Marx’s classic theories are more of a liability than an asset at this point: they give the impression of misdiagnosis. The larger critique of marx and marxists in the context of empirical studies tends to be far more successful. The left needs to propose an expert analysis and response and present a completely new face to the public. The classic distinction of utopian and scientific given by engels is part of the same problematic: the scientific basis of marx’s thinking about modes of production is not there and the resulting charge of utopian against any constructive effort backfires comletely.
Mode of production theory
and the macro model’s intermittent/terminating character.
September 22nd, 2016 ·
Criticizing historical materialism, or mode of production theory, can be counterproductive and I suggested a way to see how a mode of production discourse could be embedded in the macro model. Although I am reluctant to create hybrids with such things, there is something to the idea. The reason is that the macro model is not a universal determinism but shows a discrete operation applied to a continuous one and as the discrete process finishes over a given interval the system can be subject to any number of different determinations, and the economic is certainly one candidate. We can see the mysterious logic of the macro system that seems to spawn a transition to capitalism and a set of challengers, in parallel. Is this chance? Hardly. From the start the logic of capitalism invokes its antithesis in the coming of postcapitalism, either communism by definition or some more or less the equivalent. In this perspective the logic of mode of production sequences or directionality has a valid logic of its own, even if we don’t ascribe the total direction of history to economic processes. In a considerable irony, the logic of capitalism has made the constant suggestion of postcapitalism by multiple independent authors, at the point of climate change, almost a chorus of dissent issuing in the transition from the old mode of production.
So we can adapt a partial version of historical materialism to the macro model under the rubric of the so-called ‘econostream’.
The critique of utopianism by Engels especially in his classic Socialism, Utopian or Scientific, is also problematical: his point is too important to fritter away with the usual moral arguments, but the fact remains that history does in fact process moral values, as the macro effect clearly demonstrates, in fact, a triad of causal, moral and aesthetic factors. Whatever we think about utopian thinking, the fact remains that we are not forbidden by assumptions about causal history from applying values, or from saying that revolutions can’t apply a set of values to social transformations. Valuation applied to history is not ‘utopian’.
In general the dangers of utopianism have been addressed here by placing beside the model of a communist revolution the example of the American revolution, as a democratic/bourgeois revolution that is ambiguous and certainly a carrier of the capitalist process. But the inherent skeleton of the American case allows us to remorph its sequencing into an equivalent communist version: the result shows logically that we have not indulged in the utopian because we see an example in history.
The analogy is elemental, and elementary: we see a two phase process of revolution, and anti-
imperialist revolt, that leads to a phase free from the control of the ‘ancien regime’, followed by a
second phase of constitutional foundationalism. The American case is ambiguous because it is a top down and bottom up process with an elite creating a republic and a populist strain that inspires an experiment in democracy.
Any (communist) revolution will follow this format (as did the Russian, with a catch), and it is not utopian. The question of a communist democracy nonetheless raises questions that are far more complex than the simpler case of the American revolution, quite obviously.
So we see that a communist revolution would follow a classic format, and that it is not utopian for such a revolution to consider the place of values in a world of fact.
Another interpretation of the macro model suggests that the ‘macrosequence’ has come to an end and has been replaced with free agency. That is a boon, and a danger: nothing like the stunning large-scale actions seen in that sequence is possible as yet for man. But the birth of modern revolutionism is a start. That is, the conscious intentional social transformation process passes from historical systematics to human agency. At the end of the macrosequence then the whole game is open to free agency and a
crisis immediately arises the best example of which is capitalism itself which subjects the whole system to economic factors, a disastrous outcome in the long run. It is thus entirely appropriate that with the birth of capitalism postcapitalist revolutionaries should appear to chase the economic juggernaut to its endgame. Given the climate fiasco we see now that is none too soon.