Spirit is the “nature” of individuals, their immediate substance, and its movement and necessity; it is as much the personal consciousness in their existence as it is their pure consciousness, their life, their actuality. – Hegel, Jana Lectures
“We learn history not in order to know how to behave or how to succeed, but to know who we are.”
― Leszek Kołakowski
“The very fact that something is determined as a limitation implies that the limitation is already transcended.” – Hegel
The Contradictions of social life cannot be liquidated; this means that the history of man will exist as long as man himself. – Kolakowski, “The Concept of the Left”
World history is a court of judgement. – Hegel, The Philosophy of Right
There has been a dialectical opposition within myself: my instance and deep study of Marxist economics and theory, my conclusions that Marxist politics no longer has a historical meaning. My recent query of questions of nationalism has let me to air some thoughts that I have been articulating in vague axioms and postulates for, perhaps, too long. I will spell out my current position as I understand it: I realize that this will not only put me at odds with many comrades who I work with and organizations to which I see myself as belonging too. As I understood the function of Marxism, the goal of the Marxist historical project was a dialectical opposition between the bourgeoisie and proletariat. This dialectical opposition, a way of understanding the contradictions of liberal modernity, no longer exists in a meaningful way consistently through the world. Indeed, there are locus of this lingering dialectic, but it appears that it is clear which side has won despite the fact that liberal modernity cannot continue to deliver its promises without both exploitation of groups on the outskirts of modernity.
While many would no longer consider me on the left: I think it is true that Marxism as a historical project, despite the truths of Das Kapital and the Hegelian relationship fails on four points: the failure to conceive of an alternative ideology of value, the inability of any nation-state to achieve the necessary points of production that would allow for a post-scarcity society, the inability to seriously address the knowledge problem, and the inability to conceive of way to get past the dialectic of the state. This are historical failures in every single Marxist society. Does this disprove Marx? For all my respect for Kolakowski in both his earlier and later forms, the “concept of the left” laid out the impossible double-bind of any leftist project, I think Marx’s critique was essentially accurate in a rational level. His knowledge of animal nature and of biological science, however, was imperfect in accordance with his time and the biological is the root: the “spirit” of man is his ideology–this ideology is both a myth and a syntax. I do not mean myth in either the supernatural connotation nor in the idea of the purely false. There is no consciousness that is not alienated–the human consciousness as we understand it can only exist in reflection upon itself. This act, itself, is an alienating act.
Alienation, however, in the broader sense is to be fought, tooth and nail, which leads us to my re-articulation of species-being in Marx: the ideology that approaches our un-reflected being. In the parlance of the Lacan, we have a symbolic order in which our fantasy and our real are bridged in a way that is in accordance with need.
This lead me to think: if Marx became Marx by critiquing LaSalle, Bakunin, Blanqui,et al as well as English Political Economy. This was a real push ahead, but I looked around and saw many things: A pseudo-populist left and a pseudo-populist right in North America, both beholden to a liberal managerial class that had lost its organic loyalty to his subjects and have lost any sense of the progressive liberation of classical liberalism. Furthermore, “radical” groups were often reactionary–not in the “right” sense of the word–but as in only reacting to a media cycle. They were reacting to the spectacle to which they claimed to critique. Indeed, often we had more jargon-laden version of the two pseudo-populist puppet positions.
Only through critiquing the left could I see the left grow, but the more I dig, the more I see that the critique has been done and repeated for almost a half-century now. It is the focus on the way people produce and what way critique, as well as a need for a ideology/myth/meme to bind us together led me to communitarian ethos and “communist” (although no longer in the traditional Marxist sense) politics to move us forward.
SO to clarify my position further, I will spell out my current axioms:
1) Hegel’s thought is, I think, the key to understanding modernity, and Nietzsche’s thought remains the best critique of it; however, both modernity looks to be reaching not just a crisis of the contradictions of its production, but a crisis in its acceleration. Simple classical liberals–i.e. libertarians–retain a optimism that there will be a technological fix; after all, there has been a technological fix before. Ironically, Marxists by and large share this faith, just disagree with the incentive structure and proper use of it. I think, honestly, we are limited by ecological and the ecological limit is real. The means of production may limit social relations, but the resources of production limit both social relations and production. Even from a Marxist category, our naive faith in human reason as applied to technology may truly be approaching an endgame.
2) It is the production capacity within a community that allows a community to exist, but communities are more than their productive capacities and subjectivities are different from subjects. Therefore, it is best to think of the schema we have given societies in terms of integrated wholes, and societies are produced by their histories both ecological and cultural. The separation of ecological and the cultural are what Ken Wilber would call “right-hand” and “left-hand” distinctions: or, the empirical experience of what is outside of us but limits us–the subject here being collective–is and what is within us that limits us.
3) Overcoming of the dialectic within the self is self-overcoming. Overcoming of the dialectic within the society is social evolution/devolution. The later is both inter-subjective, objective, and intra-objective.
4) Left and Right are tied to the current epoch: the left is dead and the right may be dying in its current conception of itself. The radical right is largely gone, and has but a remnant. While there are populist religious conservatives pay some lip service to anti-modernity and have often pre-scientific beliefs, few have any meaningful objective to the benefits of modernity nor do they actually seem serious about pushing their agenda in the supposedly-pluralist democratic Republic.
5) Communities are organic units, to which the individual adds by both deviation and common history/belief. The Endstaat of history would be end of human society, and like the laws of thermodynamics teach us: stasis is death of an energy system. The end of history is the last man, and then only stasis awaits.
6) The nation-state, like most products of liberal modernity, has served itself use and is no longer in its prior coherent form. The nation-state must be rethought in terms of more integral communities. Integrated in common culture and belief. Yet these communities alone cannot and will not defeat the depletion of ecological systems and logic of late capitalism on its own.
7) Cultural Marxism, or Late Marxism, often decried by post-modernists and the remnant of the far right, is a deviation from cultural origins and has become liberalism in Euro-North American thought. Jurgen Habermas, the heir of the Frankfurt school, represents a dialectical liberalism that is at home with classical liberalism, social democracy, and the Marxist academy. This is proof that history has judged Marx’s heirs with hostility: liberal modernity and Marxist dialectics have made reconciled in the academy. Liberalism in both its economic sense and its cultural sense as made peace with leftism. In short, there is little meaningful left, well, left.
8) The last lie of liberal modernity, which, as Zizek pointed out, we all believe only in not believing it is human equity. Even Marx, who was frank about differences in ability, skill, and position in the “Critique of the Gotha Program” (the goal of late communism was not to remove human inequity, but to make it irrelevant) points out that this has always been a myth that few could actually believe in. Human difference demands honesty here. Material social equity may be for the net-good: a classless society may also be for a net good. Material social equity we see in relative scale in East Asian society, which ironically can be rigidly hierarchical in its structure, and we see less crime and more coherence. This only emerged after some ruthless and violent history, but it emerged none the less. It has been degraded by both pressures of capitalist organization and the relaxing of a relative auturkic and protectionist view.
8) It is the task of someone who wants a new social logic to ruthless critique current ideas: the left and the right as we have understood it may not be articulable anymore as time has changed us. Time, however, is not a metaphysical force: it is the shifting of context through our explanations of material conditions and material conditions themselves.
9) It is time to accept that modernity itself keeps various possibilities from emerging from its ashes. For two hundred years, almost everyone has hoped that collapse would just come, and it often it does, only to for a quick reconstitution through expansion. Expansion cannot continue forever, and it is time to start articulating multiple ways of being in response to it.
10) If we have the zombie left and zombie right, superficially shambling from a prior epoch, and a political spectacle amuses us in the middle. We must create the new dialectic and that dialectic opposition will form the new integrated whole within which our history creates and defines us through ecology, economics, and culture as manifestations of different ways of viewing social relations and social creation.