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Re: Some thoughts on the CMP
by Luke Rondinaro
27 March 2002 16:19 UTC
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I just wanted to say I don't necessarily agree with either of these two assessments.  As a matter of fact, this debate over (capitalism/modes of production) categories is very relevant even if it is very theoretical, perhaps abstract, and "Scholastic." 

There is nothing wrong with "Scholasticism."  Scholasticism is a very good thing; especially - if in the midst of its disputations/debates, we not only look at the empirical foundations of the realities we study, but also throughly go over with a fined-tooth comb the very concepts, methods, principles we employ in our work.  All this is very important because it literally shapes the way we frame our arguments, discussions, and yes - even the content we study.  To quote from the old Latin phrase: (here translated) - "whatever is received is received according to the mind of the receiver."

Certainly this debate over capitalism/modes of production in history and the world system is very important.  It goes to the very heart of the phenomena/realities we study and also to the very heart of ourselves and our intellectual paradigms as we study these detailed emprical (objects/ processes/systems) in history.  We should make no mistake of it.  This debate between Frank, Wallerstein, et al, is very relevant to the heart of our scholarship and, yes, even those normative goals we work for in our 'activist-oriented' lives.

And, by the way while I'm on the subject, lets not knock Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, or Duns Scotus either in their work.  They had commendable scholarship also for their day and age and place (even if it was framed in terms of Classical Greco-Roman Philosophy of medieval Christian theology).


Luke Rondinaro

 Richard N Hutchinson <rhutchin@U.Arizona.EDU> wrote:

Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 21:26:46 -0700 (MST)
From: "Richard N Hutchinson" <rhutchin@U.Arizona.EDU> |
To: "Carl Dassbach" <dassbach@mtu.edu>
CC: wsn@csf.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Some thoughts on the CMP

Hear, hear! Bravo, Carl!

Yours is the most sensible comment on this particular debate I have ever


Carl Dassbach wrote: (specific items italicized or underlined for emphasis)(L.R.)

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,
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
.  But, I don't think that anyone else would support such a
. .

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.

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