DIALECTICS VS ANAL-MARXISM (SAYERS VS COHEN)

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Tue Apr 11 08:35:53 MDT 1995


Hi, Ralph.

As the house analytical Marxist let me say a few words in defense of my
own current of Marxist theory and indeed of G.A. Cohen, although I agree
with some of the criticisms Sayers makes here.

On Mon, 10 Apr 1995, Ralph Dumain wrote:

> 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.

Analytical philosophy is not committed to a method of analysis of the sort
described here. The name is inherited from Russell, who at one point did
have such a method, but the main currents in APh are holist. Quine is
probbaly the most influential APher in the world, and his whole career is
based onm attacking "analysis" so understood. His main legacy to
philosophy is an insistence on interconnectedness, and he explicitly
acknowledges the Marxist among the old logical positivists, Otto Neurath,
for teaching this lesson. Quine himself is quite right wing, but never
writes about politics.

Analytical Marxism, as I understand it, is just Marxism committed to
ordinary standards of argumentative rigor and scientific method. If you
think that quote-mongering isn't argument, that Marxist claims have to be
expressed clearly enough to be understood and tested, that no particular
Marxist conclusion or premise is indisputable, then you too are an AM.
Marx was, in my view. Of course there's a sort of "high church" AM,
represented by Elster and Roemer, which holds that Marxism must be
commiitted to methodological individualism and use rational choice theory
rather than functional explanation, but that's just one tendency in AM.
Lots of us don't agree.

> Cohen's commitment to the analytical school involves a deplorable
> commitment to the logic of external relations.

Well, I've never undferstood the internal relations ontology myself, so
I'm probably guilty here too.

  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.

This is fair enough.

  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'.

Well, the opposition C is invoking is between material and social. But
another AM, Charles Mills, has a persuasive argument that C has this wrong.

  Also, Cohen's view of the world is
> essentially Humean, devoid of necessary connections and
> interconnections.

This is quite right. C is an old-style empiricist. This is not a view
widely held among AM or APh generally. Richard Miller (who, alas, as since
departed from Marxism) has a a good book, _Analysing Marx_, in which he
argues that Marx offers a systematic scientific realist alternative to
empiricism of C's variety.

  Cohen is also guilty of a trans-historical
> developmentalism and functionalism, based upon a putative natural
> tendency for the productive forces to develop.

True, but I think he makes a case that Marx waas too. Incidentally Cohen
has now in part retracted his view.

  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?)

Now, now.

 The restrictive technocratic world view and
> reactionary social function of analytical philosophy is bad
> enough,

What's the reactionary social function of APh? I thought we were just
trying to makming ourselves clear.

 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.

Uh, no thanks.

--Justin Schwartz




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