Partial Response to Rogers July 31
cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Sun Jul 30 20:18:46 MDT 1995
Perhaps I tried to cover too much in my earlier responses to Rogers and
that was one source of confusion. Here I wish to concentrate on just one point,
without exploring the further consequences of that point.
I think Lisa and I have different conceptions of the interchange between
biology and history, and hence different conceptions of when and to what extent
biological principles are of historical interest.
For the chemist I assume the world of physics is an (unchanging) given. She
focuses on the chemical relations within that relatively unchanging framework.
For the biologist I assume the worlds of physics and chemistry are
(unchanging) givens, while biology is a realm of change.
For the historian I assume the worlds of physics, chemistry, and biology
are fixed, unchanging. (That is, they change so slowly that their change has no
historical relevance.) That is, conceptions of biological change (with which
Lisa is concerned) have no real relevance for the social theorist. Human
biology is simply a fixity, and historical change occurs within that fixity.
(Eventually, of course, the human species will end: but that is too long a view
to be of political relevance.) And while a stone, a bee, an elm tree, a
molecule, can be seen as an "individual" and hence the focus of change, the
human person simply has no individual existence separate from or prior to the
social relations in which she always already finds herself. So the units of
social (historical) change are groups--clans, families, guilds, classes--not
the individual. We simply never experience ourselves as individuals (the
illusion that we do is *the* bourgeois illusion; this is the part of Caldwell's
work that retains some interest, despite the pretty complete vacuity of his
I accept what biologists have to tell me about the emergence of
"biologically modern humans." Biologists (actually, physiologists, anatomists,
biochemists, etc) are also crucial on giving ever more accurate descriptions of
our biological nature. But, as biologists, they have nothing to say about (for
example) the transformation from feudalism to capitalism or the emergence in
late paleolithic times of social relations which, ultimately, came to take the
form of what we now call private property.
This is not an answer, even a beginning of an answer, of "Whence private
property?" but it is a precondition, I think, for asking that question.
Carrol Cox Illinois State University.
--- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
More information about the Marxism