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.