Po-Mo critiques

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc2.igc.apc.org
Fri Feb 24 23:29:14 MST 1995


Andy Daitsman writes, citing Jane Flax, "The End of Innocence":

>The Enlightenment hope is that utilizing truthful knowledge in
>the service of legitimate power will assure both freedom and
>progress.  This will occur only if knowledge is grounded in and
>warranted by a universal reason, not particular "interests."

Why does universal reason contradict having particular interests?
Does the Enlightenment really preach disembodied people without
particular interests?  Is the conflation of objectivity with
disinterestedness the Enlightenment's or Flax's?  I don't like
this description of Enlightenment, which seems to be truthful to
some extent yet with particular twists?  The beneficent use of
reason and power is an ideal, is it not?  Could anyone have argued
it was something automatic and inevitable?

The account of Marxism is simply wretched:

>in their account History itself is ultimately rational,
>purposive, unitary, law governed, and progressive.  In the
>Marxist view, events in history do not occur randomly; they are
>connected by and through an underlying, meaningful, and rational
>structure comprehensible by reason/science.

This is partially true, and partly a distortion.  Only a Hegelian
would claim history is "rational".  Marxists would deny that
history is "purposive", though some might admit some kind of telos
in human development without being classical teleologists.
History is not deemed to be merely progressive, but dialectically
contradictory, such that civilization and barbarism are
dialectically connected and "progress" together, hence the
necessity of social explosions.  The Marxist view recognizes both
chance and necessity, randomness and structure.

>The pregiven purpose of history is the perfection of humans
>(especially through labor) and the ever-more-complete
>realization of their capacities and projects.

Marxism recognizes no pre-given purposes of history or of anything
else.  "History" itself is nothing, does nothing, as Marx wrote
explicitly.  One could accept an implicit telos within history,
esp. viz. perfectibility and self-realization.  C.L.R. James for
one saw history this way (see "Dialectical materialism and the
fate of humanity").

>Marxist theory and its articulator (the Party, the working
>class, the engaged intellectual) have a privileged relation to
>History.

This is a piss-poor formulation, distorting in its quasi-religious
formulation.

>They speak but do not construct its "laws" and legitimate their
>actions by invoking its name.

This is a point of historical controversy within Marxism: it is
the issue of fatalism.

>Since History, like Reason, has an essentially teleological and
>homogeneous content, we can look forward to its "end."

This drivel could have been penned by some feeble-minded cold
warrior.

This entire exposition is distorted and questionable.  Thanks,
Andy, for giving me yet another reason to despise postmodernists
and petty bourgeois feminists.


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