Totality

Norman Feltes bignoise at YorkU.CA
Sun Nov 20 07:51:12 MST 1994


	On Nov 19,  2:45pm, Jonathan P. Beasley-Murray wrote:
> Subject: Re: Totality
> On Thu, 17 Nov 1994, Jukka Laari wrote:
>
> > What if historicizing is always (?) totalizing? And what if that could
> > mean in modern vocabulary 'context specific analysis' or something like
> > that?
>
> The first point seems to be Jameson's, and that's the one I'd like to
> dispute.  And I think that "context specific analysis" is something quite
> different (no mere translation).
>
> > I mean that one can think 'abstractly', that is, without considering the
> > relations of subject under consideration to other subjects and their
> > relations to some other subjects etc. Or one can think 'concretely' by
> > taking into consideration those relations etc...
>
> Isn't a totality necessarily abstract?
>
> > After all, we all have our own totalities in our heads, don't we?
>
> I think emphasizing connections and so forth--the local specificities
> that mean that the island of Reunion is somehow connected to my idea of
> what I'm having for lunch today--is fine, but is different from
> totalization.  It's when we take what we have in our heads (as it were)
> for a totality that we run into trouble: then we (I) become the single
> guiding principle of these otherwise disparate conceptions and things.
> Isn't the real moment of critique the moment when we acknowledge the
> insufficiency of any such pseudo-totality, whether it be premised on the
> individual, the institution, the State, or the mode of production?
>
> > On the other hand, there is real danger with totalizing thinking as
> > Jonathan said. But that is not a 'cognitive' or 'epistemological'
> > problem, rather a practico-moral one: how should we relate to our
> > conceptions and knowledge?
>
> These questions don't seem so separable to me.  How can you have a
> totality at the level of thought, but not at the level of practice?  I
> mean, isn't that the standard (circular) critique of marxism based on the
> former Eastern Europe: the theory is totalizing, therefore so is the
> established State; the established State is totalitarian, this shows the
> problem with a totalizing theory.
>
> I'm still intrigued with the ideas of other forms of totality (to make
> connections with the "chaos" thread, how about fractal, always
> insufficient, occupations of a plane?), but I think the simple Hegelian
> totality (back to Althusser's critique) invoked by Jameson among others
> doesn't do it for me.
>
> > Yours: Jukka Laari
>
> Take care
>
> Jon
>
> Jon Beasley-Murray
> Literature Program
> Duke University
> jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
n>
>-- End of excerpt from Jonathan P. Beasley-Murray
Sorry for the long "wrote - wrote" sequence, but this seems the only way I
can reply, given my understanding of my software. (As a pre- or fore-thought,
I would like to add mine to the voices advising not splitting the list;
especially as a Canadian not familiar with persons and group(lets) on the
left in the States, it is useful to be in some sort of touch with economosts,
philosophers, feminist philosophers, even Hayeckians.) But I want to ask why
the Althusserian/Poulantzian mode of analyzing totality -"a decentred
structure in dominance," etc. - doesn't work. I am not interested in starting
a discussion of "the last instance," just to say that that analysis seems to
work, in practice, anyway.

Norm Feltes
bignoise at yorku.ca				



     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list