Re: [xmca] déjatel¹ nost¹

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Wed Sep 03 2008 - 07:30:38 PDT

Yes, that's true. But isn't it the simplest form of the whole only because
it is part of the whole? A bottle of coke isn't a commodity if it is removed
from the economy of which it is a part. (The Gods Must Be Crazy was a
terrible movie but at least it made that point well.) Marx was, I think,
using the analysis of the commodity in order to expore the *constitution* of
the commodity.

Vygotsky takes this up in The History of the Genesis of the Higher Mental
Functions, where the unit of analysis is "fossilized" forms: tossing a dice,
tying a knot, counting on fingers. Vygotsky writes that:

"All ties connecting these formations with the system that once generated
them have died off, the ground on which they appeared has vanished, the
background of their activity has changed, they have been torn from their
system and transported in a flood of historical development to a completely
different sphere."

He then goes on to argue that despite these problems, such fossils are an
appropriate unit to study. I'm not sure whether his argument is convincing.
The point I want to emphasize here is that he sees it necessary to attempt
the argument, and this would not be the case if one could study the unit
independent of its ties to the system.


On 9/3/08 10:16 AM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> What we demand of the unit of analysis (or cell) is not that
> it is a part of the whole, but rather that it is the
> simplest form *of* the whole.
> Andy
> Martin Packer wrote:
>> Andy,
>> But to pursue the cell metaphor a bit, while the cell is certainly a unit
>> that contains the life processes that animate the body, its functioning
>> depends on its place within the body, which Marx also calls "an organic
>> whole." I'm not suggesting that there are or should be two units - I agree
>> that's the wrong way to go. It seems to me more that the unit itself has to
>> be considered as an aspect of a larger whole, with which it has a relation
>> of mutual constitution. No cells, no body. No body, no cells.
>> It always takes me forever to read and process your excerpts from Hegel! But
>> I'll give it a try. :)
>> Martin
>> On 9/3/08 9:44 AM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:
>>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>>> examine units in relation. This seems to me to suggest that although a unit
>>>> has the characteristics of the whole, this is the case only when the unit
>>>> is
>>>> examined *in* the whole. We need to study a commodity *in* capitalist
>>>> society. ...
>>> Martin, this doesn't quite figure because to do as you
>>> suggest, we have to begin with *two* units of analysis, the
>>> commodity relation and "capitalist society", which of course
>>> presumes what is to be proved. It's a cell; it *generates*
>>> the whole.
>>> Certainly, Marx has already told us that "The prerequisites
>>> with which we begin are ... the actual individuals, their
>>> activity and the material conditions of their lives," and
>>> this is the necessary foundation.
>>> You really can't say it better than Hegel (here describing
>>> how the concept of "right" acts as a "unit of analysis" for
>>> "objective spirit":
>>> "The science of right is a part of philosophy. Hence it must
>>> develop the idea, which is the reason of an object, out of
>>> the conception. It is the same thing to say that it must
>>> regard the peculiar internal development of the thing
>>> itself. Since it is a part [of philosophy], it has a
>>> definite beginning, which is the result and truth of what
>>> goes before, and this, that goes before, constitutes its
>>> so-called proof. Hence the origin of the conception of right
>>> falls outside of the science of right. ...
>>> "In philosophic knowledge the necessity of a conception is
>>> the main thing, and the process, by which it, as a result,
>>> has come into being is the proof and deduction. After the
>>> content is seen to be necessary independently, the second
>>> point is to look about for that which corresponds to it in
>>> existing ideas and modes of speech." (Introduction to the
>>> Philosophy of Right §2)
>>> So what Marx is doing in rising from the abstract to the
>>> concrete is unfolding out of the value relation a whole
>>> series of concepts which flow from it. It is a kind of
>>> thought experiment which is constantly checked against
>>> historical reality. In fact of course there never has been
>>> and never will be a society in which the commodity relation
>>> is "absolute."
>>> Andy
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Received on Wed Sep 3 07:31 PDT 2008

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