Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Comments on Joao Paulo's comments on the EPM on July 31

Great comments. What I will do here is make some comments on Joao

Paulo’s first two points on the EPM, since both his comments and my

responses are LESS controversial – anything anyone says about Marx

can be, and will be, argued about, but they are less controversial

than his following points. And these comments will be long enough

anyway, and the issues invovled in the other two points are HUGE. I

would encourage everyone to carefully read his 3d and 4th points,

since I would expect we will have a discussion on them at the summer

camp. (Some I agree with, some I disagree with, but all of them bring

up issues that I think it’s worth the time to think about, to clarify

our own ideas on.)

1) Agreed, Marx does not engage in a “founding anthropology” in

capital. But I argue it is there, and Capital makes no sense without

understanding his view of humanity. In some sense I would argue Marx

worked out his view on this in his early work, and then did not keep

writing the same thing over and over for the rest of his life (as

some mainstream economists do with their research papers). I would

argue he attacks capitalism above all because it prevents the

authentic development of humans, and if one holds that then one must

have some idea of what authentic development of humans is, hence an

underlying anthropology. But I agree Capital is about capital, not

about that anthropology. The next point continues this.

2) So it is in his early work that he presents his “founding

anthropology.” But here is an interesting point. Marx indeed as Joao

Paulo says defines it negatively, not positively. And I would argue

he has to define it that way, by his method. Recall he is for history

(and in particular humans in struggle) showing the answers. But what

a society can show above all is how it blocks and perverts human

development. That is, since the real world always does that, we

cannot see how humans would develop if not blocked. Now Marx’s method

calls for looking at negations. So he would have some idea of what

humans could become, in some dimensions, from what they are blocked

from doing by a given society (developing their collective powers and

consciousness, etc). But using the method of negation only gives

general ideas of the alternatives, since a given concrete positive

can be negated many ways – it is not that only one negation of a

given reality is possible and therefore we know what we will get if

we negate the exiting conditions. (History is highly contingent and

all that, notwithstanding the existence of laws of motion of social

formations – certainly a point we will want to talk about) Connected

to this is always the point that Marx sees things, including human

development, as processes. So as we break down the barriers imposed

on human development by capitalism, we will develop, let us say

(hopefully!), a socialist society. But that too will have barriers

that will need be broken down to develop still further, into a

communist society. And if we believe that history will not come to an

end, that human development is a process and not some end state, then

communism too must present barriers to human development that will

need be broken down, need be surpassed, for further human

development. But the point is that by the time we start to talk about

communism, and certainly by the time we start to talk about what will

come after communism, we just do not have enough to go on. The things

that will need be broken down to move on have not even been created

as reactions to breaking down capitalist barriers. Hence the obvious

point, the further into the future we look, the more fuzzy and

inexact our vision of even what the possibilities are.

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