Dialectics

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LBird
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Oct 8 2011 16:50
piter wrote:
...as your friend Hegel would say "the more abstract is the more concrete"...

Yeah, I'm sure he would!

Which is why I treat him as an autistic academic who has problems communicating with us 'normals'.

FWIW, I think that this sort of 'dialectical' phrasemongering is what drives decent Communists away from studying 'dialectics'. No-one knows what the fuck that means when one tries to test it in the real world.

It becomes mere 'wordplay', which requires an expert (CC member available?) to translate for the oiks.

I've never understood why the 'interpenetration of opposites' doesn't 'dialectically' lead to the constant removal from a CC of its current members and their replacement with other newer party members. Perhaps we should ask the leaders and members of one of our parties, like the SWP, who seem to have plenty of experts in 'dialectics', why this manifestation of yin and yang doesn't seem to happen?

Yeah, the 'democratic centralist' parties never use that particular law on themselves, do they? Bullshittin' fuckers...

piter
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Oct 8 2011 16:58
Quote:
piter wrote:

...as your friend Hegel would say "the more abstract is the more concrete"...

Yeah, I'm sure he would!

Which is why I treat him as an autistic academic who has problems communicating with us 'normals'.

actually that was a bit of a joke...

but in the same time he really wrote that (or something very close, anyway he wrote in german) and he also explain what does it means! (or you can undertand what it can mean if your read the whole of the book...).

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 17:36
piter wrote:
...or you can undertand what it can mean if your read the whole of the book...

Unfortunately, piter mate, that method was exactly the same one that ocelot (I think) recommended to me about understanding Capital.

That is, a simple explanation of something can't be given unless one already understands the entirety of a long, complex and mystifying text.

I reject that method.

If someone can't explain the concept 'blah' to me, I don't think that reading a million repetitions, going 'blah, blah, blah...' endlessly, is going to solve the problem.

No, if something can't be explained simply to me, I think either that 'I'm thick' or 'the teacher is thick'.

I'll leave it to you to imagine which conclusion I usually draw...

snipfool
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Oct 8 2011 17:56

“Now, as for dialectical materialism,” Chomsky went on, “in my view this is a rather obscure notion … It is clear that people do use the word ‘dialectic’ as if they understood it, but I personally have never understood it. In fact, my own feeling is that it is a kind of ritual term which people use when they are talking about situations of conflict and so on. Personally, I do not find it a very useful idea.”

edit: Should add that I've not actually read that article in full, just remembered the comment and found the first occurrence of it online. Personally, whenever I feel like I understand a little bit about what dialectics might mean, I find uses of it which confuse me. Sometimes feels like it's just been added to create a more adjective or adverb rich sentence rather than provide actual clarity. Though of course, unlike LBird, I usually conclude that it's cos I'm thick smile

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 18:25
Chomsky wrote:
It is clear that people do use the word ‘dialectic’ as if they understood it, but I personally have never understood it.

.

snipfool wrote:
Personally, whenever I feel like I understand a little bit about what dialectics might mean, I find uses of it which confuse me.

.
It's looks as if my lack of understanding of 'dialectics' puts me in eminent company! 'snipfool', I'm talking about, of course!

snipfool wrote:
Though of course, unlike LBird, I usually conclude that it's cos I'm thick

I think it's pronouced 'Fick', mate. At least it is when I come to that conclusion!

Seriously, I know that you're joking, but I think most of academia's output is intended to make us all feel as if 'we're all fick'. And there are plenty of academics who call themselves 'Communists', and 'know' about 'the dialectic'... unlike us, eh?

Well, this is the chance for us all to dig a bit deeper, and try to find out whether Chomsky and us are all a bit fick, or whether much of what passes for 'dialectics' is pure bullshit.

To jump ahead a bit, I think some of it is useful, in some way, but I'd rather clear up some of the fundamentals first (this stuff about 'rising from the concrete to the abstract') before moving on. And, of course, the position one takes on the concrete/abstract issue will determine which direction one moves on in...

Still we can all be friends and play nicely, can't we? Even if we disagree on directions taken.

Except for that academic bastard Chomsky...

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Khawaga
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Oct 8 2011 18:23

LBird, one thing to understand about the dialectic is that it does have political implications. E.g. the whole issue about the negation of the working class, that we must destroy ourselves with capital is based on dialectical reasoning. If we merely affirm labour, we also affirm capital because these two opposite are interpenetrated. Affirmation of labour is what the official workers' movement has done for far too long and this has only strengthened capital. While you might not need to know dialectics to get this point now, the roots of the fight against work, against the wage in the modern worker's movement comes from this dialectical argument.

Joseph Kay has written some stuff on affirmation vs. negation which I think is good for looking the political significance of dialectics in terms of interpenetration of opposites. Still, I don't think it's essential to understand dialectics to have decent class-based politics.

I think that dialectics can account for systemic changes pretty well. Marx theorizes the transition to capitalism through Hegel's ideal argument that any system (for Hegel a system of thought) has to continually be able to posit its presuppositions as result. I think that this thinking can also help to understand how the transition of communism can occur and where the change has to take hold. There is a reason for why e.g. freeganism, theft, digital piracy etc. cannot move beyond being anything but parasitic on capital.

I also think that part of the reason why most people find dialectics so tough to deal with is that it is a completely new system of thinking about change and interaction, which is radically different from analytical positivism. It seems at time counter-intuitive. Parts of it has to be unlearnt (or rather pushed to the side) before dialectics can start to make sense.

If you really want to understand Marx, however, you need to understand some rudimentary dialectics at least. I suggest LBird, that you read the Introduction to A critique of political economy (you can find the intro in the Grundrisse or on marxists.org), which I believe is the best introduction to Marx's dialectics written by Marx. That and perhaps, the appendix to Vol. 1 (Immediate results of production). I am not so sure I would suggest Ollman and Cole now (definitively not Cole, not sure about Ollman).

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 18:39
Khawaga wrote:
LBird, one thing to understand about the dialectic is that it does have political implications.

Boy, do I know that!

But I'm a bit disappointed though, Khawaga, that you haven't addressed my questions about the relationship between the 'concrete' and the 'abstract', which seems to play a big part in the underpinnings of 'dialectics'.

I think moving on to talk about class, capital, 'affirmation vs. negation', 'interpenetration of opposites', etc., is far too early.

Khawaga wrote:
If you really want to understand Marx, however, you need to understand some rudimentary dialectics at least.

Yeah, 'understanding some rudimentary dialectics' - isn't that what we're here for? So that someone (you?) can explain 'some rudimentary dialectics', because no-one can make head nor tail of Marx, Hegel or any other of the academic 'experts' in 'dialectics'.

As I've already pointed out, the 'blah, blah, blah...' method of reading the 'experts using it' doesn't work for me. Or for snipfool, or for some academic called 'Chopsky', or something...

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Oct 8 2011 18:46

LBird when did you take such a philistine position to knowledge? Dialectics is a logical system that claims to be able to understand everything ever. Your not just going to 'get it'. Remember the second half of the royal road to science quote in Marx's Capital? Summits are hard to climb and you may succumb to fatigue! I made a second post about 'immanent critique' and the relation of concrete and abstract that I think you might have missed btw.

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Oct 8 2011 18:47
Quote:
Yeah, 'understanding some rudimentary dialectics' - isn't that what we're here for? So that someone (you?) can explain 'some rudimentary dialectics', because no-one can make head nor tail of Marx, Hegel or any other of the academic 'experts' in 'dialectics'.

Well, my point (which I didn't make properly) is that it depends on why you want to learn about dialectics. For political or philological reasons? What we discuss would depend on that.

Quote:
But I'm a bit disappointed though, Khawaga, that you haven't addressed my questions about the relationship between the 'concrete' and the 'abstract', which seems to play a big part in the underpinnings of 'dialectics'.

I think Arbeiten (?) addressed that pretty succinctly. You start with the surface appearance of capitalism, go underneath that (this is the move Marx does in the beginning of capital; the move "happens" when he introduces the "hidden abode of production") and then re-articulate the concrete. That's a sketch admittedly. Have a go at the Introduction (and look at his brief discussion on the category of population) and the immediate results, and let's pick apart the text rather than than discussing things in the abstract (or point me to the section in Ollman; it's been about 5 years since I read that book. Or wait, I scratch that; someone is borrowing it).

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jura
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Oct 8 2011 18:48

I apologize in advance for a longer post.

What needs to be distinguished when talking about stuff like the "real concrete", the "imagined concrete", the "abstract" and "the reproduction of the concrete by means of thought" is 1. the method of investigation (i.e. of research), 2. the method of presentation of the results of investigation (i.e. theory-building). Marx's remark that

Marx in the Grundrisse wrote:
The latter [the ascent from the abstract to the concrete] is obviously the scientifically correct method

applies – with important qualifications – to his method of presentation. In very rough terms, Marx's Capital proceeds from the most abstract categories to ever more concrete ones, where abstract means "simple", "undetermined" or even "uncomplicated", while concrete means "possessing many determinations".

For example, circulation is at first presented independently of capital (as "simple circulation" in Ch.s 1-3, Vol. I), and only after an investigation of capital (in the rest of Vol. I) is it presented in a more concrete form, i.e. with more "determinations" or characteristics (in Vol. 2, as the circulation process of capital). As I said, this is very rough, because within this paritcular long arc there are many smaller ones (like the arc in the first chapter that goes from exchange-value as an appearance to value as its content and then back to exchange-value as the form of this content). This should not be viewed as a simple concretization of a model that becomse ever more precise (as Grossman, Lange and Mattick, IIRC, tended to view it), however, but I won't go into that now.

The derivations of particular new categories within these arcs are usually a result of "contradictions" – of mutually exclusive determinations of a category which lead to a paradox or a seemingly insolvable situation. This situation is then solved by introducing a new category or investigating the present matter more deeply. Three familiar examples could be:

1. In Ch. 1, the category of value is presented as a solution to the problem of exchange-value appearing as "something accidental and purely relative", yet "an intrinsic value", hence "a contradiction in terms". The analysis that follows shows that exchange-value is a mere form of appearance of a content that can be distinguished from it (value). The "contradiction in terms" then disappears.

2. The necessity of money is derived in Ch. 2 as a solution to the impasse faced by economic agents who possess commodities as unities of use-value and value. (Hence money is an "external expression" of the contradiction of use-value and value).

3. The introduction of labor-power as a commodity in Ch. 4 of Vol. I is presented as a solution to the paradox that capital "must have its origin both in circulation and yet not in circulation"; this paradox is a result of previous investigation of simple circulation.

In short, this approach to theory construction is Marx's dialectic. It is a method of presenting the results of previous scientific investigation in a way which enables the "the reproduction of the concrete by means of thought", i.e. the conceptual grasping of the totality of essential capitalist relations in a systematic and justified way. Marx's approach does not just line up the categories in front of you as any economics textbook, but strives to justify the addition of every new category by previous results. These categories are presented as essential determinations of capitalist reproduction. In this careful approach to theory-building, Marx echoes Hegel's methodological remarks from the Preface to the 2nd edition of his Science of Logic:

Hegel wrote:
Such an exposition would demand that at no stage of the development should any thought-determination or reflection occur which does not immediately emerge at this stage and that has not entered this stage from the one preceding it — a requirement which is satisfied, after its fashion, in the process of mathematical reasoning.

This, to me, is Marx's dialectic and this is the only notion of it that I can bear with. 99% of the Marxist talk about dialectics is either trivial stuff (actually, there are at least two versions of this: the sillier: "on the hand A, but on the other hand ~A", and the more sophisticated but equally contentless: "everything is interconnected, reciprocal and mutually penetrating" – that's Ollman in a nutshell), or metaphysical drivel about nuts and trees, the boiling point of water, and "formal logic" being bourgeois. Most of the time, nothing can be gained by using the word "dialectical" instead of "reciprocal" or "mutally influencing" (except the benefit of sounding smarter). However, as a description of Marx's method of presentation, the notion of "dialectic" can be shown to have some quite interesting content.

As a last note, I don't see how Marx could be interpreted as a positivist. He clearly rejects the idea that immediate sensual experience is all that science should consist in. Quite the contrary: he holds that all science would be superfluous if appearances would directly coincide with the real nature of things.

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Oct 8 2011 18:49

I'm not actually calling you a philistine btw buddy, I just don't like your approach. I prefer the idea that the teacher and student both co-produce the knowledge. The teacher, especially in the social and political spheres, probably always has something new to learn...

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 18:59
Arbeiten wrote:
LBird when did you take such a philistine position to knowledge? Dialectics is a logical system that claims to be able to understand everything ever. Your not just going to 'get it'.

I'm afraid I can't tell if you're joking or not here, Arbeiten. I'd better leave my response till you've cleared that up. I hope you're joking...

Arbeiten wrote:
I'm not actually calling you a philistine btw buddy, I just don't like your approach. I prefer the idea that the teacher and student both co-produce the knowledge. The teacher, especially in the social and political spheres, probably always has something new to learn...

Once again, I'm confused and not sure if this is addressed to me or not. Again, I'll have to forestall my reply until that is cleared up.

Please use names and quotes, so that we can be clear about the person your comments are addressed towards.

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Oct 8 2011 19:05

Yes man, i was talking to you (Lbird) and I was joking. But I really don't think you should off the cuff criticize a philosophical system if you can't understand it straight away. Don't tell me you picked up marx and understood it straight away! I didn't know what the hell a bourgeoisie might be. Or indeed a proletarian....

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 19:11
Khawaga wrote:
Well, my point (which I didn't make properly) is that it depends on why you want to learn about dialectics. For political or philological reasons? What we discuss would depend on that.

I'm not sure here, Khawaga, why 'political or philological reasons' would alter your reply to my reasonable question about 'rising from the concrete to the abstract'.

Khawaga wrote:
I think Arbeiten (?) addressed that pretty succinctly. You start with the surface appearance of capitalism...

Whoa! 'Succinctly'? Where? And I'm not starting with the 'surface appearance' of anything. I'm asking a question.

Now, this is where, for me, discussions about 'dialectics' seem to go astray.

Why can't 'dialecticians' answer a straight question with a straight answer?

Or are 'straight' anything 'undialectical'?

I'm serious here. I'd rather no-one bothered to answer my simple question than tell me to read long, obscure texts which I don't understand (that's why we're here, remember?), or went straight into yet another discussion of Capital.

Jura, I know you're trying to help, mate, but at present I just want a pretty short answer to my first question, regarding 'concrete and abstract' as a method. Of course, eventually I'd like to go further, and would appreciate then your comradely efforts.

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Oct 8 2011 19:21

I thought my post (number 31) was a pretty succinct explanation of the concrete and the abstract in the context of marx's Capital? Marx's method is an 'immanent critique' of positivism. Starting from the suppositions of political economy (in their positivist variant) He unveils the hidden contradictions it contains.

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 19:22
Arbeiten wrote:
Yes man, i was talking to you (Lbird) and I was joking.

Thanks for the reassurance, Arbeiten. As it happens, I agree with what you said about teachers and students, but that's for another thread.

Arbeiten wrote:
But I really don't think you should off the cuff criticize a philosophical system if you can't understand it straight away.

I think you misunderstand here, mate.

I've tried to understand dialectics, and so, over the years, have millions of others, including, apparently, Chomsky.

I've tried to avoid coming to the conclusion that much of it is bullshit, and indeed as I've already said, I think some of it is salvageable, but my criticism is based on years of experience of 'dialecticians' not answering simple questions, just like on this thread.

If you can explain why, philosophically, one can start with the concrete, rather than the abstract, I'll be happy.

I won't agree, but I'll be happy that I've at least had an explanation.

PS. I'm not sure why this question is being avoided, and people are keen to move on to full-blooded discussions of Capital or class struggle without addressing it, but it gives me cause for concern.

Anyway, it's stayed comradely so far, eh?

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 19:26
Arbeiten wrote:
I thought my post (number 31) was a pretty succinct explanation of the concrete and the abstract in the context of marx's Capital?

Yes, but I don't want an explanation using the very method that is at issue! Can't you see that?

It's a philosophical issue and question.

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Oct 8 2011 19:28

OK, LBird, I'll try to address some of your original concerns in a clearer way:

LBird wrote:
That brief outlining leads me on to my first question. Ollman insists that Marx’s dialectical method consists of moving from the concrete to the theoretical through the method of the ‘process of abstraction’.

The distinction between the "mode of investigation" and "mode of presentation" is important here. Is Ollman talking about the former or the latter? (Sorry, it's been some time since I read that book.)

Anyway, what Ollman possibly means is that the "concrete", as a unity of a myriad of determinations, is chaotic. When you look at the intercourse of people in a capitalist society, you see a host of phenomena. If you want to proceed to grasp them conceptually, you have to select what's important (and this selection is, of course, based on some preexisting theory – and Marx's would not dispute that; in fact he spent years trying to reach a "general result" which would server as a guide in his studies). You select what's important to you and abstract from the rest (hence the important stuff is an abstraction from the original chaotic impressions), and then you try to develop the rest from the initial abstract selection (Marx does this by a systematically introducing new categories in a way I described above).

LBird wrote:
Science now knows that the scientific method always starts from a hypothesis (ie., theory or ideology) and proceeds to actively interrogate the ‘real concrete’. That is, in my terms, an ideology is required to make sense of a pre-existing reality.

Sure, and Marx would not dispute that. What one should bear in mind is that the entire passage in Grundrisse on the abstract and the concrete and the correct way of proceeding between them deals with the method of presentation, i.e. how one should go about presenting the results of a previous inquiry. Marx criticizes the idea that one can begin with the immediately given, i.e. the chaotic appearances which seem as a natural beginning.

LBird wrote:
What we ‘select’ from the ‘concrete’ determines what we ‘see’.

Again, Marx would have no problem with that. In fact, he had to do a lot of work to "select" the commodity as a legitimate beginning of Capital, and this was based on a lot of preexisting theoretical presuppositions.

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Oct 8 2011 19:32

Well, I'm getting a bit lost on your exact problem. i have explained, as simply as I can, the concrete and the abstract in Marx. It is not particularly easy to think of this in any linear manner. Strictly speaking Marx only 'starts' from the positivist concrete heuristically. He doesn't strictly start from his own empirical study, but that of others. This first concrete moment is a critique of others positivist findings.

Now i have a question. Why do you think it is problematic to start from a concrete position? For me anything else is idealism, which is exactly what marx is criticizing Hegel for.

As for answering simple questions, I don't think it is a simple question because dialectics, philosophy, science, politics etc, etc, are not simple areas of study....

I think either you choose Chomsky or you choose Marx on this one. They come from completely different positions and are pretty irreconcilable (methodologically that is).

For the record, I don't consider myself a 'dialectician'. I have a rudimentary understand of dialectics, but as I said earlier on in reference to Deleuze, it feels a bit like conceptual baggy clothes (though i do not have an alternative methodological system that could supersede dialectics).

For the second record, I like Chomsky, but I think he is a bit disingenuous sometimes when he describes other philosophers as charlatans....

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Oct 8 2011 19:58
LBird wrote:
If you can explain why, philosophically, one can start with the concrete, rather than the abstract, I'll be happy.

To use the terminology you seem to be well-acquainted with, Marx is a realist. For him, the "real concrete", the phenomena of the real world, are always there independently of the theoretical attempts to understand them. The theoretician himself, living in England, is a part of the "real concrete". In this sense, the "real concrete" is preexisting. It is also "the start" in a further sense: Marx does not start from some general philosophical scheme to which the "real concrete" should merely be adapted (in a Hegel kind of way). On the contrary, Marx wants the theory to be a conceptual depiction of the "real concrete", which always serves as the yardstick of the theory.

However, the "imagined concrete" (mental representations of the immediately given "real concrete") does not form the beginning of the presentation of the theory itself. For reasons I tried to explain above, the beginning of the exposition in Capital is the abstract, which is transformed through a long series of thought-movements into a whole network of categories which reproduce the "real concrete" in thought.

Edit: I should perhaps add that the ultimate network of categories only reproduces the essential determinations of the "real concrete", i.e. it is a theory which provides explanations and predictions of phenomena of a certain (idealized) type, not a description of a particular state of the "real concrete". (Capital is about capitalism as a mode of production, not about capitalism in England as a particular instance of this mode of production.)

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Oct 8 2011 19:55
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I'm not sure here, Khawaga, why 'political or philological reasons' would alter your reply to my reasonable question about 'rising from the concrete to the abstract'.

I was thinking dialectics in general (that was the overall question you're asking right. WTF is it?). As I said, Arbeiten explained it succintly. Jura did the complex version. I provided a textual example for the move from real concrete to the abstract when Marx moves from the exchange of equivalents which occurs completely visible in the market, to the hidden abode of production where Marx introduces exploitation. Now, it doesn't capture the move completely, but on a textual/narrative level it's a good example for how you can start to conceive of this sort of logic. But as Jura pointed out, it is extremely important to separate the method of research from presentation.

Anyway, philology vs. politics. Different objects of study. For political stuff we would discuss political movements, the changed outlook of the workers' movement etc., if it's philology we would stay really close to Marx's texts. Of course, one doesn't preclude the other and they obviously reinforce each other, but it is completely possible to treat them as separate. I'm an academic and in my academic work I am mostly interested in the philological aspect of dialectics because it helps me to theorize things such as digital piracy, digitization (I believe that there is a movement from the real concrete to the abstract in the process of digitization, but I am not sure the example is the best for this discussion) and communication in both and anti-human subjects, but in my academic writing there is very little politics to be found. In my political work I try to apply Marx in order to figure out the world, where I should put my energies etc. So the philological stuff I do at uni helps my politics, but I keep them very separate.

Quote:
Whoa! 'Succinctly'? Where? And I'm not starting with the 'surface appearance' of anything. I'm asking a question.

What Arbeiten said in #31. And the "you" I referred to was a bit unclear, I didn't mean you started with surface appearances. I should have written "one starts with the surface appearance" (i.e. the whoever is "doing" dialectics would proceed in that manner).

Quote:
I'm serious here. I'd rather no-one bothered to answer my simple question than tell me to read long, obscure texts which I don't understand (that's why we're here, remember?), or went straight into yet another discussion of Capital.

Because it was answered already. If you don't understand the answer, ask for clarification. It's been answered twice, and re-iterated 3 times (twice by me, once by Arbeiten).

Quote:
If you can explain why, philosophically, one can start with the concrete, rather than the abstract, I'll be happy.

It's not the concrete, it's the real-concrete, which is just another way of saying that it's not really the way the real is, but an appearance. In order to understand capitalism we need to start with how it presents itself to us in the light of day. So Marx starts with commodities because that's how capitalism appears to us; as a massive collection of commodities and market exchange (just think of bourgeois ideology; market this, market that, economy this, economy that and the economy is the market. Everything revolves around the market and the exchange of stuff). The bourgeois political economist will construct his or her categories based on this presumably positive world. Since Marx is doing an immanent critique, as Arbeiten points out, he starts with the same categories in order to critique them, find what is really general about them throughout history rather than just specific to capitalist (although the bourgeois political economist can't tell the difference), and then move to the more concrete categories (in essence, this is sorta an attempt at a simpler version of Jura; I might have butchered it because I am tired and hungry at the moment). So in short, it's a "fake" concrete one can start with but one that is completely in line with positivist science.

Quote:
PS. I'm not sure why this question is being avoided, and people are keen to move on to full-blooded discussions of Capital or class struggle without addressing it, but it gives me cause for concern.

As I said, it's not being avoided. It's been answered, but I guess you didn't realize that it had been answered.

Okei, I've rambled a bit here. Not sure I am making a lot of sense (not the best of days for me tbh). But ask more specific questions. For example, when you ask "why, philosophically, one can start with the concrete, rather than the abstract?" explain what you mean with that, give us an example of how you understand abstract and concrete and what the difference would be. You can't expect us to completely come up with an air tight answer if we do not even know if we're operating with the same language (and I don't think we are tbh). When someone asks a question, you can always pad it with what you think the answer is or what it isn't (at least that's from my experience as a teacher).

edit: from reading Jura again, I see that I'm muddling things somewhat between the real concrete and imagined concrete. So take Jura's account over mine. Too tired to make sense at the moment.

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 19:56

Jura, thanks very much for answering my straightforward question. We've only taken about thirty posts!

Jura wrote:
If you want to proceed to grasp them conceptually, you have to select what's important (and this selection is, of course, based on some preexisting theory – and Marx's would not dispute that...

Right! Now we're cookin'!

So, Ollman and the rest have incorrectly interpreted Marx when they say that he 'rose from the concrete to the abstract'?

I agree with what you've outlined - any 'abstraction' must start from theory, because of the problem of selection. This is the scientific method. The notion of 'starting from the concrete' is 19th century positivism, or induction.

Jura wrote:
For reasons I tried to explain above, the beginning of the exposition in Capital is the abstract...

So, why not outline the philosophical presuppositions that he worked with? He didn't start from 'capitalism' as a whole, because that is impossible, as we've seen, because of the problem of selection.

If Marx is using a 'dialectical' method, he failed to outline his axioms.

Why can't we improve his method, and first of all outline our assumptions? Why do 'dialecticians' avoid outlining their philosophical assumptions, and pretend that they are dealing with the 'concrete' from the start?

Does this make any sense?

And what do Khawaga and Arbeiten (amongst others) think of Jura's statement which agrees with my position that 'rising from the concrete to the abstract' is impossible for humans, due to the problem of selection? Parameters must be provided, and those parameters are axiomatic, not the product of the target of the selection.

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 20:05
Khawaga wrote:
Because it was answered already. If you don't understand the answer, ask for clarification. It's been answered twice, and re-iterated 3 times (twice by me, once by Arbeiten).

.

Khawaga wrote:
As I said, it's not being avoided. It's been answered, but I guess you didn't realize that it had been answered.

Spoken like a school-teacher, Khawaga! Blame the pupil for being 'fick', eh?

Khawaga wrote:
...at least that's from my experience as a teacher

I know you won't believe this, mate, but I wrote the bit above before I read the end of your post!

Years of being treated like a dickhead by teachers has taught me to recognise their modus operandi!

'Blame the questioner when the teacher doesn't understand the question'

Maintains respect for authority at all costs, eh?

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Khawaga
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Oct 8 2011 20:09
Quote:
So, why not outline the philosophical presuppositions that he worked with? He didn't start from 'capitalism' as a whole, because that is impossible, as we've seen, because of the problem of selection.

He has, but not in Capital. See Jura's comment above about the difference between method of investigation and method of exposition. The two don't have to be the same. Grundrisse is much much clearer (in its confusion!) about the philosophical presuppositions (which btw are very Aristotelean as much as Hegelian).

I would argue that Marx did start with capitalism as a whole; as a system of production, distribution, exchange and circulation. His basis is more or less material production and the reproduction of humanity historically. That is his "selection" because unless you're God it's impossible to comprehend the real concrete in its totality. We don't have the processing power. Bear in mind that when Marx (and Ollman) uses the real concrete, it is already a construction. So it's not impossible from rising from the concrete to the abstract, it depends on what the concrete is. You seem to believe that it is the world in all its glory, but what dialecticians mean by it is something much more limited. So I would rather say that selection is necessary in order to rise from the concrete to the abstract, otherwise there would be no object to work with (again, apologies for rambling).

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Oct 8 2011 20:10
LBird wrote:
Jura, thanks very much for answering my straightforward question. We've only taken about thirty posts!

Well, with different people discussing at the same time and providing different insights from different points of view, arriving at a straightforward conclusion can be difficult. However, I think that this should not deter us in the least.

LBird wrote:
So, Ollman and the rest have incorrectly interpreted Marx when they say that he 'rose from the concrete to the abstract'?

Well, maybe that's too harsh. Although I read Ollman's book, I can't remember all the details of his interpretation. However, I think it is correct to say that the "real concrete" is the beginning in the sense I outlined above (Marx as a realist). Again, the distinction between presentation and investigation is crucial.

LBird wrote:
The notion of 'starting from the concrete' is 19th century positivism, or induction.

This is disputable, I think. First, Marx's method of presentation clearly cannot be reduced to deduction. And as the critique of political economy is an empirical science, its method of investigation cannot be reduced to deduction either. I think the clear-cut distinction between induction and deduction itself belongs to 19th/early 20th century philosophy of science.

LBird wrote:
So, why not outline the philosophical presuppositions that he worked with?

Well, truckloads of books were written on that, beginning with Engels.

LBird wrote:
If Marx is using a 'dialectical' method, he failed to outline his axioms.

True. He never got to writing the mysterious book on dialectics he mentioned in his correspondence.

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Oct 8 2011 20:17
Khawaga wrote:
So Marx starts with commodities because that's how capitalism appears to us; as a massive collection of commodities and market exchange (just think of bourgeois ideology; market this, market that, economy this, economy that and the economy is the market. Everything revolves around the market and the exchange of stuff).

Khawaga, I'll behave dialectically now and say this correct and wrong at the same time smile. It's correct as far as the "immanent critique of bourgeois ideology" bit goes. On the other hand, Marx's starting point, the commodity, is not really the empirically given commodity from a shop window in London. First and foremost because it does not have a price. Having a price (a specific expression of value) presupposes the category of money, which (according to Marx) needs to be legitimately derived before it can be used. That is the task of the section on form of value (Ch. 1) and of Ch. 2.

(I have to say that I owe almost everything I can say about Marx's dialectic – including this particular insight – to the work of two contemporary German authors, Michael Heinrich and especially Dieter Wolf. I heartily recommend them to anyone looking for a fresh, no-nonsense look at Marx's method.)

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Oct 8 2011 20:20
LBird wrote:
I know you won't believe this, mate, but I wrote the bit above before I read the end of your post!

Years of being treated like a dickhead by teachers has taught me to recognise their modus operandi!

'Blame the questioner when the teacher doesn't understand the question'

Maintains respect for authority at all costs, eh?

Now you're the one being a dick again. Repeatedly you disrespect those that try to help you; it's always our fault for you not understanding. I am not saying it's your fault, but we need to find a common ground so that we can start an actual dialogue. You're the one that always say that let this be comeradely, but you always stoop to shit slinging.

It's not about treating you like a dickhead. If I don't understand a question, I ask the student to explain. And most of the time, the student already knows the answer or at least part of it. And the surprising thing is that if the student hears the answer coming out their own mouth rather than mine, they gain confidence and realize that they do understand. It's pedagogical, not about authority.

Quote:
Spoken like a school-teacher, Khawaga! Blame the pupil for being 'fick', eh?

Again, fuck you very much. I meant nothing malicious about that. It was answered two times, and pointed out to you three times more so from that I assumed that you didn't realize it had been answered. What else should I think? I know you're reading the replies.

I really don't know if I should bother with you anymore. I am actually engaging with you with the best intentions here so why the fuck should I continue when you start hurling abuse?

LBird
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Oct 8 2011 20:27
Khawaga wrote:
Bear in mind that when Marx (and Ollman) uses the real concrete, it is already a construction. So it's not impossible from rising from the concrete to the abstract, it depends on what the concrete is.

This, to me, Khawaga, is contradictory.

If one 'already has a construction', that's not 'rising from the concrete to the abstract', is it? It's 'rising from the abstract (construction) to the concrete'.

I'm confused. Words must mean something, or we're back to Pareto's 'bats and mice' problem with Marx, which I quoted earlier.

jura wrote:
However, I think it is correct to say that the "real concrete" is the beginning in the sense I outlined above (Marx as a realist).

Well, given what we've agreed above, the only 'sense' in which this makes 'sense' is in the word 'nonsense'.

Now, we've got the 'real concrete' and the 'imagined concrete', according to Khawaga.

Isn't this all 'bats and mice'?

If these are terms with actual content, why not use different words, to give us 'fickos' half a chance to follow the discussion?

I'll have to leave it now, till tomorrow, but thanks for the discussion. It's clarified things for me a bit, but perhaps not in the way the 'dialecticians' had hoped!

Special thanks to jura, for their comprehensible efforts!

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Khawaga
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Oct 8 2011 20:28

Jura, you're right. I was mixing up investigation and presentation. Rookie error, I blame it on the lack of sleep last night.

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Oct 8 2011 20:37
LBird wrote:
Well, given what we've agreed above, the only 'sense' in which this makes 'sense' is in the word 'nonsense'.

Please re-read my post above. If you don't like that Marx is a realist and believes that social relations exists independently of the content of theoretical consciousness, fair enough, but I can't change that. In this sense, the "real concrete" is there before the theoretical concepts grasping it (think of it as of priority in time). As such, it forms the start of all theoretical enterprise.

LBird wrote:
Now, we've got the 'real concrete' and the 'imagined concrete', according to Khawaga.

Mind you, these are Marx's concepts and I've already used them above, several times. The "real concrete" are the real social relations, existing independently of theory. The "imagined concrete" is the immediate mental representation of the "real concrete". Marx is being an "anti-empiricist" insofar he says the "imagined concrete" cannot form the start of the presentation of his theory because it would lead to confusions.

LBird wrote:
If these are terms with actual content, why not use different words, to give us 'fickos' half a chance to follow the discussion?

Well, these are words that Marx uses, and most of the marxist methodological discourse after him. I'm using them here as well to help you find your way around these discussions.