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These are just notes yo.

A bullet of how I might proceed in this discussion: A. Let’s make the following suppositions 1. It is possible to be ‘scientific’, but that what constitutes ‘science’ is a contested set of tools and methods for approaching the things we observe, as in the things we sense in the broadest notion of the verb -to sense.   2. The way one goes about ‘being scientific’ varies and must vary from one field and context in that field to the next.  

3. Our field is a matrix of constructed/constructing fields, the social. The social is an insanely complicated collection of agents bearing their habitus and shaping the bearing of it. What I like about the Turner piece is that it reminds us of the need for representations, models, theories as a sort of ‘language of sociology’ – but only with the understanding that these are indeed ‘just models’ and mappings to provide some method for discussing occurrence and concepts of occurrence, an attempt to gain the ‘clear definitions’ Weber, Durkheim and Marx all through method and constant definition.  I think Bourdieu provides an aside that I feel comfortable with just before he presents this convincingly complex model of ‘the space of social positions’ (Bourdieu, 128): “…this diagram does not aim to be the crystal ball in which the alchemists claimed to see at a glance everything happening in the world; and like mathematicians who also treat what they call ‘imaginary’ as a necessary evil, I am tempted to withdraw it in the very act of presenting it. For there is reason to fear that it will encourage readings which will reduce the homologies between systems of differences to direct, mechanical relationships between groups and properties; or that it will encourage the form of voyeurism which is inherent in the objectivist intention, putting the sociologist in the role of the lame devil who takes off the roofs and reveals the secrets of domestic life to his fascinated readers” (Bourdieu, 126) Bourdieu invites in some respects the same question Engels prefaced in Marx’s challenge to the science of political economy: 

“Political economy has generally been content to take, just as they were, the terms of commercial and industrial life, and to operate with them, entirely failing to see that by so doing it confined itself within the narrow circle of ideas expressed by those terms…classical political economy never went beyond the received notions, and therefore never arrived at a clear comprehension” (Engels in Marx, 111). A clear comprehension never entirely clear by the very fact it must always be re-clarified. “You have to confess before you profess” Art Homer, professor of poetry at my Bachelor alma mater use to say. However,   We must cause our definitions, which are really our perceptions plotted out, to confess. While Turner provides what I feel to be an excellent reference for thinking about the structure of theory (which I digested really well thanks to all the ‘all other things equal’ in the language of Capital 1-3) he does not go far enough with his: “The goal of sociology is to gain knowledge about the nature of human organization.” (Turner, 1).  Bourdieu invites us, and in a wonderfully explicit manner, to acknowledge that in claiming the ‘right’ to study society in this way we have a responsibility to use our specialization in a way that ‘writes -diagnoses /and/ prescribes- with understanding’. It is not enough to merely view and describe the what is. It is vital to invite discussion among as many people as possible; with as much information and ‘understanding’ as possible as to what we like and dislike about the social in which we now endure. We are invited into the question, what does our research mean? Why do I research what I do? For whom? Why do I research it this way? What do I think about this situation? What can I do about it? How does what I do effect the production of it? At the very least we must try.  As my friend ‘Maeffro’, a Bachelor of the fine arts program at the University of Iowa (theater) once related the sentiment, ‘a hero is a man who does what he can’. Maeffro now works with the mentally disabled and participates in the production of theater and music. His sentiment is transcribed here like ‘the words of the plumber’.   Social science cannot be neutral not merely because the researcher is positioned in so many related positions in so many related fields but because those fields and all the capital brought to them are never neutral, they are perpetually contested, dominated, and defined. But this cannot just be polemically achieved. There is responsibility in the research process itself, a responsibility of understanding; of understanding the world of the subject without necessarily imposing your own categories of meaning upon them. Of being aware of the loss of fidelity and the ‘true fidelity’ achieved in the act of transcribing our sense of the subjects who become our objects and the modesty that demands on the part of the social scientist.  There is an act of representation. I enjoy also how Bourdieu establishes sociology as the ‘opposite of journalism’. In light of the above discussion of ‘what is social science’ it neatly summarizes much of what I dislike in much of the approach applied and reproduced in the field of journalism; precisely why the imperative to challenge concepts like ‘professional’ and probe deeper into the role of author as authority; the way in which authority is accumulated, exercised, produced and reproduced, challenged and changed. 



  1. I have been very fond of the preoccupation found in Marxist Humanism, but I have just posted some terrible news about the bigotry of Karl Marx… Please stop by and offer your thoughts if you like

  2. Thank you, Samrocha, for your comment. I hope to engage with this, and the information on your blog with the levity and depth it deserves (certainly it deserves far more attention than five one-sentence and context-les quotes and a rather smug, short and unreflexive paragraph). In short your comment raises for me the following important questions:

    1. What is ‘anti-semitism’, how do we identify it, and by extension what does it mean to be (at what point does one become) an ‘anti-semite’?

    2. Why is ‘anti-semitism’ distinguished in common discourse as a particular form of bigotry? What distinguishes ‘anti-semitism’ from racism or forms of religious persecution?

    3. How does time and context influence and inform the way in which we perceive bigotry? In other words how do we reconcile today’s codes of ‘civility’ with the codes of the past? Must we abandon all scientific and artistic works developed in a time when the norm of social interaction was in terms we of today widely consider to be sexist, racist, or ‘anti-semitic’. In other words how much leverage does ‘Zeitgeist’ allow?

    4. Assuming Marx was a bigot, how does that influence the way we should approach the body of work (the vast majority of which is now not penned by Marx) known as Marxism? At want point does an individual’s bigotry taint the body of their work to such an extent that it becomes merely a ‘deeply bigoted ideology’. For example, is the ideology of Thomas Jefferson a ‘deeply racist ideology’ because of his ownership of slaves? Must we then therefore abandon the project of American Federal Republicanism based on those ghosts? In other words, must (or when must) we throw out ‘the baby with the bath water’?

    I will deal with these four questions (and others as they arise) as my school schedule permits.

    For now I will simply point out the importance of distinguishing Marx the individual from ‘marxism’, a body of social theoretical work encompassing many individuals (including Jewish individuals) throughout the course of development of the capitalist mode of production over the past 150+ years.

    Moreover, accusations of Marx’s ‘anti-semitism’ (a term I now wish to investigate in some depth) is hardly ‘news’, especially to any post, neo, or whatever marxist worth their weight in social critique. What surprises me the most is that out of the five quotes selected from 50 volumes of literature, Samrocha did not pick the easiest target of Marx’s ‘anti-semitism’, namely his ‘On The Jewish Question’, which is a critique of the Jewish socialist parties of his day for engaging in what we nowadays term ‘race politics’. Given that this is the easiest (and most common) reference to Marx’s (and to some less reflexive individuals, marxism’s) ‘anti-semitic’ stance, I will use it as the primary point of reference for my above four question. As usual, Auntie Vulgar is ever ready to grapple with the horns of the issue.

    Finally, Samrocha’s specious and factually unsupported linkage of Marx’s five quotes to ‘Mein Kampf’ needs to be addressed. While those works quoted from are readily available today, they were actually rather obscure newspaper pieces and/or unpublished or out of print works of the ‘young Marx’ until relatively recent. These works did not resurface until rediscovered by the Russian Soviet intellectuals some time later (and then repressed by Stalin due to an emmancipatory philosophy that did not sit well with the totalitarian state socialist model). It is doubtful the Nazi idealogues would have had ready access to the material, and moreover, National Socialism (a variant of Fascism) was virulantly opposed to anything remotely ‘marxist’. The fact that German National Socialism banned anything remotely Marxist (in addition to sending their Marxists of the time fleeing into exile lest they wind up in concentration camps) should be enough to refute Samrocha’s ‘causal link.’

  3. Thanks for taking the time to engage this discussion. I will offer a response that should clarify and concede to many of your points, my goal in this post was to open dialogue and I feel that was accomplished now we can begin this rich discussion I would like to offer you a context for my thoughts in an earlier post on Marx:

    “Reflections of History, Labor Value, Alienation, & Exploitation: Karl Marx the Existential Economist”

    By: Samuel Rocha, unpublished reflections, 2005

    The four concepts that I find to be most intriguing in Marx’s thought are vital to an understanding of Marx. They also seem to intertwine and overlap quite nicely to show what my general “reading” of Marx is – i.e. a highly existential and personalist philosopher with the keen ability to apply his own metaphysics to contemporary politics. My reflections will represent a synthesis of Collins and Kivisto along with my own personal commentary.

    Conflict Theory as History
    It seems essential to this section to at least briefly discuss Marx as a conflict theorist. At the core of his conflict theory is the premise of history as an anecdote of class struggles. For Marx, the ever-present dynamic of the powerful and powerless, of the have and have-nots has formed the annals of history as stated in the famous opening line of the Manifesto. From this premise Marx supposedly becomes a conflict theorist, yet it is also Marx who understands history as deterministic towards a relative lack of conflict or class struggle in his sublime vision of communism.

    “Thus, the overcoming of capitalism and the institution of socialism is not merely an economic change, but the historical overthrowing of alienation. The world created by humans finally comes back under their own control, ending the basic estrangement of self.”

    Therefore it may appropriate to say that Marx’s analysis of history past, present, and short-term future is a theory of conflict, but his ideological teleology of socialism certainly is not a “placid pond.” The presence of conflict for Marx is not an incessant cycle; it is merely a temporary perversion. Due to this contradiction I would question the label of Marx as a ranking member of the Conflict Theorists Club.

    Labor Theory of Value
    This economical value theory is the classical understanding that:

    “the source of all value is the transformation of the natural world made by the application of labor.”
    From this Marx developed a more robust and complete understanding of labor that extends from value to profit. Marx’s economics not only places labor at the forefront of economic value, but also as the source of profit. With this understanding of labor the ownership of production, i.e. the fruit of labor, belongs to the worker and from this entitlement Marx presents a very understandable notion of labor-worker relations within capitalism built upon motifs such as exploitation, domination, and alienation.

    Marx’s concept of alienation seems to be at the very heart of his theory and rudimentary to his economics. While it appears to be the proletariat who is alienated, it seems that alienation proper is a corruption of self that plagues both bourgeoisie and proletariat. Alienation is a state of confusion that benefits the bourgeoisie economically but is personally devastating for both.

    As for the degrees of wrongdoing the alienation of the worker appears to be the worst. Since work is a natural part of self for Marx, the worker loses his or her work and thereby losing him or herself in capitalism.

    “We arrive at the result that man (the worker) feels himself to be freely active only in his animal functions – eating, drinking, and procreating, or at most also in his dwelling and in his personal adornment – while in his human functions he is reduced to an animal. The animal becomes human and the human becomes animal.”

    This is not the simple result of the latter mentioned alienation. The exploitation of the worker is an exploitation of the human person and its criminal is capitalism. Marx’s review of capitalism defines it as systemically ordered toward profits. In this standard of simple profit the aforementioned value system of Marx is categorically compromised, and the ruling class, i.e. the class who owns profitable property, dominates over those who only own their ability to work. The capitalist model objectifies men and women as whore laborers replaceable by technology. According to Marx the optimism of capitalism is that it is inherently self-destructive and therefore destined for its own demise.


  4. Samrocha. Thank you for this addition, and I am delighted to see that you are not one prone to ‘talking out of school’. Your summarization is very much appreciated and at a glance a more or less accurate, basic representation of some of the main concepts at play (at stake) in Marx’s work (at least as I am familiar with them). I know American sociology likes to categorize Marx as a ‘conflict theorist’ in an attempt to marginalize the many threads of social science emergent from the works of Marx. I’m glad to see you challenging this reductionist and marginalizing tendency which in European sociology carries much less currency. In fact the term ‘conflict theorist’ is not used in European social science, and functionalist positivism is, at least in academic circles, no longer the dominant approach. Hooray!

  5. FYI: I just posted a part I to some of your remarks… enjoy!

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