Skip to main content

View Diary: On the 'Vindication' of Marx *updated (208 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  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.

        •  I'm not sure how this (0+ / 0-)

          responds to my comment.  I was rejecting the notion that Marx has a teleological conception of history or that he shares Hegel's position, not defending it.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site