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I think Marxism - or the worker's movement that followed it and certainly "Marxism-Leninism" - has a number of religious characteristics, complete with faith, its own sophisticated eschatology (end of world), patron saints, holy texts, schisms ("revisionism") and heretics. Hence why while capitalists generally just fight wars with one another or dislike each other, Marxist-Leninists will divide themselves into ferociously opposed schools including "Titoism", "Maoism", "Trotskyism", etc... It undermines the entire tradition and what good there is in the Marxist school and Marxist thought has be sharply separated from the propaganda of its rival "churches".
The insistence of "rights" by liberalism is also dogmatic, and there is also an insistence to spread it to all cultures, see Iain M. Banks. Claiming that Marxism has a personality cult is only to look at some, rather than the whole. It's daft to pretend that he was perfect, but he was certainly little worse than those of his time. It really just seems like you're looking at Marxism as an outraged reactionary liberal rather than understanding it
The whole axiom of "Marxism = Religion... look at X Y and Z that appear by some Marxists, then look at X Y and Z that appear by some Christians" is bad logic I think.
The fact that many political Marxist groups have been quite dogmatic doesn't mean that Marxism or even Marxism-Leninism is religious in character. Factionalism and accusations of revisionism don't equate to a set of ideas being religious as you (and other right-wing critics) assert here.
I don't see why the thinking is "bad logic". I think examining the characteristics of two things - and comparing them - is a pretty good way of seeing if they are similar. I would mainly ascribe the characterization to Marxism-Leninism, hardly to Marxism itself let alone all Marxist thinkers (who are often very interesting and insightful).
dogmatic, in the sense that it lays out principles which it takes to be self-evident or incontrovertible. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Classical Marxism does no such thing...There is no principle laid out by Marxist theory that is presented as self-evident or incontrovertible.
It seems then that liberalism is inherently dogmatic - yet I have not come across anything similar in Marxism.
even Althusser was claiming to be speaking the true tongue of the master.
However, I think your claim about liberalism is perhaps overly strong. Many liberals, like Rawls or Habermas (at least in his liberal tendencies), are very well aware that they are speaking concerning abstract principles. In fact, on the one hand, they argue that it is impossible not to be philosophically (more contra Foucault); on the other hand, they argue for the necessity of a theory of justice for the sake of a stable and "well-ordered" political society (more contra Marx). In both senses, they gleefully admit to being abstract and argue for its necessity. Interesting, it seems that more contemporary liberals have been attempting to do this in a non-reductionist manner. Habermas and Rawls are two interesting examples, at least to the extent that they make attempts.
Lenin wrote:The correspondence of this theory (Marxism) to practice cannot be altered by any future circumstances, for the same simple reason that makes it an eternal truth that Napoleon died on May 5, 1821. But inasmuch as the criterion of practice, i.e., the course of development of all capitalist countries in the last few decades, proves only the objective truth of Marx's whole social and economic theory in general, and not merely of one or other of its parts, formulations, etc., it is clear that to talk of the "dogmatism" of the Marxists is to make an unpardonable concession to bourgeois economics. The sole conclusion to be drawn from the opinion of the Marxists that Marx's theory is an objective truth is that by following the path of Marxist theory we shall draw closer and closer to objective truth (without ever exhausting it); but by following any other path we shall arrive at nothing but confusion and lies.
But he lays out exactly why he was engaged in that project from the start: explaining how Marxism was different than other theories of history and why Historical Materialism was a truly scientific project that needed completion (or at least more work) He also critically examined Marx himself quite a bit. Not very dogmatic
And yes, many Marxists are/have been dogmatic. That doesn't mean that Marxism is itself a dogmatic "ideology" (of course it's not really an ideology).
But just admitting that one is being abstract doesn't exempt you from being non-dogmatic. Every theory requires some abstraction, even in the sciences (it's quite necessary actually) I think VPs point is that the basis of liberalism (in all of its forms) is an abstract absolute (or even appeal to "rights") whereas Marxism attempts (I would argue successfully) to be a scientific understanding of society (and how it moves and changes...and how to change it), hence how Marxism has been such an influence on social sciences, and whenever a social scientist has to defend social science as a real science, they are essentially defending Marx (whether they're conscious of it or not!)
Foucault's mentor Louis Althusser was the first significant theorist to begin a systematic attack on the Hegelian dialectic from inside the French Communist Party. In a number of works published in the 1960s ( For Marx, Reading Capital) Althusser maintained that in his mature writings (especially Das Capital) Marx had broken completely with Hegel. Althusser also directly attacked the heart of historical materialism emphasising the role of what he termed “structures” in social and political development as opposed to the classical Marxist emphasis on the leading role of economic forces.
Michael Foucault is the essential bridge from Althusser's radically revised Marxism (structuralism) to the open hostility to Marxism and Enlightenment thought embodied in the post-modernist movement. Foucault drew from the essence of Nietzsche's ideology: his denial of objective truth (“There are no facts, only interpretations”— Will to Power); his denial of a knowable material world in favour of relativism (“That a judgement be false is not, in our opinion, an objection against that judgement.”— Beyond Good and Evil); and finally Nietzsche's opposition to Hegel and an all-embracing world view of historical development.
Ombrageux wrote:Yes, frankly. Fascist/nationalist ideologies don't attempt to be universal and therefore Adolf Hitler if he had a dispute with Mussolini, Petain or Franco wouldn't think of accusing said person of "revisionism" or being "untrue" to the common ideology.No, they wouldn't have accused either of being revisionist, but the reality is that for these other players, Hitler's Germany was the hub of socio-economic and political activity in Europe. Italy was too weak to attempt to make a move against Hitler, Italy needed Germany and when it saw failure, it decided to switch sides. Germany was the strong hold of the fascist nations. You didn't see Vietnam or Cuba calling China or the Soviet Union revisionists, did you?
Ombrageux wrote:doesn't have personality cults to begin with.Henry Ford, Bill Gates and George Washington to name a few. We also place the concept of the corporation at the heart of our success. If the corporation is performing well, our society will perform well. Just look how close connected society is with the ability of corporations to affect our society. Again, we are placing great value upon certain individuals and groups, because they are the ultimate example of liberal ideology. The concept that liberalism is without a cult of personality is ignorant of the above as well as of history. Therefore, we can easily connect liberalism, as an ideology directly to religion, just as you did with regard to Marxism.
I believe that all Marxists, just like all liberals, explain how their project needs to be completed and is different than other theories, etc. But your point is taken, concerning Althusser. I was not meaning to imply that Althusser was simply a dogmatic writer. All one has to do is read For Marx to understand that this was a novel thinker. The point was that Althusser, like many classical Marxists, was attempting to get to the "right Marx"--For Marx was not a historical treatise, but more of an exegetical text on Marx, like much of classical Marxism. You are also correct in stating that Marxism is not itself dogmatic--there are many Marxists, like Althusser, who are very willing to think outside of the box. However, Marxism has had certain famous reductions, such as the determination of economic factors and some variation of "base-superstructure". Similarly, I would say also, that while I take considerable contestations with liberalism, they are also not all dogmatic thinkers.
That's fine, but I don't see how this makes liberalism "dogmatic" then--which is why I think using "dogmatic" is a bad descriptive word. It's just too pajorative to describe a very often nuanced intellectual tradition, like Marxism. It seems to me that it's nothing but a polemical way of describing the opposing position. One may utlize an abstract notion of the individual or a unversal notion of humanity to some capacity, etc. But that does not make them "dogmatic". Dogmatism is typically understood as adhering to the doctrines of a tradition uncritically, and rejecting all opposition outright. Certainly some liberals have done this, as have some Marxists. But not the better half.
Your point about Marx and social sciences needs to be addressed. Marx influenced the social sciences, but so too did liberalism (such as Hobbes and Smith), and defending the social sciences is not implicitly defending Marx (just read Parsons). Saint Simon and Comte or equally founders of the social sciences, which was pushed more by Durkheim and Weber, both who were very critical of Marx. What Marxism often has tended to do is more than simply be a scientific analysis of society. It has, in fact, often tended to claim to be THE scientific analysis of society to the exclusion of others--Lukacs and Althusser are a cases in point. It has also served to mask the fact that Marxism is often also a holistic ideology, encompassing politics, philosophy, and anthropology. The social sciences are too deep to reduce it to Marxism. I think it's better to say that one can take a Marxist approach in the social sceinces. But being a Marxist means much more than that.
But even in the attempt to "get Marx right" or really: get Marxism right. Althusser was simply taking up the project that Karl Marx attempted to start. This is no more or less "dogmatic" than those who tried to expand on the theory of evolution via Darwin and expand on that project either.
What should we change in terms of Marxism? First, the reduction of societal epochs to a strict base-superstructure model. It's a crass economism that really has little historical justification, and if it does, it is stretched. Second, the labor theory of value that Marx espoused is innacurate and I don't think any economists, except hard line Marxists, have taken it too seriously in the last century. Third, the "scientific" justification for transcending capitalism into communism. Fourth, the assumption that through the method of dialectical materialism one transcends ideology. There are several others, but I think these are pertinant. Perhaps a good question is what is to be salvaged from Marx--and I do think there is alot--and what does a Marxist outlook look like when making these adjustments?
It should also be noted from the outset that Marx’s epistemology cannot be handled in traditional epistemological terms. In their article “Marxist Epistemology: The Critique of Economic Determinism”, Stephen A. Resnick and Richard D. Wolff indicate that traditional epistemology operates as if there are two separate realms: “independent subjects seeking knowledge of independent objects” (Resnick and Wolf, 45). In contrast to traditional epistemology, Marx does not see theory and reality as belonging to two distinct spheres. Rather there is a “circular process” in the production of theory where “theory begins and ends with concretes […] the concrete which determines theory is conceptualized as the ‘concrete real’ [the real concrete] and the concrete produced by thought is the ‘thought-concrete’ [concrete for thought]”( Resnick and Wolf, 43).
Thus, we see the wage-labourer first as a distinction within capital, as capital’s opposite, and as the mediator for capital in achieving its goal of growth. However, we must also consider the other side, the side about which Capital is silent—the worker as a being for self. Once we consider the side of the wage-labourer in its sphere of circulation (where the sale of labour-power occurs) and in its sphere of production (where use-values are consumed to produce the worker able to re-enter the sphere of circulation), we see that the wage-labourer has her own goals and struggles to achieve them. Class struggle from the side of the worker is present once we consider the worker as a being for self. Nevertheless, as wage-labourer, capital is a necessary mediator for the worker: she is dependent upon capital within this relation to achieve her goals. The dialectical moment here is the recognition of the unity of capital and wage labour in capitalism as a whole, a totality characterised by two-sided class struggle.
Once we now consider the worker as subject, we have moved far beyond the determinism which often passes for Marxism. Now, we necessarily must bring within this theory of capitalism as a whole the way workers transform themselves in their struggle. One-sided Marxists, though, call a halt to the theoretical project and declare that whatever is in Capital is theory and whatever is not in Capital is politics or lesser levels of abstraction. They think they can take Capital by itself. As I argue in my chapter on ‘One-Sided Marxism,’ however, by failing to develop the side of wage-labour, they understand neither capital nor wage-labour; in short, they do not understand capitalism as a whole.
Evald Ilienkov worked out an original conception of ideality which was a creative development of Marx's theory of consciousness. It is well known that Marxist tradition has always insisted that knowledge derives from praxis. Following in that tradition, Ilyenkov suggested defining specific components of practical activity which directly form general impressions and abstractions. There are invisible schemes of praxis or operations, stereotypes and instructions of common human activity. Such components carry general information from things to mind. According to Ilyenkov, ideality is a form of human activity that is caused by forms of things which are drawn into the 'anthroposphere'. Thus, he strived to advance the principle of materialism and deduced a property of ideality from certain aspects of material praxis. As a result, ideality is an material-immaterial phenomenon that is born in the external material activity of people and corresponds to the facts, but at the same time ideality or schemes of activity do not contain materiality. Material praxis, by means of inner structures, takes a thing's measurements and carries this general information from the physical world into the world of human spirit. Ilyenkov's conception of ideality partially resembles Bridgman's conception of operational pragmatism.
Instead of focusing on the intentions of actors or the consequences of actions, virtue ethicists insist that the key ethical question should be, “What kind of person ought I be?”
Just as Aristotle sought to base his ethics on a model of human essence, Hegel insisted that ethics must start from a model of “what human beings are”. It is only when they are so grounded that it is possible to say “that some modes of life are suited to our nature, whereas others are not”.39 He followed Aristotle in assuming that the goal of life is self-realisation, but he broke with him by arguing that it is only by way of freedom that this is possible. Whereas Aristotle insisted that happiness is the end of life, Hegel believed with Kant that the end of life was freedom.40 But unlike Kant, who counterposed freedom to necessity, he insisted that to act freely was to act in accordance with necessity.41 He thus criticised “Kant for seeing dichotomies in the self between freedom and nature…where he ought to have seen freedom as actualising nature”.42 Moreover, he believed that moral laws, far from being universal in some transhistoric sense, are in fact only intelligible “in the context of a particular community”, and can be universalised only to the extent that “communities grow and consolidate into an international community”.43
How, then, does Zhuangzi know the happiness of fishes? The answer, in part, is to be found in how he describes what it is in which that happiness consists: The minnows swim about so freely, following the openings wherever they take them. These fish are simply doing what fish do, and this is their happiness. It’s that simple.
This falls within what Zhuangzi calls the Illumination of the Obvious, the rightness of each individual thing within its own perspective. This is not simply a matter of the rightness to itself of its own opinions, though this too applies, but is something much more organic, namely, that the expression of its nature, being what it is, is its rightness. This is obvious. And it instructs us. This may not be what we, as humans, think of as happiness, but that is because happiness for humans is generally conceived as something altogether different, humans being, in some sense, altogether different.
How are we different? What we do is to choose what to do and our choices seem almost inevitably to result in something other than ‘happiness’. Indeed, it would seem that the ability to choose, something as innate to us as swimming freely is to fish, is the source not of our happiness, but of our unhappiness. And this, of course, refers us back to the heart of Zhuangzi’s project, namely, to return us to the spontaneous, pre-cognitive expression of the up-welling of Life within us. This is true human happiness — surrender into the flow of life, freely following along with wherever it takes us, just like fish. In other words, Zhuangzi would have us return to being like fishes, though, being human and self-aware, that spontaneity would be expressed in an altogether different way.
In this description of the character of labor, Marx turns his attention from the worker's product as accumulated or “dead” labor, to the character of the labor process itself. Labor, Marx thinks, is in reality the essence of free human activity and a process through which human nature can be fully realized. However, under capitalism, labor is so odious that the worker performs labor only because through the sale of his labor-power he can satisfy his private needs. Insofar as the worker's labor-power is not his own, and belongs to a foreign power (the capitalist), labor appears as a denial and a sacrifice of the worker's existence, and as something to be studiously avoided whenever possible.
Because labor takes on such an unattractive character, instead of recognizing the labor process as the essence of human activity, workers feel that they are truly themselves and truly human only when they are at leisure or satisfying those needs which they have in common with animals.
As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.
Certainly eating, drinking, procreating, etc., are also genuinely human functions. But taken abstractly, separated from the sphere of all other human activity and turned into sole and ultimate ends, they are animal functions. (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, MECW 3:275)
One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.
If I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations.
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