Marx the ecologist? How about Marx the postdarwinist?

Although it is important to try and reexamine Marx in terms of ecological issues it is misleading and counterproductive in the end to try and second guess him or to attempt to make ecology fit his work in the vein of Marx is always right and the codification of marxism as a theological system. The reverse is needed to make a new leftist synthesis in which ecology and socialism are blended from the start.
If the marxists at Monthly Review wish to ecologize marxist boilerplate let’s see if they can do the same for darwinism, which Marx initially rejected on sight and then, in a compromise we suspect, embraced dishonestly as a party line…
Perhaps Monthly Review can expose the darwinian class genocide of the left, resurrect Marx’s expose of Darwin the ideologist and free the left of its murderous ‘class warfare’ as class extermination….

Source: On Marx and Ecosocialism

 Hegel the idealist villain?

The legacy of the debate between materialism and idealism is dated now and springs from the generation of the hegelian aftermath, itself the aftermath of the kantian generation. In many ways Hegel remains a puzzle and his ‘absolute idealism’ remains far more controversial than the kantian ‘transcendental idealism’ which isn’t about the ‘transcendental’ but about the way ‘mind’ is fretted by a series of categories, space/time being examples. It was perhaps inevitable that someone like Hegel should try to respond to Kant whose views ironically resemble in disguise those of something like the Advaita Vedanta of the indic legacy.
To critique this legacy in terms of science was a no-brainer, and yet that gesture backfired, and Marx was a victim of that triumph of scientism in the near wasteland of post-hegelian speculative philosophy.
In an age of quantum mechanics, what to say of string theory, the issue of idealism is not so clear cut as it was to the ‘materialist’ revolution which turned out to be a pyrrhic victory that ends up losing the idea, if not idealism, of ‘freedom’ to the crypto-idealist concepts of causality.
Why cripple socialism with such a complicated debate by trying to enforce one pole of a false duality? It is not the job of socialism to resolve the debates of metaphysics. If socialist futures carry basket-case philosophers to new dialectics, so be it.

Source: The eonic model beyond materialism/idealism – Darwiniana

News | Historical Materialism

The subject, and internet presence, ‘historical materialism’ is considerable in its scope and yet the entire discipline seems incapable of leading to a focused radical or social democratic path. Marxism is easy to jargonize and over-analyze, with no real result, and little connection with public thinking or with the equally barren fields of sociology, historical or otherwise.
We have pointed here repeatedly to some core problems with ‘histomat’ in terms of its obsessive Marx worship and rote assumptions about the canonical status of his legacy. We have pointed to the shallowness and misfire of economic analysis of world history as an odd fundamentalism, and then to the fallacy of ‘stages of production’ theory, and the failure to produce a viable model of the very socialism/communism projected, very much in a void. The whole legacy of leninism/bolshevism goes almost without critical comment alienating virtually the whole potential public for socialism…
We have suggested a whole series of remedies, among them a divorce with a failed past and a recasting of the socialist legacy that was so dogmatically appropriated to marxist monopoly by Marx himself…

Source: News | Historical Materialism

Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work

In many ways biographies of Marx (and Engels) are just what are needed to portray the saga of early socialism but we should keep in mind that Marx himself refused to get specific about the nature of that socialism or a socialist society. We should be mindful of this and not try to push Marx’s theories beyond their limits. Marx explicitly left the tasks of socialism/communism to the future and no doubt that was appropriate in his time, but we must then remember that we have to go beyond Marx, as he enjoined, and speak to our own time with specific constructs of social models that can realize a future postcapitalism. We should note that the failure to do this during the Russian revolution ended up with Stalin filling in the blanks in the vacuum left by ‘socialists’/’communists’. Leftists are constantly scrounging through Marx’s works for indications about what socialism is or should be. But there is nothing there to do that. We find a lot of cogent critique of classical economics, but that is long gone now in the era of neo-classical economics. we have another task, just what Marx predicted would happen. Thus the inspiration of biographical accounts is pretty much all that we can inherit from Marx. There is a larger use of Marx beyond his specifics: if we look at the rise of modern economics we find a developing set of unchallenged assumptions and it is significant that Marx and Engels suddenly appear to create a dialectical challenge to the emergence of modern economic systems suddenly overtaken by a peculiar kind of capitalism well analyzed by Adam Smith, but then malevolently mutating into the strange monstrosity that confronted Marx. And Marx’ response was simply to challenge the legitimacy of that outcome which had in any case been complicated from the start by its dark side, viz. the question of slavery. If Marx had done nothing else that would have been enough. But Marx’s tendencies to theory complicated his legacy: consider the stages of production theory with its progression of epochs: the result is a crypto-teleological theory of history which doesn’t specify what the ‘epoch’ of postcapitalism will be, simply labelled ‘communism’ We cannot make a mechanical prediction about a system that doesn’t define the key final epoch, ‘communism’ and the result we see in the way the bolshevik moment derailed in the fog of that non-definition.
We do Marx better justice with a creative attempt to recast, better, set aside his theories, and consider his key achievement: shattering the pseudo-scientific complacency of the classical economists, and challenging the rapidly self-sanctifying ‘legitimacy’ of the new economic system overtaking modernity and usurping its definition.
Let us recall that with Thomas Munzer the idea of modern communism is the first born of the era of emergent modernity: capitalism is a spurious and ad hoc conglomeration of elements and attempts to become its defining standard to the point of a spurious recasting of ethical principles with respect to acquisitiveness…

arl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society:

From Newton to scientism via Hegel: the marxist pseudo-science and its discontents…

Marx’s package/marxism is definitely a brilliant achievement but it belongs to an earlier era when naive scientism ruled along with physicalist reductionism and people still thought that sciences along the lines of newtonism physics could be wrought for any given subject matter, including sociological and historical subjects. You cannot create a science of history based on causal theories aping Newton.

There was actually a revolt against this in the Kantian corpus and even the Romantic movement. But Marx was determined to be the founder of a scientific discipline along the lines of hard science and the result was the clunky edifice of historical materialism with its economic slant. The end result looks impressive to some, but literally hundreds of critics have protested the result, and many have protested the way in which economics matched with reductionist scientism claims the mantle of a scientific subject, believing in which is then a prerequisite for socialism. What a disaster. Small wonder revolutions on the left have all failed. And those critics started early, even in the later nineteenth century. The entire reign of marxism has been among the true believers who have never looked critically at the subject and take the whole thing on faith. At this point, although the faithful still cling to the subject and graduate from courses indoctrinated in a set of fallacies of theory, the left has to move on. Added to all this is the issue of dialectical materialism which made a set of fallacious causal theories compete with a crackpot version of Hegel’s thinking on triads and dialectic.

In a way this applies onto to the claims for science and the theoretical aspect of historical analysis: if you set aside ‘theories’ of history and economic fundamentalism you can adapt a great deal of what Marx did empirically in the areas of class, and theory as ideology. Note that marxism itself is an ideology disguised as theory. The idea is that the claim that something is science will induce belief, and that actually worked in the era of the second international but the whole game was in decline even as bolshevism got underway. And it rapidly became obvious that the whole package was an incomplete void with empty labels like ‘socialism’/’communism’ that were an invitation to social systems even worse than the capitalist.

Marx did not invent socialism but his domination of the field ended up making the subject a kind of marxist monopoly. It barely dawns on anyone that you don’t have to take the marxist version on faith. It would be far better to start from scratch taking up some of the valuable parts of marxism as relevant but leaving historical materialism behind. Productive force determinism is such an archaic theory that it is puzzling it got off the ground, even in the nineteenth century. Values, ethics, free agency, and consciousness disappear in a frankenstein theory of the modes of production. Even a cursory study of history shows this economic fixation is wrong. And then the whole thing is set to denounce as ‘utopian’ any attempt to do the subject right as the clunking economic obsession is claimed as science. The result is that the left has long ceased to know what it is talking about. That said, a great deal of simple empirical observation has often been a cogent side line, as long as it doesn’t get turned into theoretical historicism. Frankly the so-called utopians won the argument finally, although the issue is not utopian, but a practical effort to consider/design social systems that are functional social systems with free agents, values, ideas of freedom, and practical social recipes rather than deterministic predictions of causal systems.

The problem is shared by economists in general who try to produce scientific models based on advanced math, all of it basically the differential equation which is not suitable for economics. Calculus was designed for physics, and every branch of physics has a new variant. But economists, especially the neo-classical ones, presume to study whole economic systems as a set of laws mimicking newtonian formulas. The results are a set of fallacies. So the issue of theory and ideology is a common disease.

In general theories of history have always failed in the sense of trying to find historical laws based on causal reasoning: the whole subject recoils from this approach because history resembles a story with free agents rather than a mechanical system with causal mechanics. Kant gave plenty of warning of the whole problem but then Hegel, whether rightly or not tried to undo Kant with a system that was a hard to evaluate and certainly wasn’t suitable for founding socialism. It was an exploration of the future of religion perhaps, a part of the Reformation, a very tricky and perhaps failed attempt to answer Kant. But the reign of hegelianism, what to say of newtonianism, completely confused a whole generation and the result was a reaction that ended up in the wilds of scientism in an attack on idealism, which was still another fallacious confusion. Physics adopts the idealist mathematics of abstract forms and studies subjects in a materialistic context with that idealist toolkit. The attempt to banish idealism was totally misguided. What on earth happened in the generation of Hegel to Marx/Darwin/scientism? All these kids just fell off their bikes. And the realm of quantum mechanics suggests the whole materialist interpretation is too limited, a surface phenomenon, just as Kant’s thinking might have suggested.

The remedy then is to be wary of fake sciences: we don’t need a scientific sociology to create socialism. We need to create a praxis that studies what futures it intends and the resulting assumptions historical free agents who act in terms of values. The whole history of the marxist left and its succession shows the way its adherents thought in terms of abstractions they forbade themselves to define and the result failed in all cases because they had no idea what they were doing even as they thought historical inevitability would solve all their problems. The result was that the hopeless junk of figures like Stalin actually came to be thought of as communism. Amazing.

But in reality the definition and construction of a socialist or communist is not so arcane: it is a practical effort that takes into account the issues of democracy and authority, practical economic systems beyond hair-brained theories, the nature of markets and possible substitutes, and, since we think in terms of communism, the question of private property. That’s hard, but the terms of discussion are not so hard: they are practical. The marxist legacy confuses because it got some things right, supposedly: the issue of private property, descriptive histories of capitalist economics: these it wishes to replace. By all means, but not on the basis of bad theories or a few cliches about planning. I think that in fact the older left was right about revolutionary options and the question of private property. But they made a mess of the result, and as a result many have recoiled into social democratic niceties. To replace private property with state ownership is not going to work: it creates a new bourgeoisie of one-party thugs.

At least it is clear that revolutionary options are not so simple and that marxist thinking even as it honorably upheld revolutionary expropriation was not equal to the task of a revolutionary social foundationalism. Not surprising. But the left has to invest in a new thinking cap to bring back to life the future option of a new society. It is not enough to champion the abstraction ‘socialism’, create a revolutionary moment and then proceed with a one-party claque promoting state capitalist bureaucratic solutions to the undefined terms of the starting point. The older marxist left in this sense will never get a second chance, and yet will dominate all other efforts to start over.