Based on primary sources, the paper reconstructs the method of abstraction used by two founding figures of modern social science: Karl Marx and Max Weber. According to both thinkers, this method plays a key role in social science. But although their views on the nature of the method are largely identical, the paper describes important differences between them in terms of (i) the cognitive goals with which the method is applied, (ii) the epistemic status of the results of its application, (iii) the criteria of correct application of the method and (iv) the supposed relation of abstraction to the distinction between the natural and the social sciences. This first part of the paper deals with the notion of abstraction which underpins Marxʼs “critique of political economy”.
Abstraction, Idealization, Marx, Reproduction in thought