critique of "scientific" "utopian" socialism distinction

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TomChomsky's picture
TomChomsky
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Oct 14 2017 16:37
critique of "scientific" "utopian" socialism distinction

I came across a text which criticized in a very natural way, this distinction, but cannot seem to remember now, I need it for a project I am doing, if any one can provide me a text that deals with this topic, please link me.

Thank you.

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jondwhite
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Oct 14 2017 16:41

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/index.htm

Anarcho
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Oct 20 2017 20:49

Ironically, Marxism is just as utopian as those it criticised... the notion of central planning was always doomed to failure. Perhaps if Marx and Engels had written about it a bit more then they would have realised that.

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Oct 20 2017 21:09

But in marxist terminology that's not what utopianism means. Utopianism is imagining a specific society and then trying to bend the material world to that. The idea of central planning is just the logical conclusion of the negation of capitalism, of "the anarchy of production".

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Khawaga
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Oct 20 2017 22:10

In addition, with a planned economy Marx also meant a rational economy, i.e. not one geared towards the irrationality of making money and destroying people and planet.

You may be a close reader of Proudhon Anarcho, but what you accuse Marx of doing to him, you constantly and consistently do to Marx...

mn8
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Oct 31 2017 13:39

I would also be interested in a criticism of the distinction.

Do you recall any of the specific criticisms?

Marxism being 'unlikely' does not make it 'utopian' in Marx's sense. You're right that that's what the word should mean. Otherwise it is just a Marxist slur. The general use means that it tries to set off from some analysis of capitalism (Proudhon also used that), and then get to communism. Of course, Marxists have problems with many historical developments, so ultimately their communism is the same... Also 'central planning' means people imposing their vision of society!!

Anyway, I let the OP explain themselves.

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jondwhite
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Nov 1 2017 13:01

I too hope OP returns to elaborate.

hierarchy is chaos
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Nov 19 2017 14:36

http://bit.ly/2yqoD1m

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Craftwork
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Nov 19 2017 16:29

I suppose one of the problems with the 'utopian socialist' label is it leads communists to rather lazily overlook or simply dismiss the works of Owen, Saint-Simon or Fourier without engaging with them.

It also lumps together some radically different thinkers.
e.g.
Owen: writes about Factory legislation.
Fourier: writes about sexual relations between the planets. grin

yourmum
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Nov 23 2017 19:29

In capitalism people plan to make money and they do that planning as well as possible, all the time and everywhere, from proletarian to capitalist to statesman. The (bad) results for most people concerning provisioning are according and necessary to that plan of making money. Thinking the bad provisioning of the many is due to misplanning or because planning is terribly difficult in itself is entirely wrong.

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Nov 23 2017 21:46

As comrade_emma pointed out Anarcho has completely misunderstood the Marxist meaning of Utopian Socialism. Marx (whether you agree with his conclusions or not) built his Socialism from a painstaking study of the Capitalist system as it is and then, following the course of that logic deduced that the change from Capitalism to Socialism would require certain prerequisites, certain conditions and would follow a certain process. To point out that the "Utopians" were in a quite different category to Marx and his thinking doesn't seem to me to be a contentious or erroneous point.

Utopian thinking: The maximally just/free/liberated society will look as follows.
Marxist thinking: Social change is constrained by certain laws of history and Socialism will inevitably obey the laws inherent therein.

yourmum
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Nov 24 2017 16:01

"Marx (whether you agree with his conclusions or not) built his Socialism from a painstaking study of the Capitalist system"

From what i read of Marx i find this highly exaggerated even when considering the communist manifesto which you probably have in mind. Not only is it a tiny little piece of Marx writing which can be considered to contradict much of what else he wrote, it is also written a lot earlier in his life than the undertaking of those painstaking studies you mention.

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Nov 24 2017 17:11

What a meme response.

1) On the idea that the manifesto contradicts later Marx. I'll just quote Marx and Engels from the preface of 1872

Quote:
However much that state of things may have altered during the last twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in the Manifesto are, on the whole, as correct today as ever. Here and there, some detail might be improved. The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today. In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated. One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.” (See The Civil War in France: Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’ s Association, 1871, where this point is further developed.) Further, it is self-evident that the criticism of socialist literature is deficient in relation to the present time, because it comes down only to 1847; also that the remarks on the relation of the Communists to the various opposition parties (Section IV), although, in principle still correct, yet in practice are antiquated, because the political situation has been entirely changed, and the progress of history has swept from off the earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated.

2) The manifesto is not the central piece in the marxist critique of the political economy. I would recommend reading Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts 1844, Wage labor and Capital, Value, Price, Profit, Grundrisse, Capital, Anti-Düring(by Engels and Marx) and so on.

yourmum
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Nov 25 2017 07:45

1. There is no argument in "Marx thought otherwise". You should ask me what i got.
2. Nobody claimed that it is, i claimed that the stuff in 2.16 of the manifesto is not necessary conclusions out of the study of capitalism. Also you won't find a word about socialism in most of the texts you mention so why would give me that reading advice concerning my claim?

Anyways, all i wanted to do is to contradict that anarchist notion of planning and the Marx scholastics was my fault from the beginning and i got what i deserved here, a debt I'm not willing to pay.

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Nov 26 2017 16:17
jondwhite wrote:
I too hope OP returns to elaborate.

I think I found what I was looking for, but not the original text which probably was by Bertrand Russell or Rocker. Rockers' opening chapter of Nationalism and Culture talks about it. I think what Marxist label "scientific" is their understanding of historical materialism and economic reductionism. So pretty much everyone who disagrees with these assumptions is a utopian. What the utility of this distinction boils down to is, I believe, providing propagandistic edge to the secular priesthood.

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Nov 26 2017 19:33
TomChomsky wrote:
jondwhite wrote:
I too hope OP returns to elaborate.

I think I found what I was looking for, but not the original text which probably was by Bertrand Russell or Rocker. Rockers' opening chapter of Nationalism and Culture talks about it. I think what Marxist label "scientific" is their understanding of historical materialism and economic reductionism. So pretty much everyone who disagrees with these assumptions is a utopian. What the utility of this distinction boils down to is, I believe, providing propagandistic edge to the secular priesthood.

If that's how you want to view it, that's fine, but I don't think its very accurate.

As I and others have pointed out Marx's distinction uses Marx's criteria. Its not an invalid distinction, and it doesn't use logically invalid criteria. One takes as its starting point a radically different future society which to me almost sounds definitionally utopian, even using the common definition.

Marx's entire schema is in the persuit of, not an imagined future, but a way to understand the way change actually occurs within society. He emphasis the route he thinks that change will and must take; ie - the proletarian overthrow of Capitalism and the establishment of a stateless, classless, moneyless society but he bases his projections, and they are projections rather than exultations - which was the tendency amongst those who predate Marx, on his observations of societal transition. His method seems to me to be explicitly scientific.