DIALECTICS VS ANAL-MARXISM (SAYERS VS COHEN)

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Mon Apr 10 22:17:48 MDT 1995


Notes on:

Sayers, Sean.  "Marxism and the dialectical method: a critique of
G.A. Cohen", RADICAL PHILOSOPHY, Spring 1984, p. 4-13.

Since I blasted Sayers in my review of his debate with Norman, I
thought it only fair to give credit where due and praise him for
his proctological expertise applied to anal-ytical Marxism in the
person of G.A. Cohen.  Here is Sayers' argument.

Analytical philosophy, whatever its pretensions, has no monopoly
on clarity or rigor.  Sayers admits the validity of the technique
of analysis, or breaking up the whole into component parts, but he
is quite critical of the finality of such a view of the world.
Cohen's commitment to the analytical school involves a deplorable
commitment to the logic of external relations.  Particularly
questionable is his treatment of the forces of production and the
relations of production as entirely separate and distinct
entities.  An example is Cohen's distorted treatment of Marx's
social analysis of the machine.  Sayers also criticizes Cohen's
treatment of relations and properties, particularly Cohen's
delineation of a thing's material properties as opposed to its
'relational properties'.  Also, Cohen's view of the world is
essentially Humean, devoid of necessary connections and
interconnections.  Cohen is also guilty of a trans-historical
developmentalism and functionalism, based upon a putative natural
tendency for the productive forces to develop.  A greater violence
to and distortion of Marx's dialectical world-view is scarcely
imaginable.

Sayers has done his duty this time.  (There were no references to
Mao either.  Coincidence?  Or is the exercise of one's
intelligence inversely proportional to the proximity of the Great
Helmsman?)  The restrictive technocratic world view and
reactionary social function of analytical philosophy is bad
enough, but to see Marxism infected with it is more than I can
stomach.  Wouldn't you just love to bend Quine over his desk, yank
down his pants, and give him the enema of his life?  If you did, I
would recommend you for tenure.

--- R. Dumain, 10 April 1995


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