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

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Sphinx Replies to Externalities

Dear Alistair. Well. I'm not going to reply to all of the Externalities business only to some of it. There is too much for that and in all honesty my familiarity with Hegel is not up to par – and that actually is maybe the big weakness of my previous reply to your 'progress is the enemy', the superficial summarizing of Hegel. Some of the ideas you throw around about Hegel are very interesting and maybe could get somewhere. That having been said I would also like to make sure you realize that I am going to the time and trouble of writing you a reply because I quite like some things you have written on your blog in the past, I could even say that they have influenced me quite substantially at times. But I am not writing to be nice but instead to criticize what I see as well lazy and sloppy thinking from a thinker I had expected so much more from.

The question of history being inevitable or not – from one point of view this question comes down to the free will vs destiny/determinism question, something philosophy grappled with but it's also a question that Crowley's Thelema as well as the Chaos Magic criticism of Thelema had to come to grips with. Are things as they are because they could be no other way or are we free to do as we will. Are we all doing our True Will or do we have to find it in order to do it or is there no such thing and we are all completely free from any external constraints. This comes down to questions of practice rather than of abstract theorizing (“a phony issue, one that is dissolved in practice rather than solved through reasoning.” - Knabb) “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” And that is Marx on the matter – and that is not the mechanical determinist that the Marxists of the Second International and its followers fetishized, but rather a dialectician resolving the question in the marriage of objective conditions and subjective self-creation/praxis. This subjective aspect of Marx is perhaps best summarized in the First Thesis on Feuerbach

“The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the Object, actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such.”
And the Third: “The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated...The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.”

Now I am certainly not advocating everything Marx said – I do not identify myself as a Marxist nor do I think it is useful to speak of Marxism as a living current any more – but Marx has to be understood if one is to come to grips with revolutionary theory and its development, and that understanding necessarily entails comprehending where the truly revolutionary aspects of Marx differ from those of the vulgar Marxists whether they are social-democrat reformists or Leninist or Trotskyist statists etc. ("Are you Marxists? Quite as much as Marx when he said, 'I am not a Marxist.'" I.S. #9) So getting back to your text the quote says “They believed that human society and individual man could be perfected by the same application of reason, and were destined to be so perfected by history. On these points bourgeois liberals and revolutionary proletarian socialists were at one.” Identifying revolutionaries with the bourgeois liberals misses a major point.

Fucking around on the internet I came across Loren Goldner's site and his review of Bloch's Principle of Hope (http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/bloch.html) which I have not read as it has gone missing from the library, but the review sparked off a little flame again (the little flame that used to be kept burning from some of your writing too). Here are some quotes:

“When The Principle of Hope appeared in Germany in 1959 (two years before Bloch's self-exile from East to West Germany), the weight of opinion throughout the West (and nowhere more than in the English-speaking world) conceived of Marxian materialism, whether in praise or damnation, as more or less indistinguishable from the bleak determinism of mid-19th century Manchesterism or the more recent Dzhanovism, the grey-ongrey world in which "the brain produces thought as the liver produces bile." For nearly a century pamphleteers and ideologues, most recently in the employ of the Soviet state and the Western European communist parties, had earned a living in amplifying this view. Just as capitalist apology and Soviet raison d'etat found a common interest in portraying the bureaucratic nightmare as "communism," so did harried epistemologists of both sides of the Cold War enjoy shrouding Marxian thought with stock phrases such as "economic determinism" and "mechanistic materialism," undergirded by "iron laws of history" grasped by the faithful in the "recognition of necessity." It is not necessary to linger here over the relatively well-known history of publications and commentaries on one hand, and the events and climate heightening their "reception," on the other, which relegated this view of Marx to well-deserved oblivion. From the international diffusion of the "1844 Manuscripts" through the decanting of the long-obscure Grundrisse to the clarification of the deep and life-long debt to Hegel evidenced in such "late" writings as the unpublished Chapter Six of Vol. 1 of Capital to the working-class upsurges of 1968-1973 and thereafter, it was as if two decades of history conspired to drive home the truth of the Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach in which Marx distinguished himself from all previous materialists by his emphasis on the active sensuous constitution of reality by real historical actors and on vulgar materialism's failure "to understand activity as objective. As one of a tiny group of early 20th-century pioneers in the "recovery" of this view of Marx, Ernst Bloch came to international prominence in the Marxist renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s as someone finally in his own element.”

“In a work that touches substantively on themes as diverse as Paracelsian alchemy, late medieval millenarianism, Kabbalah and Jewish messianism, modern physics, Indian and Chinese philosophy, opera, landscape painting, and architecture (to name only a few), it is necessary to extract certain main lines of a polemic and to situate it with respect to its principal adversaries. One might say that the three volumes of The Principle of Hope are a long footnote to Marx's remark that "humanity has long possessed a dream which it must only possess in consciousness to possess in reality." Bloch's project, situated (in his language) in the "warm" as against the "cold" stream of Marxism, is to appropriate for the concrete, practical utopia of the future the broadest spectrum of historical creations of the human imagination, to show their this-sidedness and their truth. In doing this he is merely generalizing the Marxian critique of religion to a much broader array of such creations than most Marxists would care to take on. Indeed, most Marxists, and a fortiori most commentators of Marx, rather badly misconstrue Marx's critique of religion, "the presupposition of all possible critique" as he put it, and its role in Marx's work. Marx and Bloch do not criticize religion as "wrong" from the vantage point of some reductionist "science" that possesses the truth; the project of Marx and Bloch is to show the human truth of religion (as one of several products of the human imagination in society) and to prepare for the realization of that truth in social conditions that would no longer require the illusion of religion. Bloch looks to some of the late medieval millenarians, whose heresy went to the point of negating God as an obstacle to full realization of the earthly kingdom, as antecedents of this kind of atheism, as opposed to the conventional 18th-century Enlightenment atheism usually attributed to Marx.”

“Bloch shows that the active human constitution of the world through historical activity separates Marx from any previous "Democritean" materialism. Bloch does not merely follow Marx's lead in taking over "the active side developed by idealism" (Theses on Feuerbach which takes most students of Marx no farther than Hegel and Schelling; he shows figures such as Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, and Jacob Boehme to have actually elaborated, in the Renaissance and Reformation periods, a view of humanity-in-nature as the reconciliation of natura naturans and natura naturata as discussed in theology and philosophy from Erigena to Spinoza, a conception of an active, living matter infused with imagination that was buried by GalileanNewtonian physics...instead of demarcating a world of "Geist" from the "instrumental" world of nature and natural science, Bloch follows Bruno and Paracelsus into a view of nature itself as part of the "active" side, cutting the ground from beneath vulgar, mechanical materialism in its very stronghold...The challenge posed by Bloch to the contemporary left intelligentsia, as articulated in The Principle of Hope and elsewhere, is his affirmation of a single unitary science which sees nature, matter, and the cosmos itself as a sensuous, living, and historical process which human history continues.”

“There, indeed, we have what we want!” - Hegel after reading a passage in Eckhart.
After reading that I went on to Goldner's The Renaissance and Rationality (http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/renaissance.html):

“One of the more serious errors today, of those on the left who wish to critically defend the Enlightenment, is their hurry to draw a line of direct continuity from the Enlightenment to Marx...But there was another critique of the Enlightenment afoot in Europe well before the French Revolution, the German Sturm und Drang movement, which included figures of no less stature than Herder and Goethe, and which prepared the way for another critique of the Enlightenment, romanticism....The romantic philosophers Schelling and Fichte developed an idea that also exists nowhere in the Enlightenment, except as adumbrated (at its end) by Kant: that human activity constitutes reality through its praxis. G.F.W. Hegel, who critiqued both the limits of Enlightenment and of romanticism, pulled all these elements into a philosophy of history that was, as Herzen said, the "algebra" of revolution. There would have been no "Theses on Feuerbach" without these figures, and hence no Marx as we know him today. What did the "Theses on Feuerbach" say? They said "all previous materialisms, including Feuerbach's, do not understand activity as objective". Marx here is explicitly referring to Enlightenment materialists such as Hobbes, Mersenne, and Holbach, emphasizing the importance of the "active side developed by idealism", by which he means Schelling, Fichte and Hegel, none of whom can be considered "Enlightenment" thinkers...

Another major distinction between the Enlightenment and Marx is the attitude toward religion. This is particularly important since most Marxists have tended to think that Marx's view is basically identical with that of Voltaire: religion is "wrong", "false", l'infâme. But Marx, coming after 50 years of the rich philosophical discussion of religion in German idealism and then in his materialist predecessor Feuerbach, saw religion "as the heart of a heartless world, the spirit of a world without spirit". Religion for Marx was a prime case of what he called alienation, whereby human beings invert dreams of a better life into an other-worldly form. But a Voltairean would never have said, as Marx did, that "you cannot abolish religion without realizing it". Simple Enlightenment atheism never asserted there was anything to "realize", because such a view accords its (alienated) truth to religion...A straight line from the Enlightenment to socialism which does not exist, makes both an easier target for the post-modernists as a "master narrative" of "domination", resting on schoolboy notions of "materialism" which derive from Newton's atomism.This telescoping of Enlightenment and socialism is actually (and usually quite unintentionally) reminiscent of Stalinism, which did not have much use for the post-Enlightenment (not to mention pre-Enlightenment) sources of Marx (as sketched above)either...The problem of many contemporary defenders of the Enlightenment is their failure to see that the bedrock foundation, what the Enlightenment itself accepted as its undisputed point of departure and its model of the power of rational thought was Newton's physics. But Newton's physics (which were, in their time, undoubtedly revolutionary) were not merely about physics, or nature: they stood for 150 years, and in reality for 300 years, as the very model of what "science" was and ought to be...

Newton's physics were, once again, not merely a physics, (the latter undoubtedly being of great power, a guiding research program for over 200 years), they were little less than an ontology, and they were unquestioned by the Enlightenment. Few contemporary defenders of the Enlightenment have much to say about Newton's alchemy, astrology, Biblical commentary, history (attempting to confirm the truth of Old Testament chronology), anti-Trinitarian theology or search for the Egyptian cubit, a body of work which Newton himself placed on an equal footing with his physics and of which, for him, his physics was only a part. (Interestingly, and revealingly, the Frankfurt School and the Foucaultian critics of the Enlightenment have little to say about them either.) Many of these pursuits were already becoming unfashionable in Newton's own time, and Voltaire's popularization of Newton on the continent after 1730 already passed them over in total silence. But the discovery of this Newton is already enough to show that he was not exactly, or certainly not only, an "Enlightenment" thinker...Newtonian science, and hence the Enlightenment, defeated the kind of church-sponsored obscurantism represented by the trial of Galileo, or the earlier trial and execution of Giordano Bruno. But it also defeated what I would call Renaissance- Reformation cosmobiology, as the latter is associated with names such as Nicholas of Cusa, Bruno , Paracelsus, John Dee, Robert Fludd, Boehme and above all Kepler. Elements of it persist as late as Leibniz, co-inventor with Newton of the calculus, and who already polemicized against Newton's mechanism. Newton, as sketched above, still had much of the Renaissance magus about him. This cosmobiological world view further found its cultural expression in figures such as Dürer, the Brueghels, Bosch, Shakespeare and Rabelais, just as later Pope and Dryden attempted to create a literature in keeping with Newtonian science. In this transition, an empty , atomistic space and time, based on an infinity understood as mere repetition (the infinitesmal) deflated and expelled a universe brimming with life, in which, further, human imagination was central. One need only think of Paracelsus, the peripatetic alchemist, astrologer, chemist, herbalist , tireless researcher and medical practicioner who called the human imagination "the star in man" (astrum in homine) and who placed it higher than the mere stars which preoccupied astronomers. But no figure is more exemplary than Kepler, who looked for the Platonic solids in the order of the solar system and who attempted to demonstrate that the distance between the planets was in accordance with the well-tempered tuning of the "music of the spheres". This was the world view-- the cosmology-- which was deflated and replaced by Newton's colorless, tasteless, odorless space and time, and the latter deflation reached into every domain of culture for 300 years. And this cosmobiological world view was an indisputable precursor of Marx's "sensuous transformative praxis" (sinnliche unwälzende Tätigkeit) and hence of modern socialism. By its notion of human participation of the constitutition of the world (whereby it smacked of heresy for the Church), it was closer to Marx than any of the intervening Enlightenment views...In reality, while most of the figures of Renaissance-Reformation cosmobiology were at least nominally Christian believers of one kind or another (although in the case of Bruno, one wonders) their significance is precisely that they represented a "third stream", an alternative to both the dominant Aristotelian scholasticism propogated by the Church and to the atomistic materialism that congealed in the Enlightenment. This "third stream" was also often combatted, along with atheist materialism, by the Church as the highest heresy. And this "third stream" and its significance were essentially hidden for three centuries by the Manichean portrait of the past developed by the Enlightenment and taken over in the ideology of modernity.

This "third stream", of which again Kepler is the culminating figure, was hardly, as Enlightenment ideology portrayed it by assimilating it to "religion", hostile to science or to scientific research. Indeed, Kepler's work provided one part of the key to Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

It is significant that neither the pro-Enlightenment Habermasians or the anti-Enlightenment deconstructionists and Foucaultians have much use for Renaissance- Reformation cosmobiology, and the reason is that all of them tacitly accept the Enlightenment linear view of history and progress as the sole possible kind of progress, in which the "third stream" disappears into the "religion" of the "dark ages". There is an unacknowledged agreement here between opposing sides which makes possible a recasting of the debate. This largely unspoken agreement accepts the division of the world between culture and nature, (or Geist and Natur as the Germans would say) and, however differently various figures may treat the world of consciousness, they concede the world of nature to the mechanists. Such a division was only possible after Newton and the ideological suppression of the cosmobiological "third stream", which, whatever its flaws, presented a unitary vision of consciousness and nature. The reaction to the implications, for consciousness, of the Enlightenment program was quick in coming, and many took up Donne's lament of "all coherence gone". But from Pascal to Rousseau to Hegel (for whom nature was "boring", the world of repetition) to Nietzsche to Heidegger, all the different formulations on the impossibility of treating human consciousness on the model of mathematical physics (which is indeed impossible) took off from the assumption of dead nature, in which "life" had to appear not as Paracelsus' astrum in homine or Leibniz's vis vitae but as some "irrational" "vitalistic" force.

Nor should the reader get the impression that Renaissance- Reformation cosmobiology did not have political implications, as atomism and mechanism shaped the political thought of the Enlightenment. Its first and major political implication stems from the fact that it was decidely an ideology of "interregnum", appearing between the collapse of the medieval Holy Roman Empire and the consolidation of English capitalism and above all continental absolutism, both of which eradicated it everywhere. In a meaningful sense, the Renaissance and Reformation as a whole can be understood as an interregnum phenomena, but many other currents within them competed with what I call cosmobiology. These political implications were not as well articulated by its theoreticians as was the Enlightenment, partly because the concept of the "political" (itself recognized by Marx as an alienated separation) only autonomized itself later and partly because these movements, unlike the Enlightenment, were primarily of the lower classes, and thus were completely defeated, and their history mainly written by the victors. Their finest hours were the radical wing of the Reformation (essentially, the Anabaptists and their leader Thomas Münzer) and the radical wing of the English Revolution, the Levellers, Diggers and smaller sects. (Gerard Winstanley stands out as a spokesman for this milieu.) One only fully appreciates Newton's political meaning when one understands the importance of his tirades against these "enthusiasts", as they were called. Here it can be seen clearly that the English Enlightenment triumphed not merely by defeating reactionary Stuart absolutism but also by defeating radical currents to its left.

When the interregnum was over, ca. 1650, the radical social base of the "third stream" was socially and politically defeated, and the Enlightenment could begin, with its two contending models of English constitutional monarchy and French absolutism, the latter becoming the model for most of the continent. But left defenders of the Enlightenment, pass over in silence the fact that the Anglo-French Enlightenment triumphed over a radical as well as a reactionary rival, and always bore the markings that fact.

Stated briefly, the spirit of Marx's underlying world view is more truly the direct heir, the "realization" of the sensuousness of figures such as Shakespeare, the Brueghels and Paracelsus, than of any subsequent phase of the Anglo-French Enlightenment and its aftermath.

One might well ask what such a critique  of the Enlightenment, from the vantage point of Renaissance-Reformation "cosmobiology" means today, in political terms.

What it means is this. From the French Revolution until the 1970's, the dominant currents of the Western left, and the movements it influenced in the colonial and post- colonial world, were indeed heirs of the Enlightenment. They were this because, in practice if not always in rhetoric, they inherited the tasks of completing the bourgeois revolution, tasks for which the Enlightenment, as the most advanced outlook of that revolution, was eminently suitable. First Social Democracy, from the 1860's onward, and then Stalinism, from the 1920's, took over a large part of the Enlightenment attitudes toward science, the state, technology, heavy industry, rationality, nature, a linear view of progress, philosophy and religion. That view was at bottom atomistic and mechanistic, even when dressed up as "dialectical materialism". Their statist development ideology and strategy was most successful in countries where no liberal bourgeoisie was strong enough to fight in its own name for the Enlightenment program against pre-capitalist social relations. Social Democracy and later Stalinism took over the full weight of Enlightenment statism of the continental variety. This was not surprising, since they gained influence mainly in the same backward countries in which Enlightenment statism had been successful, for essentially the same reasons. With the virtually universal spread of state bureaucracy for the century up to ca. 1975, whether in liberal democracy, Social Democracy, Stalinism or Third World nationalism, this Enlightenment ideology was rooted practically in a vast global stratum of middle-class state civil servants, whatever else they may have disagreed about. Not accidentally, their theory of history, when they felt they needed one, was articulated by the state civil servants par excellence Kant, Fichte and Hegel...

The international left is in crisis because it uncritically took over the Enlightenment, and thereby confused the tasks of the bourgeois revolution with those of the socialist revolution; the left's claims to fight for social emancipation got completely entwined with the state bureaucracy and civil service, which are irreducible obstacles to full social emancipation. There is nothing more to be done with the Enlightenment, taken by itself, because there is no more bourgeois revolution to make. There is also nothing more to be done with the Enlightenment view of nature, derived as it is from Newton's atomism and mechanism. The Enlightenment grasped in a one-sided way the impact of the natural environment on man but, lacking the idea of constitutive practice, has little to say in an era such as our own, so shaped by the problems of man's impact on the environment. This is not because, as the post-modernists say, Western science and technology are nothing but "domination", but because the unique role of humanity in the biosphere, its "species-being" to use Marx's term, was articulated not by the Enlightenment but by the "active side developed by idealism" as Marx put it in the "Theses on Feuerbach". The Enlightenment looked to Nature to underpin its abstract theories of Natural Man; it did not understand that human history constantly creates "new natures", and hence new "human natures", by its interraction with the biosphere.

The Foucaultian and Frankfurt School critics of the Enlightenment live off the impoverishment of the left by its extended romance with a one-sided appropriation of the Enlightenment, by the left's century-long confusion of the completion of the bourgeois revolution by state civil servants with socialism, and by the worldwide crackup of that project. The pre-Enlightenment, Renaissance-Reformation cosmobiology which passed through German idealism into Marx's species-being means even less to them than it does to figures such as Habermas. Yet the usual critique of them is undermined by the tacit agreement across the board that "nature is boring", i.e. the realm of mechanism, as Hegel, articulating the ultimate state civil servant view, cut off from practice in nature, said. Both sides of this debate still inhabit the separation of culture and nature, Geist and Natur, which came into existence through the Enlightenment's deflation of cosmobiology. It is the rehabilitation, in suitably contemporary form, of the outlook of Paracelsus and Kepler, not of Voltaire and Newton, which the left requires today for a (necessarily simultaneous) regeneration of nature, culture and society, out of Blake's fallen world of Urizen and what he called "single vision and Newton's sleep".

See also History and the Realization of the Collective Imagination: (http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/imagination.html) andMarxism and the Critique of Scientific Ideology (http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/physics.html) both of which are also very sharp.

And finally two more sources are the Theory of Decline Part 2 (http://www.geocities.com/aufheben2/auf_3_dec2.html) in the excellent Aufheben with good summaries of movements emphasizing the subjective elements of history (Socialism Or Barbarism, the SI & the Italian Autonomists), and the Marxist Philosophy of History (http://www.geocities.com/cordobakaf/history.html) by Castoriadis – if you go to the trouble of reading them I think you will get the point that the picture you have painted of Marx and later currents is one-sided and limiting – and that Marx's conception of history is far from the simplified charicature you've presented it as.

There is more here (http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/smith-cyril/index.htm) the index of Cyril Smith's writings but I have barely scratched the surface of reading them.

You said “Capitalism is not such a coherent entity. It is more like Debord's Spectacle...there is no Spectacular class. There is no equivalent to Marx's proletariat”. Come on Alistair. Thesis 114: “...The proletariat has not been eliminated. It remains irreducibly present within the intensified alienation of modern capitalism. It consists of that vast majority of workers who have lost all power over their lives and who, once they become aware of this, redefine themselves as the proletariat, the force working to negate this society from within...” You are really wide off the mark here. It simply isn't possible to understand situationist critique without reference to worker's struggles, to wildcat strikes and the occupations of factories, to urban riots and insurrections (which are understood as mass gut-level reactions to the domination of the commodity form), to the rejection of bourgeiois democracy, bureaucracy, trade unions, the Party or the State, and instead the setting up of worker's councils as the only viable form of revolutionary organization, located within the tradition of proletarian uprisings from the Paris Commune until May 68. (Maybe the most clear text on this matter is Vaneigem/Ratgeb's From Wildcat Strike to Total Self-Management) And all this in the context of a total revolution encompassing all of life (as subjective practical activity; the realization and suppression of art, religion, philosophy etc) and not in simple economistic-deterministic terms as in the “vulgar marxisms” of Kautsky, Lenin et al. Leaving this out of the situationist critique is essentially reductionism or rather recuperation and it is so typical of the english and american presentation of the SI today...

And “Marx's proletariat” is a pretty lazy term too since the proletariat was not some abstraction cooked up by Marx's imagination but the reality of the living conditions, activity and relations of the masses of people forced tosell their time and labour-power in order to survive; and also the reality that it was the same masses who reproduced the system and therefore had the actual power to change it if only they became aware of it, rebelled and organized. And while things are no doubt very different, people's jobs and living conditions are not the same today as then, the vast majority of people are still forced to labour for capital, and rising food and fuel prices are making things a lot harder. “Marx declared that the proletariat were the revolutionary class, not only on the basis of their objective role in the economy, but on the supposition that this objective role led to an objective "class consciousness" that would make them capable of overthrowing the system. But Gramsci pointed out that this "good sense" was overlaid with "common sense" which develops to keep individual working people docile, obedient, and in all other ways able to survive in actually-existing capitalism. I have argued on this blog that the technologies of promoting "common sense" have leapt ahead since Gramsci's day, with the powers of mass-media marketing and psychology. We need to make that quantum leap ourselves, or keep talking to ourselves forever.” (Doloras from Chaos Marxism)

Magee I remember accuses Marx for secularizing Joachim's millenarianism, and you are doing the same thing interpreting Marx as “inevitabilizing the eschaton”. I had said “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.” This is consistent with Debord's Thesis 80 “The inversion carried out by Marx in order to “salvage” the thought of the bourgeois revolutions by transferring it to a different context does not trivially consist of putting the materialist development of productive forces in place of the journey of the Hegelian Spirit toward its eventual encounter with itself [Note that this is how you have presented it] — the Spirit whose objectification is identical to its alienation and whose historical wounds leave no scars. For once history becomes real, it no longer has an end. [!!!] Marx demolished Hegel’s position of detachment from events, as well as passive contemplation by any supreme external agent whatsoever. Henceforth, theory’s concern is simply to know what it itself is doing. In contrast, present-day society’s passive contemplation of the movement of the economy is an untranscended holdover from the undialectical aspect of Hegel’s attempt to create a circular system; it is an approval that is no longer on the conceptual level and that no longer needs a Hegelianism to justify itself, because the movement it now praises is a sector of a world where thought no longer has any place, a sector whose mechanical development effectively dominates everything. Marx’s project is a project of conscious history, in which the quantitativeness that arises out of the blind development of merely economic productive forces must be transformed into a qualitative appropriation of history. The critique of political economy is the first act of this end of prehistory: “Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself.”

You had said “As Hobsbawm continues, a further step was taken by Karl Marx “who transferred the centre of gravity of the argument for socialism from its rationality or desirability to its historical inevitability”. Marx saw in history a series of 'inevitables' as each stage of social evolution lost its progressive edge as its internal contradictions became impossible to contain. Inevitably resistance to change created opposition which no less inevitably triumphed, eventually in turn collapsing itself into a crisis ... capitalism being the latest in this sequence of progress. But after the inevitable final crisis of capitalism, a stage of perfection would be reached, one containing no internal contradictions. Thus the driving force of history would end with the eternally inevitable triumph of socialism. But not just yet. Capitalism itself had to become fully fledged.” But where does Marx mention a stage of perfection containing no internal contradictions? Why the disinformation?

Again the same drift comes across in 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.” You didn't reply to this refutation (of the theory that revolutionary theory is simply misplaced/immanantized religious millenarianism) but instead got talking about the inevitability as it applies to the peasant class...

Like you I am uncomfortable with the positions of Marx that all societies must necessarily pass through capitalism in order to arrive at a liberation... at his most extreme Marx for example spoke in favour of the conquest and industrialization of North America (Will Bakhunin reproach the North-Americans for waging a 'war of conquest' which, of course, meant a severe blow to his theory based on 'justice and humanity', but which was carried out successfully to the advantage of civilization only? Or is it by chance that the wonderful California was snatched from the lazy Mexicans, who didn't know what to do with it? Is it a misfortune for the wonderful Yankees to exploit the gold mines there, to increase the means of transport, to make, in a few years, of the most appropriate coast of that peaceful ocean, a place with a high density of population and a busy trade, to build big cities, steamboat lines, a railway line from New-York to San Francisco, to really open for the first time the Pacific Ocean to civilization and, for the third time in history, give a new orientation to world trade? Neue Rheinische Zeitung, cited in Communism no. 7, April 1992) and in the Communist Manifesto the passages you quoted speak of the inevtability of capitalism and its antecedent communism. (I never liked the Manifesto or subscribed to it). There is a tendency in Marx & especially Engels to over-objectify and neglect the subjective. This is why it is silly to be simply a Marxist. But remember that even Engels would make clear “According to the materialistic conception of history, the production and reproduction of real life constitutes in the last instance the determining factor of history. Neither Marx nor I ever maintained more. Now when someone comes along and distorts this to mean that the economic factor is the sole determining factor, he is converting the former proposition into a meaningless, abstract and absurd phrase..Marx and I are partly responsible for the fact that at times our disciples have laid more weight upon the economic factor than belongs to it. We were compelled to emphasize this main principle in opposition; to our opponents who denied it, and there wasn’t always time, place and occasion to do justice to the other factors in the reciprocal interaction. But just as soon as it was a matter of the presentation of an historical chapter, that is to say, of practical application, things became quite different; there, no error was possible. Unfortunately it is only too frequent that a person believes he has completely understood a new theory and is capable of applying it when he has taken over its fundamental ideas – but it isn’t always true. And from this reproach I cannot spare many of the recent “Marxists”. They have certainly turned out a rare kind of tommyrot.” (Engels to Bloch 1890).

But what I did come across was Roads to Freedom or Did Marx Change His Mind (http://republicancommunist.org/articles/EL002/EL002Goupillot.html) following on from the sources on your Externalities posts. The author Bob Goupillot describes the late Marx (and not as I would have expected Marx in his youth) sympathetic to the Iroquis and understanding that western european style urban industrialization is not the only way towards the transcendence of capitalism and there are some books mentioned that look interesting – relevent also for the fact that the author is Scottish and it ties up with some of your concerns re peasantry and proletarianization.

As for the question of industrialization, when you said capitalism being a by-product of industrialization (the opposite of Marxist Theory) which I found so oversimplified... is there any other reasonable answer to this question than to reply that the two are in a dialectical relationship rather than simple cause and effect?? If 'science' is understood as an organized body of knowledge and 'technology' is its use to affect change in the environment, how can one divorce the development of industrial technology from the desires and needs of the artisans, merchants and scientists who undertook the task...Science was enlisted to generate more profits within the general climate of the bourgeois revolution and its materializing ideology, although the latter would not have been possible without the accompanying technological developments. I don't understand how you can claim this one-sided cause/effect relationship when, paradoxically, further up you gave such a good account of the conditions of trade and slavery etc which gave rise to the industrialization of the textiles industry...(“Europe's insatiable demand for sugar and tobacco drove the slave trade, which in turn stimulated Britain's industrial development through the production of trade goods and supplies for the slave plantations.” etc) Reading up on science and industrialization in this regard I gained a lot from Phil Meyler's And Yet It Moves (http://revoltagainstplenty.com/archive/global/andyetitmoves.html) as well as Goldner's essay on Scientific Ideology mentioned above.

Finally “Hegel's system brings the Absolute into being through magic words which evoke its shape. Eat your heart out Kenneth Grant! Was Crowley a very Young (unborn) Hegelian? Or did Hegel anticipate Thelema? Or perhaps a better analogy is with chaos magic – not what it has become, but what it had the potential to be before it was reduced to sigilisation. And Magee shows that Hegel was familiar with Kabbalistic thought.” What a disapointment this paragraph is! It's as if you feel forced to bring in some of the magic stuff in order to fit in with the rest of the blog only to end up sounding like a pastiche of your earlier self... is that the only way you can link these things up with magic? I would understand if you just failed to mention magic since you are a father in a small town where it is probably not wise to get into details of magical practice and get stigmatised etc, but since you are going to the trouble of mentioning it why not go further than these superficial platitudes?? There is so much more meat on this bone.


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