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Re: [xmca] "Rising to the concrete"
On 15 August 2012 11:40, Andy Blunden <email@example.com> wrote:
> Thanks, Huw. The oppositeness of the Hegelian meaning of a bunch of words
> involved here, conceptions which are continued by Marxists even those like
> Vygotsky who never read Hegel, is a source of a lot of confusion. To make
> sense of what these people say about abstract or concrete or whatever, you
> really have to take everything they write in the context of the totality of
> their work, and in turn within the tradition in which they wrote. Otherwise
> they read like nonsense.
> Indeed, Lenin's aphorism is quite clear and self-contained:
> In order to understand it is necessary empirically to begin understanding,
> study, to rise, from empiricism to the universal. In order to learn to swim
> it is necessary to get into the water.
> By "universal" Lenin means a principle or concept, i.e., something very
> concise, which encompasses or describes a vast process such as "modern
> capitalism" or "the Russian working class." The thing itself is both
> abstract and concrete, but any immediate expe4rience, or as you say,
> measurement of it, i.e., something abstracted from it, is abstract but not
> universal. This particular worker is well-paid, but that is not a
> universal; another worker may be poorly paid. When the thinker has
> reproduced the object (e.g. Russian capitalism) in thought (in terms of a
> huge book on the topic, such as Lenin's 1895 "The Development of Capitalism
> in Russia," he (accoridng to Marx) begins with a few abstractions,
> universals, such as "capitalism," "modern industry," etc., and then brings
> these universals into relation with each other, and the various abstract
> measurements (wage levels, concentration of capital, foreign ownership
> data, etc) and recovers an image of the object which is *relatively*
> concrete. The point of Lenin's aphorism, is that before you even begin to
> think about writing that book, you have to study life, visit the workers'
> districts, study the accounts, talk to capitalists, etc., etc., i.e.,
> "empiricism", then you will probably spend a few years (23 in Marx's case)
> before you are ready to write your Magnum opus.
> Does that make sense?
I'm not sure where you're going with "both abstract and concrete", but this
doesn't seem to be the main point which hinges on universal.
The example of the worker, is applying universal as "Every", which is a
weaker version of universal as "princicple".
Both "every" and "principle" are abstractions, yes.
Measurements are abstractions.
The principle of dialectics is also an abstraction.
But the original quote is perfectly accordant with Marx.
One moves from an empirical (abstract) appreciation to a dialectic one
In other words, the universal in the quote refers to the principle by which
one attains the concrete.
Lenin is referring to process (methods), Marx is referring to form. They
are referring to the same thing.
The parts about context and experience I am happy with. However, we have a
caveat for the contextual truths and that is that principals (universals)
should apply across our historical contexts, what was a principal
(universal) then will still be a principal now.
I am perfectly happy with the description of concrete and abstract in the
glossary on the Marxists site:
Abstract and Concrete
Abstract and Concrete are philosophical concepts concerned with the
development of conceptual knowledge. An understanding of what is meant by
“abstract” and “concrete” is vital to making sense of dialectics. For Hegel
and for Marx, the contrast between abstract and
NOT mean the contrast between an idea and reality. Rather ‘A concrete
concept is the combination of many abstractions’. A concept, such as a
number or a definition, is very abstract because it indicates just one of
millions of the aspects that a concrete thing has, or a brand new idea
which has not yet accrued nuances and associations. Concepts are the more
concrete the more connections they have. If we say “The British working
class are those who work for a wage and live in the UK,” then we've made a
very *abstract* concept. To make it more concrete is to show the many
aspects of it; showing the historical circumstances of its rise and
development, the state of the world it developed in, etc.
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