ICC position on Decadence and the Bourgeoisie in Developing Nations?

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Jun 4 2015 15:07

I don't think it makes much sense to speak of "progress" as such. I don't think an entire social formation can be viewed as "progressive" (say, up to a certain point) in any abstract sense. As much as I don't like the traditional talk about "dialectics", I find it quite jarring that self-described marxists readily ditch their sensitivity to contradictory development for a one-sided evaulation of formations or periods as "progressive" or "decaying". That seems very much based on a "metaphysical" (in the sense in which Engels and Lenin used that term) view of history. (I think that ultimately the main motivation for that, as Aufheben point out in their series on decadence, is the desire to clear Marx and Engels of allegations of poor judgement – e.g., in their taking sides in capitalist wars, in their support for national liberation movements, etc. I think these mistakes, along with others, should just be admitted and openly criticized.) But it's always more complicated that, so I think it only makes sense to speak of "progress" in relative terms. So the globally rising life expectancy can be considered as "progress" relative to the life expectancy in the 19th century, but this does not mean that this "progress" couldn't have been attained without capitalism and all the horrors associated with it. Capitalism constantly produces both progress and retardation, development and underdevelopment, wealth and poverty etc.

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Jun 4 2015 15:26

I still see lots of evidence showing the general decline of health. However, looking at many other metrics it appears capitalism is as efficient as ever, in terms of its ability to profit.

So how does reformism play into all this? Austerity? Lack of a "livable" minimum wage? Economism, etc?

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Jun 4 2015 15:54

Jamal, rather than continually posing questions, why not offer what you think are the answers. You clearly seem to have some ready. You're again being coy, and sometimes your follow-up questions reads like "gotcha" as if you're luring other posters into saying something you can tear down. See your last question on what is progressive. In other words, be more upfront about why you want to discuss these things. And if you genuinely just want to learn, that's fine, but say it.

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Jun 4 2015 16:29
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
I still see lots of evidence showing the general decline of health.

That, and what is meant by "health" in the abstract, would be up for debate, but I never said that there's a "general increase in health". I talked about globally rising life expectancy, which I think is beyond any reasonable doubt, at least if we trust the available data. But of course capitalism poisons the environment, imposes occupational and other diseases on people etc. (and always has, not just after 1914!) . No question about that either. You see, I don't look at this as an alternative between "capitalism progressive and therefore good/tolerable" and "capitalism decadent and therefore bad, making communism possible". Capitalism's entire dynamic is based on producing an immense amount of wealth and at the same time excluding most people (including the producers) from that wealth by means of apparently equal relations of commodity exchange. It is and always has been intolerable. People on whom capital was being imposed knew this from the very start.

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Jun 4 2015 17:07
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apparently equal relations of commodity exchange

Can you expand on this please? I don't understand.

Khawaga...I'm not luring anyone into "gotcha" moments. Nor am I trying to "tear down" anyone. We need to pose questions in order to derive answers, that's science. Since I don't have all the answers I'm contributing what I can.

Also, attitudes like S.Artesian's, the notion that he's an expert and I'm somehow not qualified enough to be in this thread, have completely undermined my confidence on this question.

My recent line of questions comes from an attempt to understand how an invalidation of the ICC's decadence theory also affects other of their positions, such as the development of class consciousness, the impossibility of reforms, state capitalism, third world war, etc.

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Jun 4 2015 17:22
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
Can you expand on this please? I don't understand.

I don't want to divert this thread into a discussion of Marx's theory of value, but what I basically meant is that capitalism is a class society in which exploitation occurs under the veil of relations of commodity exchange (the buying and selling of labor power) which make it seem like there's no exploitation at all and that being excluded from wealth is everybody's own fault. Looking back I see no reason why I had to mention that in the context of this debate, so I apologize if it came across as confusing. It's very hot today.

Jamal Rayyan wrote:
My recent line of questions comes from an attempt to understand how an invalidation of the ICC's decadence theory also affects other of their positions, such as the development of class consciousness, the impossibility of reforms, state capitalism, third world war, etc.

I don't think they'd agree that anything in this thread invalidates decadence theory. As regards the implications of decadence for the other stuff, I'm no expert on their positions so I can't say anything interesting about that.

Personally, I think the term "class consciousness" is not very fortunate and it's better to talk about technical and political class composition and their relation; that reforms are not impossible in some absolute way, but relative to the possibilities of accumulation which are permanently subject to change; that "state capitalism" as a theory of the USSR doesn't work and that state has always been crucial to the working of "normal" capitalism; and that a third world war in capitalism is never out of the question (I will not go into hiding to Latin America because of that, though).

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Jun 4 2015 17:55
Jamal wrote:
Khawaga...I'm not luring anyone into "gotcha" moments. Nor am I trying to "tear down" anyone. We need to pose questions in order to derive answers, that's science. Since I don't have all the answers I'm contributing what I can.

Fair enough, and my apologies. I wasn't really having a go (well, ok I was to some degree). It's just that in other threads you've clearly been able to offer a lot of your own arguments (hence, this thread seemed a bit "out of character" if that makes sense), but in this one the impression I got was that you were setting something up. But that's the problem with one line questions in general, but compounded by online communication (where everything just reads much worse than it really is). It would be helpful to just explain why you are asking that question. So for example, with the question about progress you could have added a bit with why you think this question has any bearing on decadence theory and how.

Jamal wrote:
My recent line of questions comes from an attempt to understand how an invalidation of the ICC's decadence theory also affects other of their positions, such as the development of class consciousness, the impossibility of reforms, state capitalism, third world war, etc.

And thanks for this. If you'd come with this disclaimer before, your line of questioning would've made more sense. Then we don't have to keep guessing what you're really interested in. A question on progress or markets can mean many things. With a bit of context as to why you're asking them, it becomes easier for others to reply.

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Jun 4 2015 19:26

Worth repeating – if only for those new to this particular discussion - one of the oft-quoted basics of Marxism:

“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic struc¬ture of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or - what is but a legal expression of the same thing - with the property relations with¬in which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution... (Marx, Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). My emphasis.

This method of Marx – which applies to all class societies – acknowledges different moments in the evolution of various forms of social organisation: those periods in which a given form permits humans to increase their productive capacity in a progressive manner and those in which the previously successful social organisation for mutual (if unequal) benefit becomes an increasing barrier to the fulfillment of humanity’s requirements.

The quoted passage in no way answers the question about the decadence or otherwise of capitalism today: acceptance of its premise however allows us to dispense with dismissive attitudes to the question of decadence ‘in itself’. I’m in agreement with those on this thread (Alf, Jaycee, Baboon, Leo, etc – there’s only one ICC member among them) who defend not only the reality of decadence in general but its very real and increasingly intolerable presence in every fibre of social life for the past 100 years.

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Jun 4 2015 21:16

I was going to refer to the text that Lurch cites. It's worth reading the whole of the 'Preface', because Marx's less-quoted introductory remarks make it clear that this, for him, was really a kind of manifesto, summarising the key propositions of his approach to the historical process - "the guiding principles of my studies" as he puts it
.
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/pre...

We have written a commentary on the Preface in these two articles : http://en.internationalism.org/ir/134/what-method-to-understand-decadenc.... http://en.internationalism.org/ir/2008/135/ascent-and-decline-of-societi...

They are part of a longer series on the vexed question of decline and fall as explored in the history of the workers' movement.

I think the discussion so far has made it clear that one of the central theoretical disagreements on this thread isn't so much about descent, but about ascent, about 'progress'.

To be continued.

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Jun 4 2015 21:34

Hopefully in further posts you'll explain how the productive relations of ancient Rome became a fetter to the vibrant development of productive forces that took place there and how European feudalism then took charge and drowned everyone in even more progress.

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Jun 4 2015 21:52

Alf, read those many times at the suggestions of AK and JB. I'm just not buying it anymore. Like others have said I feel it's up to ICCers to defend their positions on this question more clearly. For the six years I've know you all, you never have been able to as a group. A theory isn't much of a theory without any peer corroboration.

Literally the line after the one you guys love to quote is "the changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. "

Soon or later? Dafuq does that mean? Kinda like when I say I'll do the dishes..."sooner or later". He never says how much later, does he?

"Sooner or later"...c'mon Karl!

Alf...time to wake up and smell the hummous my comrade. To me the text is not explicit. Obviously, Marx failed to provide us clarity here. But I'm sure this thread will now become a bulletin board for ICC articles based on a few short lines in a preface.

Marx failed to provide us clarity here. That is another issue common with this "vexation".

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Jun 4 2015 22:32

Jamal, I think the problem is more serious than just a lack of clarity. Why should something which

  • was written 156 years ago (at a time when the author was expecting a "social revolution", of the sort he's writing about, within a few years; heretical question: does this perhaps say anything about the validity of the larger framework such predictions were based on? Not necessarily. But do the people who present "arguments" like this even have the courage to pose such a question?)
  • was written as a preface (four pages) to a critique of political economy (about 200 pages) which in no way – unless you stretch it beyond recognition – elaborates on it,
  • does not even square well with Marx's more detailed analyses of pre-capitalist societies in the Grundrisse, written at about the same time, and elsewhere,
  • has conceptual problems, i.e., with regard to the definitions of some of the basic terms like "productive forces" and "relations of production",
  • has become – in almost exactly the same techno-determinist, progressivist interpretation as is being put forward here – the foundational stone of a reactionary ideology that's responsible for most of the counterrevolutions of the 20th century,

be taken at face value in a discussion today?

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Jun 4 2015 22:48

On the 'progress' thing, progress is always progress towards some goal. As history has no goal, talk of progress in the abstract is meaningless. It's also high bourgeois ideology, fwiw. To the extent Marx thinks in these terms, he's wrong. To the extent Marx thinks of a linear progression of ascendent and decadent stages, he's wrong.

Fwiw I think there are other readings of Marx, but that current is certainly there. Philologically I think Heinrich's stance that Marx critically adopts and only partially breaks with the framework of bourgeois political economy is persuasive. For example, history as a linear succesion of economic modes is straight out of Adam Smith's lectures on jurisprudence.

S. Artesian
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Jun 5 2015 13:30

Decadence-- the process of falling away or declining (from a state of excellence, vitality, prosperity). That's the definition in the OED. I like to use the standard definitions for words, not a group's ideological definition.

And that's the problem with the meta-characterization of capitalism as decadent-- it serves an ideological purpose, not, as has already been pointed out, an analytical purpose, or purpose of critique.

Tell me exactly how the transformation to decadence makes the class struggle in Chile 1970-1973 different from the struggle in Spain 1936-1939, or the struggle in France 1848-1852, or the struggle in Portugal 1974; or the struggle in Greece 2010--????

All those struggles are different; I want to know how those differences are determined by some supposed condition of international capitalist decadence.

baboon
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Jun 5 2015 17:16

The struggles of the working class that took place within the initial phase of the rise of capitalism (that assumes that we are agreed that capitalism had a beginning which was followed by a profound expansion - i.e., that capitalism "rose") could look for reforms within the system and could support and take part in both parliamentary and trade union activity to good and positive effect. In present day capitalism, and since around the First World War because the situation today is more or less exactly the same, struggles taking place within the confines of those institutions are limited by them to the extent that any working class independence they had has now (and since around 1914) been subsumed by the state for the sole interests of capital.

I'm very wary of dictionary definitions and think that part of the question is that does capitalism now serve humanity? I forget who but an "anti-decadent" argument above sums up this position very well: "capitalism will go on and on but not for much longer" (or maybe "sooner than we think"). What does that mean?

What 's the content of capitalism and is it still progressive. We've surely got past arguments about "well, there's still medical advances" and the like. Capital was positive for humanity in that it created a global system which included the establishment of the only potential revolutionary source which is the proletariat.

Of course the Roman Empire underwent decadence and decay to the point that it created one of the biggest jokes of history when the vanquished barbarians saved the Roman metropole from the collapse of Roman imperialism. Rome collapsed under the weight of its own economic contradictions. It had a rise and a fall and both factors are explained by economic circumstances.

Was feudalism an advance of humanity within civilisation? It wasn't linear (as none of these movements are) but yes, because it laid the ground and provided the circumstances for the development of capitalism. Was civilisation an advance over the communistic-type egalitarianism of the barbarian societies that predated it? Yes, because the latter had reached the economic and social heights that they could have achieved, could go no further and could only themselves decay into class society. And these barbarian societies were, for a very long time, not least from their economic and social bases, an advance - and something of a "fall" - over the egalitarian societies of the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers.

Looking at the content of capitalism today, what does the view that it is not a moribund system that is not an increasing in front of our eyes threat to the very future of humanity mean? That it is a vibrant, progressive, eternal system that offers no threat to mankind? That it can continually fine-tune its innate destructive elements in order to keep it stumbling along forever? If you don't like the analysis of "decadence" use another word but the content and the consequences of it remain the same: socialism or the mutual ruin of contending classes.

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Jun 5 2015 17:28
Baboon wrote:
Was feudalism an advance of humanity within civilisation? It wasn't linear (as none of these movements are) but yes, because it laid the ground and provided the circumstances for the development of capitalism. Was civilisation an advance over the communistic-type egalitarianism of the barbarian societies that predated it? Yes, because the latter had reached the economic and social heights that they could have achieved, could go no further and could only themselves decay into class society. And these barbarian societies were, for a very long time, not least from their economic and social bases, an advance - and something of a "fall" - over the egalitarian societies of the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers.

Baboon, this is just stating that history developed as it did. Far from an incisive historical analysis.

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Jun 5 2015 17:54
baboon wrote:
In present day capitalism, and since around the First World War because the situation today is more or less exactly the same, struggles taking place within the confines of those institutions are limited by them to the extent that any working class independence they had has now (and since around 1914) been subsumed by the state for the sole interests of capital.

The shortening of the working day was also in the general interest of capital (and it is even discussed as such by Marx in Capital). The same could be argued about other substantial gains made by the working class in England and elsewhere in both the 19th and the 20th century.

Was the creation of the NHS not a "reform"? How is it fundamentally different from the creation of health insurance in Bismarckian Germany in 1883? How is the former "within the confines" and the latter not? How are the Factory Acts not "within the confines"?

baboon wrote:
We've surely got past arguments about "well, there's still medical advances" and the like.

Well, it seems like we haven't. Supporters of decadence tried to argue on this thread that either there's been a reversal of the trend of rising life expectancy or that the more recent rise was not even substantial relative to the one in the 19th century. Both theses were disproved, with apparently no reaction from the decadence crowd. So should I take it that decadence has no measurable effect on life expectancy?

baboon wrote:
Was feudalism an advance of humanity within civilisation? It wasn't linear (as none of these movements are) but yes, because it laid the ground and provided the circumstances for the development of capitalism.

This is iconic of what I think is wrong with decadence theory. Teleological assertions like this are only possible ex post. If a large enough asteroid had hit Earth in 1200 AD there would have been no capitalism. Would early feudalism still had been progressive?

Also, there was a whole debate in British marxist historiography on the transition from feudalism to capitalism which showed that the emergence of agrarian capitalist relations in England was due to a very specific set of circumstances that only ocurred at that particular time and place. There was no historical ecessity driving feudalism to transform into capitalism. There were situations in which Spain, Italy and the Netherlands were on the brink of transformation, so to speak, but it never went ahead – until some specific conditions came into existence in England.

baboon wrote:
Looking at the content of capitalism today, what does the view that it is not a moribund system that is not an increasing in front of our eyes threat to the very future of humanity mean?

Nobody is denying that. But capitalism was like this already in the 19th century, as attested by the dozens of millions it left starve to death in India and elsewhere. Again, this is already mentioned by Marx.

baboon wrote:
That it is a vibrant, progressive, eternal system that offers no threat to mankind?

Said nobody on libcom ever.

baboon wrote:
That it can continually fine-tune its innate destructive elements in order to keep it stumbling along forever?

I think there are definite ecological limits, but disregarding those, there are no purely economic reasons why capitalism would not be able to go on forever – apart from the conscious action of the working class, of course.

baboon wrote:
If you don't like the analysis of "decadence" use another word but the content and the consequences of it remain the same: socialism or the mutual ruin of contending classes.

But we don't need decadence theory to be able say that. And I don't think that those are the only two possibilities. The end of the world can also come without the working class lifting a finger.

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Jun 5 2015 17:59
Khawaga wrote:
Baboon, this is just stating that history developed as it did. Far from an incisive historical analysis.

It also massively oversimplifies actual historical development. E.g. it's doubtful 'feudalism' is an accurate description of much beyond late medieval/early modern Europe and probably the Tokugawa Shogunate. And indeed prior to capitalism, there was no social force capable of homogenising global social relations, and even capitalism has only done that in a very uneven manner.

Like I say, the notion of successive stages of history is straight out of bourgeois political economy (Adam Smith: "The four stages of society are hunting, pasturage, farming, and commerce"). It's doubtful that adding a fifth stage called communism constitutes a critique of this teleological fairy tale (which Marx satirised with his Robinson Crusoe vignette, fwiw). There's also an important distinction between retrospective periodisation as an explanatory tool (abstracting and generalising the social forces of interest), and a predictive periodisation where the period itself is treated as a causal force.

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Jun 5 2015 18:26

Good point. The categories of historical stages (like Feudalism) are often quite empty of content.

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Jun 5 2015 18:31
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no reaction from the decadence crowd

I reacted. Abandoned ship, in fact.

I think jura touched on an interesting point. Capitalism has forced us into a decadent (declining, whatever) ecological situation. An ecological situation that has already become an economic situation for many people on Earth.

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Jun 5 2015 18:31

Yeah, but it remains to be seen if capitalism is capable of solving it on its own (while creating new problems because dialectics). I only said there are definite limits, which are there simply due to natural laws.

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Jun 5 2015 18:37
jura wrote:
Yeah, but it remains to be seen if capitalism is capable of solving it on its own (while creating new problems because dialectics). I only said there are definite limits, which are there simply due to natural laws.

You are asking if capitalism can get rid of big industry. To reduce energy consumption. If you're not asking that, you are asking how capitalism can continue to power big industry and big ag. In a nutshell it can't. And the ruling class is massively, massively missing the mark here. More fracking, more drilling, more bullshit solar and wind. No gen IV or V IF nuclear reactors, except maybe in France. And China? We are so fucked in this regard. It's a totally decadent situation. You're asking if capitalism can change it's whole mode of production and organization of society.

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Jun 5 2015 18:46

There could be a catastrophic scenario with continuing capitalist relations. As regards "decadence", it was clear already in the 19th century that capitalism had this destructive potential (father Marx points this out at the end of Capital 1:13, in the English translation by brothers Aveling and Moore that's 1:15). As it expanded, it didn't get better. But not that this is specific to capitalism – as Steven pointed out, there were pre-capitalist civilizations that destroyed themselves ecologically. In a letter to father Engels (March 25 1868), father Marx remarked that civilization always leaves a desert behind, unless it is subject to conscious and collective planning .

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Jun 5 2015 18:52

Interesting and fair enough. I'm beginning to understand the methodology. "Barbarism" could still be capitalism. Never considered that.

Could you link us to that Marx-Engels letter? Thanks homie.

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Jun 5 2015 18:57
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
"Barbarism" could still be capitalism. Never considered that.

Yes. The real question is, though: would it be progressive? wink

Jamal Rayyan wrote:
Could you link us to that Marx-Engels letter? Thanks homie.

Here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1868/letters/68_03_25-abs.ht...

I have to repent my misquotation. The word is "cultivation", not "civilization". Interestingly, the German original has "Die Kultur" (MEW 32, p. 51).

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Jun 5 2015 20:05

I would add to what Khawaga, Jura and Joseph wrote and point out that baboon answers none of the questions about concrete class struggles that were posed, but demonstrates indeed that decadence is an ideological category, not a critical one.

Even if we grant this this:

Quote:
struggles taking place within the confines of those institutions are limited by them to the extent that any working class independence they had has now (and since around 1914) been subsumed by the state for the sole interests of capital.

is accurate, which I am not willing to do for either implied case-- that pre-1914 such struggle were not subsumed on behalf of capital; or that post 1914, every struggle has been so subsumed by capital-- exactly how does that make capitalism "decadent"-- declining from a condition of prosperity, vitality, and declining continuously?

If we want to argue that the bourgeoisie were "capable" of some "historic tasks" in the past, in the 19th or 18th century-- for every example of that you dig up, there's at least two examples where the bourgeoisie did not undertake, much less "accomplish" those so-called historical tasks.

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Jun 6 2015 12:47

Joseph Kay says that Marx's view of progress was simply a reflection of his times. Firstly I think this is inaccurate; Marx's view of history and progress was always thoroughly dialectical and saw that there were prices paid for each advance and that progress could never be uni-linear. The fact that capitalism is not only said to be as I mentioned before 'the most extreme form of alienation' and connected with the “complete emptying-out, .... total alienation, and the tearing-down of all limited, one-sided aims as sacrifice of the human end-in-itself to an entirely external end." This last point is key as it shows how capitalism can be said to be the most inhuman i.e. the most alienated, society in history because by setting money as its sole 'ruler/god' as opposed to the gods of previous ages which for all their blood-thirst, oppressiveness or non-(objective) existence at least tended to express real, deep seated human aspirations and dreams/fears even if in a perverted form; money on the other hand represents nothing but ‘need’/’greed’.

Marx saw history as a movement towards communism; or more accurately a movement towards the fulfilment of human capabilities and the unfolding of the truly human nature which communism is the path towards. History I think certainly expresses mankind’s often only semi-conscious strivings to make a world in its own image. For example the drive towards civilization, while giving rise to and being fed by a lot of the worst aspects of human nature, also expresses the human desire to unify larger and larger groups of people into a single community (this fundamentally to me represents the dream of peace which ‘civilization’ at its best moments makes possible). Capitalism represents an attempt to control the world- to overcome mankind’s dependent relationship with nature. This has a positive and a negative aspect-positive in that it lays the basis for abundance-negative because it separates and debases mankind’s relationship to nature.

Secondly and more importantly for the purposes of this discussion I would argue that the view of history put forward by Joseph Kay is precisely the bourgeois view of our age. It is the modern/post modern view that history as everything else is just a meaningless jumble of stuff/events. Whereas the bourgeoisie of the 19th century had an almost ridiculous degree of confidence and faith in its own civilization/mission in history, the modern bourgeoisie cannot seriously hold to this view anymore. I think this is unquestionably linked to the events of the 20th century (particularly its first half) which to me speaks in favour of the idea of decadence. They have lost faith in themselves; they have tried every now and then to restore that faith (the talk of the end of history after the USSR collapsed for example. I would also say Fascism/Nazism should be understood in a slightly similar way).

The idea that there is no meaning to history and no ‘aim’ to history is based on the idea that to say otherwise is simply a form of anthropomorphism. This is true from one perspective and it is indeed necessary to be aware of the danger of and temptation towards anthropomorphism. However anthropomorphism is also a characteristic of human nature and reflects the traditional view of humanity as a part of nature/the universe rather than in the uniquely bourgeois view of total separation from nature and a fundamentally hostile, dominating and exploitative relationship with existence which is its starting point

S. Artesian
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Jun 6 2015 14:00

I think with regard to "Marx's view of history"-- or History-- with a capital H we need to do a little bit of what Marx likes to say he himself did with Hegel-- extract the rational kernel for the mystical shell, or from the misrepresentations of the shell.

You see, history may not have a purpose, but Marx definitely has one; and that is to show the specific relations of production, the condition of labor, that determine capitalism and the specific conditions that gave rise to those relations. With that Marx can refute the promotion of capitalism as the "natural" condition of human beings; the destiny of all human social development.

And if we are going to refute the notion of capitalism as natural, and inevitable, and destiny, then we need to reject the notion of socialism being inevitable.

The antagonisms and conflicts of capitalism are immanent-- are to itself, of itself, driven by its self-expansion. These antagonisms and conflicts, is hideous and barbaric as capitalism might be and become, are not revolutionary because they violate the "natural order," the goal of "History."

History is the product of social beings reproducing themselves as social beings. History has no goal. Those social beings do; which is the satisfaction, and creation, of expanding needs.

This:

Quote:
They have lost faith in themselves; they have tried every now and then to restore that faith (the talk of the end of history after the USSR collapsed for example. I would also say Fascism/Nazism should be understood in a slightly similar way

is more or less precisely the problem with "decadence" theory. First, I don't know that Marx's historical materialism or the critique of capital ever, ever had or has anything to with the "self-confidence" of the bourgeoisie.

Secondly, the confidence or lack thereof is immaterial. The bourgeoisie are the ruling class. They've got plenty of things going for them-- in the categories of lawyers, guns, and money. If there's any class that can be said to have lost "self-confidence," the evidence points to the working class, not the bourgeoisie. And that loss doesn't change the validity, accuracy of Marx's critique either.

Decadence makes itself irrelevant through such "meta-theorizing."

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Jun 6 2015 14:44
Quote:
Marx saw history as a movement towards communism; or more accurately a movement towards the fulfilment of human capabilities and the unfolding of the truly human nature which communism is the path towards. History I think certainly expresses mankind’s often only semi-conscious strivings to make a world in its own image. For example the drive towards civilization, while giving rise to and being fed by a lot of the worst aspects of human nature, also expresses the human desire to unify larger and larger groups of people into a single community (this fundamentally to me represents the dream of peace which ‘civilization’ at its best moments makes possible). Capitalism represents an attempt to control the world- to overcome mankind’s dependent relationship with nature. This has a positive and a negative aspect-positive in that it lays the basis for abundance-negative because it separates and debases mankind’s relationship to nature

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I.e. world spirit.

markyhaze
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Jun 6 2015 17:26
S. Artesian wrote:
And if we are going to refute the notion of capitalism as natural, and inevitable, and destiny, then we need to reject the notion of socialism being inevitable.

Yes. In the Communist Manifesto for example it is clear that the passage from one mode of production to another through the “revolutionary reconstitution of society at large” is not in any way inevitable; on the contrary, in Marx's words the outcome of the class struggle can be the "mutual ruin of the contending classes” - which is precisely the perspective facing capitalist society unless the working class is, as you say, able to re-gain its self-confidence.

What is inaccurately termed "decadence theory" on this thread - ie. broadly, Marx's materialist method for understanding the rise and fall of class societies - does not in any way imply that socialism is inevitable.

S. Artesian wrote:
These antagonisms and conflicts, [as] hideous and barbaric as capitalism might be and become, are not revolutionary because they violate the "natural order," the goal of "History."

No. Who is arguing this?