Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse.Help

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Wed Aug 23 2006 - 16:49:52 EDT

Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse.HelpThanks Rakesh.

A note to all.  My point about comparing translations did not make clear that usually v. 28 does translate "Bestimmung" and its forms as "determination" or "determining", etc., and this is important.  That was the point I wanted to make.  


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Rakesh Bhandari 
  Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 1:59 PM
  Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse.Help

  I agree with your very helpful clarifications from the perspective of scientific realism, Howard.

    Hi Rakesh,

    In my original post I wondered about the use of the word 'ideal'.  I'm still not clear on this, although I agree with your description of the way experimental design controls what goes on in the laboratory.  Scientists purify in the way you describe to ensure that the causal structures that are the target of the investigation will be able to operate without other distracting natural forces confusing the inquiry.

    I also agree that abstraction works in an analogous way.  I think the thing we want to avoid here is platonizing Marx.  Abstraction allows us to ignore distracting features of the social phenomena we study in order, step by step, to focus on more and more decisive causal determinants. It's like starting with the manifestation of a disease -- say a disorder appearing on the surface of the skin -- and finding that ultimately it can be traced to a missing or wrongly placed sequence in the genetic code.  My understanding here would be that what happens in the laboratory does not become ideal because we investigate phenomena one by one under conditions of experimental control.  We continue to study real phenomena.  But by experimental methods we are able to isolate the decisive ones.

    So when we use mental abstractions to refer to real natural and social phenomena, the question always is whether our concepts pick out something in the world.  If they lose the tether reference requires and instead float off by themselves, then abstraction gets misused.  So if your meaning is that Marx has stiched together abstract concepts into a theoretical whole that enables us to refer to real social phenomena in a way that identifies their actual interconnections, then I agree. 

    In other words I have no problem with conceptually purifying the real if it means I ignore what is distracting in order to focus on existing phenomena that are more decisive in how they affect the target of my interest.  This is how I understand laboratory control operates and how I understand the Method of Political Economy.  But I think I would want to distinguish this from purifying in the sense of substituting an imagined model because it enabled me to see relations or processes that I could then try to work out in the world as it really was.  

    Here's an example from Marx of the use of the word 'ideal' that corresponds to my understanding -- we give an expression in thought that refers to only the most decisive features of the real movement of things, and hence we call the mental categories by which we refer to that real movement 'ideal'.   Do you understand it differently?

  I need to think abou this.

    Grundrisse, v. 28, p. 236, Nicolaus, 310:  "We are present at the process of its becoming. [not the becoming of the real movement but of our reconstruction of it -- note by me]  This dialectical process of becoming is only the ideal expression of the real movement through which capital comes into being.  The later relations are to be considered as a development coming out of this germ.  But it is necessary to fix the specific form in which capital exists at a certain point.  Otherwise confusion results."

    By the way -- on the point of comparisons of translations -- on a very specific point v.28 clearly overshadows Nicolaus, and that is in the translation of the absolutely crucial word, Bestimmung.   The phrase translated above as "specific form" in German is "Formbestimmung" or form determination.  Nicolaus offers the same translation, 'specific form',. but elsewhere he translates the word as "aspect" or "character" or "feature" which completely misses the generative or so to speak consequential push that attaches to Marx's German.

    Are the simple determinations of the Method of Political Economy 'ideal' and, if so, in what sense?  Or I'd be interested in other textual references you might have to Marx's use of the word.



      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Rakesh Bhandari
      Sent: Saturday, August 05, 2006 8:45 PM
      Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Grundrisse.Help

        Hi Rakesh,

        Unfortunately I expect to be out of email touch for a week, so I doubt I
        will be able to follow in my inbox.  Perhaps I will be able to pick up at
        the website.

        I wonder if you really need to think in terms of "idealized" and of a mental
        experiment regarding pure capitalism.

        True enough, water is rarely just H2O.

      Yes this is an important Bachelardian point. As Mary Tiles puts it: "Bachlard insisted that the object of laboratory study are not natural givens. The laboratory is a carefully controlled environment in which the object of study is carefully prepared and shielded from interference or contamination, in an effort to analyze by isolating the particular aspect to be studied....Thus in response to Descartes' discussion of a piece of wax, Bachelard says: "The physicist doesn't take wax straight from the hive, but wax which is as pure as possible, chemically well defined, isolated as the result of a long series of methodical manipulations. The wax chosen is thus in a way a precise moment of the method of objectivation. It retains none of the odor of the flowers from which it was gathered, but it ears proof of the care with which it was purified. In other words, it is realized in its experimental manfacture. Without this experimental manufacture, such a wax--in the pure form which is not its natural form--would not have come into existence."

      Of course Marx realized that "In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both."

      In other words, he could only create a purified capitalism through idealization. Which is exactly what he did as he then gave us a complete theory thereof. He did not leave us with a torso of a work.

      That Marx created a purified capitalism through the force of abstraction does not make his theory any less realistic than laboratory work on the purified chemicals that are themselves not natural givens.

      Jurriaan does not seem to realize that Marx's object is not unrealistic simply because its object is an
      idealization. So he continues to heap insult on me:

        f people do not

        know how to study a real object, real history, or real facts then that is

        because they haven't reflected sufficiently and critically about how these

        things have been studied before. But obviously endless disputes about

        "method" without actually using the method for the purpose for which it was

        intended are useless.

      But scientists don't study natural givens. They create the objects of their study. This Marx did too.
      And self consciously. Meaning that he understood the activist nature of scientific work long
      before Bachelard. Which is another sign of his world historical brilliance.

      Yours, Rakesh

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