A General Discussion of Decadence Theory

292 posts / 0 new
Last post
lem
Offline
Joined: 25-07-05
Oct 19 2007 18:19

i don't think the icc are arguing that industrial production is decreasing/remaining the same. just developing less quickly innit?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 19 2007 18:27
capricorn wrote:
Quote:
A lot of carbon emissions were during the age of coal as well, it's hardly as if environment damage started a few years ago.

But the age of coal lasted until when?, the 1960s? In any event, well after 1914, the date from which many decadentists date the beginning of capitalism's supposed economic decadence. And of course it's still going on in China, India, Japan, the US and Australia. Why do you think the last two didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol?
Carbon dioxide emissions, after falling in the 40s and 50s, began rising again from the 1970s. This must have something to do with increased industrial production, surely.

Yeah I agree with this of course, just pointing out that capitalism started the process of global warming and environmental collapse long before the ICC reckons it became decadent.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Oct 19 2007 18:28

Mikus, how do you explain that the 20th century was the bloodest in history, including two world wars and the threat of nuclear destruction, that large parts of humanity still have to live without the most basic necessities such as clear war? I may have missed where you have answered these questions before, but at the moment it is not at all clear how you explain this.
It is not a question of saying that production will not increase, but of how this increase (the real extent of which is questionable given the massive growth of arms spending, the role of the state, statistical manipulation etc) has been taking place within the historical/social context of imperialism, revolution, counter-revolution etc. Marxism is not crude materialism.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Oct 19 2007 18:30

My post was written before lem's post was posted

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 19 2007 18:40
ernie wrote:
Mikus, how do you explain that the 20th century was the bloodest in history, including two world wars and the threat of nuclear destruction, that large parts of humanity still have to live without the most basic necessities such as clear war? I may have missed where you have answered these questions before, but at the moment it is not at all clear how you explain this.
It is not a question of saying that production will not increase, but of how this increase (the real extent of which is questionable given the massive growth of arms spending, the role of the state, statistical manipulation etc) has been taking place within the historical/social context of imperialism, revolution, counter-revolution etc. Marxism is not crude materialism.

Ernie, what does this have to do with the claims about necessary rise and fall of the capitalist mode of production?

Anyway, I'm not sure how I explain that stuff. I'm not an historian. But I just don't see how it requires a decadence theory. You are aware, of course, that a million different people have a million different explanations of this stuff and that few have to invoke a decadence theory. It's not like the ICC and the IBRP have a monopoly on explaining WWI.

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Oct 19 2007 19:06

Alf wrote:

Quote:
The majority of the revolutionary movement were convinced in the period immediately after 1914 that a crucial turning point had been reached, "the epoch of the inner disintegration of capitalism, the epoch of the world proletarian revolution" as the CI put it in 1919. The 'evidence' was world war one and the international wave of revolution that it provoked. There were different understandings of the economic causes of this change, but they could hardly wait for this question to be solved before deciding that armed revolution was now on the agenda.

I like this view of things. "The international wave of revolution" was seen as evidence of the decline of capitalism. It makes good sense. It also clearly does nothing to support a theory of decadence.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Oct 19 2007 19:13

Dave, we say that the international revolutionary wave arose out of capitalism entering its decadence because faced with the utter barbarity of a system that was and had just slaughtered millions, the international proletariat (the product of the development of the world market) tried to impose its alternative. How do you explain it? Did all of these workers spring out of bed one morning and decide out of the blue to try and make the revolution? Why had it not taken place before?

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Oct 19 2007 19:33

Mikus, the ICC and the IBRP do not have a monopoly on the idea of decadence. We and they see it as a fundamental part of the Marxist method. Also we base our idea of decadence on a long tradition in the workers' movement: much of the Communist Left in the 20's and 30's defended this analysis, as did the early Communist International, and as did the Left Fraction of the 2nd International. They all saw capitalism as being historically limited and that WW1 had marked an historic turning point for humanity: the last 100 years have proved them absolutely right.

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 19 2007 19:45
ernie wrote:
Mikus, the ICC and the IBRP do not have a monopoly on the idea of decadence.

I did not say this. I said that the ICC and IBRP do not have a monopoly on explanations of WWI.

Quote:
We and they see it as a fundamental part of the Marxist method.

To put this on the level of method is a bit strange considering it's a proposition.

Quote:
Also we base our idea of decadence on a long tradition in the workers' movement: much of the Communist Left in the 20's and 30's defended this analysis, as did the early Communist International, and as did the Left Fraction of the 2nd International. They all saw capitalism as being historically limited and that WW1 had marked an historic turning point for humanity: the last 100 years have proved them absolutely right.

What does "historical limited" mean? I told you guys that I think capitalism is historically limited as well. The sun will burn out in a few billion years. I also think that there are certain things that can't happen, like say, exponential growth by tomorrow night.

Am I a supporter of decadence?

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 19 2007 19:55

As far as decadence theory goes, my general impression is that it's a poor attempt to transform a mere phrase into an actual periodization of capitalism. And then when this periodization is questioned, the supporters of the theory go back to using it as a mere phrase.

I could talk about something like, suckiness theory. And I could say "capitalism sucks." And then I could talk about how it sucked more and more over time. And it very well may continue to suck. And how it in fact is necessary that capitalism sucks. And that if humanity doesn't want to live in a sucky society, it has to overthrow that society. And then if someone says "I don't see any evidence that capitalism sucks" I can say, "look at the last 100 years -- WWI, WWII, millions dead -- that objectively sucks." And then I could say that anyone who doesn't think that capitalism sucks, and who doesn't support my suckiness theory, isn't a Marxist. And that all Marxists of the last 100 years have contended that capitalism sucks, and that this suckiness puts armed revolution on the agenda.

This sounds about like what the ICC has done with decadence theory. They have turned a word used to describe one's taste into an attempted periodization. It just doesn't work out that well. If they kept it as a word of taste, and said that capitalism was decadent just in the normal coloquial sense, I wouldn't really disagree (although I think the term is a bit old-fashioned myself -- I'd probably say that capitalism just sucks). I just think that turning it into a real theory and making it a central tenet by which one can tell who is and is not a real Marxist is silly and pretends to say more than it actually does.

Mike

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Oct 19 2007 20:23

Mikus, do you agree that Marx saw capitalism as a historically transitory social system?

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 19 2007 20:28

Of course. So do I.

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Oct 19 2007 22:44
Quote:
I don't entirely agree with your characterization of scientific practice, but for the purposes of the present discussion I think it's close enough. What I'm not clear on is why it's relevant to the discussion. It's not like the theory of decadence is anything like the question of whether or not an insurrection will succeed or fail while the insurrection is occurring. Even granting that you are correct on that point, I don't think it's related to the present discussion, since the present discussion is whether or not the theory is correct. (I should also point out that you didn't respond to any of my specific criticisms of decadence theory, so I'm not exactly sure what you think is salvagable from it.)

It's worth answering this post in reverse order.

The crucial conclusion of a theory of decadence is that the struggle of today has a different form than the struggle of a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago. Specifically, while one could not really argue that unions or parties a hundred years ago were revolutionary, one could argue they involved building proletarian institutions. In a pre-revolutionary time, the CNT or the IWW were authentically working class and would-be revolutionary institutions. One would be hard-pressed to find such institutions in any nation on earth any time in the last fifty years. The overall framework of decadence implies that the task of the proletariat is no longer to develop itself but to tear down capitalism - essentially that revolutionary activity will take the form of assemblies at the time of revolution (a la May 1968 or Argentina in 2001). I would say that the ideas of the Situationists, Theorie Communiste, the ICC and various others share this general approach even as they disagree on numerous particulars. This approach is that the working class has already gotten whatever it might have needed from capitalism and that revolutionary practice is now concerned with the direct creation of communist relations rather than with enhancing the means of production sufficiently to allow communist relations to be possible at all.

-- Once we are clear about the question(s) decadence is trying to answer, we can see that it does have some similarities to the deciding whether a particular insurrection will succeed while it is occurring. Just to turn your observation around, we could make our slogan "revolutionary destruction of capitalism through waiting for the Sun to expire" but it seems more worthwhile to make align our practice with those revolutionary forms which the proletariat seems take - councils, informal organization, seizing social space, whatever.

Certainly, one can indeed find various flaws in the ICC's particular version of decadence - though I think to their credit they are attempt to defend a general idea of decadence in this thread rather than defending Luxemburgism (which I have no interest in).

And back to methodology. Even if we are not scientists, there is a place for focusing our attention exclusively on a particular theory and saying that it isn't supportable. But there is also a place for looking a particular phenomena, for example the form revolutionary struggle in the last fifty years has and has not taken, and asking the not-scientific question "what best explains this" (this is indeed an not-scientific approach since the most appealing answer might still not fit the criteria for scientific acceptance). My impression is that you eschew the later approach, something I view as mistake for a would-be revolutionary.

Best,

Red

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Oct 19 2007 23:09

Ernie, for what its worth, I do not object to what you say here:

Quote:
faced with the utter barbarity of a system that was and had just slaughtered millions, the international proletariat (the product of the development of the world market) tried to impose its alternative.

But why imply that I have some sort of voluntarist perspective?

Quote:
Did all of these workers spring out of bed one morning and decide out of the blue to try and make the revolution?

I also think that capitalism is a historically transitory social system. But I doubt you are surprised. If we say that capitalism is a historically transitory social system, this does not entail any specific periodization of capitalism. Do you disagree? It seems like whenever someone questions the ICC's periodization of capitalism, we are told that 1) lots of revolutionaries have believed something similar, 2) capitalism has become very barbarous, or 3) Marx believed that capitalism has internal contradictions tending towards its collapse. Now, all of these arguments have the virtue of allowing you to argue for the idea of "decadence" without reference to Luxemburg's economic theory. The problem is that none of these arguments are arguments in favor of the ICC's periodization of capitalism or any other specific periodization of capitalism (whether that be Lenin's, the IBRP, or whatever).

Now, I have brought this up on the Luxemburg thread, and Mike has said something along the same lines here:

Quote:
As far as decadence theory goes, my general impression is that it's a poor attempt to transform a mere phrase into an actual periodization of capitalism. And then when this periodization is questioned, the supporters of the theory go back to using it as a mere phrase.

Yet we are still subjected to the same refrain.

alibadani
Offline
Joined: 12-09-05
Oct 20 2007 05:17
dave c wrote:
I also think that capitalism is a historically transitory social system. But I doubt you are surprised. If we say that capitalism is a historically transitory social system, this does not entail any specific periodization of capitalism.

It's just that with Marxism, what makes a social system transitory is precisely that it goes through a decadent period, a period when the productive forces have outgrown the relations of production. Otherwise the system isn't transitory at all. If capitalism can grow the productive forces ad infinitum, or if it can stagnate forever, then what makes it transitory?

Mikus wrote:
This sounds about like what the ICC has done with decadence theory. They have turned a word used to describe one's taste into an attempted periodization. It just doesn't work out that well. If they kept it as a word of taste, and said that capitalism was decadent just in the normal coloquial sense, I wouldn't really disagree (although I think the term is a bit old-fashioned myself -- I'd probably say that capitalism just sucks). I just think that turning it into a real theory and making it a central tenet by which one can tell who is and is not a real Marxist is silly and pretends to say more than it actually does.

This is at the very heart of Marxism, this periodization you have a problem with. Marxism's argument is that the revolution is on the agenda first because it becomes possible, because the relations of production have become a fetter on the productive forces, and secondly because it becomes historically necessary, capitalism's suckiness notwithstanding.

To argue that the ICC is turning a taste into an attempted periodization is silly. At best you could accuse Marx of having done that. It's not about capitalism sucking. Hasn't it always sucked? The revolution is on the agenda because capitalism is in its decadent phase and will therefore end in one of two ways: socialism or the end of civilization.

One cannot deny decadence theory and be a Marxist. Decadence is the heart of historical materialism, without which there isn't much left in Marxism IMO. A Marxist could conceivably argue that capitalism has yet to reach that phase.

As for Luxemburg's theory, it is the best economic theory of decadence. Capitalism is on life support and her theory is the only one that tells us why.

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Oct 21 2007 19:53

Alibidani:

Quote:
It's just that with Marxism, what makes a social system transitory is precisely that it goes through a decadent period, a period when the productive forces have outgrown the relations of production.

Now, I know that “Marxism” has many interesting arguments to offer us, but let us explore what basis there is in Marx’s writings for this view.

Firstly, Marx generally uses “transitory” to describe the capitalist mode of production because he sees it as historical and not eternal. For example:

Quote:
One can only speak of the productivity of capital if one regards it as the embodiment of definite social relations of production. But if it is conceived in this way, then the historically transitory character of this relationship becomes at once evident. . . . (Theories of Surplus Value, vol. 3, Prometheus, 265)

This has methodological implications, and Marx is clear about this:

Quote:
It is just as impossible to make the transition directly from labour to capital as it is to go from the different human races directly to the banker, or from nature to the steam engine. (Grundrisse, Penguin, 259)

But let us particularize your statement: Marx ascertained that capitalism will go through a decadent period. Does this necessarily mean that its “decadent period” is distinct from the period during which it is replaced by communism? (If not, communism is inevitable, but this is not true.) This is precisely what you are implying, even though you are simply making a general statement about Marxism and history. On this basis, I would say that you may be quite correct about Luxemburg's theory being the best economic theory of decadence. But this has nothing to do with Marx.

I should present exhibit A for the decadence: Through an investigation of political economy, Marx comes to certain conclusions (related in 1859) which serve as a “guiding thread” for his studies, for example:

Quote:
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 within 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. (The Marx-Engels Reader, Norton, 4-5)

So, is this where Marx reveals “the theory of decadence,” of decadence as such? Marx is summarizing the most general results of his materialist method. In The German Ideology, Marx has a relevant warning about how such phrases can be used:

Quote:
When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence. At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men. Viewed apart from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its separate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history. (The German Ideology, Prometheus, 43)

If these abstractions acquire substantive value only from their meaning in Marx’s critique of capitalism, we should search for the “theory of decadence” in Capital. In Capital we find a theory of crisis, but no basis for a theory of permanent decline. What does Marx consider to be the limitations of the capitalist mode of production?

Quote:
The limitations of the capitalist mode of production come to the surface:
1) In that the development of the productivity of labour creates out of the falling rate of profit a law which at a certain point comes into antagonistic conflict with this development and must be overcome constantly through crises.
2) In that the expansion or contraction of production are determined by the appropriation of unpaid labour and the proportion of this unpaid labour to materialised labour in general, or, to speak the language of the capitalists, by profit and the proportion of this profit to the employed capital, thus by a definite rate of profit, rather than the relation of production to social requirements, i.e., to the requirements of' socially developed human beings. It is for this reason that the capitalist mode of production meets with barriers at a certain expanded stage of production which, if viewed from the other premise, would reversely have been altogether inadequate. It comes to a standstill at a point fixed by the production and realisation of profit, and not the satisfaction of requirements. (Capital, Vol. 3, Penguin, 367)

Interestingly, the limitations of capitalism are found in Marx’s analysis of capitalism’s laws of motion and not in his description of the “guiding thread” of his studies. So what reveals capitalism to be “transitory”? Is it the fact that it will go through a “decadent period”? No. Marx writes:

Quote:
The fact that bourgeois production is compelled by its own immanent laws, on the one hand, to develop the productive forces as if production did not take place on a narrow restricted social foundation, while, on the other hand, it can develop these forces only within these narrow limits, is the deepest and most hidden cause of crises, of the crying contradictions within which bourgeois production is carried on and which, even at a cursory glance, reveal it as only a transitional, historical form. This is grasped rather crudely but none the less correctly by Sismondi, for example, as a contradiction between production for the sake of production and distribution which makes absolute development of productivity impossible. (Theories of Surplus Value, vol. 3, Prometheus, 84.)

This is the heart of Marx’s theory. The proletariat, “the greatest productive power” (The Poverty of Philosophy, International Publishers, 126) of all, is compelled to come into conflict with the restrictive capitalist relations of production. The law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall is “the most important law from the historical standpoint. . . .” (Grundrisse, Penguin, 748) because it gives substance to the idea of conflict between forces of production and social relations. And the proletariat is the only class which can inaugurate the “epoch of social revolution.” But while I consider all of this to be true, I still “deny decadence theory” and find no special theory of decadence in Marx. So tell me once more that I am not a Marxist so that I can stop wasting my time.

alibadani
Offline
Joined: 12-09-05
Oct 22 2007 06:12

dave c,

I can't say if you've wasted your time or not, but I'm sorry you are not a Marxist. A potential Marxologist perhaps, at best a micro-Marxist: one who knows everything except what matters. I could care less if you are a Marxist or not really. I was just stating that Marxism without decadence theory is something else

There probably isn't a "special decadence theory in Marx",. The Marxists of the past century have managed to come up with a few. Decadence theory may not be in Marx, but it is in Marxism.

The "summary of the most general results of his materialist method" you write of is is a summary of historical materialism.

ICC wrote:
the theory of decadence is simply the concretisation of historical materialism in the analysis of the evolution of modes of production.

You say that workers are "compelled to come into conflict with the restrictive capitalist relations of production." At what point do the capitalist relations of production become restrictive? At what point can the proletariat overcome these relations of production? Is it at the point when said relations have become historically obsolete? And what does one call a period when said relations persist even after they have become anachronistic?

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Oct 22 2007 14:46

World war is a striking example of the decadence of capitalism. Mikus' view that more elements than the communist left have a view on WWI is absolutelty correct and absolutely consistent with his position (which is that he doesn't seem to have a view on World War One). There was the view that the war was caused by the evil boche, the baby-killing hun. There are views that it was a fight for British values - there were and are all sorts of views. The only one that has any substance is the marxist view, the highest point reached by revolutionary marxist elements as a whole, that the war signalled the demise of capitalism, that the war demonstrated without doubt that capitalism had become a fetter on the productive forces and, while not bringing them to a standstill, the system could only continue with more and more relative destruction. The war showed that a progressive, expanding capitalism (even through blood and iron) could only turn in on itself and this is exactly what the first world war represented. This is what self-cannibalisation means Capricorn. All the major powers (and these are real, not abstractions) had, more or less, taken a grip on the whole globe (again, a real entity and not an abstraction) and could only expand at the expense of their capitalist rivals. In case anyone missed it, the whole sick scenario was repeated some two decades later where the level of inter-imperialist rivalry and the level of destruction reached even new unprecedented levels. This time with the working class crushed. The whole history of the 20th C is one of the bloody expression of the decadence of capitalism - fully confirmed into the 21st.

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Oct 22 2007 20:22

On the "periodization" thing...

The idea that capitalism switched instantly from one condition to another looks a bit dubious from the present day. It probably didn't look as strange in the middle of WWI but we should certainly indulge in the benefits of hindsight.

It doesn't really surprise me that none of non-ICC regulars here have spoken to the point of the commonality between an ICC or other position on decadence and other perspectives on "late capitalism" or "spectacular capitalism".

Yes, capitalisms' condition may have evolved gradually or changed suddenly over the last hundred or hundred and fifty years but it has changed. Not that it ceased to be capitalism but that the subjective and strategic position of the proletariat has changed in a way that is important to understand. When capitalism is "overripe" for revolution, immediate change is on the agenda rather than efforts to slowly build workers' organizations or strategic alliances with bourgeois or pre-bourgeois forces. This translates into opposition to unions, "national liberation struggles" and wage labor in all its forms (including coops and similar schemes). That is to say the fundamental positions of the "communist left".

Red

(the Camette link was useful and merits a different post or even thread...)

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Oct 22 2007 21:31
Quote:
the war signalled the demise of capitalism, that the war demonstrated without doubt that capitalism had become a fetter on the productive forces and, while not bringing them to a standstill, the system could only continue with more and more relative destruction. The war showed that a progressive, expanding capitalism (even through blood and iron) could only turn in on itself and this is exactly what the first world war represented. This is what self-cannibalisation means Capricorn.

Thanks, but I'm still not too clear on what "self-cannibalisation" means. Logically, it ought to mean something like "eating itself" but you seem to be using it more like as if it meant "self-mutilation". But capitalism has always meant war and the destruction this involves. Unless you are saying that wars are becoming more and more destructive. Was WW2 more destructive than WW1? Probably (though, as you point out, WW2 could be regarded as a continuation of WW1), but there hasn't been a WW3, so the series wouldn't seem to be long enough to draw any conclusion. There have of course been local wars going on somewhere ever since the end of WW2 (62 years ago), but I'm not sure that a case can be made that, added together, these resulted in more destruction than WW2.
If you are saying that any expansion since 1918 has merely been to repair the damage done during wars I don't think this argument can be sustained either as production today is manifestly many times greater than it was in 1914.
I'm not saying that capitalism isn't a wasteful and destructive system, but that's not the same as saying it can no longer expand production (beyond reconstructing war damage).

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 22 2007 22:30

Just a question to Dave C: would you say that Marx considered that previous modes of production - in particular slavery and feudalism - went through periods of decadence?

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Oct 23 2007 05:58

Alf, certainly Marx wrote of the decline of feudalism in Western Europe, for example . . . but what are you getting at?

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Oct 23 2007 12:28

I agree with Red.
Self cannibalisation seems to me to be eating oneself. Instead of capitalism expanding into pre-capitalist areas and turning them into bourgeois regimes (and these certainly provoked some wars between nations - this was the tendency towards full blown imperialism which resulted from the decadence of the system, which, again, didn't happen overnight), it turned on the markets of its competitors in order to gobble them up. Internicine struggle if you like and an important expression of the decay of the system. The first world war was a marker, again an important one. What was also important was the global revolutionary wave that emerged as well, showing that revolution was on the agenda.
The old "there's always been wars" Capricorn, is just not good enough. There's always been world wars? How many before 1914? Where was that level of destruction ever achieved. Where was the slaughter of civilians so prevalent - a slaughter which expanded and deepened throughout the 20th and 21st C? Where was the destruction of the means of production so great? And where was the means of production so dedicated to the means of destrution? "Export of Die" was the slogan of the Third Reich in 1939, showing that this was another imperialist war which would turn out much more destructive than the first.
Atomic bombs? More TNT dropped on Iraq in the 1992 than dropped on Germany in the whole of WWII.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 23 2007 13:40

Dave C: there are plenty of other passages where Marx and Engels talk about the decline of feudalism and slavery. The theory of historical materialism - of societies reaching a point where the relations of production become an insurmountable fetter on further development - was to a great extent based on an examination of previous modes of production (see for example the German Ideology) and the way they were supplanted by new ones. Why would Marx and Engels consider capitalism to be immune from such a trajectory?

Your distinction between the epoch of social revolution and the epoch of decadence makes no sense to me. It is particularly clear, for example, that the epoch of the bourgeois revolution is more or less co-terminous with the epoch of feudal decline. On the same basis (and bearing in mind the differences between bourgeois revolutions, which can take place over a much longer time span, and the proletarian revoloution, which has to be relatively simultaneous across the globe) the Communist International proclaimed the advent of a new epoch - the "epoch of the inner disintegration of capitalism" - to also be "the epoch of the world proletarian revolution".

dave c
Offline
Joined: 4-09-07
Oct 25 2007 05:44

Alf:

Quote:
Your distinction between the epoch of social revolution and the epoch of decadence makes no sense to me.

Well, if capitalism can be decadent in a period in which the working class is not creating communism, then decadence is distinct from social revolution.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Oct 25 2007 07:57
Quote:
Self cannibalisation seems to me to be eating oneself. Instead of capitalism expanding into pre-capitalist areas and turning them into bourgeois regimes ( . . . ) it turned on the markets of its competitors in order to gobble them up. Internicine struggle if you like and an important expression of the decay of the system.

So, baboon, are you saying that since, say, 1914, capitalist markets have been stagnant and that therefore capitalist states can only extend their markets at the expense of other capitalist states? If so, this is manifestly wrong. Capitalist markets did extend immensely after WW2 and are still expanding now even if, since the mid-70s, much more slowly than previously.
In any event, I think history shows that most wars arise out of conflict not so much over markets as over sources of raw materials, investment outlets, trade routes and strategic points to protect and control these. Such "internecine struggles" have been a feature of capitalism since its beginning in the 16th century.

Quote:
The old "there's always been wars" Capricorn, is just not good enough. There's always been world wars? How many before 1914?

Well actually, the Napoleonic War(s) were just as "world" as WW1, but I agree not as destructive. I still say that you can't say that the destruction and loss of civilian lives in the limited wars that have taken place mainly on the periphery of capitalism since 1945 have been greater than in WW2 (which your theory requires should be the case). There has in fact been no war destruction in Europe (apart from parts of the former Yugoslavia) for the last 62 years, yet capitalism has not got in to the terminal economic difficulties you speak of. In fact, inter-European trade (markets) have expanded. Isn't that what the Common Market was all about?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Oct 25 2007 15:20

'Well, if capitalism can be decadent in a period in which the working class is not creating communism, then decadence is distinct from social revolution'

For the workıng class the epoch of socıal revolutıon ıs a general perıod whıch the revolutıon becomes possıble and necessary (and thus not dıstınct from decadence). It ıs however dıstınct from a partıcular perıod ın whıch the revolutıon actually takes place. Thus the decadent epoch ıncludesa very long perıod of deep counter-revolutıon: roughly 1927 to 1968.

Caprıcorn: I agree that markets dıd expand after 1945 havıng been largely stagnant ın the perıod 1914-45: we can dıscuss how capıtalısm organısed ıtself to do thıs but ıt dıdnt suddenly make capıtalısm a progressıve system agaın. Above all. the boom was only temporary and sınce the 70s the system has been gettıng ınto deeper and deeper dıffcıultıes:

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 25 2007 21:46
Alf wrote:
'Well, if capitalism can be decadent in a period in which the working class is not creating communism, then decadence is distinct from social revolution'

For the workıng class the epoch of socıal revolutıon ıs a general perıod whıch the revolutıon becomes possıble and necessary (and thus not dıstınct from decadence).

What do you mean by revolution becoming necessary?

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 25 2007 21:53
RedHughs wrote:
Yes, capitalisms' condition may have evolved gradually or changed suddenly over the last hundred or hundred and fifty years but it has changed. Not that it ceased to be capitalism but that the subjective and strategic position of the proletariat has changed in a way that is important to understand. When capitalism is "overripe" for revolution, immediate change is on the agenda rather than efforts to slowly build workers' organizations or strategic alliances with bourgeois or pre-bourgeois forces. This translates into opposition to unions, "national liberation struggles" and wage labor in all its forms (including coops and similar schemes). That is to say the fundamental positions of the "communist left".

The theory of decadence does not just say that things have changed. There is a lot more to it than that. I am fully aware that things have changed. In fact, I think things change so much and so fast that periodizations generally make little sense (particularly periodizations like decadence theory which demand that after a certain point everything remains more or less constant) and treat periods of time as unnecessarily unitary.

Also, I'm amazed that you think immediate change is on the agenda. Do you seriously think a revolution will happen in one fell swoop? That suddenly everyone will become anti-wage-labor, anti-union, anti-national liberation struggle, anti-state, etc.?

Mike

mikus
Offline
Joined: 18-07-06
Oct 25 2007 21:55
Alf wrote:
Caprıcorn: I agree that markets dıd expand after 1945 havıng been largely stagnant ın the perıod 1914-45: we can dıscuss how capıtalısm organısed ıtself to do thıs but ıt dıdnt suddenly make capıtalısm a progressıve system agaın. Above all. the boom was only temporary and sınce the 70s the system has been gettıng ınto deeper and deeper dıffcıultıes:

Booms were obviously temporary before the so-called period of decadence as well. Otherwise, we'd still be in a boom right now.