Re: [OPE-L] SV: [OPE-L] exploitation and abstraction

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sun Jul 01 2007 - 12:49:58 EDT

>Hi all,
>Rakesh wrote (in reply to Juriaan):
>"Indeed your defense of empiricism of the simple sort reads to me as
>dogmatic and metaphysical."
>I think that from the point of view where many marxists stand today,
>Juriaan's point of view is indeed completely comprehensive and needs
>to be taken seriously. There are too many marxists who apply
>concepts willy-nilly, for example to the Soviet experience, concepts
>that often lack basic empirical substance to back the
>arguments up. Take Fernandez' "Capitalism and Class Struggle in the
>USSR" or other recent marxist scholarship on the USSR. There we
>learn what Marx perhaps could have thought about the USSR, and I
>stress "perhaps". In fact those type of books don't tell you
>anything about the USSR, they tell you what a specific marxist
>thinks about the USSR. The evidence are carefully chosen holy texts,
>not facts. The results are given in the premises.
>Then you have eminent scholars like Don Filtzer, R.W. Davies,
>Alec Nove, Moshe Lewin, Oleg Khlenviuk and other Russian
>scholars who get to the very complex details of reality. They have
>indeed theorised greatly about the USSR, but to do so they had to
>leave the narrow marxist schemes behind (or never care for them at
>all). A lot of marxist work is stuck in the world of abstractions
>however, and never get to their level. This is what they have in
>common with reactionary "scholars" such as Rummel (and only this in
>common), who can then claim that Stalin killed 100, 500 or 1000
>million people. If you stay in the world of abstractions your ideas
>are never confronted with reality, and that must feel very safe
>indeed. In the world of abstractions anything goes. But Rummel
>has never been in a Russian archive, and I doubt Resnick and Wolf
>have been either. I don't think they speak Russian. Still they write
>books on the history of the USSR, "marxist books".

OK how are they stuck in a world of abstraction? Where do they go
wrong? Chattopadhyay I think does speak Russian yet reaches broadly
similar conclusions and is anti Althusserian from what I can infer,
so where does he go wrong? Again despite the detail in your post
where is the argument? OK Wolff and Resnick may or may not speak
Russian, but where have they done violence to real history?
I think your critique here is really ad hominem. Which is not say
that a state capitalist theory is beyond reproach.

>This method or way of working seems to me to be contrary to what
>Marx did himself when he decided to study the Russian
>commune? Didn't he at least take his time to learn basic Russian
>reading skills, so he could verify the few facts there were? Isn't
>"verifying the theories" in Das Kapital, "with reality", to see
>there was a fit, exactly what made Marx happy?

Again this does not speak to the nature of Capital. What is its
object? How and why did Marx purify capitalism? Given that it is a
purified capitalism then how do we relate the theory to real history?
I don't see how despite your invocation of reality you answer these

>I remember he wrote to Vera Zasulich that Das Kapital was based on
>English economic development primarily, and that it could not simply
>be translated into other contexts, no?

Yes. But that may be because Western Europe more closely approximated
the the theoretical model of capitalism which he had created while
Russia due to the tenacity of pre capitalist landed relations and
dominated status in the world market was not approximating the ideal
or abstract or purified mode of production Marx created in Capital.

>Being "dogmatic and metaphysical" is exactly what Juriaan is not. On
>the contrary, he represents common good sense in the social

Common good sense is loaded.

>  Adam Smith made many fallacies, so did Marx, Keynes, and
>Friedman, but they represent the classics because they applied
>common sense to facts in a way that many people still today find

Wow! Marx applied common sense in the same way that Keynes and
Friedman did. I am glad that you are using such formulations to
defend Jurriaan, not me!

>  (I am using the concept "common sense" broadly here, and obviously
>not everyone agrees on the ideas of Keynes or Friedman, in fact they
>are opposites, but I am talking here about the development of
>economics as science, not specific arguments.)

Don't know what you are saying about method here.

>"  Your tactic is to overwhelm with volume not to argue. I am sure
>that I am not the only one who thinks this."
>Not so surprisingly perhaps, I do not share Rakesh's point of view.
>My old professor used to tell his students to keep poor essays
>short, and good ones long, when asked about how many pages they had
>to write for an assignment. I enjoy Juriaan's volume, it contributes
>greatly to ope-l discussions.



>Many kind regards,

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