There has been an overwhelming demand for my exchange with Richard Wolff forty years ago [well, two people, but in my world, that is deafening.] So I am going to propose a second-best solution. Below you will see the WORD conversion of the first page of the .pdf scan of my initial letter to Rick Wolff, Tony Callari, and Bruce Roberts. It is an unholy mess, but it is readable with effort. No self-respecting web surfer will pause for two minutes to struggle through it, but perhaps the cognoscendi, the elite insiders, will find this adequate. Let me know, and if the anwer is yes, then I will fairly quickly produce the rest.
What do you say? Think of this as archival research or the decoding of the Rosetta Stone. No one said true knowledge would be easy.
Professor Richard Wolff Mr. AntQn:ino Callari Mr o Bruce Roberta
Oentlemen (and revered colleagues):
I have read your fine paper, nMarxian and Ricardian Economics: Fm14iamental Difference au, with great interest and profito I found it enroinously helpful to me, and in considerable JU measure persuasive as regards the significant differences between the theories of Ricardo and Marxo I am not convinced of the merits of the rather high-powered methodologicli assumptions(regarding "two sciences," etc} through which you express your conclusions,
but that is an issue that can perhaps await exploration at a later dateo In this communica tion, I should like to focus my attention on two specific, but very fWldamental, po:ints.
With regard to the first, I believe that you have gone astray, philosophically; with regard to the second, I believe that you are absolutely correct, but that your case can
be made stronger, in wa ·s that I shall suggesto I am c o uc hing these reflections in the
fonn of a letter to you three, but I shall take the liberty of circulating t hem more widely to other members of our community with similar interests and concerwo I might say that availability of such a community is, for me, an experience unique in my intellectual and professional career, and a fringe benefit of incalculable value at UMasso
The two points to which I shall address J'I\YSelf are these: First, your use of the term "overdetermined,'' which I believe to be confused in non-trivial ways; and Second, your discussion of the fundamental Jifferences between Marx and the fteo-Ricardians (and Ricardo himself) on the matter of the relationship between circulation and productiono
Io The 6oncept of Overdetermination
I believe that you are using the term 11overdetermine11d in a a way that deviates both from the meaning of Freud, who introduced it into the literature, and also (perhapsl) from the meaning of Althusser, who acknowledges his debt to Freud, arrl to whom you in turn acknowledge your debto Now, ordinarily there is not much to be gained from tenninological quibbles. Macy philosophers have taken the position of the Caterpiller in Alice in Wonderland, who, when he used a word, made it mean whatever he wished it tomean:-.tzll%eilll Plato appears to have begm1 this practice, and virtually every great philosopher since has fol1owed suito Nevertheless, I intend to quibble about the meaning of the term, for this reason: I think Althusser, clearly or unclearly, was on to a very profound, very powerful, and highly problematical methodological insight when he described social formations or phenomena as " over de t e rmi ne d o11 Your quite different use of the tenn loses that power profundity, and methodological novelty, reaucing the notion• to a rather familiar one
that has long been known and used in the social sciences, particularly in functionalist sociologyo It is at least worth trying to recapture the original meaning, in order to see whether there is scrnethimJ of philosophical value in it worth preserving0 (A similar fate has been suffered by Durkheim's concept of anomie, as well as by the notion of
The notion of overdetermination is introduced by Freud (as you note, with appropriate
references), in order to deal with certain problems in the interpretation of dr e ams 0 As a result of what Freud calls condensation and displacement in the 11dr e am- wor k, " the symbolism or meaning 0£ dreams becomes highly compressedo Mxrl Through processes of
association, certain symbols or elements of the dream may take on several quite discrete an<
· not naturally related meanings; in addition, a certain meaning may turn up in several different elements of the dreamo Although Freud on occasion offers some highly tentatiYe peysiological speculations about the mechanisms of association (including, for example, the suggestion that thoughts running along spatially contiguous nerve-pathwro,s may thereby
become associated together), he clearly concluded on the basis of his clinical observatioM