Monday, May 18, 2009

What I have written before on this blog refers, of course, only to the philosophy of Marxism as it was undoubtedly conceived of by Marx himself(from my own readings of both the "early" and the "late" Marx-if anything the silliness was worse in the young Marx) and the vast 99% of his historical followers. It was the "philosophy" that I learned as a teenager and later came to reject in favour of what Marxists refer to this day as "crude empiricism" ie the idea that facts matter.
There have been numerous attempts to 'reform" Marxism. Some of these have been purely political and economic, and, as I said before, I think that Marxism is made up of "sets" of beliefs that can be conveniently detached from each other. Most Marxists today, now that there is no longer any Vatican in Moscow or Beijing would agree with me. The "libertarian Marxists" are a long standing example of such. When Marx wrote 'Capital' he did indeed make properly religious bows to his earlier Hegelianism in the book. His mistaken!!!! claim to have deduced an inevitable end to capitalism, however, was more or less backed by a very restricted set of economic data that he abstracted beyond the evidence to some "general laws" that didn't exist in reality. His efforts in this case were, of course, influenced by his earlier Hegelianism in that, just as he was incapable of understanding some very simple mathematics he was also incapable of understanding the "scientific method" that was gaining ground in his time. He honestly believed that his mental calculus of abstractions was "scientific", in a bizarre sense no longer current in the modern world and only current in some countries in his own time.
I want to leave aside, for the moment, the assertions that have been made by Marx and his followers on other matters. These are best dealt with under headings such as "historical materialism" , "Marxist economics","Marxist sociology", "Marxist anthropology" and "Marxist political theory". To be honest the only places where I see a Marxist "approach" as valuable is in "historical materialism" and "Marxist sociology", and even there I see Marxism as merely (at best) a starting point and a model for things that are far more complex than Marx could conceive in his limited mind. to Marxist philosophy ie "dialectical materialism" I will similarly leave aside those post modernist word spinners who basically have nothing to say. I advise the reader who wants to waste their time over such matters to take pretty well any paragraph of their writings and parse it as to grammar to see if it actually says anything. I also advise the use of a dictionary as the primary tool to see how empty such things are. Check the unfamiliar words such as "epistemology", "hermeneutics" or even "hegemony" and NOTICE just how much the post modernists use such words without knowing what they mean. They sound "intellectual", but they mean nothing. This, however, is the realm of academic curricula vitae, something as far removed from an honest search for truth in our modern world as the Oprah Winfrey Show is. Plato has spun so much in his grave that he is half way to the centre of the Earth by now.
Aside from the silly what is "dialectical materialism" today. I'll say it plainly, a collection of truisms and platitudes that are pretty well obvious and need no grand philosophical "gathering" into a system. Such truisms include the following:
**everything exists in history. Nothing is permanent. Oh!!!
**it is often useful to examine a thing in its historical development. Oh!!!
**in social situations there are conflicts. Oh!!!
**one can, if one wants (though one loses a better grasp of reality by doing so) reduce any situation/conflict to an abstraction of binary opposites. One wonders why one would attempt to do so.
**one can pretend !!! that social reality is the same as intellectual abstractions and their "contradictions" and "syntheses", but this approach has no predictive value whatsoever.
Dialectical materialism has little (nothing ?) whatsoever to do with the original Greek idea of "dialectic" which meant a process of accepting and drawing conclusions from an opponents argument to finally result in a reductio ad absurdem. In conclusion I reject the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism in toto. There is nothing there of any value.


  1. Keep in mind that when both Hegel and Marx wrote, especially the former, people saw the world in static terms, rarely looked at historical development and contradictions within society. We can sneer at Hegel and Marx, but in large measure because our world view is "dialectical" to the point that it is accepted as virtual common sense among the educated. Same goes for the influence of economics on life, or even the idea that a scientific explanation should exist for every phenomenon. Both of these were very uncommon 150 years ago, yet are part of today's thinking.

  2. I disagree. Marx, and before him Hegel, wrote in what was at least a 300 year old humanist tradition which was based on the idea of "progress", not stasis. This, in turn, developed within an almost 2000 year old Judeo-Christian tradition of seeing human history "in time", leading to some ultimate consumation (the return of the Messiah? The Apocalypse ?) The idea of history as a progressive unfolding was hardly invented in the 1800s. The Judeo-Christian tradition had long since banished the view of time as "static" or "cicular" to the far reaches long before the golden age of German philosophy. What Hegal, Marx and other "dialectical" philosophers DID DO was to smuggle back the religious idea of a predetermined end-teleology-, an ultimate culmination, into the humanist tradition.
    Personally I don't think this was "progress". The use of the reductionist tools of "contradictions" might have been useful if those who used such tools ever realized that they were just that-tools and not any realistic representation of reality. If you are looking at society using terms such as "conflicting interests", "inherant limitations", "possibilities", etc. would give a much truer picture of the world than dialectics ever could. If nothing else it would prevent the using of one's mental concepts in a sort of pre-Boulian crude calculus to produce "results" that are not just demonstrably false (as Marx did with his predictions) but immune from fact checking because of the level of abstraction they are on.
    No doubt both Marx and Hegel were contributers, if not the originators, to the "things change" truism that was recognized in Greece even before the final setting of the Judeo- Christian canon that enshrined this world view as "holy".
    I would be willing to place a bet. Without either a Hegel or a Marx our present worldview about the transitory nature of social arrangements would be EXACTLY the same as it is now- minus, of course, some ideas of what SORT of change is desirable(and some very disasterous historical detours). H and M. did NOT invent the modern Zeitgeist. They merely added their own bricks to it.

  3. Part of this is jealousy. The social science dominated left does not generally have the intelligence to comprehend physical science ... even from a distance. It's a matter of "me too" in relation to an image which they have of solid empirical knowledge. Unlike myself, (where guilt for foolish past actions will haunt me to my grave and is in the process of sending me to it), these kind of people do not feel any loss of face for their pretensions. I read a note once in the Saskatchewan Law Review which admitted that the "law" did not necessarily reflect commonly accepted standards of moral behaviour. But barristers and solicitors the world over will argue within a universe of small differences and receive a good income for doing so WHILE more deserving (or maybe the less undeserving) are made to suffer for long periods even lifetimes.