Weber's Genteel Racism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Wed Dec 6 22:02:40 MST 2000

>>> furuhashi.1 at 12/06/00 10:26PM >>>
Charles wrote:

>When they say "history is a history of class struggles" it is clear
>from what follows that they are treating the European territory as a
>unit for the history they refer to.

It begs the question of when "the European territory" became a "unit"
for the history of class struggles.


CB: When did all the species in the genus homo become a unit for the genus homo ? Was
it after the last species , humans, emerged ? Do we have scientific reason to study
the earliest species in the genus homo in relation to homo sapiens based on our
hindsight that homo sapiens developed out of the earlier species in the genus ?
Answer : yes.

Similarly, it is not unscientific to use our hindsight to see fullblown Europe's unity
consisting in part in commonality of Greek history and Roman history and feudal
history to the various components of capitalist Europe.


>Ancient Greece is not identical with capitalist Europe, but it has a
>historical relationship to capitalist Europe that is like a kernel
>to a flower.

You are much more Hegelian than I am.


CB: For Marx, Hegel was not a dead dog. By the way, this is the rational kernel of
Hegel we are talking about.


  A kernel does not necessarily
flower, a fetus may become spontaneously aborted even without an
intervention by an abortionist.


CB: But some kernels do turn into flowers. In the case of Greece, the kernel did turn
into Europe ( or was that an abortion ?). It was not one of the kernels that failed to

Also, the path of a particular kernel to a flower involves contingencies that give the
specific flower its particularity. So, the actual development of an actual kernel
involves both necessities and contingencies.

For Marx, the class struggles are more in the necessity category, like the biological
laws of the struggle that goes on in the kernel causing its development into the
flower. There is a contradiction in the kernel that causes it to have a tendency to
become a flower ( contingent upon not failing , as you point out is a possibility)


Why should you assume that ancient Athens has a closer historical
relationship with our contemporary Sweden than Egypt?


CB: I take that to be ancient Egypt. Do we grant that Athens has any historical
relationship with contemporary Sweden ? Is there any such thing as a historical
relationship, or is each mode of production utterly new, with no determination by
prior modes ?

I think there is an influence of  ancient Egypt on ancient Greece.

But the issue is one of looking at the cultural kits, language, arts, literature, and
good ole land, customs and relativity.

Is there any doubt that Athens has more influence on modern Sweden than ancient
Tenochtilan ?  Athens and Egypt were relatively closer in commonality than
Tenochtilan.  Greece and Rome were relatively closer than Athens and Egypt.

There were relatively more historical commonalities between modern Europe and
Greece/Rome than between modern Europe and Egypt.


 Why should you
believe that Thucydides has a more intimate historical relationship
with Oliver Cromwell or Max Weber than Frederick Douglass or Saddam


CB: These are individuals, so I guess representing cultures.

Fredrick Douglass is in a modern European society, but anyway.

Maybe the point can be made by making the distance greater.

Does Thucydides have a closer relationship with Cromwell than Confucius or
Quetzalquatal do ?

Are there no cultural areas ( of course culture means history too; we are not
synchronic in our analysis), and levels of closeness and distance ?

By the way, the whole world is becoming "Europe" , now.

>Rome and Middle Ages are intermediate phases. Marx and Engels do
>recognize a connection between the class struggles of ancient Greece
>and the class struggles of capitalism, as all part of a history with
>some unity ( relative to other areas with their own histories of
>class struggles).

A connection, yes, but of what kind?  Not an unfolding of Reason, surely?


CB: Marx usually talks in terms of the laws of development or economic development.
He refers to laws or tendencies.  However, they are not just the working out of ideas,
but the working out of ideas in material practice. Each mode of production is a
definite set of productive relations ( I can't remember the famous phrasing). The
working out of this specific struggle conditions the next set of productive relations
that the earlier ones turn into.
So, it is "reason" plus practice. There is both unfolding ( predetermination) and
contingency, unanticipated aspects that arise in practice.

I would say the contingency comes in in part as to what technology gets discovered or

>"Class struggles" is not synonmous with contingent process. Marx and
>Engels intend to elucidate laws of historical development by this,
>with "laws" referring to determined, not chance, elements of history.

Whether or not laws (e.g., M-C-M') emerge is a matter of chance; once
emergent, laws exert their powers.  I refer you to Alan Carling or
Jim Farmelant.  As Stephen Jay Gould notes, the emergence of the
species to which both of us belong was contingent.  Unless you
believe in Providence, it is self-evident that the birth of human
beings was not a matter of necessity.


CB: There is an element of chance in the emergence of laws, but once they emerge their
effect is to create a non-chance factor in the emergence of  future developments. Once
M-C-M' emerges the emergence of slavery is not entirely by chance. M-C-M' plus
competition has a tendency to create slavery (to go with the wage-labor). Of course,
if a comet had hit the earth in the mean time, the tendency of slavery to emerge might
not be fulfilled. A (relatively) chance event might have trumped the tendency.

On this, I would say there is no overall , from the beginning of time necessity or
teleology. But there do arise in the course of natural history and human history
periods in which there are tendencies in some direction or another, i.e. necessity.
There is no grand total overall unfolding, but there are little islands of unfolding
(subject to the unity and struggle with chance) .

So, for human beings, they were not predestined from the beginning of life, say. But
there was a tendency toward humans once maybe the genus homo arose, or the family

>They want to indicate that there _was_ some tendency in the long
>term to modern European capitalism from the class struggles of
>ancient Greece.

If Marx & Engels do, they are following an irrationally teleological
husk of Hegelian philosophy of history.  In the main, however, the
_rational kernel_ of Marx & Engels does not locate a tendency to
develop into "modern European capitalism" in the class struggles of
ancient Greece.  It was not determined during the class struggles of
ancient Athens that denizens from the area which has come to be
called Africa were destined to become chattel slaves toiling on the
cotton plantations in the American South in order to fuel the
development of industrial capitalism.


CB: I think one has to limit anti-teleology to the idea that there is no TOTAL history
that is determined from the beginning.  Within the whole there are parts of history
that have tendencies or determinations or necessities.

The specifics you mention were not do to a tendency originating in ancient Greece. But
there were tendencies for more abstract elements of capitalism initiated in ancient
Greece.  The male supremacist family, private property and the state of ancient Greeec
perhaps are the abstract elements that gave a tendency toward similar elements in

These tendencies probably didn't exist in the stone age.  So, they were not an
unfolding that encompassed the stone age. They have a limited period of determinancy
or unfolding, and are not therefore teleological as in deriving from Providence at the
"beginning of time".  Even in their limited periods of determinancy, they are in unity
and struggle with chance.

Otherwise everything would be chance, and there could be no science. Science implies
determinations, necessity.

>When they say that history is a history of class struggles, they do
>not mean that history is series of accidental and unconnected
>events, but something of the opposite

History is neither a series of accidental & unconnected events nor
its opposite.


CB: Right. History is a unity and struggle of chance and necessity, not just chance,
and not just necessity.

I don't think I have ever said history is only necessity or determined. I have always
posed it as this dialectic of chance and necessity. I only objected when _only_ the
word "contingency" is used without "necessity".

One place this dialectic is discussed is in _Anti-Duhring_.



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