On Endnotes

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Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
Sep 17 2017 19:03
What I called commodification was not the idea of distributing theory through videos but the band analogy, the idea that radical politics is something that needs to be "marketed" in some sense on a market of ideas

I understood that, hence why I wrote "commodification (in the sense of aping after the aesthetic form of things that are sold)". In other words, I agree. While it is easy to try to sell something with simple slogans, it is impossible to explain that capitalist social relations are enslaving us in that way. But the problem is that many people become accustomed to the 15 second to 3 minutes marketing video and anything that is longer than that may be an immediate turn off.

There is of course value in some form of agitation but one problem I think that comes with this form of agitation with watered down material is the lack of theoretical discipline. There is no point in just teaching something the wrong thing because it's easier, proletarians are not daft.

But it is not about being easier, but presenting it in a different form (a video). With a video you can do different things other than just fucking read out a script; you can show and visualise phenomena that are hard to explain purely with words. The problem with your comment--even though I agree that working class people are not dumb (see my comment #8)--is that you seem to believe that someone, anyone, will just readily accept our worldview and analyses. That's just not the case; it takes time and often a different type of language before the "theoretical discipline" can come (and tbh, this strict adherence to this notion is why the left is often being labelled as too academic; and I say this as an academic). Do you give a 14 year old, Das Kapital and the latest issue of Endnotes or Lettersjournal or, for example, something by Prole Info or Tintin spoof Breaking Free.

I'd also like to add that I think cory is going about it from the wrong direction; you can't start with agitation by itself. You can't just throw watered down theory on people and have them go "now I get it". They learn from their own spontaneous struggle, like strikes or anti-gentrification struggles.

Chicken and the egg. Sure, people learn in struggle, but the first example is rarely a strike (in North America, the number of days of productivity "loss" due to strikes is at an all-time low). And I agree that actual struggle is the only foundation, there are many people (myself included when I started being interested in politics at the age of about 12) that observe that the world is fucked up, that you mom struggle to put food on the table and so on, but without being able to explain why the world is in this way or, if you wanted to do something, what can and should be done.

As I said in post #6

All I am saying is that there is a middle ground to be found between "dumbing down" and highly specialised academic texts.

Cooked's picture
Joined: 6-04-10
Sep 18 2017 07:25
comrade_emma wrote:
They learn from their own spontaneous struggle, like strikes or anti-gentrification struggles.

This is empirically false isn't it? Every revolution I know of was preceded by long periods of propaganda.

If ideas didn't matter there would be no fascism. No one has read endnotes without being somewhat radical or academic. It would be insane to sit through that with no previous insight.

Joined: 16-09-17
Apr 21 2018 17:50


Joined: 21-06-16
Oct 12 2017 18:42

'Watered down' is correct. You also have to be cautious about what cultural trends you emulate. People are used to 'sound-bites' and capitalism's 'bread and circus,' so a modern work has to be careful not to fall into that. People aren't averages, as well. If a work is written, involving your view of complex concepts, then to change it like this is to dilute it.

Zanthorus makes this point very well:

There's also the difficulty that, past a certain point, making something simpler becomes a process of completely removing the actual content of a work. One of the biggest issues in the dissemination of Marx's work after his death seems to be the way in which it was often absorbed through questionable second hand accounts. IIRC Kautsky's book 'Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx', a book which among other things claims that wages would exist in 'socialism', was much more widely read in the SPD than the original article.

If you keep hawking an idea, then it can become something really different...

I don't think 'intelligence' should come into this either: the saying says that an idiot will drag you down to their level and defeat you with experience. You don't want to help! So the question is style, not the intelligence involved in a text!

Zanthorus wrote:
Khawaga wrote:
Agree, but Keating's invocation of Marx here doesn't make sense given how tough Das Kapital is to understand.

Compare Capital Vol. I to the Grundrisse. Marx definitely changed a lot about the presentation and language of the former in an attempt to make it more accessible, and he definitely harboured the hope at least that it would be read and understood by ordinary members of the working-class.

Das Kapital is oftn far too "simplified," compared to the depth of the Grundrisse. People often just dismiss it, because it treats its ideas with far too much brevity. Nonetheless, it is also organised into a clear 'format,' which isn't the same thing as simplification. It's hard to call it highly 'simplifieed' when it has to go through so many different things. In addition, much of 'why' Das Kapital is 'organised' is allegedly due to drawing on the works of Marx's 'predecessors' like Hegel; so to compare them like this seems uncalled for.

Das Kapital isn't easily understood, but people can pretend that it is......

The section on ethical life references the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles extensively, without ever directly referring to them. I don't know about you, but the comprehensive school I went to didn't teach me much about ancient Greek tragedy. Without contemporary footnotes the average reader would be totally lost.

I mean, the point of that is mostly to cover all of these developments! They couldn't just exclude some... It explains the subject if you're into that, if you're nnot then that's not because it can't be read.

Serge Forward wrote:
Khawaga wrote:
Well, Das Kapital is not exactly bed-time reading

Nonsense. It's just the thing when you have trouble sleeping. Whenever I can't get to sleep, a couple of paragraphs from chapter 1 is always guaranteed to knock me out. Admittedly, while it never becomes a page-turner exactly, it does pick up a bit a few chapters in.


I understand that view!

Still when it picks up the important groundworks have been laid! Then it can develop them .