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Re: [xmca] Polls are closed: Manfred Holodynsk's article is choice

Hi Brecht,

What you have written makes a lot of sense to me. Surely you would agree that we need to take all of that complexity into account, if we are to understand in any profound way even something as seemingly simple as the emotion of a bank teller. But the notion of "project" makes no reference to the structures and processes that you have spelled out so eloquently.

I suppose we could understand a person's actions, and their emotions, in  terms of a  "project" if we simply take for granted, and treat as a mere background, the entire social world that makes projects (and the people take up and engage in them) possible. But we would need to take for granted all the institutional facts (votes decides the political leaders, etc.) the societal meanings (red traffic light means stop; etc), the resources that are, or are not, to hand when someone commits to a project, and the goals that become feasible in that project. We would have to take for granted the fact that some *projects* but not others are available in an existing social world. Making lots of money is an available project in most social worlds; leading a chivalric quest is not. Why not? Because the social world defines possible ways to be, and determines the availability of the means to become that way. 

Take all that for granted, and you could focus on people's activity as a project that goes on against that background. 

Do so, however, and you lose any possibility of explaining how it is that people's activity arranges (often without their intention) the reproduction (and hopefully transformation) of their social world. That world has becomes a mere playing field, static and ahistorical, without origins or transformations. 

What you have done is evidently something entirely different. You have explored and articulated the cycles of production and exchange that people are necessarily involved in (the bank teller has to earn a living; the bank plays a central role in the running of contemporary capitalism), and also the cycles of *re*production that are required. Within all of that complexity, projects become possible. But we can hardly say that a project is the basic unit of human activity. I think you'd agree with me that it's wise to follow LSV's advice and ensure that our fundamental unit of analysis retains the key characteristics of the whole that we are trying to understand. One of the key characteristics of any society is that it has to arrange for its own reproduction in time and space (and for capitalism that also means expansion), along with the reproduction of the people (the classes of people) who participate in it. A project doesn't have any of those characteristics. A project doesn't carry within in its own reproduction, or the reproduction of the people who engage in it. It comes to an end once a problem is solved.

So I think you have nicely illustrated the point I wanted to make. (Take care of yourself in the field.)


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