Last and First Men is an attempt to redefine a version of revolutionary communism that can both move beyond marxism and also release its latent power by relieving the subject from the narrowness of nineteenth century positivism.
The left, and beyond that the culture of scientism, cannot function on the narrow view of modernity generated by the nineteenth century’s contraction of viewpoints. Compare Feuerbach with the immense contribution of German Classical philosophy. How did it happen that the entire feast was rejected for a useless dumbed-down philosophy such as that of Feuerbach (a thinker of some interest to be sure, it might help to actually read him): answer, it was taken as ‘ideology’ and ‘The German Ideology’ by Marx/Engels expressed this attempt to break with the core philosophical advances of modernity. It seemed brilliant at the time, but we can see the result.
The culture of scientism is going to wreck modernity. The postmodernists said as much and wished to move on. But their version was even worse. That’s the lesson: attempts to replace modernity don’t work because noone understands it.
The debate goes on as to whether scientists should study something from the liberal arts. Are you guys kidding? A bunch of true idiot science nerds think they have the key to the universe and will rewrite history along those lines. That idiocy has grown more and more current, but it won’t work.
The story of modernity isn’t about the second coming of science nerds doing mechanics puzzles from Newton. It is a hypercomplex balance of religion, reformation, science, causality/freedom descants all the way through, revolutions, the Romantic Reaction, the rise of modern music, the list is very long. But we have become satisfied with a culture science jocks, an exceptionally stupid brand of the ‘boy we’re smart’ set in the view of modernity as a set of succession sciences a la Newton. Even Marx seems to have fallen into that trap, up to a point, but he sensed some larger framework was needed. A bungled education system allows these people to ignore almost the whole of the modern achievement, and then turns them into the experts to pass judgment on everything and try and rewrite that in strange set of parodies.
It might help to look at the supercomplex view of modernity from WHEE: this section in a short list chronicles about fifty of the key innovations and contributions of modernity. Most people trained in science are oblivious to any of it, and aggressively proud of their ignorance.
And the ‘macro model’ shows how the problem emerges: the ‘transition’ is a finite interval which suddenly comes to an end, and the system reverts to autonomous action. So the version of modernity we deal with is a highly selective and dumbed-down version of a very complicated advance.
Last and First Men tries to work with a future version of a new communism that is a successor to modernity that can recover some of the richness of the early modern.
Communism? It seems strange, but one aspect of the contraction from the early modern was the obsessive take-over of culture and thought by capitalist ideology. We can see how swiftly this destroyed the great American experiment, a lost cause at this point.
The need, therefore, for a postcapitalist recreation of modernity is tabled as the only venue with a chance of success.
Beyond that controversial formulation we can simply see that the legacy of modernity could nosedive disastrously. We are starting to see it already. How in one generation could we have lost it on democracy a lot of headscratchers are asking. It is likely to get worse. If supposedly intelligent people are so bemused by economic ideology they deny the evidence of global warming we are in trouble. We could arrive very soon at the point where the junkies of capitalist ideology will have to go cold turkey on the whole shebang.
In any case the dynamics of modernity require study to see what is really going one. Last and First Men can be useful there, I think.
The dynamics of the macro effect throw at least some light on this effect. To be realistic, we can hardly expect easy embrace of a (new) communist platform any time soon. Who knows? It may happen suddenly: but the gesture at the least enforces the discipline of rethinking the modern economy. We will suddenly have no other choice, so we should start now.