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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A BRIEF COMMENT ON THE COMMENTS

I am now involved in teaching two courses, for which, despite my more than half century of teaching experience, I do need to prepare, so these segments on Marx will not come as rapidly as they started out. In addition, I fly to San Francisco early Friday morning to see my grandchildren, so there will be a hiatus there. But the first several parts of the Marx tutorial have elicited some very long, detailed comments from readers who are obviously extremely knowledgeable about these matters, and I thought I ought at least to acknowledge them with a brief reply.

The comments divide into two parts: extended remarks about Hegel, and criticisms of Marx's account of alienated labor. I am afraid I cannot say anything at all about the Hegel comments. I freely confess that I found them all but impenetrable. I have spent my entire fifty-five year career struggling to make difficult ideas clear and complex arguments simple, so that my students or readers can see them for exactly what they are and form their own judgments about them. It may be that with enough time and effort, one could unfold Hegel's philosophy so that it could be seen as clear and coherent, but I do not have the patience, and I have never felt the impetus to try. Let me say that this has NOTHING at all to do with what is sometimes called "Analytical Marxism," as practiced by Jon Elster or Gerald Cohen. I have had some very precise and acerbic things to say about that style of Marx interpretation, which I think is wrong-headed. [See my essay, "Methodological Individualism and Marx: Some remarks on Jon Elster, game theory, and Other things" in the CANADIAN JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY, available on-line.]

In addition, John C. Halasz has some very interesting and thoughtful criticisms of Marx's account of alienated labor. Since this tutorial is intended for readers who are not already steeped in Marx's writings and the debates about them, I have chosen not to intersperse my exposition with critique. When I have reached the end of this series of posts, if anyone is still listening, I will undertake to offer some criticisms of Marx, and at that point, I shall try to return to Mr. Halasz's comments and engage with them. I hope that is all right with everybody.

Now I must turn my attention for at least a few moments to Bentham, on whom I shall be lecturing tomorrow in the Public Policy seminar.

6 comments:

Chris said...

For what it's worth, I've found George Novack has an uncanny ability to elucidate Hegel to the layman...

Mack said...

Chris, r.e. your question about Novack: he died in '92. Cf. http://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/works/history/intro.htm

Chris said...

Oh. That wasn't my question. I know he died in 92, but I can't find anything published by him, or related to his life, after 1969 (maybe 1972). I'm wondering, simply, what he did from 69-92. Did he lose faith in Marxism, Communism, etc? Did he go senile? I'm just trying to account for his disappearance for 20 years.

john c. halasz said...

Chris:

A pdf. bio and biblio for Novack can be found here:

http://www.trotskyana.net/Trotskyists/Bio-Bibliographies/bio-bibliographies.html

Chris said...

Perfect!
Thank you.

Phersv said...

Ouch, your criticism of Elster and "Game Theory jargon" was devastating. I will never see references to the Prisoner's Dilemma and the Free-rider Problem the same way!

Did Jon Elster ever reply to your article?