History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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End times of marginalism…the marginal propensity to revolt (…??)

March 6th, 2018 · No Comments

The left keeps failing because it can’t properly define its problem or its solution. Marx/Engels are of course the classic exemplars although they are really synthesizers of the era leading up to 1848. In a way their success was their failure: the inchoate socialisms dismissed as ‘utopian’ were to be organized and given a framework beyond naivete and false ethical idealism. The problem is that Marx ended up compounding the problem with a solution that was problematical. It we study the history of the post-Hegelian period and the question of so-called scientism we can see an aspect of the problem. Marx might have done better to try and recast the ‘utopian’ solutions. His attempt at science subjected the left to a new riddle it couldn’t solve and multiple dense texts from Grundrisse to Capital whose canonical status was on the one had a near religious codification and an invitation to swift counterattack on the grounds of ‘theory’.

In addition the field of classical economics rapidly shifted into the marginalist revolution which was never addressed by a left stranded in a dated economic ideology. The marginalist revolution is obscure to this day: in an enigmatic mix of insight and sophistry the issue of ‘value’ was sprinkled with bastard calculus pixie dust and upgraded to the status of science in a sort peter principle scientism. The most confusing aspect is that their way of defining, beside the math, may be onto something. After all three independent economists developed the gist of the idea in isolation, on the way to the apotheosis of neo-classical economics. The left never properly grappled with this, and the work of many leftist economists was lost on the larger cadre. There are of course many leftist contributions to brand variants of this neo-delusion but overall the thicket of mathematical constructs used as ideology is a successful mystification. We should note that a lost of the early work on neo-classical equilibrium economics was done by left socialists.
But the tide is turning, or has turned. The collapse of the bolshevik experiments in 1898 seems in retrospect the first step to a real left in the tiding of the older confused legacy. Further if the charge of premature revolution haunted the second/bolshevik phases that charge is empty in our current time frame, given the diseased and corrupt so-called capitalism in the era of financialized derivatives, ayn randian induced insanity of ideologue economics, and the mesmerized blindness toward ecological collapse in the obsessive attack in the US on its own EPA. A system that has gone insane no longer projects its mystique. Next to a sound expose of the failure of legacy marxism, the field is cleared for a new initiative if only thinking can resolve the truly labyrinthine confusion of classic marxism next to (neo-)classical economics. There is no chance now to chant marxist shibboleth mantras or take refuge in wonderland mathematical economics.
But a basic clarity is possible: the emergence of modern politics has trended toward democracy and the emergence of modern industrialization has both fueled a capitalist chaser and provoked a crisis of ecology and democracy. We might keep it that simple and proceed to a response as praxis that ‘pays a small fine’ for instances of regurgitated marxism. The latter needs not rejection but a kind of sublation in a higher synthesis.
The issues of ecology, automation, and degrowth will in fact enforce a new rethinking and we can return to the 1848 era to find the plain vanilla invocations of the critiques of capitalism and class suggesting a postcapitalist communism. The basics were always simple until they were embroidered into a complexity that defies clear reason. The final verdict on the marginal calculus might be to steal ideas with an idea of the marginal propensity to revolt.

Reinventing the left
January 14th, 2018 ·
In a way it has taken a generation for the calcified versions of left activism to lose their hold: we need a new formulation to appeal both to what is left of the working class (in the US) and to a larger perspective, what we have called the ‘universal class’.

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