X-Archive-With-Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1999 19:41:20 -0400

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Wed Jun 28 21:06:04 MDT 2000

>>> Wojtek Sokolowski <sokol at jhu.edu> 09/17/99 05:57PM >>>

At 01:42 PM 9/17/99 -0700, Jim Devine wrote:
>If one blames all of E's rise on exploitation, then in some ways it's a
>critique of the periphery that allowed itself to be conquered and
>exploited. If, on the other hand, one blames it all on capitalism's (or
>Europe's) internal dynamic, it's quite a critique of capitalism and/or
>Europe, considering what that dynamic did to the rest of the world.
>I don't think the blame game should guide historical understanding.

This was precisely the point I tried to make by objecting to the
"exploitationist" explanations of the European development.


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 capital.

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 materialist explanation of EXPLOITATION OF SURPLUSES FROM THE
COLONIES for 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.

The hindsight or looking back is not to affix blame, but to look for insight on how to
undo this system from understanding of how it got put together.

As to other civilizations conquering and all, sure. But, those other civilizations are
not ruling the world right now. We need to figure out how to get the capitalist monkey
off of our backs right now. That is what is relevant to changing the world today. So,
what if some plunders didn't succeed. The plunder that succeeded is the one we are
interested in breaking up, so we focus on that plunder.



 As in case
every historical "event" or "development" - it was a dialectical
interaction of past institutional history and accumulated knowledge (from
all over the world, to be sure), geo-political location, accident, and
opening opportunities.  Oftentimes, it was impossible to predict the future
consequences of current events, e.g. the nclosures in England.

Howver, when viewed form the hindsight, these events can be ex-post facto
arranged into logical trends that suggest the existence of some some master
plan (or conspiracy) which is then attributed to the actors who "produced"
these events.  This is teleological thinking, akin to attributing
purposefulness to evolution.

IMHO, the key to understanding historical events is the analytic separation
of the actual motives and intentions of social actors form the unintended,
latent consequences of their actions.  To illustrate that, th elords
enclosing the comon lands in England were unlikely to be motivated by a
desire to start an industrial revolution.   However, their action led to
the creation of the proletariat which, with the combination of other
factors, was instrumental in the industrial revolution a hundred or so
years after.  But there was neither necessity not master plan (or
"conspiracy") in that development - just a series of coincidences.

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.


PS. virtually every known historical civilization engaged in some form of
plunder, exploitation, and systematic killings of their adversaries.
Sometimes these plunders paid off, sometimes it did not, sometimes were
irrelevant.  Take for example Spain - the conquistadores plundered
virtually all gold of the Andes - more then everyone else at that time -
but despite all the riches they plundered, Spain quickly became a
thrid-rate power by the 18th century.  The Germans, otoh, were largely
exluded from the spoils of the colonial plunder, yet they became first
class power.

More information about the Marxism mailing list