The disastrous crackpot confusion of historical materialism

I have often recommended replacing historical materialism with something simpler and less reductionist. To make that theory a requirement to create socialism was a mistake. It antagonizes almost the whole of exterior culture. It forecloses on virtually the whole of human thought and history and imposes a brittle version of early nineteenth century scientism as a universal generalization. Whatever it seemed at the time it is now irrelevant for us. Historical materialism claims to debunk all religion, almost all philosophy, negates ‘idealism’ as some kind of evil delusion, reduces history to economic issues, negates teleology in the name of science and then creates a crypto-teleology that misleads anyone trying to construct a socialist entity in practice. It tries to seize high ground against all forms of thought with the weird claim that the mode of production stands beyond all that as the determinant factor. Small wonder socialists/communists always fumble the ball. Their view of society is crackpot.

Marx did one of the worst things you can do to a cadre: give a bunch of idiots an air-tight generalization that they will embrace the way people embrace religion: the end of creative thinking enters to establish the reign of dogma. Try this: try to critique Marx and the cultic crowd will react to you with a vengeance. The outcome has been “Marx the Prophet”, a misfortune that will blind adherents to the need for very careful thinking about practical action.

It is not hard to correct all this. We have recommended being wary of historical theories and working with outlines and empirical models. That way, the diversity and complexity of history is not sacrificed to a monomania. In that context the critique of political economy can be wrought via a robust set of empirical studies that do not presume to laws of history or scientific determinism. History is the sage of free agents who have choice, whatever the case that free agency is the same as free will. But issues of free will are better studied with Kant than Newton or scientists. The question of free agents is enough: we cannot expect ‘history’ to produce communism mechanically. It requires construction: we must create a socialism that makes sense, embraces a set of values and realizes new degree of freedom.

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