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Some thoughts on the CMP
by Carl Dassbach
23 March 2002 20:09 UTC
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The debate of whether the (a) CMP per se exists or has ever existed is
totally irrelevant.  It is Scholasticism of the worst sort (which permeates
academia and intellectual production) and equivalent to asking how many
angels can fit on the head of a pin.

If the CMP has never existed, as claimed by Frank and to a lesser extent,
IW,  then a theory of the CMP would be useless - it would neither provide us
with knowledge, nor be capable of guiding guide action.  Is Frank and
company willing to make this claim? It would seem that they would have to be
consistent.  But, I don't think that anyone else would support such a
position. .

I believe the crux of this so-called debate is the failure to recognize that
acknowledging the existence of the CMP does not exhaust, comprehend or fully
explain reality.  The CMP is to use Weberian terminology an "ideal type" or,
as Marx says in the Intro to the Grundrisse, an "abstraction."  Abstractions
can never comprehend and exhaust reality (or the "concrete") because they
are, at best, simple determinations while reality or the concrete is the
"unity of many determinations."  Reality is simply too complex to be fully
exhausted/understood through a simple set of concepts.   (Marx is clear on
this in the Intro to the Grundrisse - he is not simply explaining his method
he is also explaining the relationship of theory of the CMP to reality.
Althusser realized this, he devoted an entire book, READING CAPITAL, to the
Intro of the Grundrisse but unfortunately obscured rather than clarified the

Hence, the CMP per se has never existed, never, at least in a "pure form" as
depicted by Marx.  The CMP explains an aspect of reality but it does not
fully explain or exhaust reality - this, in my opinion, was at the heart of
the "articulation of the modes of production" literature but it was too
mechanistic because the categories (modes of production) were too static.

My point is that what is relevant is not a debate over whether a CMP exists
or has existed but whether the CMP, as a concept, provides us with
knowledge/insight into some of a social formation's historically specific
structures and their articulation.

P.S. Has anyone given any thought on the different starting points of Smith,
Ricardo and Marx.  (Of course, we know more about Marx, especially the note
in the Grundrisse that the section on the "commodity" was to be "brought
forward"and Marx discussion about the difference between the order of
exposition and the order of investigation.)  But, I still think it is worth
considering why Smith begins Wealth of Nations with an (incorrect)
discussion of the division of labor (he fails to differentiate that social
from the technical division of labor), Ricardo begins the Principles with
the a discussion of value and develops the labor theory of value and Marx
begin Capital with the commodity.

----- Original Message -----
From: "g kohler" <kohlerg@3web.net>
To: <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Sent: Saturday, March 23, 2002 11:05 AM
Subject: praxeological implications of AGF-G thesis

> The Frank-Gill thesis that there does not exist (and never has existed)
> a phase of history with a capitalist mode of production is bound to have
> some praxeological implications. For example, who or what is the bad guy
> ? (This was mentioned by another discussant.) Another question is: who
> or what is the good guy? When Galileo and friends proved that the
> Ptolemaic view of the kosmos was wrong and antiquated, they also
> relativized the power of the pope. It seems that the Frank-Gill thesis
> (a) on the scientific plane, puts Marx's view of historical stages into
> the museum of quaint historical artifacts and (b) on the praxeological
> plane, erodes the traditional Marxist claim to be, apriori and by
> definition, the vanguard of the progressive camp. Nice, I would say,
> since that creates more doctrinal space for a variety of Marxisms (none
> of which can claim to be the only heir of the true mantle) and for other
> non-Marxist varieties of progressives (including "grandmothers for peace
> and justice" or myself) and supports intra-camp democracy and
> progressive pluralism. Did I get you and IT wrong again?
> GK
> Still paying $22.95 a month for unlimited dial-up? Get 3webXS, only $9.95
a month!!!
> Switch & Save at http://www.Get3web.com/?mkid=emt001

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