Tag Archives: marxism

Thomas Schelling

The book has had a good reception, and many have cheered me by telling me they liked it or learned from it. But the response that warms me most after twenty years is the late John Strachey’s. John Strachey, whose books I had read in college, had been an outstanding Marxist economist in the 1930s. After the war he had been defense minister in Britain’s Labor Government. Some of us at Harvard’s Center for International Affairs invited him to visit because he was writing a book on disarmament and arms control. When he called on me he exclaimed how much this book had done for his thinking, and as he talked with enthusiasm I tried to guess which of my sophisticated ideas in which chapters had made so much difference to him. It turned out it wasn’t any particular idea in any particular chapter. Until he read this book, he had simply not comprehended that an inherently non-zero-sum conflict could exist. He had known that conflict could coexist with common interest but had thought, or taken for granted, that they were essentially separable, not aspects of an integral structure. A scholar concerned with monopoly capitalism and class struggle, nuclear strategy and alliance politics, working late in his career on arms control and peacemaking, had tumbled, in reading my book, to an idea so rudimentary that I hadn’t even known it wasn’t obvious.

Thomas Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960, pp. vi-vii [‘Preface to the 1980 edition’]

Dylan Matthews

Neoreactionaries are obsessed with taking down what Moldbug refers to as “the Cathedral”: a complex of Ivy League universities, the New York Times and other elite media institutions, Hollywood, and more that function to craft and mold public opinion so as to silence opposing viewpoints.

Park MacDougald, in an excellent piece on Nick Land’s brand of neoreaction, describes the Cathedral as a “media-academic mind-control apparatus.” I actually think the best analogy is to the role the patriarchy plays in radical feminist epistemology, or the role of “ideology” in Marxism. Neo-reaction demands a total rethinking of the way the world works, and such attempts generally only succeed if they can attack the sources of knowledge in society and offer a theory for why they’re systematically fallible.

That’s how feminist scholars have (I think correctly) undermined pseudoscientific attempts to paint female servility as natural, or male aggression and violence as inevitable and ultimately acceptable. Yes, the argument goes, these ideas have had elite supporters in the past, but those elites were tainted by institutional sexism. Similarly, Marxists are always alert to how media produced by big corporations can be tilted to serve those corporations’ class interests. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur once helpfully dubbed this kind of argument the “hermeneutics of suspicion.”

Neoreaction takes this approach and flips it on its head. No, it’s not institutional sexism or bourgeois class interest that’s perverting our knowledge base. It’s institutional progressivism, and fear of the revival of monarchism, tribalism, and prejudice.

That makes it a lot easier for neoreactionaries to defend their narrative of Western decline and democratic failure. If you look at the numbers, the Whig theory of history — with some faults and starts, everything’s getting better — appears to be basically right. Extreme poverty is at historic lows, hunger and infant mortality are plummeting, life expectancy is going up, war is on the decline, education is more available, homicide rates are down, etc.

But what if those numbers are all lies produced by biased Cathedral sources in academia and propagated by Cathedral tools in the media like Vox? What then?

Dylan Matthews, ‘The Alt-right Is More than Warmed-over White Supremacy. It’s That, but Way Way Weirder’, Vox, August, 25, 2016

Juan José Sebreli

Punto por punto, el guevarismo fue lo opuesto al pensamiento de Marx y del socialismo clásico: sustituía la autoemancipación por la vanguardia iluminada y el jefe carismático, la movilización de masas por el foco, la democracia social por la dictadura política, el partido por la guerrilla, la lucha de clases por la lucha entre naciones ricas y pobres, la clase trabajadora por el campesinado, las condiciones objetivas por el voluntarismo, el socialismo, sólo possible en las sociedades avanzadas, por el de los pueblos más pobres.

Juan José Sebreli, Comediantes y mártires: ensayo contra los mitos, Buenos Aires, 2008, p. 145

John Lucas

Although men may sometimes take a God’s eye view of the universe, they cannot consistently think of themselves as not being covered by any universal account they give of the world or of humanity. For they are men, and live in the world. It is a fair criticism of many philosophies, and not only determinism, that they are hoist with their own petard. The Marxist who says that all ideologies have no independent validity and merely reflect the class interests of those who hold them can be told that in that case his Marxist views merely express the economic interests of his class, and have no more claim to be adjudged true or valid than any other views. So too the Freudian, if he makes out that everybody else’s philosophy is merely the consequence of childhood experiences, is, by parity of reasoning, revealing merely his delayed response to what happened to him when he was a child. So too the determinist. If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else.

John Lucas, The Freedom of the Will, Oxford, 1970, p. 114

Jon Elster

In Marxist writings on education, bureaucracy and indeed on most topics there seems to be an implicit regulative idea that ‘Every institution or behavioural pattern in capitalist society serves the interests of capitalisms and is maintained because it serves those interests.’ Marxists seem to have lost their sense of the ironies of history, whereby societies can generate patterns that lead to their own destruction. In order to substantiate this naïve brand of functionalism Marxists have invented a special gimmick, which is to manipulate the time perspective. If, say, the actions of the State go counter to short-term capitalist interests, this has the function of safeguarding long-term capitalist interests; heads I win, tails you lose. […] Now this is not only an arbitrary procedure, because ‘any argument can be turned to any effect by juggling with the time scale’. It is also a theoretically inconsistent one, because functional analysis cannot invoke indirect strategies […]. To the extent that the state is maintained through the effects of its actions on the capitalist class, the negative short-term effects should make it disappear (or change) before the long-term positive effects come to be felt. Only intentional actors are capable of taking one step backwards in order to take two steps forwards later on, so that the short-term/long-term distinction logically leads to a conspiratorial interpretation of history, given the absence of empirical evidence for such intentions.

Jon Elster, Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality, rev. ed., Cambridge, 1984, pp. 34-35.

Oscar Terán

[U]na doctrina con elementos libertarios y entiestatalistas debería exlicar por qué ha terminado por constituirse en la aureola ideológica de regímenes autocráticos; de qué modo las promesas que anunciaban el fin de la prehistoria han podido reforzar la historia de crímenes y tormentos de un siglo que no ha carecido precisamente de horrores; cómo el avance hacia una distribución más justa de la riqueza ha sido acompañado de nuevas y reprobables jerarquizaciones; por qué la proyectada democracia de los trabajadores desembocó en la despolitización de las masas y en la negación de derechos sindicales elementales; el pasaje del reino de la necesidad al de la libertad, en el cercenamiento de libertades básicas; el internacionalismo proletario, en el derecho imperial de intervención armada en los territorios sojuzgados y en el enfrentamiento violento y sin principios entre países del mismo campo socialista.

No obstante, si todos esos elementos eran más que suficientes para legitimar la puesta en crisis del marxismo, el anacronismo argentino ha querido que la recibamos con el carácter de una polémica doblemente aplazada, puesto que era imposible tematizarla cuando el terrorismo de Estado se dedicaba a descuartizar los cuerpos de tantos marxistas junto con las doctrinas que los sustentaban. Empero, un relato que hoy exculpe lisa y llanamente la responsabilidad de la izquierda en nuestro país, arguyendo el salvajismo incomnensurablemente mayor de la barbarie militar, no haría más que contribuir a ese viaje tan argentino por los parajes de la amnesia. Tanto las versiones peronistas como de izquierda, tanto las estrategias insurreccionalistas como guerirrlleras, tanto el obrerismo clasista como el purismo armado, estruvieron fuertemente animados de pulsiones jacobinas y autoritarias que se tradujeron en el desconocimiento de la democracia como un valor sustantivo y en una escisión riesgosa entre la política y la moral.

Oscar Terán, ‘Una polémica postergada: la crisis del marxismo’, in De utopías, catástrofes y esperanzas: un camino intelectual, Buenos Aires, 2006, p. 49

Peter Grosvenor

T]he intellectual left is likely to be the prime beneficiary if the social sciences and the humanities can be rescued from residual Marxism and obscurantist postmodernism.

Peter Grosvenor, ‘Evolutionary Psychology and the Intellectual Left’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, vol. 45, no. 3 (Summer, 2002), p. 446

Ángel Cappelletti

Es frecuente entre los historiadores y sociólogos que se ocupan hoy del anarquismo afirmar que éste representa una ideología del pasado. Si con ello se quiere decir simplemente que tal ideología logró su máxima influencia en el pueblo y en el movimiento obrero a fines del siglo XIX y durante la primera década del XX, nada podemos objetar. Pero si ese juicio implica la idea de que el anarquismo es algo muerto y esencialmente inadecuado al mundo del presente, si pretende que él no puede interpretar ni cambiar la sociedad de hoy, creemos que constituye un notorio error. Frente a la grave crisis (teórica y práctica) del marxismo, que se debate entre un stalinismo más o menos vergonzante y una socialdemocracia que suele renegar de su pasado, el anarquismo representa, más bien, la ideología del futuro.

Ángel Cappelletti, La ideología anarquista, Buenos Aires, 1992, pp. 130-131

Carl Oglesby

For one thing, France does not have a civil-libertarian tradition of the Anglo-Saxon variety. For another thing, there simply is a totalitarian strain among large sements of the French intelligentisa. Marxism-Leninism and Stalinism, for example, were much more viable and significant doctrines among the French than in England or the United States. What’s called the Left, especially in France, has a large segment that is deeply authoritarian.

Carl Oglesby, Boston Magazine, December 1981, p. 130

Jon Elster

When Marx went into his inner exile in the British Museum, he followed the strategy “One step backward, two steps forward,” taking time off from politics to fashion a tool that could then be of use in politics. The theory he developed has done service for a century but it becoming increasingly irrelevant for most of our urgent problems. “Back to the British Museum!” is hardly a slogan with mass political appeal, but it is one that Marxists would do well to ponder.

Jon Elster, An Introduction to Karl Marx, Cambridge, 1986, p. 17

Alan Carter

Marxists, by considering the use of state power or in advocating a revolutionary vanguard (which would eventually form a new state power) as acceptable means toward equality and freedom, advocate courses of action that, as the State-Primacy Theory reveals, would perpetuate the extensive inequalities Marxists ostensibly oppose. And they are uncritical of such courses of action because their theory overlooks the fundamental importance of the state and, especially, state power. The result of this is the promotion of a strategy that inadvertently perpetuates unfreedom and inequality. Consequently, the State-Primacy Theory indicates that anarchists are indeed correct to oppose all statist and vanguardist approaches to revolutionary change. In this respect, the State-Primacy Theory provides anarchism with the theory of historical transition it requires.

So, an anarchist theory of history can be developed that offers the promise of being at least as effective as Marxist theory in explaining technological, economic, and political developments but that has the added advantage, by drawing attention to the tremendous power that the state can exert, of predicting accurately the outcome of statist and vanguardist revolutions. This is in stark contrast with Marxist theory, which, through underemphasizing the power of the state because of an unbalanced stress on the economic, has created such a dangerous pitfall for the Left. By stressing the technological and the economic, Marxists have distracted attention from the state. This proved disastrous in the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and numerous revolutions in the Third World and will do so time and time again until Marx’s theory of history is eventually abandoned by the Left.

Alan Carter, ‘Analytical Anarchism: Some Conceptual Foundations’, Political Theory, vol. 28, no. 2. (April, 2000)

Beatriz Sarlo

A partir de ese momento, en la fracción de la izquierda revolucionaria donde milité durante muchos años—seis o siete años muy intensos, históricamente plagados de acontecimientos—, aprendí a razonar contra todas las evidencias. Porque razonar desde esa secta marxista-leninista era hacerlo contra todas las evidencias, no las que podían ser construidas por un observador objetivo de la realidad, sino también contra las que se le aparecían a cualquiera de los compañeros que se levantaba y leía los diarios cotidianamente, que leía La Nación. Lo que había instalado el partido en todos nosotros no era la desconfianza frente a las informaciones burguesas sino, simplemente, otro sistema de datos que reemplazaba al que venía de los diarios, de los libros y de la gente. Ese partido razonaba contra todas las evidencias y por eso terminó—ese fue el momento en el que yo me fui—caracterizando al golpe de Estado del ’76 como un golpe prosoviético; fue la culminación de un razonar contra toda evidencia.

Beatriz Sarlo, in Javier Trímboli (ed.), La izquierda en la Argentina, Buenos Aires, 1998, p. 226