The left has ended up as a Marx cult and the result is not as effective as it might have been if a broader range of thinking had informed its beginnings. It is not reactionary or counter to socialism to point out the failure of Marx’s historical materialism as a theory, along with this inaccurate depiction of economic epochs, feudalism, capitalism, etc,…The scheme doesn’t work, as Marx himself realized as he invented an ad hoc category of the ‘Asiatic mode of production’, which is what?
The whole issue of ‘modes of production’ is crippled by these bad theories. And these systems are not fundamental drivers of world history. The left needs a larger cultural descriptive history that can help to ensure a socialist future doesn’t start amputating all other categories than the economic.
Marx ended up enforcing the false mystique of capitalism by making it one of his historical epochs, but that doesn’t work and has been a gift to capitalists who can cite Marx to claim that capitalism must endure until its full potential has been realized. That is nonsense, and dangerous to boot. The capitalist class wants to privatize space exploration and extend capitalism into the galaxy at large. In an unexpected expose of this the film Avatar made explicit science fiction out of this and the Corporate takeover of celestial bodies, Pandora?, is very grim in the tale that is a good take on Last of the Mohicans.
I have often wondered if the greater universe will allow this kind of primitive behavior to spread. Homo sapiens fancies himself but against the backdrop of galactic life he may be a failure from the start.
We have often recommended not attempting to produce theories of complex histories, that is, ‘scientific’ theories.
All you need is a chronology and a set of outlines. A robust socialism is not beholden to Marxist thinking, and it needs a new framework at this point. This is not a debate over reformism and revolution. The two possibilities existed before Marx and remain to challenge socialism futurism. It seems essential to consider both options and to be ready for the unexpected.
Marxist materialism is a vexed subject: it arose in a nature way in a period when secularism was struggling to free itself from religious confusions. In that context it was an effective and decisive force against the reactionaries of religion. But the times have moved on and the constricted materialism of that period seem brittle now, as does the battle with Hegel, which again is too old-fashioned now. Hegel is both profound and foolish and his idealism is a fossil of philosophy now, and a false attempt to get rid of that ‘dratted’ Kant, who in reality might be a better resource for the left. In fact, that has already happened and the phase of Kantian ethical socialism at the end of the nineteenth century pointed to a whole alternate universe of socialist possibilities. But this legacy was subject to ‘cancellation’ as whole army of cement blocks for brains produced a thousand third rate books on the Marx canon, which is so perverted it induces fainting spells in anyone who even mentions the issues of ethics.
The critique of Barzun remains relevant now and shows thinking at a level most leftists can no longer match after so much redutcionist scientism mixed with dialectical materialism, that other failure of the Marx canon, so beset with views that alienate almost everyone now.
The book by Barzun also has a good critique of Darwinism, an academic critique from the period just prior to the Stalinization of evolutionary theory as a Darwinian religion with its priesthood of academic idiots enforcing a fake science.
The left might start over at this point and free the socialist option from its Marxist encapsulation that is artificial and misleading, and a better way to prevent socialism that the CIA.
This odd classic contains three critiques, of Marx, Darwin, and Wagner. The critiques of Darwin and Marx are extremely cogent and it is remarkable that this book appeared in the 1940’s. It is testimony to the power of ideology that the critique of Marxism and Darwinism are still virtually impossible, beyond the neoliberal and/or creationist brands which are usually not believable. The critiques from the capitalist world were always disregarded but Barzun’s cuts to the quick in a different vein, this from a professor of literature.
Barzun in the old-fashioned vein of the early critics of Marx (going back to the nineteenth century) makes mincemeat of Marx’s pretensions to theory, his personality flaws and the larger world of early proto-socialism that was so unfairly suppressed in Marx’s destructive vituperation, even all his ideas were taken up without acknowledgment from such sources. It is a sad legacy now dominated by Marxist idiots caught up in a frozen paradigm. At a time of crisis a post-marxism needs to be recast in a more sensible fashion. The current Marxism will never geet a second chance in its current form.