BHASKAR VS. MARX'S "SYSTEM"

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Fri Mar 10 22:39:34 MST 1995


Though I thank Mr. Ehrbar for his efforts to translate Bhaskar, I
am not all all impressed by Bhaskar's "correction" of Marx's
putative shortcomings.

>It is a passage from pp. 344/5, where Bhaskar says where Marx
>went wrong.  D> is Bhaskar's Dialectic:

>An example of such actualist residues: Bhaskar discovered that
>Hegel and, following Hegel, also Marx overemphasizes immanent
>contradictions as opposed to external contradictions.

Such a momentous "discovery" not only fails to substantiate
Bhaskar's genius, but is far more applicable to the subsequent
elaboration of dialectical materialism that it is to Marx himself.
If one were to recognize that not all change must be the
development of internal contradictions, say if a comet were to
crash into the earth and put an end to all its autonomous internal
development, so what of useful cognitive value is to be derived
from that?  To recognize internal contradiction as a motor of
change was itself a monumental achievement.  Bhaskar's "discovery"
is a minor puff of flatulence in comparison.

>This is a reductionism which only sees the sociological
>dimension of ethics, i.e., considers morality always to be a
>form of exercise of power

Bullshit!  This is the old saw about Marx's amorality.  There is
no evidence at all for such a view in Marx.  Marx refuses to
preach "morality" not becuase he is amoral but becuase he sees
that beneath all pretense of absolute ethical norms there is a
hidden agenda and a material reality which is not being
acknowledged.  In fact, nobody lives absolutely by an absolute
moral code; everyone adjusts their behavior according to certain
expediencies and practical realities no matter what abstract
morality they preach, and Marx simply recognizes this.  "Morality"
does not exist in a separate realm; it has to have something to do
with practical survival upon this earth, with what is real.
Unlike Bhaskar, when Marx began to study real things (theft of
wood, hunger, poverty) and left the world of detached abstractions
behind, he gained a real sensitivity to how human beings are
constituted by material conditions.  This shows a lot greater
sensitivity to living human beings than Bhaskar's
quasi-mathematical masturbations.

>> to render him (and the majority of subsequent Marxists)
>>impervious to the need for a William Morris-type moment of
>>positive concrete utopianism to stand alongside Marx's negative
>>explanatory critique.

Others will explain who Morris was, but "Morris-type moment"?  I
don't think Bhaskar writes bad prose becuase English is not his
native tongue; I think he revels in wretched English.

>This "society will develop it" is another actualist residue:
>Marx underestimated the "openness" of social development to
>individual intentionality.

>This implies that we need to theorize socialism, create positive
>utopias for future society because the course of history depends

It stands to reason that in the process of changing the world, one
has to think about the various possibilities for human living that
do not yet exist.  Bhaskar takes Marx's rejection of utopian
socialism out of context.  Marx was reacting against something
very specific -- not against envisioning human possibilities but
agianst constructing arbitrary schemes in denial of the real,
actual world and the living possibilities for getting from point A
to B.

>He underestimated how much is usually preserved in a sublation,
>for instance in the transition from capitalism to socialism.

What are you saying here?  That Marx was overly optimistic?  That
he underestimated the perseverance of all the old shit (his words,
more or less)?  I don't know that this is true at all.

One problem that surfaces here as it does in other posts is the
tacit assumption that Marx bequeathed to us a complete, closed
system, which defines for all time the elements of reality that
Marx himself was prepared to acknowledge.  Because others have
presented Marxism-Leninism as a finished, completed system, we are
supposed to look at Marx in the same light.  I don't buy it: I
look at Marx in process, not Marx as a finished product.  Marx
never finished his project or his system.  He didn't finish
Capital, he didn't finish his analysis of the capitalist system,
he didn't finish his analysis of pre-capitalist economic
formations, he didn't finish his theory of historical materialism,
he never wrote his promised explanation of Hegelian dialectics.
He did what he could or would do until he died, but he never
presented a finished system.  I don't buy any of this crap about
what Marx excluded from his system.  By all means let us extend
our analyses into areas Marx did not live long enough to cover,
but remember the Church of Marx was erected by someone else.  If
you want to be an iconoclast against Stalin, Mao, Kautsky,
Bernstein, or even Trotsky, Lenin, Plekhanov, or Engels, that is
your business, but don't think you are being bold by directing
your iconoclasm against Marx.  Marx can't be found in his supposed
Temple.

And by all means, let us benefit from the wisdom of Bhaskar, but
these examples you have given are trivial.


     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---

     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list