Whatcha reading?

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Kory
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Kory » 24 Oct 2017, 5:12pm

Silent Majority wrote:
24 Oct 2017, 5:08pm
Kory wrote:
23 Oct 2017, 7:22pm
Silent Majority wrote:
23 Oct 2017, 6:14pm
Kory wrote:
23 Oct 2017, 1:26pm
Silent Majority wrote:
23 Oct 2017, 1:10pm


I've been listening to the dude on and off for seven years, I can't help but like him in spite of myself.
You mean you normally wouldn't?
I'd probably have less time for him if I'd encountered him at this point in my life, opposed to listening to him being a thoughtful, aggressive failure from the age of 20.
I only got into him about three years ago. Maybe if you were more of a failure like me, you'd be open to it.
Sir, I'm quite the failure, let me assure you.
You must be, if you're calling ME sir...
Inder:
Absolutely. Here's another collection of words:

Table salt (spoon hinge)
Octopus (Ukraine)
St. Petersburg (arms)
Ginger beer (cauliflower)
Pat Sajak (PSak)
Lamp post (self evident)
Florida Timeshare (ditto)
Heraclitus (EMI)
Developers (Developers Developers)
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Flex » 24 Oct 2017, 10:29pm

There are some pretty thoughtful critiques from the Left on the limits of Coates' analyses, but I still regard him as one of the top writers going right now.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 25 Oct 2017, 10:27am

I reread Paul Sweezy's Post-Revolutionary Society, which is a great Marxist take on the new ruling class that developed in the USSR etc. I should note that a good chunk of the book is a summary and response to Bettelheim's Class Struggles in the USSR, so the analysis is not wholly Sweezy's. In this connection I recently purchased Michael Lebowitz's the Contradictions of Real Socialism, but have yet to read it.

Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 25 Oct 2017, 10:56am

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Inder » 25 Oct 2017, 11:02am

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:56am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
You may have more success describing it as Yeezy's Theory of Capitalist Development.

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 25 Oct 2017, 11:20am

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:56am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
It's definitely the latter. :shifty:

Have I read it before? The title is certainly familiar, but I can't say that I have.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 25 Oct 2017, 11:26am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 11:20am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:56am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
It's definitely the latter. :shifty:

Have I read it before? The title is certainly familiar, but I can't say that I have.
I don't think so. I believe you went the David Harvey route for Capital.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 25 Oct 2017, 12:02pm

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 11:26am
Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 11:20am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:56am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
It's definitely the latter. :shifty:

Have I read it before? The title is certainly familiar, but I can't say that I have.
I don't think so. I believe you went the David Harvey route for Capital.
I have read a couple things by Harvey but the book that most impressed me in that vein was Moishe Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 25 Oct 2017, 12:13pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 12:02pm
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 11:26am
Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 11:20am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:56am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
It's definitely the latter. :shifty:

Have I read it before? The title is certainly familiar, but I can't say that I have.
I don't think so. I believe you went the David Harvey route for Capital.
I have read a couple things by Harvey but the book that most impressed me in that vein was Moishe Postone's Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory.
I haven't read that, but it looks interesting. It reminds me of Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically (& from what I hear, Harvey's Limits to Capital)--an attempt to derive a social theory from Capital beyond political economy. I think those attempts are interesting and worthwhile in order to check mechanistic readings of Marx, but I do think there's a real Marxian economics to be developed. In any case I've added Postone to my reading list.

As far as Harvey, I think he is a very good explicator but a poor economist. I think something similar of Andrew Kliman, except that he is speaking to the already savvy. They both are great at staying faithful to the text, but have little to offer in the way of an extension of Marx to current conditions. There's a real divide in Marxian economics between the defenders of orthodoxy and those willing to revise Marx in light of new developments in capitalism and theory.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 25 Oct 2017, 12:32pm

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 12:13pm
I haven't read that, but it looks interesting. It reminds me of Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically (& from what I hear, Harvey's Limits to Capital)
I do have a copy of Cleaver and I remember having it queued up to read—likely during a spate of Marxist reading—and then … something distracted me and it got lost. I could do well to be sent to prison for a decade or so just to catch up with reading.

A quick summary of Postone is here: http://utcp.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publication ... 09-030.pdf

(Murthy was the guy who directed my Marxism field. As stimulating and challenging as it was, my understanding was really clumsy then.)
As far as Harvey, I think he is a very good explicator but a poor economist. I think something similar of Andrew Kliman, except that he is speaking to the already savvy. They both are great at staying faithful to the text, but have little to offer in the way of an extension of Marx to current conditions. There's a real divide in Marxian economics between the defenders of orthodoxy and those willing to revise Marx in light of new developments in capitalism and theory.
How much of that, I wonder, is out of a fear that the old carbuncle is no longer of great value under late capitalism, so there's a habit to scrape away contemporary issues so that we are left with a form that better fits Marx. I'm admittedly quite stupid when it comes to economics—I can't get my head around how the statistics are arranged and interpreted—so I'm more passive than healthy when it comes to that kind of analysis.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 25 Oct 2017, 2:33pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 12:32pm
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 12:13pm
I haven't read that, but it looks interesting. It reminds me of Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically (& from what I hear, Harvey's Limits to Capital)
I do have a copy of Cleaver and I remember having it queued up to read—likely during a spate of Marxist reading—and then … something distracted me and it got lost. I could do well to be sent to prison for a decade or so just to catch up with reading.
The father of all such readings of Capital is, I think, Reading Capital, the Althusser-led volume. Finally published in a complete English translation just last year. I was briefly taken with Althusser, but found his approach to Capital a bit forced. For example, here's how he recommends reading it:
I therefore urge on the reader the following method of reading Volume One:
1. Leave Part I (Commodities and Money) deliberately on one side in a first reading.
2. Begin reading Volume One with its Part II (The Transformation of Money into Capital).
3. Read carefully Parts II, III (The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value) and IV (The Production of Relative Surplus-Value).
4. Leave Part V (The Production of Relative and Absolute Surplus-Value) on one side.
5. Read carefully Parts VI (Wages), VII (The Accumulation of Capital) and VIII (The So-called Primitive Accumulation).
6. Finally, begin to read Part I (Commodities and Money) with infinite caution, knowing that it will always be extremely difficult to understand, even after several readings of the other Parts, without the help of a certain number of deeper explanations.

I guarantee that those readers who are prepared to observe this order of reading scrupulously, remembering what I have said about the political and theoretical difficulties of every reading of Capital, will not regret it.
Althusser was an anti-Hegelian, and as I recall Part I shows the greatest influence of Hegel, so no surprise that you're supposed to set it aside for last. Anyway, the idea is to get more than just political economy out of the book.
A quick summary of Postone is here: http://utcp.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publication ... 09-030.pdf

(Murthy was the guy who directed my Marxism field. As stimulating and challenging as it was, my understanding was really clumsy then.)
Thanks!
How much of that, I wonder, is out of a fear that the old carbuncle is no longer of great value under late capitalism, so there's a habit to scrape away contemporary issues so that we are left with a form that better fits Marx. I'm admittedly quite stupid when it comes to economics—I can't get my head around how the statistics are arranged and interpreted—so I'm more passive than healthy when it comes to that kind of analysis.
There are a few problems when it comes to working out Marx's political economy:
1. Capital, his mature statement, is incomplete.
2. Volumes two and three were put together by Engels.
3. His other economic works, whether published or manuscript, reflect different projects and positions than Capital. So using them as supplemental can be problematic.

For some Marxists, the project of Marxian political economy becomes a matter of working out and demonstrating the internal coherence of Marx's body of work on the critique of political economy. I think this is an appealing venture because it's all down to textual reasoning, and academics often love to work off of texts alone. The twofold value of the theory as 1. an explanation of capitalism, and 2. a tool for changing the world, recedes in favor of working out a textual interpretation that demonstrates coherence. The pithy line from Kliman, "the economists have changed Marx, in various ways; the point is to interpret him--correctly" more or less sums up those who view Marxian political economy in this way. That said, they will eventually look to apply this interpretation of Marx to contemporary economic phenomena, but generally do so as part of polemic with those Marxians willing to revise the theory. The idea is that they are keeping orthodoxy.

I am being a bit harsh on these Marxians, but so it goes. I associate this impulse with Trotskyism and sometimes with left-communists who are punctilious about being orthodox. For some reason those coming out of an engagement with Marxism-Leninism (i.e. Stalinism) and Maoism have been less interested in the purity of theory, despite their reputation as dogmatists. This could be because those tendencies have had to wrestle with the problems of really existing socialism, whereas Trotskyists and council communists (for the latter, in my view most unfortunately) have never successfully led a revolution and had to deal with post-revolutionary society.

On the other hand, there are Marxians who are more concerned about explaining recent developments in capitalism than about producing a textually-sound orthodox political economy. I would count the Monthly Review school around Sweezy as the biggest representative of this approach. That said, there are others who aren't orthodox but also disagree with the Monthly Review theories. This broad camp is generally willing to take influence from Keynes, Kalecki, and other economists outside of Marxism. Notably, the Sweezy school (inspired initially by Lenin's "weak links" idea) implies that revolutionary activity will be more common on the tumultuous, super-exploited periphery than in the stagnant centers. This is generally offensive to Trotskyists, whose permanent revolution theory requires the western proletariat (i.e. the workers at the economic-imperial centers) revolt in order to secure the revolutions at the periphery, which are seen as secondary, and more important as a stimulus to revolution in the center. This is why you'll see Trotskyism criticized as eurocentric, and I think it drives a lot of the Trotskyist interest in formulating an orthodox Marxist position--it recenters the western proletariat as the subject of history.

My own approach is to look at how the theory squares with reality and what it suggests about social change. For me, the Monthly Review school better explains economic phenomena than orthodox schools. Sure, they use Kalecki and to a lesser extent Keynes to supplement Marx. So what? If one takes Marxism's pretensions to science seriously, then treating Marx as a biblical text is going to be counterproductive. I also find the Monthly Review theory of surplus waste extremely convincing, particularly dealing with the kind of financialization that led to the 2008 collapse. It seems clear to me that the system is choking on surplus, and we're dealing with crises of overaccumulation/underconsumption. Trotskyists slam this school for suggesting that there are countervailing tendencies that keep capitalism operating without collapsing due to a falling rate of profit. Well, we've had years and years of predictions of total collapse, but it seems to me that capitalism is going to keep running until it makes the globe unlivable unless people actively overthrow it. Maybe this gets rid of the inevitability thesis, but so what? I do think that the contradictions of capitalism are going to destroy it, but we're dealing with a long-term problem and a system that is inventive at sustaining itself.

For a brief piece on surplus waste, see:
https://monthlyreview.org/2016/07/01/su ... apitalism/

One of the criticisms of the Monthly Review school is that underconsumption/overaccumulation implies that capitalism could sustain itself by assigning waste to the welfare state, i.e. by becoming social-democratic. So for some this means the theory suggests a reformist position (revisionism in Marxist parlance). On the contrary, I think it's illustrative of the fundamental antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. There is such an excess of surplus, and yet the capitalists continue to pursue neoliberal destruction of the welfare state. The income disparity between capital and labor, together with the stripping away of welfare state protections, indicates that even when it may be in the interests of capital to accommodate labor (by assigning surplus to the welfare state or reducing the rate of exploitation), capital is incapable of doing it. See also the fundamental irrationality of capital with respect to the environmental crisis.

Anyway, I wrote a lot more than I intended to and probably bored everybody to tears.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 25 Oct 2017, 2:59pm

I won't break down your post, but I do appreciate the meat to chew on. I'll just add, tho, that it's a challenge we all have whenever use some kind of theory. What are we using it for? Are we using it to prove that the theorist is correct or are we using it because we want to understand something better (or to change the world in some way)? Our goals matter and they do affect how self-critical we're willing to be. Do we use some strand of Marxism to prove he was right and we're right be using him, or is it because we want to understand some phenomena better and wonder if Marxism will get us there? The former lends itself to purism, the latter more flexibility (at best) or misapplication (at worst). That I'm not a Marxist as been important, I think, in how I've used (and probably abused) some of the concepts.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 25 Oct 2017, 3:18pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 2:59pm
I won't break down your post, but I do appreciate the meat to chew on. I'll just add, tho, that it's a challenge we all have whenever use some kind of theory. What are we using it for? Are we using it to prove that the theorist is correct or are we using it because we want to understand something better (or to change the world in some way)? Our goals matter and they do affect how self-critical we're willing to be. Do we use some strand of Marxism to prove he was right and we're right be using him, or is it because we want to understand some phenomena better and wonder if Marxism will get us there? The former lends itself to purism, the latter more flexibility (at best) or misapplication (at worst). That I'm not a Marxist as been important, I think, in how I've used (and probably abused) some of the concepts.
I wouldn't expect anybody to reply point by point to that monstrous post!

I can't help but be influenced by Rorty here in rejecting purism in favor of "how does this theory apply, and does it apply well?"

I think it's telling that Kliman's project seems to be exegetical. I think he even uses the term exegesis. That orthodoxy requires him to deny that wages have declined before 2008 because it would contradict the theory (& so he says that a portion of wages are occluded within benefits etc.) that relies on the law of the tendency of falling rate of profit. He discounts neoliberalism as a development, arguing that capitalism is more or less the same as it was in Marx's time. So there has been no increasing exploitation of labor except after 2008 (as a response to the crisis). I am just not convinced by this. Contrast with the MR school's take on wages:
https://monthlyreview.org/2013/03/01/cl ... ing-share/
I think the latter is more in accord with reality.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 25 Oct 2017, 3:40pm

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 3:18pm
Dr. Medulla wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 2:59pm
I won't break down your post, but I do appreciate the meat to chew on. I'll just add, tho, that it's a challenge we all have whenever use some kind of theory. What are we using it for? Are we using it to prove that the theorist is correct or are we using it because we want to understand something better (or to change the world in some way)? Our goals matter and they do affect how self-critical we're willing to be. Do we use some strand of Marxism to prove he was right and we're right be using him, or is it because we want to understand some phenomena better and wonder if Marxism will get us there? The former lends itself to purism, the latter more flexibility (at best) or misapplication (at worst). That I'm not a Marxist as been important, I think, in how I've used (and probably abused) some of the concepts.
I wouldn't expect anybody to reply point by point to that monstrous post!

I can't help but be influenced by Rorty here in rejecting purism in favor of "how does this theory apply, and does it apply well?"

I think it's telling that Kliman's project seems to be exegetical. I think he even uses the term exegesis. That orthodoxy requires him to deny that wages have declined before 2008 because it would contradict the theory (& so he says that a portion of wages are occluded within benefits etc.) that relies on the law of the tendency of falling rate of profit. He discounts neoliberalism as a development, arguing that capitalism is more or less the same as it was in Marx's time. So there has been no increasing exploitation of labor except after 2008 (as a response to the crisis). I am just not convinced by this. Contrast with the MR school's take on wages:
https://monthlyreview.org/2013/03/01/cl ... ing-share/
I think the latter is more in accord with reality.
I do keep coming back to that late 90s book of Rorty's, Achieving Our Country, where he chastizes those who can only see the negative in American history, nothing worthwhile to be inspired by and to build upon. It is, I think, an extension of the point you raise. If you take theory in such a pure, devotional manner—in this case, the various postmodern, post-structural, post-Marxist, post-fucking-everything theories that bred like bunnies after the 60s—reality always falls short. Rather than a standard, it's a tool that helps us appreciate reality, to work with it better towards a goal. If theory makes us feel miserable about reality rather than inspired in some way, maybe it isn't getting us to a meaningful truth, y'know? As much as I can appreciate about the Frankfurt crowd and the questions they raised, that's the main reason I reject their model—it's a depressing dead end. If the world really is a depressing dead end, I don't need a theory to confirm that. Reality will slap me in the face enough to prove it.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 26 Oct 2017, 5:06pm

the blurbs for Paul Baran's Political Economy of Growth:
I think there are few works of recent Marxist economics from which students can learn so well.
—Eric Hobsbawm

I believe it is not necessary to give evidence of the admiration I felt for Compañero Baran, as well as for his work on underdevelopment, which was so constructive in our present and still weak state of economic knowledge.
—Ernesto Che Guevara

This kind of scholarship and intelligence demands courage.
—Herbert Marcuse
that's hard to beat.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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