I recently received the following e-mail, apparently a comment upon my undergraduate paper “The Problem of Self-Referentiality in Marx’s Historical Materialism”:
this sentence is circular, but to no ill effect, although the strong interpretation of historical materialism should not detract from the urgency of a necessary resistance at the time Marx and Engels wrote, as well as within the conflicts of today. All of the writings of Marx are not proto-anti-objectivist, as he recognized, in a Malthusian sense, that the teleological inevitability of historical transformation was, as you wrote, strictly a stage subject to the socio-economic pressures of the industry of intellectualism and the economy of production, which does not need to recognize the rights of people. Classic Communism in Russia was not the answer, but neither was its negation. The problem is simply in deeming a specific mode of economic life a historically bound mode. Now, these determinisms were not at all absolute; in fact, individual variation, or, more humanistically, creativity, was suppressed by the commodifications of human activity-production. The goal of this movement was not to destroy the heart of the Romantic, but to elevate the heart to an inviolable position within economic strata. Can we be capable of choices beyond or outside of materialistic accumulation-as-personal-identity? Is ther any incentive? Well, if we truly want to see a world of others, a world of unknowable contingency and illimitable communication (a human world), then a moral imperative must be shed in favor of a self-determining epistemological desire, especially in a world without god. People may desire power above us, but insistence on immortalization may not always prevail when one realizes that, no matter what we do, we will not be conscious of its final, or post-mortem, outcome.
Your sentence (in your undergraduate paper “The Problem of Self-Referentiality in Marx’s Historical Materialism”) ” This account of historical transformation is ultimately self-defeating, because any attempt to apply Marx’s historical materialism to his own theory leads to nothing but contradiction” is either circular (i.e. an intended meaning of the term “contradiction” as ‘self-contradiction’) or itself ambiguous, which may lead to one interpreting your use of your word “contradiction” to apply to Marx’s ideological opponents, but I am sure you were aware of this. then again, it is possible to admit, even as a Randian objectivist, that elements of the logic Marx employed to support himself are indeed also correct in relation to specific tendencies among the political, religious, philosophical, and cultural writers of his day and our own. This is true also of Marx’s urgency at his time, since real abuses of labor were prevalent. Without the paradigm established by socialists like Marx and Engels, reconciliation of many of these problems would have been deferred. I am including moderate reformists, anarchists, and syndicalists – who were instrumental in developing the libertarian view). Industrialists have ultimately benefited from adaptation to the (indirect) consciousness of labor of labor’s specific class conditions. Imagine what would happen if people would only have recourse to paroxysmal violence? After all, violence in most of the world now, just like in the 19th and early 20th centuries, nationalistically and religiously based.
I see nothing rational about individualism in every situation, unless we may be guilty of ideological error simply by being dependent on our families in our formative pasts. Babies are all communists.
“Although being able to trace the development of history to one single cause would be convenient, such a simplistic model of history inevitably fails because it cannot possible capture all the complexity of the actual process of history.”
Do you mean processes? Singularizing history is just as simplistic as singular causality, which is indeed Hegelian. Poor Marx. Poor Rand. Can’t we have dialogue?
Uh, that would require some measure of comprehensibility, as opposed to the above sort of jibberish, I suspect.
Update: I just received the following note from this fellow, in response to my telling him via e-mail that dialogue would require him to “say something comprehensible.”
I guess editing my message would have been the first step toward this naive idealist’s fulfillment of a need for dialogue with opponents-who-are-not-truly-opponents. My point is that all elements of a philosophical system will never, in every context and in every predicament and especially when extended to practical things (as well as itself, as directly indicated only at the order of this particular 19th c. writer) be entirely self-consistent. Marx is a very easy target.
Ah yes, logical consistency — what a silly dream!