Analytical Marxism

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Tue Apr 11 20:43:59 MDT 1995


I am trying to figure out how to upload an introductory lecture on What Is
Analytical Marxism that I gave in a seminar on this subject about four
years ago, but I can't see how to do that yet. Maybe tomorrow night.

Following is a brief summary of Erik Wright's paper by that title, from
Interrofating Inequality.

W says there are four commitments AM have:

1. To conventioinal scientific norms in theory and research;

2. To systematic conceptualization, particularly of core
concepts--attention to definitions and the logical coherence of
interconnected concepts;

3. To fine grained specification of the steps in argument, whether
scientific or ethical; reflected in the use of formal and causal models,
explicitly stated.

4. To emphasizing intentional actions of individuals.

As to 1: W says that most AM are sciebtific realists, interested in
describing the real mechanisms that bring about phenomema we're interested
in, not naive empiricists who think we can do induction on raw facts. SR
accept the theory dependence of observatuion but insist on the theory
independence of the observed.

W says that AM are skeptical of the claim that there is a distinctive
Marxist method, as opposed to the norms of just good science. Talk of
dialectical contradictions, etc., should be cashed out in terms causes,
effects, mechanisms, etc.

AM care about systematic empirical research, testing theories against
evidence in a rigorous way.

AM are not religious about Marx's views or any traditional positions, but
feel free, or obligated, to revise and reconstruct Marxist views in light
of evidence and argument.

As to 2, conceptualization.

W gives an example from his own work on class, trying to show how the
notion of a middle class can be carefully specified in terms of people
occupying multilple class positions and being subject to capitalist
forms of exploitation while expliting workers through noncapitalist forms
of exploitation, exploittaion being understood in Roemer's terms, briefly,
of the exploited having a potentially better position to withdraw to.

I'm running out of connect time, so I'll stop here. More later.

--Justin Schwartz




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