Friday, December 09, 2005

How counterculture became consumer culture.

William Voegeli reviews of Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture, by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter.

"It's bad enough that the countercultural rebels are wasting their time and energies on "dramatic gestures that are devoid of any progressive political or economic consequences and that detract from the urgent task of building a more just society."

"What's worse, say Heath and Potter, is that the would-be progressives imagine their posturing is undermining capitalism, and all the while it is just strengthening it. Nation of Rebels argues that "the cultural contradictions of capitalism," described by Daniel Bell in 1975, have all been resolved—in capitalism's favor. Following Thomas Frank in The Conquest of Cool (1997) and David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise (2000), Heath and Potter claim that the counterculture—bohemianism on steroids—has rendered the practice of capitalism vastly more profitable, without making the results of capitalism even slightly more admirable."

The review gives a rather harsh assesment to the failures of communism, but makes it point regarding the rise of our consumerist society from the bowels of the counter-revolution of the 1960's.

I have just sat down with State and Revolution again and Lennin's discussion in the opening paragraphs about thow moderates emasculate the revolutionary side of Marxism parralled with this review interestingly.

I was just thinking how we on the left need to embrace a revolutionary understanding of Marx, but we must be wary of a critique "so vast and all-encompassing that it is difficult to imagine what could possibly count as 'fixing things."

Part of the problem here is the psychological make-up of the activists and leftists that usually offer up such proposals. This personality insists on seeing the world or object
"be it homo sapiens or a mere representation of an organism, as valued only to the degree that the object contains some measure of the inner Essence or greater Good. Doing a good deed, for example, may provide intrinsic satisfaction which is only secondary to the greater good of striking a blow against Man's Inhumanity to Mankind."

Voegeli goes on to ask the essntial question regarding leftist personality flaws "is an ameliorative Left possible?If liberals' self-marginalizing narcissism is an accidental quality, one that can be cut away to leave behind a stronger determination to enact a better reform agenda, their efforts might succeed. If it's an essential attribute that can't be removed without killing the patient, then the task is hopeless.

Let's hope our task is not hopeless, but at some point I will discuss the personlity traits of revolutionaries.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lecture Three: The origins of Bolshevism and What Is To Be Done? Part 1

Lecture Three: The origins of Bolshevism and What Is To Be Done? Part 1: "This is the first part of the lecture �The Origins of Bolshevism and What Is To Be Done?� delivered by World Socialist Web Site Editorial Board Chairman David North at the Socialist Equality Party/WSWS summer school held August 14 to August 20, 2005 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The lecture will be posted in seven installments."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Foundations-notes from the Grudrisse. Foreword II

The manuscripts consist of two main chapters: on money and capital; and two more fragments on Bastiat and Carey.

In 1859, Marx chose to drop the Introduction and write a new one. [This will be considered later.]

Chapter on Money

Money comes to signify a whole set of social relations (not just mere paper or gold.) "Capital," too comes to signify a set of social relations based on opposite laws impelled onwards and undermined by the inner tensions. Explanation to follow in detail.

At first the chapter on Capital is difficult to follow, in part due to digressions and repeated assertions. Also as a result of cross purposes. Marx wrote that he intended to advance a systematic account, as well as a get out a pamphlet on "the ongoing economic crisis."

Details of Chapter:

The beginning addresses a bank reform by the Proudhonianist, Dairimon. After a drain of gold from France which produces a scarcity of money, interest rates go up. The people can't borrow. Solution? Go off gold standard which bring interest rates to zero, follows the Proudhonist slogan "Free Credit." Marx then points to the differences between money and credit and points out the "ordinariness" of Dairimon's requests.

The second phase of the Proudhoninists' plan brings Marx to his major theoretical questions. Their plan is to replace the money system with a labour time system.

Marx agrees with labour-time proponents that the value of any commodity is determined by the labour time it cost to produce. True on average only. Money serves the function of averaging out to a common standard or measure.

{I will continue to update this section but for now my fingers grow weary. So You will not see new dates but an extension of this entry . I still have 10 pages on section 2 to go.}

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Foundations-notes from the Grudrisse. Foreword I

Follow along with me as I take notes from Karl Marx's The Grundrisse-Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Translated with a foreword by Martin Nicholas. The Karl Marx Library, Vintage Books 1973 edition

I will include my notes on the foreword as well. My main method for reading major works is to read the chapter, go back and highlight in such a manner as highlights form sentences naturally. At times I have had to add the text to formulate coherent paragraphs and sentences, but the main thrust of the text has not been altered. In short why read 800 pages you can now read 50.

In addition to my truncated version of the Grundrisse, I will add commentary or allusions as I see fit. The additional work will be set on this blog in such a manner as to make it obvious.

Notes :
Foreword I

The Grundrisse stands midway between the Manifesto (1848) and the first publication of Capital. (1867) [A series of 7 notebooks] it's triggering force originated in the revolutions of 1848-50 9 (or at least their defeats.)

After the defeat of the workers' insurrection in Paris, Marx and Engels advanced the thesis that revolution had become impossible for the foreseeable future.[I have talked about this before, but Marx was continually extinguishing the flames of rebellion among his fellow socialists.]

Marx's analysis of the character of the 1848 revolutions consisted of two major classes which composed the revolutionary camp, the working class and the lower middle class or the petite bourgeoisie. (bg. hereafter)

It was the the relative inexperience of the working class that led to it's defeat. From it a new politics arose " Social Democracy" whose hope it was to bribe workers in to accepting their conditions.

Marx chooses 2 main theoretical antagonists to oppose in the book. They were David Ricardo [ for the bg.] and Pierre Proudhon.[communist]

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More on Terror and Marx.

After my post on terror and Marx, I knew I would have to reread chapter 7 of Shlomo Avineri's The Social & Political Thought of Karl Marx. In this chapter Avineri discusses Marx's assessment of the French Revolution and the terror which grew form it.

According to Avenri, Marx viewed terror as "less a means towards realization of a revolutionary aim than a mark of failure." Marx felt (unlike the Jacobians or Blanquists) that a revolution could not occur simply by fiat or by political will.
The revolution requires not force but bringing into being the socio-economic conditions that the political will rest upon.

The future critics of Marx would have a great deal of success uncritically identifying him with the worst of the Jacobian (terrorist) traditions of insurrections and secret societies. Marx understood that unfair identification would be a critical blow efforts to create a theoretical framework to change the political and socio-economic structure.

Many Marxists have deplored the wasted time spent by Marx against "Herr Vogt" when he should have been writing and finishing Capital. But Aveneri insists that "Marx rightly understood" what Vogt's successful charges would do to him. While Marx may have proved the libel case against himself false, he seems to have lost that case to History.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ben Franklin Would Be Proud of the Violence in Marxism.

It's said and believed by a vast populace that Marxism is a violent revolutionary dogma hell bent on the overthrow of the ruling class by whatever means possible. Is this a truly unbiased approach?

Or is this the a technique of it's enemies, defenders of the constitution, casting a potential adversary out from the realm of mainstream thought?

It should be noted to the defenders of American Liberty that Marx was no more pro-violence than our founding fathers. "The Founding Fathers?" you will ask mouth agape.

It's not like one couldn't think of a counter example to America's Independence that does not require the use of terror. Perhaps another vast wilderness that was being exploited by Kings. Taxation with no representation. A land that used a constructive dialog, consisting of piecemeal democratic reform, and yet still were able to obtain thier ends.--Oh yea, Canada.

We too often forget the historical nature of the claims Marx makes. In the days of the founding fathers and Karl Marx there were kings. And I am not talking Prince Charles, but real kings who had the power to raise armies, start wars, and have your head chopped off at a whim.

Democracy was in short supply in the early part of the 19th century, most of the masses could not vote: women, minorities, the poor and landless were pretty much on their own. This is also well before the time of Gandhi or Martin Luther King. Non-violence as an agent of change had never truly been seen on any vast scale like that. Marx was and has always been seen as a pragmatist, but did he insist that violence was the answer?

We know that in the case of England, Sweden and USA where he specifically addressed it, he thought Socialism could be won without a violence. (He thought Russia would likely turn violent because of the Tsars.) Marx also thought it was more likely that the ruling classes would be driven to start the fight if they felt uprovoked "and if we are not so crazy as to ourselves be driven to street fighting in order to please them, then in the end there is nothing left for them to do, but themselves break through this fatal legality."

The Right likes to paint Lenin as the standard bearer to Marxism due to Lenin's insistence that his brand of state controlled command economies were based on Marx's principles. But a case could be made that Kautsky is the true heir if self-proclamation is the standard. (The German and European Model of Reformists, New Dealers-Keynsians, the Welfare State proponents also shout their love of Marx.) Few among us would give up Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment benefits which sprang from the democratic impulses of these Marxists.

Of course few people have any constrain knowledge of Marx . If they are at all familiar with him it is through reading the Communist Manifesto. The Manifesto though was a political programme that was commissioned by the Communist League and was not a theoretical text of Marx's. It should also be noted that nowhere in the manifesto does Marx suggest that workers use terror, on the contrary, Marx proclaims that "the time for surprise attacks by small minorities is past."

It is difficult to conclude that Marx was hell bent on Violence and Terror, but was rather a man who lived in a time of crushing despotism. Marx himself was a victim countless times to this and championed democracy and the rights of the working people well before it was fashionable to the elites of his era.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Site of the Week --Stray Reflections

This is a blog by Alghazalians-A group of students studying Western Philosophy and Civilisation from the perspective of Imam Ghazali. ( A Persian Philosopher)

The major problem these students seem to have with Marxism, is it's close ties to the Enlightenment which places the capacity of self determination squarely in the realm of the individual and champions this indivdual mode.

"Both liberalism and communism are routes to the some end – abundance and freedom the worship of desire and the proclamation of man’s sovereignty and his rebellion against God.

All the higher religions and most emphatically Islam reject the metaphysical conception of the individual as a self determining being (the conception of man as God) Islam insists that human fulfillment lies in a voluntary surrender (the word Islam means surrender) of the capacity of self determination.

The capacity of self-determination is not denied but the authentication of ends with reference to this capacity leads one to Kufr and to frustration since such authentication cannot conceivably provide a basis for the ordering of values. The ordering of values and the authentication of ends cannot be achieved through an exercise of man’s rational faculty. Reason can identify means for achieving given ends but it cannot provide a basis for valuing ends.

Some of you may be rather turned off by the "Anti-Americanism" found on the site though:

Merciless slaughter of defenceless people is the dominant theme of American history. Fifteen million Red Indians were systematically butchered over a period of two hundred years and an entire continent stolen from them - much as the Zionists are now murdering and plundering Palestine. The Red Indians have been followed by Mexicans, Moros, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Serbs, Afghans and Iraqis in this never ending horror story of the blood thirsty American quest for world domination.

But such savagery is not confined to America’s dealings with strangers. It characterizes all public life in America. Today America’s prison population stands at well over two million. American imprisonment rates are now more than six times higher than those of Britain, Canada or France. In addition to this a further 3.3 million Americans are on probation and over 700,000 on parole. One percent of all white American males and 9 percent of all black American males are currently in prison. Over 1.2 million black male Americans are on probation or parole. Incarceration rates have more than doubled for both white and black American males during the past twenty years.

That being said, there are plenty of interesting links to major thinkers ( they found a great number of links to Being and Time---Kudos!) and the anaylsis of Marx is well thought out. (Even though I would disagree with much of it.)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Posting on hold

Posting will be on hold for some time....

Update, will begin soon again...

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Val Burris writes in the California Sociologist about reification from a Marxist perspective.


The concept of reification is used by Marx to describe a form of social consciousness in which human relations come to be identified with the physical properties of things, thereby acquiring an appearance of naturalness and inevitability.

This essay presents a systematic reconstruction of Marx's theory of reification, with an emphasis on the social-structural dimensions of the concept. This reconstruction differs both from the conceptions of reification that are found in non-Marxist sociology and from the interpretations of some of Marx's followers. Marx's concept of reification is then taken as the model for a more general theory ideology.

In the final section of the essay, I show how this theory can be used to analyze the emergence of new forms of reification in capitalist society, including those that are based on the growth of technology, the spread of bureaucracy, and the rationalization of occupational selection.

Val Burris begins his discussion noting what this blog has rhapsodized quite a bit about the "twin distortions of Marx's theory of positivistic psychologism on the one hand and moralistic polemicizing on the other." Burris finds this "tendency" to be "quite common" in modern work conceptualizing alienation, and it carries over in work done on reification as well.

Val Burris contends that "for Marx, reification is not merely an illusion foisted upon consciousness from the outside, but derives from the objective nature of social institutions; hence the critique of reified theories is never more than a preliminary to the analysis of the social relations which produce such reifications."

Burris begins his reformulation of Marx's theory from the objective characteristics of capitalist society found in Capital chapeter 1. Burris relates how for Marx , the real relationship between social humans becomes mediated by the relationship found between individually produced commodities.

"Since individuals do not enter into productive relations with one another directly as social beings, but only as owners of particular things, the possession of things becomes a condition for and determines the nature of each individual's participation in the productive relations of society."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

An Autodidactical Note On Private Property In Hegel And Marx.

Private property is often defended by philosophers with an apeal to the "rights" of man. In both Hegel and Marx the concept of "rights" to private property can be understood within the dialectical conception of a contradiction.

Marx from The Critique of the Gotha Program:

It [private property] is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right. Right, by its very nature, can consist only in the application of an equal standard; but unequal individuals (and they would not be different individuals if they were not unequal) are measurable only by an equal standard insofar as they are brought under an equal point of view, are taken from one definite side only -- for instance, in the present case, are regarded only as workers and nothing more is seen in them, everything else being ignored. Further, one worker is married, another is not; one has more children than another, and so on and so forth. Thus, with an equal performance of labor, and hence an equal in the social consumption fund, one will in fact receive more than another, one will be richer than another, and so on. To avoid all these defects, right, instead of being equal, would have to be unequal.[my emphasis]

Hegel from The Phenemomenology of Mind (Spirit):

Property therefore contradicts itself on all hands just as much as absence of property; each has within it both theses opposite and self contradictory moments, universality and particularity.

There were of course a number of major differences between Marx and Hegel on the meaning of private property.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Introduction to Marxism

Introduction to Marxism is a webiste developed by Dino Felluga. It includes lesson plans, terms and concepts and a general introduction which I have inserted below. The site also includes several modules of major Marxist theorists like FREDRIC JAMESON & LOUIS ALTHUSSER. I offer this website becuase I will almost never cover Althusser or Jameson.

MARXISM IS COMPLICATED by the fact that Marx is by no means the only influence on this critical school; indeed, given the various sorts of political movements that have been inspired by this thinker (socialism, Trotskyism, communism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, radical democracy, etc.), one despairs at trying to provide a fair and lucid introduction. Add to that the fact that Marx himself changed his mind on various issues or sometims expressed opinions that appear mutually exclusive, and one is faced with a rather high hurdle. Nonetheless, there are a number of Marxist thoughts and thinkers that have been especially influential on recent scholarly developments (particularly in literary, cultural, and political studies).

In short, the goal of this section of the Guide to Theory, as with any of the sections, is not to give an exhaustive account of this critical school but, rather, to give a sense for the major concepts influencing this approach while attempting to stay conscious of the various ways that individual terms have been contested over the last number of decades. The major distinction in Marxist thought that influences literary and cultural theory is that between traditional Marxists (sometimes, unfairly, called vulgar Marxists) and what are sometimes referred to as post-Marxists or neo-Marxists.

The major distinction between these two versions of Marxist thought lies in the concept of ideology: traditional Marxists tend to believe that it is possible to get past ideology in an effort to reach some essential truth (eg. the stages of economic development). Post-Marxists, especially after Louis Althusser, tend to think of ideology in a way more akin to Jacques Lacan, as something that is so much a part of our culture and mental make-up that it actively determines what we commonly refer to as "reality." According to these post-Marxist critics, there may well be some hard kernel behind our obfuscating perceptions of reality but that kernel is by definition resistant to articulation. As soon as one attempts to articulate it, one is at risk of falling back into ideology. This understanding of ideology is what Fredric Jameson famously terms the "prison-house of language." The links on the left will lead you to specific ideas discussed by Marx and those "post-Marxists" who have proven to be most influential on literary and cultural studies; however, you might like to begin with a quick overview:


KARL MARX is, along with Freud, one of a handful of thinkers from the last two centuries who has had a truly transformative effect on society, on culture, and on our very understanding of ourselves. Although there were a few critics claiming an end to Marxist thought (and even an end to ideology) after the fall of the communist system in the former Soviet Union, Marxist thought has continued to have an important influence on critical thought, all the more so recently after the rise of globalization studies. As protests at recent G7 and IMF meetings make clear, the school can also still have important political effects.

LOUIS ALTHUSSER represents an important break in Marxist thought, particularly when it comes to the notion of ideology. His Lacan-inspired version of Marxism significantly changed the way many Marxists approached both capitalism and hegemony after the second world war.

FREDRIC JAMESON is surely the most influential contemporary Marxist thinker in the United States. His own alterations of and dialogue with Althusserian and Lacanian thought have established him as an important influence on the rise of globalization studies, an important critical school of the last few years. In particular, he has attempted to make sense of the continuing staying power of capitalism and the ways that capitalism has transformed since Marx wrote his critiques in the nineteenth century, addressing such issues as multi-national (or "late") capitalism, the power of the media, and the influence of postmodernity on Marxist debate. The lattermost issue is explored in the Jameson modules under Postmodernism.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005




" Karl Marx did not invent worker alienation, virtually without exception, everyone working for someone else experiences feels it. The moment you enter the factory gate or the office door, you lose all your natural rights as a human being. You have no freedom of speech or right of assembly, you have no say or vote in what goes on. You may as well be a cow or a piece of machinery."


"A blog devoted to my interests which include anarchism and social movements, history, archeology, and anything else I choose to write about."

As Marxists we will be interested in his critique of "anyone who accepts "really existing capitalism" uncritically, and this would seem to encompass the majority of [the] mainstream."

Congrats to The Porcupine Blog the "Site of the Week!"

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Nazi or Commie debate on the Agoraphillia Blog

Visit this absurd posting on how Commies are as bad as Nazi's If not worse here... Agoraphilia

The post refers to the killings of millions of persons by the Nazi's and by governments (claiming at least) to be communistic. I find all the had washing of capitalists quite remarkable.

Yes, the Nazi's killed millions and yes so did the tyranny of governments that ruled in Russia for the last 500 hundred years. Stalin best of all. How this is Karl Marx's fault I can't care to venture. I suppose Jesus is to blame for the Crusades as well as Jerry Fawell.

Although the Black Book Of Capitalism hasn't been written...



What..what.. what...?

Um ...let's start with the genocide of the Native American population by way of Manifest Destiny. And the millions of Africans killed in the journey for slavery. (Oh yea, there was that whole slavery thing too once they got there.)

The Industrial Revolution swept in by the capitalists caused millions of deaths and many children to lose their fingers. Today hundreds of thousands of deaths still occur , due to managements refusal to abide by basic safety laws. Just about every major Fortune 500 company is a felon and has had to settle cases for hundreds of millions of dolars against them. Not to mention countless deaths brought on by business from cancers and pollution and a general refusal to internalize the true cost of a commodity. (This is a basic feature of capitalism found even in capital's Econ 101 books.)

And when capital or democracy feels threatened by communistic nations it starts wars in Indo-China [or the Persian Gulf] and kills millions of them to stop the red "threat." Millions of Asians got to pay the price in red as well.

Here was the first articel that I read that suggested that Karl Marx got "nothing" right:

That got me started and angry , I must apologize for this rant and we will resume are normal practice of reasoned critique Marx on my next post.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Moral Marxist-G. A. Cohen and the Need for a Marxist Morality.

In my last post I berated several of the leading proponents of Marxism, particularly Cohen and Wood for becoming "moralizer(s) and utopian(s) rather than critic(s) of capitalist theory."

It turns out I am hardly alone in this criticism: From The Future for Philosophy, by Brian Leiter. An entire chapter of his book has been excepted for our benefit. Chapter Three: The hermeneutics of Suspicion Recovering Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.

[Then click on the pdf file. It's a rather lengthy treatment, but we will concern ourselves only with his Marxian critiques.]

The paper has as it's goal,"to displace the the antipathy to naturalism often thought to be constitutive of the Continental tradition." Leiter describes his view of naturalism as "fundamentally a methodological view, which holds that philosophical inquiry should be both modeled on the methods of the successful sciences." It is Leiter's view [I might add mine as well] that the methodology of hermeneutics does not violate the the prescription of being modeled after successful science.

Leiter must first respond to the obvious objection that the originator of the term " hermeneutics of suspicion" would have disapproved of his use of it with Marx, that it would have appeared "strange to Ricoeur, who was in the grips of a fairly crude philosophy of science. He thought the hermeneutics of suspicion stood in opposition to a scientific understanding of phenomena."

Leiter can begin his defense of the naturalism that is to be found in Marx [ and by that the hermeneutic method and Continental philosphy ] by taking the premise that science has evolved from the purely positive account of empirical matter that dominated the "mid-20th-century scientistic philosophy." In turn, this should have required Anglophone philosphers to take seriosly the claims that Marxism is science.

The failure to find Marx as a naturalist has allowed Anglo philosphy to abandon the science of Marx in favor of moral justifications. Anglophone philosophers like G.A. Cohen believe that “Marxism has lost much or most of it's empirical carapace, its hard shell of supposed fact..." and as a result, "Marxists...are increasingly impelled into normative political philosophy."

Leiter sees the abadonment of observation in favor of the use of moral justification not because Marx 's work is not scientific enough, but becasue,"these moralizing philosophers are not interested in the explanation of phenomena [but] favor ...the more traditional philosophical enterprise of justification, whether of the just distribution of resources or the possibility of morality's authority."

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Just Capitalism? A Reply to Alan Wood.

Alan Wood has made a career out of making plausible sounding arguments regarding Marx that have no possible chance of being true. In fact one can spot a trend that has allowed a number of social theorists (I might add here Cohen's A Defense of K. Marx's Theory of History) to askew common sense and reasonable inquiry.

When I created this blog I promised to demonstrate how my particular method for understanding Marx might come in handy. I have chosen Alan Wood's contention that Marx believed that Capitalism was/(is) a just society, because it illustrates how distorted a view can become if one does not take into account how Marx often spoke sarcastically when he promoted his ideas.

I will be following Alan E. Buchanan's treatment of Wood's claim from his Marx and Justice. In the book ,Buchanan stencils out Wood's basic claim, by suggesting it can best understood when broken down in to (2) basic premises: [Buchanan p.53]

  1. According to Marx, a standard of justice can only be meaningfully applied to that mode of production from which it arises and to which it corresponds, and each mode has its own distinctive standard.
  2. According to Marx, the wage-relation between worker and capitalist is just according to the only standard of justice which applies to it, namely the standard which requires that equivalents be exchanged for equivalents.

Buchanan goes on to argue that "on the basis of premises (1) and (2), Wood concludes that for Marx the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist , though evil because it is a form of servitude, is not unjust." (Buchanan p.52)

Both Holmstrom and Buchanan rightly insist that Wood has "abstracted from his background" the fact that while the commodity of labour power is exchanged freely and equally , the worker is not on the same level playing field as the capitalist.

As has been noted by Buchanan, Nancy Holmstrom concluded that " we now see that calling it a just exchange could only be done tongue-in-cheek."[my emphasis]( Buchanan p. 54)

Within this unequal playground of Bentham and Mill ,the worker undergoes a compulsion under the threat of starvation and death, to enter within a contract with the capitalist , while the capitalist could wait out such a transaction for quite a longer period of time.

As one can see, without considering the sarcastic nature of attacks that Marx will use in defense of his ideas, a completely different account of the relationship between capital and worker could be given. Despite Marx's admonishments to stay away from moralizing the conflict between proletariat and capitalist, Wood's description of the conflict as Evil rather than unjust [ at least within the field of distributive justice] turns Marx on his head. Marx becomes a moralizer and utopian rather than a critic of capitalist theory.

I think in principle, that Marx believed that (equivalents vs equivalents) is a fair distributive practice within capitalism, but that the practice of real life capitalists was nothing like that, capitalism violated it's own myths so it was both evil and unjust. [ Not that I have show a real case for capitalism to be "evil." ]

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Marxism of the Right?

TCS: Tech Central Station - Marxism of the Right?: "Until this article by Robert Locke appeared in The American Conservative, conservatives and libertarians have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. After all, there is so much on which they agree."

Max Borders' began his discussion of Robert Locke's article admitting that the "beneficial relationship" between libertarians and conservatives has been quite useful. Something most Objectivists and other libertarians are often quick to minimize.

Though a little later later, Borders' insists that if you suggest that conservetives describe libertarians as consisting of the ilk who indulge in drugs, selfishness and avarice then your simply ignorant about his movement: "You're thinking of libertinism. Mr. Locke is, perhaps, guilty of the same error."

Borders' reports that Mr. Locke's basis for comparison between Marx and libertarians is their equally "fraudulent intellectual" accounts of society based on "apriori accounts of the good":

"This is no surprise, as libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism."

I am not sure who should be more offended, Marxists or libertarians. Borders' is quick to distance himself though from the more fashionable wing of his thought, objectivism.

The notion that libertarians believe society ought to be run based on "selfishness" indicates that Mr. Locke frequents cocktail parties with objectivity, not libertarians. First of all, most libertarians don't think society should be "run" at all, rather -- as Hayek taught -- society should essentially run itself.

I won't inform "Max" if you won't about communism's belief in the withering away of the state. I also fail to see a diference between his libertarianism and objectivists (who would argue along the exact same line about how society would run.)[Not to mention anarchists, communists, trekkies etc.]

Mr. Borders takes Locke to task for his what he believes to be the contradictions found in Locke's "mirror-image theory" of Marxism and libertarianism while defending Marxist thought from Locke's simplisitc charge of economic determinism:

The assertion that Marx "reduced social life to economics" is amusing if not misguided. Perhaps the better description of Marxist thought is an attempt to "reduce social life to materialism." This more accurate description of Marx has nothing to do with libertarianism... [my emphasis] , and with that correction, Mr. Locke's cutely constructed "mirror-image" theory collapses.

While I agree with Borders' formulation that Marxism is concerned with materialism [ just how you "reduce" the material world to materialism is a bit confusing for Marxists.] But,as to Max's assertion that the real difference between Marxism and libertarianism lies in the grounding of Karl Marx's thought in materialism could not be further from the truth.

The epistemological foundations of difference between Marxist thought and most apologists for laissez faire capitalism is found at its level of analysis. Marxists recognize that individuals are found in society and cannot be seperated atomicistically from each other. This fundamental aspect of truth is not gleamed by most libertarians.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Web Blog of Marginal Utility

I wonder if capitalism requires the intensification or deployment of the division of labor that is suggested as necessary by the blog Marginal Utility which writes that capital needs:

deskilled workers who are complacent about the meaningless work they must do to eat, because the deskilling makes it easier to exploit their labor and makes productive processes more efficient.

If capital finds that happy workers are more efficient it will employ methods that "fool" the worker into thinking he has meaning and control.

Plenty of workers in the the so-called information age will still be needed to toil in repetitive tasks and demeaning work ( #1 in created jobs in the next 25 years will be the bed pan changer), but the long term trend could be for less taxing , and more diversified work.

This will in no way alter the basic dichotomy of owner/worker that is at the heart of capitalism. But insisting that all work created by capitalism is devoid of meaning cannot speak to the middle classes and information workers that may enjoy some of the changes of future working conditions. Nor does the imagery lend itself to grasping the alienation of man's power from him through another's controll of the means of production.

In a sense, complaining about the dullness of manual labor or the numbness found in repetition is less radical (to the root) than focusing on the relations of production. Capital always masks it's intentions behind the improvement of working conditions.

On the other hand, I talk often about the the nightmare of the Silent Totalitarianism I believe to be coming. I can see with computer technology the ability to hyper manage and watch intimate details of individuals and for this tendancy to degenerate into an hyper-supervised workplace.

But I think Capitalism is too smart for this, it will allow for us to ask for the control we will lose -via biometrics and computer data mining- and will present a happy face of authority to this newest form of ultimate control.

Vistit the Marginal Utility Blog at

Visit my Romtex and Bathos websites for some further thoughts on the Age of the Silent Totalitarianism.

Friday, February 18, 2005

This Site of the Week: Marx Myths and Legends

Here is a website that introduces us to Marx Myths and Legends.

Here is how they describe their website:

Typical subjects might be “Marx and socialist utopianism,” “Marx and economic determinism,” “Marx and state control” or whatever. We are open to relatively specialised more technical subjects such as “Marx and theories of crisis” or “Marx and humanism” or myths about Marx’s personal life, but the intended audience is the general public, and articles should be written in accessible language, as well as being well-researched.

Also, we are looking at Karl Marx — not Engels or Lenin or socialism in general. The purpose, however, is both to help to dispel the multiple layers interpretation and misrepresentation that obscures Marx’s work, and to encourage a critical approach to the reading of Marx, rather than trying to create some new kind of orthodoxy.

In addition there is a blog
I will try to stay away from mearly repeating anything that is covered at the above websites.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Final Note on Methodology.

It was Avineri who once said "Anyone who adds to the already prolific literature on Marx can be expected to be accused of repetitiveness or immodesty."[Avineri 1968]I must admit to suffering from both afflictions. It should be noted that the Blogosphere was devoid of any half-hearted serious inquiry into Marx and Marx alone.

It is of course important to recognize the historical origins of Marx's thought. Most of you who will read this blog are probably well aware of one conventional ( I might say orthodox ) look at his beginnings.

Tradition supposes a trifecta of influences : English Political Economy (Smith & Ricardo) French Socialism , and German Idealism (Hegel & Feuerbach.) One cannot deny those influences and the profound effect they have had on the work of Marx.

What I will suggest ; however, is to look at Marx's work in a different way. One must situate Marx's work in the historical period it is from, and grasp the development of Marx's work over time. In other words , Marx at different times believes different things, he changes his mind, he will contradict himself. This should not be used against him , he was not a prophet , but a man.

Second , a recognition that Marx's work consists largely of works of criticism and diatribes against his enemies. Thomas Sowell rightly points out that "because many of these doctrines have disapeared...later interperters... have not fully understood the real thrusts and limits of [his] words."

Third, Much of Marx's work came late to English speaking peoples. The Paris Manuscripts were not published until 1932. And popular English translations came only later. It was not until the 1960's that that the current view of Western Marxism ( Marxist Humanism ala Perry Anderson) came into being.

Finally, Marx was a dialectician. It was his method of inquiry and presentation but a full defense and explanation must await a future post.
Bertell Ollman quotes Vilfredo Pareto's comments on Marx's "peculiar" use of his words : "... they are like bats, one can see in them both birds and rats." [Ollman 1976 (2nd edition)]

Coupled together , we can see that viewing Marx from this perspective will illuminate a vastly different Marx than one finds popularly digested. It is my hope that I will be able to bring to light this view.

Important Secondary Literature.

A numer of important works inform my reading of Karl Marx. These are in addition to the works I proposed for the reader to visit in my first post. Bolded works are guiding threads for interpetations.

Major influences:
  • Bertell Ollman /Alienation
  • Richard W. Miller /Analyzing Marx : Moralitty, Power and History
  • G.A. Cohen /Karl Marx's Theory of History
  • Allen E. Buchanan/ Marx and Justice
  • Allen Wood /Karl Marx
  • Alexander Balinky/ Marx's Economics
  • Sidney Hook/ From Hegel to Marx
  • Jurgen Habermas/ Knowledge and Human Interests
  • Gavin Kitching / Karl Marx and the Philosophy of Praxis

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Note on the Purpose of this Blog.

My purpose in creating this blog is several fold:

  1. To stimulate an interest and revival in Marx and Marxist humanism.
  2. To comment onthe use and misuse of Marx whether online in blogs, alt lists, or the news.
  3. To formulate my own brand of and criticism of Marxist works.
  4. To point out and correct common misunderstandings and myths regarding communism and Marx.

How to read Karl Marx

Good Evening,

And welcome to the first post of the Karl Marx Blog! Let's get down to business. Here are my pics for how to begin your quest for understanding Marx and Marxism.

One should begin with Peter Singer's Marx: A Very Short Introduction, or with McLellan, David, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought, London: McMillan, 1973. Either book is great , but I recommend McLellan's treatment. In one hour you can learn all you need to know about Marx in a accessible but not dumbed down version. Next, I would read From Socrates to Satre by T.Z. Lavine ( at least the sections on Hegel and Marx pages 199-320)

Once you have been introduced to the thought of K.Marx I would look for the general works or primers. Arch conservative Thomas Sowell provides a fantastic intro for the advanced student. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics is a easy to read book that offers a true potrait of Marx's thought. One only senses Sowells' right wing bias near the end of the book when he provides comment on the Legacy of Marx.

The second primer I would recommend is Richard Schmdtts: Introduction to Marx and Engels. This book reads more like a text book than a philosophical treatise. Other you could consider are George Lichtheim's Marxism and The Social And Political Thought of Karl Marx by Shlomo Avineri [not for the uninitiated.]

One may have noticed so far my reliance on secondary sources as a material to become acquainted with Marx. This was done purposefully and will assure those readers unfamiliar with Mr. Marx except from the stereotypes offered by the mainstream media. Furthermore,it will serve as restraint knowledge for any new readers from an analytical philosophic position. I will [soon] break down primary texts of Marx to read from in a future post.