Sunday, 9 December 2012

Layman notes trying to understand Marxism Part 1.

Layman notes trying to understand Marxism Part 1.

Hegel was an idealist. He held the zeitgeist was a force moving through history via dialectical syntheisis of opposing forces(theses) which would lead to the end of history. He also mentioned Alienation.

Feuerbach and the Young Hegelians brought this down to earth,humanized it and made it materialist.They tried to work out the practical consequences of this for human beings. Feuerbach said religion led to alienation of humans from themselves because it sets god(s) up as ideas beyond humans when infact it was humans who created them.He sees religion as a human social construct.

Marx takes young hegelian ideas further.He agrees with Feuerbach.He sees economics as causing alienation.Communism is the practical form of Hegel's end of history which will abolish alienation as well as religion.It will be brought about not by the zeitgeist but by the proletariat class.Alienation is caused by the need to produce for economic ends not purely for necessity or beauty etc. Theses on feuerbach is where Marx develops beyond Feuerbach's ideas.He talks about human activity and how theoretical problems are solved by practical matters.

It seems Marx brings down to earth and makes Hegel humanist and practical in much the same way Dewey gets rid of the transcendental and almost mystical aspects of philosophy to make Philosophy about humans not abstract entities or ideas.

Marx says productive forces i.e. technology , determines the relations of production e.g. wage labourer and boss which then determines the way society is organized(superstructure). As technology changes ,old relations break down and are replaced by new ones e.g. feudalism gives way to capitalism. If this sounds quite simplistic then it is.In some places Marx argues as simply and deterministically as this.In other places e.g. 18th Brumaire of Bonaparte he's less deterministic.

Marx did not refer to 'historical materialism' or  'dialectical materialism'.

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they

please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves,

but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted

from the past"(18th Brumaire of Napoleon Bonaparte)

Engels rejected claims that Marx thought things were as simple as this.
It doesn't seem to make sense to ask which comes first relations of proudction or superstructure they are co-influencing factors.Marx seems less determinist also in his Grundisse.

"We cannot solve the chicken-and-egg problem by saying that while the existence of the species is not due to the egg alone, the egg has more to do with it than the chicken"- Peter Singer.
Was Marx a strict determinist who saw history as having a cumulative purpose? sometimes it appears so,
"England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan, was

actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of

enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can

mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social

state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England,

she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that

revolution." Marx's ideas on certain points are far from unambiguous.

To Marx, Capitalism leads to the social conditions that will result in Communism.Marx underestimated the adaptability of Capitalism and the difficulties of achieving Communism.
 Marx could not/did not foresee movements like civil rights,feminism,environmentalism etc so a more comprehensive factoring of these into his ideas is lacking so his views on reform are more bleak.

Communism as described by marx is stateless and classless.Production is for use and need not for profit and there is no money.So to marx ,the USSR etc are not communist.Socialism involved the idea of equal payment for labour-payment based on labour.Obviously post-marx and during marx's time, these were debated and controversial issues.
I've looked at some later marxists and post-marxists.I find Adorno bland and irrelevant. Althusser seems dogmatic though his idea of ideological state apparatus is interesting.Gramsci seems more my kind of guy.Some of the marxists post-marx were very dry and dull and dogmatic.
I find I'm more into New Left ideas like C Wright Mills and Analytical Marxism.Analytical Marxism seems to have what I want:- non dogmatic,provisional,empirical,passionate,pragmatic. Erik Olin Wright seems the best of the bunch from all I've seen he's wrote and said.He's passionate but realistic, not dogmatic or utopian.
Overall, I think Marx had some interesting ideas but it was only the beginnings and he obviously made errors and false predictions.
I've also been interested in Sidney Hook's pragmatist Marxism and Dewey's opinions on Marxism.

"Marxism-Leninism constructed around Marx's writings, to the extent that these were available, a grand theory concerned with the ultimate laws and constituents of the universe, the natural as
well as the social world, even though Marx himself had maintained discretion on such universal questions. Naturalism and cosmology were "domains distantly removed" from Marx's chosen area of expertise, the critique of political economy"-Cambridge Companion to Marx, p.49
"Marx's silence on many of the issues that were held to constitute his system denoted not so much a failure of the scholarly imagination as a well-judged reluctance to extend his arguments into the domains of nature and physical science, domains to which his arguments could have no meaningful application. When we ask ourselves who thought Marx's arguments could and should be extended into "domains distantly related" to his own and who regarded natural science and the laws of thought as gaps needing to be filled with Marxist argumentation, Engels snaps into focus."-Cambridge Companion to Marx,p.49.
"But historical materialism was something left to us not by Marx but by Engels, even though Engels originally credited it to Marx. From the very beginning, Engels's Marxism - and it was Engels who "brought Marxism into existence had an improperly scientistic aspect that is at variance with what we can now identify as Marx's approach,method, and subject matter (Carver, 1981: 38). Engels claimed that Marx's method produced a law of historical development of the kind that invited comparison with Darwinian biology. (Kautsky, too, was obsessed with Darwin and the supposed social application of Darwinism. ) Engels proceeded blithely but fatefully to make claims about the certitude and universality of this law that have no counterpart in Marxs writings"- Cambridge Companion to Marx.
"By contrast, Marxs laws of capitalist development - which are in fact tendential lawlike statements rather than anything else - were never intended to have any application outside the capitalist mode of production.
Marx, unlike Engels, never equated these laws with the laws of matter in motion, laws that he never discussed."-Cambridge Companion to Marx.   *Is this true?*
It's argued extensively by nondogmatic marxists, socialists and admirers of marxists that Karl Marx was misunderstood and misrepresented.He was neither a socialist saint or a scientist-he lived on borrowed funds etc but nor was he evil. May have had some authoritarian tendencies???
Was Bakunin right about some of his ideas???
Marx/Marxism allows for reforms in the short term(I think it's argued it's impractical to oppose reforms) but believes in abolition of capitalism and communism in the long term.

Marx wrote on science? Marx didn't write on science and only Engels did?? Engels was more the one trying to be scientific with his marxism?? German Ideology(1845,published in 1932)- marx's work most like traditional philosophy.Critique of Hegel's politics. Critique of Marx Stirner.Marx's theory of history. Wage Labour and Capital-written in 1847 ."Some of the main topics that the book examines are about labour power and labour, and how labour power becomes a commodity. It also presents the Labour Theory of Value that further develops the distinct differences between labour and labour power. The book also examines the commodity and how the economic principles of supply and demand affect the pricing of certain commodities. Beyond that the book explores how capital and capitalism do not service any purpose other than to gain more of it, which Marx presents as an illogical method of living one’s life". "Grundrisse is central to Marx's body of work. Its subject matter includes production, distribution, exchange, alienation, value, labor, capitalism, the rise of technology and automation, pre-capitalist forms of social organization, and the preconditions for a communist revolution. Scholars have noted major differences between Marx's earlier writings, such as The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, and the late ones, Das Kapital and Grundrisse".  

"The Frankfurt School (German: Frankfurter Schule) refers to a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory,[1] associated in part with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main. The school initially consisted of dissident Marxists who believed that some of Marx's followers had come to parrot a narrow selection of Marx's ideas, usually in defense of orthodox Communist parties. Meanwhile, many of these theorists believed that traditional Marxist theory could not adequately explain the turbulent and unexpected development of capitalist societies in the twentieth century. Critical of both capitalism and Soviet socialism, their writings pointed to the possibility of an alternative path to social development"
"Unlike orthodox Marxism, which merely applies a ready-made "template" to both critique and action, critical theory seeks to be self-critical and rejects any pretensions to absolute truth."
"Horkheimer maintained that critical theory should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity (i.e. how it came to be configured at a specific point in time), just as it should improve understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology. While critical theory must at all times be self-critical, Horkheimer insisted that a theory is only critical if it is explanatory. Critical theory must therefore combine practical and normative thinking in order to "explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify actors to change it, and provide clear norms for criticism and practical goals for the future".
For their part, Frankfurt School theorists quickly came to realize that a dialectical method could only be adopted if it could be applied to itself—that is to say, if they adopted a self-correcting method—a dialectical method that would enable them to correct previous false dialectical interpretations. Accordingly, critical theory rejected the dogmatic historicism and materialism of orthodox Marxism.[30] Indeed, the material tensions and class struggles of which Marx spoke were no longer seen by Frankfurt School theorists as having the same revolutionary potential within contemporary Western societies—an observation which indicated that Marx's dialectical interpretations and predictions were either incomplete or incorrect.
Contrary to orthodox Marxist praxis, which solely seeks to implement an unchangeable and narrow idea of "communism" into practice, critical theorists held that praxis and theory, following the dialectical method, should be interdependent and should mutually influence each other. When Marx famously stated in his Theses on Feuerbach that "philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it", his real idea was that philosophy's only validity was in how it informed action. Frankfurt School theorists would correct this by claiming that when action fails, then the theory guiding it must be reviewed. In short, socialist philosophical thought must be given the ability to criticize itself and "overcome" its own errors. While theory must inform praxis, praxis must also have a chance to inform theory."


Thursday, 12 July 2012

This quote made me consider more what gender is.

"Trans people have often been described as those whose physical sex does not match the gender of their mind or soul. This explanation might make sense intuitively, but it is nonetheless problematic for transfeminism. To say that one has a female mind or soul would mean there are male and female minds that are different from each other in some identifiable way, which in turn may be used to justify discrimination against women. Claiming an essential gender identity can be just as dangerous as resorting to biological essentialism.
Transfeminism believes that we construct our own gender identities based on what feels genuine, comfortable, and sincere to us as we live and relate to others within given social and cultural constraints. This holds true for those whose gender identity is in congruence with their birth sex, as well as for trans people. Our demand for recognition and respect shall in no way be weakened by this acknowledgment. Instead of justifying our existence through reverse essentialism, transfeminism dismantles the assumption that sex and gender ‘naturally’ cohere."
— Emi Koyama

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Karl Marx on The Working Day.

Marx,Capital Vol 1.
Chapter Ten: The Working-Day

"But, what is a working-day?
At all events, less than a natural day. By how much? The capitalist has his own views of this ultima Thule [the outermost limit], the necessary limit of the working-day. As capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one single life impulse, the tendency to create value and surplus-value, to make its constant factor, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour."

"Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him"

If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.

The capitalist then takes his stand on the law of the exchange of commodities. He, like all other buyers, seeks to get the greatest possible benefit out of the use-value of his commodity. Suddenly the voice of the labourer, which had been stifled in the storm and stress of the process of production, rises"

".....But by means of the price that you pay for it each day, I must be able to reproduce it daily, and to sell it again. Apart from natural exhaustion through age, &c., I must be able on the morrow to work with the same normal amount of force, health and freshness as to-day. You preach to me constantly the gospel of “saving” and “abstinence.” Good! I will, like a sensible saving owner, husband my sole wealth, labour-power, and abstain from all foolish waste of it. I will each day spend, set in motion, put into action only as much of it as is compatible with its normal duration, and healthy development. By an unlimited extension of the working-day, you may in one day use up a quantity of labour-power greater than I can restore in three. What you gain in labour I lose in substance. "

"...I demand, therefore, a working-day of normal length, and I demand it without any appeal to your heart, for in money matters sentiment is out of place"

The Capitalist is a role in a system not a criticism of a individual necessarily.

"You may be a model citizen, perhaps a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and in the odour of sanctity to boot; but the thing that you represent face to face with me has no heart in its breast. That which seems to throb there is my own heart-beating. I demand the normal working-day because I, like every other seller, demand the value of my commodity"

"We see then, that, apart from extremely elastic bounds, the nature of the exchange of commodities itself imposes no limit to the working-day, no limit to surplus-labour. The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working-days out of one. On the other hand, the peculiar nature of the commodity sold implies a limit to its consumption by the purchaser, and the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working-day to one of definite normal duration. There is here, therefore, an antinomy, right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides. Hence is it that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working-day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e., the working-class"

"......Nothing is from this point of view more characteristic than the designation of the workers who work full time as “full-timers,” and the children under 13 who are only allowed to work 6 hours as “half-timers.” The worker is here nothing more than personified labour-time. All individual distinctions are merged in those of “full-timers” and “half-timers  "

"....But in its blind unrestrainable passion, its were-wolf hunger for surplus-labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development, and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It higgles over a meal-time, incorporating it where possible with the process of production itself, so that food is given to the labourer as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, grease and oil to the machinery. It reduces the sound sleep needed for the restoration, reparation, refreshment of the bodily powers to just so many hours of torpor as the revival of an organism, absolutely exhausted, renders essential. It is not the normal maintenance of the labour-power which is to determine the limits of the working-day; it is the greatest possible daily expenditure of labour-power, no matter how diseased, compulsory, and painful it may be, which is to determine the limits of the labourers’ period of repose. Capital cares nothing for the length of life of labour-power. All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labour-power, that can be rendered fluent in a working-day. It attains this end by shortening the extent of the labourer’s life, as a greedy farmer snatches increased produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility. "

"....The establishment of a normal working-day is the result of centuries of struggle between capitalist and labourer."

"...The history of the regulation of the working-day in certain branches of production, and the struggle still going on in others in regard to this regulation, prove conclusively that the isolated labourer, the labourer as “free” vendor of his labour-power, when capitalist production has once attained a certain stage, succumbs without any power of resistance. The creation of a normal working-day is, therefore, the product of a protracted civil war, more or less dissembled, between the capitalist class and the working-class"

"It must be acknowledged that our labourer comes out of the process of production other than he entered. In the market he stood as owner of the commodity “labour-power” face to face with other owners of commodities, dealer against dealer. The contract by which he sold to the capitalist his labour-power proved, so to say, in black and white that he disposed of himself freely. The bargain concluded, it is discovered that he was no “free agent,” that the time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the time for which he is forced to sell it, [that in fact the vampire will not lose its hold on him “so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited.” For “protection” against “the serpent of their agonies,” the labourers must put their heads together, and, as a class, compel the passing of a law, an all-powerful social barrier that shall prevent the very workers from selling, by voluntary contract with capital, themselves and their families into slavery and death..."

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Britt Simpson on Lesbianism and Gender.

I follow Britt simpson's blog and this is one of the most insightful things I've seen in a while on Gender by anyone.

Let me make something very clear right now.

When you say it’s more acceptable to be a lesbian than it is to be a gay man, you’re wrong. When you say there’s more stigma associated with being a gay man than with being a lesbian, you’re still wrong. Let’s cite both legal representations and media representations. Then, let’s apply them to real life. First of all, being queer is being queer. It does not matter which sex you were assigned at birth, which gender (if any) you identify as, how well you pass, if you are cis-gendered, if you are trans*, or if your pronouns are chubby bunny. Being queer is being queer. A male-identified individual attracted exclusively to other male-identified individuals is no more queer and no less queer (or, if it makes you feel better, we’ll use the term homosexual) than a female-identified individual who is attracted to other female-identified individuals. I do not care how you present your gender, how you flaunt your sexual orientation, which stereotypes you fit, how much you fuck with gender, where you fit on the gender spectrum, or how many “bitches you get” - having more sex, fitting more stereotypes, or being more “proud” does not make you more gay. Therefore, gay is gay - regardless of gender.

Now, given that gay is gay, let’s look at the facts. Gay marriage is illegal in a majority of the states. There is no law favoring one gender over another. Gay marriage is gay marriage. It is legal, in many states, to be discriminated against in your workplace or even be dismissed based on gender presentation/identity (a transman is no more safe than a transwoman. Someone who does not identify as trans, but does not adhere to stereotypical gender binaries is also unsafe - male or female) and/or sexual orientation. Gay is gay.

Now, it is often argued that gay males are treated worse than their female counterparts. Let’s rethink this. In the media, we see gay men as jokes. We see lesbians as something commodified. Something sexualized. Gay men are made out to be ultra-feminine and are ridiculed for it. Let’s stop for a second and think of who comprises the legal system under which we are “kept in order.” Heterosexual. White. Men. Most of these men are conservative, “good old boys.” Most of these men adhere to gender binaries. Historically, white men have oppressed women, regardless of color and regardless of racist feminists arguing eugenics. Historically, men had extramarital affairs with other men, because this was seen as the pinnacle of power. Historically, women have not been taken seriously. Historically, we are founded upon a patriarchal, heteronormative society. So tell me this, when men are no longer required to be “manly,” to adhere to gender binaries, to maintain an air of tough, unforgiving, strength with no room for emotional literacy, what happens to our patriarchy? Women have never been taken seriously. Historically, laws against sodomy prevented male homosexuals from partaking in sex, but women were left alone, because what we do together isn’t considered sex based upon our western obsession with phallic symbolism and patriarchal structures. Historically, what women do is of no concern to men.

Time to examine the media! This is easy. Fag hags, gay best friends, Ru Paul’s drag race. Logo, the only cable station providing access to variant LGBTQ narratives has decided to become the “new Bravo,” as they put it, canceling all their queer programming except Ru Paul. Will & Grace also thrived in mainstream entertainment. These are campy shows, providing entertainment for the heterosexual world - commodifying an identity and dehumanizing a group. We then had the A-List, a show focused on gay MALE POWER couples. (Are you catching my drift so far with this notion of male power and female inferiority?) Now, if you happen to be privileged enough to have access to premium channels, such as Showtime, you may be familiar with the L Word. This is a show that, while providing variant identities and narratives for queer women, hypersexualizes them, focusing on what they do in bed. This is a show with both queer women and heterosexual males as its primary target audience. The L Word thrived due to its hypersexuality, while The Real L Word, a show with, essentially, the same cast, flat-lined. I’m hedging my bets on the fact that these are real people who refuse to have a show documenting their life, identity, and culture commodified as a sex tape. Aka sex sells, queer identity is nothing. Aside from this small piece (which could hardly be considered a saving grace), what do we have? Lesbians on Jerry Springer, playing up the intersectionalities of low socio-economic statuses, of race, of lack of education. We have dykes riding motorcycles portrayed as the bad guy. This is what we are learning about queer individuals. We are learning it’s okay for females to befriend the gay man, as he is expected to be funny and relate to their femininity. We are learning it’s not okay for men to befriend the gay man, because he is exposing a vulnerability that all men have, because it is imperative to protect the image of what man is. We are casting off gay men as their own gender identity. And we are learning, finally, that the heterosexual female should fear the lesbian. She should speculate the lesbian’s intentions at every slumber party they attended together (even though they slept 20 feet apart in different rooms). We are learning that lesbians are still women as long as they are pretty. If they are pretty, there is hope, they can be hypersexualzied as can all women, who cares what they actually want or do. We are learning gender non-conforming lesbians are outcasts, accepted by neither men or women - like gay men, they have become their own gender, one which does not fit in this society.

Now, let’s apply our voyeuristic tendencies as a society to real life. How do we learn to interact with queer women? How do we learn to act with queer men? When was the last time you heard a woman tell a gay man he just hasn’t fucked the right pussy yet? When was the last time you heard a gay man being told it was just a phase? What parties do you attend where male-identified individuals are objectified and hypersexualized for the pleasure of other guests? When a guy comes out, does he not find allies among his heterosexual female peers? Does he not win a fag hag? When was the last time a cis-gendered, “attractive” lesbian was castigated for “doing gay” in public by a male spectator? What this comes down to is an issue of gender. There exists, in our society, a certain male privilege, one not known to female-identified individuals, GNC individuals, and, in some cases, transmen. Homosexual men receive more reprimand and harsher punishments both legally and socially by other males as they have an image to uphold, a societal institution to reinforce. Homosexual women are sexualized and dismissed. They are commodified for the pleasure of heterosexual men. The next time you watch the L Word, tell yourself your identity has been commodified for your own benefit as you watch “bi-curious” Jenny or see the dilapidation of Tina and Bette’s relationship because Tina just can’t give up the dick. Sure, maybe they get back together, but let it be known to our heteronormative patriarchal society, Tina was willing to risk everything just to satisfy herself on a WHITE heterosexual cock.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Political Works I've read.

Two concepts of Liberty-Isaiah Berlin.
365 Ways to Change the World: How to Make a Difference One Day at a Time By Michael Norton.
 Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand.
John Rawls- Justice as Fairness: A restatement(2001).
Hobbes- Leviathan
The Prince- Machiavelli.
Henry Hazlitt- Economics in one lesson
Civil Disobedience-Thoreau.
Proudhon- Philosophy of Progress and also What is Property?
An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government.

Herland By Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Eco-SocialismFrom Deep Ecology to Social Justice By David Pepper.
Road to Serfdom(The condensed version of the road to serfdom) by Hayek
ABc of Anarchism By Alexander Berkman
Clarence Lee Swartz, What is Mutualism
Mikhail Bakunin:-Where I stand,Revolutionary Catechism, Solidarity in Liberty: The Workers' Path to Freedom  etc.
Marx-Communist Manifesto.The German Ideology.
Herbert Marcuse-One Dimensional Man.
After Capitalism By David Schweickart .
For a New Liberty-Murray Rothbard
Etienne De La Boetie- The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.
Kant’s Principles of Politics, including his essay on Perpetual Peace. A Contribution to Political Science(Translated William Hastie)
 Jean Jacques Rousseau-The Social Contract.
The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone By  Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
The Climate Files By Fred Pearce.
Basic Instincts:Human Nature and the New Economics By Peter Lunn.
Five Reflections About 21st Century Socialism
How I became an anarchist By Ken Knabb.