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Re: [xmca] Peter Smagorinsky on concepts
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] Peter Smagorinsky on concepts
- From: Andy Blunden <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2012 15:23:20 +1100
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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
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 <email@example.com
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
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
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
"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.
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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