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 Continue reading “Utopian/scientific and the questions of values”
This is a reasonable summary of marxism in a nutshell and also a good list of the problems of the whole ‘ism’ as we discover the need to upgrade the subject.
We have endless posts here on all the issues but in a quick take our critique has a range of issues:
we critique ‘theory’ and caution that marx’s ‘stages of production’ theory is flawed and the stages of epochal transformation as science, feudalism, capitalism, communism is hardly a scientific theory at all and we must not assume that some teleological mechanism will guarantee its action: we must assess the limits of capitalist economy and act as free agents on the basis of values beyond scientific claims to define and then construct a real socialism/communism. The latter are not guaranteed by history because they have no absolute definitions but we can sense that marx beyond theory was indirectly right: we can derive the axioms of communism in terms of values, such as equality and fairness, as we analyze the failed implications of capitalism. Failure to perform these tasks has left the radical game without direction, endlessly repeating the mantras of marxist shibboleths.
In general theories of history are an unsafe area for grand generalizations. Marx’s historical materialism thus produces a theory of history in a grand sweep. But historical theories are almost always failures and histomat has ended up as target practice for critics.
Marxists have a problematical relationship with hegel, but there is a simple solution: move beyond historical materialism to a larger and balanced study of the history of philosophy and science. Look at kant: his essay on history suggests a number of issues that are far more practical, viz. the progression to a perfect social constitution, than the ‘endgame’ of hegel who is a commentary on issues raised by a long history of philosophy: better to embrace a larger field in an ironic take on dialectic: the latter however is confused by marxists. The idea of material dialectic as some science known to marxists is complete nonsense and the whole legacy of dialectic has been almost a torpedo sinking the whole subject. Hegel is a mysterious thinker and it is inadvisable to base one’s legacy on his vatic obscurities. Base the canon on something more tangible, to start.
The distinction of ‘utopian, scientific’ socialism is thus misplaced: marxism has not produced a science in any reasonable account, so ironically the ‘utopian’ stands at the end as the real survivor. The term ‘utopian’ is wrong, or prejudicial: we should instead consider the subject the ‘practical task’ of defining a socialist or communist commonwealth and the values that support it, not as historical laws, but as gestures of men freely creating a successor to capitalism. There is no guarantee of this according to historical laws because ‘history’ only produces a starting point that must be realized in practice.
The central question for those awakening to political life today is this: What is Marxism, and what does it mean for our political analysis and practice? To begin to answer this question, we must see Marxism not only as a theory but as a method of analysis and a political practice.
Source: Marxism: A Method, Theory and Practice | Left Voice