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Re: [xmca] Peter Smagorinsky on concepts

On 18 January 2012 00:55, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> This is the original "rising to the concrete," Huw:
> http://www.marxists.org/**archive/marx/works/1857/**grundrisse/ch01.htm#3<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm#3>
> In middle of that paragraph beginning "It seems to be correct ...".
> Andy
This seems to be perfectly in line with my earlier point, Andy.

"It seems to be correct to begin with the real and the concrete, with the
real precondition, thus to begin, in economics, with e.g. the population,
which is the foundation and the subject of the entire social act of
production.  However, on closer examination this proves false."

It is false to begin with the concrete and it is false that "the
population" is concrete.

"The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for example, the classes
of which it is composed. These classes in turn are an empty phrase if I am
not familiar with the elements on which they rest. E.g. wage labour,
capital, etc. These latter in turn presuppose exchange, division of labour,
prices, etc. For example, capital is nothing without wage labour, without
value, money, price etc."

The abstractions are refined and related.

"Thus, if I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic
conception [Vorstellung] of the whole, and I would then, by means of
further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts
[Begriff], from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions
until I had arrived at the simplest determinations."

If we began with "the population" as the concrete (the imagined concrete)
we would have a chaotic conception.

"From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had finally
arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic
conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and

The journey would need to be retraced because scientific minds would
realise that "ever more simple concepts" are abstractions of material
phenomena.  They would then make an abstract ascension towards a
concentration of related abstractions that explained and predicted the
concrete.  The material relations.

"The former is the path historically followed by economics at the time of
its origins. The economists of the seventeenth century, e.g., always begin
with the living whole, with population, nation, state, several states,
etc.; but they always conclude by discovering through analysis a small
number of determinant, abstract, general relations such as division of
labour, money, value, etc.  As soon as these individual moments had been
more or less firmly established and abstracted, there began the economic
systems, which ascended from the simple relations, such as labour, division
of labour, need, exchange value, to the level of the state, exchange
between nations and the world market. The latter is obviously the
scientifically correct method. The concrete is concrete because it is the
concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse."

The synthesis of many abstractions (the diverse) that approach
(authentically explain) the complex dynamics of the concrete (the material).

"It appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of
concentration, as a result, not as a point of departure, even though it is
the point of departure in reality and hence also the point of departure for
observation [Anschauung] and conception."

Many patterns overlapped, overlayed and related -- a process of
concentration (of perceiving many abstract relations in a concrete

The mental appreciation of the concrete is not the starting point for this
process of appreciation (understanding).  Yet in reality we begin our
observation and conception from the less appreciated existence of the
concrete phenomena, which we endeavour to understand, to appreciate its
material relations.

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