Bootstraps, Redux: Is Ideological Entertainers really the issue?

“Any revolutionary who is to be counted upon can only be in it for himself. Unselfish people can always switch loyalty from one projection to another.” – Bob Black, qtd in Anarchism After Leftism

All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice. – Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach

“In conclusion, may we note that we, like others, translate Unterordnung as subordination and Subsumtion as subsumption. Subsumtion means rather more than just submission. Subsumieren really means “to include in something”, ” to subordinate”, “to implicate”, so it seems that Marx wanted to indicate that capital makes its own substance out of labour, that capital incorporates labour inside itself and makes it into capital. This is completely coherent with what we said on the passage of the labour process into capital’s labour process i.e. that capital takes on a bodily form, incarnates itself. It can only do this by appropriating labour-power to itself, and here, as in German, “to appropriate to itself” (sich aneignen) should be taken literally, in its strongest sense. In the period of formal domination, capital does not manage to subjugate, and thus to incorporate, labour-power, which remains outside it, rebels against it to the extent of putting in danger the development of the process, since capital depends on it completely. But the introduction of machinery transforms everything. Capital becomes the master of all the activity that the proletarian performs in the factory. Capital incorporates the human brain, appropriates it to itself, with the development of cybernetics; with computing, it creates its own language, on which human language must model itself etc.. Now it is not only the proletarians – those who produce surplus-value – who are subsumed under capital, but all men, the greater part of whom is proletarianized. It is the real domination over society, a domination in which all men becomes the slaves of capital (= generalized slavery, and so convergence with the Asiatic mode of production).” – Jacques Camatte, Capital and Community

Finally, primitive accumulation is no longer the best way to frame the early history of capitalism, and this not because the epoch of commercial capitalism did not contribute decisively to the rise of modern production249 – it obviously did – but because that remains a purely teleological perspective and one that diverts attention from the real lacuna in materialist historiography, which is the study and, one hopes, ultimately a synthesis of the emergence of capital- ism, which in the sporadic form that Marx described it as having was certainly in place by the thirteenth century. If the obscure early centuries of capitalism were defined by the ‘sporadic existence of capitalist production’,250 this was much less true of the fifteenth century, when a sort of merchant-controlled industrial capitalism was widespread in centres such as Genoa251 and led the way into the great watershed of the sixteenth century.252 The section on primi- tive accumulation sums up much of the history it deals with as the ‘period of manufacture’, but manufacture, as Marx knew, was a legacy of commercial capitalism,253 of the fusion of commercial capital with production,254 as indeed were the slave plantations.255 The ‘forms’ thrown up by the early capitalism of the Mediterranean were essentially those that continued to drive global history down to the expansion of large-scale industry and its revolutionary mode of production in the nineteenth century, so that the history of commercial capi- talism is no longer simply a prelude to industrial capital but more like an act (to retain the operatic metaphor), something that is best seen as a totality, a narrative with its own coherence, forms, internal periodisation, and concep- tions of empire.256 Marx was right, ‘the different moments of primitive accu- mulation can be assigned in particular to Spain, Portugal, Holland, France, and England, in more or less chronological order’,257 only today, with so much more historiography before us, there is no compelling reason why this whole swathe of history should remain the compressed if brilliant histoire raison- née Marx inserted into Volume I and not acquire the expansion of content it deserves. – Jarius Banaji, Theory as History

Recently, I had commented on my friend and Zero book colleague Douglas Lain’s recent interview with Andrew Kliman at the Zero Squared podcast, and a friend to all of us asked me to clarify some thoughts I had on the topic where I thought there were unresolved problems between what Lain and Dr. Kliman discussed and the positive political project to which they are committed. Since this is relevant to my other writings on different answers Marxists (and to a lesser degree anarchists) have given as rationales for the failure of the “working class” (or proletariat or both) to self-abolish, I told him I would do a public reply before I tackled this in a more formal essay or chapter format. I have admired both Doug and Dr. Kliman’s attempt to move out of a typical narrative of leftist bad faith and go into why they thought so many readings of Marx seemed to want to drop parts of it with arguments that may seem crucial to the larger structure of Marx’s work.  In someways, its impossible to know what the actual intentionality of Marx was given the so much of his output was unpublished, much of it was edited by Engels, and seemed to, at minimum, evolve in its conceptual framework overtime (which not require anything like an “epistemic” break that is clear).

Now, I want to say, I did not find the dismissing of philological arguments about Das Kapital, Volume Three particularly satisfying even if I think those issues are tangential to the question at hand.  There is a real question about why Marx did not publish Volume Three in his life time given that some of the material in volume is actually older than the material in Das Kapital, Volumes 1 and Volume 2, and parts of Volume Three are seeming used in economic manuscripts Marx did publish, such as the Grundisse. Engels prepared our manuscript from those notes even though some of the material was older than the material in the prior two volumes.   The debates about the law of a tendency of rates of profits to fall are only tangentially related to what Dr. Kliman says in the podcast, and are only hinted at in a criticism of semantic analysis done by Dr. David Harvey (but are explicitly and somewhat controversially discussed by Dr. Michael Heinrich).  Like Dr. Kliman or Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho, I think Capital, particularly Volume 2 and what we have of Volume 3, are largely concerned with logical arguments applied to empirical situations.  This is even true in volume one where many of Marx’s categories are derrived from logical engagements with not just Smith and Locke, but even Aristotle.  This concern with logic would mean that philological and even the semantic controversies are secondary matters, if the logic fits AND corresponds with worldwide statistical analysis, those philological issues are irrelevant. It is, however, problematic to state that we know what Marx’s intentionality or final conclusions are as matters of Marxology without recourse to such arguments.  So the philological controversy is secondary and is not crucial to my understanding here. Indeed, while I can be convinced otherwise, I do think TSSI does reduce the number of possible logical problems in the majority of Marx’s text and simply removes most of the economic problems read into Marx.   Given a rule of parsimony, we should at least consider this seriously as one coherent reading of Marx and should not toss it regardless of other issues of the history of the texts from which such a view could emerge. 

While I appreciated the attempt to talk about Marxist Entertainers and how pedagogical pressures in a university could drive theoretical mistakes through but simplification and ad hoc contradiction, I am not convinced that this does not pose larger problems to the project of “collective thought” that both Lain and Dr. Kliman endorse.  Now, both knowing and engaging with both these men over the course of four years, I have found them crucial to my understanding of the Marxist project, but I have never shared all of their assumptions.   Douglas Lain comes out of Hegel by way of Zizek understanding of ideology and thought, and has a conception of ideology that favors consciousness as developed in a capitalist totality. Lain has been developing those views and has been trying to reconcile a Zizekian approach with the general assumptions of Marxist humanism, so my critique may not even apply to his current thought as it has evolved.   Dr. Kliman comes out of Raya Dunayevskaya’s tradition were alienation from labor and community plays more of a role in formation of social order and political organizing than ideology per se. I think interpolated ideological schemas create a circle of claims about consciousness that, if true, would render most thinking not only suspect, but necessarily render thinking as fairly static rationalizations of the existing order.  A recent critique of Zizek’s thought actually makes the same point:

The diagnosis of our inertia becomes the basis for a brutally unsentimental politics in which all voluntary commitments are mere ruses of ideology. Following the French philosopher Alain Badiou, his friend and interlocutor, Žižek insists on the revolutionary moment as an unpredictable “Event”. Change cannot be agitated by the active agent of traditional politics. On the contrary, “The change will be most radical if we do nothing.” The attempt to make things happen can only ever entrench the order it claims to be contesting, whereas by waiting passively we open ourselves to being swept up in an authentic event. “Sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing to do.” As though to affirm this aphorism, which ended his 2008 book Violence, Žižek takes pains to show how the renunciation of action authorises “Leninist” ruthlessness. The “struggle” in Syria, for example, which at a conservative estimate has claimed 200,000 lives and resulted in tens of thousands tortured, is “a conflict towards which one should remain indifferent” on account of the absence of “a strong radical-emancipatory opposition”. The brutality of the argument is expressed in the dreary rhetoric of the sectarian far left – the opposite of the energy and irony that characterise Žižek’s best writing.

I know Doug has a much more sympathetic reading, but I think the focus on ideology as a totality within the totality of economic production layers totalities in ways there is no out-acting, no escaping them without an act of pure contingency intervening, even talk of revolution itself undoes itself since it conscious ideological assumptions are “corrupted” by the current context.   Now, I tend to see alienation as crucial to the problem-not just labor alienation but even the alienation that emerges from symbolic representation or thought.  I realize that like ideology, which Marx abandoned in the main in his later, he also abandoned use of the term alienation.  There are good arguments to be made that it lingers in a refined and more “materialist” form in talk of fetishes and reification in later Marx.

I think explaining my response to Lain and Kliman’s podcast would make it a bit clearer where I think the difference crucially is between myself and Marxist-Humanism because the differences are more thin and porous, but may be crucial to the conceptions of the problem. While I am not entirely sure that the sociology of science or even the controversies over its very definition make the scientific community more objective than the literary community in all instances, it does seem that it does have a set of larger frameworks (including the various scientific methods of experimentation, historical documentation, analyze, etc) that slightly reduce its chance of arbitrary error.  There are still all kinds of heuristic limits to science, and paradigms are driven by consensus and, thus in some sense, popularity, but the standards are less arbitrary and the logical development in history seems less dramatically inconsistent than most other fields of inquiry.  The simpler the science–by that I mean the closer to reducible particles–the easier the accumulations seem to be, but the closer to social systems and complex interactions there are, the further away this seems. That said, the entire notion of learned norms of community and expertise have to be in some sense imposed by both the community itself but also a framer for the norms of that community.   Many post-left anarchist thinkers as well as many post-anarchist and post-modernists realized this and paired with the sociological limitations distanced themselves from “science.”  I don’t think this necessarily a wrong move, but it does lead me to wonder if the break with “vanguardism” in either its Kautskyite or Leninist form misses a certain more complicated point about the relationship between the individual, the “collective,” and the social situation.

This debate over the “bootstraps” and my push for a narrative of the wild left-wing academic readings of key figures to make them more amendable to current assumptions has led to some interrogating of these concepts which make me uncomfortable with assertions that there is a small way we can “collectively think” and thus “collectively act” our way out of a problem.  This has always struck me as a nearly gnostic conception of the power of thought, and also a reification itself of what a developments are that is asserted into history.

In the podcast with Doug, Dr. Kliman asserts that, I think correctly actually, that most people cannot parce arguments with enough expertise to decide if an argument is valid, invalid, factually correct, logically consistent, undermined, and/or overdetermined.  He implies, rightly, that we should not expect them to given the general movement of life.   When we cannot invest enough time to truly understand something outside of field of expertise, we often MUST fall back in a set of hueristics that rationalizes our current beliefs. I find nothing to object to in this and thus think the gist of conversation on Zero Squared is correct. I, however, think back to a discussion Douglas Lain and I had about Adorno for Diet Soap several years ago, and a response Kliman wrote to it.

To recap the problem, it is rooted in asserted conclusion of Theses of Feuerbach and the The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.  I have returned to my doubts recently in a blog post restating my original point and developing what I see as sound insights to a problem by Adorno and even Heidegger.   I don’t end with the boot-straps problem nor do I start with it, I question the conception that we have of materiality in the first place.    In many ways,  I think we are making logical assertions to answer historical question and then giving historical answers to logical problems.  We must do some breaking down of the model and interrogate it to understand if I think it was answered and, more importantly, if I think some of the limits placed on understanding given do not complicate the problem.

In Dr. Kliman’s essay,On the Needed Organization of Marxist Thought, he argues,

“However, this concept of self-change seems impossible––given a particular conception of society, that of a seamless totality in which the whole is expressed in all parts. I think we need a different conception. We need to understand concrete totality; a whole that’s internally differentiated, contains self-contradiction (in the parts and in the whole). This allows for self-change.”

Hegelian mystifications and Hegelian logic are strange bedfellows, and not so easily disentangled. When dealing with these categories that were essential to both the Hegelian right but also its left flake as well as “scientific socialists” like Marx, Engels, and Lenin, we have to parse several unstated ideas.   Is the dialectical methodological–as in a point of logic and modeling–or ontological?  Hegel, clearly, thought it was ontological and that its agency was divine–indeed in Hegel’s conflation of the language of reason and the language of religion, he literally did not think the two could be separation and any separation indicated the falsity of one or another element.   For materialists, from Feuerbach to Max Striner to Marx, this was obviously not an option.   This does not, however, mean that Marx abandoned the ontological or metaphysical truth of dialectics, although his writings on Hegel make this hard to discern.  Engels, however, was definitely making claims about the dialectical nature of material reality, which in light of modern science is clearly just wrong.  This view point was a metaphysical or ontological commitment on the part of Engels as dialectical materialism was a total philosophy, but he did so with testable claims. Marx did not do so, but obviously retained a Hegelian logical apparatus even if he rejected its primary metaphysics. It is unclear if though the descriptive categories were, using Medieval logical parlance, nominal or real.

Kliman is invoking a form of dialectical logic about totalities, but the assertion that self-contradiction allows for self-change does not necessarily follow from the argument alone nor does the argument necessarily dissolve. There is, however, something missing and it is related to the conception of what is being discussed.  If the totality is “real”, and there is no outside of it, and this not a metaphorical model for the structure of capital, we may have a problem.  If it is totality is just nominally real, then we have a different set of questions to deal with.   If we must “dialectically” accept that model is real on level, but nominal on another due the tension it is describing being “real,” then perhaps we have a third set of considerations.

Let’s assume that this is “real” in the non-nominal sense, then it is asserted in Marx, but it is not proven, nor has the events of history proven it.  Capitalism developed over a period of at least 500 years and probably has roots in contradictions of both mercentilism and late fuedalism, which may mean its origins go back three to four hundred years before the revolutions that codified it politically.  Nor was it controlled by any conscious class action, but the accumulation of various factors around both merchants and the state enabled “capitalism” as a set of social relations to come into being.  Further more, as Jarius Banaji has noted, sometimes in line with and sometimes opposed to the work of the political Marxists like Robert Brenner, transitional forms abound both within and without the totality of capitalism. Are these contradictions, exactly? Most Marxists would say no.

So far the argument does not so much seem wrong, but at a level of abstraction that still does not deal with self-cause as a logical problem.  Neither collectives nor individuals are sui generis, and if we see contradictions as generating the space for self-change, then we still must wonder why the space almost never taken in practicable manner.  Dr Kliman, however, admits an contingent nature but then complicates that as well:

I think that Marx’s solution to the own-bootstrap problem is one of our starting points. The other is the idea that only great masses of humanity can change society for the better—their emancipation can only be their own act. If Moses could lead them into the Promised Land, he could lead them right back out again. So we have to be thinking about the thought and activity of great masses of people. Smaller or vaguer conceptions of “we”—Occupy, “the 99%”––can’t substitute for the mass movement, in activity and thought, that’s needed to change society. We can’t jump-start a revolution or find a shortcut to it, or anything like that, it seems to me. As Raya Dunayevskaya put it, the shortcuts have always proven to be the long way around. In the audio with Lain and Varn, there’s discussion of the Bolshevik call for peace, bread, and land, and the call for all power to soviets. But Lenin could call for all power to the soviets only because there were already soviets! Otherwise, it would have been fantasy. We can’t call soviets into being any more than one calls a general strike—though this was tried by Occupy Wall Street last year.

I take issue to this conception of “mass.”  For my studies of Marxism, focus on “the masses” or “the People” generally miss two key points. Firstly, Almost no revolution has majority population support, and rarely has ever even had the majority of a single class.  In 1905, the Bolshevik’s had only 200 supporters.   Even the the 1917 revolution, the Soviets were largely constituted of peasants and not a majority there either, although there true support is hard to evaluate given the state of provincial apparatus and its means of accounting in a non-democratic system. Secondly, the masses almost never had unified interests and interests dominate such movements more than ideological commitment.  “IF you can’t provide bread, the hell with you” as the liberals in the Provisional Russian government decided.   Revolutionary self-sacrifice makes sense only when the possible of succor seems possible but its taste denied.  Even in religious motivations for terror or revolutionary actions are still practical, just with practicality rewarded in another life.   Dr. Kliman does not deny the latter, but does not focus on it.  Indeed, the focus is on organization and that organization ability to enable the collectivity to think.  He states this clearly,

It is this process that’s all-important, it seems to me. The epigraph with which chapter 9 of Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom begins is about this process. What’s being discussed there is what Hegel called the “third attitude” or “third position” of thought to objectivity, in his Smaller Logic. This third attitude or position is the standpoint of immediate knowledge, intuitionism, in other words, the idea that knowledge can be acquired intuitively. Dunayevskaya is criticizing this attitude in the epigraph, and she continued to criticize it for the next 30 years, and increasingly so.

Now, this can be used to criticize a lot of stand-point epistemology, but how is this markedly different from the old adage of “consciousness raising” without the specter of Soviet state.  The process needs to be encouraged, but what is that process? The formalization of procedure?  If it the formalization of procedure, who is to insist about that will?  How would this been that different than the vanguard party of Kautsky or Bordiga, which was to function as the brain of first the proletariat and then of society as whole, not just its central committee.   Indeed, without such an clarification of what “the masses” are and what the exact parameters of what structure with push the collective past immediate interest or intuitionism.  Indeed, if all the intuitions are to be distrusted because of their shaping in capitalism, then how can we even know what form would bring the collective thinking about? If such a thing did not need a form, then why is organization needed in the first place?

Furthermore, just spelling out that we need “collective thinking” is not enough. Indeed, liberal capitalist, including Hegel himself as well as Hume already through the beginnings of neo-liberalism with Hayek, thought that state in tandem with the market produced an aggregate effect which expressed the will of the people through their preferences. Indeed, capitalists have taken to this a logical conclusion, using the “market incentives” as an epistemic tool.  This may given socialists some hope as it indicates the communal expertise tends to trump out an individual expertise, except when there are significant biases within an entire community. If the later is the case, then individual expertise wins out. However, then is what Dr. Kliman calls intuitionism not a form of such a bias that stems from ones place within the systems of production, reproduction, and consumption of the social relationships we have.  The market as mind of the masses is liberal view of collective thinking, and it has its contradictions.  Working in one’s immediate interests under capital undermines one’s interest in the long run by alienating one from labor and by lacking the ability to direct the production solely to practical matters.  That said, I don’t see how things like worker’s councils or paracon community committees can deal with that intuition problem immediately or significant contingency that is not easily planned around.  Some Marxists have seen this as a cul-de-sac from which there is little chance (Adorno) or no chance (Camatte) of a way out while participating in capital itself.  Adorno retreats to thought, Camatte to the forests, but the problem remains for those left behind.

Capital nor the proletariat has a single agency, and I feel we would be advised to stop talking like those abstractions even could on their own. This, itself, can become a form of reification.  Assuming the problem of intuitionism, which Dr. Kliman is critiquing in both Occupy and the reception of “Marxist Entertainers” is not the most pressing problem.  We still have no clear conception of the “collective thinking” is without a something seemingly idealism.  Hegel has his zeitgeist, Rousseau the spirit of the people, but as Marx said both of those conceptions often served to secure whatever the current position was.  In Hegel’s The Philosophy of Right the Prussian constitutional monarchy with republican elements as well as capitalist freedom become the end of telos until, well, Jesus arrives.  In Rousseau the spirit of the people is so nebulous that anything can be projected upon including the suspension of the very rights in which the state itself was set forth to procure.  Mere formal rights, but even that is seized. Materialist of any stripe must be more concrete than that.

Dr. Kliman does give some concrete examples about what collective thinking is not:

In the audio with Lain and Varn, there’s discussion of the Bolshevik call for peace, bread, and land, and the call for all power to soviets. But Lenin could call for all power to the soviets only because there were already soviets! Otherwise, it would have been fantasy. We can’t call soviets into being any more than one calls a general strike—though this was tried by Occupy Wall Street last year.

This is true, but is also posits the Soviets as existing as a form that either emerges from the contingent elements of history or from mass will for which Lenin could then empower the Bolshevik revolution.  Yet neither seem to be exactly the case. Lars Lih actually goes into the specifics here:

We have already given part of the answer. Lenin was instrumental in turning the Bolshevik strategy into a slogan, that is, into a pithy summation of the immediate program that in itself could play a vital role in coordinating mass collective action. But Lenin also came back to Russia with a set of new ideas about the soviets, not simply as an expression of a class vlast in a particular situation, but as an institutional form. Lenin now claimed that the soviets, as a form of permanent government, constituted the “highest form of democratism” and the only adequate form for the proletarian dictatorship. These were universal claims, not an assessment of the concrete situation in Russia.

The Soviets were not exactly hotbeds of Marxism, even if they were hotbeds of all sorts of radicalism, generally the Soviet’s voted over and over to give provisional government.   Indeed, may observation of the February revolution feared that conflicts between different elements, such as Bolshevik and Narodniks elements as well as the various dispossessed classes would lead to the disciplining of the Soviets in a swarm of bloodshed.  Dr. Lih cites an account of the time confirming this.   However, the shifting of the Soviet function actually had a plan going back to 1905 and had to be largely imposed, although without military means.

In his final points, Dr. Lih almost seems to echo Dr. Kliman but with some hesitant thoughts:
Although Lenin’s high expectations were not met, we can still say that the slogan “all power to the soviets” is the key to the Russian revolution—and indeed, that the slogan was translated into reality. As we saw from the observations of Rheta Childe Dorr, soviet power as established during the February days, with all its strengths and weaknesses, was a reality throughout 1917. This soviet power beat off the attempts of the Provisional Government to defang or eliminate it, and it continued to defend itself successfully against later attempts to destroy it. Although highly undemocratic in very many ways, soviet power continued to be an expression of the Russian narod, creating a new society where the narod set the tone—for better or for worse.

Even the Soviets were not truly democratic, nor is it clear that a democratic voice is actually the voice of the masses collectively thinking. Indeed, even if the “the people” set the tone, set tone there is no clear way to know that they are actually radically changing things.   If one accepts that the Soviets, councils of workers and soldiers, were effectively the government in 1917 and still played a large role in the early Soviet union, the Bolshevikization of the Soviets during the then up-coming civil war shows how even “necessity” may have played a role in subsuming the fractious “collective” voice to the a unitary and teleologically oriented state.

It seems unclear to me that we actually know how a collective would think beyond capitalism while within it, particularly if we admit that the immediate interests and intuitions may not concealed as a mass the first clear opinion even within a single class of people.   Dr. Kliman ends the discussion with a reference to Adorno and a mild rebuke:

In light of this, I want to end with something Adorno says in his “Resignation” essay. “The consolation that thinking improves in the context of collective action is deceptive: thinking, as a mere instrument of activist actions, atrophies like all instrumental reason.” So he counterposes thinking, presumably individual thinking, to collective action. It seems to me that this conflates two different things, which is perhaps excusable since Adorno seems to have had particular cases in mind in which both things were present. Nonetheless, they’re different. One thing is the relation between individual and collective; the other thing is the relation between thinking and action. So, on the one hand, Adorno criticizes the notion that “thinking improves in the context of action.” I think he’s right that, when thinking becomes a mere instrument of activist actions, it atrophies. But I don’t think this has anything to do with individual vs. collective. I don’t think it’s the case that “individual thinking atrophies in the context of collective thinking.” I think the collective process improves both the individual thinking and the collective thinking.

So to summarize, we need thinking, not just action. But we need collective thinking, not just individual thinking. And we need thinking as a process, not just thoughts as static results. In short, we need the organization of Marxist thought.

To wit, I agree with Dr. Kliman that individual thinking does not necessarily atrophy in social contexts–indeed all learning implies some of social relationship even if that relationship is essentially transgressive.  The leap I cannot make, however, is that this necessarily equates to collective thinking in such a way that change material conditions enough on their own as to start to guide the shape of history necessarily in a particular way.  I do not that I think Dr. Kliman thinks that such a development necessarily follows either, but the process of thinking and how one imposes the structure of such a process without also directing that thinking in a normative (and thus vanguardist) manner seems to be obscured.

In short, if one avoids cul-de-sacs, then one must push for clarification on these points.   At the moment, I am not sure that historical development can be so consciously directed, even collectively. When it is such attempts are tried, they often occur from interactions that events long in the making and historical developments with often play both for and against a Marxian notion of emancipatory politics.  Even if we lift can pick up those bootstraps collectively, we may not a tree to fall near to tie the last lace and anchor our effort.  Indeed,  Marx’s famous in the 18th Brumaire can be as haunting as freeing in this context:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

Then tension between the ghost of the pasts and the revolutionary future emerges.  It perhaps not just circumstances that are not self-selected but thinking which emerges from them may not fit our patterns either.   The past weights on us, but so the undermining factors. The fear is that sometimes the rhyming dictionary of history hits true notes, and the time-honored disguises become more than mere slogan, but in such an interaction the weight of the material past fuses the masks to our faces.

In such a context, one may not even be able to clearly tell when collective thinking emerges and how to impose the conditions to move collective thinking beyond imposing our individual hopes, dreams, and histories upon that thought.    One must clarify the abstractions here to see what lies within the conception because at the moment our track record of conscious control of the totality of a social system seems fairly poor while the reality that social systems do change in ways that hard to imagine from epoch to epoch seem painfully clear.

In the final analysis, I am not sure I disagree with Dr. Kliman on most points or just need more to understand what is actually we mean by organizing to enable collective thinking which would lead to collective action.  I am not sure that it is clear what collective thinking would look like either internal to capitalism but clearly against it, or beyond it.  My caveats and exceptions may easily be misreading or under-readings of the arguments presented, but I think the friendly interrogation was in order.


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