Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Sun Sep 17 19:13:23 MDT 1995

On Sun, 17 Sep 1995, Scott Marshall wrote:

> Chris S:
> >And since no human being can master
> >such unintended consequences, the idea of human control over all aspects
> >of the social totality, envisioned in the Marxian ideal of communism, is
> >utopian.
> Who would argue such an undialectical notion of communism, certainly not
> Marxists?

	Scott asks "who would argue" such a silly notion.  How about Marx
and Engels?  Marx argues that genuine human history begins when human
beings become the architects of their own destiny.  And Engels states
that as people "understand in advance the necessity of changing the
social system . . . on account of changing conditions [they] will desire
the change before it forces itself upon them without their being
conscious of it or desiring it."  The producers will have "a perfect
understanding" of social forces, under communism, which are "transformed
from master demons into willing servants."  Social forces will "pass
under the control of man himself.  Only from that time will man himself,
with full consciousness, make his own history -- only from that time will
the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a
constantly growing measure, the results intended by him."

> >Hayek is no raving individualist here.  He is fully dialectical.  He
> >recognizes that the whole is an organic totality, that knowledge is a
> >social product, and that internal relations are essential to the whole.
> >He merely believes that nobody can know fully the nature of these
> >internal relations in the complex network of an organic totality; to fool
> >oneself into believing that one can control that totality is not only a
> >pretense of knowledge--it is a prescription for calculational chaos and
> >ultimately, oppression and brutality.
> Scott:
> The above is built on a wrong and undialectical notion of Marxist theory of
> knowledge, but... If this is true then where does it leave us? Accepting the
> 'way things are'? with the dubious 'knowledge' and 'humility' that we can't
> really solve anything or change anything. That all attempts to overthrow the
> system will just inevitably lead to disaster. This is a tired but very
> prevalent notion of those opposed to Marxism. How nice for those with a
> stake in the system.

	And on the contrary... while I am sometimes critical of Hayek, he
and other libertarians most certainly do not accept "the way things
are"... The libertarians are just as profoundly critical of the modern
neofascist welfare-warfare state as any Marxist; they are just not
looking to invest any more power in the social engineering state.  We can
solve problems, we can change things... we just need to understand that
we can't walk into a Chinese restaurant and order pizza, as my dear
colleague Bertell Ollman once said.  We need to understand that change is
immanent, that it emerges from within and that it cannot be constructed
from without.  Marx understood this, but his own notion of communism
depends upon too many problematic epistemological premises, not the least
of which is that human beings can "master" social forces and transcend
unintended consequences.

					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at

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