Re: [OPE] Character masks

Date: Wed Aug 04 2010 - 14:07:16 EDT

Don't have time to reply now. / JL

> From:
> To:
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> Subject: Character masks
> Date: Tue, 3 Aug 2010 15:10:55 +0200
> Jerry,
> Your comments sound interesting, but can you please explain:
> 1) Where and how Hegel uses the term character mask.
> 2) How Hegel's concept of character masks is related to Marx's.
> 3) What you mean by "levels of abstraction" and how this is related to
> Hegel's and Marx's concept of character masks.
> Your suggestion seems to be that character masks exist only "at a higher
> level of abstraction", while at a lower level of abstraction there exist
> only "concrete individuals". But I don't see how this has anything to do
> with Marx. It seems more like an idea you picked up from Althusser's or
> Negri's false reading of Marx.
> It is true that Marx often abstracts from individual personalities in
> describing and explaining the systematic relationships between economic
> functions and roles. His argument is that these functions and roles are
> determined by the social relations of production and exchange, and
> therefore, that individual personalities are irrelevant to the determination
> of the form of these functions and roles. Because this is so, the functions
> and roles can be analyzed independently of individual personalities. In
> other words, individuals do not make these social relations of production
> and exchange, they exist as a given, aggregate effect of their social
> co-existence.
> But in fact, as I have indicated, Marx also uses the concept of character
> mask in discussing Bonaparte's politics and other specific persons. Thus, it
> is not clear that character masks exist at any "level of abstraction"
> different from his discussion of personalities. Indeed, Marx's whole
> argument is, that particular individuals and their character masks co-exist
> at any time, compelling them to act in particular ways.
> The notion of "levels of abstraction" is rather convenient, because when
> problems of consistency arise in defining exactly what someone means, he can
> always retort that "at a different level of abstraction" the meaning is
> different. That's a useful let-out clause, that gets one off the hook, but
> it is not scientifically acceptable, because if "words mean just what you
> want them to mean", meaning is indeterminate and scientific communication
> breaks down.
> "Levels of abstraction" can also be a means of parading how intellectually
> sophisticated you are in being able to distinguish between layers and
> nuances of meaning - but if it turns out that the links between different
> levels of abstraction, insofar as they are specified at all, cannot be
> explained in any logical way, the conclusion has to be that the "levels of
> abstraction" theorist is actually unable to theorize a category with any
> consistency. He then just evades any clear definition by appealing to "a
> different level of abstraction".
> When I write a wiki article, my task is not to define what a category "could
> mean", "at a certain level of abstraction", but what it definitely does
> mean, and if I do not succeed, the article is changed by others.
> Christ Arthur pointed out to me a mistake in the article (David Fernbach,
> not Brian Pearce, translated Capital Vol. 2, which I forgot) and I am happy
> to include mention of Hegel's influence, provided that you can prove that
> Marx's concept was derived from Hegel. But in the absence of any proof, I
> leave the article the way it is.
> Jurriaan
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Received on Wed Aug 4 16:37:15 2010

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