[Marxism] Re.: Gilles d'Aymery --> Individualism, or Attribution?

Chris Brady cdbrady at sbcglobal.net
Sat Feb 7 12:19:34 MST 2004

I know what Gilles d’Amery is getting at about ideas over individuals.
I think his approach sides with the social collective against the
virtuoso or “Name Artist” commodified by market capitalism.  Howard Zinn
warned that people can err in accepting at face value certain
pronouncements just because they were made by respected personages,
rather than subjecting all to rigorous scrutiny.  Notice, however, that
I invoke the authority of “Howard Zinn” to make my point.

But.  I like certain “scavengers” or digests of current events, news and
analysis.  It cuts my time in front of the glowing screen.  Also, I must
admit that after years on this list, I do tend to privilege certain
names’ input, certain sources, over others, especially when pressed by
time.  I have learned that some generally contain more value for me, and
others not so much.  This is what we learn from personal history, a
record we carry in our heads that scores patterns and provides better
ways to get what we want or need.

One of my favourite mentors, a Marxist professor of Latin American
economic history, always insisted that we must attribute our sources,
and ascribe causality, and avoid the passive voice.  Later in grad
school, professors’ intoned “ab fonts”  --go to the source.  We had to
penetrate past secondary sources, if we could, and find the primaries,
the actual record, whether documents in archives, fotos and films, or
witnesses.  We had to find out who, and why, and what happened.  Marx
makes a magnificent model.  In this context, I find no small
significance in the fact that the author of the article fails to quote
Gilles himself directly as espousing the idea about ideas over people.
(“Press Hero of the Week: Gilles d’Amery” by Mark Hand, Press Action, 7
Feb. 2004,
< http://www.pressaction.com/pablog/archives/001288.html#001288>)

On the other hand, authors of works, ideas, etc., can become so closely
associated with their production, and stake their reputations of the
infallibility of their expertise so dearly, that organic development
from or tangential to that work can be stunted.  They have their
reputation to defend, because they have, in a certain and very real
sense, become the reification of their work, suddenly ossified,
fossilized, cast in stone, static, and, in bourgeois society, thus
commodified.  For the advantage of all of us, everywhere, the author or
inventor should not be hobbled by the litigious nature of bourgeois
individual responsibility that is in itself intimately wedded with the
notion and reality of private profit from the exploitation of others.  I
might suggest, however, that the solution is not so much (note the
attempt to avoid absolutist ideation) to cut the connection of creator
to the creation, but to encourage socially beneficial, organic
intellectual growth by disposing of the inhibitions forced on an
individual by the proprietary prerogatives of privatized knowledge.

Here’s to the free-for-all:

we shall have an association
in which the free development of each
is the condition for the free development of all.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list