Wojtek on exploitation and morals

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at SPAMprimenet.com
Sat Sep 18 19:45:05 MDT 1999

Greetings Comrades,
    Charles Brown sends us his exchange with Wojtek on moral sources for
exploitation.  The gist of the point is in this exchange:

Charles Brown,
Charles: Wojtek, my militant materialist, an "exploitationist" explanation
does not have to be moralist or blaming. Can't you see that ? "Exploitation"
is a scientific, political economic term in Marxism. You know, surplus value
is exploited.
We are scientifically explaining the primitive accumulation of European
capitalism , in part, by the exploiting of surplus value that from its early
colonies and slave enclaves, without referring to the moral dimension. It is
no more of a blaming or moral explanation than to say it exploited surplus
value from its own working classes as part of its primitive accumulation of

Below you follow your usual theme of accusing some critques of capitalism of
relying on or focussing on morality. But this is backward. It is the
proponents of capitalism , such as Weber, who seek to attribute European
economic supremacy to European moral and rational superiority  who we are
critiquing. Not by substituting moral censure for moral bragging, not by
replacing taking credit for laying blame. Rather by substituting the
the European supremacist claim of rational superiority and hard work ethics.
Not by attributing ruthlessness to Europeans to blame them, but to see it a
"knowledge" or "mental" factor that had political and econmic consequences.

In the same vein, it is easy to ex-post-facto blame Soviet leaders like
Stalin for the deaths resulting from their policies.  But people who do so,
basically fail to perform a rather difficult intellectual task to ascertain
whether these policy makers had sufficient knowledge to fully predict the
consequences of their policy or what were their actual intentions.

It is easy to speculate from the vantage point of the hindsight, attribute
what we know today to the state of mind of historical actors, and either
glorify or condemn them ex-post-facto.  That may have some
psychotherapeutic or ideological value - but beyond that, it is witchcraft
not science.


    As I made a point a week ago (Sunday September 12, 1999) in an e-mail
directed at the thread re: definitions,...
The problem with Jim Heartfield¹s point is that it is disembodied.  Most
people on the left regard ideology as being ubiquitous and reflecting
capitalism, but the common way to reply to that is as Charles does without
embodying the reply, but instead using philosophical terminology to define
Charles¹ criticism.

Directly it seems to me that Jim Heartfield's position defies simple
examination of the brain.  Why not just use science here to refute Jim
Heartfield.  The typical issues described under such embodiment would be the
binding of thoughts together, which is primarily what ideology refers to is
the systemic binding of ideas.  All the many ways that the brain imposes
wholeness upon consciousness is neglected in Jim¹s point.  In other words
Jim is being thoroughly unscientific."

Doyle (September 18, 1999),
Wojtek is writing exactly what needs to be carefully refuted.  He is saying
that to examine mental states is akin to witchcraft, not science.  That
makes any statement about morality taboo.  You can't decide them unless you
scientifically discuss the mind, but you can do that, because Wojtek says
so.  I say you can embody the mind.  By doing that you force Wojtek to hew
to the material reality about how human beings think.  In that sense then
the issues can be discussed as to what makes things work.  Personally I
think moralism is something that Marx himself made it clear he thought
insufficient to organize economic understanding upon.  That moral rules are
never sufficient to provide a guide to action, but at the same time one can
look at the cognitive regime of a time to better understand what it is
about.  A cognitive regime includes how mental states are aided by
production processes (for writing systems do such and such), as well as
knowing what part of the brain is employed in creating an understanding, and
what to expect of the labor processes.

When you adhere Charles, in your arguments, to a series of philosophical
terminology ungrounded in the reality of the brain you cannot directly
challenge Wojtek., but must dance around the issue of how the mind works.
It is not witchcraft at this stage of knowing the brain.  Crude perhaps.
Doyle Saylor

More information about the Marxism mailing list