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*Updated. When I posted this in the middle of the night, I had no idea it would be rescued & make the rec list. I'm sorry I haven't been able to be more involved in the discussion. I got up today, had rehearsals & well, real life & didn't even realize this made the reclist until this evening.

I wrote a diary eons ago out of frustration with the general misapprehension of Marx by many then denizens of Dkos, exemplified by some derogatory quip made by Markos one day in an open thread. As I was perusing the thread in David Mizner's diary, I thought it might be time to go more into depth. The biggest problem with sensationalized articles about Marx [either for or against] is that the Marx appearing in them is unrecognizable to anyone who has actually spent a good deal of time reading him. I'm going to focus here on the the idea proposed at the end of the article:

[T]he workers of the world may just unite. Marx may yet have his revenge.
This displays an egregious misreading of the Marxist idea of history - specifically, dialectical history.

What is a dialectical notion of history? Marx's mentor, Hegel, was the most famous promulgator of the idea. It was his direct response to what he perceived as the cold rationalism of the Kantian view of the universe. Hegel viewed Kant's idea of reason as static, ahistorical and lacking the human context of community. I thoroughly disagree with this reading of Kant, but that is an entirely different diary. In order to remedy his perceived flaws with Kant's version of reason, Hegel reached back to the Aristotelian idea of causality. When the Enlightenment rediscovered a 'scientific' notion of causality, it excluded the most quirky of Aristotelian causes, namely the 'final cause'. In Physica, Aristotle's analysis of causality relied on four causes - formal, material, efficient and final. The scientific enlightenment focused primarily on efficient causality in its understanding of nature [for now I will dispense with formal and material - as they are caught up in the discussion of efficient causality] - namely what is the immediate cause resulting in an immediate effect. An apple falls from a tree - gravity. Or Hume's famous discussions of billiard balls. The notion of a final cause was absent from the scientific revolution [though interestingly enough now resides in lots of current scientific thinking - like ecology]. In short, a 'final cause' is the manifest actuality of a causal process - the final result - or when thought of as an historical process, the essential truth of an evolutionary process.

Hegel made the 'final cause' the centerpiece of his historical/philosophic system. As my good friend Agnes Heller used to say, "it is a biologistic metaphor: the truth of the tree is the flower, the truth of the flower is the fruit, the truth of the fruit is the seed, the truth of the seed it the tree." In the context of an historical theory, this means that within our various forms of human organization - social, economic, religious, etc. - truths develop that cannot be manifest within that form of organization creating a central conflict. This conflict results in the self-immolation of that historical order resulting in truth or truths that guides the next social order, which in turn develops new truths that conflict with that order. Rinse. Repeat. This is the ground of progressive history.

Marx took this idea from Hegel and plugged it into an economic, rather than epistemic, analysis of history. The central engine of this history is the conflict between the relations and forces of production. The relations of production are at base the manner in which we organize our society. The forces of production are simply our level of techological development. Within Marx scholarship, there is vast, really vaaaaassssst dissension on how to read Marx on that conflict. And, quite frankly, Marx himself took several positions throughout his writings. For purposes of simplicity, I will simply forward this. Within our history, the continual development of the forces of production create truths that directly conflict with the current state of the relations of production. I will further forward that the 'truths' created are always with respect to what I call 'manufactured scarcity'. This is not a Marxist term, but something I've been focusing on lately when looking at economic relations. But back to Marx, this conflict results in the dissolution of that order and the foundation of a new order based on the truths of the forces of production.

Like Hegel before him, because this biologistic read of history is based on a 'final' manifestation, Marx assumed that we would reach an historical epoch in which the forces of production reveal a final truth - the end of history. That epoch, gasp shockingly, is democratic capitalism. Capitalism reveals exactly how the game is rigged: through the notion of contract labor the alienation of individuals from the value they create within an economic system finally becomes the very basis of that economic system; the technological advances of capitalism lay bare the falsity of 'natural' scarcity; and the mechanisms of capitalism divorce us from the vestiges of social tribalism that have always been the cornerstone of the relations of production [family, ethnicity, religion and eventually the state]. This results in a set of 'final truths' about humanity: hierarchical modes of organization conflict with the intrinsic equality of human beings [illuminated by the system of contract labor]; scarcity, the cudgel by which relations of production are enforced, is conquered [and here I would say 'understood as manufactured']; the structures that reinforce both must by necessity fall away to manifest these truths in a new, final, form of human society - one whose systems of governance, distribution and social organization embody both egalitarianism and self creation. Species-being - the realization that those are one and the same thing.

This isn't a 'critique' of capitalism. In fact, Marx understood himself as seeing Smith and Ricardo to their natural end. When capitalist journalists, writing for capitalist publications write about Marx, they completely disregard the fact that Marx was a capitalist - in fact, the project of capitalism is the most important historical era, because it finally reveals fully the history of exploitation. It finally reveals fully the truth of human equality. It raises the blinders to the myth that we are currently self-governed. And it elevates human freedom - not freedom from, but freedom to - as the truth of our future social order.

For Marx this process is as natural as bees pollinating flowers. That there were 'revolutions' 100 years ago in specific nation-states that claimed to be Marxist is of no consequence to how Marx viewed history. There is no 'vindication'. Marx simply thought that capitalism would collapse eventually because of it's own internal contradictions & that the resulting form of organization would finally display our truth as a species.

That said, there is a whole lot of Marx about putting pressure on the relations of production to hasten that collapse... but, that is also for another diary. My point here is simply to start giving some actual context to understand Marx and combat the terrible misconceptions bandied about around town...

Originally posted to lucid on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (139+ / 0-)
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  •  Truth is, I don't care about 19th C philosophers (10+ / 0-)

    all that much, but I tipped you because you threw a lot of light on the topic, and you worked hard to write something clear. Nice job, I think I understand things better than before reading. Thanks.


    Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest. route to More Democrats

    by Jim P on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:03:59 PM PDT

    •  Given that we still live in a world (60+ / 0-)

      largely dictated by an amalgam of ideas patched together over 3,000 years, give or take, I think we all need to pay more attention to the evolution of those ideas.  The less we know about our history, the less insight we have when we try to see our way forward.

    •  Jesus was a philosopher (4+ / 0-)

      But it took a while for "Christianity"to catch on.

    •  We don't have the luxury of not caring (15+ / 0-)

      about 19th century thinkers, since many of our ideas come from them and their 18th century forebearers. E.g. Spencer and Social Darwinism as justification for laissez-faire and 19th century classical liberalism in general (e.g. Mill) as one of the sources of modern libertarianism, especially as interpreted (or some might say misinterpreted) by the right, Hegel, Engels and Marx of course, etc.

      As much as we have political founders, we also have ideological founders. In fact our actual founders were extremely influenced by 18th century thinkers like Hume, Burke, Montesquieu, etc., who were in turn influenced by 17th century thinkers and especially activists such as those responsible for the Glorious Revolution. Basically, the issues we're debating today go way back.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:29:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thoughts follow emotions, emotions follow (4+ / 0-)

        character, character flows from what's valued.

        For instance Libertarianism has a very wordy and multi-faceted intellectual expression, which is based on "I want to do what I want always, no interference," which is based on a selfish character, which is based on valuing only oneself and not others.

        If you know the values held in the first place, you can reasonably and accurately anticipate the philosophy. If the "Me only" person is concerned to appear decent, they'll make up Libertarianism. If not, they'll make up Dog-eat-Dog Conservatism.

        There may be Capitalism advocated as a theory, and it may be expressed logically in a million pages, with charts and graphs. But when you blow all the smoke away you're left with: "Go forth and Plunder if you wish to be prosperous. Plunder the foreigner; plunder the earth; plunder your neighbors." Unalloyed greed is the core value.

        All you really need to deal with that is: I'm going to make you stop plundering me! Don't need a rationale or an explanation, really. Don't even need to name the response anything.

        I understand that there's history, I know my history pretty well, having been a voracious student for 57 years.

        Part of that history is knowing that one of the avenues to rise from lower-caste status and poverty in the 19thC was to be an intellectual. And to be accepted into the intellectual community you had to subscribe and present according to the fads of the day: a materialism scientism, chiefly.

        Hence, phrenology and a hundred other "notions expressed as science and reason." Not the least of which where philosophical outpourings. The result was, imo, a lot of "blah blah about tra tra" as the 19thC saying goes.

        Again, my take is idiosyncratic, largely formed by the experience, in my youth, of having waded through a very dense and long Being and Nothingness followed by, basically a 30 page pamphlet, on the fundamentals of Buddhism. Realized if I had read the pamphlet first I could have saved myself reading the book, and actually walked away with more understanding and practical insight, as well as what the book offered! Though being taken seriously by my contemporaries as a philosopher would have been more difficult.


        Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest. route to More Democrats

        by Jim P on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:08:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It may well be true (6+ / 0-)

          that many if not most people who claim to subscribe to and believe in a given "ism", be it capitalism, libertarianism, conservatism, liberalism, etc., are really doing so out of self-interest, with the "ism" just a way to justify their preferred approach to life. But I don't think this is true of a lot of people, and in any case, we argue ideologies on their merits or lacks thereof, not on the motivation this or that person has for subscribing to that ideology and whether it's sincere or not, which we have no way of knowing for sure in any case.

          E.g. is Obama a neoliberal, or is he someone who merely appears to believe in it because it's currently the dominant ideology among power and money elite? Is he a progressive, or is he someone who merely poses as one to win over his base? And on and on. We can never really know, so might as well stick to arguing the ideology itself instead of whether it's sincerely held or not.

          Which, I think, requires some understanding of its origins and evolution. And all contemporary ideologies have 19th and often 18th and even earlier origins. It may seem pedantic and pointless, but it's unavoidable. This is even more so with constitutional debates, which absolutely require a familiarity with 18th and 19th century legal thinking and precedent. Plus, knowing an ideology's origins helps one argue for or against it compellingly, as one gets to know all the usual arguments and how they started and evolved.

          As for the conformist nature of 19th century intellectualism, two comments. One, this happens today as much as it did then. And two, there were plenty of notable exceptions back then, e.g. Hegel, Marx, Darwin, Faraday, Maxwell, etc. We clearly have "court" historians and intellectuals today (if one is willing to broadly define what an intellectual is) who reinforce the establishment take on things. E.g. Niall Ferguson, Jon Meacham, Charles Murray, etc.

          Know thyself --> know thy past.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:57:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  All valid and true. (7+ / 0-)

            Just saying it takes me about a minute, usually, to get a person's motivations. I'll never know if Obama is a committed Neoliberal, or just takes on the hue of the day, but I can tell he wants to enhance the Corporations and Banks. Knew it after I saw his first campaign speech. I don't think getting motivations is really that difficult, if you have a clear feel for your own.

            That said, I've encountered ... well, no, I can't think of anyone with an ideological bent who's been converted to another through argumentation. Goes back to core values, which sets motivations. The intellectual expressions always depends on the person's predilections.

            I have seen people's values overturned by experience or self-examination, but not by argument.

            I enjoy disputation as much as the next person, especially having the awesome record of being right which I have, (which I'm sure I share with almost everyone), but apart from the pleasure of it, I think the value is minimal. Not completely worthless but seldom productive. Bring a rich guy into a slum, that's more likely to work, imo.

            Thanks for taking time to write your quite sound views. Much appreciated.


            Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest. route to More Democrats

            by Jim P on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:14:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree that most people are pretty easy reads (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Jim P, ozsea1, Words In Action

              and their ideology, as it were, is mostly facile and cover. Still, however and for whatever reason they really came to "adopt" a given ideology, the ideology itself has roots, and without that ideology, they'd have a much harder time justifying their leanings. To know something about that ideology and its origins and evolution is to have a leg up on them and be able to take apart the reasons they give to support their alleged ideology to get to the real root of their reason for allegedly believing in it. It may not win them over, but it will reveal them to be frauds and perhaps make it that much less easy for them to pretend to be what they pretend to be. This isn't exactly a way to make friends and influence people, but our side has taken such hits over the decades that I think it's necessary to go out on the attack and draw some ideological blood and make THEM go on the defensive for a change.

              Basically, you show them that they don't know what they're talking about and in any case don't really believe in what they claim to believe in (e.g. historically libertarians are for liberty, period, with no exceptions on issues you want the state to interfere in peoples' lives on, conservatism is about small government but not about no government and believes in social welfare), and are just self-interested frauds with a thin veneer of easily dispatchable ideological BS for cover. Strip them thusly, and the real fight begins, over values, not ideas.

              We're at war, with ideas, bastardizations of ideas, and the people who hide behind and use them to hurt and exploit others, and we need to know where those ideas came from to do battle with them. We have to be smarter than them, so that when some fake conservative asshat like George Will or fake libertarian racist like Ron Paul or that loudmouth who can't stop yapping about FreeDumb! at the next table over opens their mouth, we're ready to stuff their dishonest words back in their mouths and shut them up for a change.

              History is war by other means.

              :-)

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:02:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, good points. I think of Trickle Down, (4+ / 0-)

                Privatization, and Deregulation in the context you indicate, and, indeed, we'd be much better off if Dems had been hammering at the evidence ("30 years to make failure") back when we all had hope for change in January 2009. Geez, people were bleeding from the evidence, all over the country.

                It is not only worthwhile, but necessary, to attack false things. Somewhere I wrote my political categories boil down to Informed Adults of Good Intent; the Go-Along-to-Get-Along; and Psychopathic Pricks. (This is much more to the point than, say, Marx, imo.)

                It's the middle group which matters, the largest group, and that's where quality-of-Democracy is decided. And these people have to hear things in the language they are used to.

                So you are absolutely correct.

                There's a vital need to demonstrate false ideologies, false prescriptions and paths, as such.


                Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest. route to More Democrats

                by Jim P on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:14:41 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Knock down lies and myths, promote what works (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Words In Action, gc10, Jim P, Barton Funk

                  and is right. That's basically it. Knowing where all these ideas comes from does make that easier, though. I like your division, and agree that it's the middle group that matters most, because it's the largest and most persuadable. We may be able to tarnish the psychopaths but we'll never win them over. We can, though, reveal them for what they are to the middle group, and gradually get this group over to our side--which for the most part is their side, too, in terms of self-interest, since most people will never be truly rich.

                  Modern conservatism is crazy and evil and neoliberalism is not that far behind. The only sustainable and fair way forward is populist progressivism. Being able to explain why is essential, and knowing the history of these ideologies is very crucial in being able to do that well. Now hit the books! :-)

                  "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                  by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 04:50:26 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You've spoken quite well on the value of (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    kovie, Jim P, melo, Barton Funk

                    intellectual history, kovie, and I've enjoyed this thread between you and Jim P as much as this diary and Mizzner's before it.

                    I have one question, though, which popped up in reading this last comment in an excellent thread between you and Jim P, concerning this observation:

                    I like your division, and agree that it's the middle group that matters most, because it's the largest and most persuadable.
                    There was a time I may have quite easily agreed with this. These days, however, the constant seemingly interminable conflicts we have with our own party centrists, moderates, apologists, however one attempts to refer to them, leads me question the degree to which they are persuadable.

                    It seems more and more that our "partners" to the immediate right exhibit the empathy in the woody cells of  the Party platform only when issue comes round to setting fire directly upon them. The entire discussion of economics, whether its wages, job "benefits," work-related social services, working conditions,  the markets, (un-/)employment, corporate and individual taxation, globalization -- you name it, really, has become almost indistinguishable from those I have folks in the Other half of the One Party under plutocracy in this country. And I find it very distressing, of course, because our more "moderate" counterparts seem, to date, essential to caging the Other half; always, in our attempts to do so, it is the moderates who prevent us.

                    (As I understand it, our kossack apologists spend most of their time in other blog dens kvetching about us, a few popping over from time to time to hurl the odd molotov cocktail...)

                    So, if you're interested, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on persuading the middle?

                    Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

                    by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:23:29 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I meant regular people in the middle (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Jim P, Words In Action, melo, Barton Funk

                      not pundits, politicians, reporters and "professional centrists". I.e. our friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, etc., who are not too far right or left, or all that political. E.g. people who might lean right and respect David Brooks, or lean left and respect Krugman, but whose beliefs don't run too deep and are thus "gettable". I used to be one of these people. I've always leaned left, but there was a time when I thought that people like Brooks and Friedman had something worthwhile and interesting to say.

                      Then the 2000 election, 9/11 & Iraq happened, and I woke up. Did a bunch of reading, mostly contemporary political books, some history, a little economics, started reading and posting on blogs and watching Olbermann and later Maddow, etc. My "education" is still very, very far from complete, but I know a lot more about this stuff than I used to, and it's made me a smarter, more informed and better citizen, I think.

                      We need to get everyone else on board, by exposing them to these things. The right has been great at persuasion, twisting ideology to suit its ends. Why not us? We're smarter and don't have to lie.

                      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                      by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:39:58 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Interesting. (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Jim P, Barton Funk

                        I had a similar history, triggered by the same events. Previously I had been a corporate executive for 15 years. Though I was always the most ardent "representative of the people" in the boardroom, I was never insufferable enough to be significantly jeopardized by it, if you know what I mean.

                        The Ken Starr, Arkansas Project hunting of Clinton was hard to watch, but the 2000 election was unbearable. I was completely radicalized. I could not fathom was there was not massive public outrage and rioting in the streets, because I knew the civic import of the SCOTUS decision as well as the social and economic impact a Bush/Cheney administration would have. And everything from thereon out only reinforced the alienation and foreboding it gave me.

                        I find it difficult to reach and see little evidence of others being able to reach Democrats that have been far less touched by these events. At least until they are directly affected; then there's a decent chance they'll reconsider.

                        I have noticed, for example, some incredibly staunch Obama supporters jump ship over Social Security...

                        Outside of those directly, existentially affected and altered, it seems there's a basic empathic appreciation that is missing, and it seems unbridgeable.

                        Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

                        by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:13:28 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  Btw (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Words In Action

                      Do they really have their own blogs where they obsess, whine and bitch over us? Am I famous there--or should I say infamous? Who else is? Fascinating!

                      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                      by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:43:39 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  So I hear and I saw one briefly and read (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        kovie

                        a thread. As intriguing as it was, I couldn't see any good in spending more time there, much as certain conversations here... I'm too easily distracted and even more easily agitated to go looking for trouble not on my to do list. :)

                        If you look at ek hornbeck's diary from Saturday night, And I Quote, which involves a tangle with MB on SS with "combatants," you'll see a glimpse. And there was a link to one of the outside sites in the comments, I believe one of Pluto's.

                        And a day or two earlier I caught MB referring to these guys and he provided a link as well.

                        Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

                        by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:22:06 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I'm honestly not that interested (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Words In Action

                          Just slightly curious. These blog wars are Hegelian. What emerges is better, but something has to be destroyed or dismissed in the process.

                          Where are the Deaniacs? Do they have reunions?

                          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

                          by kovie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 09:01:04 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                •  "It's the middle group which matters, the (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Jim P, melo, Barton Funk

                  largest group, and that's where quality-of-Democracy is decided."

                  Yes. Well said. I think that's perhaps the most common comment I make, in various ways, every single day. That and the import of it. And it never seems to stop bearing repeating, unfortunately. One particular set variations that recent conversation triggers most frequently runs along the lines of: "we could overwhelm the Republicans if there wasn't such a high pile of Democrats in the way." And this is usually said in the larger context of killing the neoliberal beast of supply-side economics, which was so close to death in early 2009, before its cousin, Third Way, stepped in to nurse it back to life.

                  I've enjoyed this thread as much as the diary, which I enjoyed very much. And I still liked Mizner's, too.

                  Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

                  by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:04:43 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  I awoke this morning with the thought that (23+ / 0-)

    with all our technological marvels and instant global communication, we will still go down in history as some of the stupidest people to ever walk the earth. Your essay shines a little light on how that happened.

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:21:51 AM PDT

  •  Well done. Normally my eyes glaze over (11+ / 0-)

    whenever ideas are articulated in the dense language of philosophical thought rather than in practical system terms, but I think I followed what you were getting at.

    The goal of all societies should be a post-scarcity, technocratic economy where liberty, opportunity, and equality are all maximized as a unified system.  This can be achieved by "fractalizing" democracy - i.e., rather than having government be one big institution where people elect representatives periodically, it would be a vast, kaleidoscopic landscape of interlocking institutions in which we all democratically participate on equal terms.

    As to philosophy, I could never make myself pay attention to it.  It always seemed like a distraction from the real subject - philosophers study the structure of ideas rather than what they do.  And that's why the Greco-Roman world, so fraught with intelligent thinking, made barely any technological progress beyond the initial technical and political innovations that brought them to prominence.  The great minds of their civilization were too busy discussing the anatomy of ideas rather than creating them.

    Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

    by Troubadour on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:52:24 AM PDT

    •  heh, heh (14+ / 0-)

      When you wrote,

      ...the Greco-Roman world, so fraught with intelligent thinking,  made barely any technological progress beyond,....

      The great minds of their civilization were too busy discussing the anatomy of ideas rather than creating them.

      ...I thought of some technical developments by both civilizations.

      Wikipedia does a nice job of listing some Greek contributions and some Roman ones.

      Ancient Greek technology developed during the 5th century BC, continuing up to and including the Roman period, and beyond.
      ...
      Inventions that are credited to the ancient Greeks include the gear, screw, rotary mills, screw press, bronze casting techniques, water clock, water organ, torsion catapult, the use of steam to operate some experimental machines and toys, and a chart to find prime numbers. ... their early development of the watermill, ... they developed surveying and mathematics to an advanced state,...
      Roman technology is the engineering practice which supported Roman civilization and made the expansion of Roman commerce and Roman military possible over nearly a thousand years, if the Byzantine Empire is included.

      The Roman Empire had one of the most advanced set of technologies of its time, some of which was lost during the turbulent eras of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Gradually, some of the technological feats of the Romans were rediscovered and/or improved upon, ....

      aqueducts, dams, bridges, and amphitheatres. ... many innovations to roads, sanitation, and construction in general. ... Cements...were used to make a concrete very similar to modern Portland cement concrete. ...Roman aqueducts were built to remarkably fine tolerances, and to a technological standard that was not to be equalled until modern times. .... The Romans were one of the first known civilizations to invent indoor plumbing.

      Other interesting Roman items include brass, various types of dams, glass blowing, hydrometer, lighthouses, and roller bearings.  And, of course, their military tactics sustained them very well.

      But perhaps your point is that both civilizations eventually succombed to various forces despite their technological progress.  That's probably more true of the Greeks than the Romans. The former's ruling class wasn't as adept for promoting / using technology, but I'd say eventual Roman failure was more political in nature than technological.  

      •  Archimedes invented 'calculus'* 1800 years before (6+ / 0-)

        Europeans rediscovered it.  (Or more properly, 'heuristics' which resemble the methods of integral calculus, or more properly the works thru the 1600s which became modern calaculs via Leibniz and/or Newton.)

        Calculus is basically the mathematical foundation of the modern world.  It was less than 300 years from Newton to the nuclear bomb.

        If they'd had paper and the printing press then, the Romans might have conquered the world with airplanes, tanks and nuclear bombs.

      •  "What have the Romans ever done for us..." (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, Words In Action, gc10, tacet

        Judean people's front

        Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. - Gandalf the Grey

        by No Exit on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:26:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Capitalism *creates* scarcity and inequality (6+ / 0-)

      When you chop govt up into pieces (as we have done by outsourcing govt services), the pieces are more easily captured and controlled by Ownership. You don't end up with more democracy and accountability, you end up with less, as well as with inefficient Balkanized services; cf. US health care and US social services.

  •  Marxism (6+ / 0-)

    I recall reading a quote, possibly apocryphal, from Marx:
    "All I know is that I am not a Marxist."

  •  I know its a huge topic, but question (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    penguins4peace, Simplify, Bluesee, VClib

    about alienation: take an oil company CEO.  he's paid for his labor: he does X, he gets $Y in exchange as a matter of contract.  he's contracted his labor the same way most of us do, the main difference is that he's paid a fuckton more.  so is the notion of alienation tied into surplus value?  eg, the surplus value he creates redounds to his benefit, rather than to the shareholders.  is that why his labor isn't alienated from him, or is he actuly as alienated from his labor as a minimum wage worker?

    •  I'll step in it with you (6+ / 0-)

      And it's a bit of a risk since I know a whole lot less now than I used to. And beyond that this is going to be a bit simplistic.

      However an oil company CEO is likely to have a significant investment in the company. That investment, his capital contribution to the enterprise, is part and parcel of the means of production. So he is not only (or perhaps even primarily) contracting his labor so much as he is being compensated for the use of his capital. It really isn't about his labor; I presume that if he has to do paperwork, issue directives, sit in board meetings and so on, that sort of labor he'd be as alienated from as the person at the oil rig. But that isn't his primary involvement in the enterprise.

      •  So let's assume around that. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, VClib

        Let's say we have company X, whose CEO is paid entirely in cash and gets an enormous salary.  

        (great thing about philosophy is that we can stipulate the contours of the factual world to get at the conceptual stuff!)

        •  That's pretty much a hypothetical with no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Barton Funk

          real-world reference, isn't it?

          Not sure how it would be instructive to contemplate.

          Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

          by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:49:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Marx later abandons (17+ / 0-)

        the alienation theory that dominated his earlier work.  That aside, the logic is different between workers and owners.  In Capital, Marx describes the logic of the worker with the "equation" "C-M-C" (commodity-money-commodity).  The worker sells his labor (a commodity or C) for money (M) and uses that money to buy another commodity.  In other words, his money isn't used to make money.  For the capitalist, by contrast, the "equation" is "M-C-M".  The capitalist invests his money in a commodity (labor, buildings to rent, objects to trade) to get money as the result of his investment.  The capitalists money makes money, whereas the worker uses his money simply to live.

        There are, of course, all sorts of intermediaries.  For example, those of us who have 401's are behaving as capitalists in that we are investing money in commodities to make money.  The crucial difference comes down to whether or not one is able to live on their investment activity alone (M-C-M) or whether we can only live through our labor (C-M-C).  Most of us can't live on our 401's (at least until very late in life) and are therefore forced to sell our labor to buy the commodities we require to live.  The CEO, by contrast, is able to live on investments alone without the need to sell labor.  Not only does his "labor" consist in investing money in commodities (whether they be labor, stocks, or goods to be traded) to make more money for the corporation, but he is able to live solely on the compensation that he receives and the money that compensation is able to generate through reinvestment.

        •  the CEO sells his labor. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hmi, VClib

          he uses the proceeds to invest, but he's still selling his labor for capital.  some of that goes into commodities, a lot back to capital.

          •  But he doesn't need to do so (5+ / 0-)

            Almost any CEO of a major corporation could retire at any point and live very comfortably off of his investments. Unlike a worker, he does not need the income earned from work. In fact, there are many CEOs who take no, or only a nominal salary. You would be hard pressed to find a CEO of a major company who makes more by selling his labor than he makes by lending his capital.

            •  I knew this would provide for an interesting (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              melo, Barton Funk

              discussion. I was unavailable on long, grueling and occasionally scary bike ride. Now I have even fewer functioning braincells.

              I appreciate the responses and in particular the added analysis. As I said I've forgotten a great deal over time.

            •  Seth - I don't think that is accurate (0+ / 0-)

              In large part because total CEO compensation is so high. The average total compensation for a Fortune 500 CEO is about $13 million. Only about $3-4 million is cash. The balance is equity compensation that will be earned over the next four years and depends on the price of the company's stock. It actually takes a lot of capital to have annual investment income in the range of $10 million a year. Even at 10%, which would be a high rate of return, would require an investment portfolio of $100 million. At a more realistic 5%, it would be twice that amount. Most Fortune 500 CEOs don't have a net worth in excess of $100 million and if they do it's not all invested in financial assets. The guys with the really big bucks are CEOs of financial services firms or investors, rather than operating executives.

              "let's talk about that"

              by VClib on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:38:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  The question is one of (0+ / 0-)

            whether or not the person is enslaved by a certain relation to labor.  Does the person have the choice of jumping out of the entire game altogether, or is it a necessity for them to sell their labor in order to live at all.  The CEO has that choice.  Most others do not.

    •  I have one quibble (7+ / 0-)

      CEO's especially ones of large corporations do not contract their labor out the same way that middle class people do.

      We only think nothing goes without saying.

      by Hamtree on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 08:46:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  there are differences in terms, but its (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        still contracted labor.

        •  No. As I note below, there is a big difference (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, Words In Action, JosephK74

          Between a member of the owner class agreeing contractually to help other members of the owner class make enormous amounts of money by exploiting other people, and being paid subsistence wages to be exploited.

          I think you're focusing way to much on the fact that someone is singing an agreement to do something.  It's the "something" you're agreeing to do that's relevant here.

          Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

          by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:42:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Actually (14+ / 0-)

      a CEO of a large corporation doesn't contract his labor the same way most people do.

      CEO is at the top levels of the hierarchical power structure, while most of the rest of us are at or near the bottom.

      A CEO's interest is completely aligned with the owner class. The manner in which they are paid is often quite different, based on elaborate contracts, remuneration with stocks, golden parachutes, bonuses, etc.

      Thus they are often both the owner class, as well as the ruling class.

      The relationship is quite different from the powerlessness most workers experience.

      We don't need Marx to tell us what is in front of our faces. Marx didn't invent socialism.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:07:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  legally they do. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hmi, duhban, VClib

        they sign an employment agreement in exchange for compensation the same way I do.

        •  Not all executive positions are the same (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MrJayTee

          Some CEOs are definitively part of the owner class, and some are not as entrenched, depending on the nature of the corporation.

          But most are enjoying a privileged position at the upper echelons of the hierarchical work place, and thus are part of worker exploitation.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:02:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  A practical, non-doctrinaire way to answer this: (6+ / 0-)

          If the capitalistic, hierarchical workplace of the CEO was collectivized, and turned to self-management by the workers, would the CEO flee to avoid the more equal work environment?

          During the Spanish Civil War, when large areas of Spain were collectivized under anarcho-socialism, some fled, some stayed and enjoyed the new freedom and equality in the workplace.

          I'd wager those who fled were going to lose property, position, privilege, and could not bear living under more egalitarian social structure.

          Management generally fled.

          People generally know how their bread gets buttered without consulting a reference.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:19:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  On the other hand (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MrJayTee, where4art, chuckvw, ozsea1, antirove

            In Spain small business owners (bakeries, hair salons, etc) either continued as before (if they could manage without hired labor) or gladly joined the collectives.

            And some administrators of larger enterprises chose to stay on, as well.

            People knew if they were to lose or gain under the new system, and behaved accordingly.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:38:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  The issue is where the individual stands (6+ / 0-)

          In the hierarchy of exploitation.  

          Signing an employment agreement to be CEO or other top level position can apply to a member of the owner class who enjoys the work or to an aspiring member of that class.  Either way, as owners or highly paid aspirants, their purpose is to maximize profit with little consideration of the fate of working people.

          Next layer down are non-owners who, whatever their aspirations, make their money using their education and professional qualifications assisting the owners in their exploitation, for example corporate lawyers and accountants.  They are the real middle class.

          You and the CEO may both sign an employment agreement, but you make your living at the mercy of his class, as do we all.

          That's the difference.  Unless he's an extravagant fool, the only wound he suffers when he's fired is to his ego.  

          Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

          by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:21:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's the type of compensation (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, Words In Action, JosephK74

          and how it's taxed that's the fundamental difference; and in fact, your very livelihood depends on it.

          So, you knew this ahead of time, and still blithely offer "abstractions" in hope that your audience will be fooled.

          The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

          by ozsea1 on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 04:03:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The surplus value is taken, not created. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, lucid, JosephK74

      Generally, both s/he and the shareholders would benefit.  Exactly how depends on bylaws and management.

      Either way, the distinction isn't just that he's paid a fuckton more but that he's paid to extract value from the workers, i.e., exploit them.

      It's the exploited who experience alienation.

      (And what's the metric system equivalent of a fuckton, BTW?)

      Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

      by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:37:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So, Marx the economist had nothing whatever to (15+ / 0-)

    do with "Marxism" of the 1860's through the Mau Mau revolution in Peru.

    This point is clear in this excellent diary,  Marx was explaining his view of how capitalism evolves over time, just as Adam Smith was explaining his view about how "liberal" economies should work with perfect information and perfect exchange mechanisms.

    Marx, as I understand him, was seeing how the project of capitalism exposes underlying inequality of belief. No more, no less. Since he was not founding a political philosophy, we should be able to look at his ideas objectively and say, well, 150 years later, did that happen?

    In my view, yes it did happen. The project for all of us is to fulfil a new political philosophy, not a Marxist one, but a response to Marx and Smith, which can address the inequality and environmental dead-enderism of this current form of capitalism.

    Marx was not a Marxist, and no one who seeks solutions for accumulation of inequality is a Marxist either. We are looking for a new way forward so that we have a future.

    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

    by OregonOak on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 07:27:00 AM PDT

    •  Thank you Mr. Zett (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, ozsea1, Words In Action

      I admire your work, I support your work, I contribute to your work, and I pray and hope that we will find someone and some organization to challenge the dominant corporate hucksterism of this new century.

      I have to admit, I am nearly given up on the Democrats as a force for good, but I am willing to listen to you.  Where can I find more of your writing and thinking on the public intertubes?

      People are ready to listen and follow people who have been RIGHT all along.  

      Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

      by OregonOak on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 07:54:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Mau Mau in Peru? Kenya, maybe? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Perry the Imp

      Check for the Mau Mau birth certificate.

    •  There's Marx the sociologist (12+ / 0-)

      and Marx the political theorist.  Marx did not have a whole lot to say about political theory if, by "political theory" we understand the proposal of models of what society should be as in the case of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls.  He just didn't say a whole lot on these matters beyond his highly impressionistic remarks in the Manifesto.  Marx the sociologist, by contrast, had a great deal to say about why societies take the form they take and where our current social organization is heading given the trends or antagonisms that inhabit it.

      •  But he saw himself as an Economist, and (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IreGyre, kyril, Words In Action

        I think that in his eclectic approach to Final Causes, he was compelled to put in disciplines outside of Economic concerns, while remaining, primarily, a polymath economist. Much like Keynes, I think. He said relatively little except anecdotally about "Econ" and relatively a great deal about how people behave in the real world, and we know him still as an Economist above all.

        Maybe I am being oversimplistic here, and will bow to superior education on these matters.

        Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

        by OregonOak on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:00:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not convinced he even (7+ / 0-)

          saw himself as an economist.  He was, believe it or not, obsessed with anthropology and saw himself engaged in an anthropological project and total explanation of the social.  He just thought production was a key dimension in what makes us human.

          •  I see. (4+ / 0-)

            Okay. Now I have to investigate the origins of economics as a discipline. Thanks.. hahahaah.

            Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

            by OregonOak on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:18:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Some truth, in that he dealt with political-econom (3+ / 0-)

            y (as he called it), but concluded the latter determined the former (a more simplistic explanantion of historical materials as developed by Marx in critiquing Hegel iirc.  A more formal explcation = the means of production determines the organizational structures of human acitivity, family to society, i.e. politics).  Given that, it is easy to think that he thought of himself as a economist (and dismiss the political end of things).  

            In fact, however, he was neither - he certainly saw himself as a philosopher (esepcially in the earlier years).  It might  be best to think of him as a philosopher who also  (primarily by inclusion of what we would call statistical and sociological data in formulating and explaining his philosophy of politcal-economy) helped move politics, economists and sociology from natural philosophy to science.

    •  The Mau Mau uprising took place in Kenya (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sawgrass727

      in the 1950's. You may be thinking of the Shining Path in Peru.

      For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

      by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:57:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Marxism is essentially (0+ / 0-)

      an Industrial Age socioeconomic theory with large political implications/consequences.

      In many countries- perhaps first in 1860s-70s France- it was enlisted and transformed (usually under the label Communism), arguably bowdlerized, into primarily a rationale and political theory for opposing and destroying the Agrarian Age political order that existed and was almost obsolete.  E.g. the Czar and aristocracy in Russia, the residual monarchy and warlords in China, the late feudal-colonial regimes in Africa and South America and the rest of Asia.  The story of the USSR, for example, is largely about the disestablishing/material destruction of the aristocracy and fascists and dependent classes in Russia and the societies it occupied-e.g. clerics, the Ukrainian landholders, the Polish aristocracy in the massacres associated with Katyn, the remaining Hungarian ones in 1945-56, etc.  The Cultural Revolution in China, also.

      The method wasn't capable of actually completing the task, of making a feudal order truly unnecessary, of course.  Only liberal democratization does that, and slowly- requiring the die out of multiple authoritarian generations and their replacement with generations of more responsible, more mature citizens.

  •  Marx, with Engels, wrote The Communist (0+ / 0-)

    Manifesto in 1848.  He wasn't a "capitalist."

    •  Come back... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eikyu Saha, Urizen, ozsea1

      When you know what a "capitalist" is and what a "communist" is. Until then let adults communicate

      We only think nothing goes without saying.

      by Hamtree on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 08:47:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have a bourgeois salary, (6+ / 0-)

      and I have bourgeois investments, from which I make additional bourgeois income.  Yet, like Marx, I vigorously oppose key elements of the economic system of which I am part.  I do not plan to got to Bhutan, because I wouldn't be welcome and it wouldn't achieve anything.  

      Does that make me not a capitalist?  

      •  I don't understand the reference to Bhutan, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        prishannah, chrismorgan

        which is a constitutional monarchy, and which is reputedly the happiest nation in Asia.

        A long time ago I slogged through Hegel and Marx.  I think they're both nuts.

        Nowadays I don't have the patience for debating finer points of Marxism.

        But I do think it's pretty obvious that calling Marx a capitalist is like calling the Pope an atheist.

      •  Are you sure about being bourgeois? (5+ / 0-)

        What means of production do you own?  Broadly speaking, that's the key to being bourgeois in the Marxist sense.

        If by bourgeois you mean what Americans think of as Upper Middle Class, you could be one of a number of things, depending on how you make your money (Serving the real bourgeoisie as a corporate lawyer?  Serving the poor as a caring physician who works in an underserved community?) and how you register your displeasure with the economic system.

        What say you?

        Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

        by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:16:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am a share-owner, (8+ / 0-)

          and I own the same kind of stuff, in the same way, as almost anyone with an IRA invested in "stocks."  I do not exclusively own a company, but then who does?  The income it produces does not derive from my own labor: I skim profits from the labor of others.  Sorry, others.  

          For my salary, I like to think I help others (by teaching, especially by attempting to teach about the downsides of the system), but the dark side is that on balance, I perpetuate the system (or replicate it, as Althusser would say) far more than I change it.  

          I also vote, sign petitions, donate to good causes, and occasionally march.  I said above I won't go to Bhutan: I though the metonym was clear, but apparently not.  It is impossible to remove oneself from complicity with the system, in so many ways it's funny beyond despair.  But I don't despair: I do enjoy art, music, food, and what some disparagingly call 'intellectual' pursuits.  

          •  I'm not sure how important it is to (7+ / 0-)

            definitively categorize oneself. What is the purpose?

            I think there is a gradient of sorts, with some individuals closer to the owner class, and some closer to the working class.

            Does the wage slave need to read Marx to know where you are in the pecking order?

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:53:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Bourgeois life resists clear categories. (8+ / 0-)

              I was trying to show the flawed premise of Timaeus' comment (that Marx wasn't a capitalist). But Marx (especially the early writings) lays out the mechanism by which capitalism (in its rawest form) permanently impoverishes a large swath of workers.  You can oppose that system and still be unavoidably part of it.  Even the most impoverished workers are part of the system and are therefore "capitalists" to some extent -- often enough they claim to love the system.  

              I see many people around me who are in permanent debt, and I wonder what they will do when their bodies grow unfit to work.  If they are clever, they might find a way to die in hock, so that they don't have to die in the back woods.  I know it sounds patronizing, but I consider such a lifestyle to be rather cruel, and it would make me happier if such cruelty did not abound.  

              •  But isn't there a difference (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Eikyu Saha, Words In Action, Timaeus

                between what one accepts as valid or just, and what one is coerced to participate in?

                Am I a capitalist when I have no choice but to engage in capitalist behavior?

                If I go to a church to be part of, say, feeding the poor, does that make me a Christian?

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:30:18 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's just a label. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Words In Action, ZhenRen

                  F*** the label.  But Marx did provide a way of understanding why the rich would get richer and the poor would be driven to the edge.  It's not that hard -- it gets laid right out in the 1844 manuscripts -- and many generations of union workers have been able to "get it" easily.  But the academic Marxists usually insist on putting the cart before the horse and starting with Grundrisse or Capital, as if situating Marx in the context of Kant and Hegel (or worse, trying to quantify the unquantifiable "use value") would somehow clarify everything, or maybe get more votes in Congress.  

            •  Mmmmm...I agree about the gradient (3+ / 0-)

              But understanding who we are and where we fit into the system takes some serious thinking about definitions and categories, Marx notwithstanding.  Eikyu Saha's response is a good example of someone who's doing that.

              Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

              by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 12:27:38 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Of course (6+ / 0-)

                For my part, I wasn't critiquing "serious thinking about definitions".  Merely pointing out that one need not obtain a PhD in philosophy to see what's in front of their faces.

                Profound thought is fine. But sometimes this academic parsing gets so far from relevance to the working class that it becomes increasingly pointless.

                If one must fathom the arcane subtle nuances of the entire history of philosophical thought to be able to understand present day exploitation, then the approach is bound to fail with the people with whom this really matters.

                Look at the comments. People versed in Marx find themselves bickering over meaning to such a degree that the working class, reading this, would be completely turned off to the academic elitism.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 12:41:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Things have changed significantly (3+ / 0-)

              with the rise of finance capital.  Marx's basic model is still accurate but today we have to take into account investment income.  Your average person with a 401k is still someone who HAS to sell their labor to live and who does not primarily make their money through money.

          •  Sounds like you're doing fine (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Words In Action

            With what you have to work with.  We don't have to be perfect, and goddess knows with the system we're born into, we can't be.  

            Just be good and moving in the right direction.

            And maybe give Bhutan a look...

            Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

            by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 12:23:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Engels owned a factory, I believe. (4+ / 0-)

        One also can be opposed to fossil fuels and drive a car.

        For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

        by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:59:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  he also co-wrote (7+ / 0-)

      das kapital.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:47:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  While it's true... (14+ / 0-)

    that a great many of the people who write about Marx in the popular press and elsewhere have no idea what he was really saying, that doesn't mean that all objections can be dismissed so easily.

    I'm a trained historian and have always found the Marxist view of history outlined above to be inadequate to the actual study of history. That is for the simple reason that it does, in fact, embrace the Hegelian obsession with "final cause".

    Put bluntly, the entire idea of final cause is inherently teleological, something that an historian (and a scientist) should avoid like the plague. History is best explained by the process of contingency, in which there is no expected or inevitable outcome but only one formed by the coalescence of immediate actions of individuals. This is the exact opposite of the view of history Marx laid out and drops the utter nonsense of "progressive history" (as in, the idea that history is the same as human progress, which it is not) in favor of the accumulative idea of history (wherein humans may progress, fall back, stagnate, etc. depending on the contingent factors of those particular historical circumstances and how they have come together over time.)

    The real problem often is that what most people are really talking about when they discuss economics and refer to Marx is socialism, which is a system much older than Marx and which is not necessarily tied to Marx's other ideas except in his own estimation. What many of us in the progressive movement actually want is more socialism thrown into the economic mix, not more Marxism with its baggage of other ideas that don't work nearly so well as socialism itself.

    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

    by Stwriley on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 08:54:45 AM PDT

    •  I think the later (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IreGyre, KJG52, lotlizard

      Marx of Capital abandons teleological conceptions of history, instead making arguments to the effect that "given these antagonism, they will likely unfold in this way".  Whether or not he's successful in this is another question.  I think Braudal gives a much richer and more sophisticated account of how capitalism developed that's still sensitive to Marx's account.  This isn't much different than the climate scientist saying "given these trends the probable outcome is x."  A lot of Marxists, however, did not seem to follow him.  I fully agree that if final causation or teleology truly animates Marx's thought in the way this diary suggests, he should be thrown in the dustbin.

      •  No, you're talking about different things. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lucid, melo

        Historical materialism and dialectical materialism speak to time periods that encompass the entirity of history.  Given that, it is rather esy to see how the development of our present technological, monetarized and ultimately capitalist society (and beyond) is inevitable.  In modern terms, it might be understood as an expression of the nature of our bilology and form of intellect (tool users, pattern-recognition, discriminatory analysis, etc.)

        If you want to call that 'teleological' fine, but I prefer to remember that Marx's earlier, more purely pholosophical works developed in response to and critique of Hegel, who was teleological in his view of History (not surprising for a Prussian Christian determined to argue Frederick was the pinnacle of History, no? :-))  IOW, that particular explcation of Marx's analysis is not so much Marxist as Hegelian, and thus much more teleological seeming.  And even that is more a function of not having the broader and deeper understanding of human nature we now have.

        If you want to argue what Stwirley calls 'accumulatve histroy' (a kind of 'Great Mena' and Happy Accidents theory?), that makes sense but only a smaller time-scale.  Thus, you must allow the vissicitudes of chance and human motivations if your trying to explain e.g., how come Britain rules the waves rather than Spain, or why China left the 'Progress' train with Doaism and Confuciansm.  But you also have to understand that sooner or later someone was going take the role of Britain and China was going to get Dong'ed into the modern world.

  •  Adam Smith would be called a Communist by Wall (21+ / 0-)

    Street, if he were alive today.

    Adam Smith:

    No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

    Labour was the first price, the original purchase - money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.

    To feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections, constitute the perfection of human nature.

    Financial Romanticism
    Paul Krugman
    One line I’ve been seeing in various places, including comments here, is the claim that the real way to deal with Wall Street is laissez-faire economics: no more bailouts! On this view, policy makers should raise their right hand in the air, place their left hand on a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and swear in the name of A is A that they will never again step in to rescue failing banks. And all will be well with the world.

    Sorry, but that’s a fantasy.

    First of all, bank regulation is important even in the absence of bailouts. Don’t trust me, trust Adam Smith. Scotland invented modern banking; it also invented modern banking crises; and Smith, having witnessed such a crisis, favored bank regulations, declaring that

        Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respect a violation of natural liberty. But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments; of the most free, as well as or the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/...
  •  thanks (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, Galtisalie, duhban, Words In Action

    I'm not very well educated myself,  so I always enjoy reading characterizations of things I was never exposed to or never really understood. I should probably make it a point to read more of the original works too. I am enjoying Richard Wolff's new book.

    •  Bless you. I too learn a lot (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hammerhand, Words In Action, melo

      here. I recommend and learn from people arguing and presenting their sincere views as well as they can, even though they are sometimes incomplete or contradictory. No one holds all the truth in their head, but the heart rarely lies. I also appreciate the more accessible philosophers who give me instructions like love my neighbor, and do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

      My avatar image is a photograph I took in 2008 of the headwaters of a waterfall in the imperiled Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on La Gomera, birthplace of my grandfather, in the Canary Islands not far from the Sahara Desert.

      by Galtisalie on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:08:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  heh. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Barton Funk

        I was reading your user name as gall-Tic-ily.

        Love it when I have walk into the obvious before I see it. So comforting to know I can still navigate the world this way.

        Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

        by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:51:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's important (12+ / 0-)

    to be extremely careful with the concept of final causality or teleology here.  Final causality is quite a bit more than the outcome of a process.  In traditional metaphysics, it is the purpose and goal of a process.  The concept intrinsically involves a concept of design.  The finally cause of a lamp is to illuminate or provide light.  It was designed for this purpose and brought into being as a function of that goal.  In other words, the goal preceded-- envisioned in the mind of someone --its process of fabrication.

    One of the great triumphs of modern science has been the eradication of final causality in its explanation of the world.  In my view, those ecologists and biologists that continue to talk in terms of final causality (beyond anything but a linguistic convenience) ought to be immediately dismissed.  A seed becoming a flower is entirely different than wood, metal, and plastic becoming a lamp.  In the latter case, the craftsman has a model in her mind and a purpose, and arranges matter in this way to meet this goal.  By contrast, the growth of the flower is the simple outcome of a series of chemical processes (efficient causes).  There isn't a predetermined goal that is somehow pulling the seed towards a flower.  Rather, flowers are just what happen when the seed undergoes these chemical processes.  While more complex, the process is no different than rolling a marble around in a bowl.  Eventually the marble will come to rest at the bottom of the bowl.  This point of rest was not the "goal" or "purpose" or "aim" of the marble as in teleological accounts or final causality.  It is just what happens as a result of a series of efficient or mechanical causes.  There was no "future" pulling the marble to the bottom, just a series of perfectly ordinary efficient causes that exhaust themselves at a certain point.

    There is a significant debate as to whether Marx was teleological in the way that Hegel was teleological.  For Hegel there's a purpose to history, a goal that it's striving after, and a goal that was already there.  Hegel was a theological thinker.  We need to take Marx's materialism seriously.  Nothing in the three volumes of Capital nor Grundrisse seem to suggest teleology in this sense.  Rather, Marx's thesis seems to be that tensions or antagonisms resolve themselves in such and such a way in much the same way that molecules of water heated will come to distribute themselves equally in a particular way throughout the solution.  Humans, it seems, can set goals for themselves, but this is quite different than the traditional concept of teleology where flies are designed for the sake of a purpose.

    •  That is the case with Aristotle (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, Hammerhand, KJG52, prishannah, melo

      not Hegel or Marx - both are much more complex than Aristotelian causality [and that of traditional metaphysics]. Hegel's notion of buildung might be handy here. Buildung is equivalent to value in Marx - it is the accumulation of knowledge that is the engine of dialectical history & eventually reveals the truth of  human spirit - namely freedom. It is fundamentally a concept of imminence - it evolves throughout the process.

      •  special tip for imminence (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hammerhand

        from a fan of Deleuze.  

        No wish to get off topic.

      •  It's absolutely the case (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KJG52, chrismorgan

        in Hegel.  His entire project is designed to prove it.  This arises from his relationship to Kant (which you significantly misrepresent).  In Kant reason is a drive for totality, purpose, and completeness that can never fulfill it's aim. Hegel sets out to show that it does, in fact, fulfill it's teleology.  There's a reason Marx says Hegel needs to be put on his feet, and it isn't a matter of endorsing Hegel's theological teleology, nor his idealism that places the notion before practice.

        •  One of his primary critiques of Kant (0+ / 0-)

          Was the lack of Annerkenung (recognition seeking) which Hegel deemed essential to any formulation of reason. This is why structures such as the family and labor unions and eventually the state become essential to the actualization of human spirit in Philosophy of Right. So I didn't misrepresent it. Your point is also another avenue in his overall critique of Kant - one which is largely the project of 'Logic'. I find Philosophy of Right and Phenomenology to be much more useful to understanding Marx specifically.

          I also profoundly disagree with Hegel's reading of Kant. I'm much more a Kantian philosophically. I have huge issues with the legacy of Aristotle in 19th century idealism.

          •  This is not a mere matter (0+ / 0-)

            of the Logic in Hegel's work.  In all three Critiques, Kant conceives reason teleologically and to have primarily a moral vocation.  The three ideas of reason in the Critique of Pure Reason (the Ideas of the Soul, Cosmology, and God) have the aim of conceiving a unified conception of nature or a totality.  Where understanding breaks things down into units, according to Kant, reason synthesizes them into wholes or systems.  In the second critique, the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant makes explicit that the function of reason is moral.  In the third critique, the Critique of Judgment, Kant shows how purposiveness or teleology is operative in nature.

            The key criticism of Kant by the subsequent German idealists (Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel) was that Kant left the world of morality separate from the world of nature.  Reason, they points out, demands a unification of these two domains-- because reason intrinsically calls for totality --yet Kant leaves them sundered because he argues that reason can only be regulative and can never generate knowledge (when it believes it does so, argues Kant, it falls into dogmatism; this is the point of the paralogisms, antinomies, and the critiques of the proofs for the existence of God).  The subsequent German idealists think this is a scandal.  Their argument is that if reason has this characteristic, it should be able to fulfill its aim.  They thus set about showing how nature and culture can be unified.  This is the point of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.  From one end to another it's an analysis of reason, beginning with the seemingly abstract issues of natural understanding (sense-perception, force, etc) and then passing into the cultural with its discussion of the master/slave dialectic, the beautiful soul, stoicism, the various stages of religion, the French Revolution, and so on.

            The key point is that in Hegel there's already a purpose or goal at work in history.  There is something that history ought to be-- and is Kant argued in the Critique of Practical Reason --every ought implies a can.  For Hegel there is something pulling Spirit to a final culmination or actuality.  In later Marx this disappears.  There is no teleological cause pulling history along.  Rather, there are a set of circumstances or tendencies that produce various outcomes.  

            •  A few points (0+ / 0-)

              A. You're falling into the trap of the German Idealist critique of Hegel by trying to collect Critiques 1-3 as presenting a teleological view of reason. I will quote one of my own papers here wrt to Kant:

              I will first look at a passage typical of Kant in order to establish how philosophically and socially Enlightenment humanism banishes ousia from its cosmology. In “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”, Kant writes the following:
              Perpetual peace is guaranteed by no less an authority than the great artist Nature herself... We can not actually observe such an agency in the artifices of nature, nor can we even infer its existence from them. But as with all relations between the form of things and their ultimate purposes, we can and must supply it mentally in order to conceive of its possibility by analogy with human artifices.

              We must be careful when approaching this passage, and in particular we must keep in mind Kant’s method in the first critique. The first sentence and what follows immediately in the text and corresponding footnote posit an entity called ‘nature’ whose purposivness is exhibited in the rendering of humanity reasonable, by which it [humanity] in turn actualizes the order of nature through the full development of this capacity [in the moral law]. Here it appears again that we fall into the model of ousia — a form informs a passive matter and extends toward its actualization with the full realization of itself in that matter. If we were to apply Aristotle’s notion of the four causes, the efficient, formal, and final causes would here be reason [the development of reason in humanity, reason as nature, and reason as its actualization in the moral law respectively] and the material cause would be mute humanity itself. However, in a very clever [and typical] manner, Kant turns the tables on this. After positing a thesis according to the model of substance, he does an about face and discredits its rational objectivity [that is according to pure not practical reason]. Certainly, he concludes, some such attribution of purposive [and substantial] agency to nature is posited of practical necessity if we are to realize the demands of reason and ‘in order to conceive of its possibility by analogy with human artifices’, i.e. in order to find a loosely theological sanction for human artifice. But what is it which actually functions actively in this sanctioning? ‘We can and must supply it mentally’. This story about nature, this idea of ousia, cannot have objective validity. It is, in a sense, a practical fable by which humanity legitimates its own doings. We render in nature a purposiveness that accords with human artifice in order to ground our own practical everydayness. Indeed, if one thinks back to the first critique, such a thesis is demanded by the Transcendental Deduction — the condition of possibility for objects is that they correspond to the categories of the understanding. Likewise, the condition of possibility for a conception of ‘nature’ is that it corresponds [by analogy] to the structure of human artifice — a structure he believes to be purposive and loosely teleological, characteristics which we must then see in nature should we make it objective for us. At the risk of sounding blunt, there is no such thing as ‘nature’ [that is a ‘nature’ divorced from human reason] for Kant [like there is no such thing as the thing in itself]. ‘Nature’ [as with the ‘thing in itself’ in the first critique] is here used as a foil to enable him to develop a deeper concern — the self-grounding nature of human reason. If he proves this in the deduction [or in less systematic attempts elsewhere] then ousia is revealed for what it is, a practical metaphor without a grain of objective truth that we employ to legitimate human activity for those who cannot philsophically grasp the self–grounding nature of reason.

              In my opinion, the proper reading of Kant is not in a unified vision of the 3 Critiques, but taking the meat of the The 1st critique and using that as the rubric to understand his other works - and in my opinion his seminal work is Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals in which he most clearly lays out how the very existence of reason requires the 'kingdom of ends', i.e. that we must structure our society such that each rational being is treated as an end in themselves.

              B. Yes, the German Idealists did, and they're terribly wrong. See point A.

              C. I still profoundly disagree with you on your reading of Hegel's teleology as being deterministic ['pulled']. I think you interpret Hegel as having a Platonic view of final causation, which is untrue. This is also why I said in an earlier comment that your notion of a final cause is even arguable within the context of Aristotle. You lay out a supposition of causality that is more akin to Timaeus, the 7th letter or the middle books of Republic. What Aristotle lays out in Physica is quite different - and while still maintaining a Platonic primacy of final causality, intimated an evolutionary element - he greatly elevated the importance of the material cause. And in Hegel that becomes magnified to the extreme with builduing and annerkenung as essential elements in the revealing of reason throughout history. reason is not emanatory [as with Platonists] but imminent - becoming in the course of our history. In short, we learn. And while the Platonic idea of substance [ousia - literally 'inheritance'] plays far to great a role in the equation for my tastes, it does not mean that geist is 'pulled'. That is a complete misreading of Hegel.

    •  Also it absolutely is present in Grundrisse (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, KJG52

      He goes into serious depth about the corrosive effect of capitalism on the principal points of human identity - family, religion, state - and how that naturally leads to the withering away of those institutions as our truth as self-creating beings begins to come to the fore. Those are some of my favorite sections of Marx...

      •  That's not what (0+ / 0-)

        teleology or final causation is.  Saying that one thing is the effect of another thing is perfectly consistent with efficient causation.  We don't need to posit some goal or purpose to history to say such things.  You really need to get these concepts straight.

        •  It's not what Aristotelian final causation is (0+ / 0-)

          Though that can also be argued. But it is the way in which teleology inhabits dialectical history.

          •  Perhaps you could (0+ / 0-)

            clarify just what you mean by teleology in dialectical history.  Again, there's quite a difference in saying that x was a product of q, r, and s (efficient causation) and x caused q, r, and s (teleology).  Are you really saying the latter?  Above you referenced Marx and Engel's remarks about how capitalism erodes traditional values, identities, skills, etc., and characterized this as an example of teleology.  It's very difficult to see how this is teleological, however.  This is merely the effect of life under capitalism.  Why?  Well, in the first place, capitalism renders everyone equivalent because wage labor is an abstract value.  As a consequence, the very structure of the dollar bill erodes cultural differences by making everything exchangeable and equivalent.  It's not the purpose of capitalism to do this, but merely its effect (efficient causation).  Second, capitalism uproots people from their traditional homes by drawing them to the factories, thereby gradually eroding local cultures and producing a sort of abstract "everyman".  Again, this is not a "purpose" or "final cause", but a mere effect of a set of causes.  I find your use of the term "teleology" and "final cause" very peculiar as both concepts refer to what something ought to be, and not simply what it happens to be as an effect of preceding causes.

            •  Read the metaphor again (0+ / 0-)

              The truth of one form of existence reveals itself in its subsequent one through the destruction of the current. The notion of a final cause in a dialectical history is this. Rather than a truth originating the process and manifesting itself at the end of said process, the truth develops within the process and through many iterations, is actualized in the end. Hegel was many things, but he was not a theological thinker. He was not a Platonist. Heidegger reserves that particularly awful place in the pantheon of German philosophers. Hegel's dialectic is the first formulation of the idea of progressive history in the west.

              •  Yes, I'm familiar with (0+ / 0-)

                the metaphor.  What you're missing is that final causation and teleology say something more than the idea that "the truth of x is found in the result y."  A final cause is a form of causation in which the goal was pulling all that preceded it towards it.  Is that what you're advocating and defending?

                You're mistaken about Hegel not being a theological thinker (I'm not sure why you bring up Platonism, as I didn't mention it).  That's also a very peculiar thing for you to say about Heidegger.  He wrote a great deal about religion, saw it as central to his dialectic, and his conception of Spirit is that of God and the infinite incarnating itself on earth.  I should mention that this is my area of expertise in academia.  The only reason I'm responding in this thread is that I think your "defense" of Marx does a great deal of damage to his thought.

                •  Read part C of the long comment above (0+ / 0-)

                  wrt to why I brought up Plato. Also, it's not a peculiar thing I said about Heidegger, as he was neo-Platonist extraordinaire [though of course he claimed Plato originated the fall]...

                  This was also one of my areas of expertise when I was still in academia. I studied and wrote on Marx & Hegel thoroughly with Agnes Heller & Richard Bernstein & my reading is within the acceptable realm of interpretation - it's well within the bounds of scholarship on both. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on our readings.

                  Interestingly enough I was working on a dissertation on ousia and political theory before I quit which largely featured Plato, Airstotle, Hegel and Heidegger as presenting rightist notions through the primacy of  substance within their philosophies & Kant & Marx as those who escaped that [albeit the case was somewhat more complex for Marx]. I am certainly sympathetic to what you are saying & often go back and forth myself as to whether Marx escapes his Geman Idealist roots. The night I wrote this, I obviously was feeling he didn't.

                  •  Hegel is very Aristotlean. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    lucid

                    Everything in his thought hinges on the play of potentiality and actuality vis a vis Aristotle's conception of final causation.  There's a sort of drive or impulse within things to become fully actual or complete.  There is something that things ought to be.  This is part of what he means when he makes claims like the tree being the truth of the seed.  A seed that remains a seed is remains at the level of potentiality, having never actualized what it ought to be.  Hegel envisions history in terms of an ought that must realize and complete itself.

                    Materialist frameworks are very different.  There's no ought that things should be.  Rather, they are fully actual or are what they are at every moment.  This is the framework that Marx is working in (let's not forget that his dissertation was on Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius).  There is nothing that is pulling history towards a particular points, but rather there are contradictions or tendencies that tend to resolve themselves in particular ways.

                    In my view, German academia has always had a difficult time getting its head around Marx precisely because of his materialism.  Their tradition is one obsessed with Spirit and subjectivity, yet Marx carries out a substantial critique of that tradition.  His materialism was thoroughly perverted by the subsequent Frankfurt school and became the exact opposite of materialism.

                •  Also - as an aside (0+ / 0-)

                  I argued your position to Agnes Heller during my Masters orals [Heller's position is much closer to what I present above]. She got quite a kick out of it.

        •  Yet, political-economy being an entirely human (0+ / 0-)

          construct would be susceptible to teleological claims, at least theoretically, no?.  

          IMO, though, the human animal is at once so basic and complex that that would be pretty meaningless, i..e, the 'innate goal' of political-economy is both to fully express human capabilities (of biology, intellect, etc.) and get each individual every material thing they ever want and free them even from the idea of deprivation.  (Note, I'm not saying it necessarily rational, just like people. :))  But due to limits of the material universe and human nature we likely can never acheive those while still human (vs. some god-like post-humanism).

          Still, its what we do in the effort that makes things so exciting, no?  (And by 'exciting', I often mean in the Chinese curse sense. :))

          •  It's a hard call. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chrismorgan

            Sartre struggled with this question in his monstrous (and beautiful) Critique of Dialectical Reason.  The question was "at what point and under what conditions can we say that society and history become teleological?"  We can easily imagine individual people acting teleologically (though neurology is calling this into question).  People seem to set goals for themselves and what they do in the present is caused by that goal.  It's harder to talk of collectives such as entire societies setting goals for themselves.  We do see such goal setting in entities like corporations, activist groups, etc.  But what would it mean to say that global history is acting according to a goal?  Such an idea is deeply mysterious.

  •  If nothing else (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Helpless, Words In Action

    at least Marx (and Hegel) give us a template about how things could change.  

    Change, particularly progressive change, seems to be something that is nearly impossible to even conceive these days.

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 09:58:38 AM PDT

    •  Yes, Republicans talk of 2nd Amendment rights (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bluesee, duhban

      As if armed rebellion is a possibility.  Marx wrote that rebellion is inevitable.  Yet, aside from some riots in Europe, I don't see that happening.  Are we too wedded to our material goods to risk losing them?  Could anyone conceive of going against our military/industrial complex?  Is that why the government's total awareness spying is so thinly veiled?

      But it would be ironic if right-wing Republican's precious 2nd amendment were used to mount a Marx-inspired socialist revolution. Doomed as it would be.

      Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

      by Helpless on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:11:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not sure what you're sayin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandre
    My point here is simply to start giving some actual context to understand Marx and combat the terrible misconceptions bandied about around town...
    Referring to what specifically?  The Times article?  Other diaries here?

    Did he not write The Communist Manifesto? Did this not explain why his Communist League was working to overthrow capitalism and replace it with socialism? Did he not call capitalism the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie"?  And socialism the "dictatorship of the proletariat"?

    What did he mean when he wrote in The German Ideology "[T]he capitalist mode of production eventually will exploit and impoverish the proletariat until compelling them to social revolution for survival".

    Just asking, 'cause I obviously haven't studied the subject as much as you.  And I didn't really get the point of your diary.

    Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

    by Helpless on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:03:52 AM PDT

    •  Read the sentence immediately prior (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen
      That said, there is a whole lot of Marx about putting pressure on the relations of production to hasten that collapse... but, that is also for another diary.
      Marx has a completely different notion of history than most understand. trying to clearly explain that as a starting point was the point of this diary.
      •  ??? (0+ / 0-)
        relations of production
        Meaning?
        but that is also for another diary
        Seems to pretty much sum up this diary.

        Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

        by Helpless on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:22:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I can answer your first question. :) (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lucid
          The relations of production are at base the manner in which we organize our society. The forces of production are simply our level of techological development.

          Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

          by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:56:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good Stuff (3+ / 0-)

    Wow, a diary that makes me think. With mostly intelligent arguments in the comments.
    Thank you all. Wish we had more of this.

  •  Good diary. (My meeting with a Tory this week) (9+ / 0-)

    A colleague of mine was explaining to me that Thatcher represented a truly heady intellectualism on the right in the UK. He says that it's not really present now, but he said that intellectuals like him were drawn there because the Left had become dominated by radicals demanding power and procedure-bound officials. There is some truth to the charge that Trotskyites and "Comintern says what?" folks were present in the 1970's, but intellectualism on the right does not follow.

    One of the most critical observations, one of the easiest to understand, from Marx is that a distorting layer of capital between labor and price is inevitably unfair, and this unfairness is inevitably going to be self-protecting.

    However, what people miss is that the same distortions occur in professional labor. When corporations have money to fight their workers for generations, then unions have to be on a war footing for generations, too, and that means that the union management -- which should ideally not exist as a job except in a crisis/strike -- becomes permanent, too, and that means that there are people whose job is to be the union, and that, by itself and for itself, destroys the union's capacity to directly negotiate for labor.

    Marx is mostly right, and that means he's mostly right about the left and the monied alike.

    Everyone is innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:25:38 AM PDT

    •  Interestingly enough (8+ / 0-)

      I don't even consider myself a Marxist. I don't think we have the time to let capitalism naturally decay - we'll kill ourselves as a species if we don't radically change our form of social organization very soon. Marx himself was a capitalist insofar as he believed the system had infinite energy inputs - he still lived in the days of colonial expansion. The system is finite & we need to recognize that pronto.

      •  You might be interested (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lucid, Words In Action

        in the work of John Bellamy Foster.  He develops Marx's thought within an ecological framework.

      •  Really? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens

        I shouldn't think that he thought the inputs were infinite. One of the spurs for Marx was Malthus, after all. What he could not see was the growth of food supply that would relieve a base pressure that should have stressed unequal economies much more and much more quickly than imperialism could have compensated.

        However, any professional class that is non-productive is inherently unfair. To speak less moralistically, such classes are unequal; they create an impossibility of value. However, all the aggregations moved toward establishing such a class -- whether it was aggregating food sales from the village (most equal, least profitable) to the futures market and mass sales between nations (most profitable, least equal) or the struggle for labor from the artisans against the bourgeoisie (direct and close) to "labor" against "management" (professional positions that have representatives drawing a salary to manage a continual strategic stalemate).

        Everyone is innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 05:39:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  evolution (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jds1978, duhban, Words In Action

    not revolution. organic and inevitable.

    marx would not have recognized the governments created in his name.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:45:44 AM PDT

  •  Marx vs Maya cyclical history, Marx & Darwinists (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JosephK74, No Exit, Words In Action

    Marx vs. Toynbee & ibn Khaldun... Marx vs. Nostradamus...

    that old progression up to the rapture or the singularity versus repeating cycles.

    Human society stabilizes at times when there is a combination of internal structures and explanations that is only challenged in moderate familiar ways in an environment that is in equilibrium.

    Marx can't be faulted for not knowing much about ecology, genetics, human weaknesses and default "programming" that might get in the way of the progression to an end of history. Humans seem to often stabilize in one or another set of bistable self seeding and perpetuating states for a while throughout history... some are long term oscillations within a local set of conditions that sustain the society or culture or area and also limit extremes. And destructive or harmful components that condemn a subset of the population to servitude or second class status can actually be a sustainable part of the mix... with internal explanations of why things are the way that they are and why they must stay that way. With the interconnected world static societies with a long term set of solutions and identity are harder to maintain... they are all challenged by the fast pace of change in everything.

    It is possible that a democratic socialism that minimizes inequality and injustice could endure for a long while but it can only be maintained by having a fairly high level of education and understanding of how things can go wrong. But the short memories of humans even with the written word gets in the way of sustaining an equitable balance in the face of the subset of super acquisitive  people gaming every society past what the society can stand and still be what it was... greed pushes the envelope and intentional veiling of the actions of the greedy and the co-opting of the means of information... media and education destroys one of the main protections... awareness of what is going on... and awareness of what keeps a society fair.

    Marx apparently did not have much to say about how humans would go about sustaining a truly just and equitable society if we ever do get to that... So whether we are doomed to repeat the boom and bust of civilizations or our information technology will help us break out of the cycle of the death and rebirth of civilizations is an open question. It seems likely humanity will still have to endure periods of barbarism and inequality followed by brief eras of more ideal societies and then the inevitable abuses by opportunists and sociopaths, decline and collapse... But we could still get the Star Trek style Communist society... cashless, classless (mostly) based on  technology we can imagine in part and on wider and sustainable education and information... but when that comes to be... who can say... messing up the planet would trump all the nice theories as people just try to survive.

    I will go for the Terminator 2 quote... "no fate but what we make"... and we can... but will we be able to sooner than later?

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:50:37 AM PDT

    •  I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords. :) nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      No Exit, Words In Action
    •  this is where Lenin comes into the picture (0+ / 0-)

      Lenin starts where Marx ends: at the call for revolution.  Marx theorized that revolution was inevitable as capitalism chokes on its own greed and the proletariat (everyone who works for a living, versus profit-taking owners) is faced with a choice to overthrow capitalism or be liquidated by it.

      Long story short, Lenin disagreed.  In fact, Marx's extensive theorizing about the sociological dimensions of capitalism suggested to Lenin that the proletariat was socially incapable of revolution: "false consciousness" in all its myriad forms and "commodity fetishism" meant that capitalism was by and large seen as woven into the workings of the universe and a natural expression of human desires, and that abolishing it would be as impossible as abolishing the laws of physics.

      Lenin's thesis was that it must fall to a intellectual elite to engineer the revolution - inspire the masses to rise up and seize the means of production for themselves collectively - administer the socialist society, ironically fulfill the promise of capitalism by unleashing the full power of industry (no money and no profit means no incentives to artificially restrain production), and socialize the masses in preparation for true communism.  The Soviet Union was never communist, and only barely socialist.

      •  Lenin was a tyrannt and continued (0+ / 0-)

        the perverasion of Marx's ideas

        In the time that I have been given,
        I am what I am

        by duhban on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 04:24:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  "capitalism chokes on its own greed" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Barton Funk

        I don't know. Just caught my eye. Actually, the whole thing does.

        Marx theorized that revolution was inevitable as capitalism chokes on its own greed and the proletariat (everyone who works for a living, versus profit-taking owners) is faced with a choice to overthrow capitalism or be liquidated by it.

        Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

        by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 07:05:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, the Leninist (0+ / 0-)

        turn and the institution of an elite, intellectual avant garde worked out real well, no?

  •  Thank you. Very enlightening. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, duhban, Words In Action, melo

    One point I would make about Marx is that he lacked some essential knowledge about human biology gained in the last century. It is now clear that social dominance is hard-wired into the human brain, that neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are key players in self-reward mechanisms that reinforce social hierarchy, and that humans can no more avoid pyramidal tribal structures than they can dispense with breathing. That doesn't itself kick Marx to the curb so much as caution us that egalitarianism doesn't mean completely absence of social hierarchy. It just means that every part of society is equally deserving of care and attention. It's instructive that studies of primate groups show that selfishness (hoarding of resources) is punished under normal conditions. So perhaps science holds the key to a better understanding of what Marx was saying about society, something Marx might like?

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:53:29 AM PDT

    •  Anthropologists have found (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, JosephK74, Words In Action

      all manner of social structures in early human societies, many of which (but certainly not all) were collectivist and egalitarian in nature.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 10:57:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Biology trumps anthropology. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, Words In Action

        Hierarchies exist in all primate groups. All. The reason anthropologists say things like this is that it is often hard to discern subtle differences in social standing even for people highly familiar with specific groups. What is reported often depends on who is doing the reporting. Margaret Meade is a good example.

        For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

        by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:11:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Urizen, KJG52, Words In Action

          Of course there are differences in standing. But to conclude these differences, by consequence, should thus be rendered into fixed hierarchical social structures which result in exploitation is not supportable.

          Not all societies deal with these differences the same way.

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:22:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I didn't say that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Words In Action

            For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

            by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:35:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  How would you describe the (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Barton Funk

              differences between more and less egalitarian societies physiologically?

              Could it be analogous to more and less conservative societies, since we know these are behaviors that are reflected in discernible brain differences?

              Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

              by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 07:34:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Not really. Evolutionary (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KJG52, ZhenRen, melo

          psychology and sociology has a lot of problems, not the least of which is the tendency of its practitioners to have very little knowledge of ethnography and just how varied social life is around the world.  They thus end up treating our culture as a ahistorical universal and then tell "just so" stories modeling our existence of the hierarchical societies of chimpanzees (they ignore bonobos, generally, who are also 98% similar to us).  No one has found that these things are "hard wired".  They've merely asserted that it is.  The ethnographic record seems to suggest otherwise.

          •  I trust biochemistry more because it is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            melo

            based on repeatable experiments, and more BS is talked about bonobos than any other species of primate. Even so, the exception proves the rule. We are the dominant species because our brains and other physical features helped direct reinforcing patterns of behavior replicated essentially across the vast majority of human societies. The reality for humans is that they are tribal and hierarchical, and that these traits are driven by brain chemistry whether you like it or not.

            For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

            by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:32:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Reductionist (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JosephK74

              I doubt that all human tendencies have been evaluated and understood by social biology in terms of real human populations. There are a multitude of traits, and how they all integrate and counterbalance each other may be very difficult to measure if not impossible to accurately  understand through social biology alone.

              Your dismissal of observations by anthropologists reveals the bias.

              I don't trust that your conclusions aren't influenced by an agenda.

              "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

              by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:57:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I trust biochemistry too, (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ZhenRen, melo

              but evolutionary psychology and sociology is not based on biochemistry.  It's a series of stories based on the hypothesis that social formations are based on our primate heritage.  Moreover, you cannot simply reject the work of ethnographers or anthropologists who have found culture after culture that violates the predictions of these just so stories.  There are plenty of societies that are not hierarchical in the way you suggest.

          •  I would also point out that Bonobos do (0+ / 0-)

            have a readily apparent social structure with hierarchy and power relationships built in, doubtless for evolutionary reasons, and driven by brain chemistry. This from Wikipedia:

            The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior. Sex functions in conflict appeasement, affection, social status, excitement, and stress reduction. It occurs in virtually all partner combinations and in a variety of positions. This is a factor in the lower levels of aggression seen in the bonobo when compared to the common chimpanzee and other apes. Bonobos are perceived to be matriarchal; females tend to collectively dominate males by forming alliances and use sexuality to control males[citation needed]. A male's rank in the social hierarchy is often determined by his mother's rank.

            For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

            by Anne Elk on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:37:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Now you're just all over the place. (0+ / 0-)

              In chimpanzee societies there's a dominant male around which the other males congregate and there's strict segregation between males and females.  The evolutionary sociologists use this as the model of what they're talking about when they talk about hierarchy.  In bonobos you just don't find that sort of segregation nor hierarchy organized around a single figure.  Are there power relationships?  Sure, there are power relationships in any society.  Is there the sort of hierarchy described by evolutionary sociologists in every society?  Absolutely not.  Sadly, I'm unable to show this to you because, for bizarre reasons, you refuse to acknowledge what ethnographers have observed in countless different societies, instead embracing a theory without empirical confirmation in much the same way that advocates of Chicago School economics continue to insist on the truth of their economic theory despite the fact that we observe again and again that unregulated markets do not behave in the way they predict.

          •  Evolutionary psychology is pseudoscience (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JosephK74, melo

            -- guesses posturing as probabilities -- because we don't have research access to past human populations evolving in ancestral habitats.

            All this guesswork will be made moot within a decade or two by neuroscience, which looks at how brains function right now. Instead of guessing that we are hardwired for hierarchical social relations, and appealing to presumed selection pressures in our evolutionary past, we will find out what the actual brain circuitry does, how it varies in people, and what genes are involved.

    •  Well, didn't Marx himself conclude (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, Barton Funk, JosephK74

      that effective communism would require a fundamental change in human nature.

      I guess the question is whether or not this change is possible -- such as changing attitudes affecting discrimination -- or not.

      It seems, Anne, that you're suggesting it is not when it comes to social organization, because of physiology.

      I'm not certain. I think the brain may well have the plasticity required to bridge that gap.

      For example, I believe there are people among us who are very well-adapted for communal living, just as there are those who are not. Just as there are physiologically discernible differences between conservatives and liberals, there are likely to be similar differences on the "cooperation" spectrum.

      At the very least, we can certainly move people to ever greater levels of cooperation if we choose to. Whether or not dominance/submission can ever be completely eradicated may take millenia to answer, assuming we survive.

      And then of course there's the influence of synthetics having god-knows what impact on brain development and evolution.

      The incidence of autism increasing from 1 in 150 to 1 in 88 and twice as likely in males and twice as much as ten years (even discounting the likelihood of diagnostic influence) demonstrates we are affecting our brains...

      Also, our activity and behavior can influence our physiology as well. In many case incredibly quickly.

      Fascinating topic... :)

      Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat who's going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

      by Words In Action on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 07:32:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This isn't much of a reading of Marx. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vespertine, JosephK74

    Especially when it's garnished with stuff like this:

    The biggest problem with sensationalized articles about Marx [either for or against] is that the Marx appearing in them is unrecognizable to anyone who has actually spent a good deal of time reading him.
    Well I don't recognize Marx in this:
    Marx assumed that we would reach an historical epoch in which the forces of production reveal a final truth - the end of history. That epoch, gasp shockingly, is democratic capitalism.
    Care to cite some actual Marx in defense of this statement?  I own a complete MECW and can check your sources.

    "There are some bad people on the rise/ They're saving their own skins by/ Ruining people's lives" -- Morrissey

    by Cassiodorus on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:11:08 AM PDT

    •  Grundrisse, CPE, GI (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, duhban

      you can find it in all three & lurking within many others.

      •  I don't think so (4+ / 0-)

        AFAIK Marx never used the term "democratic capitalism."  The two are, for Marx, mutually exclusive.

        •  Not a Marxist term (0+ / 0-)

          Simply a descriptive term of the era that Marx thought of as the penultimate era of human history. Just as Hegel believed that 19th century Prussian republicanism was the final shape of history, Marx thought western industrial capitalism was the shape of history that would bring about it's end - namely technological development that conquered scarcity and the withering away of the particular (ie the institutional obstacles to human freedom and universalism). In this the Paradigm of production would end, as would 'history'.

          •  Wrong (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JosephK74

            Democracy means rule of the "demos," which for Marx were the workers.  Capitalism is not rule by the workers, but rule by capitalists.  Ergo, it is impossible to have democratic capitalism.

            Understanding this is crucial for unwinding the liberal rhetoric on democracy, freedom, and capitalism.

            •  Ah, the old Social Democrats vs. Communists (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RennieMac, duhban, prishannah, JosephK74

              argument.  How Second Internationale. :)

              (Not to be confused with the First Internationale's collapse due to the split from the anarchists. :))

              •  ? (0+ / 0-)

                Rather than use historical trivia to trivialize the point, why not engage in it?

                How can we have political democracy if there is no economic democracy?  This is not an idea owned by sectarian battles within the left, it's the same argument made by Thomas Jefferson in his Notes on Virginia.

                •  See, the New Deal and remeber its a process not (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  duhban

                  an end-state.

                  IOW, as I've said eslewhere just today, the New Deal is not social security or 'alphabet' regulations, though those necessarily arise from it.  FDR saw it as a fundementally reformed social compact: were all accepted the right and duty of individuals to act collectively through democratic institutions to manage capitalism so that it served both common and individual (capitalist's) needs.  Most immediately the Great Depression, but also in later years of his life the "four Freedoms'.

                  IOW, socialism with an American face.

                  (This is why FDR was not weddied to any particular program or policy but was willing to try anything as long as it fit that general model.  No NRA?  Fine, try the alphabet soup of smaller policies/programs than generally accomplished the same things.)

                  Jefferson would have ended up in the same place as FDR if he could have envisioned the modern industrial economy without a frontier.

                  Having said that tho, 1) from their comments, I expected both commentators to understand the reference, 2) those that didn't, I hoped would go educate themselves on the references, and thus

                  3) both would realize the points had been debated for over 150 years and spare us a wast of bandwidth in recapitualation of that debate. :)

                  •  Ugh (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ZhenRen, JosephK74

                    No offense, but you clearly don't understand the issues here.  FDR did not establish economic democracy, he attempted to contain the contradictions within the capitalist system so that the system itself would not break down again (e.g. another Depression).

                    Economic democracy is a state in which each person has the equal ability to participate in the economy as equals.  Just as political democracy means that each person has the equal ability to participate in politics as equals.  This is impossible within a capitalist system, for it is at its root a system of inequality.  Capitalism doesn't simply produce inequality, its very basis is inequality.  Some own capital while most only own their own body.  The concentration of economic wealth into the hands of the some and the precarity produced for the many makes the declaration of political democracy a sham.  Hence, no political democracy within economic democracy.  No democracy within capital.  Hence the idea proposed by the original poster that Marx opined about "democratic capitalism" is blatantly false.

                    This is not a "tired debate" (who the hell still discusses sectarianism within the International??  More importantly, who cares and why bring it up?  I smell a concern troll). Rather, it speaks to issues that are absolutely central to the American experience.  Worse, these types of discussions are only happening on the fringes, and rarely get beyond proposals for reviving some form of roll-back to the 1940s.  Discussing the reasons why the New Deal had a short shelf life (the tendencies I present in the prior paragraph) is of such great importance that it angers me that one would attempt to squash such discussion.

                    •  Where did I say 'economic democracy'? That's (0+ / 0-)

                      your hobby-horse, not mine.

                      I said: "FDR saw it as a fundementally reformed social compact: were all accepted the right and duty of individuals to act collectively through democratic institutions to manage capitalism so that it served both common and individual (capitalist's) needs."

                      I find 'economic democracy' is an oxymoron, since economics requires scarcity and scarcity means every individual's economic power by definition can not be equal.  IMO the only way to have 'economic democracy' is to abolish scarcity and thus destroy the 'economy', ala ST: The Next Gen.  IOW, capitalism's "very basis" is not 'inequality', but scarcity.  The former is an artifical construct, the later natural.

                      I prefer to fight for something actually attainable at the present time: economic fairness.  IMO, you're hobby-horse ('economic democracy') is an unrealistic waste of time, that not only will never be realized while economy (i.e., significant scarcity) exists, it can only destract from truly constructive efforts.

                      And this whole 'social democracy betrays the Revolution', 'New Deal destroyed true change for workers'- or your 'no justice without economic democracy/destroy all capitalist!' is precisely the old debate b/t the social democrats and communists.  IMO your reaction to my saying so says more about you than the merits of the arguments.  Btw, only a moron dismisses history (which is why you 'should care'), since trite as it is it is equally true that how you got here defines where you're going and how to actually change it if so inclined.  As I don't think you're a moron, I can only conclude your coments here were actually nothing more than an ad hominen.  

                      But hey, you're entitled to your opinions and I to mine and  that's what makes the world go round. :)

                      •  So... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Vespertine, JosephK74

                        There is only one way for a society to respond to scarcity, and that is through unequal distribution of property, thus pitting the propertarians against those employed by them? If one is born without property in a world in which all property is already owned, how does one get some? Does such a person simply suffer her fate because of the notion of scarcity? Or find a way to deprive another of property so that she can have some at the other's expense?

                        Or does everyone have an equal right to live, even if his or her talents are not equal?

                        There is no real democracy or true liberty as along as there is property.

                        Why isn't collective sharing an appropriate response? Does anyone really accomplish anything alone? Everything we do is built upon the work by people before us. How does one calculate what portion is produced by an individual's sole efforts, as if completely separate from aggregate efforts of the whole of society?

                        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                        by ZhenRen on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 06:42:50 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  The 1st paragraph is an odd one in a diary discuss (0+ / 0-)

                          ing Marxism.  

                          The right to life is not the same as the right to property or even wealth.  Democrats have been trying to guarantee the former and an opportunity to acquire the later for 80 plus years, while Thugs have been saying that not only should we not try to give opportunity, we shouldn't even care about their lives.  But, since you're at a blog that supports the Democratic party, I figure you know that.

                          Tho the third one is certainly appropo: 'Property is theft!', eh?

                          As for the last the last paragraph, philosophers as varied as Hobbs, Marx and Jesus (yes, that Jesus) have offered various answers.  Myself, I like Shakespeare: "The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves"

      •  No, you can't. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JosephK74, burlydee

        At any rate, YOU are the author of this diary, and so it's YOUR task to find quotes to support YOUR arguments.

        Otherwise we would continue to regard your diary as nonsense.

        "There are some bad people on the rise/ They're saving their own skins by/ Ruining people's lives" -- Morrissey

        by Cassiodorus on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 11:37:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not currently at home (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard

          So no access to my library currently. But the idea is clearly present in those three works. Now, I will admit that as a student of Agnes Heller, I'm somewhat influenced by her reading of Marx - which owes considerably allegiance to Hegel. That said, you cannot take the teleology out of Marx. It is essential to his understanding of history & the point of this diary was to give a simple sketch of how that history works for people who may not grasp what the dialectic is.

    •  I'm still T/R'ing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Vespertine, jds1978, Words In Action

      And seriously intended discussion of Marx on DK is to be encouraged.

      Cutting Social Security will end my support for the Democratic Party.

      by MrJayTee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 12:35:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I respectfully offer this criticism (22+ / 0-)

    The reason most people (like the one above) state that they don't care about history or the history of thought is precisely due to the characteristics of this diary. Situating Marx in a historical genealogy of thought, explaining his philosophy of history, this is all fine and good amongst an intellectual group (say, academics).  But to make Marx popular, for people who have little inclination to study history or philosophy (and I don't say this as a critique, I myself have little inclination to study a whole great many things that others find really, really important), you need to make it directly of relevance to them.  For example:

    1) You are taught that you are an independent operator in the economy.  That you determine your dream, your path, you get to choose.  Marx teaches you that never in the history of humanity has the individual been more disempowered over his economic present and future.  That never before in history has the individual been so dependent upon the production of others, and had his own production (work) directed by others.  That the common individual works so that his labor can generate profit to be captured by another private individual.  That you yourself don't produce even 1% of the things you use/need in your daily life, and therefore are reliant upon selling your labor to a market that may/may not want you in order to get money so that you can eat.
    2) Or, to put it in a more condensed way, you get taught freedom and choice.  Marx teaches us that you really have only 1 choice: sell your labor to someone else or starve.
    3) You get taught that being a better worker makes you more valuable to your employer and therefore you'll be paid more by that employer who wants to retain your services.  Marx teaches you that economy-wide, on the "macro" level, business finds all sorts of ways to squeeze extra productivity out of its workers so that it needs fewer workers.  That this is how profit is made: paying the workers the same for more output.  That this process creates not just profit but unemployment.  That the swelling pool of the unemployed drives down the price of labor, meaning, lower wages.
    4) Or, in short, that the "work ethic" and technology gains and scientific management of the workplace increase productivity, which increases unemployment, which depresses worker wages.  For example, people now (esp. in their 20s) are willing to work years for free in this post-modern form of servitude known as the internship.

    •  Thanks much for this excellent comment. (4+ / 0-)

      I'm not trained in philosophy, so I found much of the discussion here difficult, though fascinating and stimulating.

      Exactly as you point out, it is important to make ideas relevant if they are to become more than just abstract mental exercises, and instead gain the traction needed to effect real change in the systems that shape our lives, and the future of our society and our planet. Your comment does that very nicely. Please consider expanding it as a diary.

    •  Top comment! (nt) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action
    •  My point isn't to make Marx popular (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, hungeski

      The point of this diary is to explain in the simplest way I can how Marx's understanding of history is completely different from the notion of history held by most of us & thus explain why popular accounts of Marx are completely off base.

      While I share much in common with Marx in my own thought, I'm not a Marxist, nor would I want to champion an system of thought based on the unlimited colonial expansion in the 19th century as a solution to the terrible problems of post-industrial capitalism.

      I just want to correct the historical record.

  •  Thanks. We have been saying similar things. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Larsstephens, melo

    Our new book echos many of these thoughts:Global Insanity: How Homo sapiens Lost Touch with Reality while Transforming the World  The ideas about causality have become stronger as the new paradigm catches on.  Here is a book that does much to advance these ideas: More Than Life Itself: A Synthetic Continuation in Relational Biology (Categories)

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 12:17:47 PM PDT

  •  Another, perhaps more likely, end state (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jds1978, Visceral, ozsea1, Words In Action

    of capitalism is collapse, fragmentation, and a return to Bronze-age style warlords parasitic on subsistence agriculture.

    Of course given the biological and climatic devastation we are facing, subsistence agriculture of the future may not support very many warlords and their thug armies.

  •  Marx was not Lenin (0+ / 0-)

    Marx believed that the proletariat (anyone who sells their labor to survive, rather than living off the proceeds of assets, be it land, stocks and bonds, a big business, or a small business) would eventually need to make a revolution in order to survive.  Capitalism would eventually impoverish everyone in the quest for the free lunch of profit - getting out more than you put in - driving wages to rock bottom, pushing more and more people into the underclass of surplus labor, and generally strangling the economy in an attempt to squeeze maximum surplus value from it.  Leeches at every stage of production taking their pound of flesh like a VAT.

    Lenin sat down and thought about how to make that revolution happen, because his interpretation of Marx and his own observations led him to believe that for a variety of reasons the people would NOT revolt.  

    •  The history is a little more complicated (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RennieMac, Words In Action, lucid

      In Russia, "the people" were peasants.  The trick for Lenin was getting the peasants to buy-in to the urban revolt.  Gramsci picked up on this aspect of the Russian Revolution to argue that the orthodox emphasis on class/workers was insufficient.  

      Here's the takeaway, of great importance for our time:  that building a successful counter-revolution involves tying together all sorts of disparate elements in society, showing them they have a common interest in redrawing the political economy.

      •  which leads into Maoism (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo

        Mao argued that since China had no urban proletariat to speak of, orthodox Marxism-Leninism based on a revolution of factory workers was never going to happen in China.  Instead, socialism in China would have to be built with China's immense peasant population.

        Farming villages in Russia too operated on collectivist lines.  Land was owned in common by the village and merely assigned to specific peasants, who surrendered the better part of their crop to the village so that everyone would have enough to pay their taxes and make it through the winter.  One could argue that this was one of the primary inspirations for socialism in Russia.

        Except that Marx argued that the peasants were ultimately a counter-revolutionary force.  Give them their land and the right to their crops and they'd be happy to go home and become miniature capitalists and/or let the "superfluous" cities starve.  Besides, only industrialization had the power to produce goods in such superlative abundance as to tear down the whole edifice of trade and commodity, so communism would never happen in an agrarian society no matter how equitable it was.

  •  The claim here is that "Marx (0+ / 0-)

    understood himself as seeing Smith and Ricardo to their natural end. ...Marx was a capitalist - in fact, the project of capitalism is the most important historical era, because it finally reveals fully the history of exploitation. It finally reveals fully the truth of human equality....For Marx this process is as natural as bees pollinating flowers. That there were 'revolutions' 100 years ago in specific nation-states that claimed to be Marxist is of no consequence to how Marx viewed history...Marx simply thought that capitalism would collapse eventually because of it's own internal contradictions & that the resulting form of organization would finally display our truth as a species."

    Since it reasonable to say that Marx replaced that understanding of things called nature by another called history, I don't know how far it gets us to say that he saw the collapse of the capitalist system as natural, except to mean "historically inevitable. Oddly, for one who is here portrayed as watching that unavoidable disintegration from the sidelines, Marx wanted to hurry the process along, calling directly for revolution in individual countries to overthrow bourgeois supremacy in order to abolish private property.

    I'd call those revolutions in specific states 100 years ago a direct consequence of what Marx asked for (and ought to have expected). Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ceausescu, Tito. Hoxha, Castro and the rest of the murderous class of tyrants were precisely the teleological fulfillment of the Marxian project.

  •  The poor and middle class lost long ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    When Bush and the republicans went into Iraq and legalized torture, the US began the journey to become a third world country run by the elite. We can no longer distinguish line between  big business, the president, the judicial branch and congress.

  •  Hmm I think capitalism will collapse... (0+ / 0-)

    ....if it does, because of environment as well as tech. I'm not sure if that's the same thing. But either way, I am fairly sure the collapse will not lead us to a progressive order, but rather regressive.

    While I've not studied Marx, I have studied Hegel and Kant.

  •  I learned something new today. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, duhban

    I repeatedly claimed that Obama would never propose cuts to social security. I was wrong. Then again, I also claimed, repeatedly, that Rick Perry would win the 2012 Election, and that The Supreme Court would overturn Health Care Reform.

    by NoFortunateSon on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:56:27 PM PDT

  •  I'd recommend (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vespertine

    if you want to move these ideas beyond kids working on their pHd's, you use language that normal people use.  

    I probably know more about the current economy than 99.9% of the people and I have an engineering degree from Cornell and your language is a barrier to me accepting your argument.  I like how you acknowledge this at one point but it really does go deep into the realm of comedy.

    "For purposes of simplicity, I will simply forward this. Within our history, the continual development of the forces of production create truths that directly conflict with the current state of the relations of production
    "

    Heh.  For purposes of simplicity. I do not think this phrase means what you think it means.

  •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    Nothing we see today "vindicates Marx," he does not need to be vindicated.  Alienation, confiscation, the "internal contradictions," all that stuff is pretty self-evident.  What I am not sure of is that there is anything really new about modern capitalism simply because there are surpluses.  People let this stuff happen to them over and over because they are stupid.  And I would say, willfully stupid.  

    Which I suppose gets us into opiates of the masses...

    The "invisible hand" doesn't regulate the market - it wanks it. -- SantaFeMarie

    by Dinclusin on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 01:41:33 AM PDT

  •  With respect to "Marxist economics" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    about which I made a disparaging remark earlier, I was referring to ideas like centralized economies and government ownership of the means of production, which are completely imbecilic.  Which Commissar is going to decide its time to invent the MacIntosh?  Market economies do a brilliant job of getting stuff where it needs to go.  99% of improvements in the human condition have been made by people who expected to be well-rewarded for them, and they should be.  But there are limits.  At some point the government needs to step in and say "yeah, but the people who were supposed to benefit from your miracle drug are still dying in droves because they can't afford it."  And of course, all economies function much better when lots of people have lots of money in their pockets.  So a significant degree of wealth redistribution is absolutely imperative, because a basic defect of market economies is that they always artificially and inequitably redistribute income upward.

    The "invisible hand" doesn't regulate the market - it wanks it. -- SantaFeMarie

    by Dinclusin on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 02:05:42 AM PDT

  •  Things will change, but collapse, I'll believe it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    when I see it, until then, the capitalist system looks quite powerful.  No mention of the collapse of the soviet system and China taking on capitalism, I found that interesting.  But I will give this very well written post another read and study it, also, all the comments, as a way of education, thanks.

  •  The dialectic of capitalism and communism... (0+ / 0-)

    I think in the end the synthesis is clearly some form of socialism...Their are truth on both ends of the polarity here. Benefits in each, and negative consequences in each as is true for socialism. However, socialism seems to minimize the negatives of both capitalism and communism, to some degree, and does also give the benefits of both.

    Synthesis of these polarities is necessary and we all have to accept that thruth never exists wholly in one polar position.

  •  HA "Their are truth"...MY Goodness my head is gone (0+ / 0-)
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