Some thoughts for today:

Honest people you disagree with are better than self-deluding friends.

Facebook is really, really shallow.  The more people share a post than even click on it to read it in the past two years.  It is very almost pure posturing at this point.

Russel Jacoby’s Dialect of Defeat, which I don’t entirely agree with on all points, is a damning good book. The sad part is that what is says was true 34 years ago, as the book is almost literally the same age as I am.  While I will review it later, I am going to give you a quote because its relevant to me lately:

The profound complicity of orthodox Marxism in bourgeois industrialization is exposed by an absence. In the Marxist tradition a search- ing critique of the “secondary” characteristics of capitalism is lacking. Secondary refers to those features that stand once removed from the primary economic organization of wages, working conditions, imperialism, and the market. It refers to a series of relations, such as urbanism, mass media, psychological life, and leisure. These are not necessarily second in importance, but are second in that they cannot exist apart from the basic political-economic organization of society.

In recent decades these areas have increasingly drawn the attention of Marxists, but earlier Marxists ignored them. The few analyses of- fered have been pedestrian and predictable. The secondary features have been disposed of by concepts taken from the basic dictionary of Marxism: superstructure, relations of production, accumulation, and so on. If none of these concepts have been wrong, none have grasped the specificity of the phenomenon.

The usual explanation for the banality of Marxism refers to the ills of “vulgar” Marxism. Vulgar Marxism is vulgar in its economic reduc- tionism; everything lacks substance and reality beyond an economic base. This does not suffice as an explanation for the lameness of Marx- ism. Not only vulgar Marxism but its vulgar critique needs to be surmounted.

The vulgar critique of vulgar Marxism glosses over the complicity between the Marxists and the secondary features of capitalism. This was the reason for blindness. They did not perceive these features as fundamentally changing; hence there was no reason for scrutiny. The Marxists would inherit the cities and the mass newspapers; only the signs and headlines would be changed. Rockefeller Plaza would become Leninplatz. The basic rapport with industrial life paralyzed the critique.This can be stated in the obverse more emphatically: The most compelling and illuminating analyses of the secondary processes derive from a conservative, sometimes reactionary, tradition. This runs from Nietzsche and Spengler to contemporary – and surely lesser – critics, such as Jacques Ellul and Ivan Illich. This is hardly a coherent tradi-tion, and it is radically flawed in more than one respect. Yet the analyses that are proferred are unmatched – and unassimilated – by Marxists. — Russel Jacoby, Dialectic of Defeat, Comfortism Marxism.

Relevant because I also think this uncritical acceptance of productive forces has been a serious problem for Marxist beyond any of the problems of “actually existing socialist” but manifested by it.  See what happened to the ecological spaces of central Asia for real life evidence of that.  Yet to merely go into “conservation” mode is cop-out–you can’t ask a system to place nice because it doesn’t have agency in the first the place.


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