Overtime (was Re: happy autoworkers)

Carrol Cox cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Mon Jul 13 06:51:07 PDT 1998

Michael, you write, "I'm sorry you found so little of redeeming value in my response to Maggie, and I agree that I may have burdened the argument with too many 'facts.' But you neatly ignored what I did have to say with respect to differences with Maggie."

Look, this medium of cyber exchanges is only a few years old, and it is not surprising that we haven't really mastered its scope and limits. I probably base my use of it too much on the model of intelligent conversation among equals, while others seem to see the political (or academic) journal as their model. There is room for the latter, and I have a good deal of both disk space and paper devoted to saving for more careful reading those posts that have really useful empirical or analytical content. I am damn sure not going to strain eye and neck muscles as well as my temper to try to read 10 screens of closely written fragments of labor history.

And your account (so far as I could glean by skimming through it) is every bit as fragmentary as Maggie's shorter account: in order not to be outrageously fragmentary you would have had to write at least 50 to 75 single-spaced pages.

I DID SAY that such posts -- separated from polemics or argument over general (i.e., basic to practice) principles -- would be of great value. But you cannot make an e-mail post do (simultaneously) the work of marshalling a large amount of data AND argue (or even clearly state) the principles which the poster believes explain that data. Exceptions are few, but there are exceptions: the whole series of long posts Mark Jones and Lou Proyect produced on global warming, fossil fuels, marxism and ecology etc. were fact filled but invaluable. But they both started out with posts that resembled Maggie's far more than your posts, and they hauled in more and more detail only as an unfolding debate with various "brown marxists" made clear in advance the framework.

(Longer, primarily empirical posts must justify themselves by being worth printing up and filing in such a way that they remain available for later reading. I almost never read the whole of such posts on screen: I skim them to see if I should print them. If they aren't worth printing and remembering, they aren't worth the trial and trouble of reading them on screen.)

So of course I did not answer any of your detailed arguments, simply because I could not derive any arguments to argue for or against from your lengthy post. I can grasp, think about, attempt to formulate various strategic and tactical implications of Maggie's post. I could myself add facts to most of your paragraphs, and I'm not either a historian or an econmist. I'm sure Maggie and others on this list could also, even without checking their notes or their library, expand those paragraphs. I suspect what ticked Maggie off was the implicit assumption in your post that you were telling her anything she did not already know. Since there was material in your post that I didn't know, I wasn't ticked off by that. I was serious in my demand for a theoretical and strategic (even if embryonic and sloppy) analysis which would make sense of your cascade of factual fragments. Only then could I decide what, if anything, your facts meant.

(As a Ph.D. in literature, I enjoy history for history's sake: it's fun. As a marxist I want to know why this history rather than that history is being presented, and why either is being presented: how does it illuminate strategy in the present. History is of tremendous importance, but you didn't give any history, you gave a sampling of facts that might or might not be shapable into marxist history.


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