Viewing posts tagged marx

Summing Up, Part 2

In an article entitled ‘Democracy Isn’t Freedom’, Ron Paul wrote:

Americans have been conditioned to accept the word “democracy” as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good.

The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply majoritarianism, which is inherently incompatible with real freedom. Our founding fathers clearly understood this, as evidenced not only by our republican constitutional system, but also by their writings in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere. James Madison cautioned that under a democratic government, “There is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.” John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Yet how many Americans know that the word “democracy” is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?

Now, an important thing to note here is that Paul is absolutely right.  Most of the Founding Fathers did not envisage their new republic as a democracy.  Indeed, Madison (as Chomsky is fond of reminding us) explicitly saw the task of designing the new government ...

A Birthday Crawl

This post will be somewhat disjointed.  This is partly because I am not well at the moment.  It’s also partly because I didn’t start on it early enough and never quite worked out what I wanted it to be.  To be honest, I forgot the anniversary. I am notorious for my bad memory and often forget dates. It’s only Twitter – with its automatic mechanisms for pricking the unpaid contributor to fill it with content, even to the point of scavenging almanacs – which has made me as date-conscious as I am now.

Marx liked his drunken London pub crawls.  Think of this as a semi-lucid crawl around the inns (and outs) of my brain on 5th May 2018.

 

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Today is Marx’s 200th birthday.  A piece of information to which many would respond “So what?”  And I’m actually sympathetic to this view.

Someone recently asked me when I was going to go and see the Marx exhibition currently at the British Library.  They just assumed I would go. But I’m interested in Marx for the ideas.

It’s not that his life is of no interest.  Nor is it that you can divide his ideas and work from ...

Islands and Beaches

A Fragmentary Digression on Individualism, Freedom, Necessity, and Utopia.

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Individualism is a key part of reactionary dogma.  It is relentlessly fetishized by the right, by libertarians, by conservatives, by the YouTube ‘rationals’ and ‘sceptics’, etc.

Murray Rothbard, Austrian School dogmatist and founder of right-libertarianism in America, gave “individual human beings act” as the foundation of his entire philosophical system.  But, aside from the question of whether or not one can logically derive from it what Rothbard does, what does this mean? What can it possibly mean? Apart from anything else, what even is an individual?  The concept, at least in the way that it is asserted by bourgeois ideology, is not supported by the evidence. 

Not only is no man an island, but it appears that people are actually more like beaches. 

A beach is a liminal zone.  Liminality is its essence. It is defined by its lack of definition.  It is sometimes long and sometimes short, depending on the time of day, and the time of year.  Its very nature as a location is that it lies at the edge of the entire concept of location.  It is undeniably a place, but a ...

Böhm-Bawerk Doesn't Werk

An interlude, consisting of a much expanded treatment of a short section from the material I contributed to the Austrian School essay in Phil's new book, which is now on sale along with his other books.

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Amended 16/8/18 to remove a factual error.

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The leading Austrian economist after Menger was Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk.  He was the developer of many key Austrian mainstay theories.  The interesting thing is that he spends a huge amount of his time attacking Marx.  Indeed, as noted, his attack on Marx is to a large extent the springboard which leads him to his own theories. 

His major criticism of Marx is connected to something called the ‘transformation problem’.  But it’s a bit of a twisty story.

In a polemic published not long after the posthumous publication of Capital vol.III (1894), Böhm-Bawerk claimed that volumes I and III of Capital contradict each other when it comes to the matter of how values are transformed into prices.  Marx, says Böhm-Bawerk, claims in vol.I that commodities tend to sell at their values and promises to explain later why it seems otherwise in real life.  However, says Böhm-Bawerk, when Marx comes back to this ...

Turning the Tables

“A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a use-value, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it satisfies human needs, or that it first takes on these properties as the product of human labour. It is absolutely clear that, by his activity, man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.”

- Karl Marx, Capital vol.1


Consciously or not ...

Random Thing #3


And one more.  Please bear in mind, this is a fragment.


Marx saw creativity as essential to human nature.  He famously once said that “Milton produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature”.  The difference is that Marx saw such creativity as a potential in all people, and believed that class society stunted such potentials in the majority by forcing them to do work that was alien to their natures. 

Yet there is some truth to the idea of progress in the history of class society.  Marx is quite comfortable – sometimes a little too comfortable – with the idea that the accumulation of capital can also be the accumulation of progress, that even the imperialistic development of class society can push people ‘forwards’.  It’s just that he also sees horror in the process, eventually calling the ‘progress’ that British imperialism and capitalism brought to India as resembling a “hideous, pagan idol, who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain.”  This is far from an unproblematic way of putting it, but the point stands. 

It is a point ...

Force Decides

Israel is currently killing hundreds of people in Gaza.  As they do from time to time.  To make something Abba Eban once said true by simply inverting his meaning: the Israelis never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace.  Though even that is too kind to them.  As even White House senior staff acknowledge, the Israelis don't want peace.  Give them everything they've ever wanted, and it still isn't enough - because what they say they want isn't what they want.  What they really want is to continue the war until they have finally completed the work that David Ben-Gurion left unfinished, and eradicated the Palestinians.  The mindset of Israel is genocidal, and becoming more openly so by the day.

It is now clear to a great many people that what happened to the Native Americans as a result of the institution and independence of the United States of America was a scandal, a holocaust and a tragedy.  The idea is so commonplace it's become a sentimental truism in pop-culture.  Well, Israel had not done very much that America didn't do in the process ...

Toy Stories

From the reminiscences of Eleanor Marx:

To my sisters — I was then too small — he told tales as they went for walks, and these tales were measured by miles not chapters. “Tell us another mile,” was the cry of the two girls. For my own part, of the many wonderful tales Mohr [Marx] told me, the most wonderful, the most delightful one, was “Hans Röckle.” It went on for months and months; it was a whole series of stories. The pity no one was there to write down these tales so full of poetry, of wit, of humour! Hans Röckle himself was a Hoffmann-like magician, who kept a toyshop, and who was always “hard up.” His shop was full of the most wonderful things — of wooden men and women, giants and dwarfs, kings and queens, workmen and masters, animals and birds as numerous as Noah got into the Arc, tables and chairs, carriages, boxes of all sorts and sizes. And though he was a magician, Hans could never meet his obligations either to the devil or the butcher, and was therefore — much against the grain — constantly obliged to sell his toys to the devil. These then went through wonderful adventures ...

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