Saturday, May 5, 2012

On the coming revolution

I have personally observed a bewildering number of interpretations of Marx's structural analysis of Capitalism. The following represents maybe a condensation of one, and one that probably Marx himself would have never proposed, nor even implied.

Anonymous wrote:
Here is how Marxism is supposed to work:
1)      Overthrow the capitalists
2)      Establish the dictatorship of the proletariat
3)      Redistribute the means of production to the workers
4)      Workers set up their cooperatives
5)      When that is all done, the dictatorship of the proletariat dissolves itself and they join the workers

This has to be the essence of naiveté. There ain’t no powerful group that will dissolve itself. It would much rather stay in power and have the other schmucks become workers and then lord over them. Somehow “communism” always gets stuck in the dictatorship-phase. That is why I term it a naïve utopia.

Though I don't doubt that idealists of any stripe could produce such a formula --  idealists, after all, see the world idealistically -- Marx himself was more of a structural materialist, which of course has its shortcomings dealing with the psychological realms of human behavior. But he also provided some interesting ways of analyzing social phenomenon.

To understand Marx's social theory you have to have at least a rudimentary understanding of his notion of the Greek's original recognition of a what they viewed as a natural process that's always taking place, threading through and along with a lot of other societal processes, and one that can be improved upon if people are conscious of it. That is what Marx referred to as the dialectic, which has been central to Indian and European philosophy since antiquity.

A dialectical process is different than debate.  One is a "reasoning together with empathy" kind of process while the other is more like combat.  Debate can override the dialectical process in a society and dominate it.  Debate can be better recognized as an egotistical process that takes place amongst those who are committed to their points of view and support them as if to the death.  Dialectical reasoning is a process where the contradictions are presented, observed and can be resolved through efforts at mutual understanding.

The ancient differences between rhetorical sophistry and dialectical dialogue is probably one of the most apparent phenomenon one can observe in modern society, or would be, if there were enough opportunities to observe a dialectical dialogue taking place.  Unfortunately, perhaps thanks to the nature of how we go about imagining our society and the way it is shared through technologies like television and radio, all supported by commercial principles, it seems that the sophists always have center stage in the process.  After all, sophists, renowned for their love flamboyancy, illusion and spectacle as a form of persuasion, mark the more desired features of extroverted personalities that make a sales and an objectively commodity-oriented social system work.

These sophistic emphases in style can be selective so that they will generally tend to appeal to baser emotions in crowds of people watching rather than to the higher reasoning that can take place in a quiet atmosphere among friends sharing tea and coffee along with their conversation.  That's a style of conversing which could also entail the incorporation of evolved nuanced emotions, if those also happen to be encouraged by society; emotions that connect rather than disconnect heart/mind.  But we don't see many examples of that these days.

Dialectical reasoning praxis has dwindled now to only a few practicing introverts who pretty much have to find ways to exist at the margins of modern societies, while an extroverted society as a whole burns brightly, consumingly, perhaps even to the extent of eventually achieving a form of mass necrophilia through an entrenched societal objectification processes.

Marx took this dialectical concept and attempted to develop a structural analysis of society where a materialistic-based dialectic is taking place. This was in a kind of philosophical contradiction to the prevailing views of idealism at the time. He was completely unaware of the psychological power of the processes he was trying to describe in their infancy to absolve those material contradictions he perceived. As we have witnessed -- with some degree of horror at least for me -- through the Twentieth Century, mass absolution would be achieved by modern day media techniques, which, anyone might observe, act quite effectively to transform and mold human thinking to fit the form of the capitalist mode and means of production, which Marx, in his time, imagined to be a natural part of that material-based dialectical process, inspired by an expected consciousness-based struggle (which in fact was taking place at the time, think of the Luddites as one example, when he was observing industrialization taking root in Manchester England) as the result of recognition by people of their contradictory circumstances as tools of the owners of those production features.

We may be seeing why Marx's predicted dialectical historical process -- whereby those who are oppressed would necessarily rebel against their oppressors -- will finally come about in a way that the mass media can no longer diffuse with spectacle and illusion.  We are seeing movements against the status quo in a planet wide revolt now that the Capitalist contradictions have run to an extreme, abusing not just people but the planet itself.  Perhaps it has only been delayed and therefore exaggerated by factors Marx could not have predicted.  One of those factors would be the evolution of technologies based on cheap, condensed stored energy.  We call them fossil fuels these days:  Oil, coal, gas.

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