Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Final Note on Methodology.

It was Avineri who once said "Anyone who adds to the already prolific literature on Marx can be expected to be accused of repetitiveness or immodesty."[Avineri 1968]I must admit to suffering from both afflictions. It should be noted that the Blogosphere was devoid of any half-hearted serious inquiry into Marx and Marx alone.

It is of course important to recognize the historical origins of Marx's thought. Most of you who will read this blog are probably well aware of one conventional ( I might say orthodox ) look at his beginnings.

Tradition supposes a trifecta of influences : English Political Economy (Smith & Ricardo) French Socialism , and German Idealism (Hegel & Feuerbach.) One cannot deny those influences and the profound effect they have had on the work of Marx.

What I will suggest ; however, is to look at Marx's work in a different way. One must situate Marx's work in the historical period it is from, and grasp the development of Marx's work over time. In other words , Marx at different times believes different things, he changes his mind, he will contradict himself. This should not be used against him , he was not a prophet , but a man.

Second , a recognition that Marx's work consists largely of works of criticism and diatribes against his enemies. Thomas Sowell rightly points out that "because many of these doctrines have disapeared...later interperters... have not fully understood the real thrusts and limits of [his] words."

Third, Much of Marx's work came late to English speaking peoples. The Paris Manuscripts were not published until 1932. And popular English translations came only later. It was not until the 1960's that that the current view of Western Marxism ( Marxist Humanism ala Perry Anderson) came into being.

Finally, Marx was a dialectician. It was his method of inquiry and presentation but a full defense and explanation must await a future post.
Bertell Ollman quotes Vilfredo Pareto's comments on Marx's "peculiar" use of his words : "... they are like bats, one can see in them both birds and rats." [Ollman 1976 (2nd edition)]

Coupled together , we can see that viewing Marx from this perspective will illuminate a vastly different Marx than one finds popularly digested. It is my hope that I will be able to bring to light this view.

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