Inevitability in Marx

HANS DESPAIN HANS.DESPAIN at m.cc.utah.edu
Sun Sep 17 12:20:31 MDT 1995


I agree with Jerry's post regarding his point that Marx's teleological
moments are best understood from a broad reading of his (dialectical)
project.  It also seems to me that Marxian teleology is more of a "faith" or
"hope" in the potential powers of human "reason" and "will."

Such a "faith" in human potentiality is much out of fashion today.  I
like very much Peter Medawar's chapter "On 'the effecting of all things
possible'" in his *Plato's Republic*, 1982, where he attempts to give a
defence for science againt the "fashionable present-day distrust of
science and even of logical reasoning" (Medewar 1982:26).  He compares
the (social) self-doubt of the early 17th century with the present day
[post-modern] gloom of science.  Where he says:

	Let us return to the contemporary world and discuss our
	misgivings about the way things are going now.  No one need suppose
	that our present philosophic situation is unique in its character
	and gravity.  It was partly to dispel such an illusion that I have been
	moving back and forth between the seventeenth century and the
	present day.  Moods of complacency and discontent have succeeded each
	other during the past 400 and 500 years of European history, and our
	present mood of self-questioning does not represent a new and startled
	awareness that civilisation is coming to an end.  On the contrary, the
	existence of these doubts is probably our best assurance that
	civilisation will continue (Medewar 1982:336).

This "hope" and "faith" in the potential powers of human beings is one
that certainly existed in the mind of Marx and is usually a central part
of any Marxian project.

Marx's commitment to the role of the working class leading the
emancipation process can certainly be doubted, but Marxists should not
lose a belief and commitment to the potentiality of human beings.

I agree with Jerry's tone of the internal contradictions of capitalism
are a necessary, but not a sufficent condition for further human
emancipation.

However, in the latter portion of Jerry's post he says: "there is the
appearance of a teleological underpining to some of Marx's thought in the
sense that he believed that the development of the productive forces had
the *potential* to be emancipatory."  This use of the concept of
*productive forces* seems to much dependent on a Cohenian notion of
"developmental thesis."  I agree that technology is an important aspect
in Marx's notion emancipation, but I also agree with Derek Sayer's
argument the productive forces include the materialized value-form of
social relations.  Whereby, the *productive forces* of capitalism need to be
overcome.

Moreover, if we follow Sayer's position, there is no tension between
Marx's notion of emancipation and environmental issues.  For technology
no longer plays the determining factor as it does in Cohen's conception.
Again Medewar:

	"The deterioration of the evironment produced by technology is a
	technological problem for which technology has found, is finding, and
	will continue to find solutions.  There is, of course, a sense in which
	science and technology can be arraigned for devising new instruments of
	warfare, but another and more important sense in which it is the height
	of folly to blame the weapon for the crime.  I would rather put it this
	way: in the management of our affairs we have too often been bad
        workmen, and like all bad workeman we blame our tools.  I am all in
	favour of a vigourously critical attitude towards technological
	innovation: we should scrutinse all attempts to improve our condition
	and make sure that they do not in reality do us harm; but there is all
	the difference in the world between informed and energetic criticism
        and drooping despondency that offers no remedy for the abuses it
        bewails" (1983:337-8).

 (imo, following Sayer's defination) It is not the "development" of the
productive forces (in a technological [Cohenian sense]), but the
"changing," "absenting," "emergence" of new emancipatory productive
forces which have potential for releasing and developing the "powers" of
human beings toward a society of full human emancipation and freedom.

Hans Despain
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu
hans.despain at m.cc.utah.edu





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