Write-Up Advice.

If your in the final stages of writing up your thesis and your stressed that you won’t make the cut, I advise the following: read some other recent theses. Some weeks back I was getting extra anxious that I wasn’t doing justice to abstract labour or the logical development of the general equivalent. Then I read a few theses by other people in my field. They didn’t even bother defining obtuse terms like reification, dialectics etc. Its not so much about making the mammoth original contribution you thought four years of work would lead to, its about putting all that old wine in some nice new bottles. I would also add it takes a lot more time to polish that new bottle and make it look sparkly clean than you think.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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8 Responses to Write-Up Advice.

  1. Jura says:

    For sanity’s sake, don’t read any theses written in Germany. I’m in the process of writing a thesis on Marx as well (my deadline’s in March) and I’ve spent the weekend reading Ingo Elbe’s Marx im Westen. Now I’m depressed and feel that everything important was already written (by Elbe or the people he writes about).

    • HR says:

      I am regularly depressed at how much smarter my German colleagues are than me. I didn’t realize that was elbe’s thesis– It seems more like a work that summarizes a few decades of work–so that is depressing. I guess you could still argue that he wrote it in an education system that hadn’t been dumbed down by the Bolonga process etc. so that we don’t have the same standard.

      Luckily, Negpot stopped translating the Elbe because the UK/anglophone scholarship is so far behind that most people rely on the sort of histories of Marxism that were written by the same people who first introduced lukacs, adorno etc to anglophone academia in the 60s. so i’ll get points for even mentioning that elbe shows their wrong. not that doing so is important, but at this point i just want to finish.

      what are you writing on? its bound to be good.

      • Jura says:

        Yeah, I think it makes sense to write something even just to introduce the “new reading of Marx” into a context where it’s still pretty much unknown.

        My thesis is about what makes Marx’s theory “critical”, in the sense that it not only presents a positive account of the capitalist mode of production, but also explains the origin of false/mystified notions of it. Following the work of some other people, I call this the “critical function” of Marx’s theory and want to show how it comes about and reconstruct the main aspects of Marx’s approach that make it possible (two, in my view: his concept of “economic category” and his approach to theory construction). The main argument I analyze is the “arc” between the simple circulation of the first few chapters (exchange of equivalents + seemingly, appropriation based on one’s own labor) and capital accumulation of the last few chapters of Vol. 1 (exchange of equivalents + appropriation based on unpaid surplus-labor). It should be possible to reconstruct this as a “reductio ad absurdum” argument.

        Of course a lot of stuff has been written on many aspects of this. The new things I’m hoping to do is to a) relate Marx to the debates in mainstream philosophy of social science, b) present Marx’s critique as a critique of “category mistakes” in political economy, using notions originating in analytic philosophy (Gilbert Ryle, mostly) and c) put forward a critique of some pre-1989 Czechoslovak reconstructions of Marx (which still struggled with the “logico-historical” reading).

      • HR says:

        I’d like to write that book or at least help in some way. I’m thinking of trying to edit an anthology of collected articles by the major figures of the new reading.

        Your thesis also very interesting and that’s not just because I wish it was a question I had drawn out in my thesis since one of the major ground of comparison i see between Marx and Western Marxists is that Marx’s idea of critique provides the positive account, whereas the later just tend presuppose their interpretation of Marx’s account and extrapolate their own notions of false/mystifications. Will any of it be available in english? are interested in publishing any of it in english?

      • Jura says:

        There’s no reply button for your last post, so I’ll reply here: I’m writing the thesis in Slovak, but hopefully some of it will later magically transform into brand new papers in English which I’ll try to get published somewhere. Depends on whether I’ll get a job at the university after finishing the PhD (not very likely to be honest!) :).

      • HR says:

        well, you could fall assbackwards into teaching PR students on a per term basis. If you need help translating it, i don’t know magic, but i’d be happy to lend a hand.

  2. “Luckily, Negpot stopped translating the Elbe”

    Not really, I fully intend to finish it (only one part left anyway), it’s just that paid work got in the way. In fact, I kind of wanted to get it out there before university starts in the fall.

    • HR says:

      That’s great to hear! I can cite the whole book in my thesis. I’m also sure students will find it helpful since as Jura points out there isn’t any type of overview of the ‘new german reading’ available to us anglophone speakers. Now with PD gone we need this material more than ever.

      Come to think of it I when I rant into Peter Thomas in the pub some months back he mentioned he was working on a survey article on Backhaus. He also mentioned Tony Smith was working on translating him. So despite the loss of PD perhaps things are moving in the right direction.

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