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A critique of historical materialism…

January 9th, 2016 · 1 Comment

http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/58987/1/58987.pdf: Arguments for Socialism

We cited this yesterday, a work parallel to Toward a New Socialism by the same author(s).

But I am referring to issues of economic calculation.
The larger issues of historical materialism, to me, are no longer the best way to present the issue of socialism/communism. Pitting ‘historical materialism’ against ‘subjectivism’ is part of the legacy of Marx’s economic fundamentalism and never really worked. The author has an engaging discussion, however, of recent attempts to look at the Labor Theory of Value and statistical mechanics.
But the stance of Last and First Men suggests a new approach: setting complex theories aside and looking at equivalents that are based on historical empiricism. Theories are almost always wrong, especially in the social sciences. It is so easy to restate historical materialism in a broader fashion: the connection of economic systems to class and ideology. Marx tried to create a general theory of economic determination and it is a gift to the critics of marxism.

Last and First Men uses a larger historical framework to study economic systems as ad hoc constructs of given civilizations. There Marx’s insights are easy to verify in the sense of the relationship of economy, ideology and class. But an overarching generalization isn’t going to work.

More generally the negation of all subjectivism has been counterproductive on the left. Why get into a hopelessly metaphysical debate over idealism vs. materialism? Who cares at this point. A viable socialism can’t enforce pareticular ‘isms’ at this point.

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