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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Progress is the Enemy: Part 2

I wish I was not feeling quite so tired, but it is 11.45 pm and I am.

Silent Noise has responded at length to Progress is the Enemy Part 1. [ See below]What I need to do is go through the response slowly and absorb it before replying. I cannot do this right now, so what I will do is do something on my Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724 as a separate post and come back to this next week.

Photo is of ditch/ bank - part of my Galloway Levellers research project


silent noise said...

re relativism: while ‘progress’ is guided by rock-hard ideals of development, “growth”, accumulation of profit and the ‘right’ to do so, Reason, etc, what is equally complicit in this process is the relativistic thought process that allows say a scientist to justify working on a nuclear bomb or corporate-sponsored research &lobbying against environmental protection etc, e.g. “if I don’t do it someone else will” or simply the absence of any values fixed enough to resist (“I was only following orders”)… Or one of the lynchpins of consumer society, advertising, which depends on professional sofists willing to sell anything for the highest bidder. There’s a kind of connection here between the universal equivelance of money and the equivalence of all values which mirrors it; internally it also serves as a psychological mechanism which numbs all values and internal conflict in this period of alienation and hopelessness.

Revolt Against Plenty: “…some abstract pseudo-critique of the notion of progress which is post-modernism's revelry in meaninglessness - a lifeless relativism which, like the commodity form itself, makes everything - all histories and societies - interchangeably equivalent. The progress of alienation, the progress of the potential of the struggle against it, the progress of the immensity of our tasks are realities that can't be philosophised out of existence.”

Biroco: “So everything is equally valid? The stupidest most naive interpretation of say politics in Iraq from a schoolboy in middle America is just as valid as a detailed insight from a scholar of Persian teaching philosophy in Baghdad… I don't know if you are a Buddhist, but certainly many Buddhists are of the opinion that a goal is to render all distinctions null and void. But what they often forget is that this is something only possible on an absolute plane and that to attempt to apply such ideas on the relative plane leads one into error.”

Vaneigem: “...these particles of antagonism moulded into a magnetic ring whose function is to make everybody lose their bearings, to pull everyone out of himself and to scramble lines of force. Decompression is simply the control of antagonisms by power. The opposition of two terms is given its real meaning by the introduction of a third. As long as there are only two equal and opposite polarities, they neutralize each other, since each is defined by the other; as it is impossible to choose between them, we are led into the domain of tolerance and relativity which is so dear to the bourgeoisie.”

re progress… have been re-reading Debord and trying to fit it together:
Debord: 136 …The religions that evolved out of Judaism were the abstract universal recognition of an irreversible time now democratized, open to all, yet still confined to the realm of illusion. Time remained entirely orientated towards a single final event: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”… Eternity was also what humbled time in its mere irreversible flow – suppressing history as history continued – by positioning itself beyond irreversible time, as a pure point which cyclical time would enter only to be abolished.

So Debord located the shift not in Zoroaster like Boyce, but in Christianity about 1500 years later. But the point is the same at least to the extent that there is a shift in the consciousness of time (progress) that continues into modernity in secular form. (But I’m also wondering if there aren’t other religions with a definite apocalypse-type end-point other than the monotheistic & written middle eastern ones).

AL: “Where are we? Chasing Hegel the Hermeticist / Gnostic in his pursuit of the Absolute which Karl Marx turned into the pursuit of the Revolution / Eschaton and wondering if there are other ways to make some kinda sense of it all (or should that be The All?)”

But was Marx simply manipulating Hegel’s concepts founded on abstraction and theology, or did he manage to catch a glimpse of the real world that abstraction was clouding, and then on the basis of that glimpse proceed to demystify/unveil that which was repressed and unconscious within both Hegel and the religious currents that inspired him.

Debord: 138 “…modern revolutionary hopes are not an irrational sequel to the religious passion of millenarianism. The exact opposite is true: millenarianism, the expression of a revolutionary class struggle speaking the language of religion for the last time, was already a modern revolutionary tendency, lacking only the consciousness of being historical and nothing more…The peasant class could achieve a clear consciousness neither of the workings of society nor of the way to conduct its own struggle, and it was because it lacked these prerequisites of unity in its action and consciousness that the peasantry formulated its project and waged its wars according to the imagery of an earthly paradise”

Marx: “The world has for a long time possessed the dream of a thing, of which it now suffices to become aware so as to really possess it.”

“Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a supernatural being, will no longer be tempted to find the mere appearance of himself, an unman, where he seeks and must seek his true reality…This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world…The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.”

But then why pluck the flower in the first place… the point being that neither Marx nor Debord questioned industrial progress from an ecological perspective – and so theirs are critiques to be superceded too. But that supercession would also be a progress although of a different kind than what politicians, corporate experts and their advertisers have planned; a progress opposed to consensus reality and its architects. If Hegel imagined the end of history, revolutionary theory reinterprets it as the end of pre-history – a qualitative shift which is not an end-point but a new beginning. Capitalism though can evisage neither, only what Debord calls pseudo-cyclical time, the accumulation of more profits and, like an artificial intelligence working on faulty programming, its own reproduction.
And a final quote:

Debord:133 The dry, unexplained chronology that a deified authority offered to its subjects, who were supposed to accept it as the earthly fulfillment of mythic commandments, was destined to be transcended and transformed into conscious history. But for this to happen, sizeable groups of people had to have experienced real participation in history. Out of this practical communication between those who have recognized each other as possessors of a unique present, who have experienced a qualitative richness of events in their own activity and who are at home in their own era, arises the general language of historical communication. Those for whom irreversible time truly exists discover in it both the memorable and the danger of forgetting: “Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents the results of his researches, so that time will not abolish the deeds of men...”

So essential change can only come by conscious mass participation in history; a progress not based on any limited concept of Reason but something more total and wider in scope… drawing on both progress/irreversible-time and tradition/cyclical-time in an attempt to move beyond both? Let us hope that this is already beginning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How to interpret this silence?

4:27 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

The sound of one finger typing... another 3000 words on the Galloway Levellers. Blogged above.

6:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck then.

1:21 am  

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