Marx’s Experiments and Microscopes

Modes of Production, Religion, and the Method of Successive Abstractions


In Marx’s Experiments and Microscopes: Modes of Production, Religion, and the Method of Successive Abstractions, Paul B. Paolucci examines how Marx brought conventional scientific practice together with dialectical reason to produce his unique approach to sociological research.

Though scholars often interpret his work through either a dialectical framework or as an aspirant scientific contender, less common are demonstrations of how Marx brought these two forms of inquiry together in ways as familiar to the conventional scientist as they are to the experienced Marxian scholar. The book elaborates on how Marx used a method successive abstractions in his study of modes of production as well as how to apply that method to studies in political economy and the sociology of religion.

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Paul B. Paolucci, Ph.D. (2001, University of Kentucky) is Professor of Sociology at Eastern Kentucky University. His books on Karl Marx include Marx’s Scientific Dialectics (Brill, 2007), Marx and the Politics of Abstraction (Brill, 2011), and Acquiring Modernity (Brill, 2019).
List of Illustrations

 1 A Provocation and a Challenge
 2 The Nature of the Evidence
 3 Uncovering the Evidence
 4 The Method of the Book

1 Marx’s Method of Successive Abstractions
 1 Introduction
 2 Marx and the Experimental Model
  2.1 Comparisons, Lumping, Splitting, and Further Comparisons
  2.2 General Rules for Taxonomy and Comparisons
 3 The Method of Successive Abstractions
  3.1 The General Abstract, the Specific Abstract, the General Concrete, and the Specific Concrete
  3.2 Abstracting Successively, Controlled Comparison, Lumping/Splitting
  3.3 Re-abstracting in Marx’s Method
  3.4 Marx’s Method of Successive Abstractions as a Microscope
 4 Using Comparisons in the Method of Successive Abstractions
  4.1 Comparisons across Successive Abstractions
   4.1.1 General Abstract to General Abstract
   4.1.2 General Abstract to Specific Abstract
   4.1.3 General Abstract to General Concrete
   4.1.4 General Abstract to Specific Concrete
   4.1.5 Specific Abstract to Specific Abstract
   4.1.6 Specific Abstract to General Concrete
   4.1.7 Specific Abstract to Specific Concrete
   4.1.8 General Concrete to General Concrete
   4.1.9 General Concrete to Specific Concrete
   4.1.10 Specific Concrete to Specific Concrete
  4.2 Additional Guidelines for Re-abstraction and Comparison
 5 Summary and Discussion

2 Marx’s Method and Modes of Production
 1 Why Marx’s Presentation is a Problem and How to Understand it
 2 Modes of Production through the Method of Successive Abstractions
  2.1 Social Development of Productive Forces
  2.2 The Subject of Production
   2.2.1 The Natural Economy
   2.2.2 Exchange, the Commodity-Form, the Money-Form, and Trade
   2.2.3 Hoarding
   2.2.4 Merchant’s Capital
  2.3 Terms of Labor: Non-forced and Forced
  2.4 Historical Surplus-value Relations: Rent, Taxes, and Usury
   2.4.1 Landed Property and Rent
   2.4.2 Taxes
   2.4.3 Usury
 3 Marx’s Modes of Production
  3.1 Non-class versus Class Systems
  3.2 Primitive Communism
  3.3 The Ancient Mode of Production
  3.4 The Asiatic Mode of Production
  3.5 The Feudal Mode of Production
   3.5.1 Trade, Usury, Money-Rent, and the Transition to Capitalism
   3.5.2 Landed Property and the Transition to Capitalism
   3.5.3 The Creation of Free Wage-Laborers and the Transition to Capitalism
   3.5.4 Colonialism and the Transition to Capitalism
  3.6 The Capitalist Mode of Production
 4 Discussion

3 Slavery, Capitalist Development, and the Method of Successive Abstractions
 1 Introduction
 2 Slavery and the Method of Successive Abstractions
  2.1 Ancient and Asiatic Labor: Plebeians, Peasants, and Serfs Compared to Slavery
  2.2 Feudal Peasant and Serf-Corvée Labor Compared to Slavery in General
  2.3 Slavery Compared to Wage-Labor
  2.4 Comparing Slavery, Serfdom, and Wage-Labor with Each Other
  2.5 Comparing Slavery between Systems: Rome v. the Americas
  2.6 Comparing Slavery within Systems: British Slavery v. American Slavery
 3 Capitalism and the Method of Successive Abstractions
  3.1 Capitalism and Production in General
  3.2 Capitalism and Class Systems
  3.3 Capitalism as a System
   3.3.1 Capitalism and Its Historical Stages
 4 Some Methodological Provisos and Observations
 5 Discussion

4 Successive Abstractions and Religion ( I ): A Conventional Approach
 1 Introduction
 2 Religion and the Method of Successive Abstractions
 3 Discussion

5 Successive Abstractions and Religion ( II ): A Historical Materialist Approach
 1 Introduction
 2 Marx’s Method and Religion
 3 Religion, Levels of Generality, and the Method of Successive Abstractions
  3.1 Humans as Animals
  3.2 Humans as Humans
  3.3 Society in General: Identities
  3.4 Society in General: Differences
 4 Summary and Some Implications of the General Model
  4.1 Religion and the Earliest Societies
  4.2 Religion from Class Societies in General to Feudalism
  4.3 Religion and Capitalism in General: Contradictions and Changes
   4.3.1 Religion and Capitalism’s Historical Development
   4.3.2 Polarization and Religious Crises
   4.3.3 Religion as Marketplace Consumption
   4.3.4 The New Generic God
 5 Discussion

6 An Essay on Religion
 1 A Provocation
 2 Morality and the Meaning of Life: A Naturalist and Historical Materialist Perspective
 3 Unreliable Narrators, Hostile Witnesses, and Evasive Measures
 4 On the Religious Proposition of God’s Existence
 5 What Is to Be Done?
 6 Capital Worship: The Ascendant Religion

7 Reflections and a Critical Evaluation
 1 Our Difficulties in Understanding Marx
 2 Omissions, Limitations, Mistakes, Objections, and Final Thoughts

Appendix to Chapter 6
All interested in the relationship of Marx’s work to the practice of sociological research, studies in political economy, and the sociology of religion.