discovery (i.e. the discovery of the dialectics in the
subjectmatter) is confused with the dialectical presentation of categories
and theorems. You have to analyse something real before you can present your
findings in a dialectical way.
I think I agree with this statement, particularly the final sentence.

6) Marx's dialectical meanings are often embedded in the German language,
where one word can function in multiple conventional meanings.
I'll have to take your word for it, because my German ability is a work in

7) The reference to "levels of abstraction" is often a subterfuge, betraying
ignorance about what the real questions are that need to be asked, and
inability to know how to study a real empirical object.
I agree in the sense already mentioned that simply describing the method
without applying it makes it sound mystical or scholastic. That is probably
why Marx only discussed his approach in the prefaces, etc. rather than
trying to write a book called Das Method

I'll have to leave Uno for another day.

Mata ne,

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Jun 30 2007 - 00:00:04 EDT