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Re: [xmca] Peter Smagorinsky on concepts

Huw, I think I have grasped your point about the way processes can also be structures in relation to other processes, though I don'tquite see why it is a criticism of my view. But, moving on ...

Your citations of the Grundrisse are a little confusing, because you break out of the quotation from time to time with comments, and it is not at all clear whether you are summarising Marx or criticising Marx when you do this, or whether the quote marks have been left out inadvertantly.

But can we go to a central point: the categories of "abstract" and "concrete" are both applied to concepts (whether subjective or objective) but in general both are description of concepts, and nothing in this excerpt from Marx concerns a contrast between thought and matter: rather he is talking about abstract ideas and concrete ideas. So I think your introduction of the category of the "material" into the section on the "Method of Political Economy" is quite misleading. Marx makes no reference to "material" here.

Can you explain please?


Huw Lloyd wrote:

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

    This is the original "rising to the concrete," Huw:
    In middle of that paragraph beginning "It seems to be correct ...".


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 relations."

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 phenomena).

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.


*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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