Saturday, February 27, 2010

Form and content

Completely forgot to mention this when writing the previous post. Those of you interested in Marx's style of writing - and in issues relating to writing in general - might want to consider the extent to which his occasionally peculiar style (a mix of equations, Dante, factory reports, ancient Greek, etc.) corresponds to issues of form and content. The relation of form to content is obviously a very broad issue with lots of possible applications, but what I'm referring to here is the extent to which what you say might determine how you say it; i.e. the notion that certain forms of expression might be more or less adequate to the content that they articulate.

You don't need Hegel for this problem, and you certainly don't need him to talk about it, but he might help illustrate it. Hegel wants unity with the Absolute, and yet he has to talk about the Absolute, thus remaining separated from it in a sense. He tries to solve the problem by saying that we become one with the Absolute through the process of learning and expressing our unity with it (see also Hegel's early, oddly mystical attempts to express his system in diagrammatic form, later abandoned for being too representational, and compare this to the consequently flawed but interesting interactive Hegel found here)

Marx obviously doesn't have to worry about such problems (or at least he doesn't have the same problems; you could perhaps go from form and content in Marx to theory and practice), but he does seem to touch on issues of form and content at least once of twice. See for example p.442-3:

"...The latter aspect will not be considered until the first section of Volume 3 of this work. In order that we may treat them in their proper context, many other points relevant here have also been relegated to the third volume. The particular course taken by our analysis forces this tearing apart of the object under investigation; this corresponds also to the spirit of capitalist production."

...might be interesting to relate this to the great lists that Marx reels out in this chapter (see pages 461-2, perhaps 478 and perhaps also the summary on 447)


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