Re: [OPE] NMEC (was free competition)

From: B.R.Bapuji <>
Date: Thu Apr 14 2011 - 13:57:39 EDT

Mr. Jurrian, While thanking you for your elaborate response to my questions, I fail to understand why you hurled so many frustrating comments at Jerry while answering my questions which have nothing to do with the person of Jerry. You have every right to express your views on Marx, Marxism, Marxists et al. But your comments [...ass etc ] on the person of Jerry are unwarranted and unhealthy in a discussion with reference to a new concept which you have proposed. Such personal comments will close the doors for further discussion. Intolerance in such forums as these will not help us intellectually. Irrespective of serious differences in views, the list members must maintain functional unity; otherwise we will end up in intellectual arrogance. I hope you and other members in this list will receive my feelings in a positive spirit. Bapuji    B.R.Bapuji, Professor, Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies [CALTS], University of Hyderabad, Central University post office, HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone: 040-23133655,23133650 or 23010161). Residence address: 76, Lake-side Colony, Near Durgam Cheruvu, [End of Road opp:Madapur Police Station], Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033. (Phone: 040-23117302)   ________________________________ From: Jurriaan Bendien <> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Sent: Thu, April 14, 2011 8:47:12 PM Subject: [OPE] NMEC (was free competition)  Professor Bapuji: In answer to your questions: 1) "Marxism" to me is an ideological doctrine and a political movement sourced to the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I draw a very sharp distinction between the ideas of Marx & Engels, and "Marxism". Marx's own theory is substantially different from 20th century Marxism. Marxism is only an "interpretation" of Marx, filtered through alleged Marxist authorities such as Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, Tariq Ali, Perry Anderson and so forth. Personally, I do not believe in eponymous doctrines. 2)  It looks quite credible, Professor, but it is essentially an idealist-rationalist interpretation. I can have the best theory and practice, but still get bad results. I can get good results with correct theory and incorrect practice, or with incorrect theory and correct practice. The reason for that is, that, in life, often the right things are done for al the wrong reasons, and the wrong things are done for the best possible reasons. We do things without knowing the full implications of what we are doing. A "doctrine" is a teaching which is defended, regardless of what happens. In philosophy of science, Imre Lakatos explained that there are no crucial experiments in science, only crucial experiments "for all intents and purposes." Why? Because we do not know a priori or absolutely whether experimental results prove our theory, or whether they are merely an artifact of experimental design (attributable only to the way we constructed a test). Have you ever seen a fact flying around the room? No, because a fact is not simply a observation, but an interpreted observation, a meaningful observation. To see a fact flying around the room requires you to interpret a observed flying thing as a fact first. That is why crude empiricism and empiricist "covering laws" based on "neutral sense data" are wrong. 3) Yes. Marx believed that the modern class struggles necessarily culminated in the dictatorship of the proletariat, and Engels affirmed that a social revolution is the "most authoritarian" act there is - wiping out the old order is a violent act. As Lenin argued himself, it is perfectly permissible to lie in the class struggle. With Malcolm X this becomes "by any means necessary". So you have that potential. 4) I quite like Lenin's definition as far as it goes (it is better than many cruder Marxist definitions), but it is crucially vague and superabstract since it is not clear which property right, or which organizational principle, or which income characteristic he has in mind. When Lenin wrote this, I assume that - like Jerry Levy - he thought he had better cover his ass, and define the concept in advance in such a superabstract, inclusive way, that he cannot be wrong, since you can read into it anything you like, or subsequently elaborate it, in any way you like. Some people call this "dialectics". Others call it a Lewis Carroll fairy tale where "things mean what I want them to mean" (for Lenin, Marxism was "omnipotent because it is true", which is more or less the same thing). Jerry Levy is never wrong, because as soon as he gets criticised, he says "I meant something else". Since his utterance was superabstract to start off with, he can "fill in" or "fill out" his superabstract idea in any way that happens to be suitable. He appears to be saying something profound, but he is not really saying anything, he begins to say something only when somebody "authorative" to him really wants to nail down what he specifically means (BTW Jerry published almost nothing in print, at least not under his own name). 5) I cannot go into full detail about this right now, because that is a very long discussion. Suffice to say, that there exists a very large literature on social stratification, enumerating many different structuration principles. For a sociologist, the substantive theoretical point here is really that the ways in which people can acquire power relative to other people through social competition are extremely diverse, which is also precisely why power is such an "amorphous" concept and why status cultures are always changing. 6)  I suppose I would add many kinds of social differentiation which Marx does not consider in any detail, in particular: relations of status and power, relations of communication, relations of consumption, ethnic and kinship relations, caste relations, ideological and political relations, geographic relations.   7) No, there is no such guarantee - but the idea that such a guarantee could exist, is strictly a religious or marketing idea anyway. It is important to be anti-Marxist, when the Marxists get it wrong, and support the Marxists when they get it right. It is important to support the working class when they get it right, and be anti-working class when they get it wrong. Above all, it is important not to fetishize (reify) Marxism or the working class. I do not believe in "dangerous concepts", only in dangerous actions - the idea of "dangerous concepts" is always the idea of the rulers and the powerful, who want to categorize reality after their own image, and exclude any alternative picture that might contest that image. Concepts are not dangerous, what can be dangerous is what people actually do with concepts in practical life. For example, we don't attack religion, but we criticise what people do in the name of religion.   The Western bourgeois for example regards Islam as an "intrinsically dangerous concept" since it can lead to fanatical, violent jihadism and is intolerant of other faiths. This propaganda is spread tacitly by the bourgeois media, even although there is no scientific basis for it (christianity or christofascism is a far more violent religion). If communism was popular, communism would be a "dangerous concept". If Trotskyism was popular it would be a "dangerous concept".   The idea of "dangerous concept" plays a strong role in pre-emptive (precautionary) politics and pre-emptive war. The rulers basically want to snuff out potential hearths of revolt against their "order", and so anything that looks like it "could" become dangerous, is cut off at the knees, if impossible, before it has any chance to grow.   In "pre-emptive" theory, people are guilty of crimes before they have actually done something. They are guilty because they "might have thought of doing something bad" on some definition. That is exactly the basis of totalitarian thought-control and totalitarian oppression. People are made to toe the line, conform and obey, by a continual propaganda barrage of paranoid suspicions, in which associating with a "dangerous" thing in any way whatever, immediately begets exclusion and punishment. The parade of "dangers" is just a charade which distracts from the real policy objectives of the rulers.   Marx's project was a open-ended project, he never claimed to have had the last word, and invited honest scientific criticism.   But Marxists converted  Marx's ideas into a metaphysical ideology covering life, the universe and everything, a "system" of hermetically closed concepts. In that sense, Marxism killed off Marx, except that Marxism, by referring to Marx, might inspire some to return to Marx's own thought.   For about half the history of Marxism, Marx's complete writings - including very important writings - were not even available - and that aside, the majority of Marxists never read or understood much of Marx. Typically Marxism was taught terribly badly, and the Marx-scholarship was terrible. Even up to WW2 few Marxists had read the whole of Das Kapital, nevermind understanding it. They still don't understand much, I think. If Marx said that free competition existed, Jerry as a Marxist simply says that this is not true, that Marx did not say that, or that if he said it, he meant something else. Why does Jerry do that? Because he wants to argue that free competition is a myth, an ideology, and he wants to back this up with the authority of Marx. His definition of free competition as mythical is supposed to be "solidly Marxist".    Jerry would be better off FIRST thoroughly investigating what Marx said about free competition and what history tells us about it, AND THEN make his own case. But as I explained, that is not his procedure. As a sort of Marxist Napoleon, he already has the truth in advance ("Marxisme, c'est moi"). The trick is just to keep the truth ultra-abstract, so that you can twist it in any direction you like, when people grill you about what you really mean.   Why do academics still flirt with Marx (or Nietzsche etc.) ? I suppose part of the answer is that in middeclass status culture, people like to show off how profound, sophisticated and erudite they are, and ow abstractly they can think, just like workingclass people or peasants like to show that they can be just as clever as the upper class.   Jurriaan

ope mailing list
Received on Thu Apr 14 13:58:45 2011

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Apr 30 2011 - 00:00:03 EDT