ICC position on Decadence and the Bourgeoisie in Developing Nations?

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S. Artesian
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Jun 2 2015 21:40

Did you even read the articles?

Life expectancy from 2007-2008 is down .001; but up for blacks, it's up. And the gap between whites and blacks has closed. Well hell, decadence seems to doing right by the black folk, then? Is that your conclusion?

Really, 1 year? .001 change, and that's your evidence for what-- that capitalism is decadent?

What was the life expectancy say in the 19th century in the US? I'll look it up for you if you like. I have the US Census Survey compilations here, but maybe you should go and look at the numbers yourself.
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And the salon article? WTF-- doesn't even apply to any overall consideration.

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The fact that males in McDowell County are, on average, dying 18 years younger than males in Fairfax County or Marin County speaks volumes about inequality in the U.S. That type of disparity is more typical of a developing country than a developed country.

Is your argument that poor people in McDowell County in the 19th century experienced less inequality, had longer life spans?

Smart ass? Not you brother, that's for sure.

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Steven.
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Jun 2 2015 22:09
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
S. Artesian wrote:
Adjust for the lag of high infant mortality.......priceless. How do you adjust for that?...most people died by age 50.

No, they didn't. That's what the fuck I'm saying, smart ass. If you lived to be, whatever 10 years old, in 19th century England you lived a longer life compared to the exact same scenario today.

People are dying at 50 at the same rate as they always been and there is evidence to show life expencency could be on a downward trend…

http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20101209/us-life-expectancy-down

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/22/life_expectancy_in_america_rivals_third_...

er, did you actually read those articles you have posted links to? The first one says that between 2007 and 2008 life expectancy in the US fell by 0.1 years.

And the second one says that US life expectancy is 79. Now in 1930 it was 61.6http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005148.html

I can't be bothered to check what it was in the 19th century, but basically your point here is completely wrong I'm afraid.

There are detailed figures about life expectancy in the UK here which completely disprove your point as well:
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mortality-ageing/mortality-in-england-and-...

ETA: didn't notice this was crossposted with Artesian

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Steven.
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Jun 2 2015 22:27
Leo wrote:
An epoch of decline does not mean every clock magically stops (though there were some, like Trotsky who had a conception like that). What, in my opinion characterizes it are:

1. The central role of militarism, credits and debts in the economy; unhealthy growth in the form of bubbles, leading to deeper crises. In the past, the short lived crises capitalism used to have lead to more expansion and development: today unhealthy growth leads to deeper crises.

On this, I'll admit I haven't looked back to do a fully quantitative analysis, but can you actually point to evidence showing that crises post World War I are deeper than those prior?

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2. Decrease in product qualities, various products becoming increasingly short lived so that new models can be sold over and over again.

As others have pointed out, this is a pretty meaningless and unprovable argument. Bad products have always been sold. But modern technology means that even good quality items get rapidly superseded by new technological advances.

I really liked my PalmPilot, and it never stopped working, but I'm not going to keep using it…

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3. Burrying of certain scientific developments: known examples include the almost ever-lasting razor and lightbulbs; crippling promising research fields such as stem cell research and cold fusion.

Well, not sure about the razor example (evidence?) but you can easily get LED lights and long-lasting energy-saving lightbulbs now. And while they could do with more funding I don't think you could really say that there is no meaningful research into stem cells or cold fusion.

Even if that were the case, those are very new possibilities, so they are hardly evidence of "decadence" beginning around 1914.

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4. A massive expansion of the metabolic rift between the human species and nature, causing environmental effects which will be potentially fatal for our species in about 200 years, according to conservative accounts.

On this, even pre-capitalist civilisations have destroyed themselves by destroying their local environment.

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5. The impossibility of permanent and generalized reforms within the capitalist world. Those could be won in capital's era of rise in the 19th century (the 8 hour day, end of child labor) but all that was won was eventually lost. This doesn't mean permanent reforms or generalized reforms aren't possible alone, but even then it's pretty difficult.

This is probably the worst bit of your argument. Any reform which was ever won capitalists have tried to reverse.

As for reforms like the 8 hour day or abolition of child labour being achieved in the 19th century, and not in the 20th, firstly I would say where? Even in many developed Western countries they didn't get the 8 hour day until the 20th century. And across most of the world they still don't have it.

And you are pointing to some reforms which were achieved in the 19th century, but completely ignoring all the reforms which were achieved in the 20th century. Like the NHS, unemployment benefits, pensions, maternity pay, holiday pay etc in the UK up to the minimum wage which was introduced only a few years ago.

And of course many places haven't achieved those sorts of reforms yet.

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6. Unsolvable and permanent political instability in developing and underdeveloped countries.

Again here I would ask for what evidence you are basing this on. For a big chunk of the supposed period of "decadence", the Soviet Union imposed a lot of stability on the developing and underdeveloped countries. So instability there is a much more recent development.

omen
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Jun 3 2015 00:17
Steven. wrote:
And while they could do with more funding I don't think you could really say that there is no meaningful research into stem cells or cold fusion.

There actually isn't much research done into cold fusion, given it's ignominious history and lack of positive results...

Leo wrote:
3. Burrying of certain scientific developments: known examples include the almost ever-lasting razor and lightbulbs; crippling promising research fields such as stem cell research and cold fusion

Cold fusion is not in way shape or form a promising research field. The original "discoverers" where a couple of boobs who didn't know what they were doing, didn't ask anyone who did before jumping straight to announcing their wondrous discovery to the worlds media, and ended up looking like a right couple of berks when it turned out they were wrong. Their claims violated accepted physics, they had no theory to explain what was happening, and more importantly, the one thing they didn't think of measuring, until someone asked them at the press conference, was whether any of the hydrogen in their experiment actually turned into helium. It didn't. (A result they tried to hide.)

Given the research money put into actually getting hot fusion working (something we at least know is actually possible) isn't exactly paying off, it seems kind of crazy to spend some of those funds on a hunch by people who don't know what they are doing. (And competent physicists did try to replicate the original cold fusion results, were unable to and moved on.)

The whole sorry incident is covered in detail in a chapter of Bob Park's Voodoo Science.

Also, you forgot to mention the cure for cancer and the electric ca... oh, no wait a minute...

ETA: a quick google found the elusive everlasting razor. Yours for a mere $2000. (It has sapphire blades.)

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Jamal
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Jun 3 2015 00:40

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/07/life-expectancy-falls-old...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11507678/Alarm-over-sudden-d...

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/...

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Jamal
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Jun 3 2015 00:38

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqi7RHJvDvk

35:30

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Jamal
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Jun 3 2015 00:43

From a UK health blogger I agree with:

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I can’t count how many times I’ve seen people write about how life expectancy has gone up dramatically because of modern [medicine|sanitation|technology|whatever]. Often they report (as this site does) (edit: here’s another) that the average life expectancy has increased to near-80 from something under 50 (43 in the first example, 62 in the 1930s in the second). For some time I’ve wondered whether this was life expectancy at birth (and therefore affected by infant mortality), which would be quite different than everyone keeling over before their grandchildren are out of diapers. This site gives the answer:

Life Expectancy by Age, 1850–2004 — Infoplease.com.
…and it’s clear that infant mortality was the issue in the 1800s, not general early death. Looking at white males (the first table) the life expectancy at birth in 1850 was indeed a dismal 38.3 years. But that’s incredibly misleading.
At age 10 the life expectancy had increased to 58.0 years.
The final number goes up for each subsequent column, but the big jump in life expectancy is from 0 to 10:

0 to 10 — 19.7 years
10 to 20 — 2.1 years
20 to 30 — 3.9 years
30 to 40 — 3.9 years
40 to 50 — 3.7 years
50 to 60 — 4.0 years
60 to 70 — 4.6 years
70 to 80 — 5.7 years.

The difference in life expectancy for a newborn and a ten year-old doesn’t mean that a newborn could actually expect to live an average of 38.3 years. It means that a newborn faced two distinct possible futures: he had somewhere between a 60 and 66% chance of living 58 years; and he had somewhere between a 34 and 40% chance of not living to see double-digits. The variance is due to the unknown average age of death for under-10s. If they all died as infants, then roughly 34% died that way. If they all died as 9 year-olds (far less likely it would seem) then 40% of them died that way. In any case, it’s fair to say that the majority of the reported prolonging of life is due to reducing childhood mortality
Comparing just life expectancy for 20 year-olds, in 1850 a young man could expect to live to 60.1. In 2004, that same man could expect to live to 76.7. That’s a significant improvement, but considering that in 1850 the germ theory of disease was just being formalized, it seems a little less impressive.

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jura
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Jun 3 2015 07:03
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Comparing just life expectancy for 20 year-olds, in 1850 a young man could expect to live to 60.1. In 2004, that same man could expect to live to 76.7. That’s a significant improvement, but considering that in 1850 the germ theory of disease was just being formalized, it seems a little less impressive.

I really don't see how this supports decadence (even if we do disregard the horrible child mortality in the 19th century, as if that didn't matter!). BTW, the germ theory of disease was nowhere near general acceptance in 1850, not to mention its practical applications in sanitation.

Anyway, what's going on in this thread? Jamal, I don't mean to offend you, but it looks a bit like you're just trolling: first you ask a question that's implicitly critical of decadence and then you do a U-turn and start posting "evidence" of decadence. Some of the sentiments you, Leo and baboon expressed reek of conspiracy theories. Western medicine is killing everybody, cell phones break so that you buy more of them, and the US are "printing money" to keep the economy going. Is this really what a pro-decadence marxist analysis of mature capitalism looks like? Ugh. The video Jamal posted above is by a "registered chiropractician". What will be next? Dowsing? The masonic lodges?

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Jun 3 2015 07:11

Oh and BTW, the blog quote you posted disproves the ridiculously absurd claim that

Jamal wrote:
If you lived to be, whatever 10 years old, in 19th century England you lived a longer life compared to the exact same scenario today.

(Although the data is for the US.)

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Jun 3 2015 07:59

So I took a second look at the life expectancy by age data that were linked from the blog that Jamal quoted.

If you calculate the rates of growth of life expectancy for 30 year olds, you can see that from 1850 to 1890 (a 40 year period), the change was a mere 0.08% (in 1850, a 30 yeard old white male could expect to die at age 64; in 1890, the figure was 64.05).

However, from 2004 to 2011 (a mere 7 year period), the change was 0,78% (this is almost ten times the 0.08% increase that took 40 years in the 19th century). The highest rate of growth in the data series was from the 1939 – 1941 (death at 68.8) to the 1949 – 1951 period (death at 70.29): 2.17%. This is where the decay of capitalist civilization surely would have kicked in.

The 40 year period from 1950 to 1990 (for a nice comparison with the 19th century figures above) has a growth rate of over 6% (from 70.29 to 74.7). That's 75 times the growth rate for the period from 1850 to 1890. And the trend goes on. From 1961 to 2001, the growth rate was almost 7.8%. From 1971 to 2011, it was over 9.6%. If we do just 1990 to 2011 (21 years), it's almost 4.3%, whereas 1911 versus 1890 was just under 1.3%.

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Joseph Kay
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Jun 3 2015 08:08

I think the point here is that if 'decadence' refers to something observable, then it's subject to empirical testing. So whatever your measures - economic growth, life expectancy, hunger, literacy - you could set up a hypothesis test, crunch the numbers, and see what result you get. That doesn't mean the numbers are objective and apolitical - hunger numbers in particular are highly contested for very good reasons - but at least in principle you could find evidence to test a hypothesis.

Of course, there's no reason to assume that all those metrics would move in the same direction, or move uniformly across different social groups or geographical locations. But what seems to be happening here is a mixture of confirmation bias and goalpost-shifting: looking for stats which prove a point, then when they're challenged, picking other stats. Now, if 'decadence' doesn't name something observable, but something like the claim 'communism is now possible', then it's not so easy to test. But that's a bait-and-switch for a much weaker claim, and doesn't have anything to do with decline or decay, only latent possibility.

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Jun 3 2015 14:53

Jura, we'll agree to disagree on the medical issues.

Capitalism is not completely decadent. That's my position right now since you're asking.

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Jun 3 2015 15:35

If I wasn't already convinced that decadence theory was a steaming pile of shit, this thread has confirmed it. The argumentation from the pro crowd is just weird and reads like a left commie version of 9/11 truthers.

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Jun 3 2015 16:31

Khawaga are you in the camp suggesting the markets are stronger than ever?

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Khawaga
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Jun 3 2015 16:44

Markets aren't very strong at all. But capitalist social relations are. And in any case, what is the point of your question? You may as well ask if I've scryed from tea leaves whether the objective conditions are ripe for revolution. In other words, ask a straight question as I have no idea what your question even implies. What is a strong market? What is a weak one? I've heard from the bourgeois press that the oil markets are stronger or improving or whatever, but I guess you've got something else in mind.

S. Artesian
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Jun 3 2015 17:29

Khawaga nails it. Markets strong, markets weak? That has no meaning. Strong or weak are trading positions.

What nonsense.

I'm still waiting for the data that shows that employees of pharmaceutical companies never take anti-malarials when in areas where malaria is known to occur.

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Jun 3 2015 18:19

Khawaga, jura, S. Artesian, are you guys former ICC supporters or sympathizers? In groups who have problems with the ICC? Because I'm not in the ICC and I'd appreciate if you'd stop lumping me in with them.

"Objective conditions...ripe for revolution." Hah, ripe, like an apple? Tomato perhaps? Tea leaves ripen, too. Freudian slip much?

I've been wrong. Very wrong. You've been wrong, we've all been wrong before.

I propose we find a body of evidence we can agree is valid, reach a consensus on its validity and see what scientific assessments we can take away from it. The dick measuring is not getting us anywhere.

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Jun 3 2015 18:41

Well, it's up to proponents of decadence to state the specific conditions which distinguish the period of decadence from the period of ascendance.

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Jun 3 2015 19:18

I am seriously confused by Jamal's posts. I have no clue what he is actually asking or trying to get across. Stop being so coy!

Anyway. Nope, I've never been in the ICC, never been a supporter and never been in an organization that considers them their mortal enemy. And FYI, I did not lump you in with them I just stated that you are pro decadence theory.

And what Jura said.

jaycee
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Jun 3 2015 20:54

I do think the ICC have in the past stressed the economic aspect of decadence too much, capitalism isn't ascendant or decadent because its economy is working well at any given moment. However obviously if capitalism is decadent that will have an impact on how the economy functions and I agree with the ICC that in the 20th century there seem to be a change, especially after the great depression as the bourgeoisie have realized that the economy left to its own devices will implode and a greater control/manipulation from the state has been necessary. This isn't however majorly important from my point of view- what is important is the idea of progress.

Was capitalism progressive compared to Feudalism? Again I think people throughout the workers movement have tended to be too quick to give a simplistic answer to this. I think capitalism was only ever progressive if we get to communism, not inherently so. Technological advance, the change from peasantry to wage labour etc these things by themselves do not necessarily imply progress (there are ways in which being a peasant is better than being a worker for example) and the technological advances of capitalism will end up destroying the planet and is also bound up massively with an alienated relation to the world, society and ourselves. Marx claims that capitalism is the ‘most extreme form of alienation’ in history, therefore progress is never a simple matter or a completely ‘forward’ movement.

I take Marx’s idea that history is the evolution of humanity and that ‘communism is the answer to the riddle of history’ and think that this is the starting point for basing any idea of progress. You might call this teleological but I don’t see that as an argument against it tbh. Therefore when capitalism was laying the basis for a world-wide civilization and was raising the productive forces to the extent that would allow for the possibility of true abundance it was progressive. I agree with the Marxists of the time and the ICC now that it had basically achieved this by the early 20th century. Therefore it had achieved its ‘historical mission’ (again if this is teleology, so be it) and could no longer offer anything of great use to humanity. Since then capitalism has not brought anything on remotely the same level of importance- yes there has been medicinal, technological progress in some areas, some areas such as understanding consciousness and mental health I would argue the bourgeoisie have been unable and are fundamentally incapable of really getting any further than a 19th century mechanistic view/practice and this is massively linked to the necessity for the bourgeoisie to remain ignorant about just how alienated capitalist life is; but again this is a side issue. The point is that capitalism has always and will always be horrible, the questions I think are key are, did it once offer something potentially useful for humanity? Does it now? What is the historical context and trajectory of capitalism/humanity?

S. Artesian
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Jun 3 2015 21:17

What Khawaga said. Never been in ICC; never been a supporter, a friend, an enemy, an anything of the ICC.

Didn't lump you with them. Just think you don't know what you are talking about when you talk about capitalism.

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Jun 3 2015 21:35

Ok to make it plain, I don't agree with decadence. I've accepted it as useful analysis in the past. Never have accepted it without criticism. My coyness probably stems from making this transition.

S. Artesian, I know a lot about capitalism. However I'll openly admit you seem to have spent more time investigating the economic consequences of "late period" capitalism. Want a cookie?

Khawaga and I both mentioned orientalism which no one has really elaborated on.

Jaycee's position is the closest to my own so far and I support his post.

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Jun 3 2015 21:39
jura wrote:
Well, it's up to proponents of decadence to state the specific conditions which distinguish the period of decadence from the period of ascendance.

You could be proactive and state the specific conditions which in your view make capitalism progressive. I agree, though. For me the scale and intensity of wars points to some outliers. Also the shifting between service-oriented and manufacturing economies. And finally the deep slumber of the working class. Something is going on.

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Jun 3 2015 22:59
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
jura wrote:
Well, it's up to proponents of decadence to state the specific conditions which distinguish the period of decadence from the period of ascendance.

You could be proactive and state the specific conditions which in your view make capitalism progressive.

Obviously Jura can speak for her/himself, but I am sure that is not her/his view. She/he is just arguing that it's not "decadent" (whatever that means)

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Jun 4 2015 00:15

I see. So people are arguing that capitalism goes through crashes and booms until the end of time...? How do you explain growing unemployment? State capitalism?

radicalgraffiti
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Jun 4 2015 00:41

just because your straw man position has problems doesn't mean that people who disagree with something else support your straw man

jojo
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Jun 4 2015 02:08
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
I see. So people are arguing that capitalism goes through crashes and booms until the end of time...? How do you explain growing unemployment? State capitalism?

Unless somebody - the working class, consciously organised as a class - does something to stop it, then capitalism will drag its exploitative misery on and on till the end of time which may be nearer than we know.

I don't know whether we're living through decadence or not. All I know is that life is a living hell for millions if not billions of people and that its all capitalism's fault. Because while it may be making huge amounts of profit or not, and while it maybe making fantastic medicinal and other scientific discoveries, and while people may be living longer or not, life itself and being alive is experienced as not wholly satisfactory for many people, which is putting it mildly.

Just witness the starving, the uneducated, the sick, the refugees, the migrants, the wars, the destruction, the religious fanaticism and the pointless tedium of everyday working life for many of those who don't actually get covered by any of the labels above. Pointless tedium on a lousy wage is about the best most of us can expect from this primitive outdated system of disguised slavery and subjugation.

If this is the best that capitalism has to offer then it is clearly a failure overall - despite all its wonderful achievements and successes - and we need a new way of organising life in the pursuit of happiness for all.

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Jun 4 2015 02:20
Quote:
just because your straw man position has problems doesn't mean that people who disagree with something else support your straw man

what's my position again?

i was just making observations. is that somehow forcing anyone to support anything?

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Jun 4 2015 06:27

Steven said it, I don't think capitalism is progressive. I do think that rising life expectancy, literacy rate etc. are a good thing, though. I also think capitalism develops over time (duh). But the ascendance/decadence and progress/decay terminology, as traditionally used, is hopelessly teleological and I think it should be avoided. Above all, I guess the most important thing is not to pretend like we have everything figured out.

What do you mean by growing unemployment? "Growing" relative to what? To 2007? To 1935? You should have a look at some historical charts – just google "unemployment rate USA", "UK", or "China", and click on "Images".

As regards services and manufacturing and the relative importance of each of those, there was a long and tedious discussion about this a while ago. The number of factory workers around the world has doubled since the 1970s. It just so happens that most of that growth hasn't taken place in the US or Western Europe.

jaycee
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Jun 4 2015 14:11

jura,do you think there is such a thing as progress? if so how do you define it?

Jamal, with regards to orientalism, yes there are elements in Marx and in the workers movement which have tended to view history through a euro-centric view which is often a barrier to a clear understanding on many issues. I think the uneasiness some comrades particularly in ICC have with tackling this issue is first of all partly down to a lack of knowledge bout non-western history/societies but more importantly to do with the wish to avoid the opposite trap of the modern/post-modern relativistic view which denies or can't really address the fact that capitalism, i.e so called 'western society' has taken over the world and thereby made the European history into the worlds history.

Jojos point is fundamentally correct in that whether we call capitalism decadent or not has only partial importance, the fact is it needs to go if humanity is to have a future- however that to me means it is decadent.