On Althusser

Scott Marshall Scott at rednet.org
Tue Nov 28 06:34:00 MST 1995


>Economic determinism basically is a belief that social movements and  
>beliefs are reflections of underlying economic structures. 


Why is this economic determinism? If you say they are *only* the reflection
of underlying economic relations I could see it. But your formulation
implies that underlying economic *relations and structures* are just another
in a list of factors - that belief to me would be decidedly undialectical
and idealist. Surely economic relations, structures and the class struggle
have something material to do with social movements etc. Trade unionism
doesn't arise out of Freud's dreams or William Z Foster's books. It is
somehow rooted in the class struggle between capital and labor. To recognize
this as the material base is not determinism, nor undialectical if you also
recognize the many other factors like history, compostition of the working
class, other social movements interaction and inter-reaction, etc. To see,
as Marx did, that the main contradiction in capitalism as a system is
between capital and labor is not determinism. It only becomes determinism if
it is seen undialectically and not related to other contradictions, social
forces, historical conditions, etc.

I really don't see you using it in this way Louis, based on your other
ideas, but it seems to me that the charge of economic determinism is thrown
around with abandon by new leftist and post modernists as another 'smart'
thing to say. If the underlying economic realtions and structures aren't
primary then why did Marx spend so much time writing capital.

Again not uncle Lou, but most often I hear the charge of economic
determinism hurled at those who argue, or who's practice reflects, that the
working class is *the* main potential for revolutionary overthrow of
captialism. This is certainly not chic in these tired old days of new left
exhaustion and soul searching.

I have indeed seen and heard economic determinist errors - Louis example
about the US Constitution sounds ripe - we also see lots of mechanical,
undialectical and rigid blather on all sorts of issues. But sweeping
generalizations, characterizations and charges of economic determinism are
on the same level as the lazy, silly shorthand of loosely throwing around
the charge of 'stalinism.'

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