Footnote on spelling, Re: the vexed issue
j.bendien at wolmail.nl
Thu Jun 7 17:44:24 MDT 2001
I sincerely apologise for mispelling your name and upsetting you in this
way. I did not do it intentionally or as a Freudian slip. It is true,
sometimes I "read" what I expect to see, rather than what is actually there
(I have my share of alienations and projectionism like most people at one
time or another) and I agree this can lead to political error. I don't
claim I don't make errors, in fact I have made quite a few. But, well, live
and learn. Sometimes I have been so afraid to make errors that I don't
learn anything anymore, which isn't conducive to progress either.
However I don't assess political errors within the framework of orthodox
Marxism, as I am not a Marxist but a socialist. I find this has the
advantage that you don't have to evaluate every political action or
intellectual statement against a rigid doctrinal canon, you are not bound
to the language of orthodoxy, it makes possible a more flexible and
creative attitude to political, economic, social and cultural questions. I
had a Marxist phase, but I realised the question of socialism is really
much broader than the way Marxists envisage it. Furthermore, I've realised
that to be too fixated on a doctrine is bad for my health.
I don't think that Marx exhaustively analysed exchange relations and
processes, and I think in a lot of areas Marxist ideas badly need updating
and freed from doctrinal orthodoxies. For example, Louis has pointed out
that there is a lot more to be said about the experience of imperialism
than Marx or Lenin did, and I think that is true. The main thing I take
with me from Marx is the challenge to make socialism a movement guided by
the best scientific theory available, and that you should try to innovate
on the basis of a good knowledge of what went before (because otherwise the
innovation is likely to be a repeat of something that had already been done).
I don't quite agree with your remark about the methodology for social
analysis. According to the dialectic of the general and the particular
(favoured by Trotsky and in his own way e.g. C. Wright Mills), it would be
necessary to move both ways, from the particular to the general, and from
the general to the particular, or if you like, from the part to the whole
and from the whole to the part, or (as Mills has it) from private troubles
to public issues and back again. That is, it is necessary to relate the
general and the particular, perhaps through a series of mediating links.
This may take quite a lot of work insofar as sets of facts do not
spontaneously arrange themselves in the way you want to view them. You may
need to piece together quite a few "particulars" to develop a viewpoint of
the totality. Many Marxists I have known paid insufficient attention to
"particulars" simply because they never did any empirical research or
factfinding, they just talk about general ideas which aren't convincing.
This has little in common with Marx's method. Marx spent considerable time
sorting through and arranging "particulars". In fact when he died, his
estate included several cubic metres of Russian statistical material.
The other thing is that that I don't think there is only one correct
methodology of social analysis. As Gramsci once noted, a science has to use
a method which is appropriate to the object being studied, it is the object
which determines the choice of methods, and even then there may be
different options. From this point of view, the idea of "the scientific
method" existing independently of any particular object being studied is
wrong, a posivist mistake.
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