Socialist Utopia

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Sat Jul 1 13:13:50 MDT 1995

On Sat, 1 Jul 1995 TimW333521 at wrote:

> To refer back in a slightly earlier stage of this thread: Was Marx a Utopian?
> Yes, it is true that Marx presented the quite scientific notion that  we
> cannot develop a blueprint of the future socialist society since this future
> would be determined by factors created in the process of revolution itself
> and therefore unpredictable now.  Further, he maintained the democratic idea
> that workers would create their own future for themselves.
> However, no one is going to the trouble of overthrowing the existing order
> without SOME IDEA of what will replace it.  Marx realized this and therefore
> did sketch out a vision of the future, particularly after the Paris Commune.
> My point is that this sketch was very similar to the vision of utopians
> contemporary to him: essentially  a collection of small self-run communities.
>  As such it can be considered romantic in that it suggests a return to
> earlier "organic" communities.

	In general, I agree that, at least methodologically speaking,
Marx was NOT a utopian.  Utopianism, according to Marx, was marked by a
non-dialectical way of looking at the world.  Utopians posited a vision
of the ideal society in disregard of historical conditions and material
context.  Their ahistoricism exhibited what Hayek would call a "pretense
of knowledge."  The utopian turn in Marx's thought is, in my view,
epistemic.  He simply believes that people can achieve the requisite
knowledge to chart their own destiny, and, as I've maintained in previous
posts, to transcend the unintended consequences of their actions.
Whereas all previous human history takes place "behind peoples' backs,"
socialism, for Marx, entails a supreme collective efficacy that is quite
utopian in its assumptions.  Ironically, it is primarily this epistemic
assumption that separates Marx and Hayek; the two had amazing parallels
in their critique of the rationalist assumptions of utopianism.   I
explore these parallels in greater detail in my forthcoming volume, MARX,
HAYEK, AND UTOPIA (SUNY Press, August 1995).
					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics

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