August 7, 2020:

I like my History professor very much. He's helpful, he loves his subject, he wants me to love it too. He's happy to be available for questions, he doesn't strike the ironic pose of his two less cooperative colleagues, and he's genuinely interested in learning of the things which interest me.

Truth be told, though, at this time he's not an appropriate resource. His interests are parochially American, while mine are very radically French. He reveres Williams and Turner and Beard and Hofstadter. I'm all about the Annales School, Althusser, and Poststructuralism. For the Annales and Poststructuralism we can credit, or blame, my Falstafian Philosophy professor. I found Althusser without either of them.

I'm intrigued that while he does not understand Marx, he wants to. One day he comes to me with questions. He describes recent reading which has fired his imagination. There's been archaeological research into 18th Century farming communities in rural New York. He's not talking about the southern tobacco plantations, which he understands were mercantile. He's describing ordinary folks, the people Europeans call "peasants" but Americans call "farmers". He says, "The archaeology shows them doing what farmers have always done. Same implements, same animals, same buildings. How would Marxism say this is different from European Feudal agriculture?"

It's about their social relationships, and to lesser degree their place in the division of labor. Think about why they farm. In Feudal Europe, peasants farmed to eat. Their output was intended for personal consumption, with very small surpluses, in perfect years, to trade with the blacksmith or the miller. There were relatively few transactions structured by money, and not much surplus to trade. The American farmers he describes farmed for the market. They may have used some of their output personally, but their purpose was to sell their product for money, which they then used to buy rather than trade for their necessities. They were small businesses, the germ of later agribusiness once decades and consolidation worked their mojo. They were not peasants, they were small rural capitalists.

He doesn't understand. The way of thinking is too different. His focus is on tools and measurements of horsepower. Definitely materialist, but blind to the social relationships which define the activity. For his way of thinking, farmers exist but their relationships with others do not.

I find this blindness deeply intriguing.