Stephen Jay Gould interview

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Dec 23 09:03:39 MST 1999

>>> Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at> 12/23/99 12:53AM >>>
Gould should have said, "It's like saying, 'We're going to continue to
teach English, but you don't have to teach its history anymore.  Instead,
we'll teach grammar as a Platonic ideal.'"  Literature and language should
be treated as part of history, in order to acquaint students with the alien
character of the past (i.e. what existed before the emergence of
capitalism) and thus to defamiliarize the present.  Assimilation of the
past to the present by way of Platonic ideals is an enemy of historical
materialism, and this is what Marx tries to explain to us in _Capital_.


CB: Yes, the stages of analysis of the commodity correspond roughly  to historical
stages of its development from barter through the money form to capital. In the
Preface to the First German edition of _Capital_ Marx says:

"... My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is
viewed as a process of NATURAL HISTORY, can less than any other make the individual
responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may
subjectively raise himself above them ( emphasis added CB).

Not only history , but natural history , he says ( and here we are back with Gould in
natural history).  But I think Marx means LIKE natural history, in the sense that he
says in the "Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy" that "the
material transformation of the economic conditions of production can be determined
with the precision of natural science..."  They aren't really a natural science, but
can be determined with the precision of a natural science. Perhaps this is because
with alienation , reification and commodity fetishism, people are like things, so they
simulate a natural process.


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